Health Tips: The 3-minute glucose and cholesterol control trick

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The two-minute warning sounds in NFL games at the end of the second and fourth quarters -- ostensibly to alert teams to how much time they have left to execute a series of plays before the clock runs out. It’s a tradition left over from when the stadium clock wasn’t the “official” timekeeper -- it is these days. But that doesn’t make a short break a bad idea, on or off the field.

Swedish researchers have figured out that a three-minute warning has great benefits for you -- especially if you’re frequently benched. Most U.S. adults are -- sitting at a desk or on a couch for about six-and-a-half hours daily with very few interruptions. But, say the researchers in a new study in the journal The American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, standing up, climbing several flights of stairs, doing jumping jacks or just walking around (at least 15 strides) during a three-minute, minibreak every 30 minutes can change your health profoundly -- lowering elevated glucose and cholesterol and helping prevent diabetes and heart disease.

You see, when you sit and sit and sit, your leg muscles don’t contract, so they can’t move blood or lymphatic fluid through your body, and they don’t use glucose for fuel. They also stop releasing biochemicals that help break down blood lipids.

The solution: At home or the office set an alert for every 30 minutes to get you up and moving -- that way you’ll be able to count on a lot more playing time in your future.

Protect your smile -- and your health

In the 1200s, Viking children were paid for their first lost tooth. Today the Tooth Fairy’s under-the-pillow donation makes the transition from baby to permanent teeth less scary. But if you’re an adult and you’re losing a tooth -- or teeth -- there’s nothing rewarding about it.

Around 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth and about 40 million are missing all their teeth. The most common causes of tooth loss are severe gum disease (periodontitis), tooth decay and trauma.

-- Severe gum disease affects almost 50% of adults ages 30-plus, and hits 70% of folks ages 65-plus. It can develop from lack of daily dental hygiene (flossing and brushing) and from having a chronic disease like diabetes. Bad gums also make it more likely you’ll suffer body-wide inflammation that damages internal organs.

-- Tooth decay, like gum disease, comes from bacteria run amok in your mouth. It, too, is inflammatory.

-- Trauma -- a car or sport-related accident, fall or on-the-job mishap -- can break or dislodge a tooth. If that happens, reposition the tooth in the socket immediately, if possible. If not, put it in a glass of milk or in your mouth next to your cheek. See a dentist within 30 minutes. Don’t touch the root, rinse the tooth with soaps or chemicals, or wrap it in anything.

The smart move: Eliminating gum disease reduces your risk of heart disease and cancer, so eat a noninflammatory, plant-based diet, don’t smoke, brush twice and floss once daily, and see your dentist/hygienist every six months for regular cleanings.   

The magic powers of exercise

Fairy tales and old epics are loaded with magic objects that empower lost, endangered and bewildered characters. Magic boots, apples, even cups of tea all are credited with helping heroes overcome difficulties and slay dragons.

You could add exercise to that list, because it has magic powers too. Exercise can increase your longevity, keep menacing health problems from your door and turn gray skies blue as it uplifts your mood. So, if you are having trouble getting yourself off the couch, here’s what exercise can do for you:

-- Help control your weight. Although not always helpful in shedding pounds (folks may eat more), it’s proven to help retain weight loss.

-- Improve your heart health. One study found that levels of heart-protecting HDL cholesterol go up after 10 weeks of high-intensity strength training three times weekly.

-- Help control blood sugar. Exercise lowers glucose levels for 24-plus hours and increases insulin sensitivity.

-- Reduce your cancer risk. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that exercise slashed the risk for 13 cancers.

-- Improve your outlook. Thirty-plus minutes daily, three to five days a week, reduces depression and anxiety symptoms.

-- Sharpen your brain power. Exercise stimulates the release of hormones that encourage growth of new brain cells and neuronal connections.

-- Strengthen bones and muscles to increase metabolism and maintain mobility.

-- Improve everything that happens in bed: sleep, sex drive and sexual functioning, even your eyesight, as you read yourself to sleep. (It helps prevent macular degeneration and can reduce the risk of glaucoma by 25%.)

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