Friday, October 25, 2013

Study Links Diet & Lifestyle to Cellular Aging

We all know that eating the right foods and getting regular exercise is good for us, even if we don't always do it. Sort of like flossing. But a recent study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco might give you the bit of additional motivation you need.

The study concluded that relatively small changes to diet and lifestyle can have a major effect on aging down to the cellular level. And perhaps can not only slow it, but even reverse it. Our body's ability to produce a steady supply of healthy new cells to replace those that wear out is perhaps the primary factor in determining how quickly we age. Not in a chronological sense, of course, but in a biological one.

 “So often people think ‘Oh, I have bad genes, there’s nothing I can do about it,’” said Dean Ornish, MD, study author and a clinical professor of medicine at UCSF, said in a statement. “But these findings indicate that telomeres may lengthen to the degree that people change how they live. Research indicates that longer telomeres are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life.”

That seems like quite a bonus for doing a few things you really should be doing anyway.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How Much Time Have You Got?

I have a real problem with procrastination. Working from a home office compounds this, as there always seems to be some distraction or other that offers an excuse to put something off. And, well, there is always tomorrow, right? Wrong.

We all know we are not going to live forever. But we often seem to live day-by-day as though we were. Would we see things differently if we head, literally, a deadline? If we knew how much time we had left?

The internet is a marvelous place. Frighteningly so at times. I recently was introduced to something called The Death Clock. By completing a very brief survey on your lifestyle and current situation, it makes an actuarial forecast of the day on which you will run out of time. It sounds gruesome, but I have found it to be quite the opposite.

First, I was gratified to learn that I had nearly 20 years left to go. And second, knowing this, I am starting to see "today" through a whole different lens. 4, 500 days might seem like a lot of time if its the time till your next vacation. But when that is the time remaining in your life, each of those days assumes a whole new level of urgency and importance.

If you'd like to take a look into your own future, any of the links below will be a good place to start. You can even get a clock widget for your PC or phone - just in case you don't want to miss a second.                 

Moble Widget

You can also find apps in the Apple or Google stores. Or just Google "Death Clock".

Have fun with this and I will see you around. As long as its before March, 2030.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Does High Cholesterol Really Cause Heart Disease?

Total cholesterol level is probably the health related number that most people are familiar with. Many people know their number and accept as an article of faith that lower total cholesterol improves their odds of avoiding cardiovascular disease. But is it really so?

In fact cholesterol (both the "bad" LDL kind and the "good" HDL) play important roles in the body. Cholesterol is required for the building of healthy new cells, and is closely involved in the production of Vitamin D and several hormones. It functions as an anti-oxidant as well as catalyzing the production of bile - which allows us to digest fats. It helps us absorb calcium and is involved in effective synaptic function in the brain. None of us would live very well or very long without it.

More to the point, cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol, is used by the body to repair inflammation induced lesions in the vascular system. "Dr. Mary Enig, suggests that blaming cholesterol for heart disease is something akin to blaming firefighters for fires. The key to stopping heart disease is to stop the lesions (fires) in the arteries from occurring in the first place (Full article)." And the key to that is reducing inflammation, not lowering cholesterol. The famous Framinghan Heart Study results show that about half the participants who had high cholesterol levels suffered no coronary events, while about half the people who did had cholesterol levels well within the normal range.

Meanwhile, the evidence that lowering cholesterol levels reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease is at best mixed. There is some (although not conclusive) support for the idea that people with existing cardiovascular disease benefit from lowering cholesterol (primary prevention), but little support for the proposition that it lowers risk in people without any pre-existing condition (secondary prevention). The primary medical treatment for high cholesterol is the administration of statin drugs and "the National Cholesterol Education Program revised its guidelines to recommend statins as primary prevention. Although the panel cited randomized trials to support statin therapy for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a report in Lancet notes, "not one of the studies provides such evidence." Journalists have questioned the interests of the doctors who made such recommendations, as eight of the 9 doctors on the panel were discovered to have been paid by statin manufacturers. (Full article)" More recently, AstraZenica, the manufacturer of the statin Crestor, has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration for approval to recommend Crestor as a preventive measure to people as young as 25 with no personal or family history of heart disease. According the the Journal of the American Medical Association, the use of statin drugs has increased 10-fold in people 45 years of age or older.

Statin therapy involves known risks and numerous serious side effects. It is one thing to take this risk in exchange for a significant benefit - avoiding cardiovascular disease. But if in fact the culprit is inflammation, then the whole cholesterol obsession starts to feel like a scam - albeit a very profitable one. As always, educate yourself and make up your own mind. Caveat patientes.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Happiness Habit

What is the difference between a happy person and a negative, dissatisfied, dis-empowered one? Is it money? I'm thinking not. Some of my happiest experiences were during and after college when $20 was a fortune to me. Is it a great job? I dunno, my best job was certainly not my happiest time. I was traveling constantly, had no social or family life. I know, its luck, right? People are happy because good things happen to happen to them!

Or maybe, as Dr. Steve Maraboli suggests in Five Life-Changing Dynamics, happiness is a choice. And the more of a habit you make of choosing happy, the happier you get.