If part of your body is one big ouch, try this: Improve your posture. No, we YOU Docs aren’t talking about sitting up straight like your mother told you to. (Though that might not hurt.)
We mean: Do something more expressive. Act like a peacock spreading its feathers — take up more space. When you assume an expansive, powerful position, you actually change your hormone levels. It boosts testosterone, which helps with pain tolerance, and decreases cortisol, a major stress hormone. Acting powerful makes you feel powerful, more in control and better able to cope with any physical (or emotional) hurt that life throws your way.
So next time your bum knee acts up, or your boss goes on a tear, or your sweetheart cancels a date, don’t roll into a miserable ball. Take a breath, then make like your favorite Olympian winning gold, or LeBron scoring a winning basket. Try it!
If arm-pumping feels like a bit much, here are some subtler poses that will help you radiate confidence and power through back pain:
• Stand tall, not hunched forward, with your head lined up over your shoulders, hips and ankles.
• When you sit, look for a chair with armrests. Plant your arms wide on them so your chest opens up, signaling assurance to yourself and others.
• Standing or sitting, keep your hands relaxed, not clenched, clasped together or held to your chest, so they’re free to make bold gestures.
Now you’re in more control of your pain and your life!
THE FRUIT THAT TOUGHENS UP YOUR BONES
Next time you pass a package of prunes, think “strong skeleton,” not just “constipation fixer.” Then grab ’em with your finger bones and toss ’em in your cart. Snacking on a few of these little nuggets daily could help keep your bones sturdy and shatter-proof.
Why? Prunes (aka dried plums, thanks to a recent image upgrade) are filled with compounds called polyphenols that rebalance your body’s bone-building cycle.
Think of your bones as a never-ending construction project. Microscopic segments are constantly being broken down and rebuilt by special crews. Over time, the rebuilding teams slack off, but the demolition crews don’t. Result: weaker bones as you age and a greater danger of breaks.
Dried plums slow down the demolition, which lets the rebuilders catch up. That’s a benefit your bones need. Just don’t overdo prunes. They may be full of polyphenols and fiber, but, like all dried fruit, they’re high in sugar … not to mention that they can quickly turn constipation into diarrhea! So add three or four prunes a day to your regular strong-bones roster, which should be:
• 1,200 mg of calcium. Get half from foods (fat-free dairy; calcium-fortified OJ and soy milk; canned salmon and sardines; dark, leafy greens). Get the rest from a supplement;
• 1,000 IU of vitamin D-3 (1,200 after age 60). It helps you absorb calcium. Buy a calcium supplement that includes some D-3; count that and what’s in your multi toward your daily D-3 total.
Alert readers (smarties!) will notice we didn’t say to add magnesium to counter calcium’s constipating effects. The prunes do that.
NEW REASONS WE LOVE WALKING
Whether you’re kicking up beach sand, crunching through autumn leaves (well, soon), or striding on your treadmill, you know that walking’s great for your brain, body and stress level. Here’s some good news: It’s even better than you think.
• Walking goes after belly fat. Been wondering whether strength training or aerobics (brisk walking, biking, swimming, dance classes) is better for flattening abdominal fat? The jury’s in and the answer is (ta-da) aerobics. Strength training is great for building muscle and sharpening balance (that’s one reason we YOU Docs recommend doing 10 or 15 minutes of it three times per week). But aerobics is the stuff that busts up abdominal fat — the deep, risky, “visceral” belly fat that raises your risk for diabetes, heart disease and ever-larger pants.
• Walking adds years to your life. Yes, that’s a plural: years. To get more life out of your walks, just pick up the pace. You don’t have to walk any longer. Simply add several short, 30-second bursts of faster-than-usual walking to your routine. In between these mini-power walks, return to your usual pace. This alone could add an extra four to five years to your life.
Need a little extra motivation? If you’re among the one in three dog owners who don’t bring Phideaux along, snap on a leash and head out the door together. Joining the dog walkers of the world automatically makes you 34 percent more likely to fit exercise into your day.
OMEGA-3S: ANTIDOTE FOR TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES
If the economy’s ups and downs are making you feel like a bronco-busting rodeo cowboy — every day you’re rattled and sore — we YOU Docs have one word to get you through this ride calmer and stronger: omega-3s.
Faithful readers know these heart-healthy fats have a list of benefits longer than the cast of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show: They boost your brainpower, protect your vision, ward off osteoarthritis, deter colon cancer and more.
But here’s what’s giving omega-3s top billing for uncertain times: They also reduce inflammation and anxiety.
Why is that such big news? Stress and anxiety are some of today’s biggest mind-body agers. And inflammation damages cells in ways that invite all kinds of trouble, from arthritis and cancer to heart disease and stroke. Omega-3s can cut anxiety symptoms by 20 percent and reduce cytokines (inflammatory proteins) by 14 percent. Their benefits may be even greater for older folks at bigger risk for bad problems.
The three best ways to boost your omega-3s:
Eat fish high in good fats, low in mercury.
Add walnuts, flaxseeds, olive or nut oils to salads and side dishes. All are rich in omega-3s.
Take an omega-3 supplement. It’s hard to get enough from food alone. That’s why both of us take 900 mg of algae-based DHA omega-3s daily.
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.