The nose knows: Sleep deprivation and food choices
Multitalented vaudevillian Jimmy Durante (1893-1980) often made fun of his oversized nose calling it his “schnozzola.” He loved to declare “the nose knows” — it was one of his signature phrases — but he probably didn’t have a clue that the nose might know a bit too much if you’re sleep deprived.
When you’re tired, you may seek out high-energy, calorie-dense foods, and it’s your nose that tracks them down. But how does sleep deprivation sharpen your sense of smell? It happens in the brain.
Using a functioning MRI, researchers discovered that two cortexes in the brain that control food intake don’t communicate very well if you’ve only had four hours of sleep. They found that when sleep-deprived participants were presented with an array of food choices, the foods that smelled most desirable were those loaded with fats and sugars.
In the U.S., 30 percent of folks sleep less than six hours a night. That’s around the same percentage of Americans who are obese. Coincidence? Not entirely.
If you are struggling with your weight and are chronically sleep deprived, we’ve got a plan for you: Train your nose to love healthy foods. Start with what you like. Garlicky salmon burgers or salad greens, for instance. Get into the aromas.
Then, tickle your schnozzola with foods that seem more exotic to you. Fennel or cod, perhaps. You can learn to sniff out what’s good for you.
Head to bed earlier, and make your bedroom quiet (no TV or digital stuff). You’ll feel better and shed a few pounds.
What can daily aspirin do for you?
Earlier this year, “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After his initial treatment, the cancer aggressively reappeared. Now he says he’s come to terms with the fact that the five-year survival rate is around 10 percent.
Risk factors include smoking; obesity; diabetes; pancreatitis; cirrhosis or hepatitis B; toxic chemical exposure; a family history; and chronic infection with H. pylori. Clearly, you want to avoid pancreatic cancer. Maybe you can! A 2016 study found that a daily aspirin regimen may reduce your chance of developing it by 50 percent. But does that mean folks at risk for pancreatic cancer should take a daily aspirin?
It depends on a couple of things, like your heart health and the fact that, in addition to pancreatic cancer, aspirin helps prevent 11 other cancers, including cancers of the colon and breast. The new heart attack prevention guidelines for daily aspirin (81 mg) help balance the risk of internal bleeding or ulcers with aspirin’s far-reaching benefits.
If you’ve had a heart attack, take aspirin as prescribed — always with half a glass of warm water before and after. For those 50-59 with a 10-year risk of more than 10 percent for developing cardiovascular disease, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends daily aspirin. Check your risk at www.cvriskcalculator.com.
If you’ve never had a heart attack and don’t have risk factors, or are over 70 and never had a heart attack, you can skip the daily aspirin, unless you’re concerned about cancer. Then talk to your doc about taking low-dose aspirin. Dr. Mike says twice a day, if you’re a reliable pill taker.
New recommendations for tapering off opioids
Eminem released his album “Relapse” in 2009; “Recovery” followed in 2010. In that second album, he details his addiction to prescription opioids: 10 to 20 Vicodin a day, as well as Xanax and Valium. But he is one of the lucky ones. In April of this year, he was 11 years sober.
For many folks, there’s a different ending: Around 1.7 million Americans have a diagnosable addiction to prescription opioids such as hydrocodone. A lot of folks take these medications to treat chronic pain (it afflicts 50 million Americans), and 8 percent to 12 percent develop a life-changing dependency.
But if you’re taking opioids and want to reduce or stop your use of them, that can be tricky business. That’s why Health & Human Services has issued guidelines for tapering off opioids that they say are effective and will cause the user the least distress and physical or psychological harm. (Google: “HHS Guide for Clinicians on the Appropriate Dosage Reduction or Discontinuation of Long-Term Opioid Analgesics.”)
The basics are:
■ Slow tapering (those who have been taking the medication for 1+ years): Reduce intake by 10 percent or less a month over months or years depending on starting dose.
■ Fast tapering (those who have been taking the medication for weeks or months): Reduce dose by 10 percent to 20 percent every week, until 30 percent of the original dose is reached. Then decrease by 10 percent of the remaining dose weekly.
Don’t do this alone: Work with your doctor and pain management specialist to protect yourself from unmanaged withdrawal symptoms and dangerous relapse.
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. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.