News from Sweden by way of England: a glass of beet juice
could help you work out longer and feel better.
It can make those fast-twitch muscles more powerful, too.
Somewhere in the world, there must be six people besides me who are thinking, “Wow! Beet juice! Hooray, I’ll take two glasses!”
My husband jibes me for ordering from restaurant menus based on the side dishes. Pork or venison tonight? I’ll take the one that comes with beets, please.
This beet-juice research should be in the “news you can use “category, but for one problem. Much to my surprise, most people hate beets. Ranker puts them third on the list of most disliked vegetables. Evidently, people would far rather eat parsnips and okra. Amazing.
The Swedish research happened in 2007 based on a comparison of triathletes and endurance cyclists who took either sodium nitrate or table salt before a workout. In 2009, researchers in England found the effect puzzling enough to run their own experiments. Instead of a chemical, they used beet juice because beets are naturally high in sodium nitrate. Beet juice was a winner. Cyclists who imbibed could pedal longer before reaching exhaustion. Their systolic blood pressure dropped 6 points. And their oxygen demand fell an impressive 19%.
Even with this proof, there was no worldwide breakout of beet-juice drinks crowding your grocery store. Beet juice never reached the dizzy heights of pomegranate juice.
I suspect a cadre of beet haters suppressed it. The glory of beets stayed buried for a long time, though there are many elite and serious athletes who do swear by it.
Then in 2018, Andrew Jones and team at the University of Exeter in England published an extensive review on dietary nitrates and physical performance in the Annual Review of Nutrition. Beets were the main focus because they are an abundant natural source of sodium nitrate.
Sodium nitrate is one of those chemicals we have all been warned to avoid. It was supposed to be the devil in processed meats, a carcinogen. It is now believed that the cancer risk exists, but was overstated.
Apart from that, we need sodium nitrate, and it is common in the foods we eat—especially spinach, arugula, chard, and beets. One reason to seek out the chemical is that it is involved in producing nitric oxide (NO) which our bodies must have. NO helps keep blood vessels dilated, helps regulate glucose and calcium, and plays a role in reenergizing mitochondria and muscle contraction.
Beets boost NO and have more benefits than the first Swedish research team realized. They focused on elite endurance athletes. More recent research suggests the benefits to that group can be iffy, but the rest of us may benefit a lot. Beets seem to have an even greater ability to support fast-twitch muscles. That’s useful for sudden bursts of activity, such as sprints or sports that require explosive movements, like soccer. Or jumping.
The most exciting thing about the work being done on beet juice and nitrates is that they may particularly help older people overcome exercise intolerance. The inability to exercise hard and long is not just a “use it or lose it” matter. It’s caused by low NO levels in the body as we age along with less capacity to turn natural arginine into useful nitrates.
A couple of glasses of beet juice could help. And if drinking beet juice doesn’t appeal, eating one cup of spinach or beets should have the same effect.
Sex issues can be complicated, but they’re not uncommon. It
takes a doctor’s help to overcome obstacles such as medicines that put the
kibosh on the libido. It might take a
financial counselor or a budget to solve money worries that cause fizzle where
there should be sizzle.
But two of the most common issues are problems you can take care of yourself. They are all about attitude.
The first one is sometimes called “performance anxiety.” I prefer to say it straight up—it’s embarrassment.
Worrying about your ability to perform is actually a case of worrying about whether you are OK, whether you measure up. And let’s face it, we all want to be heroes with our beloved partners.
The odd thing about this anxiety is that members of the opposite sex are not usually as disturbed as their partners worry they may be.
For instance, it is extremely common for women to become less moist as they grow older, especially after menopause. A lubricant is a simple, easy answer, yet many women hesitate to introduce the idea.
A woman who does suggest she needs help, even though her pleasure and interest is as high as ever, could be surprised to find her partner is more than happy to oblige. Most men have no aversion whatsoever experimenting with different creams, gels, or lubricants to find one that both partners like. It can even add new sizzle to the dynamic.
Not to stereotype anyone, but telling your man, “honey, would you mind browsing the sex store for me?” is like asking your dog if he would care to have a raw steak.
From the opposite side of the bed, men can worry about ED even when they don’t have it. With age, the penis gets less hard when engorged. It can thus be shorter or have less girth. The constant urge may also calm down into a more occasional urge in maturity. Women are not as put off by these natural changes as their men fear. Even sex with softness is real sex to them if the spirit is willing.
Plus, the solution to less stamina and hardness might be as simple as more foreplay… something most women who love their men would never veto.
The second overwhelming mental block to good sex has to do with embarrassment, too. It’s about your body image. Parts that should be firm, flop. Parts that should be flat, grow round, and parts that should be round, grow flat. You may have noticed the word “should” in all those sentences. The “should” applies to your ideal teen and 20-something self. After that, give yourself a little leeway.
Ideally, for our overall health as well as our sexual health, we would exercise and control our weight. But if we slide, the fix takes time. You can’t lose 20 pounds overnight without surgery. And even then, it’s a daunting task.
You can fix your attitude faster. If your partner is not criticizing you or shunning you, then cut yourself some slack. Sexy is not a size; it’s an attitude.
The misery of insomnia comes in two ways. Some people struggle to get to sleep. Others have trouble staying asleep. Although they nod off easily enough, they wake up several times or toss and turn all night.
Melatonin is helpful if you have trouble dropping off. But it doesn’t help if you go to sleep and wake up repeatedly. That’s where tart cherry juice comes in.
But, first, both kinds of sleep problems relate to the one most important question about sleep—are you getting enough good quality snooze?
A person who goes to bed at 10 and lies there worrying about sleep until midnight and stays asleep until 8 am may not even have a sleep quality problem at all. He may be going to bed too early for his natural circadian sleep cycle.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. That number is based on research. And it applies to every night, including weekends. For adults over 65, the recommendation is 7-8 hours.
Some of us are outliers, however. There are people who only need 6 hours of sleep per night and seniors who are fine on just 5 hours. It’s not a matter of self-declaration, however, as there seem to be many more people who want to think they don’t need much sleep that are mistaken about how well they are doing.
“Enough sleep” means you wake up refreshed, with your energy restored. Your mental capacities are at full throttle. You don’t require excessive and repeated doses of caffeine to keep going, and you don’t feel tired during the day.
Many people who believe they are fine on 5-6 hours of sleep actually may not be quite as resilient as they think. Research has found that most people who sleep only 5-6 hours per night for sustained periods are not as good at complex mental tasks or at anything that requires sustained attention as they should be. They do better with another hour or two of sleep.
