6 + 2 = Your best you
When the Welsh physician Robert Recorde wrote the first modern equation with an equal sign in 1557, it sent mathematics into a higher orbit. But we think our equation — 6 + 2 = Your Best You — is even more revolutionary. It can transform your life and prevent disease, distress and disability.
The way to achieve all that is to set clear and attainable goals. And then plan on the steps you will take to make you succeed. So let’s get started!
No. 1: Regain and maintain normal blood pressure. Your target: 110/75.
No. 2: Regain and maintain a normal level of lousy LDL cholesterol. Your target: 100 milligrams per deciliter or lower if you do not have diabetes or vascular disease; below 70 if you do.
No. 3: Regain and maintain a normal fasting blood glucose level of 100 mg/dL or below, or HgbA1c below 6.4 mg/dL.
No. 4: Achieve the healthy weight for your height. Search online for “What is a healthy body mass index?” to consult a Body Mass Index chart.
No. 5: Practice ongoing stress management. Your goals: Sleep well and feel at ease in your own skin.
No. 6: Have no primary, secondary or tertiary smoke from tobacco in your body. Declare yourself a smoke-free zone.
How to do all that?
Well, fortunately the steps to achieve No. 1 are much the same for No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4.
You eliminate trans and sat fats from your diet (no red or processed meats) and ditch added sugars and syrups, too. Stick with only 100 percent whole grains and eat seven to nine servings daily of fresh fruits and veggies. For animal protein, choose skinless poultry and fish like salmon and ocean trout.
You aim to walk 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent and do two to three 20-minute strength-training sessions weekly. Aerobics help you protect your heart, brain and sex life! Strength-training with hand weights, stretch bands or even using your own body weight for resistance can help increase bone strength, regulate glucose, increase insulin sensitivity and reduce body fat, lousy LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Take one 81-mg low-dose aspirin twice daily — morning and night — with a half a glass of warm water before and after each dose to help prevent heart woes, colon cancer and at least nine other cancers. Consider a daily multivitamin (half in the morning, half at night), 900 mg of DHA omega-3 in algal or fish oil and 1,000 IU vitamin D for immune system, brain and heart health.
Don’t stress about it!
No. 5’s stress management can evolve in several ways.
Meditate for 10 minutes morning and night using yogic breathing techniques, mindfulness or other forms of meditation. Check out the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website; search for “Meditation: In depth.”
Disconnect from digital devices, especially before bedtime. Establish a healthy sleep routine in a dark, quiet room, aiming for seven to eight hours nightly.
Find time to walk, sit or exercise in nature whenever possible.
Get regular massages.
Spend time with friends and family.
Become truly smoke-free
No. 6 involves making sure your near and dear are not smoking, even outside of the house (they bring particulate pollution back in with them on their clothes and in their hair); stay clear of people soaked in secondhand smoke; and insist that your employers create a smoke-free environment.
Then add two more steps:
See your primary care doc for a full-body checkup so you know your numbers, including blood pressure, lousy LDL cholesterol, blood glucose, the inflammatory marker hs-CRP and blood vitamin levels.
Make sure your vaccinations are up to date. Boosters are essential to protect you from whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria. Everyone needs an annual flu shot; it decreases flu and lung problems plus lowers stroke and heart attack risk. Folks 50-plus need the shingles vaccine and 65-plus need the vaccine for pneumonia.
Now that’s a formula for great health.
Q: My son is enrolled at a small college in Vermont, and I heard that there was an outbreak of meningitis on East Coast college campuses. He’s had a lot of his vaccinations, but what is available to protect him from this?
Sharon S., Syracuse, New York
A: We are glad you are asking. All parents of teens should talk to their kids’ doc about getting the MenB vaccine, which has been available since 2014. The preferred age for vaccination is 16 to 18, but anytime after that is fine, too.
MenB is the strain of meningitis that’s recently been spreading through some college campuses. The colleges affected (so far) are Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, UMass-Amherst and, on the other coast, Oregon State University.
If your son is up on his vaccinations, he’s probably protected against the most common strains of meningitis (A, C, W and Y). If not, then he should arrange to get those vaccinations, as well as the one covering B. You can discuss the best schedule for that with his doctor.
The good news is that cases of meningitis in the U.S. are at record lows. The bad news is that between 10 and 15 percent of the cases that do happen turn out to be fatal, and up to 20 percent cause the infected person lasting disabilities.
It’s worth knowing that the MenB vaccine does trigger mild side effects, such as soreness, tiredness, fatigue, headache, fever or chills, nausea and diarrhea, in about half of folks who get it. These reactions can hang around for a few days; they generally disappear completely within a week — a small price to pay.
Q: I heard that smoke from wildfires is worse for you than cigarette smoke. We’re being blanketed with it, between the 600 fires in British Columbia and the hundreds throughout the U.S. West Coast, plus Nevada, Idaho and Montana. What’s the best way to limit exposure and still have a life?
Jason P., Seattle
A: First of all, Jason, cigarette smoke is a lot worse for you than the smoke that you are experiencing in the air over Seattle, and that’s generally true for the millions of folks in the U.S. and Canada who are affected. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t harmful chemicals and particulate matter in the wildfire smoke. There may be large flakes of ash as well as microscopic bits of residue from burnt materials. Those tiny particles also pick up other things floating through the air (sea salt in your area, Jason) and those microscopic particles can penetrate deep into your lungs along with the pollutants.
Particulate matter can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, and that ups the risk for heart attack and stroke. In addition, there are toxic chemicals like nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde and benzene in the wildfire smoke. That’s why smoky air is especially risky for people with respiratory diseases, asthma or heart problems.
The firefighters also are at increased risk: It’s our understanding that a lot of them are put on three-hour shifts in order to minimize their risk of exposure, and they wear sophisticated ventilators.
As for you and your neighbors, if you opt for a mask when you go outside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a NIOSH-approved N95 or a P100 respirator. They remove 90 to 95 percent of pollutants. Still, check for air-quality alerts (there’s an app for that) before you head out, and don’t let a mask lull you into a false sense of security.
Stick with indoor exercise — no outdoor aerobics in smoky air! And keep an eye on elderly neighbors to make sure they are well and, if stuck inside, that they’re fed and hydrated. When the seasons change and you get some rain, the air should return to normal. If you’ve been smart about using masks and avoiding prolonged exposure to the smoke, you should not experience any lasting damage.
Email Drs. Oz and Roizen at email@example.com.