Jan
07
2024

Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

In the New Year it pays to backup your New Year’s resolutions by looking at short-term consequences. An article in “the conversation” explains how you can keep yourself motivated to stick to healthy habits. The alternative would be to fall back into unhealthy habits, which lead to various disease conditions. Traditional thinking centered around keeping long-term outlooks in front of your mind when tempted by the smell of doughnuts. In these cases, you think that the long-term consequences of eating doughnuts or consuming sugary drinks result in diabetes and obesity. But the smell or taste of unhealthy foods can be so overpowering that the long-term consequences of potential diseases is forgotten. This is the point when your New Years resolution may fade away in favor of falling back to unhealthy eating habits.

Think short-term to resist temptation

The new approach is to replace the thinking of long-term outlooks by short-term outlooks. The authors cited an example of 4000 participants in 7 separate studies. When the short-term consequences of anxiety and a sugar and caffeine crash were explained for caffeine containing sugary drinks, 25% of participants were able to abstain from the energy drinks in comparison to those who were informed about long-term consequences.

Another experiment

A similar experiment involved the consumption of sugar in the form of cookies. One group of participants read about the short-term effects of eating sugar. A second group read about the long-term effects of eating sugar. A third group did not get any information about the effect of sugar. There was also a “reward system” for all the participants: they had to decide between receiving a tote bag or eating cookies. Those who had read about the short-term effects of sugar were 30% less likely to choose cookies than the ones who read about the long-term effects. The ones who read the short-term effects were 45% less likely to choose the cookies than the ones who read nothing about the effects of sugar.

Verbalizing short-term consequences

Here are some thoughts that help to verbalize short-term consequences:

  • For alcohol: excessive drinking can lead to poor sleep and hangovers.
  • Fast food can make you feel bloated or give you indigestion.
  • Sugar and starchy meals: make you bloated and give you an acidy stomach, also will lead to rapid weight gain.
  • Focus on the good taste of apples and carrots. People will eat more of it and get the health benefits without mentioning it.

You can keep your goals easier when you combine them with small rewards here and there. When you have achieved one thing, you could watch your favorite TV show. Another reward could be a brief visit to the gym that makes you feel more fit. Or go and buy yourself a new pair of shorts for the gym. The authors of this article provide evidence from studies that showed that several mini rewards distributed throughout the day are more effective than big rewards at the end of the day.

Measurements of weight fluctuations

I found that body composition scales are very useful to monitor your diet intake. Here is an example how I use this device. My weights, fat% and body mass index for a number of days is listed below. The first line shows the baseline measured in the morning. On Saturday lunchtime I was invited to a Christmas family dinner. I ate more than I should have had. You can see the results on the Sunday readings: weight up, fat up and BMI up. I watched my calorie intake throughout Sunday.

Weekday              Weight (KG)                 Fat %        Body mass index

Saturday:                   63.6                           13.2                  21.7

Sunday:                     64.0                           14.2                  21.9

Monday:                    63.4                           14.3                  21.7

It took another two days (Wednesday) before the fat percentage was down to 12.9.

There is another powerful tool, Dr. Valter Longo’s fasting mimicking diet. I reported about this under this link. Briefly, once a month I eat only 500 to 600 calories daily for 5 days. This helps me to lose my body mass index from 21.8 down to 21.1 or 21.2. After that I can eat a normal diet until the next month when I do the fasting mimicking diet again. It is an easy way to keep my body mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. My wife and I prepare our own 500 to 600 calorie diet with natural food.(No, you do not get much, but it can taste good!) We do not buy Dr. Longo’s expensive diet boxes.

Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

Backup your New Year’s Resolutions by looking at short-term Consequences

Conclusion

Focusing on short-term goals and consequences increases the percentage of success for those who have New Year’s resolutions. You can use this for many different approaches: eating less sugar, losing weight, getting regular exercise, reducing your alcohol intake, cutting out fast food and increasing your healthy vegetable and fruit intake. I also added a description of what I do with the help of body composition scales to control my weight and body mass index. I also use Dr. Longo’s fasting mimicking diet once per month for 5-days. Since December 2017 (for 6 years) I practiced this. I find it extremely useful to maintain my body mass index in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. Medicine knows that it is important to keep your body mass index below 25.0. This will prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. It also helps to look forward to a healthy New Year.

Oct
23
2023

News from the Blue Zones Regarding Longevity

This article is about news from the Blue Zones regarding longevity. Blue Zones are areas where many centenarians live. Medical News Today ran a review article about Blue Zones on Sept. 23, 2023. These Blue Zones are located in Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California and Okinawa, Japan. Many studies looked at centenarians in these areas and analyzed what lifestyles led to their longevity. Dan Buettner summarized at a conference that only 20% of deaths in the world are due to genetic conditions. 80% of people can postpone their death date by adopting healthy lifestyles.

Factors associated with longevity

Dan Buettner called the factors that lead to prolonged life “Power 9”. The following factors must be adopted simultaneously, if you want to reach 100 years of age and more:

  • Moving naturally and regularly
  • People in Blue Zones have a purpose in life
  • Reduce stress in your life
  • Practice the 80% diet rule, which is to stop eating when 80% full
  • Adopt a plant-based diet.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation
  • Be part of a community
  • Put family first
  • keep a social circle that supports healthy behaviors

A diet for longevity

Dan Buettner analyzed the dietary habits of centenarians. He found that 90% of the diet they consumed consisted of whole food, plant-based sources and about 65% of their diet were complex carbs. Buettner noted: “The pillars of every longevity diet in the world are whole grains, nuts, greens, and other garden vegetables, tubers and beans.” For years the benefits of a Mediterranean diet were investigated and found to be life prolonging. It also emphasizes vegetables, whole foods, greens, grains, nuts and beans. The review article in Medical News Today that I mentioned above contains recommendations of how to change your diet to a healthier one.

Regular exercise

We are built in a way that requires regular exercise. When you exercise regularly, your body produces healthy HDL cholesterol that balances the unhealthy LDL cholesterol. Overall, this counteracts clogging of arteries and prevents heart attacks and strokes.

When you prevent strokes and heart attacks, you live longer.

Have a purpose in life

When you have a purpose in life, your mind is focused on what excites you. Achieving what is your dream satisfies you. Your brain releases feel-good brain hormones (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin). When these hormones are released, you relax and cope with stress better. Your blood pressure normalizes, hardening of the arteries is postponed. At the same time, you prevent heart attacks and strokes. This contributes to longevity.

