Archives for January 2020

ARE YOU SITTING YOURSELF TO DEATH?

Hey, Wellness Warriors! In my last two blogs, we talked about what you put in your body, the evils of sugar, and ways to keep your blood sugar in check. Today, I’d like to share about something I’m equally as passionate about: what we are doing—or not doing—with our bodies. Over the last several decades, natural movement in our everyday lives has dwindled significantly. I believe that this decrease in movement is a root cause of many of the health problems we face today. I also know there is a lot we can do about it, and the effort doesn’t have to be hard. Let’s take a look at this…

Sitting Is the New Smoking: The Medical Consequences of Inactivity 

The first time I heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” a light bulb went off. “That’s it!” I said to myself. 

After years of studying our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, James Levine, MD, PhD, director of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initia­tive, put it this way in his book, Get Up!: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking …. It kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.” 

That is not a metaphor. While smoking rates have decreased, sitting rates are rising. According to current estimates, 5.3 million people die due to causes relat­ed to inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle compared with about 5 million who die from smoking. Studies repeatedly show that the effects of long-term sitting include health risks like weight gain, cholesterol problems, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and greater susceptibility to falls and broken bones. 

I would even go so far as to say that “technology is the new cancer”—the impact is silent and epidemic. It’s changing our lifestyle habits in ways that are pervasive and detrimental. 

The difference between sitting—that is, being sedentary—and movement is criti­cal. We know from many studies of the past decade that bursts of exercise several times a week does not outweigh to the risks of not moving. 

Movement Versus Exercise

We have been taught that without exercise, muscles will atrophy. But, there’s a problem with that bit of wisdom. It is notexercise per se that pre­vents atrophy and lifestyle-based aging. It’s movement. 

Now, let’s say you buy a car and think, “This is a great vehicle. I’m going to keep it in the garage for three years and never start it or move it.” What’s going to happen? The battery is going to die right away. The tires are going to disintegrate. The seals will rot. The metal will rust. The same thing happens to us. If we don’t move, we rust. We start to corrode from inside. 

So what kind of movement do we need? Many of us think we need to work all the machines in the gym or play fast pickup basketball on Fridays or do a step aerobics class a few times a week. Those might meet current guidelines for aerobic activities, but that doesn’t address our need to stop our sedentary patterns. 

I’ve had too many friends keel over and wind up in the hospital because they pushed themselves with their running, biking, or workouts but weren’t taking care of everything else. You can be healthy—even healthier—if you don’t push your heart rate to 150 or 160 beats per minute every time you work out. Just do some interval training to get your heart rate up and back down several times while getting your steps in. 

Researchers who study centenarians (people who live more than 100 years) pret­ty much discover that none of them “work out.” Most of these elders have never seen a gym. They don’t know what a trainer is. They don’t lift weights or run mar­athons.

What these centenarians share is a lifestyle that includes frequent and gentle exercise as part of their daily lives. Their movements are natural—the things the body does without contorting itself or put­ting excessive pressure on any single part, including walking, gardening and farming, climbing stairs and hillsides, and household chores, all of which they routinely do for more than five hours a day every day. 

Circulation: Our Inner Tree of Life 

Shirley Newell, MD, former chief medical officer at Aegis Living, explains why your body always needs to move, especially as it ages. It comes down to good circulation. “If your hands and feet are cold, the solution is to get out and exercise, not to put on gloves or stand in front of the heater. When you stand up suddenly on a hot day and you pass out, it’s because the blood is pooled to your extremities.” 

A young body has a heart that is pumping at full velocity. 

When you get older, it takes more effort to circulate your blood through your vascular tree, which runs throughout every part of your body to the tips of your fingers and toes. Your vascular system just isn’t as smooth, efficient, and powerful as it once was.  

You can think of the body as being like a tree with a sturdy trunk, larger branches, smaller and smaller branches, and a spray of leaves. In the body, oxygen flows from the lungs to the heart (trunk), to the great arterial vessels (large branch­es), into the smaller vessels, arteries, and arterioles (smaller branches), and into the capillaries (leaves). Keeping the circulatory system functioning well and having good flow and exchange down to the microvascular level is essential.

