Q: My brother puts in ridiculous hours and doesn’t like what he does. His wife tells me that they’re arguing all the time. I’m worried about his health. What can I tell him to help him feel better about things? — Rosera B., Atlanta
A: Workplace stress that often comes from long working hours, shift work, work/family conflict and job strain is very prevalent and has a far-reaching impact on health. Our RealAge calculates (realage.com) stress as the greatest ager. That’s why reducing it is a cornerstone of do-over programs at Dr. Mike’s Wellness Center.
And now a new study from Harvard and Stanford says workplace stress is as damaging as secondhand smoke. That’s probably an underestimate, but everyone agrees that stress ups the risk of premature coronary heart disease and heart attack by at least 23 percent. And if you feel your workplace treats you unfairly, it increases your odds of having a physician-diagnosed condition by about 50 percent.
Rosera, tell your brother about the risks and tell him he’s not alone! Sixty percent of Americans say on-the-job tensions are their main source of stress. Then, emphasize that he and everyone else can take steps to ease those tensions.
Stress-busting 101: Get 7-8 hours of sleep nightly; 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies daily; eat no added sugars or syrups, only lean proteins and no trans and few saturated fats; and make sure you get in at least 30 minutes of added physical activity five days a week.
Next, at work, take break times: Try using 5-10 minutes for mindful meditation (see “Dr. Oz: The 5 Minute Meditation Plan”) or head outside to stretch your legs.
Then reach out to your employer to discuss ways to ease tensions. Some proven stress-reducers: Creating a way for employees to offer suggestions for improving the work process, and limiting overtime and erratic changes in shift work.
Unmanaged job-stress inflates health-care costs for employers and has an even greater negative effect on productivity. Everyone wins when job-related stress loses.
Q: I exercised regularly all summer, but I didn’t really lose any weight! How is that possible? What am I doing wrong? — Jane P., Wichita, Kansas
A: You are voicing a very common complaint, and you and millions of other folks are probably making a very simple mistake: eating incorrectly. Steady workouts burn more fuel, and that can increase hunger big-time. Often you end up eating more calories than you’ve used up, and that’s why you don’t lose weight!
While it may seem simplistic, a recent study conducted by the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine echoes that answer, loud and clear: “There is only one effective way to lose weight: eat fewer calories.” That means you need to pay attention to how many you are burning up through exercise (and the rest of the day). And you want to learn how to ease your hunger by eating foods that provide great nutrition, power you up and don’t load you down with extra calories.
The formula for weight loss? Drink a couple of glasses of water 30 minutes before each meal. Increase your fruits and veggies to nine servings a day; they fill you up, build muscle power, stimulate secretion of your “I’m full” hormone leptin and keep blood sugar levels steady (all that fiber). Eat small servings of lean protein several times a day (limit a portion to around 3-6 ounces of salmon, skinless poultry or brown rice and beans); that also avoids hunger panic and builds muscle. And don’t expect weight to melt away in a flash. You should lose a half pound to a pound a week.
What does exercise do for your weight? It helps keep it off as you lose it. So don’t stop your exercise routine when the weather turns colder. Join a gym or take spin classes; keep walking 10,000 steps a day and change your diet so you lose weight slowly and won’t gain it back.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.