Health & Fitness

What’s your mouth’s age?

When “Happy Days’” Ralph Malph – aka Mouth – bragged that his teeth were so straight folks thought he was a movie star, he ID’d one of the perks of a great smile. But there are even more benefits. A healthy mouth gives you a younger MouthAge. And it means you’re helping make sure you avoid cognitive problems, diabetes and heart disease, as well as tooth decay.

But if you live in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City or Tampa, you want to pay special attention to your dental health, because those cities came in with the country’s oldest MouthAge in RealAge’s 2013 Top Youngest and Oldest Cities.

You know you should brush twice a day, floss once a day and see your dental health professional every six months. But here are more ways to stay healthy and keep that beautiful smile

1. Eat a tooth-friendly diet: Canned salmon, almonds and dark leafy greens are loaded with tooth-building calcium.

2. Take 1,000 IU of vitamin D-3 a day (D helps build strong teeth), until you get your blood level measured; then take the amount that’s right for you.

3. Drink tea. It’s got natural fluoride to help prevent cavities.

4. Avoid foods and drinks with added sugars or sugar syrups – not only does sugar decay teeth, it contributes to obesity, which is associated with dental problems.

Is your sleep moonstruck?

The full moon has long been associated with lunacy and love – not to mention summoning up werewolves and other creatures of the night. And now, according to Swiss researchers, we can blame it for a poor night’s sleep, too.

Seems that when the moon glows, it lowers your levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and causes a 33 percent drop in brain signals that allow for deep sleep; people take five minutes longer to fall asleep and sleep for 20 minutes less than usual. At least that’s what researchers observed in 33 study participants sleeping in dark, windowless rooms where they couldn’t see the moon.

How can that be? One theory is that through human evolution we’ve developed an imbedded sleep pattern that’s in sync with the lunar cycle. So even in our modern, light-filled nights, our bodies respond in tune with the Man in the Moon.

That’s possible. But what we know for sure is that a good night’s sleep is essential for weight control and to fight off everything from memory problems to cancer and cardio disease. So, try our four steps to a good snooze:

1. Stick to regular “to bed” and “rise and shine” times – even on weekends.

2. Make your room as dark and quiet as possible; muffle sound using white-noise machines.

3. Keep TVs and digital devices out of the bedroom.

4. Get physical activity outdoors daily (at least 10,000 steps). Sunlight helps set your wake-sleep clock so you sleep at night.

Pre-habilitation for cancer treatment

There’s “Celebrity Rehab,” “Redneck Rehab” and even “Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock” (none of which sound very, well, rehabilitating). But what we think has enormous power to make you feel better and bounce back stronger is PREhab.

People getting knee and hip replacements have used it for a while – going through intense physical therapy before their operation so they recover more quickly afterward. But now there’s evidence that early intervention (prehabilitation) optimizes your health before cancer treatment, too.

Depending on the type and stage of cancer, a new study reveals that physical and psychological therapy before surgery, chemotherapy or radiation reduces hospital time and complications, and improves physical and emotional outcomes.

We know that for most types of cancer, you don’t want to put off treatment any longer than you have to. But whether you have breast or lung cancer, there’s often a period of time between when you’re diagnosed and when you’re able to begin treatment. It’s during this window that research shows prehab has its benefits.

So if you or a loved one is headed for cancer treatment, ask your doctor about arranging for an appropriate physical-therapy regimen and find out to whom you might go for psychological counseling. Some cancer treatment centers have such services on site; others can refer you to nearby facilities and specialists. Cancer outcomes are improving every year, and it’s nice to know that you can do something to help make your recovery as quick and positive as possible.

Beware dangerous diabetes ‘cures’

Hamlin’s Wizard Oil, a patent medicine popular in the 1860s, claimed to ease everything from headaches to diphtheria when applied topically or taken internally. Not a smart move, since it was 80 percent alcohol laced with turpentine, ammonia and chloroform. Today, that might seem like the kind of foolish folk medicine we’re far too sophisticated to fall for. Think again.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued 15 warning letters to companies pushing illegal and fake diabetes remedies, some of which contain ingredients as potentially harmful as Wizard Oil. Purchased online and in retail stores by tens of thousands of people with diabetes, the bogus remedies include:

• Dietary supplements claiming to treat, cure and/or prevent diabetes.

• “Natural” products containing undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients in unknown doses that could harm folks with certain medical conditions.

• Prescription drugs sold online without a prescription.

• Over-the-counter drugs making wild claims. We’re not condemning all over-the-counter drugs, but there are a bunch of products that don’t deliver what they promise. Don’t be fooled. Check the ingredients, or write in and ask us.

Interested in what will really help you control type 2 diabetes? Here are four smart moves: Take 10,000 steps day, walking with a pedometer; do strength training for 30 minutes two to three days a week; upgrade your diet and show the Five Food Felons the door (no added sugar or sugar syrups, no trans and saturated fat, and no grains that aren’t 100 percent whole); follow your doc’s prescription for meds (if you have one), and you’ll be a Diabetes Wizard.