Reduce stress in your life

When under stress, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. In the short term these stress hormones help you to cope better with stress. But when stress gets chronic, it weakens your immune system and increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke. It ages you faster. You can counter stress in your life by adopting stress management techniques. Regular exercise stabilizes your emotional life. You can listen to relaxation recordings or to relaxing music to calm your nerves. Developing friendships is another method of coping with stress. Here is more information on how to reduce stress in your life.

Limit alcohol consumption

In the past it was thought that small amounts of alcohol would prevent cardiovascular disease. But these studies overlooked the fact that even small amounts of alcohol can cause various cancers. So, by limiting the amount of alcohol consumption you also limit your probability of getting cancer.

Be part of a community

Many psychological studies showed that social isolation leads to health problems. It follows from this that being part of a community stabilizes your health and prevents disease. When you socialize with other people you counter stress and prevent loneliness.

Putting family first

When you care about your family, family members will care about you. Studies showed that this is an important factor in preventing disease. It even reduces mortality. Lower mortality leads to longevity.

Keep a social circle that supports healthy behaviors

Strangely enough here is another psychological factor that leads to longevity: getting support from a social circle. Being part of a social circle can create positive energy that prevents health problems.

Discussion of factors that lead to longevity

It is interesting to see that a lot of the longevity factors are psychological in nature. But physical factors are also important, like a Mediterranean diet and regular exercise. One factor that was not mentioned by Dan Buettner is the importance of preservation of hormone stability. I attended many yearly conferences of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (also known as A4M). They take place in the middle of December in Las Vegas every year. Over the years many lectures centered around hormone deficiencies. They collectively lead to premature aging and deaths. However, speakers also stressed that when you replace the missing hormones, you can reach a balance point where life gets prolonged.

Hormone replacement

One of the speakers, Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Brussels mentioned in various talks that a lack of human growth hormone (HGH) in older age can lead to premature death. When IGF-1 levels in the blood are low, replacing the missing HGH with regular HGH injections can add 26.5 years to your life expectancy. But other hormones like thyroid hormones, testosterone in males, and progesterone and estrogen in females can prolong life when replaced after menopause or andropause (the male version of menopause).

News from the Blue Zones Regarding Longevity

News from the Blue Zones Regarding Longevity

Conclusion

Many factors contribute to longevity in centenarians. A lot of the factors are psychological in nature, like having a purpose in life or reducing stress in your life. Others are: be part of a community, put family first and keep a social circle that supports healthy behaviors. Physical factors causing longevity are moving naturally and regularly; adopt a plant-based diet; and consume alcohol in moderation. There is one important factor of longevity that Dan Buettner overlooked: your hormone balance. When we approach age 60 and beyond many people stop producing adequate amounts of hormones.

Replacing missing hormones

Anti-aging doctors have done studies showing that replacing missing hormones in proper doses will prolong life. Dr. Hertoghe, an endocrinologist from Brussels mentioned in various talks that a lack of human growth hormone (HGH) in older age can lead to premature death. When IGF-1 levels in the blood are low, replacing the missing HGH with regular injections can add 26.5 years to your life expectancy.

Dec
17
2022

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) also goes by the name of systemic macrocytosis. That is to say it is a syndrome where mast cells are multiplying abundantly and secreting the inflammatory substances histamine, leukotrienes and cytokines. Certainly, people who suffer from MCAS can get severe anaphylactic reactions, but an epinephrine injection can often stop this.  Indeed, the physician must look for potential triggering factors like alcohol, spicy foods, exercise, insect stings, possible heavy metal accumulation or certain medications. In some cases heavy metal accumulation could also be a factor that triggers mast cells to release histamine.  In these cases a series of 20 chelation therapy sessions would be stabilizing.

Symptoms of mast cell activation syndrome

  • When there is skin involvement in patients with mast cell activation syndrome, they get flushing, itching and skin rashes.
  • With gastrointestinal involvement patients experience nausea and vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and reflux (GERD).
  • Patients with neurological symptoms develop brain fog, headaches, cognitive problems, tremors and anxiety/depression.
  • When MCAS affects your endocrine glands, you may develop bone pain, bone lesions or weak bones.
  • Patients where the heart is affected may be fainting, their blood pressure may fluctuate between with high or low readings and they may experience heart palpitations.
  • When your respiratory system is affected, your lungs may be wheezing and you may develop nasal congestion.
  • More symptoms
  • The most dangerous symptom is anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening allergic reaction where your air way entry could close off.
  • Any of these symptoms can get triggered by heat, cold or temperature changes. Stress, friction, insect bites or stings can also trigger a reaction. Additional factors can be environmental odors or perfumes, certain foods or medicine, alcohol and contrast dyes.

Diagnosis of mast cell activation syndrome

The most appropriate specialist to see is an allergist or immunologist. Other specialists could be a dermatologist, gastroenterologist, hematologist or endocrinologist. You will need blood tests like a serum tryptase level, which is a marker for mast cell burden. It is best to get a baseline tryptase level and also get a tryptase level after a mast cell reaction. In addition, you need a 24-hour urine collection for a number of mast cell activators. Depending on where your mast cell activation syndrome is located you need a skin or bone marrow biopsy.

More possible tests

The physician may decide to do an endoscopy or colonoscopy of the gastrointestinal tract. The pathologist can do several staining procedures with biopsy material to specifically look at mast cells. If there is a strong family history of mast cell activation syndrome the physician may decide to do genetic tests. In order to assess mast cell damage, your doctor may order a bone density test and bone scans including CT scans of the abdomen and chest.

Treatment of mast cell activation syndrome

The treatment of mast cell activation syndrome consists of a combination of multiple steps. First, if there is a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction, the patient applies an epinephrine injection. The physician taught the patient earlier how to do an epinephrine injection. This stops the sudden, rapid release of mediators from mast cells. After the epinephrine injection the patient needs transport to the nearest ER of a hospital for follow-up care. It is important that any patient with this syndrome should carry injectable epinephrine( an Epi-Pen) at all times.The purpose of treatment against mast cell activation syndrome is to block reactivity of mast cells or to stop the effects of mast cell mediators.

A number of medications are available to do this.