Microcirculation allows blood flow in the smaller arteries, arterioles, and capillar­ies that supply individual cells. This is where real health happens. This is not just for your lungs and extremities. The microvasculature of your brain is crit­ical to preserving brain function and cognition. Many believe that poor circulation and damage to the microcirculation are a central issue in dementia.

Good joint and spinal health rely on movement that provides a fresh blood supply and the removal of toxins. As we age, the cells that make up this system actually begin to break down, but exercise helps to maintain and restore the microvascular circulation. 

It is essential to get blood to flow into your capillaries–your fingertips and toes for example. You can do this through basic movement, yoga, stretching, and massage. I tell my friends there is a functional reason for massage. It isn’t just to feel good. It’s so capillaries don’t die. It gets blood into them so all parts of your body benefit, even your brain. 

Movement and exercise aren’t about bigger muscles or being more beautiful. It’s to enhance the flow through your circulatory tree, your strength and flexibility, and maintain your brain, bones, and moods. 

The Brain: Work the Body, Work the Mind 

As we age, our synapses—the connections between nerve cells (neurons)—break down or are destroyed. The hippocampus, that area of the brain that controls learning and memory formation, also begins to shrink. Chemicals called neu­rotransmitters, which relay signals between neurons, diminish. Beyond any doubt, physical exercise, no matter when you start, can slow down these changes. 

Since the fear of Alzheimer’s disease weighs on all our minds, there is good news on the relationship of exercise to memory and many studies are underway. In fact, many experts are coming to believe that vascular impairment may be more of a factor than Alzheimer’s disease in the surge of dementia related to aging. 

Though it was once thought that brain damage due to strokes was permanent, greater under­standing of brain plasticity is disproving that belief. One researcher, Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD, PT, of the University of British Colum­bia, looked at people with vascular-related cognitive impairment—that’s the com­mon form of memory loss caused by problems with blood flow to the brain usually due to stroke or small vessel disease. In her small study, participants who walked outdoors for 40 minutes three times a week over six months showed noticeable improvements on memory tests, compared with a control group that was sedentary.

Walk Your Heart: Pump Your Vital Muscle 

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

Our minds might worry us the most, but our hearts can take our lives away without warning. For a long time, research on heart health and the role of exercise focused on intense cardio workouts. In the 1990s, researchers began looking at the benefits of smaller amounts of activity. 

According to I-Min Lee, MD, MPH, ScD, of Harvard Medical School, “The research backs up what we all know intuitively: Almost any amount of regular exercise pro­motes longevity. Even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference.” 

One study of 55,000 adults showed that running just 5-10 minutes a day re­duced mortality from all causes by 30% and from cardiovascular disease by 45%— adding up to three years to a person’s life span. 

If you are out of shape and think­ing you don’t have time to exercise, here’s some news that will help you at least start to move more and get your heart pumping. A Taiwanese study looked at people who smoked, drank heavily, or had diabetes, all of which put them at risk for heart disease, and found they had a 14% lower risk for dying if they averaged just 15 minutes of low activity a day. 

I always tell people that while most types of exercise are beneficial, the type that works best is the one that you will actually do!

In my next blog, Wellness Warriors, I will share with you some of my favorite ways to increase your movement that are both easy and fun! In the meantime, I would love to hear some of the fun ways you keep on movin’! Just comment below! 

Until next time, Live Well, Live Long,

~Dwayne

Adopt These 10 Tips to Improve Your Blood Sugar Balance and Anti-Inflammatory Health

You can burn calories, but you can’t burn off bad nutrition. You also can’t wing your diet as you enter mid- and later life. In my last blog, I shared some eye-opening facts about sugar and how, until our blood sugar is in balance, the body will send all of its healing energy to try to balance it. Today, I would like to share some of my favorite tips to improve your blood sugar balance and anti-inflammatory health. (They are keenly connected.)

Adapted from the plan my nutritionist, Julie Starkel, taught me, this very straightforward approach is designed to create a foundation for eating right, longevity, and aging gracefully. It’s simple and has worked better than any other approach I’ve tried. It’s also easy to personalize or modify for your specific health needs. 

