Archives for November 4, 2019

NOBODY KNOWS YOU LIKE YOU DO

Who knows you better than you? No one. And while doctors can explain things, they can’t tell you how you feel. Only you know this.

In my last blog, we talked about waking up to the idea that you have to be proactive in your choices about health, and I shared the 7 habits I created to stay on the path to better health. So today, we’re going to talk about taking charge of your health.

Your good health requires a strong captain, and that’s you. I learned that the best way to be this strong captain is to:

  • Focus on prevention,
  • Be proactive about my own well-being, and 
  • Remember that simple changes can make a big difference. 

Picture, if you will, the shore of a lake or ocean, where someone has pushed a stick into the sand. The stick stands straight up, supported by a mound of sand piled up around it. If that stick starts to lean to one side, you can prop it up by reinforcing the pile of sand at its base. Over time, the waves and wind will scoop away some of the sand. Without intervention, a little more sand will wash away, and then a little more, until the stick is about to topple over. 

Your body is like that stick—sturdy but vulnerable. If you don’t take care of your body, or if you ignore the signs that its foundation—your health—is compromised, you’ll have a problem. When we don’t support our bodies with healthy habits, we’re wearing our bodies down. There is no stasis. We’re either strengthening our health or weakening it. 

Dr. Becky Su, a brilliant practitioner of Western and Chinese medicine, introduced me to the sandpile metaphor. She has been a healing presence—and friend—in my own life and has helped me learn how to actively strengthen my body and health. 

Ownership of Our Health Means Partnership 

Traditionally, we haven’t looked to ourselves to ensure our health. We looked to our doctors. 

But gone are the days when we can think of our doctors as the ultimate authorities who tell us exactly which tests, medicines, and procedures to have. Doctors and patients alike are bombarded with new information and treatment options, and our care providers seem to be busier than ever. That means you need to be a proactive, informed partner. 

Now, the goal is not to replace our doctors; the goal is to become our own best medical advocates and personal medical historians. 

To learn more about taking charge of your health, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More fromAmazon today.

To that point, I track my health numbers daily. I want to know my trends so I can help my doctors spend less of their limited time assessing me, and more time diagnosing and treating me. 

For most of us, monitoring and tracking our bodies constitutes a paradigm shift. Yet you know your body and how you feel better than anyone else does. Yes, it takes some investigation, work, and education, but when you take charge of your own health, you help your doctor help you. 

Always go into your doctor appointment prepared. I get ready for mine like I do for a business meeting. I don’t wait for the doc to ask me questions. I hand over my health log with all my numbers and tell the doc what is going on right away. Ninety percent of her or his job is assessment, but because I track my health, my doctors can get right to diagnosis and treatment. That is how to help your doc help you the best.

An Evolving Understanding of Cures and the Role of Healthy Habits 

The nature of health at midlife and beyond has changed. Many diseases—even some cancers—are becoming chronic conditions that we can treat and sometimes live with into old age. 

Sadly, many people are trained to quickly reach for medication when we aren’t feeling quite right. We cheat our body’s natural healing abilities and become dependent on artificial means to make us feel better. Instead, try this simple formula: 

  1. Hydration.I drink a glass of room-temperature water when I wake up and a good deal of water throughout the day. 
  2. Meditation. Twenty minutes of transcendental meditation twice a day works for me. 
  3. Medication. If you still are not feeling quite right, then try medication, but I think you will be shocked at how hydration and meditation will rebalance your body. 

In addition, getting more and better sleep, consciously taking care of our emotions and relationships, and maintaining a lifelong sense of purpose are important. These are the habits that affect our health and the longevityof our cells. 

Developing a wellness habit means taking charge and believing that simple changes make a tangible difference. Looking for miracle pills, cures, and elixirs misses a bigger truth: even if you’re a cancer survivor, even if you’ve experienced a heart attack or a stroke or have an ongoing medical condition, the healthy choices you start making—or intensifying—can affect your life now and your health and happiness in the months and years ahead. 