You can lower your risk of getting mast cell activation syndrome by watching your diet. Here is a list of the foods that will protect you:

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Conclusion

Mast cell activation syndrome is a complex disease entity. Often there are several factors that contribute to this. Conventional medicine still cannot offer a treatment modality that will cure this condition, the only possibility is to control it. The physician must therefore use a combination of treatment modalities in order to help the patient with this condition. In cases of heavy metal accumulation several treatments with chelation therapy are beneficial. With an acute anaphylactic reaction, the

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome applies an epinephrine injection, which will stabilize the condition. But the patient should now follow this up with a series of blood tests in the emergency department of a hospital.

Treating mast cell hyperactivity

The purpose of treating mast cell activation syndrome is to block reactivity of mast cells or to stop the effects of mast cell mediators. H1 and H2 antihistamines help for gastrointestinal hyperactivity. Cromolyn sodium and ketotifen are mast cell stabilizers. Leukotriene inhibitors such as montelukast help to stabilize the mast cells to not secrete cytokines, which cause inflammation. Aggressive mast cell disease may require chemotherapy treatment, similar to what is needed to treat cancer.

The purpose of treatment is to help the patient control the mast cell hyperactivity. At this time medical science does not have all the answers. Unfortunately, at this point conventional medicine has no cure for this syndrome, but it can be managed with a lot of attention to the symptoms.

Nov
13
2021

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

Early October 2021 CNN had an article about how to fall asleep quicker. Most people take 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep.

Sleep environment

It is important to arrange a sleep environment where you can sleep well. This includes bedroom darkening and keeping the room temperature of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 20 degrees Celsius). Make sure your bed is comfortable and use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex. Do not read in the bedroom, keep your cell phone in another room and do not have a TV or computer in the bedroom. These produce blue light, which stimulates your brain. This is exactly what you do not want to have in your bedroom.

Normal sleep duration for different ages

There are always exceptions to rules. In this case there is a rare gene that allows the carrier to sleep only 5 hours at night and still have normal energy during the day. It is called short sleep gene.

Here are the hours of sleep that everybody else needs every night in different age groups:

  • Adults: 7-8 hours
  • School-age children: 12 hours
  • Teenagers: 8-10 hours

If you get the proper hours of sleep, but you are still tired during the day, you may have a lack of quality of sleep. Older people often have to go to the bathroom several times during the night. As it takes some time to reach the deepest level of sleep at night (REM sleep) older people often miss significant amounts of REM sleep during which they dream. The end result is a lack of energy during the day.

Conditions that interrupt your sleep

There are some medical conditions that can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is one such condition that 25 million Americans have. A person with this kind of condition snores, gasps, chokes or stops breathing periodically during the course of the night. Restless leg syndrome is another condition, which interferes with a restful, deep sleep. Other conditions are chronic pain, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and gastroesophageal reflux. Medication can affect sleep depth as well.

Falling asleep naturally

Despite many studies it is not clear why some people have no problem falling asleep while others find it difficult. Taking 10 to 20 minutes of falling asleep is normal. If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes of trying, go to a dim room and do something calming until you feel drowsy again. Then return to your bed. Follow the same procedure, if you wake up in the middle of the night and you have difficulties falling asleep again. Deep breathing, yoga and meditation are proven remedies to pipe down and help you to fall asleep.

Monitoring sleep at a sleep clinic

A sleep study can be very helpful in diagnosing sleep disturbances.  The sleep expert measures several body functions simultaneously. These are heart rate, air flow, blood oxygen level, breathing rate, brain wave activity, muscle movements and eye movements. During a night sleep study, a polysomnogram records all these body functions automatically. The finding helps the sleep expert to diagnose and treat the sleep disturbance.

Self-help supplements for insomnia

My regular sleep supplement every night is 3 mg of melatonin.

Sometimes this is not enough, because I watched an exciting movie or I wrote too much for Quora online. When I can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, I take a capsule of 500 mg of valerian root. I would say that this helps in 95% of the nights to fall asleep.

If for some reason I still can’t fall asleep, I use 25 drops of  Passion Flower Extract:  I find that this is very reliable and puts me to sleep within 15 to 20 minutes of taking it. This way I am avoiding prescription narcotics and I am not getting addicted to benzodiazepines. The last step (Passion Flower Extract) I require only once or twice a month. The chemical in the Passion Flower Extract is very similar to benzodiazepines, which means you don’t want to take this every night or your system could get addicted to it.

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

How to Fall Asleep Quicker

Conclusion

Falling asleep is something we all can learn. It starts with a quiet and relaxing bedroom ambience. We need to allow for enough sleep duration. Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep, children and youth more. Deep breathing, yoga and meditation are proven remedies to prepare you to fall asleep easier. When all fails there are a number of self-help supplements you can take to help you ease into sleep. If you still have problems falling asleep a sleep study can be very helpful in diagnosing sleep disturbances. In a sleep clinic your heart rate, air flow, blood oxygen level, breathing rate, brain wave activity, muscle movements and eye movements are recorded with a polysomnogram. The doctor from the sleep clinic can formulate the diagnosis of the sleep disorder and help you overcome any identified problems.

The subchapter “Self-help supplements for insomnia” was published by me earlier here.

Sep
19
2021

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

A CNN article points out that world suicide prevention day is on September 10.

Some statistics regarding suicides

According to the WHO more than 700,000 People die from suicide every year.

In the US suicide rates have risen between 1999 and 2018. President Joe Biden stated: “In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 34.”

This was further underlined by a study from the CDC. It pointed out the emergency room visits started to climb in May 2020 for attempted suicide in youth. The CDC stated: “The mean weekly number of these visits was 26.2% higher during summer 2020 and 50.6% higher during winter 2021 compared with the corresponding periods in 2019”.

Triggering factors that make people commit suicide

Suicidal thoughts start when a vulnerable person encounters stressful events. The life situation can become so painful that in their way of thinking suicide is the only way to stop the pain. There are huge differences of opinions: what may be meaningless to one person, may feel devastating to another.

Common triggering factors are as follows.

  • Illness and physical discomfort
  • Conflicts with family or friends
  • Illness of family members
  • Death of family member or friend
  • Loneliness

In a study 50% expressed two of these 5 triggers, 37.5% expressed one of the 5 triggers. 12.5% expressed three of the 5 triggers.

