Your checklist of smart ways to deal with the coronavirus threat
“Contagion,” the 2011 thriller about a dangerous virus spreading quickly around the globe, is suddenly in big demand on iTunes (ranking No. 8 recently) and it’s now the second-most popular film in the Warner Bros. catalog, up from No. 270 last year.
The coronavirus has many unpredictable effects besides making old movies popular again, and folks are looking for ways to make sense of what’s being reported. So “The Dr. Oz Show” developed a straightforward set of protocols to help you avoid the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and reduce the risk of transmission.
Here’s our list:
■ Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
■ Avoid handshakes, which transfer 10 times as many germs as a fist bump. You can also just say hello!
■ Avoid touching your face.
■ Clean all surfaces you touch frequently with a disinfectant spray instead of wipes.
■ Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
■ Invest in a HEPA-filter air purifier and humidifier (viruses don’t like humidity).
■ Upgrade your lifestyle habits: Sleep at least seven hours each night; exercise for 30 minutes, at least every other day; and meditate to reduce immune-dinging stress.
■ Increase your fruit and vegetable intake, take vitamin D3 (1,200 IU daily) and get your flu shot. If you’re sick, take zinc (80 mg daily), vitamin C (250 mg twice a day), beta-glucan (250 mg daily) and elderberry syrup or lozenges four times daily for five days.
■ And stock up on meds you need in case you’re quarantined or they become in short supply.
Sweet-talking sugar lies
Yogi Berra, Yankees ol’ number 21, was the funniest, most ferociously talented Hall of Famer, and possibly kindest catcher ever. He once declared: “Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.” And “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”
Genuine sweetness makes the world a better place for everyone. Unfortunately, if you’re coming in contact with sweetened foods and drinks, there’s nothing genuine about some of their labeling claims — and that doesn’t make the world a better, or healthier, place.
A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found many labels that declare “a touch of sweetness,” or “healthy” are downright deceptive. There are some 20-ounce flavored waters that pack in 27 or more grams of added sugar — that’s about 27 more grams than you should have in a day. Juices with labels declaring they’re “low sugar” often contain MORE sugar than juices with no such label claims.
Packaged goods are also guilty of sweet-talkin’ you. Last October, Kellogg’s settled a suit alleging the company falsely advertises some cereals as healthy and nutritious when they’re also loaded with sugar; it cost the company $20 million.
If you’re an average American, you consume around 71 grams of added sugar daily; a huge risk for obesity, diabetes, depression and heart disease. So, start eliminating added sugars from your diet. Step one: Read the nutrition label on the back of products, not just the pretty label on the front.
It’s time to eat more olive oil
The Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988 with Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky as their center, and one more time in 1990 after they traded Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. Since then, no more Cups for the Oilers.
Maybe they could use a cup of olive oil to bolster their strength. A study by researchers from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that folks who eat at least half a tablespoon (about a fourth of an ounce) of olive oil daily reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease by 15 percent and coronary heart disease by 21 percent. The researchers say these cardio benefits may be because higher olive oil intake reduces disease triggers like inflammation biomarkers (particularly interleukin-6) and pro-inflammatory cytokines. We say, make sure it’s extra-virgin olive oil, shown to not only reduce your risk for high blood pressure and blood clots, but to reduce breast cancer risk too!
But many of you aren’t jumping on the olive oil bandwagon, despite all the news about its benefits! Italians take in approximately 372 ounces per person per year. Olive oil consumption at that level is associated with a 48 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality. By contrast Americans get only 20 ounces per person annually — way less than the study says you need to protect your heart. Our advice: Ditch saturated fats in favor of extra-virgin olive oil for salads, roasting and sauteing vegetables, poaching fish, marinating fish and skinless chicken, and drizzling over whole wheat.
Is loneliness making you sick?
“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community,” S. Kelley Harrell, an interfaith minister once wrote. That is sure true, and recent studies confirm it.
An analysis of 30 existing studies published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews found that loneliness and social isolation are associated with chronically elevated inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein and elevated levels of glycoprotein fibrinogen, which promotes blood clotting. While these are welcome when they’re summoning your immune system for a short-lived fight against a microbe or to do a repair job on damaged tissue, if they’re constantly present because of chronic emotional stress (loneliness is stressful) they can contribute to heart disease, obesity and stroke.
Another study published in BMJ Heart looked at nearly 500,000 people over seven years and found that social isolation and loneliness were associated with a 43 percent higher risk of a first-time heart attack. Other research suggests loneliness actually alters which of your genes are turned on or off, and weakens the immune system.
On the other hand, we know one predictor of longevity is having strong social and family ties. So if you’re feeling lonely or are isolated, try these time-proven solutions: Volunteer to help others — there are many online resources; get a dog (they’re great company); and seek counseling to help you overcome any social discomfort you may feel. Online loneliness support groups and groups that share your interests can also provide community. Google them; there are tons. If you’re homebound, sign up with Medicare’s home health benefits (go to www.medicareinteractive.org).
Screening for mild cognitive impairment
One recent heartbreaking plot twist on the TV series “This is Us” is matriarch Rebecca Pearson’s (Mandy Moore) eroding memory. Recently, an MRI indicated her symptoms of mild cognitive impairment might mean she’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. That storyline has led some viewers to wonder if they, too, should test for cognitive impairment when they notice similar “senior moments.” Good question.
A new report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says there’s insufficient evidence to establish cognitive screening guidelines for seniors. Seems while one review of studies found 32 percent of folks with MCI develop dementia within five years, other studies show 10 percent to 40 percent of people with MCI return to normal in that time span.
So where does that leave you if you, your parent or a partner is struggling with decision-making, learning, memory, language and/or social cognition?
If the person has risk factors for dementia like smoking, drug/alcohol dependence, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or depression, address the symptoms as effectively as possible. And, notes the USPSTF, encourage lifestyle habits that help protect against MCI: adequate folic acid intake, low saturated fat intake, higher intake of omega-3s (and we say 9s), high fruit and vegetable intake, moderate alcohol intake, and cognitive and social engagement.
In addition, we advise adding stress management; ditching red and processed meats, egg yolks and cheese; and doing aerobics, muscle-strengthening, bone-strengthening and stretching activities in appropriate amounts every week. Plus, ask your doc if taking supplements and a twice daily low-dose aspirin makes sense for you.
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.