You can also rack up a sleep deficit if you go to bed on time and wake up frequently during the night. Solving that problem the right way is especially important for adults over age 50. That’s because using hypnotics (sleeping pills) increases the risk of falling during the daytime.
In 2018, a pilot study on tart cherry juice revealed extremely promising results. These are not tested in a large-scale clinical trial as yet, but the results were so clearly beneficial they will likely hold up when that happens. In addition, tart cherry juice is so natural and safe, you will not do yourself harm by trying it if you need help staying asleep.
As for the latest research, published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, last year, here’s what happened. Researchers recruited 11 people with sleep problems. They omitted 3 people who had apnea, then divided the remaining 8 participants into two groups. The tests were double-blinded so that neither the participants nor the researchers knew who received what until results were in. Half the participants got a glass of tart cherry juice, the other half a placebo drink for two weeks. Then both groups had a “washout” period of two weeks before they switched. Those who previously got the placebo, got the real juice in the next two-week trial, and vice versa.
A crossover design like that with small groups helps increases the credibility of the results.
And they were impressive. When the participants got tart cherry juice, they enjoyed an average of 84 minutes more sleep per night. Their blood chemistry and lab polysomnography confirmed the presence and benefits of the extra sleep as well.
The tart cherry juice used in this experiment was highly controlled to be sure the contents remained the same from glass to glass over the weeks. Tart cherry juice has several components that probably account for its effectiveness, but the most likely one is procyanidin B-2.
Although this was a small study, two earlier studies along the same design reported similar results. This study has eliminated some weaknesses in the earlier experiments by taking actual measurements instead of relying on self-reported results.
Best of all, if you’ve been tossing and turning you can try this at home without worry. A high-quality, unsweetened cherry juice is easy to find. The 2018 research used the Indian Summer brand. The “dose” is 8 ounces (240 ml) an hour or two before bedtime.
Johnson & Johnson is facing class action lawsuits for its iconic baby powder.
This only happened because baby powder is the rare infant product we never want to give up. What’s in the talc, sometimes a taint of asbestos, is wrong. But it is the long-term exposure that implicates baby powder in diseases like ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
We’re addicted. Grown men sprinkle it in their sneakers and underwear. Women prize it for a million reasons from keeping thighs from chafing, to freshening hair between shampoos, to setting makeup. Moms learn to sprinkle it on their kids’ feet at the beach to brush off sand more effectively. It can even calm squeaky floorboards. It’s a fine dry pet shampoo, too.
You probably already know that you can use baking powder or corn starch for many of those things, but it’s not completely satisfying, is it?
Because… the smell. There are people who hate baby powder smell. But for many of us, it has a strong association with that after-bath feeling of being clean.
As it turns out, “baby powder smell” is so popular, one company has blended an essential oil with the fragrance. It’s called Young Living's Gentle Baby Essential Oil Blend. If you don’t see it wherever you usually shop for essential oils, there’s always Amazon. I checked. They have it.
If you’d like to experiment with your own blend, the probable fragrance notes are vanilla, rose, honeysuckle, jasmine, geranium, and lavender. Then again, some claim that violet essential oil is exactly the thing.
The next step is getting the smell into a nice powder.
If you are completely addicted to talc, you can carry on. It is possible to buy odor-free talcum powder that is also asbestos free. This, too, can be ordered online, but you may also find it at a well-stocked aromatherapy store or wherever candle-making and soap-making supplies are sold.
Just a word, here, though. Some of the health effects that are associated with baby powder are related to breathing in particulates. If you choose to continue with talc, sprinkle without undue exuberance and avoid breathing deeply until it settles. Also, it is not a good idea to use this in the perineal area if you are a woman because of the suspected link to ovarian cancer.
If you want to avoid talc, your best bet depends on the feel you like and the purpose you have in mind.
Baking soda—great for controlling odor. Perfect for smelly dogs and shoes, controlling rashes, and absorbing moisture. The downside is that it doesn’t have the silky luxurious feel of powder, but it is safe and natural. You can get some smoothness by mixing baking soda with a softer substance like arrowroot or rice powder.
Cornstarch—this has the exquisite feel many prize for a powder that helps prevent chafing where the body rubs, such as inner thighs. Cornstarch is the main ingredient in the most popular and highly rated J&J alternatives Burt’s Bees Dusting Powder. It’s ideal for soothing itchy spots including bug bites, and it’s a champ at absorbing moisture. It’s naturally fragrance-free. If cornstarch has a downside, it is that it is so light and airy it can be messy to control in a shaker. For a deodorant, cornstarch needs a little help, blend with baking soda.
Rice Powder— an alternative many people don’t think of immediately. Our grandmothers may have known it as a face powder. It has several unusual properties. For instance, it is something of a sunscreen. Not as effective as the dedicated product, but it can be mixed into a paste and used on the skin to give some sun protection. Over time, however, this practice can also whiten skin, which is admired in some parts of the world, but not where bold suntans are the ideal. An oil and rice powder paste can also lighten under-eye circles. As a face powder, it’s a little coarse, so needs blending with cornstarch.
Arrowroot Powder—This is even silkier than cornstarch. You can also buy it knowing that arrowroot is never genetically modified, corn products usually are. Arrowroot deodorizes and absorbs moisture and oils well.
The final step—getting the smell and the powder together—is easy. You can’t just pout the oils on top because you would create a paste. So pour several drops of the oils or your favorite perfume on a few cotton balls. Put them in the bottom of a glass container you can close tightly. Pour your powder blend on top, screw down the lid, and shake. Fill the jar only half full so there’s plenty of room for shaking action. Let your new powder mix sit for a few days and you’ll have the scent and feel you want, without unhealthy consequences.
Aspirin is one of the most prescribed
drugs by physicians since it was synthesized
in 1890. Aspirin is used in a wide
variety of situations due to its broad
This drug is an anti-inflammatory; therefore it helps relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Due to its antiplatelet properties (prevents the formation of thrombi) it is administered in patients who have suffered a heart attack, stroke, or after undergoing cardiovascular surgeries such as stent placement or catheterization. Aspirin also works as an analgesic and antipyretic, and some studies have linked the use of aspirin with a lower chance of developing colon cancer.
However, despite its numerous qualities, recent clinical trials such as ARRIVE, ASCEND, and ASPREE suggest that the consumption of aspirin could have important adverse effects.
The trials mentioned above evaluated the administration of aspirin at low doses (100mg per day) in patients without known cardiovascular disease, with the aim of determining whether the daily intake of aspirin provides any benefit in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
The ARRIVE trial concluded that the daily administration of aspirin did not provide any benefit in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. However, it led to an increased risk of stroke.
In the ASPREE trial, aspirin was administered daily to patients over 70 years of age for 5 years. The study showed that aspirin does not prolong the life of patients compared to placebo; on the contrary, it increases the risk of death from cancer.
