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

Health apple

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?

Should You Be Afraid Of Water Bottles And Cans?

Originally published on mensphysique.com on Sunday, 15 July 2012
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http://www.rxmuscle.com/blogs/the-lab-supplement-school/6078-should-you-be-afraid-of-water-bottles-and-cans.html

Unless you have been living under a rock you have heard about the concern over human exposure to Bisphenol A, also referred to as BPA. BPA is an organic compound (chemical formula (CH3)2C(C6H4OH)2 ) which is a colorless solid used to confer hardness to polycarbonate plastic. It is also used in epoxy resins to create and antibacterial coating in the lining of metal cans which are used in the food industry. BPA can leech from containers into the foods they hold and become ingested by individuals when those food items are consumed.

What makes BPA a concern for people is the fact that it is a weak endocrine disruptor which mimics estrogen and has substantial negative side effects on health. A U.S. Government sponsored review of the scientific literature on BPA was conducted in 2006, resulting in the following statement:”BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals.” I don’t know about you, but such a conclusion is terrifying to me and enough to keep me invested in using containers made of stainless steel, glass, and BPA-free plastic for the rest of my life.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that approximately 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. Even at low doses, BPA causes diabetes, heart disease, reproductive issues, breast and prostate cancer, low sperm count, altered brain development and obesity. When one considers the long-term exposure to which most of us have been subjected, the implications become staggering and quite disconcerting.

Diseases Linked to BPA Exposure

HEART DISEASE – Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys discovered that men with the highest levels of BPA exposure (measured through urinary samples) were 10% more likely to develop heart disease. It is believed that BPA suppresses a hormone which has a protective effect against heart attacks, oxidative stress, and damage to blood vessels.

DIABETES AND OBESITY – BPA causes an increase in insulin release from the pancreas which causes a reduction in the body’s ability to utilize fat, thus increasing the risk for both diabetes and obesity.

THYROID FUNCTION – BPA has been shown to bind to thyroid hormone receptors, thus disrupting normal thyroid function.

NEUROLOGICAL DAMAGE – Numerous research studies on different animal models have determined that low-dose BPA maternal exposure causes long-term neurobehavioral development in developing fetuses, interfering with brain cell connections vital to memory, attention and mood. Furthermore, BPA potentiates, or boosts, central dopaminergic systems, creating increased sensitivity to drug-abuse induced reward effects.

INTESTINAL DAMAGE – BPA can damage intestinal lining, causing “leaky gut syndrome”. This interferes with the gut’s ability to block toxins and bacteria from entering the body.

INFERTILITY – Chronic exposure to low doses of BPA can impair the growth and function of the egg cells which are involved in ovulation due to the fact that it binds to receptors in the cells which are designed to bind with estrogen.

ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION – A 2009 study conducted on over 200 Chinese workers in BPA factories found that those men were four times more likely to have erectile dysfunction and seven times more likely to have problems with ejaculation.

CANCER – BPA is capable of inducing neoplastic transformation in human breast epithelial cells and has also been found to reduce sensitivity to chemotherapy treatment of specific tumors.

Where BPA Lurks

BPA is far more pervasive than you may ever imagine. Here is a list of items which have been found to contain BPA:

· Water bottles
· Food cans
· Soda cans
· Infant formula
· Wine and Beer (due to fermentation in BPA resin lined vats)
· Recycled paper (including toilet paper)
· CDs
· Baby bottles
· Dental fillings
· Plastic cups
· Hard plastic 5-gallon drinking water bottles
· Credit card receipts at gas stations
· Plastic food storage containers

The Centers for Disease Control have conducted numerous studies which have detected BPA in the urine of over 90% of adults and children tested. Another study which was conducted in 2009 revealed that drinking from plastic water bottles almost doubled urinary BPA levels. Yet another study examined subjects who consumed canned soup during one test period and fresh soup during another test period. After only five days the participants consuming the canned soup had an increase in urinary BPA levels of 1221% compared to those consuming fresh soup.

Guidelines to Minimizing BPA Exposure
Fortunately a large number of food storage containers can now be found which utilize stainless steel, glass and BPA-free plastics. In fact many shaker cups are now being constructed from BPA-free plastic. A handful of bodybuilders who still incorporate canned tuna into their meal plans have the option of purchasing their tuna in foil pouches instead of cans which are lined with BPA.

I realize that the following list is rather comprehensive, so it is up to you to decide how aggressively you would like to minimize BPA exposure.

· Do not drink out of plastic water bottles unless they are BPA-free.
· Replace plastic storage containers with those made of stainless steel, glass, ceramic or paper. If you must use plastic, look for resin identification codes (the number on the underside of containers) 4, 5, 1 or 2. Make sure to avoid containers marked with 7, as these almost invariably contain BPA.
· Avoid purchasing food and beverages which are packaged in cans.
· Wrap sandwiches in paper or cloth.
· Do not drink soda from a can.
· Avoid purchasing recycled toilet paper or paper products.
· Never heat food in plastic or place warm or hot food into plastic containers, bags, or cling wraps.
· Do not put plastic items in dishwasher.
· Avoid contact between acidic or fatty foods and plastic.
· Use metal eating utensils.
· Purchase reusable water bottles and shaker cups which are labeled BPA-free.
· Buy glass appliances whenever possible. (eg: blenders)
· Replace plastic coffee filters with ceramic or metal ones
· If you use a French press for coffee, make sure it is all metal and glass with no plastic parts.
· Wash hands after touching cash register receipts or money.

Fitness As An Insurance Policy

One of the biggest challenges I face as a physician and fitness professional is convincing patients and clients that healthy eating and regular exercise serve as the best insurance policies in optimizing health and minimizing the risk of illness and disease. It is especially frustrating because I know first-hand that this is true.

I began weight training at the age of 21 to heal from my teenage bout with anorexia. Luckily, I was already practicing relatively healthy eating habits once I abandoned my starvation mission. I was not surprised by the fact that I loved weight lifting, how it made me feel, how it made me look, and how it made others look at me. It also empowered me and lifted me from the darkest period of my life, becoming my saving grace and an insurance policy for my health and well-being. I became intrigued with the world of fitness and quickly noticed the “can do” attitude that was so pervasive. At one point I had considered competing in the fitness division and had even looked into hiring a coach, but then I got sidetracked by medical training, marriage and then divorce. Little did I know then that I would finally hit the bodybuilding stage in my 40’s and eventually attain IFBB Professional Status.

healthy lifeI may be a freak of nature and blessed with decent genetics, but then again, maybe not. My maternal grandmother died of cancer at 63, and my maternal grandfather passed away at 81 of a heart attack. My mom suffered from a brain aneurysm rupture ten years ago and now battles high blood pressure, macular degeneration, and osteoporosis. In contrast, my blood pressure is at the low end of normal, and I have the bone mineral density of a 20 year old. My mother’s veins are very small and deep, while mine are huge pipelines which sit right under the surface of my skin. With that type of family history, I am thankful that I took charge of my own life as a young adult and made changes which protected my health.

Hopefully my story resonated with some of you and perhaps inspired you to take regular exercise and healthy eating seriously. Please do not wait until your health begins to suffer. Be proactive and preventative, especially if you have a family history of certain diseases. Revamp your eating habits NOW. Commit to a regular exercise program that incorporates resistance training. No more excuses!