With the Covid-19 epidemic there are new pressures on people. They cannot freely move around or travel. He/she may have lost a friend or relative to Covid. And people may be anxious about their own survival. I described this here before.

Biochemical changes in the brain with depression

In the past low serotonin levels in the brain were thought to be the main cause of depression. But researchers realized later those medications that increased serotonin levels did not always help depression. They found that dopamine and norepinephrine are also important brain transmitters that play a role in depression. When dopamine levels are low, depression occurs. Similarly, when norepinephrine is low, the patient can develop depression. On the other hand, in bipolar disorder the brain produces too much norepinephrine, which causes manic episodes. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-chemistry-of-depression-1065137 The physician needs to take a thorough history and note from that which brain transmitter system would be mainly affected. This helps the physician later to decide which antidepressant to choose from to rebalance the brain transmitters.

How to detect stress signals

There are a number of risk factors, which the CDC has outlined, for which the health professional or a family member wants to look in order to assess the suicide risk.

Does the patient have a history?

People with a mood or anxiety disorder, or with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder are at a higher risk of developing depression and suicide.

Did the person experience a loss?

A loss can be a death in the family, a loss of a job or the loss of an important person in a relationship. This is particularly bad when there is social isolation and a lack of support. With Covid-19 millions of people have suffered the loss of a job, social isolation and having to quarantine.

Is it easy for the distressed person to get a gun?

Firearms are a common means for people to kill themselves. When there is easy access to a gun, there is a high probability that the person uses it in times of distress.

History of previous suicide attempt

When a person attempted to commit suicide, but failed, there is a higher risk for them to repeat a suicide attempt and succeed. Also, there is a copycat phenomenon when the news comes out that a famous personality committed suicide. For instance, when the comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014 there was a 10% rise in suicides in the following months all over the US.

Belief system that honours personal sacrifice

Some religious or cultural groups consider suicide a noble solution to a personal dilemma.

A person from this background is at a much higher risk to commit suicide.

Warning signs of pending suicide attempt

There are a number warning signs that point to a higher risk of possibly planning suicide.

  • A person may talk about wanting to die or kill themselves.
  • Searching online for ways to kill oneself or buying a gun.
  • Feeling trapped or feeling unbearable pain.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless and having no reason to live.
  • Stating that they feel they are a burden to others.
  • Drinking more alcohol and using more drugs.
  • Acting agitated or anxious. Reckless behavior.
  • A person withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • A person sleeping too much or too little.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Talking about seeking revenge or showing rage.

These are all red flags that should alarm you to ask for help. Not all of these alarm signs are present all the time with people who are considering to attempt suicide. When you have suicidal thoughts in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. For Spanish crisis support call: 888-628-9454.

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

Conclusion

World suicide prevention day is on September 10. This reminds us every year that suicide is a colossal problem of society. Stress, loss of health, losing a loved one, a broken marriage and financial loss can all contribute to depression. If patients with mental distress do not receive timely intervention and treatment, the life situation can become so painful that in the patient’s way of thinking suicide is the only way to stop the pain. The key is for the loved ones in the circle of friends to pay attention to the warning signs and bring the suicidal person to the attention of the psychiatric health professionals. Sometimes an in-patient admission to a psychiatric facility may be required to interrupt the negative thinking pattern. Ignoring the warning signs can have devastating consequences. Prevention is the only way to avoid suicide.

Aug
21
2021

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

Recently CNN published an article that dealt about when stress becomes abnormal.

We all have experienced stress. It makes our heart beat faster and our breathing speeds up as well. But when the stressful situation is over, stress usually subsides also. Some people though have so much stress in their lives that they never completely recover from any stressful situation. They develop chronic stress, which can lead to physical illnesses or mental disease. I have previously written about “stress drives our lives”. In the following I am reprinting the next 5 paragraphs.

Heart attacks and strokes when stress becomes abnormal

In a 2015 Lancet study 603,838 men and women who worked long hours were followed for an average time of about 8 years with respect to heart disease or strokes. All of the subjects were free of heart attacks and strokes when they entered into the study. There was a total of 13% more heart attacks in those who worked extra hours in comparison to those who worked 40 hours per week or less. With respect to strokes there were 33% more strokes in those who worked long hours. Researchers noted a dose-response curve for strokes in groups with various workloads. Compared to standard working hours there were 10% additional strokes for 41-48 working hours, 27% for 49-54 working hours and 33% for 55 or more working hours per week.

Stress drives some of us to substance abuse

In order to cope with stress many of us “treat” daily stress with alcohol. It makes you feel good subjectively, but it can raise your blood pressure causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. A low dose of alcohol may be healthy, but medium and high doses are detrimental to your health.

Next, many people still smoke, although scientists have proven long time ago that it is bad for your health. It can cause heart attacks, various cancers and circulatory problems leading to leg amputations.

Overeating is another common problem. Comfort food relieves stress, but it causes us to put on extra pounds. As you know it is easier to put weight on than to take it off. Being overweight or being obese has its own problems: arthritis in the hips and knees makes walking more difficult. The metabolic syndrome sets in, which is a characteristic metabolic change causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. The more weight you carry, the less likely you are to exercise. This can lead to further deterioration of your health.

Diabetes can occur when stress becomes abnormal

Stress causes too much cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar, and when chronic can cause diabetes. In addition, unhealthy eating habits in an attempt to cope with stress can cause weight gain. Insulin resistance causes high blood sugars and diabetes.

Korean immigrant study

In a 2012 California study 148 adult Korean immigrants were examined. They all had elevated blood sugars confirming the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. They had an elevated waist/hip ratio.

A high percentage of the study subjects had risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This included being overweight or obese and having high blood glucose readings. 66% of them said that they were feeling stressed, 51% reported feeling anxious, 38% said they were feeling restless, 30% felt nervous and 3% said they were feeling hopeless. It is easy to see the connection between stress and disease!

Australian study showed that anxiety can cause diabetes

An Australian long-term follow-up study computed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Stress was a major contributor to diabetes.

A 30-day episode of any anxiety disorder had a 1.53-fold risk to cause diabetes. A depressive disorder had a 1.37-fold risk to cause diabetes and posttraumatic stress disorder had a risk of 1.42-fold to cause diabetes.

Infertility may develop when stress becomes abnormal

Stress changes hormones in women causing ovulation problems and infertility. 1 in 8 couples in America have problems getting pregnant. Physicians identified stress as at least one of  the contributing factors. But in men stress can also reduce sperm count and semen quality as this study describes.

