Dear Dr. Z: I read your column about keeping the brain fit by doing crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other “active” brain exercise such as reading. You stated that watching television was passive, and therefore does not stimulate the mind. But what about when you read subtitles in a foreign film or, as in my case, closed captioning? I’m nearly deaf so I need those words scrolling across the TV screen to tell me what the story is about. Does this count as brain stimulation? – Will Staybright
Dear Will: I think you’re on to something. Reading captioning does stimulate the mind more than just staring at the tube. It’s active work. We all know that. So I think the answer is yes, it helps your brain, but I don’t think it’s as powerful as reading a book, which requires imagination.
Dear Dr. Z: When I read your column about maintaining protein while trying to lose weight, it hit home. I’m overweight – I want to lose about 20 pounds – but I want to lose fat and not muscle.
I start with a good breakfast – whole-grain cereal mixed with fruit, nuts and low-fat milk. At lunch I have a big salad with low-fat dressing. And for dinner I eat lean cuts of poultry or fish, or abundant amounts of greens and beans.
Should I add a protein supplement to this? And if so what’s the difference between whey and soy? – Overweight Oliver
Dear Oliver: You are right. Recent research shows that reducing calories in a healthy way means consuming enough protein. A good rule of thumb is 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So for a 120-pound person that’s about 48 grams a day; for someone 200 pounds it’s 80 grams per day (remember to use your “goal” body weight when making this calculation).
My spin: More protein is better but make it smart protein – veggies, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy. Red-meat protein, (beef, pork and lamb) is the least desirable. And an easy way to boost that protein is with a soy or whey supplement, which you can find at any health food counter.
Dear Dr. Z: I read your column about how statins increase the risk for diabetes. I’m on a low dose of Lipitor, 20mg, because I’ve had three bypasses. I don’t want to get diabetes. Should I stop taking the med? And does lowering the dose of the statin lower the risk of getting diabetes? – Cardiac Joe
Dear Joe: You’re right to worry, but you need to balance the worry – risk of diabetes on one hand and risk of a heart attack on the other. Statins lower the risk of getting a heart attack. They’re great for folks like you and other high-risk folks such as those with heart disease.
Yes, you have a risk for getting diabetes by taking them, but you can lower that risk by losing weight, eating right and exercising.
This study threw together all those taking statins – all statins, all doses. So we don’t know if a lower dose is safer.
The rule of thumb is to take the lowest statin dose that gets you to your goal.
For you, it’s getting your LDL (bad cholesterol) below 100, and many cardiologists would suggest lowering it even further to 70. So check your labs and get to your goal. Don’t forget that other things lower your risk for diabetes, such as exercise, maintaining your ideal weight and eating a Mediterranean diet.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a popular radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WNED.