Science is proving the miracle that many of us are missing: there are enormous benefits that come from healthy habits and meaningful, simple living that so many of our grandparents enjoyed. The aggregate benefits are huge. 

Attitudes Affect Our Actions 

Wellness isn’t only an intellectual idea—it’s an emotional and psychological one, too. Wellness has to do with our beliefs. 

Too many people define getting older not as aging, but as declining. This leads us to (1) ignore the changes of aging or (2) succumb to them and just give up. 

Ignoring these changes can lead us to act like 30-year-olds with the potential for danger everywhere, so you need to be practical about who you are and know your health limits. 

At the same time, you want to stretch yourself. I’m not going to run a marathon, but I’ll lift moderate weights that would be too taxing for many people. I’ll go on hikes, exercise at the gym, swim, and try new things in tune with my health. 

The other side is succumbing to the changes. If your mind tells you that the negative effects of aging are inevitable, you’re predisposed to accept limitations and incapacity rather than pursue your potential for extended and even improved health. 

I love this story: On a ski vacation in Sun Valley, I stepped into a small shop to pick out a gift for my wife. The woman who came over to help me seemed like a really sweet, older lady. As we got to chatting, I asked if she’d ever skied. To my astonishment, she answered that she started skiing in the 1950s. So, of course, I had to ask if she still skied. She said, “Oh sure. In fact, I’m in a race tomorrow.” “A race?” I said. “Yeah,” she replied, “I’m a downhill racer.” 

She had raced in Sun Valley for years, and at 84 years old, was involved in senior ski competitions, and had even been in an Olympics qualifier. 

When I asked her if she’d ever been hurt, she paused for a minute and then answered, “You know, I broke a thumb in the ’60s” 

Here’s a woman living at her healthy edge. If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, then don’t go racing on the slopes. Put yourself on the health scale and be responsible, but don’t succumb to limits in your head.  

I want to encourage you to remove those limiting beliefs. Make today count. If your doctor says you’ve got a clean bill of health, you can maintain an active, adventurous life consistent with your personal limits. Take charge of your health, Wellness Warrior! You can do this!

In my next blog, I want to share more about how you can be a proactive patient!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself. What are some of the things you’ve done recently to take charge of your health? Or if you haven’t, what is 1 thing you will start to do to take charge of it?

Live Well, Live Long, Wellness Warriors!

~Dwayne

CURIOSITY: IT MAY HAVE KILLED THE CAT, BUT IT CAN HELP SAVE YOU

After my health scare, I became very curious about the science behind health, illness, and longevity. I think if you follow your own curiosity about life and health, it can really help you live a longer, healthier life.

I also believe in this fundamental principle: change your mind, change your health. Being continually curious about health means taking charge of your health by taking charge of what you know: Are you willing to learn something new about the agingprocess instead of passively ac­cepting the old ideas that are not supported by the latest research? 

The healthiest older people I’ve ever met have stayed fascinated and curious about the world no matter what their hardships or health. Their curiosity and learning keep them engaged and connected and is often part of a powerful purpose. 

One of our residents at Aegis Living loves to tell stories about traveling to 150 countries. At age 97 she seems at least 20 years younger than she is. Quiet and composed, and a bit of an introvert, she’s a fast and engagingtalker. She went to graduate school in psychology, which seems remarkable given her age, and worked for the Red Cross during World War II. Her assignment was to travel to bases to set up social clubs for the soldiers since the military couldn’t do it. The men at that time were lonely, and she was treated like a caring den mother during the time it took her to get each place up and running. Then she’d move. She did that work for 50 years in all. Once, she and her husband went around the world without a single reservation. They’d hop on trains, planes, and buses and stayed at bed-and-break­fasts, using sign language to get around. If you ask her what place she liked best, she’ll tell you, “Where I’m at.” 

That same spirit of curiosity about your health plays a unique role in your life. Even if you’re not a science type, knowledge about the biology of aging—coupled with experience—can inspire you to take action. 