In the ASCEND study, it was observed that aspirin decreased the rate of ischemic cerebrovascular events in patients with diabetes, however, the incidence of bleeding increased.
It is clear that the indiscriminate use of aspirin can lead to a wide variety of adverse effects. However, we should not demonize this drug, which can be very useful when used correctly. Below are some tips, based on recognized scientific studies, about who should take aspirin and who should not.
If you had a heart attack or had cardiovascular surgery such as stenting, daily aspirin use will help prevent a new heart attack.
If you are over 70 years old and do not suffer from any cardiovascular disease, do not consume aspirin on a daily basis since consuming this drug preventively does not prolong your life expectancy.
If you have diabetes mellitus but have not suffered from an ischemic event (heart attack or ischemic stroke), taking aspirin will increase the risk of bleeding.
Aspirin should not be administered to children. In the 70s, a presentation of aspirin for children was commercialized, which caused a rare but deadly disease called Reye's syndrome.
If you have had cardiovascular surgery, your doctor may advise you to use aspirin in combination with an anticoagulant such as Plavix, to prevent an ischemic event.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, interfere with the effects of aspirin, To avoid this situation, take your aspirin at least 30 minutes before taking an NSAID, or take your aspirin at least six hours after taking an NSAID.
It is important to emphasize that the adverse effects of aspirin mentioned above occur with the daily and prolonged use of the drug, aspirin is entirely safe for adults in the treatment of fever or other ailments.
Multiple studies suggest a relationship between the intestinal microbiome and a wide variety of psychiatric, neurodegenerative, and metabolic diseases.
The new advances in medicine have allowed prolonging human life expectancy, which is easily noticeable when observing the accelerated aging of the world population, mainly in developed countries. The United Nations estimates that the number of people over 60 years of age increases at a rate of about 3 percent a year.
The most recent statistics show that there are approximately 960 million people, over 60 years of age in the world. By 2050 it is estimated that these figures will double.
Aging is accompanied by a variety of diseases that decrease the quality of life enjoyed by people. One example is Alzheimer's disease, whose incidence will double by 2060 in the United States, according to a study by the Center for the Control and Prevention of Diseases (CDC).
As research on aging progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that a wide variety of molecular mechanisms regulates this natural process.
Marina Ezcurra, Ph.D. a professor of neuroscience in the Faculty of Biological and Chemical Sciences of the Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom devotes a large part of her research to studying the molecular mechanisms involved in aging.
Recently, Ezcurra and her team have used a worm called Caenorhabditis elegans to study gastrointestinal aging and the role of the microbiome in this process.
Her essay entitled, "The worm-bug: a combined model system to study host-microbiome interactions," Ezcurra presented C. elegans as a viable model to study gastrointestinal aging.
C. elegans has a life expectancy of only 2-3 weeks, but as it gets older, it develops several pathologies related to aging.
During the investigation, the worm was fed with approximately 4,000 mutant E. coli strains, each with a specific gene removed. 29 of the 4,000 mutant strains increased the life expectancy of the worms. Also, 12 of these mutant bacteria prevented tumor growth and the accumulation of beta-amyloid (a protein involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease).
Another successful study in C. elegans that demonstrated the effects of the microbiome on the aging process included a diabetes medication called metformin. Metformin is the most widely used medication for diabetes worldwide.
Ezcurra and her research team plan to develop a study in which they intend to colonize C. elegans with human bacterial strains to study the effects on aging and health.
"The next step for my research is to use C. elegans to reveal the role of the microbiome in human health," commented Ezcurra.
There are multiple studies that suggest a relationship between the intestinal microbiome and a wide variety of psychiatric, neurodegenerative, and metabolic diseases.
It seems to be clear that the diversity of the microbiome contributes to the health of the human being; however, it is necessary to clarify how we can improve our microbiome to prevent diseases related to aging.
Sometimes there’s a solution beyond taking drugs to help
resolve anxiety. In some cases, a simple exercise can solve a serious problem.
All you need is proper advice and instructions.
Tapping is a technique that helps fight stress, anxiety and contributes to focus mentally on those feelings that are positive and to discard everything that prevents you from continuing with a full life.
This practice consists of tapping the fingers on precise parts of the body to release the stagnant emotions. Tapping is based on the premise that all problems, whether physical, economic, emotional, etc., are rooted in an energy imbalance within the person who suffers. The purpose of Tapping is to eliminate this imbalance, by stimulating certain points of the body. Like acupuncture, this technique acts on the energy points of the body.
Experts in meditation say that when stimulating energy points signals are emitted to the brain that reduces emotional tension and allows relaxation. As soon as this happens, the anxiety is immediately reduced, allowing you to move forward more calmly.
This technique of emotional liberation has gained great popularity in recent years given the collective awareness of the importance of personal and spiritual care. One of the main advantages of Tapping is that it can be carried out in any place since it is a discrete method that does not require the use of force to achieve the desired effect.
It has been proven that Tapping can alleviate a wide variety of negative afflictions, such as chronic pain, emotional problems, addictions, phobias, post-traumatic stress, and even physical illnesses.
How is the tapping done?
The first step to practice Tapping is to identify the problem you want to address. It can be a general situation that produces anxiety or a specific concern.
After assessing from 1 to 10 the level of anxiety felt, the person begins to hit with the tips of the fingers at certain points of the body, while saying positive statements about themselves.
What points must be hit?
The tapping points coincide with points of beginning or end of acupuncture meridians, and they are the following:
• 0: The side of the hand, between the base of the little finger and the wrist.
• 1: The top of the head.
• 2: The inner end of the eyebrow.
• 3: The lateral of the eye.
• 4: The bone under the eye.
• 5: Between the nose and the upper lip.
• 6: The point between the chin and the lower lip.
• 7: The tip of the inner end of the clavicle.
• 8: About four fingers below the armpit.
• 9: The inner angle of the nail of the thumb.
• 10: The inner angle of the nail of the index finger.
• 11: The inner angle of the nail of the middle finger.
• 12: The inner corner of the fingernail.
The points from 0 to 8 are the basic points of tapping and are always used. In contrast, the finger points (from 9 to 12) are optional. In principle, they are not used, but if you see that with the basic points you do not get good results, you can add them.
Do not worry too much about the accuracy of the points, hitting the area is enough. You just have to hit the points on one side of the body.
A tapping sequence to relieve stress.
Tap each point about seven times and repeat the following sentences out loud.
Point 0: "Even though I feel overwhelmed and afraid, I accept who I am and how I feel." Repeat it three times.
