Health Tips: Olive oil’s life-extending powers

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Olive Oyl, Popeye’s sweetheart, first appeared in 1919 in a comic strip called “Thimble Theater.” Ten years later, the strip was renamed “Popeye.” That makes Ms. Oyl 103 years old -- a wonderful testimony to the life-extending benefits of her namesake, olive oil.

And now, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reveals just how powerfully olive oil protects you from a whole range of health woes. Looking at data on more than 92,000 men and women over a stretch of 28 years, the researchers found that “replacement of margarine, butter, mayonnaise and dairy fat with olive oil was associated with lower risk for total and cause-specific mortality.” Furthermore, a diet that includes approximately half a tablespoon of olive oil daily may cut risk for cardiovascular death and all-cause death by 19%; death from cancer by 17%; from neurodegenerative disease by 29%; and respiratory disease by 18%.

Mamma mia! Time to make your tuna sandwich with olive oil instead of mayo; to drizzle EVOO on your bagel and lox (add some chopped basil, too) and your baked potato; to switch to non-dairy cheeses; and to saute and bake with olive oil instead of other fats.

For a great selection of recipes using olive oil check out my “What to Eat When Cookbook.” There’s Smokin’ Baba Kalamat (a version of baba ghanoush), Artichoke Cream (Crema Di Carciofi) and Linguine with Mushroom “Bacon,” Onion & Tomato (When Way Amatriciana); and Wood-Grilled Wild Sockeye Salmon.

Stair-walk your way to better glucose and insulin levels

Last September, the Honolulu City Council voted to remove the city’s famous Haiku Stairs -- a treacherous 3,922 climb up the side of the Koolau mountain range. At the top, there’s a secret radio station that was installed by the U.S. Navy during World War II. Closed to the public for years, the stairs still see 4,000 hikers annually.

Now, I’m not suggesting that climbing that many stairs is necessary (or even a good idea) for most folks -- but a moderate-intensity stair-walk? According to new research published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, that’s a great idea. The researchers found that climbing stairs daily can improve glucose and insulin levels after you eat (doing three minutes a day) and insulin sensitivity (with 10 minutes daily). The participants did around 90 to 110 steps per minute while going up and down 21 steps.

If you are struggling to manage your glucose levels and want to increase you insulin sensitivity (that lets you reduce or even go off your diabetes medication), give the stair-walking a try. The smart technique:

-- Keep your feet pointed straight ahead of your body as you go from step to step, and place each foot flat on the stair with your weight slightly on the inner side of your foot and your big toe.

-- Maintain good posture by holding in your stomach and keeping your shoulders over your hips. Avoid leaning forward.

-- Engage your entire body, not just your legs. Active core muscles can take some pressure off of your hips and knees.

One more reason to control your blood pressure through lifestyle

The bass-baritone voice of Barry White can raise your blood pressure (he’s pretty provocative), but his heart and kidneys paid a price. He tipped the scale at 375 pounds and died in 2002 from kidney failure related to high blood pressure.

Now a new lab study on mice, published in JCI Insight, reveals that there’s a connection between the long-term use of ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers to control high blood pressure and hardened kidney vessels -- which can cause permanent kidney damage. And even though it’s an animal study, it makes you think about the benefits of using nonpharmacological interventions to lower elevated blood pressure.

A major paper in the journal Hypertension in 2017 laid out the most science-based lifestyle approaches to managing high blood pressure -- “especially for prevention of hypertension, including in adults with elevated BP, and for management of high BP in adults with milder forms of hypertension.” They are:

-- Losing weight

-- Following the DASH diet and reduced sodium intake

-- Taking potassium supplements (ask your doc)

-- Exercising weekly: 90-150 minutes of aerobics at 65%-75% of your maximum heart rate and 90-150 minutes of low-impact, high-intensity muscle training along with isometric resistance exercises -- using a hand grip.

-- Limiting alcohol intake to two servings a day for men and one for women.

If lifestyle intervention doesn’t do the trick and your doctor recommends medication to lower your blood pressure and protect your heart and brain, take it! Simply make sure you monitor your kidney function and heart carefully so you can protect both organ systems safely and effectively.

Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is “The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow.” Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email questions@GreatAgeReboot.com. (c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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