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Published December 10, 2011, 11:30 PM

The YOU Docs: It’s never too early to monitor blood pressure

What’s the right age to start monitoring your blood pressure? I’m a multi-tasking mom, 43, with one kid in college and a 3-year-old (second marriage!). – Maura, via email

By: Michael Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D., INFORUM

Q. What’s the right age to start monitoring your blood pressure? I’m a multi-tasking mom, 43, with one kid in college and a 3-year-old (second marriage!). – Maura, via email

A. Has your 3-year-old’s blood pressure been checked yet? How about your college kid’s? If not, get it done. No, we YOU Docs haven’t lost it. Neither of your kids is too young to have their blood pressure monitored, and you definitely aren’t! If your BP isn’t regularly checked, start now. You want it at 115/76, so you and your kids will have a lifetime together.

Hypertension is considered an adult problem, but it can happen at any age. The earlier you catch and treat it, the better. That’s not just an internist (Dr. Mike) and a cardiac surgeon (Dr. Oz) talking. The American Academy of Pediatrics totally agrees. High blood pressure that starts in childhood and continues for years causes changes in blood vessel walls that can damage the kidneys, eyes and other organs, and lead to heart failure or stroke in adulthood.

An impressive new study just underlined this in neon pink. It followed 19,000 Harvard students for decades. Those who entered college with elevated blood pressure were much more likely to have fatal cardiovascular problems later in life – they had a 14 percent increased risk of death from coronary heart disease and an 8 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Imagine if that were your college kid.

What triggers high blood pressure in youngsters? The No. 1 cause is childhood obesity, but about 5 percent of kids have elevated blood pressure for no clear reason. Regardless, it needs to be spotted and controlled with diet, exercise and medication if needed, just the way it is in adults. Lowering blood pressure in little kids and young adults could have a huge pay-off later on: saving their life.

Q. I’m a 54-year-old guy in good shape (run 10Ks and lift weights). A while back, I read that men should eat lots of tomato sauce because cooked tomatoes are rich in lycopene, and lycopene fights prostate cancer. I remember thinking, “Great! More pasta!” But last week my running buddy said that’s wrong. Who’s right? – Jason, Chicago

A. He’s in front of you on this one. Bummer, huh? While lycopene is still believed to help fend off heart disease and some cancers, prostate cancer isn’t one of them. What went wrong? Actually, nothing. Good science did its job, only this time with disappointing results.

While the initial lycopene research looked really promising, the vital follow-up studies on prostate cancer haven’t panned out. At best, the results are mixed. Same goes for lycopene fighting prostate cancer if you already have it (glad you don’t!). The data just isn’t there. Does that mean you should stop eating marinara sauce (over whole-wheat pasta, of course!)? Nope. It may be a combo of nutrients in cooked tomatoes, including lycopene, that’s protective. But lycopene alone isn’t a silver bullet.

That said, here’s something else that may cut your risk of prostate cancer, especially the most lethal kind: coffee. Why isn’t clear yet, but it’s not caffeine, since both regular and decaf do the job. What may be at work: beneficial coffee compounds that reduce inflammation and regulate insulin, which could deter prostate cancer. As little as a cup a day helps, but men who drink six cups daily have a 20 percent lower risk of all prostate cancers and a 60 percent lower risk of the lethal form. Pretty impressive.

This isn’t the first study to find a protective effect between coffee and prostate cancer, so that’s encouraging. But it doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, as you just saw with lycopene. Still, if (like Dr. Mike) you love your java, drink up, knowing that it also deters Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes. And have fun being ahead of your running buddy on this one.


The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.

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