Continue touching on the other points with adjacent phrases:
Point 1: I know I can move through this
Point 2: I know that I have the inner strength
Point 3: I choose to believe that I will overcome this
Point 4: I know I can find my power inside
Point 5: I think this is my trip now
Point 6: I know I can go through this
Point 7: And to feel good about me again
Point 8: I choose to believe in my inner strength
You just sneezed, and your nose is not the only thing that’s wet.
It’s almost always fixable, and the solution may be easy.
Some urine leakage when you sneeze is one of the many examples of stress incontinence. It’s often the first one people notice starting in middle age or even earlier.
In time, that can become a lot of urine leakage with even a little movement. Bending down, laughing, coughing, jumping, sneezing, catching something thrown toward you, all become tests for your bladder. As the problem progresses, the leakage can be enough to show on your clothes or run down your leg.
While stress incontinence is a different condition than urge incontinence, the two can merge. That is especially likely to happen to women. Urge incontinence is when you start to urinate while thinking about it, sometimes failing to get to the bathroom on time even as you are running for it. Men are likely to have stress incontinence mixed with overflow incontinence, otherwise known as dribbling.
Chances are you have already been told about Kegel exercises. They are meant to strengthen the pelvic floor so that you can control your bladder. They do help. You can find instructions anywhere, so we won’t repeat them here. Because there are other nonsurgical strategies that get much less attention that may also work for you.
If your stress incontinence has expanded to include urge incontinence over time, it may help to work backward.
There is one trick a doctor friend told me about that works extremely well for some people. She says she has recommended it to several of her patients with good results. It’s a mind trick. Simply this—as you approach the john, while you are still dry, settle in position and tell yourself, “Everything is fine. No rush. I’m here; I’m safe. I can wait.” Then wait a few seconds before giving yourself permission to go.
It may seem too easy, but it can be effective if urge incontinence is a problem.
It is also a good idea if you have incontinence that appears suddenly or has rapidly become worse to have your urine checked for infection. That can occur at a level that is not obvious to you, but your bladder knows and objects.
Surprisingly, constipation can play a role, too. Straining to use the bathroom weakens the pelvic floor muscles. The answer to getting your incontinence under control might include some Kegels to get your muscles back on track along with a fiber supplement, stool softener, or other means of correcting your constipation.
Coffee could be a villain for some people. Caffeine and alcohol both can affect bladder control. The effect for people who react to these substances is worse when they are taken late in the day. That means giving up caffeine from afternoon onward. And don’t forget that it’s included in many soft drinks. Of course, that doesn’t answer for alcohol. Unlike our colonial forefathers, drinking beer for breakfast is frowned upon these days.
If these simple remedies don’t work, there are other nonsurgical answers that your doctor can help you pursue such as estrogen creams or anticholinergic medicines to calm the bladder. Because when the easy fixes fail, it’s time to talk to the doctor.
Unless you’re vegan, you should eat fish twice a week for good health.
It’s what the American Heart Association recommends. Ditto researchers at the NIH/National Institute for Arthritis. The US Department of Agriculture agrees. So do thousands of doctors and dieticians.
This is one of the rare bits of diet advice that is almost universally accepted. The reason is omega-3 fatty acids. They abound in cold-water fish like tuna, cod, mackerel, mahi-mahi, salmon, pollack, and anchovies.
Studies have shown that regularly eating these kinds of fish can lower heart disease and stroke risk because of the omega-3 content. The habit may also improve arthritis, supply critical growth hormones to developing children, and ward off cognitive declines.
But if the benefit of eating cold-water fish is ingesting plentiful omega-3 fatty acids, so is the problem.
Here’s how: Numerous foods contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs. Omega-6’s are more concentrated in grains, seeds, nuts, beef, and vegetables like avocados and soybeans, including tofu. Most cooking oils are high in it—one exception being olive oil, which is monounsaturated and full of omega-9’s. Only a few oils are rich in omega-3. These include canola, walnut, and fish oils like that wonderful-tasting (not!) cod liver oil.
The issue is balance. The ideal diet for humans is a ratio somewhere between 1:1 or 4:1 of omega-6 to omega-3.
Our caveman forefathers were probably right at the 1:1 ratio. Some primitive societies get closer to the 4:1 range.
But today’s ratio is about 20:1 for most developed countries. That’s badly out of balance and invites numerous health problems. It is not simply a matter of too little omega-3; it’s also a case of too much omega-6. The two PUFAs have opposing effects in the body.
For instance, omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory. Omega-3 helps control weight. Omega-6 helps to gain it.
Gaining weight was an important biological edge in cave times where getting food was chancy from day to day. It’s not a good thing for us, where grocery stores, food trucks, and restaurants beckon us with constant temptation to eat and eat again. For most of us, gaining weight is the easiest thing in the world.
Eating more fish and less beef, lamb, and pork is a good way to bring your diet back into balance. Unfortunately, if you are choosing farm-raised fish, you may not be getting the omega-3 content you thought you were.
That’s because many fish farming operations feed their fish on grain products. And those fish will grow up to be high in omega 3 just like the grains that make up their diet, and low in omega 6.
The easiest way to make sure the fish you eat are as healthy as you hoped is to opt for wild-caught fish when you can. In the wild, cold water fish feed on other fish and algae. But you don’t have to make every serving of fish wild caught. There are responsible farming operations.
Farm-raised fish have become an environmental necessity, and it can be done right. It’s not all bad. Catching some species in the wild even means a lot of fuel burned to get to the fishing grounds and back for small hauls. In other causes, overfishing has meant that farm raising can be good for the species’ survival. In Norway, extensive cod farming has decreased the waste in this fish which loses some of its delicate appeal if frozen.
Good farming operations are careful to avoid using any pesticide-treated food stock, antibiotics, or unnatural foods like grains. It can be hard to know where supermarket fish originates, and how the owners work, however.
If you shop at an independent fish market, your purveyor can probably guide you right. Strike up a relationship, and try to shop when it’s not during peak hours. Friday afternoon is not the time to tie up the fishmonger for a long, philosophical chat. Nor will he want to guide you away from any choice when there’s a whole line of other customers standing around to hear every word.
Talking to your “fish guy” is not an option for everyone, alas. So if you are on your own, here are some general rules.
Sockeye salmon are never farmed, so you can buy knowing they will be wild caught.
Farmed fish that are usually responsibly raised, meaning no pesticide or antibiotics, no mercury concentrations, and proper sanitation and environmental impact include:
· Barramundi farmed in the US and Australia
· Bass farmed in the US
· Catfish from the US
· Char (Atlantic)
· Farmed mussels--worldwide
· Farmed oysters--worldwide
· Farmed Pacific rainbow trout
· Farmed sturgeon from the US and Canada
· Farmed tilapia from Canada, Ecuador, and the US
We’re all so healthy now compared to 100 years ago. An American born today has a life expectancy of 78. Before 1900 it was only 47.
