Remember that commercial about doubling your fun? You can. Every now and then I am blown away by a study that has implications for my and your health, like one on how more than one serving of red meat a week changes the bacteria in your gut to produce trimethylamine, that is invariably oxidized in your liver to produce trimethylaminoxide (TMAO).
Trimethylaminoxide promotes inflammation that in turn causes all kinds of bad things like heart attacks, strokes, impotence and wrinkles, not to mention cancer. This TMAO makes it even more imperative that all good pingpong players (especially if you want to keep your command of opponents) avoid eating red meat or an egg yolk – things with high concentrations of carnitine – more than once a week.
Now comes another study with such important implications that I want to shout it to you right now. The end message is, raise your HDL.
As you know, I'm all about knowing your numbers, like for your blood pressure (the ideal is 115/76), your LDL cholesterol (ideal less than 100), your HDL (ideal greater than 50), your triglycerides (ideal less than 100), your fasting blood sugar (ideal less than 100) and your waist size (ideal less than half your height).
As of last year, increasing HDL to decrease cardiovascular disease was in doubt. It was the activity of your HDL that mattered; the total was loosely but not directly correlated with activity – some people with very low levels had very high activity and vice versa (medicine is often messy). No more. The lab that conducted the study showed that the Apolipoprotein A1 that accompanies or is part and parcel of HDL souped up the immune system of mice so they fended off cancer. Even more powerfully, they took old data from a ton of humans and showed that for every 10mg/dL increase in HDL, you had a 36-percent decrease in cancer risk. And you can raise it by twice that much. Bye bye cancer, hello double fun.
So, if you're one of the more than 120 million adults in North America with low HDL or any HDL level, try these steps to increase that level:
• Exercise daily. Aim for 10,000 steps a day – this can raise the good guys by more than 9 percent. Two to three days a week of strength-building workouts and a little intense exercise – 21 minutes three times a week – will increase it further.
• Eat healthy fats, as in walnuts, avocados, salmon, trout, and olive and canola oils. Adding these and other monounsaturated fats to a healthy diet can raise your HDL by 12 percent.
• Go on these pills: algal DHA omega-3 (900 mg a day), and purified omega-7 (420 mg a day).
• Lose a little weight if you need to. You'll add one HDL point for every 6.6 pounds you drop.
• Quit smoking. Besides its many other payoffs (can you hear your lungs cheering you?), this will boost your HDL by four points, even if you put on a few pounds.
• Talk to your doc about other choices, including a little alcohol, estrogen, and some low-dose statin drugs such as rosuvastatin in low doses twice a week
Dr. Michael F. Roizen is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.