Alzheimer’s disease and stress

2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 woman aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychologists assessed the stress score in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other dementias). The risk of dementia was higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past. Women who had stress on one, two or three examinations suffered from higher dementia rates later in life. Researchers compared this to a group of women who did not have any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher after one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher after three stressful episodes.

Hormone system affected by stress

I have written an article before about how stress affects our hormone system.

I am reprinting excerpts from this here (the next 4 paragraphs).

Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk about how stress affects our hormone system. He presented his talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It was entitled “Understanding the Stress, Thyroid, Hormone Connections & Prioritizing Systems”.

Dr. Heyman emphasized in particular that there is a triad of hormonal connections that is important to remember: the thyroid hormones, the stress hormones (adrenal glands) and the pancreas (insulin production). It seems like we need a balance of these hormones for optimal energy production and circulation. Under stress our sugar metabolism can markedly derail, we develop obesity and fatigue. But when balanced, we experience vitality and wellbeing.

Metabolic activation pathways

Dr. Heyman projected a slide that showed the metabolic activation pathways. Likewise, he stated that a number of different factors could influence the hormone system:

  • Diet: trans fats, sugar, too many carbs, food allergies.
  • Drugs: drug-induced nutrient depletion (over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs).
  • Physical exercise: frequency and type matters.
  • Environmental exposure: chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics, molds, and pollens.
  • Stress: physical stress, psychogenic stress.
  • Genetics: methylene-tetra-hydro-folate reductase enzyme deficiency (MTHFR mutation), APOE genes, lack of vitamin D
  • Disease: past or present conditions, active disease or syndromes.

Target areas within your system

The target areas in your system are the

  • Pancreas, where blood sugar can rise because of insulin resistance. In particular, too much insulin production causes inflammation, hormone disbalances, kidney damage, and hardening of the arteries through plaque formation.
  • Thyroid gland, which depends on TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) for activation. Autoantibodies can also affect it negatively.
  • Brain: decrease in serotonin resulting in anxiety, depression and food cravings; decreased melatonin causing sleep disturbances; increased ghrelin and decreased leptin secretion leading to overeating and obesity.

Other target areas of stress

  • Liver/kidneys: both of these organs are important for detoxification; the liver produces thyroid binding globulin, which when increased can lower the free thyroid hormones.
  • Immune system (gut, lymph glands): the Peyer’s patches in the gut mucosa produce a large portion of the immune cells; lymph glands, the bone marrow and the spleen supply the rest. A leaky gut syndrome can affect the whole body, in addition causing inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
  • Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands: this is the main axis of the stress reaction. A brain under stress activates the hypothalamus. It sends a cascade of activating hormones via the pituitary gland and likewise activates the adrenal glands. Finally, this leads to cortisol overproduction, and release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the center of the adrenal glands. High blood pressure, anxiety, heart palpitations, arrhythmias and more can finally develop from this.

Treatment suggestions to cope with stress

There are thyroid supplements that can support the function of the thyroid gland. Similarly, there are several supplements to support the adrenal glands.
Chromium, vitamin D, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil and others are useful to support the pancreas. Relaxation methods like self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga, Tai-Chi and others are very useful to counter stress. If you can change your job to evade stress, take the opportunity and find another job with less stress. See a health professional and discuss what you can do to become more stress-resistant. If you are overweight or obese, see a dietitian to help you lose weight. Aerobic exercises like running for 30 minutes on a treadmill can help reduce stress. Various relaxation methods mentioned earlier also can counter stress. They help you to block out worrying about the past and the future, but instead focus on what is positive in the present.

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

Conclusion

I have described what stress can do to your body. It can give you heart attacks and strokes. Stress in some people can lead to substance abuse. It can cause diabetes, infertility and even Alzheimer’s disease. I described how thyroid hormones, insulin and brain hormones are interconnected and suffer with stress. Other factors can make the effects of stress worse or better as I discussed in detail. Treatment of stress-induced conditions requires a combination of preventative steps and medical therapies. Ignoring stress is not an option as this could lead to premature death. Managing stress, as mentioned before, and keeping it to a minimum is the answer.

Nov
28
2020

Mental Illness and Covid-19

A topic less discussed is mental illness and Covid-19. Covid-19 has been noticeably around us since March of 2020. With the various social distancing and quarantining methods people become more or less isolated emotionally. Social gatherings are outlawed depending on where you live. This helps to interrupt the spread of the virus, but it makes people feel more stressed as their relationships get interrupted.

Symptoms of stress

The CDC sums up that stress during a pandemic can cause the following:

  • Fear of your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Loss of your job or financial support
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleep pattern with lack in concentration
  • Increase in use of tobacco, alcohol or other substance consumption
  • Chronic health problems may deteriorate
  • Worsening of Mental health conditions

The more isolated we are, the more stress we feel. This undermines our stress coping mechanisms, makes us more anxious and more depressed.

Develop coping skills

Taking care of your family and friends may relieve your stress, but it needs to be balanced by taking care of yourself. Although you are physically isolated from others when you are in quarantine, you can stay in contact with others by phone or video chats. This makes you less lonely and isolated.

Take care of yourself. This includes eating well balanced meals, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Avoid the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Share with a family member or friend how you feel. Maintain friendships through the phone, emails, social media and computer chats. This builds a strong support system for you.

Avoid too much exposure to news stories. Seeing negative stories about Covid-19 over and over again can be undermining, so take a break from the news media. Go for a walk. Take a nap.

Suicide

Sometimes depression can get out of control to the point of driving a person to the brink of suicide. In the US major depression is the leading cause of disability for ages 15-44.  At any given year 16.1 million American adults (about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older) suffer from major depression. 10.3% of Americans have thought about suicide. If you feel that way, do not act on this impulse. Call 1-800-799-4889. That is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline & Chat.

Medical literature about the psychological impact of Covid-19

In a July 2020 publication the authors pointed out that Covid-19 infection is a significant psychological stressor. There is the fear of getting the virus and uncertainty about the future. Pre-existing anxiety and depression disorders get accelerated from the stress. In addition, mental disorders like schizophrenia with psychosis may worsen. This may require more antipsychotic medication to control it.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found in March 2020 that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major impact on US citizens. 45% of respondents said that the pandemic has affected their mental wellbeing significantly. If you are scared, depressed or anxious, you are tense and you have problems falling asleep, you are not alone. You can seek and receive help!