Aging as a Risk Factor— Not a Prescription—for Decline

Aging and decline are not synonymous. Science is proving why that is true. Once thought to be inextricably connected, aging and illness are now understood to be two separate trajectories. You will grow older, but your aging process may not involve illness. 

The common feature for nearly every major health problem—from hypertension and diabetes to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease—is that the risks increase as we get older. Why is that? What is inevitable and what is not? 

There is a whole world of scientific research proving what Eastern and alternative medicine have advanced for generations. Our bodies are designed to keep us well, not sick. 

Even so, our biochemistry has inner mechanisms that slow down our functioning as we age. Fortunately, we have some control over how we “turn on” and “turn off” our cellular health. Thus, our rate of aging is determined by a com­bination of our genes, lifestyle, exposure to harmful chemicals and diseases, access to health care, physical activity, and the foods we eat. 

While the majority of our bodily functions peak shortly before age 30, most of them remain adequate because most organs start with considerably more useful capacity than the body needs. This phenomenon, called functional reserve, is what allowed me to get from my 30s to my 50s still in one piece, despite pushing my body. We have a lot of built-in redundancy we can draw on to recover and recharge.

The Life and Death—and Aging—of Our Cells

The aging process all starts—and ends—with our cells. We are either helping or harming them with our habits of health, just like Dr. Su’s stick in the sand metaphor

Our trillions of cells are organized into different tissues and organs. Many of these cells reproduce continuously. Others proliferate on demand, such as white blood cells, which multiply in response to an injury or to fight infection. 

Other types of cells do not typically regenerate, such as those in the heart, muscles, and nerves—they live for decades. As time passes, those cells die, outpacing the production of new cells, leaving us with fewer cells and less capacity to repair the damage that occurs in our bodies. Some of our organs become damaged, and we may develop health problems that we could have resisted when we were younger. 

Here’s what most of us don’t know or understand: the programming of our cells’ life spans is not fixed. Essentially, you have a lot of control over the life expectan­cy of your cells. This is a really big deal when you think about it. We are not at the mercy of chance or heritage. Your cells have a natural lifecycle with two masters—your genes and your environ­ment. It’s similar to the nature-versus-nurture debate when it comes to gender dif­ferences. Some gender attributes are genetically based and appear automatically at birth (differences in genitals, for example). Other attributes are turned on and turned off or enhanced or toned down as a result of social cues, personality, and life events (assertiveness, risk-taking, emotionality). 

While your genes are powerful predictors of health, longevity, and predisposition to certain diseases, they’re only part of your story. You can think of genetics as the first or second act of the five-act play of your life. They set the action in motion, and like characters that come and go at particular moments, and have specific roles that evolve over the plot of your life.

Cardiologist and holistic health leader Dr. Mimi Guarneri explains: 

That’s why you don’t have a nose coming out of the top of your head: because the nose genes get turned on in the right place at the right time in the embryo. As people expose themselves, and their genes, to different environments, certain genes will get turned on and turned off. 

Dr. Guarneri emphasizes: 

The important thing is that we know that genes are just the tip of the iceberg. We see that 70% to 90% of the chronic diseases we diagnose are related to environment and lifestyle. The way I teach it to my patients is this: If you have a tree and your tree has some sick fruit on it, you can cut off the fruit or you can look at the soil and you can fix the soil. The soil is your nutrients. It’s your clear air and water that’s not coming out of plastic bottles that have toxins. It’s fitness and sleep and the way you respond to stress and tension. It’s your biofield, and all the microorganisms that live in your gut, and so on. All of these things interact with your genes to determine whether you get sick or you stay well. This is why identical twins, genetically identical at birth, can have totally different genes turned on and turned off at midlife.

To learn more about taking charge of your health, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More fromAmazon today.

Not everyone in the family gets the same inheritance or the same environment, as we’ve seen with our Aegis Livingresidents. Some of the most vibrant people in our communities had siblings who died in their 60s and 70s. Ultimately, we are degenerating and regenerating all the time—it’s just that de­generation catches up to us. Our plump, youthful grape-like cells gradually dry up, shorten, and deform into raisin-like cells. 

