Are you thinking that taking up exercising at your age would be like trying to sign up with NASA for the first moonwalk: just a little too late? Get your head out of the clouds. No matter what your age, within three months of doing a little walking on Earth, your brain and your body will be younger.
We have good science to back us up here. Even if you're over 60 and your favorite workout has been watching "Dancing With the Stars," just 90 days of no-sweat walking will boost the blood flow to your brain by 15 percent. (Can you say, "smarter"?) It also will lower your blood pressure and heart rate about 5 percent. (Can you say, "Goodbye, heart disease"?)
Yep, no panting needed. Just cruise at a moderate pace, 30 to 50 minutes a day, at least three to four times a week (we'd say seven), and you'll remember where you stashed your new walking shoes in a snap. Bonus: Increasing blood flow also helps flush your brain's blood vessels clean of the yucky waste (amyloid-beta protein) that's linked to Alzheimer's.
Ready to take that first small step (do it for mankind, do it for you)? Here's how to get the maximum brain-boosting, calorie-burning benefits:
* Stand tall when you walk; eyes ahead, not cast down.
* Pump your arms back and forth to give them a workout, too.
* Land on your heel, then roll forward and push off with your toes; you'll walk faster and burn more calories.
* Buy a pedometer (invest in a good one) and track your steps — they'll mysteriously increase.
Don't fall for fake medicine
We love to share good news. Everyone could use more of it, even if you're on a streak hotter than Lady Gaga's. But some bad news is too important not to pass on.
Here's the deal: At least 15 nonprescription pills and liquids are being sold that claim to either prevent or cure sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Don't fall for them. There's only one (yes, one) thing that helps to prevent STDs: a condom. As for cures, only prescription drugs can kick back or control genital herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, HIV infections and other trouble down there.
The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission are coming down hard on fraudulent manufacturers, trying to get the phonies off the market. Meanwhile, if you're sexually active and haven't been as careful as you should be — whether you're in your 20s or your 70s — watch for these common STD symptoms: a burning sensation when you pee, pelvic pain and/or genital discharge, blisters, sores.
No problems? Great, but don't relax yet. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all; it's one reason 19 million people a year contract an STD. If you've had unprotected sex, your partner (or you) easily could be one of them without knowing it. See your doc and get tested. And don't even think about surfing the Web for fake remedies like these: Gene-Eden, Medavir, Herpeset, Viruxo, Oxygen Force and C-Cure (find the full list at www.fda.gov/stdfraud). They're bunk. You're wasting your money and risking your health. Which is the last thing we want you to do.
Sneeze less, enjoy spring more
Ah, spring, the season of chirping birds, lawn mowers and, if you've got hay fever, of sneezing, congestion, dripping and itchy, watery eyes. But if you steer clear of these three surprising allergy aggravators, you can cut down on those wheezy-sneezy symptoms.
1. Secondhand smoke. Breathing in nasty cigarette or cigar "exhaust" during pollen season can make your immune system pump out three times more histamines, the compounds responsible for those miserable allergy symptoms. Smart move: Politely ask smokers not to light up, or put some real distance (500 feet) between them and you fast.
2. Air pollution. High levels of lung-irritating ozone (aka smog) and microscopic particles in the air boost odds for hay fever-related sneezing in kids by 25 percent and increase your risk, too. The combo of bad air plus allergies also can worsen asthma. Smart move: Skip outdoor exercise when air-quality reports warn of high air pollution. It's a good time to hit the gym or work out at home.
3. Cats, dogs and dust mites. If you're sensitive to cat or dog dander or have a dust mite allergy, exposure to them can "prime" your immune system so that hay fever comes on earlier and with a vengeance. Smart move: Keep pets out of your bedroom; bathe frequently (you and your pet); cover pillows and mattresses with dust mite-proof cases; try HEPA air cleaners. If your allergies are severe, talk with your doc about treatment, too.
Why gourmands have healthier bones
Pungent or subtle, earthy or spicy ... garlic, onions and other members of the allium family are staples in every top chef's kitchen. They should be in yours, too, because these flavor-uppers could keep your joints jumpin'.
Eating your fill reduces your odds of early osteoarthritis — the breakdown of cushiony cartilage in joints that makes your knees and hips go ouch — by 25 percent. The do-good connection is diallyl disulphide (try typing that even once), which gives garlic and its allium cousins their unmistakable aroma. This stinky stuff acts like a bouncer outside a Vegas hotspot: It does its best to keep cartilage-damaging enzymes out.
Not a total fan of in-your-face raw garlic or onions? Here's how to get more on your plate.
Mellow the taste. Simmer them in soup or stew, or slow-roast them with chicken or vegetables.
Get to know the other alliums. Milder leeks, shallots and scallions are all part of this clan. Try a pot of potato-leek soup, served hot or cold, Vichyssoise-style. Grill leeks this summer. Spike crisp salads with unsliced scallions.
Add them to other veggies. Women who eat lots of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) also lower their risk for early arthritis. Pairing onions or garlic with these good guys (add a splash of balsamic vinegar, too) makes culinary and cartilage sense. Worried about your own aroma afterward? Mix in some fresh parsley or basil as well. Nibbling these greens releases breath-freshening oils.
Five supplements you need every day
If a reality-TV crew filmed your supplement stash, would the episode be called "Dusty Old Bottles"? Or maybe "Cupboard Chaos"?
If you're among the one in two adults who take a multivitamin, or the half who've given up in confusion, here's relief. Just follow our simple "Fab 5" strategy. You can get these supplements at well-stocked drugstores.
A multi: It's a nutritional insurance policy. Pick one with the recommended daily intake for most nutrients (you can't fit 100 percent of everything in one pill; you couldn't swallow it). Take half in the morning, half in early evening for 24-hour coverage.
Vitamin D-3: It's the most active form of D; it fights colds, heart disease, arthritis, some cancers and more. Take 1,000 IU; 1,200 after age 60.
DHA omega-3s from algae: This type of omega-3 seems best for your brain; arteries, too. DHA deters memory and vision loss, heart attacks, stroke, impotence, even wrinkles. Aim for at least 600 mg a day (we both take 900).
A calcium/magnesium combo: Bone-friendly calcium can cut your fracture risk by 50 percent. Get 600 mg of calcium from food daily; take another 600 with 400 mg of magnesium daily, to keep calcium from constipating you.
A probiotic: Replenishing your good intestinal bugs eases inflammation, infections and digestion. Aim for 2 billion cells per dose in spore form, which will survive your stomach acids.