The reason our grandparents had shorter lives was not, as many propose, mainly owing because of childbirth and childhood diseases. More than half of adult deaths in 1900 could be laid to pneumonia, tuberculosis, and intestinal infections. Accidental deaths occurred twice as often as they do now.
We can thank modern medicine and science for this change. We know how to avoid flu, get over pneumonia, and set a broken leg. Cholera hardly exists. Even kidney failure, another disease that plagued our grandparents, is treatable now.
With so many extra years added to our lifespans, the new challenge is reaching beyond thinking about our lifespan to the idea of a long “healthspan.” None of us wants an extra 20 years of pain, debility and mental confusion if we can avoid them.
Will those years be good ones? Will you be active, useful, mentally vital and engaged with life all the way to the end?
Medicine can give you a long lifespan; you have to give yourself a long healthspan.
At a minimum that includes eating healthily, treating depression if it shadows you, avoiding stupid risks like riding a motorcycle without a helmet, building a network of friends and family, not smoking, and learning to deal with stress.
If you ever suspected that Americans were couch potatoes, the World Health Organization has the proof. In the US, 40% of adults fail to get minimal sufficient exercise every week. The Germans are even worse, at 42%.
On a global scale, the relationship of exercise to life expectancy isn’t simple. Poor countries like Uganda and Lesotho rank high for exercise, but healthcare and high HIV/AIDS rates devastate the population. China, which has a very active population also has world-class pollution that is presumed to knock three years of life off its people.
But overall, there is a positive relationship among developed nations between more exercise and longer lives. In Europe, the countries with the fewest couch potatoes—Sweden, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Spain—have one to two years longer life expectancies than less active countries like Ireland, the UK, and Germany. Canadians with high rates of physical activity also have four more years of life expectancy than their US neighbors.
Those trends are complicated, as mentioned. But there’s plentiful research on individuals and the effects of exercise. More is better, as long as you are not trying to out-achieve super athletes.
When the WHO looked at the problem of inactivity, it also set guidelines for how much exercise is needed to keep people healthier. It’s actually a modest prescription. If you walk a dog and convince him to quit smelling the bushes and hup hup, you’re halfway there. All it takes for a start is a little more than 20 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity, a little resistance work, and some balancing exercises to help prevent falls.
Herewith, the guidelines:
150 minutes or more per week in moderate-intensity aerobic activity
That could include brisk walking at 4 mph, swimming, heavy cleaning, biking 10-12 mph, mowing the lawn with a power mower, volleyball, gardening, badminton, tennis doubles, or any similar effort)
Do all aerobic activity performed in bouts of 10 minutes or longer
Seek to increase this to 300 minutes a week for even more benefits
Do these at least 3 days a week
You can keep it simple, like standing on one foot or heel-to-toe walking
Do resistance exercises 2 or more days a week
You can use resistance bands, weights, or body weight
If you don’t know what to do, find a trainer or class to get started
For a long time, scientists and public health organizations have recommended the consumption of fiber; however, until recently, no agreement established how much fiber we should consume exactly.
With the aim of resolving this situation, a group of researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) carried out a study in which they analyzed the clinical trials conducted in the last 40 years to determine how much fiber we should consume to reduce premature mortality and prevent the development of chronic diseases.
Noncommunicable diseases are those that cannot be spread from person to person or from animal to person; they are also called chronic diseases because they are long-lasting and progress slowly. WHO classifies noncommunicable diseases into four main groups: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases. This type of pathologies constitutes a public health problem worldwide since they have a great impact on collective health and generate high costs in the health area.
Professor Jim Mann, from the University of Otago, New Zealand, is the corresponding author of the study, and Andrew Reynolds, a postdoctoral researcher at the Dunedin School of Medicine in Otago, is the first author of the article.
"The previously performed meta-analyses have been in charge of examining a single indicator of the quality of carbohydrates and a limited number of diseases. Therefore it has not been possible to determine with precision which foods we should recommend preventing the development of a range of pathologies, "explained Prof. Mann
To find out, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies and clinical trials.
The daily intake of 25 to 29 grams of fiber is ideal
During the investigation, Dr. Reynolds and his team analyzed the data included in 185 observational studies, totaling 135 million people per year, and 58 clinical trials that enrolled more than 4,600 people in total. The studies examined were conducted in the last 40 years.
The scientists showed that the main chronic diseases that led to premature deaths were: diabetes mellitus type 2, stroke, coronary heart disease, colon cancer and other cancers related to obesity such as endometrial cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and esophageal cancer.
In general, the research showed that people with a high fiber intake have between 15% and 30% less likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular disease, compared to those who consume little fiber.
The consumption of foods rich in fiber reduces up to 25% the incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.
Foods rich in fiber include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes, such as peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
One of the most important results of this study indicates that the daily fiber intake necessary to obtain these health benefits is 25 to 29 grams (g). The researchers suggest that consuming more than 29 g of fiber per day can produce even more health benefits. It is important to mention that in the United States the average adult consumes only 15 grams of fiber per day.
Although the study did not observe any adverse effects of fiber consumption, the scientists suggest that excessive fiber intake can be harmful in people with iron or mineral deficiencies.
Based on the clinical trials included in the study, it was also possible to conclude that the consumption of fiber helps to lose weight and to decrease cholesterol levels.
Why is fiber so good for you?
The benefits of fiber in health are backed by more than 100 years of scientific research. Foods rich in fiber retain much of their structure in the intestine. Therefore they increase satiety and help control weight.
Fiber decreases the absorption of fats in the intestine which is beneficial for regulating the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the body.
Several studies have linked fiber consumption with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer; experts attribute this situation to the release of intermediary metabolites due to the breakdown of the fiber by bacteria residing in the large intestine.
"Our findings provide convincing evidence that consumption of dietary fiber and replacement of refined grains with whole grains reduces the incidence and mortality of a wide range of chronic diseases." Professor Mann commented.
These days almost every Chinese restaurant has a notice somewhere on the menu proclaiming it does not use MSG.
Millions of people believe they are allergic to MSG, monosodium glutamate. Probably ten times as many believe it’s a harmful substance that ranks right up there with Red Dye #4 and propyl paraben.
So a Chinese restaurant goer, we’ll call him Charley, is happy to know he is safe at his favorite MSG-free restaurant.
