What Are You Waiting For?

While working at a recent bodybuilding event, I had a very interesting conversation with one of the attendees. He was a 42 year old man who revealed to me that he had a couple of health concerns, and who very clearly stated that he wanted to be healthy for his sons (one son was about 10, and the other was about 13). He had a habit of eating fast food daily, and he never exercised because he figured that he was at a normal weight and didn’t need to work out.

He told me that he was so busy with work and with taking the boys to all their practice sessions that there was no time right now to train or to clean up his eating habits. He went on to say that he figured he would wait until the boys were older before he got into an exercise program and cleaned up his diet.

I very nicely told him to make every effort to fit in 10 or 15 minutes of intense plyometric or calisthenics work each day, between work and carting the boys around for their soccer and baseball practice sessions, but deep inside I was incredibly frustrated. I even told him that if he indeed waited a few years until the boys were older, major disease processes like diabetes or high blood pressure could emerge and put him in a dangerous health situation. However, I could tell that my words fell on deaf ears, and that this man would not take any steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

I honestly and truly believe that when it comes to anything in life, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If someone truly wants to positively impact his or her health, then steps can be taken immediately to develop a consistent regimen. There have been plenty of people who have made excuses and lived in denial, who were suddenly stricken by stroke or heart attack. Once a major event like that occurs, assuming someone survives it, there’s a big wake-up call and the person is forced to make the changes he or she didn’t want to make years ago.

Why wait?

Your Health Is Everything

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You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything”, and it’s so true. Even something as benign as the common cold can flatten you out, robbing you of energy and motivation. So imagine if you had to contend with something more ominous, like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Illness can rob you of everything which you hold dear in your life.

There are some folks who will snicker when someone like me admonishes them for their unhealthy habits. They’ll sometimes even indicate that they welcome any insults to their health, and essentially dare fate to touch them with illness. That attitude quickly disappears when one of these people gets a health scare, or worse yet, a devastating medical diagnosis. If you are throwing caution to the wind, thinking that your unhealthy habits won’t catch up to you, you need to wake up. It’s that kind of attitude which can doom you to a great deal of suffering and an earlier death than you had anticipated.

Look seriously at all your unhealthy habits, and resolve to abandon them.

If you smoke, then quit.
If you are in the habit of drinking alcohol every night, dial down your consumption.
If you consume sugary treats, processed foods, and fast food, replace those selections with clean, whole foods.
If you rarely get adequate sleep each night, make sure to re-pattern your nighttime regimen so that you go to sleep at a decent hour.
If you deal with a lot of stress, then incorporate stress-reducing activities like meditation into your life.

Your health is no laughing matter. Don’t be in denial about it!

Neurological Disorders and My Loved Ones

It seems like neurological disorders abound with my loved ones. My aunty Alice developed cerebral palsy after contracting an infection during infancy. My uncle Katsutoshi fell into a persistent vegetative state after an unlocked construction crane fell on his head and back. My uncle Harumi experienced several strokes, as did my aunty Carol and my dad. My mother sustained a subarachnoid hemorrhage (aneurysm rupture) along with senile dementia. My dear friend and meditation teacher Rob was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme, which took his life within five months.

My favorite aunt Jean was diagnosed with the sporadic form of amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in early 2016, adding yet another neurological illness to an already large list. The disease was so aggressive that by October, she was unable to speak, so my calls consisted of me making awkward small talk while she grunted in response.

Considering the fact that I had a keen interest in neuroscience since childhood and believed that I would become a neurologist even in my final year of medical school, I find it ironic that so many people who have been near and dear to me have fallen victim to so many neurological maladies, ranging from cerebrovascular events, to neuromuscular disorders, to traumatic brain injury, to neoplasm. Despite this, my fascination for the neurosensory system has not abated. I just hope my favorite people don’t keep getting struck by ailments which afflict this system.

My Weekly Calls

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When my mother’s aneurysm rupture occurred in August of 2004, I immediately thought of two elderly ladies whom I considered surrogate mothers: one was my mother’s sister Jean, and the other was a dear friend of my mother’s and mine, whom everyone referred to as Frenchie. With my mother hovering over the edge of death, I made a sudden realization that I needed to reach out to these surrogate mothers more regularly. Anything could happen in an instant and forever change the lives of these women whom I adored.

My mother was in the Neurosurgical ICU at UCLA for two weeks, then spent another week on the med-surg floor recovering from two coil embolization procedures. Shortly after my mother was released from the hospital, I decided to call my aunt Jean and Frenchie every week to say hello and to check up on them. With only a few stark exceptions (such as trips out of the country), I was able to keep my promise to myself and to them over the years. To this day I still call Frenchie every week to chat.

Sadly, my aunt alienated the majority of the family four years ago and refused to speak to me for a year. Once she allowed me to contact her again, things weren’t the same, and what further complicated the situation was that she developed amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in early 2016. ALS eventually robbed my aunt of her ability to speak, and she eventually passed away on December 20, 2016.

For any of you who keep pushing off contacting old friends or relatives, I implore you to contact them NOW. If you wait, it might be too late when you finally get around to it.

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Macular Degeneration Risk

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Vitamin D has gotten more attention in recent years, as a result of extensive research which has explored the impact of a deficiency in this important substance. A meta-analysis on vitamin D deficiency which was published earlier this year in Maturitas revealed a possible correlation between low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the body and increased risk for development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Furthermore, scientists surmise that if a vitamin D deficiency is corrected well before any signs of AMD are present, the disease’s prognosis is much improved.

The meta-analysis revealed that individuals with macular degeneration had vitamin D levels which were an average of 15% lower than levels in individuals without the disease. Another analysis revealed that subjects with highest circulating levels of vitamin had 50-80% lower odds of developing AMD compared with those who had the lowest circulating vitamin D levels.

