Health & Fitness

You Docs: Getting hipper all the time

Replacement hipsters, says the Urban Dictionary, are older folks who dress in vintage duds that 20-somethings try to find in thrift shops so they can look just as not cool. And hip replacements? Well, they’re the get-you-up-and-dancing-again joint repair procedures that are done more than 230,000 times a year in the U.S., usually the result of osteoarthritis – the erosion of cartilage between joint bones and of the bones themselves. Sometimes it’s done to repair a hip fracture, after a fall. And although 80 percent of replacements last a lifetime without revision, not needing one would be even better. So get hip to our recommendations:

• The higher your red blood cells’ level of omega-3 fatty acids, the less likely you are to have a hip fracture. Getting enough from food and supplements also reduces bodywide inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, and that eases joint pain. We like DHA omega-3 in salmon and ocean trout and in algal oil supplements (go for 4 ounces of fish three times a week, or a 900 mg supplement daily).

• Practice tai chi; the Chinese martial art promotes balance and protects against falls.

• Do weight training. Light, repetitive exercises using hand weights or stretch bands help protect your bones.

• Eat a diet rich in dark leafy greens and canned salmon and sardines with bones. They’re loaded with bone-building calcium, especially when you team them with magnesium-rich foods (almonds, spinach and soy beans) and vitamin D-3. Take 1,000 IU daily until you get your blood level checked; then take the amount you need.

Sweating out toxins

Blood, sweat and urine are three major vehicles for moving potentially harmful toxins out of the body (tears do clear out toxins, though just a small amount).

Your blood carries impurities to the lungs, where some are exhaled; urine washes impurities out through the kidneys; and sweat – it pours out of two to four million sweat glands all over your body and helps to clear out some of the most dangerous toxins you ingest.

New studies reveal that hormone-disruptors in plastics called BPA and phthalates in everything from shampoos to soaps and detergents appear to be preferentially excreted through sweat. And you’re lucky to get rid of them: They’re linked to everything from abnormal testicular development to obesity, ADHD and cancer.

To get the cleansing benefits of sweat:

• Enjoy a sauna, steam bath and/or a hot bath. You’ll detoxify while you de-stress – another great boost to your health.

• Go aerobic. Aim for at least 10,000 steps a day (some at an intense, sweaty pace), take a spin class or play tennis. Any activity (almost every day, please) that makes you perspire for at least 20 minutes is beneficial.

• Get passionate. You can lower your risk for heart disease, improve your mood, fuel your muscles and break a sweat with regular tumbles in the hay (try for 20 minutes here, too).

Breakfast bonanza

There was a study in the news not long ago that suggested if you skip breakfast you’re 27 percent more likely to have a fatal heart attack. But it was just an attention-grabbing headline. The actual write-in survey (not even a controlled study) said that men who report skipping breakfast are generally younger than those who do eat breakfast, are more likely to be smokers, unmarried, less physically active and drink more alcohol. Sounds like they surveyed the frat boys from “Animal House.”

But for nonsmokers, moderate drinkers and regular exercisers of both genders, breakfast IS a smart – even essential – part of a healthy lifestyle. If you eat healthful foods and your timing is good, breakfast can help you burn fat and protect or help build muscles. And you stabilize your blood sugar levels after the all-night fast (no late-night eating; it’s also not smart for heart health, weight control or blood sugar stability). Steady blood sugar levels may reduce your risk for cancer or reduce the fuel supply that makes cancers, such as prostate and breast, become more aggressive.

Unfortunately, about 34 percent of adults never eat breakfast, and 50 percent of middle-schoolers and 64 percent of high-school-age kids don’t either. When you do, according to the USDA, you eat breads and bagels (22 percent); cold cereal (17 percent); and pastries (15 percent). The smarter choices are: high-fiber whole grains, fresh fruit, high-quality protein such as egg whites and low-fat dairy. Skip processed cereals loaded with added sugar and made from grain that isn’t 100 percent whole.

Stay away from hypoglycemia

What do Patti LaBelle and Drew Carey have in common? They both have type 2 diabetes and have gotten their blood sugar under control by exercising, eating right and taking their diabetes medications as prescribed. If you have type 2 diabetes and lower your blood sugar to near normal levels, the benefits are huge. You slash the risk of diabetes complications such as heart disease and nerve damage, and also protect yourself from an increased risk for brain dysfunction and even cancer. But going too low (that is, below 70mg/dL) is also risky; severe hypoglycemia (dizziness, nausea, fuzzy thinking, even coma) happens to around 10 percent of folks with type 2.

Insulin therapy is more often associated with the problem, but oral meds also can trigger it. Exercise without adjusting your meds or diet, not taking your medication properly or failing to eat regularly can also cause your blood sugar levels to fall. Both severe bouts of hypoglycemia and consistently having blood sugar levels that are just a bit low may double your risk for heart disease.

So how do you hit the right balance of blood sugar control? Frequent blood sugar monitoring lets you keep tabs on how your meds and food are affecting you. Following a low glycemic index diet also helps, as does taking your medications as prescribed. Aim for glucose levels of 70-100, and check with your doctor regularly to make sure your A1Cs (an average of your blood sugar level over three months) are in a healthy range.

Fibromyalgia unmasked

When the Atlanta Falcons’ Tim Green retired in 1994, he wrote (in his book “The Dark Side of the Game”) about all the burners and stingers he’d had to deal with – that’s searing nerve pain in the shoulders, neck and arms. But we don’t think he’s any tougher than the 5 million North Americans with fibromyalgia – an often-devastating condition that triggers a variety of symptoms, including chronic pain, tingling in fingers and toes and fatigue – who go out every day to make sure their nerve pain doesn’t keep them sidelined from life.

No one is sure what causes fibromyalgia, and effective ways to ease symptoms have been hard to come by – until now. A small but carefully done study recently revealed that almost half of folks diagnosed with fibromyalgia actually may have something called small fiber polyneuropathy – that is, damage to peripheral nerves. And unlike fibromyalgia, SFPN has a clear pathology, can be diagnosed with a biopsy and is caused by specific medical conditions, many of which can be treated and even cured.

The causes of SFPN can include: prediabetes and diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids (including cholesterol and triglycerides), celiac disease, hepatitis, HIV, lupus and thyroid dysfunction.

That means if you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you may be able to identify what’s triggering your chronic pain and treat it effectively. So talk to your doctor about seeing a neurologist to rule SFPN in or out. It could be a game-changer.