But perhaps not as safe as he thought… Charley was a little hungry before going to dinner, so he grabbed a few cheesy goldfish crackers at home. At the restaurant, he started with a fried wonton app and dunked them in a dipping sauce. His wife chose the egg drop soup. When it came to the mains, Charley ordered chicken in garlic sauce, extra spicy; his wife went for the sweet and sour pork. Both douse their rice with the tableside soy sauce.
Between them, Charley and his wife have just eaten at least seven different items with MSG in them—the goldfish, the soy sauce, probably the cream cheese, the dipping sauce, the tomatoes in the sweet and sour, the chicken broth used in cooking, and the mushrooms in the Szechuan dish.
Charley leaves happily, and he doesn’t get the headache he swears he always gets when he eats MSG.
MSG danger ranks right up there with the number of words Eskimos have for snow as one of the most often repeated and misinformed myths we all know. MSG goes by many names on packages, MSG, monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast, glutamic acid, soy protein, yeast food, gelatin, and whey protein to name a few. Several stabilizers and thickeners like carrageenan, guar gum, and pectin often have MSG. Most Americans eat it several times a week if not daily.
It’s not some crazy thing invented in a test tube. It’s not a preservative that creates Frankenfoods that never rot.
In fact, MSG is all the rage these days as the fifth flavor—sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Umami is glutamate. Parmesan cheese is a rich source of umami and MSG. Roquefort and cheddar are sources, too. Know what else is rich in glutamate? Green tea.
Fear of MSG originated with a letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968 that linked it to “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” It was not established in a clinical trial or widely reported. It began with one person assuming an association between one ingredient in his dinner rather than a dozen other things. But the idea of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was picked up and broadly repeated despite the lack of any human trials to back it up. Today numerous health blogs include MSG on their dangerous foods to avoid lists.
Is it dangerous? For a lot of people? For a few?
Eventually, scientists did perform research on the topic, but trial after trial failed to establish the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome as legitimate. The World Health Organization investigated the matter twice, in 1971 and 1987, and found no risk at normal consumption rates.
Nonetheless, there are hardly any foods that do not cause allergies in some people. So it’s more than likely that at least some people are affected by MSG.
But it remains stubbornly unproven.
In 2016, yet one more attempt to get to the facts of the matter resulted in a meta-analysis on the topic. Yoko Obayashi and Yoichi Nagamura looked through the Medline and FTSA databases for all the human trials they could find. It’s a wide net, FTSA abstracts more than 2,200 journals; Medline more than 5,600. If there was confirmed evidence, they were bound to find it. They were interested in papers written in English, of studies carried out in clinical trials on humans, that reported the incidence of headaches, and had a good statistical analysis or the data needed for one. They found ten papers that met their criteria.
There were five studies that gave MSG with food. Three of these were properly blinded (the researchers and the subjects didn’t know which food had the MSG and which didn’t). Two of these studies, however, used MSG in such high concentrations that some people might have detected it by taste. Even so, none of these studies found ANY proof of MSG causing headaches. Some of these studies also measured clinical data like blood pressure and pulse rate—also no proof.
In seven other studies that administered MSG given without food, researchers did find a few reports of headaches following MSG ingestion. But once again, in the studies where subjects reported headaches, it happened with doses that were much higher than anyone would use in regular cooking. The subjects could easily tell which broth had the MSG and react according to their pre-set bias.
These adverse reactions occurred when the MSG was giving in a drink or broth at a concentration of 2% or higher. At a concentration of 1.2%, its flavor is detectable.
The usual concentration in food is much lower, 0.2% to 0.8%.
The bottom line—most people who believe they are allergic to MSG probably aren’t. But some few people could be. If you have a can of Accent or Sazon at home, don’t sprinkle it in the soup you feed to your guests unless you know it’s OK with them.
But to say MSG is bad for you is like saying shrimp are bad for you because someone somewhere is allergic to it. Lots of people are allergic to shrimp, but there’s no hysteria about it. Restaurants don’t post signs about it.
The use of MSG was encouraged at one time to help people cut back on salt as a seasoning. It has about one-third as much sodium as table salt and sea salt. And if sodium is an issue for you, especially if you have high blood pressure, then a little MSG could do you some good if it helps you cut back on salt.
And if you are allergic to MSG, skip it in all forms, including the parmesan and the goldfish crackers.
Oatmeal is one of those love/hate breakfast foods. The warm, full stomach that some people enjoy looks like a bowl of slimy glop to others.
I understand. Regular, boiled-in-the-pan oatmeal really is a gray, gelatinous pile of glop with lumps in it. If you’re fine with that and content with the usual brown sugar, nuts, and banana trimmings, bless you. You are doing yourself a lot of good. You are a saint.
You’re eating smart, too. Women should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, men 38 grams. One cup of oatmeal for breakfast will give you 8 grams of fiber. An average “bowl” of oatmeal is bigger than that for most people, however. It should bring you 12-16 grams of fiber.
The usual trimmings help. A medium banana adds another 3 grams. Or a half cup of blueberries is worth a little less than 2 grams of fiber. A few walnuts would add another gram.
If you prefer to go in the fruit and nuts direction, though, consider dates. A half cup is worth almost 6 grams of fiber.
Brown sugar provides no fiber, nor does milk, but they complete the traditional breakfast oatmeal offering. Which works fine for people who like oatmeal.
Now for the rest of us. There are other ways to eat oats, and you might succeed in taking a more savory approach. I don’t run well when I start my day with sweets, so I found a way to make that work for me. While I never liked oatmeal, grits with salt, pepper, and butter are in my wheelhouse. That seemed like a possibility worth trying for oats—sans butter. Success! Good quality oatmeal, cooked thick, and served with salt and pepper tastes just fine. It’s not glop. Add a scoop of fat-free cottage cheese on the side, and you have a protein bomb, too.
Other ideas I’ve found palatable for an oatmeal avoider… You can also stir in a large handful of spinach leaves toward the end of cooking. Siracha works well to liven oats if you can stand a hot, hot breakfast. This concoction goes well with avocado slices on top. Some people tell me that crumbled bacon and a soft poached egg are delicious, but this is supposed to be a health blog, so we’ll just pretend that bacon never happens, OK?
The older we get, the more likely we are to fall. There is a bona fide public health problem in that issue.
But it is not these things:
· 25% of people over age 65 fall at least once a year
· 40% of hospital admissions for people over 65 are linked to injuries from a fall
· 8% of people age 70+ who show up in emergency rooms after falling will die from their injuries
· If you exclude traffic accidents, falls are responsible for 80% of disabilities caused by an unintentional injury among patients age 50 or older
Those are all horrible stats. The public health issue is that most falls are avoidable, and we’re not doing enough to help people avoid them.