However, despite all of these findings, it is not yet clear whether vitamin D supplementation would have a protective effect against AMD. In addition, the lower vitamin D levels found in some subjects may have resulted from the pathophysiology of AMD itself.

Rather than take a chance, I would prefer to promote vitamin D supplementation under the assumption that low vitamin D levels are a causative factor in the development of AMD. I also lean strongly towards a brief amount of exposure to sunlight daily in order to boost vitamin D levels naturally. In order for such exposure to be effective, sunscreen cannot be used around the clock. My recommendation is to sit in the sun for 3 minutes daily.

The BEST Health Insurance Policy – REPOST

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With the recent upheaval in the world of health insurance coverage, I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about ways that we can safeguard against the need to access insurance benefits and keep our out-of-pocket costs to a minimum. If you have a predisposition towards conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, joint issues, depression or anxiety, a little self-nurturing can go a long way in keeping those issues at bay. Though there is no absolute guarantee that being proactive about your health will completely prevent disease from manifesting in your body, you can minimize the chances by following sensible guidelines.

1. Get Regular Exercise: If you have yet to take part in regular exercise, here are a bunch of reasons why you should. First of all, regular exercise supports and encourages healthy circulation, lowers blood pressure and reduces cholesterol levels. It also reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. When you strengthen your muscles with resistance training, you protect your bone density and improve your mobility. There are also mood-elevating benefits which exercise confers which can push away depression and anxiety. Lastly, exercise keeps your mind and memory sharp as you age. A good plan is to exercise 30 minutes a day, 4 to 5 days per week at a moderate intensity. Now, if you aren’t quite at that point, or you ae nowhere near that point, don’t get discouraged. The important thing is to start. You can work up to the 30 minutes a day, 4 to 5 times per week regimen gradually, as long as you remain committed to the program. Make sure to schedule exercise sessions into your day, and STICK TO THEM!

2. Reduce Stress: You may be thinking that reducing stress may be next to impossible in this hectic society, but it is absolutely essential for your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. When you go through life at top speed, anxiously rushing through in an effort to meet deadlines, you not only miss out on special moments, but you also overtax every major organ in the body, including adrenals, heart, pancreas, liver, colon, brain and skin. Similar to over-revving an engine, you cannot expect to keep going at a gallop constantly without burning out the engine. Have you ever noticed that you are more prone to catching colds when you burn the candle at both ends? Simple things, such as practicing breathing techniques when anxiety creeps in, or truly allowing yourself to BE IN THE MOMENT when you take a break, can be very helpful in reducing stress. Pay attention to the times when you feel overwhelmed, when you feel like you are unraveling or are at that point in which you are either going to explode or give up and hide under a rock. It’s during those times that stepping outside the bubble is crucial. And once you understand not only that you CAN step away, you may relish that escape when it feels like the walls are closing in on you.

3. Practice Sound Nutrition: Proper nutrition is critical to supporting optimal health. This means eating meals throughout the day instead of starving yourself, and turning to whole food sources as much as possible. By incorporating leafy green vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats, you will equip your body with the fuel it needs to function properly and to repair itself optimally. Without proper nutrition, inflammation and free radicals can wreak havoc on an already challenged body, culminating in disease and illness. It is important to stay away from fast foods at all costs.

4. Get Sufficient Sleep: Slumber enables our bodies to repair cells and tissues so that we can function during our waking hours. It supports a healthy metabolism and also reinforces learning and memory from the day’s activities. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body cannot adequately repair itself. If sleep deprivation occurs regularly, the metabolism becomes sluggish, inflammation accumulates, and the risk for diseases of all kinds becomes significant. Make sure to get a solid eight hours of sleep each night, and try to go to sleep at around the same time each night.

5. Laugh: I listed this as a separate topic from stress reduction because I honestly believe that laughter as a daily medicine can do wonders for one’s health. Over the past several years, I have resorted to listening to comedy when I am in my car instead of listening to music, literally adding comic relief to the commutes I make around the Los Angeles area. Laughter truly is the best medicine!

I’m sure some of you are completely on board with what I am advocating, and are implementing some or all of these healthy habits in your daily regimen. Then there are those of you who believe the advice is sound, but haven’t found the motivation to make the necessary life changes which can have a profound positive impact on your health. Lastly, there’s a group of you who stubbornly refuse to listen to advice, who will keep practicing unhealthy habits as a rebellion to everyone around you. I’ve got a message for the last group. Every single person I have EVER met who threw caution to the wind like that, and pretended not to care about the health impact of habits like poor nutrition, alcohol and drug use, lack of exercise, smoking, and reckless lifestyles, somehow got it in the end. Whether it was a cancer diagnosis, high blood pressure, obesity, or some other illness, every single one of them was forced to change their tune. Don’t be one of those individuals who is forced by illness to finally wake up!

You have the power to transform your life. Don’t forget that!

What Happens When You Skip Meals

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You might be under the impression that skipping meals benefits you since you aren’t taking in calories constantly. Well, I’ve got news for you. By skipping meals, you are putting the brakes on your metabolism. Think of it this way. When a fire is burning in a fireplace, the intensity of the fire dies down dramatically when there are only embers and no logs on the pile. Skipping meals has the same effect. What makes it even worse is that, since the metabolism is now extremely sluggish, when you finally DO eat something, your body can’t break down the food as efficiently, and more of it ends up being stored as fat.

If you skip meals, you probably suffer to some extent from malnutrition, since you aren’t consuming sufficient nutrients throughout the course of the day. Chronic malnutrition can trigger the development and progression of a multitude of diseases. The sharp drops in blood sugar which occur as a result of skipped meals cause an increase in insulin resistance, which can result in the development of diabetes.

When you consider how much of a negative health impact skipping meals has, why would you ever do it?