At the same time, bodies are designed to repair, heal, and rejuvenate. With the habits of health I’m describing, we can maximize and even enhance our health and healthy life span. We can start by addressing what we eat, and begin to reset and regain ourhealth from the inside out.

To learn more about cell health, ways to stay curious about your health, as well as other longevitytips, check out my latest book, 30 Summers More, an Amazon # 1 best seller in Aging!

Next time, I will be sharing some surprising things about sugar! In the meantime, what is 1 thing about your health you are curious about?

Live well, Live long, Wellness Warriors!

~Dwayne

MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL, WHO’S THE HEALTHIEST ONE OF ALL?

Oh, such a great morning…you wake up refreshed, feeling good, and then you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror….Hmmm…I’m looking goooooddd today! You nod at yourself and smile. We should all have mornings like this! 

But there’s an important warning about taking charge of our health. We need to get beyond how we look in the mirror and instead focus on how we feel and what our health risks are. 

In my last blog, we talked about the need to take charge of your health and the simple ways you could take steps to become a healthieryou. Today, I want to share more about what’s going on on the inside. 

Although our ideal body weight has been a go-to marker of health, how we look doesn’t tell us how healthy we are. 

We need to know other numbers and take charge of our health. 

That’s what my friend, Bob, found out. He’s the kind of guy who should be on the cover of Men’s Health…ruggedly handsome, athletic, 6′ 4″, 190 pounds, super successful, and an all-around good person. 

When Bob was in his early 50s, he was out playing basketball and had a cardiac arrest while on the bench. Luckily, there was an automated external defibrillator (AED) nearby, and one of the athletic trainers in the gym knew how to use it. The medics arrived quickly and got Bob to the hospital, where he received the emergency treatment he needed to survive. Twelve months later, Bob had to return to the hospital for open-heart surgery. 

It was a terrible time. Fortunately, Bob got back to good health. His physical fitnesssurely helped his recovery, but it also masked his underlying risk. It wasn’t something he could see on the outside. He was caught in what I call the ‘mirror syndrome:’ “I look good, I look fit, so I must be healthy and doing well.” 

Bob had had regular checkups, but there was an important baseline test that he hadn’t had. It was the CT calcium scan, a simple test that measures calcium deposits in the coronary arteries and indicates signs of heart disease. If he’d had a scan, he would have been treated long before he faced a life-and-death emergency. 

Ingredients to Take Charge of Your Health

So, Wellness Warrior, how do you take charge of your health? Here are specific, proactive guidelines for preventive care at midlife and getting the best treatment possible when you or a loved one runs into bad luck. 

Now, you may think you know all of this, but you may be surprised at the nuggets that could save your life and vastly increase your chances for the healthiest, longest life possible. 

Know and understand your numbers. We hear the noise of, “do this, do that,” and we don’t tune into our bodies. We don’t understand what the tests are, what the results mean, and what we’re aiming for.  This doesn’t mean we have to become obsessive or do without pleasure and fun. It means caring about yourself. Yes, caring about yourself! 

Here’s a quick introduction to some baseline tests and numbers you should become familiar with. (Your doctor can help you personalize the list of tests you should take and the numbers you should try to maintain.)