The injuries and fatalities visited on the elderly don’t have to happen to people just because they have celebrated more birthdays. Better balance and better vision are two things that could radically improve those awful statistics.
Falling is a risk of walking upright for all of us. There’s no age limit on tripping over a loose manhole cover. Anyone can slide when they step on an unexpected patch of ice. I once owned a pair of shoes that turned into ice skates every time I got to a wheelchair ramp at the end of a sidewalk. A toy on the stairs can undo anyone.
But while these mishaps can lead to severe injuries to people of any age, younger people are more likely to recover their balance in time to avoid splatting. A reasonable amount of muscle tone and good stability are all it takes. A healthy 80-year old can stumble, regain footing and go on without falling just like a teenager can.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t retain the strength or agility we enjoyed at age 16 when we’re 30 or 40 and certainly not when we’re 50+.
In addition to recovering our balance under duress, we could often avoid falling if we see the risk in time. That’s why cataracts are strongly implicated in falling and being injured. Surgery to improve eyesight prevents accidents. In one British study, 97 patients who were scheduled for surgery on their cataracts were followed for three months before and three months after the operation to see if it made a difference.
Among the patients in the survey, 31 had fallen before surgery. In the months after surgery, only six of the fallers had another fall. And one of those was related to dizziness caused by medication. Among the patients who were not fallers before surgery, they were just as stable afterward. The study clearly showed that the risk factor for falling was not the patients’ ages—nobody got younger—it was their vision.
In the past, it was a common belief that if you had cataracts, you should wait for them to “ripen” before undergoing surgery. Some people still believe that, but it is no longer what doctors recommend.
The new thinking is about function. When your performance is affected, it’s time to take care of the problem. If you find your field of vision is fuzzy, if you don't see everyday things as sharply as you should even with glasses, then it’s time.
Here at Renown Health, probiotics are a big deal. Our Prosentials brand was a long time in the making and balances seven different probiotic strains to achieve the most effective “workforce” of bacteria that are good for your gut.
In addition to doing our best to start out well, we stay on top of natural health research. Especially any studies that involve ingredients we use in our products. That’s what I was doing a few weeks ago, when I thought… “dog!”
Prosentials is balanced to focus on digestion, constipation, and healthy gut flora, but one of the strains in it has other uses, too, and I was about to test it at home.
That’s because early last fall, my husband and I adopted our dog, Sally, thinking she was some variation of a shepherd-husky-possibly lab mix. Those are all breeds we have owned and loved. We felt we knew what to expect and how to handle it. A bit of time with Sally quickly revealed she was not typical of a shepherd or a husky, and certainly not a lab. It took us several weeks to discover her true breed and why she had certain problems.
At first, we thought, “well, shelter dogs… you know.” They can have bad experiences.
When we adopted her, Sally had been part of a two-week summer camp my friend, Teena, runs. In each session, the campers, who are ages 8-13, each choose a rescue dog to pair off. The kids learn how to brush and bathe the dogs, check teeth and ears, trim nails, and walk them nicely on a leash. The dogs learn to sit, stay, come, settle, and be Good Dogs. The dogs and campers hop on a bus several times a week and go on outings to stores, city streets, and restaurants. They play and swim together at the dog beach and in the camp pool. At the end of each day, every camper takes his or her dog home to introduce them to indoor family living. (Except Sally!) At the end of camp, when the dogs are up for adoption, the kids are involved in assessing potential owners.
Everything about it is a new experience for many of these dogs. Last summer most of the camp dogs were Satos, street dogs rescued from Puerto Rico. Satos are fairly small, cute and naturally friendly. Sally was different. She came from an Alabama county animal shelter. Before that, her rescuers believe she lived in the wild. She was bigger. She was aloof. She didn’t like most other dogs. She didn’t like strangers giving her pats or coming too close.
And of course, I fell in love when I saw her on a visit. Somehow Sally liked me right away, too. The next day my husband went to see her and got an even more enthusiastic welcome much to everyone’s surprise. The rescue group director had been trying desperately to find a home for Sally, even a foster home, but she just didn’t warm up to anyone. She was the camp dog nobody wanted to adopt. Only one family had taken an interest, but she didn’t get along with their current family dog. Weeks went by, and Sally was still an orphan with no place to go. Until we said, “wow, can we really have her?!”
Once we got Sally home, she was fun to walk on a leash, as long as we didn’t meet another dog. I worked on sit, stay, and come. Her camper had not managed to get that done. Sally, unlike the sweet little Satos, isn’t eager to please just anyone she meets. By all reports, she essentially dragged the poor kid around for two weeks and never went home with him because of her problems getting along with other dogs. So she spent several rainy nights back at camp, alone in a building with a tin roof. She still hates rain. Not thunder, not lightening. Rain.
After Sally came home with us, I worked with her on meeting other dogs calmly. She could be aggressive, but it never escalated past a growl. At last, I thought she’d done well enough and met enough other dogs nicely that it was time to try a doggie play group under professional guidance.
Sally tolerated the greeter dog OK. But when the team tried to bring her to the play group, Sally slammed on the brakes, tucked tail, and refused to budge. There was no way in Hades my dog was going through that scary door where all those other mutts were running loose. Not happening.
Soon after that, we discovered that Sally is a Carolina dog. Not a husky-shepherd mix of any sort. Aloofness, being shy with strangers, and indifference toward other dogs is a breed trait. The play group incident revealed her aggression was really about fear.
By the time we figured that out, we had all bonded—even the cat—and Sally was family.
I thought possibly, slowly, with a lot of work, I could improve her dog-to-dog skills to make life easier for her. Progress was abysmally slow.
Then one day I was reviewing the ingredients in Prosentials for any new scientific data and found that one component, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, is used to ease anxiety in humans and mice. It’s also used to treat nervous horses. Some vets give it to dogs for digestive problems and dermatitis.
Probiotic supplements are usually formulated, like Prosentials, to address digestive problems. But several strains of these friendly bacteria can also affect mood, mental focus, resistance to colds, and a host of other issues. So why not doggy nervousness?
Worth a try, right?
Within two days of beginning her on probiotics, Sally was noticeably calmer. She still doesn’t like rain very much, but she’s not panicked by it anymore. She’s also doing well with most other dogs. And even when the hackles rise, she’s not growling.
One day last week, as we were walking, four loose dogs ran up and surrounded her with no problem. Sally was nervous, but she handled it well.
What’s more, except for one mysterious hole in a good white shirt, she hasn’t chewed anything forbidden lately.
We’ve put in a lot of work, to be sure. Bought the best food. Even tried the thunder shirt. But because of the rapid and significant change, I am sure that the probiotics are the biggest reason Sally is doing so well now. It was startling how quickly we saw the change happen.