Prevention of mental disease from Covid-19

Here is some practical advice from the World Health Organization.

  • Stay informed.
  • Have a daily routine. Get up and go to sleep at regular times. Eat healthy balanced meals. Exercise regularly. Have your work routine and also find time to rest. Do things that you enjoy.
  • Watch the news only to be informed, but limit news watching to a minimum. This will keep anxiety and depression in check.
  • Stay in contact with close friends by phone and computer technology.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption low. If you did not drink before at all, don’t start drinking in an attempt to deal with boredom, fear, anxiety or social isolation.
  • Take breaks from screen time. This reduces tension.
  • Video games: doing this may relax you for a short time. But longer video game activities can make you tense; you should balance this with the rest of your daily activities.
  • Social media. Use this for honest communication. Keep it brief. If you see misinformation, point out the truth.
  • Helping others: if you can, help others in the community with shopping or other chores.

Treatment for Mental disease from Covid-19

When you notice anxiety, depression or a flare-up of psychotic symptoms from schizophrenia, it is important to see your health professional right away. You may need some counselling. Others may need an antidepressant (for depression) or an adjustment to your antipsychotic medication. Some patients with milder depression or anxiety may benefit from cognitive/behavioral therapy. Most importantly, know that help is available! More info about cognitive therapy for suicide prevention.

Mental Illness and Covid-19

Mental Illness and Covid-19

Conclusion

Mental illness and Covid-19 is a huge topic. People definitely have experienced more anxiety and depression since the Covid-19 epidemic. This is because our lifestyle is suddenly restricted. We may have to go through a 14-day quarantine. But we also cannot participate in large gatherings with more than 50 people. Often, we have to wear masks in stores. In areas with high cases of Covid-19 there is also a severe restriction regarding with whom you can visit, leading to feelings of isolation. All of this can lead to mental illness. Essentially there are two ways of coping with this. First, we need to get a routine that makes us more resistant to mental illness. Secondly, if this fails, seek the advice of a health professional right away.

Seek mental illness treatment right away

When you catch mental illness early, it is much easier to treat. Milder cases of depression or anxiety may benefit from cognitive/behavioral therapy. More severe cases often require medication. In this outline I have discussed mental illness during the Covid-19 epidemic. I have not discussed the cases where people came down with Covid-19 coronavirus and got affected in their brain function from the virus. These cases need treatment by a neurologist and psychiatrist, and they are much more complicated.

Aug
08
2020

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group stated that poor diets threaten Americans and cause diseases. More than 500,000 people in the US are dying every year because of poor nutrition. 46% of adults have unhealthy diets; but children have even more, namely 56%. In 1979 the US healthcare cost was 6.9% of the gross domestic product. Compare this to 2018 when the US healthcare cost was 17.7% of the gross domestic product.

The Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group states: “Poor diets lead to a harsh cycle of lower academic achievement in school, lost productivity at work, increased chronic disease risk, increased out-of-pocket health costs, and poverty for the most vulnerable Americans.”

You can improve your diet quality 

When you start cutting out junk food and other processed foods, the quality of your food intake is improving. Eat more vegetables, and fruit. Eat wild salmon, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. Do not consume vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, corn oil and grapeseed oil. They all contain omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids and they convert mainly into energy. But the problem is that our western diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids can convert into arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation. This in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes on the one hand and arthritis on the other. Use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil instead for cooking and on salads.

How does poor quality food affect your health?

Researchers are aware of trans fats causing Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks and strokes for a long time. They increase the bad LDL cholesterol, decrease the good HDL cholesterol. Rancid oils contain free radicals that oxidize LDL cholesterol and attack the lining of your arteries through small dense LDL cholesterol. The FDA has started to initiate steps in 2015 to make the use of trans-fats in the food industry illegal. Completion of this in the US occurs in early 2020.

Japanese trans-fat study (Alzheimer’s disease)

This Japanese study followed 1,628 Japanese community residents (men and women) for about 10 years. Researchers used the typical trans fatty acid, elaidic acid to monitor the accumulation of trans fats in patients. This is possible with a simple blood test, which serves as a marker for industrial trans fats. 377 participants developed dementia (247 Alzheimer’s disease and 102 vascular dementia). Based on the blood elaidic acid levels earlier in the study individuals with higher trans-fat levels were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as the study progressed. Patients whose trans-fat blood levels were in the higher range were 50% to 75% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Diseases caused by poor lifestyle habits

It is important to review the diseases that shorten life expectancy due to having poor lifestyle habits. Note that it is not only your dietary habits that determine this, but in addition, several lifestyle factors.

Cardiovascular disease

Smoking, lack of regular exercise and poor eating habits result in being overweight or developing obesity. All of these are risks with LDL cholesterol elevation and HDL cholesterol lowering that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Here is a study that shows how life is shortened after a heart attack. It is clear from this how important it is to give up all of the poor lifestyle habits to avoid this from happening.

Cancer

90% of lung cancers are the result of cigarette smoking. Heavy drinking can contribute and also lead to cancer of the liver, esophageal cancer, cancer of mouth and throat and cancer of the breasts in women. In addition, consuming too much alcohol causes cancer of the colon and rectum in both sexes.

Diabetes

There are a variety of risk factors causing diabetes. Obesity, a lack of exercise, a bad diet with too much carbohydrates and the aging process are what contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.

We see again that it is largely lifestyle issues that drive the onset of this disease. People who have developed diabetes need to control their blood sugar very closely to avoid complications of diabetes. This includes making healthier choices.

Otherwise complications of diabetes are diabetic nephropathy, blindness from macular degeneration of the cornea, heart attacks, stroke and diabetic neuropathy. In addition, vascular complications also include artery occlusions in the lower extremities with frequent foot or below knee amputations.

Chronic diseases

Often chronic diseases develop when there is generalized development of inflammation. COPD, chronic kidney disease and arthritis are examples of such conditions. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and diabetes belong into this category. All of these chronic diseases have in common that cytokines produce inflammation in the body. This keeps the chronic disease going and makes it more difficult to cure. When the person with a chronic disease makes poor lifestyle choices, the inflammation just becomes more chronic.

