Don't be sad, get glad
Q: I have seasonal affective disorder, and before I get socked by winter depression, tell me: What's the best way to deal with it? Help! — Malcolm H., Minneapolis
A: There are several ways for you to deal with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). We strongly recommend the triumvirate of: exercising outside (a brisk walk at least 20 minutes a day), light therapy (go to RealAge.com for different light therapy options — light boxes, dawn simulators, light visors) and supplemental vitamin D-3.
Exercising outside provides exposure to sunlight (lack of sunlight can cause an imbalance of two key mood-regulating neurotransmitters — serotonin and melatonin). It also improves your outlook by stimulating release of mood-boosting endorphins, helps you sleep better and makes it easier to eat more healthfully — all powerful ways to combat SAD.
Blue-light therapy for one hour a day can improve your mood significantly during the winter months, and coupling it with exercise amps up its benefits.
Vitamin D-3 helps boost mood, the immune system and heart health. Most folks rely on sun exposure to get their daily dose of vitamin D. But with winter darkness and all those clothes covering up your skin, chances are you're seriously "D"-prived. We recommend you take a D-3 supplement of 1,000 IU a day if you're younger than 60 and 1,200 if you're older.
So don't get SAD, get glad! Try our three-part SAD therapy and you'll be surprised how much you can enjoy those beautiful and invigorating Minnesota winters.
Q: My doc says I'm headed for Type 2 diabetes if I don't do something to get in shape. I don't mind the gym, so what's the best plan? — Fred G., Buffalo, N.Y.
A: We're glad you asked, Fred. Turns out that what you do at the gym can revolutionize your future, preventing everything from heart attack to kidney failure and blindness — just a few of the complications associated with diabetes. (And that's especially true if you combine it with upgrades to your overall lifestyle; our suggestions are below.) Here's the latest solid data:
1. Weight training for 59 minutes a week slashes diabetes risk by 12 percent; ramp it up to 149 minutes, and it's down by 25 percent. Opt for 150 minutes or more each week, and your risk is cut by 34 percent.
2. Prefer aerobics? Swimming, treadmill (jogging, walking), stationary bike or taking a 59-minute spin class cuts your risk by 7 percent; more than an hour, 31 percent; and 90 minutes, 52 percent.
3. Now put the two together, and fireworks happen! Go for 150 minutes of weights and 150 minutes of aerobics a week, and you can see a 59 percent drop in your risk for Type 2 diabetes. And you haven't even tackled the other lifestyle life-changers — better nutrition, improved sleep habits and de-stressing.
Nutritional upgrades have powerful positive effects on blood pressure, overall body inflammation, depression, weight and glucose levels, all associated with diabetes. So, avoid the five food felons: added sugars, added syrups, most saturated fat, all trans fats and grains that are not 100 percent whole.
Then choose friendly fats such as olive oil with omega-9 fatty acids and canola oil with omega-3s; lean proteins, especially fish with loads of omega-3s, such as salmon and trout; lots of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, collard greens, daikon radish, kohlrabi and bok choy); fruits and other veggies (put a wide variety of colors on your plate every day); plus avocados and walnuts.
Next, get at least seven hours of shut-eye every night, and, in addition to physical activity, adopt new ways to shake off stress — unchecked, it raises blood sugar levels and increases inflammation. We recommend (and do it ourselves) daily meditation. There are instructions on everything from progressive relaxation to mindfulness at RealAge.com.
You can start in the gym, Fred. Then aim to add 10,000 steps a day with our walking plan. And don't forget those food upgrades, the right amount of sleep and meditation.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at doctoroz.com.