Taking your child to an actual dog pound (or animal shelter) is a great idea, especially if he or she is having a tough time because of a divorce, a family move or the extended absence of a parent.
A recent study from Tufts University found that kids in military families with a deployed parent exhibit significantly higher stress levels than other kids. However, when researchers conducted youth-development evaluations, which measure qualities like responsibility, resiliency and self-confidence, kids from military families with pets scored better than military kids without pets.
We bet a lot of children could gain the same positive benefits, especially those dealing with family upheaval, those on the autism spectrum or those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The bonding, love and routine that come with having a pet soothe emotions and provide a sense of security. And there’s a physical health bonus, too: Many studies show that having a pet can lower blood pressure, ease pain, slash the risk of allergies in kids and promote a healthier lifestyle.
So if your family is dealing with some tough times and it’s taking a toll on your kids, consider a visit to the ASPCA to discuss bringing home a bundle of joy (and responsibility). The two benefits go paw in paw.
Eat the fruit
In the early 1900s, the baseball club the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers got its name from the survival skills that local folks needed to safely cross the borough’s many trolley tracks. A century later, if you’re a dedicated Food Felon Dodger trying to negotiate your way around the added sugars and syrups, trans and saturated fats and refined grains that are packed into today’s processed foods, you’re going have to stay on your toes to avoid getting run over by these bad-for-you products. Some Felons are not obvious!
Take fruit juice. Turns out it’s not (we repeat, NOT!) a good way to get your daily servings of fruit. In fact, you should consider it an added sugar. One 12-ounce glass of apple juice contains the same amount of sugar (10 teaspoons) as a 12 ounce Coca-Cola. And it’s just as hard on your body.
Last year, the British Medical Journal published a study showing consumption of fruit juice is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. And according to a recent study in the journal Appetite, fruit juice raises your aortic, or central, blood pressure significantly, pumping it up by 3 to 4 points. That’s enough to put many of you at increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
Fortunately, there’s an easy remedy. Eat whole fruits. They don’t raise your blood pressure, and blueberries, grapes and apples, in particular, lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Also, enjoy veggie juices, as long as they’re low in sugar (read the label).
Did you know Rudolph Nureyev probably had shin splints? Everybody knows dancers get that injury. But did you know runners and tennis, soccer and basketball players are also at high risk? And that it takes just 15 minutes to make sure you avoid the pain?
Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) are caused by microabrasions along the lower leg bones (tibia) and the fibrous connective tissue (periosteum) that covers them. The periosteum has attachment sites for muscles, ligaments and tendons. When the periosteum gets inflamed (ouch), it’s shin splints.
This can happen if you work out without warming up or if you use worn-out shoes (runners, change shoes every 300-500 miles). If your foot turns in or out (pronates) when you walk, that also can damage your shin. And being overweight is a major risk factor. But this repetitive-use syndrome often is avoidable – and there are remedies.
Prevention: If your gait is off, see a podiatrist and a physical therapist for orthosis and exercises to reduce stress on your lower leg. Running or walking? Wear supportive, cushioned sports shoes. Take time to warm up, whether you start out running slowly or stretch before you walk.
Treatment: Cook up a little R.I.C.E.: Rest – take it easy for at least a week. Ice – three to four times daily for 20 minutes. Compress – with an elastic bandage. Elevate – frequently. If you’re overweight, lose 10 pounds (using portion control and by avoiding the Five Food Felons). You’ll reduce the pressure each step puts on your leg by 40 pounds.
Go off the wall for walnuts
“Dumb and Dumber To,” the new Jim Carey, Jeff Daniels buddy movie, may spread super-nuttiness across the land. But this holiday season it’s walnuts that you want to use to amp up your health and happiness.
We’ve long extolled the power of eating an ounce of walnuts (14 walnut halves) daily to get your dose of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. That good-for-you fat eases cardiovascular inflammation, promotes supple veins and arteries (for blood pressure control) and helps control your appetite. Try munching six walnut halves 30 minutes before a holiday meal. You’ll feel full sooner and eat less when you sit down at the big table.
Research now reveals that it isn’t just the omega-3 in walnuts that delivers the health boost. A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food shows us that the non-fatty nutrients in walnuts (in combo with the omega-3) helps with insulin and blood sugar regulation and promote healthy HDL cholesterol levels. It also triggers a series of cancer-blocking changes in body chemistry. Seems eating whole walnuts:
1. Reduces levels of a hormone associated with prostate and breast cancer;
2. Increases two substances – adiponectin and the tumor suppressor PSP94 – that help fight cancer; and
3. Reduces levels of inflammatory COX-2.
So go nuts this holiday season. When you substitute walnuts (and their calories) for refined carbs and added sugars and syrups, you’ll reap the health benefits that eating an ounce a day can bring. Psst! Those benefits are equivalent to walking 6,000 more steps daily.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.