Health & Fitness

Clean your ears correctly

A basset hound puppy will routinely fall over its floppy ears. But as it gets older and bigger and starts tracking, those ears are an asset. They act like side brooms, sweeping up scents along the ground. That’s why bassets, along with their cousins bloodhounds and coonhounds, are such champion sniffers. One problem, though: Because the dog’s ears are so close to the ground, they need to be cleaned at least once a week, but never using a cotton swab or any other pointy object. Soft cloths and soapy water will do.

Tip of the day? Treat your kids’ ears like a hound dog’s – and teach the kids how to treat their own ears, too. According to Ohio State University researchers, every day an average of 34 children under 18 are treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for ear injuries related to the use of cotton-tipped swabs. Around 77 percent occur when a child (not their parent) is wielding the cotton-tipped applicator.

The most common injuries are pushing ear wax farther into the ear so that it becomes impacted and damages the ear drum, which can cause hearing loss. True, occasionally ear wax does become too much of a good thing, making it hard to hear or feeling uncomfortable. Then you need to see your doc to get it safely flushed out.

Ward off stroke, fight dementia

From 1902 to 1912, shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers and first baseman Frank Chance were a double-play dream team, anchoring the infield while the Chicago Cubs won four National League pennants and two World Series championships.

Now medical science has discovered a new type of double play: If you work to strike out strokes, you also can knock out dementia. In 2000, Ontario, Canada, put a stroke prevention program into play. A new study shows that between 2002 and 2012, stroke rates in Ontario went down for folks over 80 an amazing 38 percent. The researchers also observed that there was a 15 percent decline in dementia rates in people over 80. That suggests the steps people took to lower their risk of stroke probably helped stave off some types of dementia. Or having a stroke puts you at higher risk of dementia – so fewer strokes means less dementia.

Either way, make your double play and get stroke and dementia off your home plate.

▪ Stick with a diet rich in produce, olive oil and nuts, whole grains and lean proteins.

▪ Eliminate inflammation-triggering added sugars and syrups – and artificially sweetened beverages and foods, also associated with increased risk of ischemic stroke and dementia.

▪ Keep blood pressure at less than 120 over 80; high blood pressure damages your circulatory system. It’s the No. 1 cause of strokes.

▪ Don’t smoke. Smoking also damages your circulatory system.

▪ Shoot for at least 150 minutes of exercise weekly to lower lousy LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.

Exercise and Alzheimer’s

New research is showing that there are several things you can do in middle age (we’ll call that 50) to minimize developing one of the biggest hallmarks of Alzheimer’s – those sticky amyloid tangles.

Researchers recently published a 24-year study of 322 men and women in JAMA that found that having just one of the following risk factors for cardiovascular disease – smoking, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high LDL cholesterol levels – doubles your chances of developing amyloid clumps. Two or more risk factors tripled the risk. So how do you buck those odds?

According to a new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it’s summed up in one word: exercise. A combination of aerobic (10,000 steps a day – with interval intensity) and weight training is the most effective way to protect cognitive function if you’re 50 or older. A 45-minute session five times a week produces the best results. So if you want to bowl over your odds of developing dementia, you can opt for increased gym time or outdoor walking.

Beware pain-alcohol trap

In an episode in Season 2 of “Friends,” Rachel has been trying to suppress her feelings for Ross but hits a breaking point when she finds out that he and his new girlfriend are getting a cat. She treats her mental pain by getting drunk on a date with another man, eventually leaving Ross a message telling him she’s over him (which clearly doesn’t prove her point).

This is just one of the many scenes in which one of the friends self-medicates with booze to numb emotional pain, and that’s never a smart move. But a nip does seem to work somewhat when it comes to easing physical aches and pains. An analysis published in The Journal of Pain looked at 18 different studies on alcohol and pain and concluded that a blood alcohol content of 0.08 (the legal limit for driving) resulted in a slightly higher pain threshold and a “moderate to large reduction in pain intensity.”

That may explain why so many folks with chronic pain end up with alcohol dependency problems. One study found that as many as 25 percent of people experiencing pain self-medicate with alcohol.

If you have been self-medicating to ease chronic aches and pains, talk to your doctor about finding a solution that improves your health. Excess alcohol puts you at risk for everything from liver problems and some cancers to heart woes and balance problems. There are better and more effective ways to ease pain, including physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, medications and surgery.

Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Mike Roizen is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.