Health & Fitness

Drs. Oz and Roizen: Flu shots protect you, others

Getting yourself and everyone in your family vaccinated against influenza does more than just protect you from the flu. It protects you from diseases made worse by inflammation and decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Plus, it protects others, too. If you get the flu, you may transmit it to someone who is at high risk for flu-related complications — and that includes anyone over 65 or someone with a respiratory condition (asthma, COPD) or diabetes. The majority of deaths caused by the flu (and resulting pneumonia) are among those 65 or older. And people with diabetes are more likely to get — and die from — the flu than people without the condition.

Watch what you eat — it’s all about color

Even though you’d like to eat at home most nights (it’s smart economics), figuring out how to get a tasty, nutritious plate on the table can be tough. So, if it seems like the only way you get really great food in your house is by turning on the Food Network, listen up. You can gain life-extending power from your food if you paint your plate with a rainbow of colors, especially green.

Fill at least a quarter of your plate with green vegetables, a quarter with a mix of colorful veggies or fruits, a quarter with 100 percent whole grains and one quarter with lean protein. An added bonus: When you’re paying attention to what’s on your plate, you automatically eat less and better.

When you eat by color, you’ll lower blood pressure and bad LDL cholesterol and shed excess pounds.

Kidney stone prevention

If you’re diagnosed with these painful pebbles, you’ll join the ranks of millions of other kidneystoners, including Billy Joel and William Shatner. (Overweight white males are most at risk.) Incidents have increased by 70 percent in the past 20 years, and doctors are now seeing this once middle-age complaint in ever-more children. Fortunately, you can do a lot to avoid the stones.

First, a short course: Kidney stones are hard clumps of crystals, usually made up of calcium and oxalic acid or phosphate. Sometimes they’re triggered by a urinary tract infection (then they’re called struvite stones), or by uric acid (which also causes gout). They can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Most can be excreted through your urine.

How can you prevent a kidney stone crisis?

Music builds brain muscles

Music expresses complex emotions, impresses brain function and just plain makes us all happier and smarter — particularly if you have the chance to play an instrument when you’re young. (A well-kept secret: You don’t even have to have much talent.) Infants who play interactive music games with parents are easier to soothe and more expressive. And if you have just one to five years of music lessons as a kid and you never touch an instrument again, your adult brain will still sing arias. Throughout your life, you’ll be better at listening to others and at learning.

How does music do all that? It lights up many parts of the brain that groove to rhythm and melody, particularly centers that control emotions, motion and creativity. And that increases your visual and verbal — not just auditory — skills.

So let the kids beat on the pots and pans (well, OK, maybe draw a line there) and encourage piano lessons.

And if you didn’t have music lessons as a kid, don’t feel discouraged. Adults who take up an instrument gain great rewards: stress reduction, increased self-esteem and a defense against dementia.