Q: My 10-year-old son is enthusiastic about playing baseball. But I hear so much about potential injuries to kids his age, so I'm worried. What protection should he have? - Maude F., Scranton, Pa.
A: Starting kids out with proper equipment and knowledge of how to play well AND protect themselves from harm has big payoffs. Not only are they safer when they're young, but by the time they get into high school they won't feel comfortable playing without protective equipment.
» At home plate, younger players tend to get injuries around the eyes. Kids under age 12 need a protective face shield on their batting helmet.
» Catchers that age need specific equipment: top-grade masks, groin and chest protectors, shin guards, etc.
» Pitchers need to learn how to play defense (square-up) immediately after they pitch. This cuts down on injuries when the ball is hit back at them. PLUS: No pitcher under age 16 should throw a curveball. Since bones, muscles and connective tissues are not fully developed, overuse injuries to shoulders and elbows are all too common.
» And listen up! If you have girls playing sports, they need protection -- including for the chest and groin areas!
Then there's youthful inattention: Foul balls and flying bats cause injuries; coaches need to make sure everyone is on his or her toes. And overenthusiasm: Kids try to do too much, too soon. Don't forget the importance of warming up and stretching before taking the field.
Kids need lots of exercise, so don't let your worries keep your child from playing ball. Just make sure he has the proper equipment and that you're teaching him good mechanics for swinging, throwing, fielding, running and sliding in safe at the plate. Play ball!
Q: I am trying to back my family off red meat. It's a hard sell. Have any ammunition I can use to persuade them to love salmon burgers and lentil casseroles? - Carol P., Seattle
A: Bravo! You've got guts to lead a charge for a healthier diet (more about your guts later), and we do have some new ammunition for you. Saturated fat in red meat has long been known to be a huge contributor to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), stroke, heart attack and dementia. Now there's a new troublemaker on the block.
Meet L-carnitine, a compound commonly found in meats. (It's also produced in your liver and kidneys and used to covert fat into energy.) Dr. Stan Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute found that eating red meat delivers a dose of L-carnitine that alters the balance of good and bad bacteria living in your guts. The result is a chemical reaction that increases deposits of lousy LDL cholesterol on blood vessel walls. (Don't be confused by another recent study that says carnitine supplements immediately following a heart attack are beneficial: It's a short-term benefit. The carnitine in red meat still spells long-term problems like heart trouble and then some.) Dr. Adam Bernstein of Dr. Mike's Wellness Institute found that eating red meat more than once a week increased the risk of stroke, dementia, wrinkling, impotence and, of course, heart attack.
For your family -- and anyone interested in upgrading his eating habits -- here's a rundown of our best nutritional advice:
» Sun-ripened strawberries on oatmeal for breakfast, a handful of walnuts to get through that 4 o'clock slump, grilled salmon, roasted veggies and a salad drizzled with olive oil for dinner can slash your risk for stroke and other cardiovascular disasters by 30 percent.
» Ban the five food felons: added sugars and sugar syrups, any grain that isn't 100 percent whole, most saturated fat and all trans fats.
» Saying "yes" to three servings of omega-3-rich fish weekly and taking 900 mg of DHA omega-3 algal oil daily slashes bodywide inflammation and protects you from cardio problems, cancer, depression and dementia. Olive and canola oils, chia and flax seeds, avocados and walnuts do the same.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.