“If your heart and your brain aren’t connected, aren’t working together harmoniously, well, you’re just hopping through life on one leg,” said novelist Tom Robbins.
We say “thumbs up” to that. It turns out heart-harming habits like smoking and conditions like diabetes and high LDL cholesterol don’t just raise the risk for future cardiovascular problems, they dull your brain today, even if you’re still pretty young.
Folks 35 to 44 who are at the most risk for heart attack — say, smokers with sky-high LDL or those with diabetes — do 50 percent worse on tests of memory and mental skill than their heart-healthy peers.
Fortunately, there’s a remedy that delivers a double dose of good news to your brain and body: omega-3 DHA. This fatty acid, found in salmon, ocean trout and anchovies or derived from the ALA omega-3 in walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, may boost mental powers by changing how memory cells in the hippocampus talk to one another. And it’s heart-loving: Two servings of DHA-packed fish a week can cut your chance of dying from a heart attack by 30 percent or more.
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Our recommendation? Everyone 18 and older, listen up. Stop smoking; get a daily workout of 30 minutes or more; dodge saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sugar syrups and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole; enjoy at least two servings of fish a week; take 900 IU of DHA omega-3 from algal oil; and maybe add 420 milligrams of purified omega-7. You’ll say, “Thanks for the memories.”
Don’t gloss over lipstick risks
What do domestic superstar Angelina Jolie and undomesticated rock ’n’ roller Steven Tyler have in common? Bright-red lipstick. (Check out Tyler’s YouTube lipstick video.) But they might choose differently if they knew how potentially toxic some lip colors are.
In a follow-up to reports about chromium, cadmium, manganese and lead — to name the most risky metals — in lip glosses and lipsticks, a new study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences confirms the kiss and tell. Of the 300 they tested, 75 percent contained lead, 68 percent had chromium, and 22 percent contained manganese well above safe levels, if you think there is a safe level.
So, if you want a bit of color on your lips, what can you do? Well, nothing makes a face more youthful, cheeks rosier or lips more appealing than daily exercise (walking 10,000 steps a day); a healthful diet (skip the Five Food Felons of added sugars and sugar syrups, any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole, most saturated fats and all trans fats); spending time with a good friend; doing something nice for someone; and having a roll in the hay (make sure it’s 100 percent whole grain — just kidding) with your significant other.
And for a fast fix: Try a blend of pulverized berries of your choice, strong coffee (to darken the colors) and a touch of olive oil; strain and apply with a cotton swab. Seal with a pure beeswax lip balm. Sweet!
Express yourself best by relaxing
A lot of people think, “Well, I am who I am; it’s in my DNA.” You may be resigned to the fact that Dad was a type A personality and so are you. Or Mom was overweight, and now you’re getting heavier every year. But even 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln figured out that “Every man over 40 is responsible for his own face.” He knew, maybe not scientifically but intuitively, that there are some things about your looks, your health and your inner self that are a result of how you live, that your choices shape your life and your face. A study now confirms that.
Scientists wanted to see what happens to your genetic makeup when you relax deeply, so they tracked the changes it makes in the expression of almost all of your more than 22,000 genes. You see, environmental influences can activate them or turn them off. And the researchers discovered genes linked to the immune system, energy metabolism and the secretion of insulin are immediately affected (they change their expression, from unhappy to happy) when you practice progressive relaxation or mindfulness.
Seems mitochondria, the power-producing energy centers of cells, get a boost, as do their supporting pathways. The result? Cell pathways that are conduits for stress, cancer, trauma and inflammation are suppressed. That’s how relaxation therapy defends you from disease and keeps you lookin’ good. So, cultivate your relaxation response, and make your real age years younger.
The rise of the synthetic vaccine
Termination: A flu vaccine prepares your immune system for battle by delivering small viral pieces of the soon-to-be-attacking enemy — the flu virus. This arms your immune system warriors with the weapons they need to defeat the enemy when it arrives. Result: The flu has been terminated.
But getting the body ready to fight off any virus can be tricky. Microbes mutate quickly, making them less vulnerable to your on-alert immune cells. That’s why last year’s flu vaccine that blocked the H5N1 virus doesn’t work against this year’s new bird flu, H7N9. One thing flu viruses always promise: “I’ll be back.”
This latest strain, originating in China, seems to be transmitted from an infected bird to a person, not person to person. But researchers fear that it soon will mutate, so that it can. If that happens, well, no one knows for sure, but the possibility exists that this particularly hard-hitting virus could travel around the world.
Fortunately, recent vaccine innovations may help block any spread. The standard, grow-the-vaccine-in-a-chicken-egg process makes it tough to quickly produce enough vaccine to guard against an epidemic. But now synthetic H7N9 vaccines are being developed. After a review of safety and effectiveness, they should be available by mid-summer.
In any season, and whether there’s a threat of a flu epidemic or not, you want to bolster your immune system. In addition to getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising, we suggest you take a probiotic to make your gut bacteria healthier and 1,000 IU of vitamin D-3 a day.
Get in the game
As the anti-obesity crusading mayor of New York City once said, “ ‘Stubborn’ isn’t a word I would use to describe myself; ‘pigheaded’ is more appropriate.”
Well, as Mayor Bloomberg’s discovered, nothing is more stubborn a problem than obesity, and it’s turning middle age into old age for millions of young people. Almost two-thirds of 22-year-olds are overweight or obese. And around half of them will develop type 2 diabetes, hypertension or a blood clot or have a heart attack or stroke — or even worse, die — before reaching age 55.
If that’s you, it’s time to kick off those stubborn extra pounds and make your real age younger. The good news is: All you have to do is bend a bit, one knee at a time, as you ramp up your physical activity and improve your nutrition. Here are a few increasingly popular, bring-out-the-kid-in-you ways to get movin’ and groovin’:
• Hopscotch for a charity. There are Hopping-4-a-Cure events for multiple sclerosis.
• Hop into a hula hoop. World Hoop Day is July 7, and workouts are on YouTube.
• Don’t dodge dodgeball. Community dodgeball leagues are everywhere.
• Get a healthy-eating partner. Sign up for healthy cooking lessons and find support online at sites like www.buddyslim.com. They can make it easier to stick with your new workout routines, relaxation programs and eating habits.