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Ask Oz and Roizen: Alternatives to Sugary Drinks and AFib Treatments

Ask Oz and Roizen: Alternatives to Sugary Drinks and AFib Treatments

Our experts share ways to enjoy life while staying healthy.

Q: My son and his bicycling and skateboarding buds have all fallen under the spell of marketing campaigns for sodas and power and sports drinks. I can’t get it through their heads that these companies aren’t really concerned with their health or athletic prowess. Any tips on how to convince them they’re being used? —Pamela B., Los Angeles, CA

A: Yes, we have an idea or two, if you can get your son—and a friend or two of his—to sit still and listen for a minute.

Consider these facts: According to a new study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), R. J. Reynolds (Camel cigarettes) and Philip Morris (Marlboro cigarettes) bought the beverage product lines Hawaiian Punch, Kool-Aid, plus a few more, and modeled their sugary beverage marketing strategies after their very successful cigarette marketing strategies from the 60s and 70s. Those ad campaigns built brand name allegiances with young smokers. Remember Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man? These marketing people know what they’re doing and they are very successful at selling people things that are not in their own best interest.

Around 1983, R. J. Reynolds, after successfully marketing Hawaiian Punch, introduced the first juice box as the “handy little carton [with] it’s very own straw.” Sales jumped 34 percent, according to industry documents released by the UCSF Documents Library. Phillip Morris created the Kool-Aid Man mascot that also targeted kids.

And marketing sugary beverages to children has long-term consequences: It puts kids at high risk for obesity, premature metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Once you run this info by the kids, make sure to offer them alternatives. Make homemade fizzy water or still water with natural flavoring from slices of lemons, limes or oranges; or buy electrolyte replacement tablets with no added sugar and no artificial colorings (they make ’em these days) for effective hydration during long, hot summer days at the skate park.

Q: I’m 76 and have been taking heart medications for AFib for a few years now. I think they make me feel lousy all the time. Isn’t there some other way to address this problem? —Katherine J., Wildwood, NJ

A: There might be, but whatever you do, do not—repeat, do not—stop taking your prescribed heart meds without talking with your cardiologist. According to Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic, what used to be considered an annoyance we now know is a very dangerous condition. Untreated, AFib doubles your risk of sudden death and ups your risk of stroke five to seven times compared to someone who doesn’t have AFib.

That said, we’re learning more about AFib and how to treat all the time, so please do set up an appointment with your heart doc. Researchers in Europe have recently defined subtypes of AFib, which may help make for better individualized treatments. Ask your doc about that when you discuss your options. Also, AFib can be the result of other cardiovascular problems or kidney problems, so tell your doc about how you feel. Best bet: Write out questions for your doctor about your concerns, then write down the answers.

You may also be a candidate for a minimally invasive surgical procedure to control the irregular heartbeat. Catheter ablation allows a cardiologist/electrophysiologist to create a scar called a conduction block in the heart muscle to prevent erratic electrical signals from traveling through the heart. Sometimes AFib surgery is combined with minimally invasive surgery addressing simultaneous heart problems, such as valve and/or artery issues.

As for your feeling that your meds are making you feel lousy, you can be tested. Sometimes, biomarkers in the blood can tell your doc a great deal. And if surgery isn’t an option, you should be able to change up your medications so they’re more tolerable. We’re getting pretty good at treating AFib these days, so stay with it, ask the questions and don’t stop taking your prescribed medications.

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