If Laura Linney’s character in “The Big C” had been lucky enough to get an anti-cancer vaccine, we’d miss a well-acted show. But in real life, having the chance to be vaccinated against cancer and refusing it — or at least not considering it seriously — well, you risk missing a lot more than a cable-TV program.
We feel strongly that you should take the opportunity to consider vaccinating your kids against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus. The HPV vaccine is available for boys and men (Gardasil), and girls and women (Cervarix and Gardasil), 9 to 26 years old. These three-part vaccines are most effective when received around 11 or 12 years of age. How could you refuse to weigh the risks and benefits of protecting your kids from serious adult cancer risks?
True, all vaccines have a small downside. But encouraging sex has not proved to be one, nor has research shown the risks come close to the benefits.
The benefits? For women, it protects against cervical cancer, and both men and women are protected against genital warts and several oral and anal cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection says HPV infections affect almost half of all sexually active people in the U.S. And the way to avoid infection is to be inoculated before you engage in sexual activity, not after.
If you’re worried what your kids will think about getting the shot, tell them it prevents certain cancers and that you and they may be lucky to have access to this vaccine.
3 surprising ways to get younger now
Want to become a younger, healthier, better-looking you? We bet you’re hip to the powers of hoofing it 10,000 steps every day, meditating and eating like an Italian. That dynamic trio makes you more than a decade younger than your calendar age.
Here are some more amazing ways to feel even younger so, like Benjamin Button, you’ll enjoy your later-in-life years with lots of youthful energy.
• Heads up! Good posture equals good health. Research shows that slumping or walking with your head bent forward reduces your air supply and ups your risk of dying prematurely. How to stand taller? For 10 minutes a day, walk with your hands on your hips (or as if a book is balanced on your head). And strengthen core muscles with yoga.
• Go very berry nuts. Daily, eat 1 ounce of nuts in place of an equal amount of calories from saturated fat, and your heart disease risk plummets 45 percent! Gobble 13-21 walnut halves a day for supercharged, heart-protective omega-3s. To reduce blood pressure, blood sugar and belly fat even more, mix blueberries with the nuts.
• Pick a hobby with a partner or buddy. Get active (hiking, singing in the choir, taking a spin class) doing anything that gets you and your buddy happy together and feels like play. The parade of quirky ways to get younger doesn’t stop. Hint: explore love, a good nap, a glass of wine and dark chocolate. In short, a great date!
How to handle adult acne
To zap zits, try this combination of good food, smart skin care and a nice, long walk.
• Pop some lean poultry and fish (salmon’s loaded with anti-inflammatory omega-3s), veggies, avocados, nuts (especially walnuts) and 100 percent whole grains onto your plate. Nix all added sugars and saturated fats (notorious pimple pumper-uppers), and get 900 mg of omega-3 daily — especially DHA — from food and supplements. And don’t avoid heart-friendly dark chocolate; it’s not an acne-maker, so long as the sugar is low and the amount is small.
• Pick up on your personal triggers. See if stress, your menstrual cycle or menopause, inflammatory foods like trans fats and added sugars, or stuff you put on your face for shaving, waxing or makeup are the culprits. Ditch them pronto.
• Soothe persistent acne with a tube of over-the-counter treatments with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur or resorcinol. If that doesn’t help, there are always prescription antibiotics and other pimple stompers.
But we think you can avoid all that with smart choices about food, skin products and exercise (here we go again; get walking at least 10,000 steps a day). Your skin will be naturally as healthy as a movie star’s — only yours won’t be make-believe.
How to ease dry eyes
If your eyes stay dry when you don’t want them to — and the itchy, red soreness bothers you — we want to help.
• Blinking: Dry eyes can happen from sitting in front of your computer or game console for too long (those addictive Angry Birds!) or from medications like antihistamines and decongestants.
• Winking: Ease your discomfort with a humidifier (aim for humidity over 30 percent indoors), over-the-counter saline eyedrops or artificial tears, or prescription eyedrops. Eating more omega-3 fats (from salmon, walnuts, avocados, DHA supplements and omega-3 eggs — we both do all five) also decreases inflammation in your tear glands to relieve dryness.
• Blinking: Dry eyes can happen from overexposure to sun and wind.
• Winking: Movie stars wear big sunglasses, and not just because they (the glasses) are cool, but because they protect eyes from dehydration and the sun’s damaging UV rays. When you’re shade-hunting, make sure the lenses have 99 percent to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. No excuses here.
• Blinking: Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that triggers dry eyes. They’re also a symptom of macular degeneration. Prompt treatment does help.
How much sleep do kids really need?
If March Madness is making you lose sleep, chill. Make your own three-point play — better focus, better grades, better health — by helping your kids get the right amount of sleep.
The old guidelines insisted that teens need nine-plus hours of sleep. Apparently, that figure was established by seeing how much a group of kids would sleep if no one woke them up. Not good science.
What we now know is that 10-year-olds do better on tests with 9-9.5 hours of sleep; 12-year-olds do best with around 8.3-8.4 hours; and 16- to 18-year-olds do better on about 7 hours. The older we get, the less sleep we need — otherwise, we’d never be able to wake up our kids!
These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, however. Parents: Watch for individual signs of fatigue, grumpiness, depression and a fall-off in academic performance. One trap for teens: The weekend, stay-up-late, sleep-late cycle. On early-to-rise Mondays, they can’t snap back into a school day’s routine. The result: They sag. You nag. Grades lag. What a drag.
For bright-eyed mornings and solid snoozes, feed them a diet with omega-3-rich foods (avocado, walnuts, canola oil, fish oils), 100 percent whole grains, very little saturated fat and lots of veggies; help them get plenty of physical exercise (X the Xbox); and encourage them to spend face-to-face time with friends. They’ll sleep like a baby (although not for as long) and so will you, at any age.