Metabolic Syndrome: Got it? Beat it!

metabolic syndromeI came across an article the other day written by a doctor who was using himself as a guinea pig in the quest for knowledge about how our bodies burn different fuel, primarily fat and glucose.  He was fascinated by our ability to switch back and forth between these fuel sources, depending upon our state of activity, and by the body’s ability to actually manufacture certain fuels required to run our brains.  The triggering event for this interest was his shocking diagnosis of Metabolic Syndrome, despite being relatively young and a long-distance swimmer.  I had never heard of Metabolic Syndrome and decided to dig deeper.

Basically, you are diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome if you have any three of the following:

  • A waistline of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women (measured across the belly)
  • A blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or are taking blood pressure medications
  • A triglyceride level above 150 mg/dl
  • A fasting blood glucose (sugar) level greater than 100 mg/dl or are taking glucose-lowering medications
  • A high density lipoprotein level (HDL) less than 40 mg/dl (men) or under 50 mg/dl (women)

blood testThe doctor I mentioned above was okay with the first two, but his blood chemistry told a different story and had him trip-up on the last three.  How do you prevent, arrest or reverse Metabolic Syndrome while avoiding prescription drugs?  Here are the most effective answers and, in the case of our doctor friend, the dietary adjustment had the most profound effect:

  • Lose weight – Moderate weight loss, in the range of 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight, can help restore your body’s ability to recognize insulin and greatly reduce the chance that the syndrome will evolve into a more serious illness.
  • Exercise – Increased activity alone can improve your insulin levels. Aerobic exercise such as a brisk 30-minute daily walk can result in a weight loss, improved blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of developing diabetes. Most health care providers recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Exercise may reduce the risk for heart disease even without accompanying weight loss.
  • Consider dietary changes – Maintain a diet that keeps carbohydrates to no more than 50 percent of total calories. Eat foods defined as complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread (instead of white), brown rice (instead of white), and sugars that are unrefined (instead of refined; for example cookies, crackers). Increase your fiber consumption by eating legumes (for example, beans), whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Reduce your intake of red meats and poultry. Thirty percent of your daily calories should come from fat. Consume healthy fats such as those in canola oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil and nuts.
  • Limit alcohol intake – Consume no more than one drink a day for women, or two drinks a day for men.

Here’s a quick video that provides a comprehensive solution:

(If the video doesn’t load, click here)

God bless

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Ah Duh? Healthcare That Really Works?

healthcare brokenThe healthcare system in this country has gotten so far out of whack, it seems ridiculous to even refer to it as “healthcare”.  Taken literally, it would lead you to believe the system is actually designed to care for your health, right?  Unfortunately, for a whole host of reasons, many of which are profit-related, the reality is that we have become obsessed with “disease management” which, with it’s focus on alleviating symptoms and prolonging life under sometimes horrific circumstances, has little to do with maintaining one’s health by avoiding these chronic diseases in the first place.  One of the drivers of this upside down approach is, of course, the billions of dollars made by the pharmaceutical companies in pushing pills and encouraging surgeries.  Where’s the profit in telling someone to exercise, eat a plant-based diet, meditate and engage in all the other clinically proven strategies to stay healthy?

MHE healthcare reformFortunately, technology may be a reasonable way out of this mess; an answer to the desperate search on the part of individuals, companies, municipalities and others who are footing the bill for this terribly expensive and ineffective system.  There is an emerging effort to capture and utilize specific individual health data in the context of outcomes, accepted standards of the most effective care and prevention and all the related expenses, then to share all this information with the individual, the primary care physician and the entire healthcare system.  Imagine your having access to all your health information on your smartphone, with both you and your primary care physician being financially incentivized to communicate regularly on best practices for either remaining healthy or managing a condition in the most effective manner.  The access to this massive pool of health data and the creative use of it is now putting the management of your healthcare back where it belongs, in the hands of you and your doctor.  If you look at any employee population, for example, the largest health claims expense is related to a certain set of disease conditions.  Reducing the incidence of these conditions among the employee group produces substantial savings, a portion of these dollars can then be used to encourage both healthy behavior among the employees and doctors to become more engaged in the maintenance of a patient’s health.

This is an effort that deserves your wholehearted support.  Be on the lookout for companies like Medical Health Exchange (www.medicalhomeexchange.com) who are now providing this sophisticated and effective technology solution to large groups of employees.  The healthcare system in this country is a behemoth that will not change easily.  There are too many players with an enormous financial interest at stake and they will not give up their stranglehold without a fight, but those of us who are actually paying for this broken system are fed up and hungry for change.  Whenever possible, seize the opportunity to do whatever you can to encourage the shift to a healthcare system that just makes so much more intuitive sense and will save billions of wasted dollars.