Sally is a new dog. She could probably succeed in a lot of different families now.
Not that we’d give her up. Sally’s a good girl.
And I’m an even bigger fan of probiotics.
Germs cheat. They’ve
always been cheats, and they’re getting better at it.
Like all cheaters, they have an advantage in working outside the law. Bacteria don’t have to go through FDA approval to put a new variety out in the world. But the antibiotics that we develop to fight them have to play by strict rules. Even vabomere, a combination antibiotic released in 2017 took 8 years to get through FDA’s “expedited” approval process. One of the components in the combo was an already-approved antibiotic, the other was just an enabler to make it work better.
This mismatch between the wily and the lawful is becoming a frightening problem.
Penicillin was invented in 1928 and the first resistant staph germs didn’t show up until 1940. Penicillin-resistant pneumonia came along in 1965. In its early days, not many people got penicillin, which probably gave it a longer lead before resistant bacteria caught up.
But tetracycline was introduced in 1950, and a resistant form of shigella appeared in 1959. The record for fast retaliation was a near-simultaneous volley and return. In 1996, the FDA approved a new antibiotic, levofloxacin. A resistant strain of pneumonia arose the same year.
The problem of antibiotic resistance is so acute that, in 2017, the World Health Organization warned that we could run out of antibiotics.
We’ve all been taught the basic mechanics of the problem. It’s why our doctors and dentists warn us to take every last pill in our prescription. You get a strep throat or a urinary tract infection. Antibiotics begin to kill off the bacteria that cause your illness. The weakest ones go first. Then, if you stop too soon, the strongest survive and multiply. In a few generations, those stronger iterations become antibiotic resistant.
There isn’t much science can do about that situation. At best, doctors can hit the pause button before prescribing antibiotics for minor ailments. Patients can be more careful to take their meds as directed.
Beyond that, the basic answer has been the medical equivalent of “throw a bigger rock.” If penicillin fails, move on to erythromycin. If that fails, proceed to methicillin…
The alternative would be to discover what is happening to make antibiotics more resistant. The “stronger germs live to multiply” explanation.
Researchers are working feverishly to get ahead of bacteria, but as noted, germs cheat. Although several new antibiotics are in development, there has not been a whole new class of antibiotics since 1980. If the approval process is not expedited, it can take decades of work to get a new antibiotic to market. Germs work faster.
But physicists at McMaster University in Canada have taken images that reveal what is going on micro-level. The images capture the cell processes at a resolution as fine as 1-millionth of a hair. What they discovered is how resistant bacteria hold off antibiotics. The usual process is that an antibiotic attacks bacterial cell walls, punching holes in them. The cell then dies. But the resistant bacteria behave as if they are armored. Their walls are more rigid and harder to penetrate.
As lead researcher Andree Khondker put it, “it’s like going from cutting Jello to cutting through rock.” In addition, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria had less intense negative charges on their surface. That made them harder for antibiotic molecules to find and less sticky.
The beauty of this kind of research is that it could lead the way to developing a mechanism that would apply to all bacteria.
That’s still a long ways away. But this kind of research is
apt to be followed avidly. The antibiotic problem gets more urgent every day.
Pushups are big news lately. Harvard Health followed 11,004 firemen over 10 years to see if they could find a way to predict cardiovascular disease risk without expensive lab tests.
They did. It was the lowly pushup.
Pushups turned out to be even better than a standard treadmill stress test as a predictor for the risk of future incidents of CVD. And performing pushups might be a lifesaver.
The firefighters who could snap off 40 pushups at a good pace had much lower rates of CVD incidents during the study. So now, the big question is this: what if you can’t do a pushup? Are you in trouble? Can you reverse that?
First, relax. Even the ability to perform only 11-39 pushups coincided with lower CVD risk. More than that. Also, the study did not determine that doing zero to 11 pushups put anyone at higher risk than the general population. The study didn’t include women, older people, or inactive people, either. Those topics are ones the researchers hope to follow up on because the 10-year study proved so valuable for active men that it may apply to even more people.
It’s unlikely that pushups in themselves were the agent that lowered CVD risk. Rather, the researchers believe they are a reliable surrogate for a type of good conditioning that is associated with a healthier heart.
But whether you are firefighter-fit, older, female, or a current couch potato, well-executed pushups are worth learning to do.
That’s because pushups require a certain kind of whole-body conditioning that has multiple functional benefits. You need a strong core. That translates to better balance and stability and helps you perform most daily actions better. You could build impressive upper-body muscle strength doing a series of down presses, flies, curls, and rows with heavy weights. But the core involvement in doing a pushup right achieves broader benefits. Pushups strengthen the lower back and ab muscles. Keeping the perfect form also requires engagement from the gluteus and major leg muscles.
Technically, a pushup is a “compound” exercise because it engages several large muscle groups at once. This requires your heart to work hard to pump oxygen-rich blood to all those busy muscles.
Now here’s how to achieve pushup perfection, even if you can’t manage to lift off the floor today…
The usual approach of lying on the floor, trying and trying to push yourself upward is worthless. You will probably hurt your back, and you will make so little progress you'll give up.
For many women and out of shape men, the basic upper body strength to get started needs some help. If you can already do one pushup, then you can practice your way to 40 pushups. But if you cannot do even one in correct form, you simply start somewhere else. Essentially you’ll begin with some pre-pushups
The usual advice for doing this is to begin with a pushup from the knees. I object to that. It may work for some people, but it never worked for me. Despite strong hands, back, knees, and legs, I couldn’t perform a real pushup ever. Not even as a teen. No amount of doing pushups from my knees got me a bit closer to the real, plank-style regular pushup.
I believe that was because omitting the lower body was counterproductive. And that is exactly what happens when you do a pushup from the knees, you take the lower body out of the exercise. You perform several knee pushups and think you’re on the way, then you try it from your toes… nothing. At least not for me.
By chance, I came across advice to begin with wall push-aways. Then to gradually step farther and farther back from the wall as you get stronger.
That worked. Each time I did 10 push-aways with ease, I moved back.
Perform these push-aways in standard pushup form. You are vertical and eventually, you will take it horizontal with the exact same motions. Starting this way simply lessens the weight that your arms must control until they get strong enough to support your full body.
As you practice your push-aways and continue stepping back, eventually, you will be too far from the wall to go back any farther. At that point, you switch to pushing up from something like a countertop or sturdy table. Don’t go to the floor yet. You’re working your way down. But do execute your pushup using the standard form. Once you can do 10, move your support lower. Then lower, then lower. You may have to search all over the house for something at the right height. Eventually, you can move down to the floor.
And do a real pushup. I promise.