1. Make sure you have protein as part of every meal and snack, and make it your first four bites. 

Protein is the most satiating food we eat and it takes the longest to break down during digestion, so it allows our metabolic system to function as it was designed. Our goal should be to satiate ourselves with protein, and slow down and even out our blood sugar roller-coaster ride. Eating protein at every meal and snack helps us avoid rushes of glucose from sweet and starchy carbohydrates. 

Be mindful of these protein guidelines when choosing the type and amount of protein to eat: 

  • How much protein is enough? Very roughly, think in terms of 0.8 to 1.0 gram of protein per kilogram of your body weight (or your “reasonable” goal body weight). In pounds and ounces, that translates into: 

200-pound person = 91 kilograms 
73-91 grams of protein = 11-14 ounces per day 

150-pound person = 68 kilograms 
54-68 grams of protein = 8.5-10 ounces per day 

120-pound person = 54 kilograms 
43-54 grams of protein = 6.5-8.5 ounces per day 

  • One egg generally equals one ounce. Fish, chicken, beef, and other animal proteins all vary slightly, but these estimates should be sufficient. 

You can also get your protein from legumes, quinoa, and tofu—these are common choices for vegetarians. Vegetable-based proteins have slightly lower amounts of protein so you can add an ounce or two more of vegetable-based protein to balance the protein you’re getting each day. 

2. Eat approximately every three hours—and always include protein. 

If you wait too long between meals or snacks, your blood sugar will drop and that can be hard on your system. Low blood sugar has its own chemical that raises its ugly head: cortisol. High levels of cortisol increase inflammation by secreting inflammatory chemicals that break down muscle tissue for energy. Toward that three-hour mark, you reach your lowest blood sugar territory, and you probably won’t feel it right away because the symptoms come later.  

The best intervention if you go too long without food is a snack of protein and vegetables with fiber—maybe a small chunk of turkey with a little cucumber, or small egg with tomatoes. That kind of snack brings your blood sugar back up so your body doesn’t start producing reactive responses. 

3. Eat breakfast as soon as you can—preferably within 30 minutes of waking. 

This will jump-start your metabolism. I found that eating just two or three almonds has a metabolism-raising effect similar to eating a whole meal. 

What you choose to eat for breakfast is very important. If you eat something that is primarily made up of carbohydrates (all combinations of grain, sugar, and fruit), such as pastries, cereals, or even granola, you’re going to drive your blood sugar up. This will cause the body to secrete excessive amounts of insulin, which is not good. Plus, you’ll feel excessively hungry and tired later that afternoon, driving you to choose sweets as an afternoon snack as well. 

Instead, try eggs, turkey bacon, or even “regular” food like salad bowls with protein and vegetables for breakfast. 

4. Plan your meals and snacks for blood sugar sanity. 

Having multiple low-glycemic snacks throughout the day may cause fewer spikes in blood glucose than the three-meal-a-day method. The timing or order of snacks can be adjusted to fit your schedule and needs. 

Ideally, your dinner is smaller than your lunch and maybe even your breakfast. You certainly don’t want a large meal after 7 pm, except on occasion. It will tax your body’s whole digestive, detoxifying, and healing process. 

5. Don’t count calories! Plan your plate instead. 

So after you have chosen some protein to put on your plate, what does the rest of your meal look like? 

Julie advises her clients to “plan their plates,” and not count calories or measure portions. Your plate should look something like this: 

  • A third of your plate is protein. 
    • Half or more of your plate is vegetables—for example, a salad and/or two vegetables.
    • For the small portion of your plate that remains—about the size of a small slice of melon—is for starchy root vegetables (like sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets) or whole grains, but with a preference for the root vegetable since they have more vitamins and are more filling than grains.

Ideally, more than half your total consumption for the day is made up of colorful, non-starchy, or low-starch vegetables. Think of dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Think of red, green, and orange peppers. All the nutrients and antioxidants you need are coming from vegetables, which will go a long way to helping you with your cravings, weight, and gut health.

Keep your total dairy to a minimum and limit your fruit to a couple of servings a day. Berries are an excellent choice because of their high fiber content.  

