Dr. Oz's secrets to great health
There's plenty for Dr. Mehmet Oz to feel good about these days. His TV show, The Dr. Oz Show, is an Emmy Award-winning hit, with an average of 3.5 million viewers daily. His wife, Lisa, and four children (ranging in age from 13 to 26) are flourishing. But now he has an extra spring in his step. "You're happiest at age 50," Dr. Oz says. "You've worked out your issues and gotten past worrying. You can just enjoy the bliss of being in the game of life."
Dr. Oz is 52, so he knows what he's talking about. For him, being in the game of life means that he remains passionately focused on helping Americans live better and longer. "At no point in history have we had the opportunity to be as healthy," he says. "My prediction is that Prevention readers will all live to 90 but feel 60--if they want to. It's all about having the right lifestyle." That sounded so good to us that we asked Dr. Oz to share what he sees as the eight most important health habits to cultivate. "These are changes you'll want to make," he says. "It's an opportunity to reinvent yourself."
Stretch First Thing in the Morning
"Stretching for 10 minutes every morning has a variety of benefits, including decreasing risk of heart attack, alleviating stress, and improving circulation. You can feel the effects in just 10 days. My morning stretch starts with my hips. If I can't touch my toes, I know I'm too stiff. Then I loosen up my neck, because that's where I store tension. A lot of times I'll think, I'm too tired to do my sit-ups today. But after stretching for 15 seconds, I have the energy for them. I also do yoga in the morning. I try to feel enough discomfort in the poses so I can breathe through it and loosen up my body. That means I'm ready for meditation--after some activity has taken the nervous energy out of my body. Yoga is perfectly designed for that, and I think it can help a lot of people."
Don’t Skip Breakfast
"Our bodies have a biological expectation of a morning meal, so when you skip breakfast, your body gets confused and thinks there's a famine. This decreases your metabolic rate and makes it harder to burn calories throughout the day. Additionally, you may end up eating more calories at lunch. But a good breakfast that includes fiber helps you eat fewer empty snacking calories throughout the day. It also helps ensure you have enough energy and ability to concentrate."
Show Up Early
"Being 5 minutes late is a small thing that creates big stress, which in turn can cause chronic inflammation and high blood pressure. So many of us are hypertensive, but it comes from external stressors we place on ourselves, and those are adjustable. For instance, if you get to work at 5 minutes before 9, you're not stressed because you're ahead of everybody. You watch them all come in, while they wonder how you got your life so organized. So the mantra should be 'If you're not 5 minutes early, you're late.' That way, when unexpected things happen, you have a cushion."
Get Off Your Tush
"Try replacing couch time with 30 minutes of activity. For example, do the dishes, rearrange your closet, or dance to a favorite song. I pace when I'm on my cell. If you work at a keyboard, sit on a stability ball. It doesn't matter what it is, and you don't need to sweat--just be active.
"I have a lot of natural energy. In the classic Ayurvedic approach to healing, there are three categories, or doshas--vata [characteristics include a tendency toward overexertion, enthusiasm, easily tired], pitta [medium energy, enterprising, sharp intellect], and kapha [solid, calm, steady energy]--and many are a mixture of all three. I'm overwhelmingly pitta, which means I'm the kind of person who likes to move. But sometimes that urge borders on being unproductive because it turns frenetic. That's when my wife, Lisa, will pull me back and say, 'No, do these 10 things right and leave the 11th alone.'"
"Fundamentally, what has always allowed us to weather the storm of stress is social connection. When we don't have that structure around us, we pay the penalty in spades. In America in particular, I think we see the results of this lack of connection in weight gain, loss of energy, and loss of libido.
"So many of us run from intimacy by using hobbies, a job, or events that, on the larger scale, you know deep in your heart aren't nearly as important. Instead, try a new habit that links you. Write a thank-you note every night to someone--a teacher, a coworker, a doctor, a friend, or your spouse."
Control the 3 PM Crash
"Food is absorbed in the gut, the small intestine, and then goes to the liver. When we eat more than we need, the excess nutrients are converted into fat, which gets stored long-term in the body, the liver, and a covering of the intestines called the omentum, the organ that catches and stores fat.
"The worst time of day for mindless eating: 3 PM, when energy dips and many people find themselves making a trip to the vending machine to fill up on lots of unnecessary calories. Sugar, by the way, is as addictive as crack cocaine. That's because when you eat a sugary food, it rushes into your brain and pushes you to have more of it. Salt does the same, by the way, but sugar's really powerful.
"Instead, carry healthy snacks, like carrot sticks, so you reach for those instead of a bag of chips. If you're really craving a specific food, though, practice portion control. Acknowledge to yourself that the first taste is the best taste. Have a few bites, and then wash them down with a big glass of water. Get the taste out of your mouth, or else that drive to have more will continue.
"My cheats are green tea ice cream and salted nuts. If they're chocolate covered, I just can't resist them. I'll eat a thousand calories' worth and feel bloated."
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
"We have a limited bank of decision-making ability, and we waste it by making too many decisions about small things, like, 'What am I having for breakfast?' Just have the same darn thing for breakfast every day. I automate as many decisions as possible, which helps me.
"Also, get rid of nagging, unfinished tasks. There are probably, like, five in your life. You know what they are: the windshield wipers that need changing, the screen door that needs oiling, the new iPhone that isn't synching with your iPad. Just fix them and check them off your list. It will make you feel more in control and less stressed out."
Respect the 10 PM Hour
"There's a sacredness to sleep that we overlook, and it's a big problem in America. We set our alarm clocks for the morning; we should set them for the time at night when we need to start preparing for bed. By 10 PM, you'd better be getting ready for sleep, because the average American gets up at 6, and you need your 8 hours.
"Not having a regular nighttime routine can result in inadequate sleep, which can make you fat by boosting levels of a hormone that makes you hungry: ghrelin. It is like the gremlin of hunger.
"If I can't fall asleep in 15 or 20 minutes, I'll sit up--I can't turn the lights on because it wakes up my wife--and meditate. So instead of losing 2 hours of sleep, I lose only 40 minutes: 20 minutes trying in the beginning and 20 minutes meditating. I can almost always fall asleep right afterward."