Diagnosing Shadow Syndrome
By Michael Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Got a “shadow syndrome”? How trendy of you. Not as in having a penchant for chic black clothes or edgy vampire movies. Shadow syndromes are subtle hints from your body that trouble may be brewing in your heart, your bones, your joints or elsewhere. More and more people are being told they have a shadow syndrome, because docs are getting better and better at spotting them.
Some of these syndromes have names, like pre-diabetes and osteopenia (low-ish bone density). Others are familiar phrases: slightly high blood pressure … a bum knee … borderline cholesterol. Look at these “pre” conditions like the “check engine” light going on your car: They alert you to possible trouble while there’s still time to fix it. That means you can minimize, delay or completely sidestep these five potential problems just by making some healthy choices. Often, no drugs are necessary.
Bonus: Since the fix usually involves the DIY classics – eating smart and staying physically active – you’ll also wind up with a slinkier physique, happier moods and the energy level of a 25-year-old. Here’s what you need to know:
Pre-diabetes: Above-normal blood sugar isn’t just “a touch of sugar.” Pre-diabetes means your odds for developing full-blown diabetes within 10 years are high. But it also means you’ve got a head start on not getting it. You can cut those odds by 58 percent by walking for 30 minutes a day; cutting back on saturated fat (cheese, ice cream, full-fat milk, red meat, poultry skin, palm/coconut oils); bumping up your fruits, veggies and 100 percent whole grains; and losing just 7 percent of your body weight (about 12 pounds if you weigh 180).
Pre-hypertension: Don’t shrug it off with “I’m just kinda stressed this week” or “I get nervous in the doctor’s office.” At least 40 percent of men and 23 percent of women have blood pressure north of the ideal, 115/75, but lower than 140/90. Though that’s too low to qualify as official hypertension, it’s too high to ignore. If you’re over 40, your odds for heart and artery disease more than double with every 20-point increase over 115 in your top number and every 10 points over 75 in your bottom one. If you’re 55, that can make your RealAge 6 years older. Good reason to rein in salt (watch processed foods, the main source of pressure-raising sodium); eat plenty of the top pressure-busting foods (produce, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein); and aim to walk 10,000 steps a day.
Early arthritis: Listen up when your achy knees sing the blues. Pain, stiffness, swelling, and losing range of motion in one or more joints may not be “just aging” or that old roller-derby injury acting up. It could be an osteoarthritis alert. The amazing thing: Losing just 11 to 15 pounds can cut joint pain in half AND halve your risk for developing full-blown arthritis. Weight work helps, too. Strengthening the shock-absorbing muscles around your knees can reduce aches and help rebuild the cartilage that cushions knee joints.
Borderline high LDL or low HDL cholesterol: It used to be that just keeping your total cholesterol below 200 was considered enough. Today, we know that what really matters is keeping your lousy LDL low (100 mg/dl or less is optimal) and your healthy HDL high (55 or higher if you’re a woman; 50 or more for guys). Second best: Aim to get your LDL under 129, which is “near optimal” (130-159 is “borderline high” and 160 or above is “high”). Boosting healthy HDL is just as important, partly because it keeps LDL down. To do that, lose weight, stay active, cut way down on sat fat and replace white bread and other refined grains with 100 percent whole grains. Don’t forget the fruits and veggies!
Osteopenia: This means you have less-than-stellar bone density, which can be a warning sign of weakening bones and fracture risk. If a bone-density scan uncovers osteopenia, have a followup or two to see if your skeleton is losing strength or holding steady. Either way, bolster your bones daily with 1,200 mg of calcium (from food and supplements), 400 mg of magnesium, and at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D-3 (1,200 to 2,000 IU if you’re a woman over 65). Pair these with a diet that’s high in other important bone-builders, like vitamin K and potassium – think fish, low-fat dairy, leafy greens, fruit, whole grains. Add brisk walking and weight work to stimulate healthy bone cell activity. And keep checking in with your doc to monitor your progress.
The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, are authors of “YOU: On a Diet.” Want more? See “The Dr. Oz Show” on TV (check local listings). To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.
(c) 2010 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.