Health & Fitness

Keep your kids active when they return to school

“Shut Up and Sit Down with ‘The Sopranos’” was an evening Q&A/dinner theater put together by Lorraine Bracco (Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist on the HBO series) to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Many of the stars of the series attended this hilarious event on June 7, 2017, the 10th anniversary of the last show of the series.

In that context, “shut up and sit down” is a pretty funny line, but it’s not so funny when, after running around all summer, it’s what (roughly translated) your kids heard when they returned to the classroom this fall.

Curtailing physical activity isn’t smart. The best way for kids to learn new info and build cognitive reserve (the ability to optimize or maximize brain performance) is to get plenty of exercise, along with discovering new information and interacting socially with classmates. Google “Dr. Ken Cooper’s Texas Senate Bill 530” to see how it’s done.

The facts: Kids who regularly exercise perform better in school and on standardized tests; in a Scottish study, the strongest association was with girls’ scores on science tests. And in a study of Italian schoolchildren, pretest activity boosted test scores. Plus, cognitive reserve not only makes it easier for children to learn today, but new research reveals that it can help protect their brains from neurodegenerative damage later in life.

So make sure your children get a minimum of 90 minutes of daily exercise at school, after school and on weekends with both organized activities and unstructured play.

Up your brain power

Blood pressure that is sky-high, indicates that a heart is straining to get blood to the organs. Over time, this can lead to heart attack, stroke, even kidney failure. But there’s another risky side effect of high blood pressure that many folks aren’t aware of: It can cause cognitive decline.

A new study in JAMA Neurology followed over 1,600 patients ages 70-plus for 10 years. Those with a systolic blood pressure (the top number) higher than 150mm/Hg had much more cognitive decline than those whose number was below 150. Folks cruising along under 120mm/Hg had the least cognitive decline.

So aim to bring your systolic blood pressure down below 120 mm/Hg for body and mind. If it usually hovers just above that, in the 121-139 range, you probably can lower it using regular exercise and a healthy diet. If it’s 140 or higher, talk to your doctor about taking medication in addition to making lifestyle changes.

Why so many sore knees?

The incidence of knee osteoarthritis has doubled in the past seven decades, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Knee osteoarthritis now affects a third of Americans over age 60 and is responsible for more disability than almost any other musculoskeletal disorder. It’s why 3 million women and 1.7 million men are living with a total knee replacement.

What accounts for this? It’s not just being overweight or living longer. The researchers say it is from specific factors you can control, meaning knee osteoarthritis might be more avoidable than previously thought.

Potential Triggers: Inactivity – not exercise – leads to thinner knee cartilage and weaker muscles responsible for protecting joints. And the epidemic of chronic low-grade inflammation that affects so many Americans because of diets high in refined foods, processed carbs and excess bad fat further erodes cartilage-building, even if you are not overweight.

The Solution: Your risk of knee osteoarthritis can be slashed if you walk 10,000 steps a day and avoid the inflammation-causing Five Food Felons (added sugar and syrup, processed grains, most sat fat and all trans fats.)

Belly fat increases cancer risk

Fat lodged around your internal organs is called visceral fat, and it’s clearly implicated not just in the development of heart disease and diabetes, but also in many cancers. That we’ve known for years. What we haven’t known until now is exactly why deep-dwelling belly fat fuels cancerous malignancies.

Now, a study in the journal Oncogene reveals that a certain protein (fibroblast growth factor-2) released in greatest quantities from visceral body fat causes non-cancerous cells to turn cancerous. And that’s why body mass index, or BMI, may not be the best indicator of an amped up risk for cancer. Normal-weight folks with belly fat pump out that protein too.

How to burn belly fat? De-stress. The stress hormone cortisol fuels belly fat deposits. So, start with mindful meditation and then:

▪ Go for 150 minutes weekly of extra activity; get there by targeting 10,000 steps daily.

▪ Eliminate all trans fats (anything partially hydrogenated), most sat fats and eat five to nine servings of produce and two servings of 100 percent whole grains daily.

▪ Women, target a 35-inch waist; men, 40 inches or less.

That will trim down your risk for cancer, big time.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.