God Bless

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Stamp Out Chronic Disease: The Smartest Way

Healthy foodLast week, I shared the message about “epigenetics”, which is generally an emerging field of study about how our environment influences the expression of our individual genetic makeups. “Nutrigenomics” is a subset of this groundbreaking science that focuses specifically on the effect nutrition has on switching on and off both our good, disease-preventing genes and our bad, disease-causing genes.  I implore those of you who either have or are at high risk of developing chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer to watch this short video below and take the message very seriously.  More and more credible clinical data is emerging that diet can prevent, arrest and even reverse these chronic diseases.  With heart disease alone, if you compare the largely ineffective, long-term results of both drug therapy and extremely invasive surgery against the effectiveness of a plant-based diet, the choice is simple.  And the bonus is that, with the lifestyle change to a plant-based diet, you actually feel better and enjoy a higher quality of life versus the frightening consequences of radical, chest-splitting surgery or a drug regimen riddled with devastating side effects.

(If the video doesn’t load click here)

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Nutrigenomics: A Life-Saving Science

dnaThere is research taking place right now that will have a profound effect on your future health and could even dramatically impact it starting today.  Epigenics is basically the study of the actual expression of our genes, both good and bad, and not through any DNA changes, but rather through external, largely controllable influences.  There is mounting clinical evidence that, more important than your individual genetic makeup, there are the environmental factors that determine which of your genes are actually switched on or off during your lifetime.  The National Institutes of Health has noted that epigenetics has the potential to explain mechanisms of aging, human development, and the origins of cancer, heart disease, mental illness, as well as several other conditions.

According to a recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine there is indisputable evidence that most common illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, obesity, and certain psychiatric diseases are due to interactions between multiple environmental and genetic factors.  Using the principles of epigenetics in the treatment of chronic diseases also has the factor of reversibility, a characteristic that, for example, other cancer treatments do not offer.

GenesA subset of epigenetics is nutrigenomics, which is the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression.  The National Institute of Health on its PubMed website states that “nutrients and botanicals can interact with the genome causing marked changes in gene expression.  There is good evidence that nutrition has significant influences on the expression of genes.” In turn, the same “dietary patterns that influence obesity or cardiovascular disease also affect cancer, since overweight individuals are at increased risk of cancer development.”  This recognition that nutrients have the ability to interact and modulate genetic mechanisms underlying an organism’s physiological functions has prompted a revolution in the field of nutrition.

Dean Ornish, author of Reversing Heart Disease and Eat More, Weigh Less, who trained in internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and is now a clinical professor at UCSF, has “found that changing lifestyle actually changes gene expression. In only three months, we found that over 500 genes were either up-regulated or down-regulated—in simple terms, turning on genes that prevent many chronic diseases, and turning off genes that cause coronary heart disease, oncogenes that are linked to breast and prostate cancer, genes that promote inflammation and oxidative stress and so on.”   His clinical studies, which underscore the legitimacy of nutrigenomics, provides the clear message that “even if your mother and your father and your sister and brother and aunts and uncles all died from heart disease, it doesn’t mean that you need to. It just means that you are more likely to be genetically predisposed. If you are willing to make big enough changes, there is no reason you need ever develop heart disease, except in relatively rare cases.”

Here is a short video with Dr. Ornish that blatantly makes this point with respect to prostate cancer:

(if the video doesn’t load, go here)

Stay tuned for future posts that will explore incorporating the concept of nutrigenomics into your life!

God bless

True Health

Forks Over KnivesFor most of my life, I was under the delusion that it really didn’t matter what I ate.  Because I was always so active swimming, surfing, skiing or playing football, lacrosse or tennis, I never gained weight and was always in pretty good shape.  It wasn’t until I went totally plant-based that I discovered just how naive and uninformed I really was.  There are a lot of other measures, besides weight, that I have now come to appreciate as indicators of true health.  The increased energy levels, absence of colds, increased endurance, less muscle and joint pain, quicker recovery times, better moods, in addition to an even leaner body, can all be traced back to going plant-based.  So, if you haven’t made the switch to a plant-based diet because you don’t need to lose weight or out of compassion for the treatment of animals, as the following testimony confirms, there are a whole host of additional benefits that hopefully will convince you to do so.

Running for “Health” Wasn’t Enough … Eating Plants Made All the Difference!

By  
 Alina 570x299 Running for “Health” Wasn’t Enough … Eating Plants Made All the Difference!I immigrated to the United States seven years ago from Russia. Right away the pleasures of American cuisine turned out to be irresistible to me. Going out to eat two to three times a week with my new American friends? Sure! All of the temptations at supermarkets and fast food places? Bring them on!

 To compensate for all that fattening food, I took up running for the first time in my life and immediately fell in love with it. Running helped me avoid packing on weight, and I found myself in the trap a lot of active people fall into: “I exercise, so I can eat whatever I want, right?”

Over the course of three years, I ran seven half-marathons, one full marathon, and a few 5k and 10k races. As much as I loved running and exercise, I had a growing concern: my body was almost constantly sore, my joints ached … and I was only in my 20s! I was worried that the activity I loved so much was undermining my health. Plus, I kind of stalled in my fitness because of all that soreness. I knew that if I wanted to get stronger without ruining myself, I would have to look into what other athletes who were much better than me were doing.

