The M.D. in me

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love-doctor-mdI really have no business telling other people what to eat, what not to eat and how much to exercise.

Friends and family seem to agree. Not wife, not daughter, not son, not granddaughters and not in-laws ever ask my advice about diet or exercise. I’m not always sure what that means. Are they weary of hearing advice from a long retired editorial writer? Or do they just prefer not to be told what they already know?

Frankly, it’s just as well. After all, anybody can get the latest medical research online. Just type in your medical or health question and within seconds you’ll have a bunch of answers. I’ve used the computer for just such research dozens of times, writing on some health or medical issue for the paper and since retirement.

Backing all that up, I subscribe to half a dozen newsletters from major medical institutions. In fact, I received three such newsletters in the mail today. So in the newsletter from Mayo Clinic, I read about controlling diabetes, surviving cancer and preparing for surgery. At the moment, I’m not facing any of these issues. But if I do, I’ll be better off than if I hadn’t read the articles.

The latest Johns Hopkins newsletter gives you the best research on statins, benefits and risks. It also offers a reminder about reducing salt in one’s diet. If you needed to hear it again, you’re better off healthwise skipping red meat. Then the Johns Hopkins folk give you strategies to combat excess weight. Cutting out soft drinks, the killer to any diet, is one strategy.

On a related note, when we once traveled in Canada, I found – without any empirical research – that I could tell which tour group was from the United States. I often asked. The Americans always appeared more overweight than the European and Asian tourists.

Sometimes, the medical letters can overturn long-held beliefs about health. The Harvard Health Letter reports that conventional wisdom that egg yolks raises your cholesterol is wrong. So go ahead and enjoy a thoroughly cooked egg – one a day. Meantime, the Harvard letter says don’t think drinking red wine will prevent a heart attack or stroke. Research on mice shows benefits, not for people. You can safely switch to white wine or beer now if you prefer.

The Harvard doctors also remind us to get our flu shot and maybe a shot to protect against shingles and pneumonia. Of course, remember to apply 30 plus rated sunscreen before you head out for a jog or long walk. After 10 a.m. for sure. Nationwide, skin cancer claims more than 9,000 deaths a year.

Icahn’s School of Medicine at Mount Sinai provides insights in its newsletter on kidney stones and takes a shot at Alzheimer’s, although there’s still no way to prevent this mind-robbing disease, much less cure it. Researchers, though, keep at the challenge.

I find all such newsletters interesting. Sometimes, such as with the red wine, I might modify my diet or my exercise regimen.

Often, you don’t need to read a newsletter from a prestigious medical school to improve your health. I once wrote an essay for the paper on my own experience losing weight. I simply didn’t clean my plate at dinner. I lost, as I recall, 10 pounds. Some weeks later, I saw a cousin visiting from North Carolina. She said her dad had sent her a copy of that essay and the advice helped her slim down.

I take my hat off to anyone who is seriously trying to stay in good health. I see men and women jogging or walking in the nearby Foster Park. They’re likely to live longer and with less disease than their sedentary friends and relatives. Take it from the kids at the park’s ball diamonds. They’re getting a good start on lifelong health, racking up hits or striking out. It just feels darn good to get moving.

Next to being kind to everyone, nothing beats good health.

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