1.22.2007

Express Checkup - A head-to-toe overhaul in 15 minutes or less


By: Steve Calechman

Living longer, looking sharper, and feeling better doesn't have to be drudgery. Just look at the guys at Jiffy Lube.

We are not proposing that our coverall-clad brothers are models of health and happiness. (Heck, motor oil is a potential carcinogen.) They are, however, players in an allegory of Platonic proportions. They swap old oil for fresh 5W -30, spin on a new filter, eyeball and top off seven different fluids, inspect the air filter and belts, check tire pressure, vacuum the interior, and clean the windows--in less time than it takes to notice that the waiting room's issue of Car and Driver is from September 1983. But underneath all the axle grease, this well-choreographed performance also teaches us a valuable life lesson. It shows us that, armed with the right tools, a man can completely protect and preserve any complex piece of machinery in, yes, a jiffy. Even machinery as complex as his own body.

What you're about to read is your own rolling tool chest. Top to bottom, it contains all the right-now know-how you need to avoid a disaster down the road, look buff (and just buffed), and otherwise cruise through life--in 15 minutes or less. What's in it for us? We keep the "Girls of MasterWrench" wall calendar.


Health Message Center
Live Longer
Total time: 4 minutes, 53 seconds

Save Your Eyesight in 1 minute, 10 seconds
Carrots have the rep, but go with mangoes. They're loaded with beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, three antioxidants that protect your eyes from vision-altering free-radical damage. "We know that these antioxidants help decrease vision loss in patients with age-related macular degeneration," says Peter Kaiser, M.D., a retinal surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. Hate mangoes? Eat a kiwi. Research shows that high blood pressure may increase the risk of blindness in old age. Kiwis are packed with potassium, a natural BP buster.

Prevent Colon Cancer in 14 seconds
Swap the Honey Barbecue Fritos for a snack that may save your life: Brazil nuts. They're the top food source of selenium, a mineral that one study showed may reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as 60 percent. "It looks extremely promising as a way to help prevent colon cancer," says Michael Wargovich, Ph.D., director of the basic-research program at the South Carolina Cancer Center. The best news:

A couple of Brazil nuts a day will help you hit the target amount of 200 micrograms of selenium.

Ulcer-Proof Your Stomach in 49 seconds
If a type of bacteria called H. pylori is the firebug that ignites most ulcers, then a serving of broccoli sprouts is your edible sprinkler system. In a study sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, sulforaphane--a phytochemical in the sprouts--killed off any H. pylori that was exposed to it. And while the research was done in the lab, "all indications point to sulforaphane's having a similar effect on the H. pylori in our stomachs," says Paul Talalay, M.D., a professor of pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University medical school. Try folding sprouts into your omelettes or using them in a sandwich. (And yes, regular broccoli contains some sulforaphane, too.)

Avoid a Stroke in 24 seconds
Chug 16 ounces of orange juice (about two glasses). In a 10-year study of 2,400 men, Finnish researchers found that the men taking in 200 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C a day--the amount you get in 16 ounces of OJ--had a lower stroke risk than those taking in only 40 mg of C. Researchers attribute the reduction in risk to vitamin C's ability to minimize artery damage from free radicals, reduce blood pressure, and help control cholesterol, says Sudhir Kurl, M.D., the study's lead author.

Protect Your Prostate in 21 seconds
Blueberries are the fruit with the most antioxidant firepower, but plums may be the real nukes against prostate cancer. Preliminary research at Texas A&M University found that phytochemicals in red-fleshed plums inhibit prostate-tumor cell growth in the laboratory by 80 percent--20 percent more than blueberries do. "The research is still in the early stages, but there's definitely no downside to eating plums," says David Byrne, Ph.D., a professor of horticulture and the lead researcher.

Stop a Heart Attack in 1 minute, 10 seconds
When the gum-snapping diner waitress asks, "Honey, you want coffee or tea?" tell her, "Tea" (and, "Don't call me honey, toots"). Harvard medical-school researchers found that drinking one or more cups of black tea daily was associated with a 45 percent decrease in heart attacks. The flavonoids in the tea may reduce the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, says Howard Sesso, Sc.D., the lead researcher. And it doesn't have to be pinkie-waving Earl Grey (though your butler may insist); plain Lipton or Tetley will do the artery -clearing trick just as well.

Prevent Diabetes in 45 seconds
Whip up a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that those people who ate peanut butter just once a week had a 16 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who didn't eat any (five or more servings a week resulted in a 27 percent lower risk). One explanation may be the fats in peanut butter. "Previous studies have shown that a high intake of mono- and polyunsaturated fats improves insulin sensitivity," says Rui Jiang, Ph.D., lead author of the study. And although the research was done on women, there's no reason to think that men won't reap the same benefits, adds Jiang.

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