Smoking is one of the factors that makes chronic inflammation more chronic. Having a body mass index above 25.0 (being overweight) and above 30.0 (obesity) also creates more inflammation in the body. Excessive alcohol intake damages body cells and releases free radicals. These in turn cause inflammation and make the chronic disease more difficult to treat. An unhealthy diet tends to raise the bad LDL cholesterol, introduces pesticides and other chemicals into your system and adds to chronic inflammation. Finally, a lack of exercise is not contributing to a healthy circulation and lowers the protective HDL cholesterol, paving the way for heart attacks and strokes.

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

Poor Diets Threaten Americans and Cause Diseases

Conclusion

A new Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group has been formed, which noted that many Americans follow very poor diets. 46% of adults in the US have unhealthy diets; but children have even more poor diets, namely 56%. This is of concern, because in time this causes a variety of diseases discussed here. Instead of just treating the symptoms of these diseases, it is important to improve the diet people are on, which prevents the development of these diseases. A well-balanced diet not only prevents diseases, it also leads to longevity and healthy aging without Alzheimer’s disease. Take care of what you eat, and be sure it is healthy!

Part of this text was published before here.

Jul
18
2020

Key Factors for Centenarians

A study from Washington State University (WSU) showed some of the key factors for centenarians to survive. The publication of the study goes back to June 17, 2020. In general, it was common knowledge that genetics plays a role in 25% to 35% of centenarians for their survival. That is to say, the remainder is the result of lifestyle factors. It is important to realize that the environmental factors play a significant role in the survival of centenarians, said Rajan Bhardwaj, a second-year WSU medical student. He and his research team determined what allowed centenarians to reach an age of 100 or above. Briefly, they identified the following factors that were necessary.

Three factors identified by the Washington State University study

  • walkability of the neighbourhood, which encourages regular exercising
  • belonging to the higher socioeconomic class
  • a high percentage of working population in the neighborhood (a mixed population) was also important

In the discussion the authors of the WSU study said that “blue zones” of centenarians had been mentioned before in the literature. To clarify, these are areas in the world where more than the average of centenarians live. Dan Buettner used the term “blue zones” in a National Geographic article about where centenarians were located.

The blue zones

He wrote a book about the location of the 5 blue zones. Notably, they are located in Sardinia (Italy), the islands of Okinawa and a group of Seven Day Adventists in Loma Linda. California. In addition, the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, and the island of Icaria, Greece complete the 5 blue zones. Specifically, Dan Buettner described the following characteristics of the lifestyle of centenarians.

  • They engage in regular physical activity
  • Mostly eating a plant-based diet including legumes
  • Calorie intake is moderate
  • Moderate intake of alcohol, mostly wine
  • Having a purpose in life
  • Engaged in family life
  • Having an active spiritual life
  • Reducing stress
  • Engaged in social life

Other attributes of centenarians

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a presentation in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2019 where he stated that centenarians are positive thinkers. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. In particular, the topic of his talk was “Positive Psychological Attitudes of Centenarians “. Dr. Hertoghe is an endocrinologist in Belgium. He took an interest in people above the age of 100. These people, he felt, are special people with a very optimistic outlook on life. Dr. Hertoghe went on to say that centenarians have a will to live. Indeed, they adapt to changes; they have a sense of purpose, and they stay active.

More positive attributes of centenarians

Other psychological features, by the same token, show that they have a positive mood and they avoid stress and anxiety. Another key point is that they have self-determination. It must be remembered also that they are very sociable, have close family ties, love their relationships and often have a strong religious faith. In addition, there is a connection between their basic values, beliefs and spirituality. Truly, centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. For one thing, centenarians have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old.

In the following I am reviewing some of the details that Dr. Hertoghe gave.

The will to live

For one thing, it takes courage to grow old, and all centenarians have this. They say “Life is worth living”. Essentially, they have a certain resiliency in a world that has an obsession about youth. Despite negative experiences they had to overcome they do not give up and they enjoy life as much as they can. A Finnish study examined 400 individuals aged 75-90 and followed them for 10 years. Group 1 who wished to live less than 5 years had a mortality rate of 68%. Group 2 wished to live for 5-10 years. They had a mortality of 45.6%. The last group, group 3 wanted to live more than 10 years. Surprisingly, their mortality was only 33.3%. Be careful what you wish for!

Adaptability

In other words, this describes the capacity to overcome adversity and your ability to adjust. In a study of 7400 Chinese centenarians’ resilience to changes was measured with psychometric psychological tests. The majority of subjects did not qualify for being resilient. However, 9% of male centenarians and 6% of female centenarians had the resiliency where they qualified for high adaptability. This high resilience group had a 2%-4% lower mortality risk. They had a 36%-55% higher probability of not developing cognitive impairment. That is to say, they rated themselves to be in good health and having a “good life” satisfaction. These resilient centenarians had a 7%-12% higher probability of not developing a physical disability. In essence, these high resilient centenarians had no short-term health decline.

Remaining active

If a centenarian remains active and moves about several hours per day, the body functions are preserved. Anna Mary Robertson Moses who was known by her nickname “Grandma Moses” took up painting at age 78. She died at age 101 in 1961.

Positive emotions

One study of 54 Ashkenazi Jewish older adults (aged 98-107) compared those with positive emotions to those with negative emotions. The researchers noted that a positive attitude about life allowed centenarians to live longer.

A study involving 2282 Mexican Americans aged 65 to 99 showed that positive affect scores were a predictor for the following. Subjects with a high positive affect had a 52% lower probability of becoming physically disabled. They were 36% less likely than the negative controls to lose their walking speed. In addition, they were 47% less likely to die during the two-year observation period than their negative controls.

Nurses’ Health Study and Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study

Two studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study measured optimism. The researchers found that those with the highest optimism scores had a 1.5-fold higher probability in women and 1.7-fold in men to survive to age 85. This was compared to a control with the lowest optimism scores. Dr. Hertoghe provided 19 more studies that showed the effects of positive emotions regarding long term survival. For brevity reasons I will not dwell on them here.

What is the centenarian spirit?

When people are older than 100 years, they often have a mix of humor and eccentricity; they express emotions openly and they are happy people. They accept the death of spouses, siblings and significant others.

