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5 Steps to Building a Healthy Brain
Craig P. Tanio, M.D.,
co-founder of Rezilir Health, which specializes in helping patients improve brain health through conventional and integrative medicine used in an investigative, functional approach, offers tips for keeping a sharp mind and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Our brain is what makes us uniquely human. The good news is that there is emerging evidence on preventive practices that can help maintain a healthy brain through life. For example, a randomized trial recently done in Finland called the FINGER study showed evidence that many of the practices listed below slowed down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in high-risk patients. Recommendations below are often used in Rezilir Health’s protocol to address early cognitive decline:
1. Eat a Mediterranean, healthy fat, low inflammatory diet
- Prioritize whole foods with few added ingredients, including a rainbow of colored vegetables, nuts and quality proteins, such as cold-water fish
- Cut out sugar and minimize refined grains, chemicals and preservatives
- Ensure that your fat is healthy, such as olive oil or macadamia oil
- Cook from scratch as much as possible for more control over what you eat
2. Get enough quality sleep
- Make getting seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep nightly a top priority
- Sleep allows the brain the opportunity to recover, strengthen existing memories and remove cellular debris, and it helps it to be sharper during the day
- Get outside as often as possible during the daylight hours
- Minimize light exposure after dark, especially blue light from electronics
- Test for sleep apnea with your doctor if any suspicion
3. Move throughout the day
- Think movement during the day, not just workouts, and try a standing desk and frequent walks
- In your workouts look to do a combination of activities that can collectively build aerobic conditioning, strength and flexibility
- Avoid “overtraining,” which can tax your brain
4. Train and expand your brain
- Do activities that challenge you and exposure you to new ideas and learning
- Try learning a new skill: language, music, dancing and art
- Expand your scope of experiences, and explore and practice things that aren’t familiar
5. Manage your stress and prioritize healthy relationships
- Use daily stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga or mindfulness to retrain your brain to respond differently to stressful situations
- Try a mindful practice, such as deep breathing, to deactivate your “fight or flight” response
- Spend time improving current relationships and building connections with new friends
Interviewed by Alexander Gonzalez
Walks on the beach are more than a dating cliche. Dr. Mehmet Oz, Emmy-Award winning host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” actually takes them every morning as part of his health routine.
Prior to his April appearance at The Gardens Mall for the Health & Safety Festival, Oz prescribed us additional advice for healthier living.
What are some surprising mistakes people make with their health?
I think people don’t appreciate the danger of sitting. It is the new smoking. People don’t appreciate the importance of plant-based foods. Meat should probably be 20 percent of your diet.
The foods that we know are going to allow us to live longer are the foods that they eat in blue zones. Blue zones are places in the world where people live to age 100 more commonly than they do in South Florida. People should live longer because we have all the natural resources in Florida.
What else can we be doing?
Here’s what I do: I get up early in the morning, before it gets too hot. And I go walk on the beach. It gets me into exercise. There’s something about my feet being bare on any ground, but sand is fantastic. You feel like you’re alive. I get some sunlight so that’s good for vitamin D. I talk to my wife. There’s a conversation taking place, which ultimately is the healthy thing to do.
Why is health care delivery and access important at the local level?
All health care is local. It’s sort of like politics. We’re living in a country now, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you’re facing health care insurance choices. But it doesn’t matter what party you’re from or [if you choose] neither, there’s no way we will deal with health care finance in America if we don’t deal with health care in America. We don’t win the battle where it needs to be waged: in our homes.
I think America is going to get healthier. Young people are not gaining weight like they used to do. I can give you medication for the three classic chronic illnesses of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But isn’t [it] better to do it with the foods we’re eating and with an alteration of how you act?
5 tips from The Foodie Physician
Dr. Sonali Ruder, a board certified emergency medicine physician at Broward Health Coral Springs, trained chef and cookbook author, started the blog “The Foodie Pysician,” which led to appearances on Food Network and sponsorships with brands like Progresso Soup to Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Here, she dishes advice on eating to prevent disease.
Did you know that you can take control of your health by tapping into the power of food? Following a well-balanced, nutritious diet and leading a healthy lifestyle can help prevent many chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and some cancers.
Here are five tips on how to make smart food choices to nourish your body and prevent disease:
1. Cook at home
When you cook at home, you can control the ingredients, cooking methods and portions. Restaurant food and processed foods from the grocery store are filled with hidden additives, sodium, sugar and unhealthy fats. Plus, large portion sizes at restaurants can lead to overeating.
2. Focus on whole foods
Limit the amount of processed foods in your diet and focus instead on eating nutritionally dense, whole foods. Fill half of your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants. Round out your meal with smaller amounts of whole grains, lean protein and dairy.
3. Choose healthy fats
We used to think that fat was the enemy, but we now know that all fats are not created equal. Limit your intake of saturated fat and avoid trans fats altogether. Opt for healthy, unsaturated fats instead, found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and fish. Seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which improve cardiovascular and brain health, and reduce inflammation.
4. Limit the added sugar
There’s a difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars, which are put in food during processing or added at the table. Added sugars provide a lot of calories but no nutritional benefit and are commonly found in soft drinks, juice, and snacks like candy and cookies.
5. Maintain a healthy gut
The gut microbiome is the complex community of microorganisms in your digestive tract that helps you maintain good gut health and can also affect your immunity, your risk of developing chronic diseases, your mood and even your weight. To keep the balance of good and bad microbes in check, focus on eating fiber-rich food (like whole grains and legumes), probiotic-rich food (like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut), and prebiotic-rich food (like onions, garlic and asparagus), which help the good bacteria thrive.
How are Top Docs chosen?
Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. is a health care research and information company founded in 1991 by a former medical college board chairman and president to help guide consumers to America’s top doctors and top hospitals. Castle Connolly’s established nomination survey, research, screening and selection process, under the direction of an MD, involves many hundreds of thousands of physicians as well as academic medical centers, specialty hospitals and regional and community hospitals all across the nation. Castle Connolly’s physician-led team of researchers follows a rigorous screening process to select top doctors on both the national and regional levels. Its online nominations process—located at castleconnolly.com/nominations—is open to all licensed physicians in America who are able to nominate physicians in any medical specialty and in any part of the country, as well as indicate whether the nominated physicians is, in their opinion, among the best in their region in their medical specialty or among the best in the nation in their medical specialty. Careful screening of doctors’ educational and professional experience is essential before final selection is made among those physicians most highly regarded by their peers. The result: we identify the top doctors in America and provide you, the consumer, with detailed information about their education, training and special expertise in our paperback guides, national and regional magazine “Top Doctors” features and online directories.
Doctors do not and cannot pay to be selected and profiled as Castle Connolly Top Doctors.
Physicians selected for inclusion in this magazine’s “Top Doctors” feature may also appear as online at castleconnolly.com, or in in conjunction with other Castle Connolly Top Doctors databases online and/or in print.