When Sly Stallone took to the mountaintop in the 1993 film "Cliffhanger," the scenery made moviegoers dizzy with laughter (the papier-mache mountain shook during fight scenes). But if you're heading for the real thing and it's more than 8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level — say, Humphrey's Peak near Flagstaff, Ariz. (12,635 feet), Yellowstone National Park (the caldera is 10,308 feet) or La Paz, Bolivia (13,323 feet) — you don't want the surroundings to make you queasy, headachy and fatigued.
Those are the classic signs of altitude sickness. Fortunately, you can avoid them if you prime your body for a bit of oxygen-deprivation.
Turns out if you sleep above 4,200 feet (but not too far above), you'll adjust to reduced oxygen levels and won't feel lousy if you spend the next day hiking closer to (or in) the clouds. One study found men who slept below 2,300 feet and hiked above 8,000 the next day were five times more likely to die that day from cardiac arrest than those who slept above 4,200 feet!
So elevate your altitude experience by adding these other smart moves:
• Stay well-hydrated.
• Don't drink alcohol or take medications (like sleeping pills) that slow breathing — you'll make symptoms worse!
• Acetazolamide is the standard drug for preventing altitude sickness; it's 75 percent effective. Or try (with your doc's OK) 60 milligrams of the herbal supplement gingko biloba for up to five days before heading up the mountain.
• Go slow and take in the scenery. For elevations above 9,000 feet, go up in stages over several days.
SUMMER SWEAT CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY
When Cleveland Browns standout running back Trent Richardson hits the practice field for wind sprints this summer, the wry smile on his face won't just be because he's confident of improving on his most-touchdowns-by-a-rookie season. Kicking out over a gallon of sweat during practice (no problem in summer camp) is guaranteed to raise your spirits, as long as you stay hydrated.
For those of you who enjoy your workouts at a slightly slower pace, three to five sessions of exercise for 45 to 60 minutes can up your happy quotient ... and your sagging backside! The routine: Aerobics that raise your heart rate to 80 to 85 percent of its maximum (max heart rate is equal to 220 minus your age) and resistance training (three sets of eight repetitions) at 80 percent of the max you can lift. A bit depressed? Doing this routine for 10 to 12 weeks will give you a much more upbeat outlook.
What happens to the body when you sweat? All kinds of magic. Your 2.5 million sweat glands keep you cool and clean out your pores for healthier, smoother skin. Internally, you're promoting blood vessel flexibility, ridding your body of toxins and cranking up endorphin and serotonin levels — that'll raise your mood! You're also creating brain connections and neurons, and fending off cognitive problems by making your key memory area, the hippocampus, bigger. And, oh yeah, if you're physically active, you'll have a more active sex life, too! So, head outside for some sweet sweatin' — and drink 8-16 ounces of nonsugary liquid for every 60 minutes of exercise.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Geoffrey Chaucer, author of "The Canterbury Tales" of 1387, was the first person to pen the phrase "For bet than never is late." But "better late than never" is a mantra we want everyone to hear loud and clear today! So listen up, middle-age slackers: No matter how overweight or inactive you are, there's new proof that if you're 40-50 years old and have never gotten much exercise or paid attention to what you eat, you can turn your life around.
Start by walking a mile in 25 minutes. Then increase your pace to a mile in about 18 minutes. That will slash your risk of heart failure by up to 40 percent (ditto if you go from jogging a mile in 12 to 10 minutes) and your risk of dying of lung, colon or prostate (guys) cancer by more than 40 percent. PLUS, you'll build muscle mass, lose body fat and shed pounds. That matters because middle-age body fat stiffens arteries — a sure route to heart attack, dementia, sexual dysfunction and stroke. And if you have a stressful work environment (who doesn't?), working out regularly (at least 30 minutes daily; we say, walk 10,000 steps a day) and eating healthfully (no saturated or trans fats, no added sugars or sugar syrups and only 100 percent whole grains) can triple your chance for healthy aging.
So no matter what shape you're in, look to the future with hope and enthusiasm. And check out RealAge at Sharecare.com for info on healthy eating, smart exercise, good stress reduction and feeling younger!
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.sharecare.com.