What can you do? Speak up: Make your worries known to your representatives. Then take steps to make sure you and your family avoid preventable health problems.
The American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 guidelines on protecting your heart also help you fight lifestyle-triggered cancers; reduce weight-related digestive, mental and joint problems; beat diabetes; and stay happy! A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association estimates a savings of $41 billion a year if all Medicare patients achieved five of the seven steps, but with all savings considered, it could hit over $200 billion.
1. Stop smoking (go to http://cle.clinic/2l3GPUF for help).
2. Get daily physical activity (10,000 steps daily or equivalent).
3. Upgrade your nutrition (ditch the Five Food Felons; eat 5-9 servings of produce daily).
4. Maintain a body mass index below 30 (Google "calculate your body mass index").
5. Control your blood pressure (aim for less than 120 over 85; exercise; lose weight if you have to; talk to your doc about medication).
6. Control your cholesterol (upgrade your nutrition and exercise routines, and talk to your doc about a statin)
7. Control your glucose level (aim for less than 100; exercise and nutrition upgrades make a huge difference here, too).
So let's all meet the challenges to America's health: Support accessible health-care coverage for everyone, and take responsibility for making sure you and yours are as healthy as possible at every stage of life.
Q: I've been reading about a possible link between air pollution and Alzheimer's disease. Is that true? — Fritz K., Pittsburgh
A: Yes, it's true, but not just Alzheimer's. A study in Translational Psychiatry examined data from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study and found that exposure to particulate matter exceeding Environmental Protection Agency standards "increased the risks for global cognitive decline and all-cause dementia respectively by 81 and 92 percent." That's HUGE!
Thankfully, as a country we've made improvements in air quality. But it's still not enough.
Particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in diameter is called PM2.5; it causes damage deep in the lungs, body-wide inflammation and cognitive deficits. The EPA's acceptable limit for PM2.5 and smaller is 35 mcg per cubic meter of air. The day this article was written, Los Angeles had an average of 74 and New York City, 38. (Beijing's has gone over 800 PM2.5s.)
Our history: In 1970, Richard Nixon, with congressional approval, created the EPA. At the time, the U.S. had bad pollution problems (Cleveland's Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969) and air pollution from leaded gasoline was found to cause brain damage. The EPA's efforts to clean up water and air immediately started saving lives. Then in 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Clean Air Act so that, in his words, "cancer risk, respiratory disease, heart ailments and reproductive disorders will be reduced."
Those steps helped: A recent study tracking Southern California children over two decades found significantly fewer respiratory symptoms as a result of improved air quality. In New York City from 2008-2014, there was a 16 percent drop in fine particulate matter.
Your best bet: Support continued efforts to clean up polluted air (and water) and use high-efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA) to clean indoor air down to .01 and .03 microns! Ahhh!
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.