Considering a man's prostate is only about the size of a walnut, you wouldn't think it could cause so much trouble. But after skin - your largest organ - prostate cancer is the most common malignancy. And after lung cancer, it's the No. 2 cancer killer among men. What makes good prostate cells go bad? Trying to discover that keeps scientists busy, but hormones and diet are suspects. - The latest culprit to be fingered is calcium. That mighty mineral keeps bones strong and blood pressure down, but now there's evidence that overdoing it (like overdoing all good things) could bump up prostate cancer risk as much as 25 percent. So what's a guy to do? Strike a healthy calcium balance: Be sure you get enough to fight factures and high blood pressure, but not so much that you attract cancer. Here's how:
- Aim for 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. You can get that easily by drinking a glass of skim milk (300 milligrams), taking a 400-milligram calcium supplement and getting about 300 milligrams in other foods (calcium-fortified cereal, low-fat cheese/yogurt, canned salmon, spinach, white beans).
- Make sure your calcium pill contains vitamin D3. Getting plenty of D3 (the vitamin's most absorbable form) may offset any calcium effects on your prostate by upping a cancer-inhibiting form of D called calcitriol.
- Eat a plant-based diet, walk 30 minutes a day and find time to de-stress. These are three of our favorite things anyway, but they fight prostate cancer on the genetic level, too.
Great whole grains
Whole grains may be more of a miracle than Niagara Falls. Packed into each kernel are protein, carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals and more polyphenols than some vegetables have. But wait, there's more!
Whole grains lower your blood pressure. There's something in the bran and germ of grains that makes your cardio system happy. Our candidates? Fiber, for sure; it fights weight gain and stabilizes your blood sugar. Magnesium, too; it helps keep arteries wide so your bloodstream rolls merrily along. And then there's potassium, a mineral that's also an electrolyte, which your heart and other muscles need and love.
If you're a slacker about 100 percent whole grains, here's how to get the six-plus servings a day (start with four and work up).
- Eat 'em often. Like at every meal. Oatmeal in the a.m.; turkey on rye at lunch; peanut butter and whole-grain crackers for a gotta-rally 3 p.m. snack; a side of brown rice at dinner.
- Try something new. Like whole-wheat couscous. It's terrific, and it cooks super-fast: 5 minutes.
Move on to fluffy, ricelike quinoa (keen-wah); it's surprisingly high-protein. So is amaranthe, an old new-again grain that cooks up thick and tastes like corn. (You can pop it, too.)
Or try rye berries, cooked and tossed into a salad with dried cranberries, nuts and parsley. We're getting hungry.
Help for the heated
Heat exhaustion is no picnic. You feel as dizzy-nauseated as a kid stoked on cotton candy riding a Tilt-a-Whirl. So when the heat and humidity soar, don't skip your daily walk.
Just try to do it early, late or in an air-conditioned mall. But when you can't (life happens), here are some tips to keep your cool:
- Drink cold water before, during and after. Work through a quart every 30 minutes.
- Dress to chill. Wear a visor instead of a heat-trapping hat, and loose clothing in fabrics that wick sweat off your skin.
- Ice your neck. Tie on a fresh-from-the-freezer Ice Bandana with built-in frozen pillows (two for $17 at Amazon). The DIY version: ice cubes knotted in a double bandana - works, but it's drippy.
- Chill your middle. Try a vest lined with cold packs. Not cheap ($130 and up), but it's the next best thing to AC. Check ClimaTech.com and ArcticHeatUSA .com.
Breathing like a yogi
Are you leaving the house later and later because it takes forever to find your cell phone, car keys and that wayward umbrella?
About dinnertime, and again on awakening, start breathing like a yogi. It turns out that one of their simplest techniques - left-nostril breathing - improves spatial memory. That's the kind that helps you remember where you put something.
Hold your right nostril shut and gradually breathe deeply and slowly through your left. In one study, practicing this for a month slowed sympathetic nervous system activity and increased heart rate variability (a good thing), both indicating less stress. The connection: Hormones churned out when you're tense mess with your ability to recall where you left your shopping list or if you unplugged the coffeepot.
Similarly, in another study, undergraduates who did left-nostril breathing before a memory test scored 16 percent higher than those who didn't. And left-nostril breathing improved spatial memory scores in kids by 43 percent. But (and here's the fascinating part) right-nostril breathing had no effect.
The explanation? Breathing through your left nostril may give your left hippocampus - the area that controls memory - more blood flow and thus make it better able to gain and retain memories. Could right-nostril breathing give your right brain a jolt and make you better at creative tasks? Proving that might be on some right-brain researcher's to-do list.
The YOU Docs are authors of "YOU: Being Beautiful - The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty."
hOW TAI CHI HELPS YOUR BODY
You've probably seen people doing tai chi every time you've seen a U.S. president land in China. TV crews love filming the crowds gathering at dawn's early light to wrestle demons in the air - all right, that's not what they're really doing. Tai chi is rightly called "moving meditation"; its gentle positions relax your body and center your mind. But it does a lot more than make good TV. In just the past few months, dozens of U.S. studies have found that tai chi helps you cope with:
- Heart attacks: Tai chi speeds your recovery.
- Breast cancer: It helps you get your strength back.
- Sore backs: Tai chi is as good as acupuncture and yoga at easing them.
-Weak, painful legs messed up by rheumatoid arthritis or nerve damage (often from diabetes): Tai chi makes them stronger.
- Maddening menopause symptoms: Tai chi helps shut them down.
- Ouchy arthritic knees: Tai chi relieves these, too.
In case you're wondering if there's anything tai chi alone can't make better, there is: depression. High-energy, aerobic exercise is better at that. Also, the research is still iffy on whether it helps prevent falls that fracture hips. On the other hand, as we've said before, tai chi is a candidate for natural Ambien: People who do an hour of it three times a week fall asleep faster and sleep almost an hour longer.