This is how I discovered that a lot of really good endurance athletes were on a plant-based diet! I became curious and went on to do some research. I learned that eating animal products and junk food do a lot of harm to us, no matter how hard we exercise. One night, my husband and I watched the amazing documentary Forks Over Knives, and it blew my mind!

At first, I was afraid that adopting the plant-based lifestyle would be too hard: there are too many temptations out there … going out to eat could be a challenge … and what about the opinions of family and friends? I kept on reading wonderful books about plant-based athletes (like Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run) as well as articles by T. Colin Campbell, John McDougall, and others. Eventually, after watching Forks Over Knives — The Extended Interviews, I was completely convinced that a plant-based diet is the healthiest for us, and all my previous fears and excuses fell by the wayside.

The first couple weeks were all it took for me to believe that I was on the right track: my energy levels skyrocketed and stayed high throughout the day; I started waking up early with no problem, even though I considered myself an owl before; all the skin blemishes that had plagued me since adolescence cleared up; I was finally able to exercise harder and recover quicker; and my muscles and joints were no longer sore.

Leaving my old eating habits behind turned out to be no problem: I found a lot of delicious plant-based vegan recipes through Pinterest and bought a couple great cookbooks. My husband was a little skeptical at first, but after I showed him all the scientific information about plant-based eating and started cooking delicious vegan meals, he was convinced.

On November 10, I ran my first plant-fueled marathon in 4:08:18. I fully credit my plant-based diet for making me stronger than ever. I am living proof that plant foods alone can fuel a physically demanding lifestyle perfectly … and what could be more convincing than learning through my own experience!

It’s been six months since I became plant-strong, and I am proud to say that this way of life has not only made me healthier and assured me of my inner strength, it also gave me confidence to find my voice and inspire others — by sharing my story through my new blog!

Thank you, Forks Over Knives, for encouraging me to embrace this healthy lifestyle!

God bless

Make Your Resolutions Stick

visualization“I’ll believe it when I see it!”, the mantra of most skeptics, can actually be turned around to help you stick to whatever New Year’s resolutions you’ve made for 2014.  Understanding the real truth that you’ll actually “see it only after you believe it” could be the key to success in reaching whatever new goals you’ve established for yourself this year.  Both your conscious and subconscious minds have to truly believe that you can attain any goal before you actually reach it.  The most effective way to accomplish this is through two scientifically proven and distinct visualization techniques.

The first is through calling up mental images of your past successful experiences under the same circumstances.  They can be snippets of times when you actually experienced success and personal satisfaction in your new resolution, like exercising when you didn’t feel like it or pushing away a dessert you really wanted but knew was bad for you, or being particularly organized in accomplishing a complicated task.  Whatever it is that you want for yourself in 2014, there is a high likelihood that you’ve experienced some piece of it in the past; use it, draw on it, dwell on it, even obsess about it and be convinced that you have the capability to follow through on your resolution.

learningbyexampleThe second visualization technique can be an amplification of the first or even a substitute, if necessary.  This is simply using the most effective technique we’ve all employed since birth, called modelling or learning vicariously.  How did you learn to walk or talk?  You watched, observed, listened and mimicked.  Do the same thing with your resolutions.  See in others what you want for yourself and simply focus on their behavior.  If you want what they have, do what they do.  This technique is simply convincing yourself that, “if they can do it, I can do it!”  I experience the power of this technique every time I attend a live professional tennis tournament.  After spending hours watching the best in the world up close and personal, the next time I step on the court, I always play better.  Scientists explain that the power of that imagery allows the brain to recreate the experience in our own behavior and bodies.  It’s another fascinating miracle of our human “being” and it can help you make those resolutions for 2014 stick.

God bless

Resolution Inspiration

GoalsIt’s almost impossible at this time of the year to avoid the concept of making positive changes in your life through myriad New Year’s resolutions.  Whether or not you declare them publicly, write them down privately or just give them fleeting thoughts, those improvements you’d like to see in your life come from deep inside and represent areas of your life you “wish” were different.  What is it then, that transforms these “wishes” into reality?  The answer is simply…..MOTIVATION!  The evidence for this can be seen in your own life.  What are some of the personal accomplishments in your life of which you are most proud?  Typically they will stem from having overcome formidable obstacles, having expended extreme effort or having put another’s needs above your own.  There was most likely a sacrifice to be made and we humans are wired to need some type of motivation to make meaningful sacrifices.  Whether it’s to avoid pain or seek pleasure, mentally or physically, there is some trade-off to be made in order to effect change and transform a wish to reality.  Success may be measured in the results, but the true personal reward is in having driven yourself to a new level, in knowing that you were tested and rose to the challenge.

One of the most effective ways to stimulate motivation is through example.  In the interest of trying to help you accomplish whatever resolutions you may be contemplating at this time of year, I strongly encourage you to take 15 minutes to watch the TED presentation by Diana Nyad below.  Although perhaps an extreme example, it demonstrates the power of the human spirit and should provide you with encouragement in accomplishing your own personal goals in 2014.

(If the video doesn’t load, go here)

God bless

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