When the cartoon character Courage the Cowardly Dog’s owner Eustace Bagge is taken over by Big Toe, a menacing microbe that talks like Edward G. Robinson in “Little Caesar,” you know that swollen, purple digit is up to no good. (Trust us on this one.)
The same could be said for the ever-increasing menace of swollen digits that often signal a gout attack. Overall prevalence of gout in North American has jumped two- to four-fold in the past 40 years. Around 8.3 million folks have the condition, and as more people are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (three or more of these five conditions: high triglycerides, a large waist size, low healthy HDL cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure) the number of cases will skyrocket. One study showed that 63 percent of folks with gout also had metabolic syndrome; while only around 25 percent of folks without gout had it.
Although it’s a form of arthritis, gout is also associated with an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Eating high-purine foods such as red meats and shellfish, being overweight and drinking too much can contribute to developing gout and triggering attacks.
You can help prevent gout by keeping blood pressure and blood lipid levels in check; avoiding most saturated and all trans fats, processed carbs, added sugars and syrups; walking 10,000 steps a day (1 minute of aerobic activity equals 100 steps); and de-stressing with 10 minutes of mindful meditation daily.
Time for an oil change?
The Houston Oilers left Texas for Nashville in 1996 with the hope that becoming the Tennessee Titans would help improve their record of 16 losing seasons in 34 years. At first it looked like a promising move. They headed to Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. But last year they had only two wins with 14 losses. Clearly, they’re still in need of an oil change. And so are many of you.
Your intake of “Oilers” – that is, salad and cooking oils – has gone from around 10 pounds per person annually in the 1950s to 35 pounds today. Highly processed oils and those invented in the 20th century are best avoided. That, says Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center, means you should steer clear of inflammatory oils such as corn oil, shortening made with hydrogenated palm oil and soybean oil. Solid fats like margarine also increase inflammation.
Instead, opt for cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oils; they’ve been extracted without use of a chemical solvent. For high-heat cooking, choose polyunsaturated fats like grapeseed or avocado oil. For all other purposes, opt for monounsaturated oils like olive, almond, peanut, safflower, sesame and canola oil.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help lower lousy LDL cholesterol and help prevent some cancers and stroke. And omega-3, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in canola and walnut oil, reduces plaque buildup in the arteries and keeps blood sugar levels in check.
Bonus tip: Algal and fish oils have DHA-omega-3s, which reduce brain, eye and joint inflammation.
Walk this way
When John Cleese paced across the floor in Monty Python’s “Department of Silly Walks,” there was no end to the ways he could think of to perambulate. But when it comes to getting in your 10,000 steps a day – an essential building block of your good health – there really is a right way to put one foot in front of the other, and a whole lot of wrong ways. And making those missteps can discourage you from getting the physical activity you need. So here’s a step-by-step guide to walking wise:
1. Don’t overextend your stride. It may seem like fun, but stretching your stride puts pressure on your shins, throws off your balance and risks injury. Better way: Keep your head level (don’t bounce up and down) and your body centered. Push off your back leg for power.
2. Roll through your step. Make each step a rolling motion from heel to toe; avoid flat-footed strides. Good equipment: You’ll need well-cushioned, well-heeled, flexible-soled shoes that bend at the ball of the foot.
3. Let your arms help you. Bend arms 45 to 90 degrees and let them swing naturally with each step. Beware: No flapping chicken wings.
4. Chin up; look ahead about 10-20 feet. You’ll be able to clearly see your path while maintaining good posture – so important for proper breathing and muscle tone. Engage your core, too, so you support yourself using your pelvic and stomach muscles.
Now grab your step counter and a walking buddy. You’re hitting your stride.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.