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— By Michael Roizen, M.D.

and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

King Features Syndicate

Q: My son Toby signed up to play the drums in his school band -- against my advice. I do like the discipline playing the drums requires, but I’m not sure it’s really a musical instrument and I dread the noise factor. Should I encourage or discourage him from his choice? -- Andrew F., Bethesda, Maryland

A: You are spot on about how learning the drums requires discipline, and there are ways to dodge the noise problem (more on that later). But you’re wrong that they’re not musical. Listen to the musical and rhythmic sounds Neil Peart, the great drummer for Rush, and the influential jazz drummer Buddy Rich could create. Learning to read and write music is also important for drummers who want to refine their skills, so your son can get similar musical training (and brain benefits) as he would from learning the piano or guitar.

Furthermore, while playing any instrument enhances neural pathways and requires practice, stamina and an ongoing commitment, a recent study from Germany highlights the unique benefits of drumming: Turns out drummers’ motor control and coordination far surpasses that of untrained people.

Think about it. Drummers can play different rhythms with each hand simultaneously. And while almost every musical instrument requires the use of two hands, brain imaging shows that the area of the brain connecting the left and right spheres (corpus callous) was many times stronger in drummers. The study was done by having 20 professional drummers play on an edited version of Andrew Hudson’s Drum Brain software for PlayStation 3.

Now, that brings us to your other area of concern: living with the noise of a beginning drummer. You could wear noise-canceling headphones, but these days, much of the learning can be done quietly! Electronic (versus acoustic) drum sets can have cymbals, a snare, tom toms and bass drums, and you can assign volume and pitch to stick velocity. The player can listen on headphones -- no ambient sound in the house!

Q: Why should I cut down on sugar? Every cell in your body needs glucose and the brain uses it big time. Why all the fuss about it? -- Dorothy M., Kalamazoo, Michigan

A: If you have to ask this question, we’d guess you’re getting a lot of added sugar from snacks, desserts and packaged foods. We advise against that because added sugars make your cells’ energy-production centers -- the mitochondria -- age faster. The added sugars also glom onto many of your body’s essential proteins, such as hemoglobin A1C. That interferes with the release of oxygen to your tissues and increases your risk of diabetes-related health issues like leg ulcers, kidney failure, dementia and more.

That’s not all! Recent research from Denmark has shown that ingesting too much sugar changes your brain chemistry and puts you at risk of brain shrinkage (hippocampal atrophy).

You can break your sugar habit, but it takes time to get free of added sugar’s siren song. Two specialists (and former sugar addicts) who have contributed info on www.doctoroz.com -- Molly Carmel, a licensed social worker and behaviorist who specializes in food relationships, and psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow -- have come up with easy-to-follow ways to get added sugar out of your life.

-- Start slowly and don’t go cold turkey. Eliminate one source of added sugar at a time. For example, if you always have coffee with sugar in the morning, go to black. And make yourself Dr. Oz’s Chocolate Cauliflower Smoothie (recipe at docotroz.com). Its natural sugars, along with lots of vitamins and minerals, won’t elevate your blood sugar as much and will satisfy your hunger.

-- Eat healthful meals and snacks (an ounce or two of almonds, walnuts or peanuts) and get healthy proteins from whole grains, beans, skinless chicken and wild salmon. That can stave off sugary snacking.

-- Still hit with a cookie attack? Force yourself to wait for five minutes before going for the goodies. You’ll be surprised how you can tell yourself no and feel really good about it.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at [email protected]

(c)2020 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

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