“Story Time” is a texting game in which participants feed one another followup lines to an emerging story. “Quotes” is another time-killer that has caught on: One player texts an iconic quote from a book or movie, and the other player tries to ID it. Sounds harmless enough, right? But when kids do it at 3 a.m. or sign on to Facebook and other social media sites at that hour, they’re risking more than lost sleep.
According to a study in the Journal of Youth Studies, 20 percent of kids ages 12 to 15 regularly wake up during the night to send or check messages. As a consequence, they’re exhausted at school, and that translates to poorer grades, troubled relationships and greater susceptibility to illnesses.
Children 12 to 15 need nine to 11 hours of sleep a night, but the researchers say that almost 18 percent of 12- to 13-year-olds and 28 percent of 14- to 15-year-olds reported that they go to bed around or after midnight. They’re hitting the hay way too late for sufficient sleep, and many are waking up later in the night to get online.
What’s the solution? All cellphones on the kitchen table. Parents, share the pain. No other communication devices in the bedroom. Lights off at 9 p.m., and that means computers, tablets and gaming stations are offline at bedtime. It’s important for their health (yours, too), grades and future. They may complain, but they’ll appreciate it in the short and long run.
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Don’t give yourself a heart attack
There’s a reason the song “Stressed Out,” by Twenty One Pilots, struck a chord with listeners last year, topping the charts and getting over 800 million music video views. The chorus is nostalgic: “Wish we could turn back time to the good old days/when our momma sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.”
And that stress response can put your heart in jeopardy. One study found that having high levels of stress over an average of 10 years was linked to a 27 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease. It also found that psychological interventions that reduce your stress response are associated with a 27 percent decrease in coronary heart disease. So how does stress harm the heart, and what can you do about it?
It’s all between your ears. The part of your brain that’s responsible for processing emotions is called the amygdala. Recent research has found that your stress response can fire up amygdala activity, which in turn cranks up your bone marrow. You end up with overproduction of white blood cells, which then causes arterial inflammation. That’s one way stress can lead to cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
The good news is that understanding this soon may lead to more effective ways to prevent heart disease. In the meantime, we already know a pretty effective way to reduce your stress response, calm your amygdala and spare your heart, not to mention your brain and relationships: mindful meditation. Go to www.sharecare.com for instructions.
Protect your DNA with zinc
The first galvanized metal, dipped in molten zinc, was found in a collection of armor made in India in the 1680s. Today, we still use zinc to galvanize iron and steel; it keeps the metal strong and protects it from rusting. Now, new research reveals that dietary zinc has similar powers: It can protect the inside of your body from DNA damage.
In a recent study, participants ate a low-zinc diet for two weeks, then took in 6 mg of zinc daily for the next two weeks. Finally, for a final two weeks, they took in 10 mg a day. The researchers found that after this boost in zinc intake, people’s bodies did a better job of repairing breaks in strands of their DNA. These breaks can lead to cancer, because when DNA can’t repair itself, damaged cells can multiply.
That’s just one reason to eat foods rich in zinc. The mineral also helps regulate the immune system; aids in brain cells’ communication, improving learning and memory; and promotes wound healing by reducing oxidative stress.
Your best sources? Oysters deliver a whopping 74 mg for every 3-ounce serving. Half a cup of kidney beans offers 2.9 mg, as does half a cup of chickpeas (think hummus); an ounce of walnuts or almonds delivers about 1 mg. The recommended daily intake is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men.
But forget supplements: The National Institutes of Health says that unless you’re taking zinc for doctor-diagnosed medical reasons, don’t take more than 40 mg. Too much triggers side effects such as digestive woes, and it interacts with meds like antibiotics and some arthritis drugs.
Big news on lower prices
The band Berlin hit the charts with “Take My Breath Away” in 1986, a year before the first epinephrine auto-injector was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. That device was a game-changer, protecting people at risk for life-threatening anaphylactic reactions, which actually do take your breath away by causing a swollen throat and tongue, respiratory distress, edema and low blood pressure. They can happen from contact with an allergen such as peanuts, insect bites or chemicals, like latex.
In 2007, Mylan acquired the right to sell EpiPen, the brand-name epinephrine auto-injector. Since 2007, the price for a two-pack went from $93.88 to $608.61. NBC news reports that it costs Mylan about $35.
Thankfully, you can lower the cost. However, to obtain a lower-priced, generic EpiPen, your doctor must write you a prescription for an “epinephrine auto-injector,” NOT “EpiPen.” Also, not all discount coupons deliver what they imply (up to 75 percent off), so ask what your rate will be, and know that Mylan’s My EpiPen Savings Card has restrictions.
So, what discounts are available? CVS offers a generic two-pack for under $100; discount coupons are available online from national drugstore chains and places like GoodRx.com. Just Google “EpiPen discounts.” For the brand version: Walgreens, RiteAid and others offer EpiPen two-packs for around $200. Then there’s Auvi-Q. The EpiPen alternative hits shelves this month – free to folks with commercial insurance or with no insurance in households earning less than $100,000. Will insurers and pharmacy benefit managers go along with the plan? We’ll see. And there’s Mylan’s discount: a two-pack for $300.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.