How old do you feel?
Mark Twain said, “Age is a matter of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Now, the importance of a good attitude may seem like a platitude, but research clearly shows that the younger your subjective age, the physically and emotionally healthier you are.
Researchers from Israel recently tracked 194 adults, ages 73 to 84, who were going through rehabilitation for osteoporotic fractures or stroke. They found that how those folks thought about their subjective age (“I feel like I’m still 55”) was the strongest predictor of positive rehabilitation outcomes. And it made a positive difference, even for folks who were older or had additional health conditions to contend with.
Other studies reinforce those findings. A 2018 study found that older adults who felt younger than their age had thicker brain matter and less age-related brain deterioration. And a 2021 study of folks ages 40 to 95 found that having a younger subjective age protects you from age-related functional decline.
What does it take to have a younger-than-your-years attitude? It’s created by how you approach every day, physically and psychologically. Staying engaged, always learning, and having new experiences create a positive, youthful attitude. Making sure you eat a plant-based, minimally refined diet that includes some salmon and ocean trout and getting plenty of physical exercise provides you with physical youthfulness. Then, whatever life throws at you, you’ll be ready to create the best outcome possible. To discover your RealAge and make plans to develop a younger attitude, go to www.sharecare.com and search for RealAge.
The lowdown on high-fructose corn syrup and your liver
Jose Andres, the chef who runs World Central Kitchen, has delivered more than 30,000 meals to Ukrainian families in need. And he makes sure it’s nutritious. “As a chef and father,” he’s said, “it kills me that children are fed processed foods, fast food clones, foods loaded with preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup.”
High-fructose corn syrup is in our spotlight today. It’s a sweetener made from cornstarch that’s manipulated so it becomes a super-sweet fructose. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can trigger insulin resistance, obesity, gout, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure — and increase the liver’s production of cholesterol. Plus, it’s super-harmful to your blood vessels, immune system and brain.
Now a study presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting reveals it’s a major trigger for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects 24 percent of U.S. adults. NAFLD is caused by excessive buildup of fat in the liver and can lead to cirrhosis.
There are no medications approved for NAFLD — it’s up to you to adopt habits that keep your liver healthy. That means eliminating HFCS-laden, processed and packaged foods, like soda, candy, ice cream, ketchup, jelly, processed meats, crackers and some bread. And ditching foods with HFCS that you might think are good for you: some instant oatmeal, peanut butters and flavored yogurts. I also recommend getting 10,000 steps a day and 30 minutes of resistance exercises a week to keep your liver livin’ the good life. Check out the book “Skinny Liver” for more helpful tips.
Help your teens get more exercise
Fifteen-year-old Katie Ledecky won gold in the 2012 London Olympics’ 800-meter freestyle event. Tiger Woods won the U.S. Junior Amateur tournament at ages 15, 16 and 17. Jennifer Capriati astounded the sports world when, at 14, she made it to the semifinals of the French Open and to the fourth round at Wimbledon.
Inspiring, but not to other teens apparently. Researchers at the University of Georgia surveyed 360,000 high school students and found that 75 percent of them aren’t getting the minimum recommended amount of physical activity. Even worse: Only 35 percent of young women are physically activ, while only 57 percent of males are.
The repercussions can ripple throughout their life — triggering premature heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, cancers, depression, decreased cognitive abilities in early adulthood and premature dementia.
The solution is found at school and home. In schools that provide sufficient recess, protect kids from bullying and have facilities that allow for exercise and sports, teens become much more active, the researchers found. Work with your kids’ principal, PTA and school district to encourage school-supported activities.
At home, parents need to encourage exercise by setting examples (start by walking 10,000 steps a day), planning regular, active family outings (swimming, hiking, a daily evening walk), helping kids participate in school and intermural sports (find out about tryouts and choices).
Psst! Did you know that one study found that when employees exercise regularly, they earn 9 percent more than folks who don’t? So, help your kids brighten their present and their future by getting them into regular exercise.
As of June 2022, 38 states have legalized the medical use of cannabis to varying degrees, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws; 19 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized it for recreational use.
That’s a lot of stoned people, potentially, but nowhere as many as those who contend on a regular basis with gallstones (25 million Americans), kidney stones (33 million at one time in their life) or even bladder stones (most common in men ages 50 and older). And then, there are stones on your tonsils (tonsilloliths) that affect more than 8 percent of folks with tonsils; prostate stones (the size of a sesame seed); and pancreas stones (they come from the gallbladder through bile ducts and inflame the pancreas). You can even get them in your nose (from having a foreign object lodged there, say a bean, as a child, and eventually minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron clustering on it), or your mouth (where they block saliva glands).
What do these all have in common? They may signal insufficient hydration and a lousy diet, lacking in fresh veggies and fruit.
Smart moves? Drink enough water to never feel thirsty. Eat nuts daily. Increase fiber consumption. Reduce sodium intake. Skip vitamin C supplements, eat calcium-rich foods, ditch animal fats. Plus, to avoid tonsil stones: Brush and floss regularly — brushing the front and back of your tongue, too — and use a water pick; gargle with salt water after eating (don’t swallow it).
Something fishy about the recently reported fish-melanoma risk
It’s estimated that there are more than 20,000 species of fish in the oceans and another 18,000 in freshwater. As glorious an array of creatures as that is, we’ve become acutely aware lately that they’re exposed to whatever waste, chemicals and toxins humans are dumping into the waterways.
The impulse to figure out what’s risky to eat and what’s not is a good one. But a recent study that triggered headlines declaring that eating fish increases the risk of melanoma (skin cancer) by 22 percent needs to be evaluated more carefully.
The one variable that could not be controlled in the study was sun exposure — or exposure to tanning beds (in real life, not estimated guesses). And sun exposure/tanning bed exposure is the No. 1 cause of melanoma. Also, did people who eat the most fish also experience the most sunburns? Did they wear sunscreen or not? Were they fair skinned or darker skinned? We don’t know.
So can you eat wild-caught salmon and gain all its extraordinary anti-inflammatory, heart-, eye- and brain-loving benefits or not? And what about tuna, which the study singled out as a risky option? Here’s my bottom line:
■ Enjoy salmon or ocean trout. Avoid tuna, swordfish, tile fish, mackerel, shellfish and fish from ponds and rivers.
■ Wear micronized zinc oxide sunscreen when outside.
■ Go for a skin check at the dermatologist every two years after age 50 and every year after age 65. If you’ve been sunburned or overexposed, go every year from age 18 on.
Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.