Q: I have a very physical job as a stonemason, but it doesn't seem to keep my weight or my cholesterol level down. Why should I still have to go to the gym when I'm hauling things and moving around for hours every day? - Leon T., Pittsburgh
A: That's a great question that applies to millions of folks with jobs as diverse as firefighter, ballet dancer and nurse. You may be interested to know that a Business Insider investigation evaluated the time spent walking or running, stamina and strength required by various jobs, and found that the most physically demanding was being a dancer. Your job ranked 18th out of 27.
As hard as you work, amped-up physical demands from a job don't translate to physical health, according to a new 10-year study in the European Heart Journal. Researchers found that folks who were active at work increased their risk of cardiovascular issues, and their risk of death went up 13% (for high activity) and 27% (for very high activity) compared with folks who had low-activity jobs. It seems folks with physically demanding jobs tend to take it easy and indulge when they're off the clock. Plus, repeated heavy lifting raises blood pressure, and on-the-job walking is rarely brisk enough to increase heart rate. That adds up to a less-healthy lifestyle.
The study also showed that moderate, high and very high amounts of leisure-time activity provide major protection: The risk of death over those 10 years was reduced by 26%, 41% and 40%, respectively, compared with folks with low leisure-time activity. So take a look at what you're doing after work that's hard on your heart and adding pounds. Try leisure activities like interval walking for 30 minutes, yoga or tai chi. And upgrade your diet. You know the drill: more plants, no added sugars, less saturated fat and highly processed foods, and moderate alcohol intake.
Q: My doctor gave me an hs-CRP blood test. He said it was necessary because I'm very overweight and have diabetes. It came back at around 4 mg/L, which he said is high. What does it all mean? - Sandra M., Evanston, Illinois
A: CRP is a protein made by your liver and sent into your bloodstream in response to inflammation. Elevated levels in your blood indicate some kind of bodily distress, such as a chronic condition or a temporary infection.
There are two kinds of CRP tests. The hs-CRP, or high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, test is recommended for folks over 35 and those at high risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attack. A reading of 3.0mg/L or above indicates that you're at increased risk of all of the conditions inflammation causes, such as heart attacks, strokes, cancers and dementia. Do ask your doctor about getting a second hs-CRP test to confirm results and a blood test for LDL lousy cholesterol, good HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
A standard CRP test (not high-sensitivity) can give you a general idea of bodily inflammation. A reading above 10 mg/L is considered high. It may mean you have a chronic disease such as lupus, but it can't identify a specific condition. However, obesity also can drive up the reading. Obesity stimulates the liver to produce high levels of CRP, worsening diabetes control, damaging your circulatory system, even increasing the risk for psoriasis, depression, cancer and renal diseases.
Elevated levels, like in your hs-CRP test, alert you to the importance of taking steps to quell the fire. They include:
- Adopting stress-management techniques like meditation.
- Weight loss, especially of inflammatory belly fat.
- Increased activity.
- Eating a diet full of anti-inflammatory foods such as salmon, vegetables, plant proteins and healthy oils.
- Perhaps taking medication to lower LDL and changing diabetes medications.
- Also, ask your doc about taking a low-dose aspirin daily.
After six months on this new routine, get checked to see how you've tamped down the inflammation.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)sharecare.com.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.