Dr. Oz on Vitamin D, Dancing to Remember


Last month, DR. MEHMET OZ gave us tips for sleeping better. Here, he tackles a range of health issues, including vitamin D deficiencies and DNA testing—and, oh, yes, forgetfulness. Known as “America’s doctor,” Dr. Oz is a frequent guest onThe Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as the vice chair and a professor of surgery at Columbia University and the director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He has written fourNew York Times bestsellers, and this month his latest book, You: Being Beautiful, arrives in bookstores. 

What three things would you recommend to our readers who want to improve their health?
The first is walking. The reason I think to say walking is when we look at the societies with the greatest longevity, they all share arduous physical activities [as] part of their characteristics. They don’t have the same food. They have very different cultures. Their construct in society is very different. But they all exercise. Not at the end of the day, not because they go to the gym, but because it’s part of their life. So I tell folks to find some type of manual labor or some system. It doesn’t have to be a big workout … I’m talking about some physical activity like walking that is part of your life. So you walk to work, or you bike to work, or you run the stairs, instead of using the elevator. Just do something that every day makes you have to do a little physical activity.

What’s the second thing we should do?
The second thing is to eat food that comes out of the ground looking the way it looks when you eat it … Shop the edges in the supermarket rather than the middle.

And the third thing?
You need to give your heart a reason to keep beating. So, [try] thinking beyond yourself, which is [shown] to be, over and over again, effective and preservative, preserving longevity.

We are hearing more and more about Americans being vitamin D deficient. Do you think those of us in Orlando have to worry about that?
It’s equally as problematic in the South as in the North. Interestingly, part of that is that a lot of people in the South don’t go out as much. Part of it is that they’re wearing sun block all the time, or they wear clothes all the time … Deficiency numbers are a little better in the South, but they’re not nearly what you’d expect them to be. Especially among darker-skinned individuals, Latinos and blacks. So we tell everyone they might want to get 800 to 1,000 international units [of vitamin D] a day.

That much?
It’s what the Europeans are recommending. The National Nurses Study, which just came out with its recommendation, also says 1,000 international units a day. The old recommendation was 400, and 1,000 is the new recommendation, especially if you’re a woman of childbearing age.

Should men get their hormones checked?
If you’re not shaving as much as you used to, or if your libido is down, absolutely. I’ll tell you right now, if your belly measures in circumference more than half your height, your testosterone level is probably going to be low. So you’re not going to have the same verility, and you won’t have the same libido.

There are companies right now offering DNA testing to discover predispositions to diseases. What is your opinion on this?
I think it’s going revolutionize the way we think about prevention. I’ll give you an example: Right now, a lot of men are getting PSA [prostate-specific antigen] testing for prostate cancer. That’s a very poor way of testing for prostate cancer. If you have a risk factor for early prostate cancer, then get the PSA. If you don’t have a risk factor for it, then it probably isn’t all that wise to do it because it can create a false positive. How do you know if you have a predisposition? Well, family history is one way, but that’s not that accurate. These genetic screening tools will be useful for that. So if you’re one of the four genetic types for prostate cancer, then you’re really going to monitor it carefully. If not, then maybe you can relax on that a little bit.

Everyone is worried about forgetfulness. We forget our keys and that kind of thing. What should we do to protect our brain health? Can we revive a foggy brain?
You can definitely revive a foggy brain. The best tool I find is dancing.

Yeah, I’ll tell you why. What you really want to do is increase the plasticity of neurons. You want the brain to be adaptive to the environment around it. Things like crossword puzzles are effective because they force you to learn new words and the like. But if you think about it, the biggest stress for the brain is to coordinate your body … So things like dancing, any physical activity, especially those that require coordination and are new, rather than just walking, are the most beneficial way of stretching the brain.

Are you optimistic about the way people are educating themselves about their health? Do you think we’re doing better today?
I think we’re a very well-educated society with health, but we’re not a very well-motivated society. And I think people are beginning to appreciate that the action steps are achievable. That only they can do it. Those kinds of discussions are very important to have.

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