New on heart health for walkers and sneezers; eye-healthy foods

Q: What's the latest news about keeping my heart healthy? Heart disease runs in my family, and I've seen how terrible it can be. -- Lee T., Franklin, Tennessee

A: The recent news about heart health identifies surprising links between cardiovascular problems and an everyday remedy that will keep you healthy.

Allergies and allergic asthma seem to up the risk for heart woes. A paper presented at the Asia 2022 American College of Cardiology conference says a history of allergic disorders is associated with increased risk of developing high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. If you develop allergies and asthma between the ages of 18 and 57, you'll have a higher risk of high blood pressure. Develop either between ages 39 and 57, and your risk for coronary heart disease increases if you are male and Black/African American. That means folks with allergies (there's 50 million of you) and/or asthma (24 million) should talk with a pulmonologist about getting the condition under control and talk to a cardiologist about having regular screenings and active intervention with lifestyle upgrades and meds, if needed, to protect your heart and brain.

The good news: If you're what U.K. researchers are calling a "brisk" walker (that's a 15-minute mile) it turns out that not only does it improve your motor control, musculoskeletal health, cardio fitness, respiration, cognition and mental health -- it actually protects your telomeres from age-related erosion. Telomeres are part of your DNA that protect the ends of your chromosomes from becoming progressively shorter -- and less protective of your longevity and health. But when you keep your telomeres healthy with brisk walking, you have a younger RealAge. In fact, the researchers have found that you live 20 years longer than slow walkers, who take longer than 60 minutes to walk 3 miles.

We know genetics is not destiny, and you can do a great deal to reduce cardio risks with smart lifestyle choices and good medical intervention.

Q: My eye doctor says I should make sure to eat eye-healthy foods. What's she talking about exactly? -- LaJoyce R., Chicago

A: Age-related eye disease, including macular degeneration, cataracts and late-onset dry eye, may be prevented or slowed by making sure you get the nutrients and minerals you need for eye health. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) No. 1 identified the antioxidants vitamin C, E and beta carotene, plus zinc (80 milligrams) and copper (2 milligrams), as the dietary protectors that might cut your risk of age-related eye health problems by 25% to 30%. AREDS No. 2 looked at the benefits of adding omega-3 fatty acids (350 milligrams DHA and 650 milligrams EPA) or lutein plus zeaxanthin.

Adding omega-3 fatty acids or lutein plus zeaxanthin to antioxidants plus zinc (AREDS formula), had no overall effect on the need for cataract surgery. However, AREDS2 participants who took antioxidants with lutein plus zeaxanthin (AREDS2 formula), but minus beta-carotene, had an incremental increase in benefit, compared with those who took the AREDS1 formula.

What does this all come down to? Supplements can help -- but packing your daily diet with a wide variety of eye-loving ingredients is essential for maximum benefits. The American Academy of Ophthalmology's current daily recommendations for nutrients to slow the progression of eye disease are: 500 milligrams vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 10 milligrams lutein, 2 milligrams zeaxanthin, 80 milligrams zinc oxide and 2 milligrams copper oxide.

You can get that from eating seven to nine servings daily of fruits (citrus and berries) and vegetables (opt for many colors, dark green, orange, red), fatty fish (3 to 6 ounces daily), nuts and seeds (12 walnut halves, chia and sesame seeds), whole grains, dark chocolate and shitake mushrooms.

The AAO also says "studies found that women who ate fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week were less likely to get age-related macular degeneration (AMD)." All that makes for delicious menus. For help with recipes, check out my "What to Eat When Cookbook."

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."

King Features Syndicate