A Note About Gluten 

The plan-your-plate approach to eating takes care of most issues with gluten. It limits the amount of grain or bread you can eat to that “slice of melon” amount. If you avoid processed foods with added sugars (such as sweet muffins, cake, donuts, etc.), you’ll avoid most of the problems that come from eating gluten—and without a lot of effort. 

6. Aim for quality. 

If possible, choose organic foods and hormone-free and grass-fed meat. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly even if they are organic. Look for seasonal food, especially at local outdoor (spring/summer/fall) and indoor (winter) farmers markets. 

Though organic food is more expensive, if you avoid waste and eat smaller portions, you will be way ahead in the long run—with your body and your budget. 

7. Aim for 8 on, 16 off—16 hours in the day when you’re not eating. 

Eating only during an 8-hour window allows your liver to do its job. The liver is critical for digestion, and it takes six-eight hours for it to process all the food that comes in after a meal. So, if you eat dinner at 6 pm, your digestion process will go till midnight or 2 am. From 2 am to 10 am, your liver doesn’t have to deal with food and it can attend to essential repair and detox of our cells. Do this 1-2 times a week.

8. Beware of toxins, including coffee. 

Sugar can be seen as a toxin—or addictive substance—which certainly isn’t good! 

But did you know that coffee can also be considered a toxin? And, the FDA lists coffee as a food that contains high levels of the carcinogen acrylamide. If you must have that cup of coffee, though, don’t drink it on an empty stomach. The caffeine in coffee triggers cortisol levels to rise. Coffee is also an appetite suppressant, which can work against regular meals and blood sugar balance. 

9.  For weight loss, aim to match the amount you eat (your “fuel”) to your activity level—before you expend energy. 

If your activity is higher in the morning, make sure your breakfast supplies the fuel for that. If most of your activity is in the afternoon or both morning and afternoon, then lunch should provide enough fuel for your upcoming energy expenditure. Dinner isn’t typically as important for building up your energy—unless you go night skiing! 

At dinnertime, you’ll still want protein and vegetables, because vegetables provide important nutrients, but you don’t necessarily need anything starchy at the end of the day.

10.  Take a few basic vitamins and supplements for a healthy foundation, and develop a longer-term, personalized plan

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

I know from experience that taking a bunch of supplements willy-nilly will not improve your health. It’s all too easy to get seduced by magazine ads, store displays, and the latest thing your friend is trying. Unlike medications, the FDA does not regulate supplements, so do your research and make sure the supplements you take are really what you need (ideally in consultation with a knowledgeable nutritionist). 

Personalized vitamins are something I’ve tried and like because the vitamins are built to supplement the deficiencies my blood tests reveal. 

When you take this approach, it will likely change your life, as it has mine and so many others. 

In the past, I would eat like 3,500 calories a day. Today, it’s more like 1,900 and less than 400 at dinner—though I don’t count calories as a practice. 

  • I cut out foods with added sugars. 
  • I cut my protein down to four- or five-ounce (palm-sized) portions. 
  • I nearly tripled the amounts of fresh, raw, or lightly-cooked vegetables I eat. 
  • To encourage cell replenishment, I make super foods part of my daily diet. This includes foods like eggs, spinach, broccoli, avocados, and green tea. 

I don’t feel hungry and I’m not thinking about food all the time. More healthful foods have taken away all that urgency—physical and mental—that I used to feel about food. 

I still have treats, but they’re truly treats—small amounts I eat on occasion, not regularly, and most often in the company of friends and family. I have a growing appreciation for food as a social experience that feeds our need for connection, relaxation, and slowing down. 

Most of all, I’ve come to understand that what and how we eat is a lifestyle choice: we can eat “killing foods” or we can consume nourishing, life- and cell-enhancing foods. From that vantage point, healthy eating becomes, literally, a self-fulfilling way of being. 

Wellness Warriors, take these tips one at a time, and you’ll find it will be easier than you think. Tell me, what’s one tip you can implement right away? Please share it below.

Next time, I will be sharing some shocking facts about the need to keep moving…along with easy and fun ways to do it! Until then…

Live Well, Live Long!

~Dwayne