Q: I read about a study that said swearing makes you physically stronger. I can see yelling before a karate chop, but swearing? What's the deal? — Anthony A., Rego Park, N.Y.
A: Yes, we had a good laugh from that one. The study was done by doctors in Athletic Training, Health and Exercise Science at Long Island University, Brooklyn. The study was reported to The British Psychological Society in Brighton, by a teaching doctor from Keele, England. Maybe he was hoping to justify swearing, since the normally "Keep calm and carry on" Brits have been swearing a lot more recently, just like we Americans.
But seriously, what the researchers were trying to show, besides a very Brooklyn sense of humor, was that vocalizing when exerting energy can release adrenaline and make you stronger in the moment. And, it's true whether you're a Russian weightlifter or a tennis diva. But swearing? Can you imagine the two tennis howlers, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, letting fly four-letter expletives every time they hit a tennis ball? (BTW, Martina Navratilova believes that that, in tennis, grunting "is cheating, pure and simple" because it disguises the sound of the ball hitting the racquet, which an opponent uses to gauge the power, spin and depth of an incoming shot.)
In any case, while making loud noises, including swearing, can make you stronger in the short term, it also can backfire. If you can't control the hormonal/adrenal flow, it could have negative effects on your athletic performance, cause poor judgement and damage your overall health; excess adrenaline can impede functioning of your cardiovascular and immune systems!
Q: My dad is in his late 70s and has chronic back pain from osteoarthritis. I'm worried that the opioids he's taking (OxyContin, Percocet) will cause early-onset dementia. Is that really something to worry about? — Adele G., Monmouth County, N.J.
A: Let's back up a bit here. The first thing you should be concerned with is the level of his pain and how he's dealing with it. (We'll get back to the meds in a bit.) Recently, researchers at University of California, San Francisco found that persistent pain is somehow related to changes in the brain that contribute to dementia. The researchers stressed that, "older people with persistent pain show quicker declines in memory as they age and are more likely to have dementia years later." So you want to help him alleviate that pain, and with as few side effects as possible.
If red meat, egg yolks, cheese, simple sugars and/or smoking are part of his lifestyle, those are major sources of inflammation, and inflammation fuels pain. Help him upgrade his nutrition, limit his alcohol intake to one drink a day and stop smoking, if he does (patches, support groups and meds all help). Studies show that smoking makes it virtually impossible to get rid of back pain.
Also, help him get moving: Exercise and stretching really reduce back pain — and help prevent cognitive decline. If the osteoarthritis in his back makes it too difficult for him to walk or do other exercises, there are options: massage therapy, acupressure, acupuncture, physical therapy and walking in a pool are terrific too. Surgery could even be a smart step, depending on his condition.
The UC researchers also looked at both opioid and NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) use in older Americans and found that those who took NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, had the same increased dementia risk as those taking opioids. So you need to discuss with his doctor if sticking with the opioids is smart for your dad.
The bottom line is that living in pain damages quality of life and may contribute to development of cognitive problems. Explore all his pain-relief options and have him take smart steps to increase brain functioning, starting with stress management, 900 mg of DHA daily and playing speed-of-processing games.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to email@example.com.