Q: I've been offered a job 50 miles away. It will take more than an hour to drive each way. The money is good, but that's a big chunk of time. Am I risking my health?
— Travis H. Toledo, Ohio
A: Long commutes negatively impact your health; they eat up time you might use for exercise; traffic produces extra stress; and sitting in your car is added to the total time you spend sitting. In fact, people who sit eight to 11 hours a day are twice as likely to die (over any given three-year period of time) than folks who sit down for four hours a day or less. And now, a Texas study confirms what we've suspected: The longer the commute, the more likely you are to put on pounds and increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes. So we want to help you stop that unnecessary aging.
Make an exercise pact (write it into a real contract with yourself):
Work out for 30 minutes before work OR
Find a gym near the office; get in a 30-40 minute workout during the day OR
Stop at the gym on your way home at least three days a week.
Make time to get up from your desk every two hours (at least); take the stairs or walk around the parking lot for a minimum of five minutes. (You'll be more productive; we can give you the data. Write to us at email@example.com.)
Use drive time for stress reduction.
Get into music or listen to audio books that inform and entertain.
Take an orange, mango, lemon or even a rose or some basil with you in the car. Their scents contain linalool, which helps induce calm.
When stuck in traffic, practice progressive relaxation: Tense muscles in your feet, then relax them. Continue to work your way up to your shoulders and hands.
Pack a healthy lunch and drive-time snacks.
Keep a cooler in the car to store healthy beverages, fruit, nuts, carrots, celery and a good-for-you lunch. It's too easy to pull into a drive-thru and blow your calorie count.
Q: My 57-year-old brother thought he had a heart attack, but the doctors in the ER said it was JUST a panic attack. It was terrifying. What caused it, and can he avoid one in the future?
— Roberta H., Stockton, N.J.
A: Rapid heart rate, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, numbness, chills and hot flashes lasting for about 10 minutes, right? Well, a panic attack can happen to almost anyone at any time (although women have them twice as often as men). It's caused by overwhelming anxiety. But the good news is even though the episode is terrifying, it's not medically dangerous — yet. Repeat panic attacks (such as extreme anxiety every time you have to get on an airplane) can lead to the development of a phobia (fear of flying). And just the knowledge that you'll be in the stressful situation can make you panic about having a panic attack!
Fortunately, there are effective treatments, both behavioral and pharmaceutical. Your brother could see his physician to make sure there isn't some unknown trigger, such as side effects from medications he's taking, excess alcohol use or simply exercising after too much coffee. Then his doc could recommend a mental health professional for counseling, medication or both, so your brother can learn ways to short-circuit panic attacks before they happen. In the meantime, help your brother identify situations that trigger the panic attacks. He should learn to do deep breathing when he feels an attack coming on and increase his regular physical activity (it dispels the stress that builds into an attack). He also needs to make sure he is getting enough sleep each night (less than seven hours a night increases vulnerability). And assure your brother that most people can figure out how to control attacks and live a less-stressed life.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at www.doctoroz.com.
© Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Dist. by King Features Syndicate Inc.