  • Body mass index (BMI)—BMI is a tool for measuring whether you are underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. The higher your number above normal, the greater your risk for heart disease. Many websites have BMI calculators. In fact, you can actually even just Google “BMI Calculator” for your quick result. 
    • Desirable range: 18.5-25 kg/m2.
  • Blood pressure—Represented by two numbers, the first number is the systolic pressure, which is the highest pressure that occurs when your heart muscles contract. The second number is the diastolic pressure, which is the lowest pressure that occurs when your heart relaxes between beats. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and heart failure. You can easily purchase your own automated blood pressure cuff for convenience. 
    • Desirable range: systolic 120 mm Hg (or less) and diastolic 80 mm Hg (or less)—written as 120/80 mm Hg; the numbers can be different for people over 65.
  • Cardiac stress test—This test often is used to rule out heart disease or dysfunction when you have a strong family history, major symptoms, or risk factors. However, be careful about having a stress test during the heat of summer. Heat elevates your heart rate and may affect your test results.
  • Computed tomography (CT) calcium scan—The Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication advises all asymptomatic men between 45-75 and women 55- 75 have CT calcium scans to measure plaque and hidden coronary artery disease. (The cost is between $100 to $400 if it isn’t covered by insurance.) 
    • Scores have a wide continuum. A higher score may suggest the need for further evaluation.
  • Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test—The Mayo Clinic suggests the PSA test for men between the ages of 50-70 and men who have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Early detection is important and the PSA test can help detect prostate cancer early, when it’s most treatable. 
    • Indicating a specific PSA level as low, normal, or high is complicated because the level can rise and fall based on other conditions or medications you may be taking.
  • Complete blood count (CBC)—This simple test measures the levels of your red cells, white cells, and platelets. Abnormal levels may be indicators of many illnesses.
  • Vitamin D—It is very important to check vitamin D levels, especially with the widespread use of sunblock. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to numerous problems, including depression and bone loss.
    • Levels of 20 to 50 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) is considered healthy for most people
  • Cholesterol profile—A lipid profile has several components: total cholesterol; LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol; HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol—sometimes called the “good” cholesterol; and triglyceride levels (a type of fat that the body uses to store and transfer energy). You should be tested more frequently as you age or if you have any of the following risk factors: you smoke, are overweight or obese, have diabetes or high blood pressure, have a personal history of heart disease or blocked arteries, or have a family history of heart attack (male relative with heart attack before age 50 or female relative before age 60).
    • Desirable levels of cholesterol are total cholesterol under 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL); LDL cholesterol under 100 mg/ dL (under 80 mg/dL is even better); HDL (“good” cholesterol) higher than 60 mg/dL; and ratio of total cholesterol to HDL lower than 4.
  • Fasting blood sugar (glucose)—High blood sugar is a signal of prediabetes and diabetes. You can buy a home-use glucometer at a drugstore for less than $25.
    • Desired range: 70 to 95 mg/dL. A fasting glucose level above 95 mg/dL is considered prediabetes.
  • A1c—The A1c hemoglobin is a measure of the average blood sugar range over an individual’s previous three months,and gives a more accurate view of someone’s risk for diabetes or adequacy of diabetes control. Values between 5.7% and 6.0% indicate prediabetes. Over 6.0% is considered diabetic territory.
    • Desirable range for people without diabetes: between 4% and 5.6%.

Know your family history and propensity for disease. Two truths stand alongside each other: You need to know your family history when it comes to health, and you need to know that your family history isn’t your destiny. Talk to your siblings and your parents, aunts, and uncles. You might have good family history or you might have a family history of diabetes or heart disease. Remember, the choices you make can change your family history, starting with you. You can change your genes and extend the life of your cells, and you can have more vibrancy, optimism, and purpose that make life joyful and meaningful.

To learn more about taking charge of your health, order your copy of my latest bestseller, 30 Summers More fromAmazon today.

Know the limitations of doctors and other healthprofessionals. It’s scary to realize that even doctors and medical professionals know how flawed the medical system has become. When it works well, modern medicine is truly a miracle. The promise of greater accessibility, collaboration, and personalization offers hope for better health as you get older. 

Make sure your care is customized to you and your needs. Yourhealth care should fit your specific condition, lifestyle, and priorities. There are no one-size-fits-all approaches anymore. You want to choose approaches and treatments that are as targeted and specific as possible. 

Become knowledgeable about your health habits and health risks. For better health outcomes, become more knowledgeable about your body, your health issues, the conditions you’re dealing with, and the underlying science of health and your conditions. You will feel, and be, more empowered. 

In my next blog, Wellness Warrior, we’ll talk about the life and death of our cells, as well as discuss some of my favorite anti-agingcures, both key to a healthy longevity. Until then, what are some ways you’re taking charge of your health (that you can share in this public forum)?

Live well, Live long!

~Dwayne