The truth about exercising outdoors; digital health monitoring


Q: I love exercising outdoors, but I live in a big city, and I heard that air pollution might erase the benefits of working out. I know I am healthier than my neighbors who don’t exercise. What are they talking about? — Cleon G., Chicago

A: You must be referring to the recent research that was published in the journal Neurology. The writeups can be misleading — so let me explain the findings more clearly. The bottom line: The research was only talking about how air pollution affects brain health. And even so, the benefits to your brain of exercising, even in an urban environment, far outweigh the debits. They help you and your brain achieve a younger RealAge.

True: Some markers of brain health improve when exercise is done in areas of low pollution. That includes larger volume of gray matter and less evidence of negative changes to white matter. These positive changes protect brain neurons and improve cognition. The big news: The study tracked 8,600 participants for four years. “Overall, the [negative] effect of air pollution on brain health was modest — roughly equivalent to half the effect of one year of aging,” says study author Dr. Melissa Furlong of the University of Arizona in Tucson. In sharp contrast, she adds, “the effects of vigorous activity on brain health were much larger — approximately equivalent to being three years younger.”

So where does this leave you if you exercise in polluted areas?

— Pay attention to air quality reports and exercise indoors in a facility with HEPA and far UV (222 filters) when there are ozone alerts or other warnings. — Opt to exercise in parks nine or more blocks from traffic. Research has found that activity in outdoor green spaces is associated with significant mental and physical benefits.

— Fuel up! Research suggests carotenoids and vitamins D and E help protect against pollution damage; vitamin C, curcumin, choline and omega-3 fatty acids may too. Plus, research shows 1,100 mg of the omega-3 DHA a day from algal supplements (equivalent to three 6-ounce servings of wild salmon weekly) makes a six-year difference in brain aging. * * *

Q: My diabetes doctor wants to wire me up so we connect through texts, emails and phone calls that constantly let him know my glucose levels and blood pressure. He insists it will transform my health. Is it really a good idea? — Pat R., Indianapolis

A: Health care was being transformed by technology before the pandemic, but the widespread use of telehealth visits and the reliance on digital technology to provide important checkups has become even more common, and it’s here to stay — much to your benefit.

A study presented at the Midyear American Society of Health-System Pharmacists meeting found that digital health programs for high blood pressure and diabetes deliver huge benefits. Only 26% of high blood pressure patients who received usual care were able to achieve blood pressure control in six months. But 75% of those on the digital health program (using an at-home blood pressure monitor) did. And patients with diabetes (using a glucometer) improved their hemoglobin A1C — averaging a decrease from 7.3% at the start of the study to 6.7% after six months in the digital health program. Those are improvements that not only improve quality of life — they can make the difference between life and death.

Why does the digital health program make such a difference? For patients with high blood pressure, the digital program increased interactions with the doctor’s office from 10 times over six months to 130 times! And for folks with diabetes there were over 30 times more glucose readings taken and communicated to the doctor than with “usual care.” You can see how these increased interactions alert you and your doc to any negative trends or need for changes in medication or your lifestyle habits. So go for it if suggested — and if your doc hasn’t brought it up, ask for it! * * *

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.” Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Mike at [email protected]

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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