Inheritances can be surprising: In 1992, a 17-year-old waitress named Cara Wood, working in a diner in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, was left half a million dollars as a reward for her kindness to one customer, a childless widower. Then there was the Portuguese aristocrat who chose to divvy up his estate among 70 total strangers he picked out of a phone book.
What you inherit from your parents can come as just as much of a surprise to your waistline. But it doesn’t have to. After analyzing data on more than 100,000 children from six countries, including the United States, scientists found that as a kid, you inherit about 20 percent of your body mass index from your mom and 20 percent from your dad. However, 60 percent of your childhood and teenage weight is determined by lifestyle choices. Even though many overweight and obese adolescents become obese adults, genetics is not destiny when it comes to weight.
Mom and Dad: Help your children achieve a healthy weight by preparing shared family meals, introducing fresh food choices, especially vegetable dishes (even frozen), discouraging fast food and sweet sodas, and enjoying walks, hikes, ballgames and bike rides together.
Teens: You have a lot of control over your lifestyle choices. You can decide to opt for a normal weight – and a brighter future – by saying no thanks to unhealthy food choices at home, school and out with friends. And join intramural, club or school-based sports teams for a stronger body and happier attitude.
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Go gluten-free with caution
When retired Yankee switch-hitter Mark Teixeira, 36, bashed in 31 home runs in 2015 and went to the All-Star Game, he credited a radically improved, gluten-free diet based on lean proteins and veggie smoothies. It worked for him. But the millions of people across North America who have embraced a gluten-free diet may be sabotaging their health.
In a new study, published in the journal Epidemiology, researchers found that people who followed a gluten-free diet had twice the level of arsenic, a common component of many gluten-free grains, in their urine, and 70 percent more mercury in their bloodstreams than gluten eaters. While not an immediate health threat, these changes can be a cause for concern.
Seems when people give up gluten-containing foods, they often substitute prepackaged, prepared products that are packed with concentrated, rice-derived substitutes, like brown rice syrup. Rice often contains arsenic and mercury in small doses, but it can add up if you eat too much.
Fortunately, a study in the journal Digestion found that 86 percent of people who believe they’re gluten-sensitive could tolerate it. So check with your doc before going gluten-free. If you do, remember that only wheat, barley and rye, and their derivatives, need to be eliminated. There’s still a world of great substitutes out there that are usually arsenic- and mercury-free, including buckwheat pasta, quinoa and whole grains like amaranth.
Get back in step
With so much attention these days being focused on the overprescription of meds – from opioids (around 32 percent of prescriptions are used inappropriately) to antibiotics (at least 30 percent are unnecessary, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) – it’s nice to find one prescription that simply cannot be overprescribed; in fact, upping your dosage might be good for you. That prescription is for walking.
A recent Canadian study of 364 patients (66 percent of the volunteers had Type 2 diabetes, and 90 percent had hypertension) uncovered the power of getting an actual written prescription for walking. Seventy-four doctors wrote out the instructions to their patients: Get a pedometer and increase how much you usually walk by 3,000 steps a day. Those people did step up their daily walking by 20 percent and were rewarded with improved blood sugar levels, lowered insulin resistance and reduced hypertension.
In an Australian study, those older than 55 who put in an extra 4,300 steps a day saw a 30 percent lower need for hospital care than those who didn’t. And at the Cleveland Clinic, post-heart-attack cardio rehab puts walking at the top of the to-do list.
So ask your doc for a walking Rx; get a pedometer (your smartphone has one); set a monthly steps-per-day-goal that increases over time. Make sure you have feet-lovin’ walking shoes; and enlist a walking buddy. You’re aiming for 10,000 total steps a day or the equivalent.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.