By the way, humor has a strong predictive survivor value. In a study that researchers conducted over 15 years, there was a clear positive effect of humor regarding mortality. A sense of humor reduced the all-cause mortality by 48% in males. In women humor lowered mortality regarding cardiovascular disease by 73%. Humor reduced death due to infections in women by 83%. Men had a non-significant reduction of all‐cause mortality by 12% and a significant lower mortality due to infections by 74%. Dr. Hertoghe cited three more publications that showed the power of humor in reducing disease and disability.

The fasting mimicking diet helps you to reach a longer life

clinical trial with 100 subjects was undertaken by Dr. Longo and his research team. He measured markers after 3 cycles of a fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month. They found that the FMD reduced aging markers, improved diabetes and reduced susceptibility for cancer and cardiovascular disease. In another publication Dr. Longo and co-authors describe how autoimmune diseases can be improved by the use the fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

Another publication by Dr. Longo describes that “age-related disorders including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke” can be prevented by fasting mimicking diet for 5 days every month.

Even cancer prevention and cancer treatment can be helped by the fasting mimicking diet.  The FMD makes chemotherapy more tolerable.

Key Factors for Centenarians

Key Factors for Centenarians

Conclusion

As we reviewed the factors that lead to longevity, we learnt that engaging in regular moderate exercise is one of the key factors. But belonging to the higher socioeconomic class and living in a mixed neighborhood with people from all walks of life is also important. We also reviewed the blue zones according to Dan Buettner. Mostly eating a plant-based diet including legumes with moderate calorie restriction prolongs your life. Add to this moderate intake of alcohol, mostly wine, and having a purpose in life. Augment this further with being engaged in family life, having an active spiritual life and reducing your stress level.

Living longer is a matter of fulfilling these longevity factors

With all of this you are on your way to become a centenarian. A review by Dr. Hertoghe in a lecture given at an Anti-Aging Conference in Las Vegas in 2019 added more criteria centenarians have. He provided references regarding the will to live, being adaptable, remaining active and harboring positive emotions. The more of these factors you can adopt, the longer you will live. At the same time, you will avoid getting diseases like heart attacks, strokes or cancer, which leads to a longer and healthier life.

The above text contains parts of this blog. The part about the fasting mimicking diet was published here before.

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May
16
2020

Cutting Out Bad Lifestyle Habits Increases Life Expectancy

A Jan. 8, 2020 study stated that cutting out bad lifestyle habits increases life expectancy. It was a publication in the British Medical Journal by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The senior author of the study was Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School. The researchers looked at data collected from a large group of males and females that had been accumulated for 34 years. They found that a 50-year-old male or female who did not change their lifestyle habits had another 25.5 years to live for males and another 29 years to live for females.

Five bad lifestyles and life expectancy 

The 5 bad lifestyle habits were smoking, a body mass index above 25.0, excessive alcohol intake, less than 30 minutes of exercise per day and an unhealthy diet.

When people cut out all of those risky lifestyles, 50-year-old men and women had a life expectancy of 37.6 years for men and 43.1 years for women. This was an addition of 12 years of healthy life for men compared to controls who did not change their lifestyles. With regard to women there was an addition of 14 years of life compared to controls.

Diseases that kill prematurely

The research team wanted to know what diseases caused the most reduction in life expectancy when people did not change their bad lifestyle habits. Men and women who cut out all negative lifestyle habits were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. They also were 65% less likely to die from cancer. Bad lifestyles caused the two major diseases, cardiovascular disease (heart attack and strokes) and cancer, which increased overall mortality. The overall study time was about 30 years. The third major disease that can cost lives is diabetes. In addition, the research team identified chronic diseases as being another potential cause of people dying prematurely.

Additional life expectancy

When life expectancies were broken down according to diseases, the following was noticed.

For men:

When cancer free    When free of heart issues   Without diabetes

6 more years             9 more years                         10 more years

For women:

When cancer free    When free of heart issues   Without diabetes

8 more years            10 more years                       12 more years

Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said: ”We found that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free”. Those who do not shed their bad lifestyle habits will come down with one or more of the mentioned diseases and die prematurely. Others who cut out all their bad lifestyle choices live substantially longer.

Diseases caused by poor lifestyle habits

It is important to review the diseases that shorten life expectancy due to having poor lifestyle habits.

Cardiovascular disease

Smoking, lack of regular exercise and poor eating habits result in being overweight or developing obesity. All of these are risks with LDL cholesterol elevation and HDL cholesterol lowering that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Here is a study that shows how life is shortened after a heart attack.

It is clear from this how important it is to give up all of the poor lifestyle habits to avoid this from happening.

Cancer

90% of lung cancers are the result of cigarette smoking.

Heavy drinking can contribute and also lead to cancer of the liver, esophageal cancer, cancer of mouth and throat and cancer of the breasts in women. In addition, cancer of the colon and rectum are also caused by consuming too much alcohol in both sexes.

Diabetes

There are a variety of risk factors causing diabetes. Obesity, a lack of exercise, a bad diet with too much carbohydrates and the aging process are what contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.

We see again that it is largely lifestyle issues that drive the onset of this disease. People who have developed diabetes need to control their blood sugar very closely to avoid complications of diabetes. This includes making healthier choices.

Otherwise complications of diabetes are diabetic nephropathy, blindness from macular degeneration of the cornea, heart attacks, stroke and diabetic neuropathy. In addition, vascular complications also include artery occlusions in the lower extremities with frequent foot or below knee amputations.

Chronic diseases

Often chronic diseases develop when there is generalized development of inflammation. COPD, chronic kidney disease and arthritis are examples of such conditions. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and diabetes belong into this category. All of these chronic diseases have in common that cytokines produce inflammation in the body. This keeps the chronic disease going and makes it more difficult to cure. When the person with a chronic disease makes poor lifestyle choices, the inflammation just becomes more chronic.

Smoking is one of the factors that makes chronic inflammation more chronic. Having a body mass index above 25.0 (being overweight) and above 30.0 (obesity) also creates more inflammation in the body. Excessive alcohol intake damages body cells and releases free radicals. These in turn cause inflammation and make the chronic disease more difficult to treat. An unhealthy diet tends to raise the bad LDL cholesterol, introduces pesticides and other chemicals into the system and adds to the chronic inflammation. Finally, a lack of exercise is not contributing to a healthy circulation and lowers the protective HDL cholesterol, paving the way for heart attacks and strokes.

Cutting Out Bad Lifestyle Habits Increases Life Expectancy

Cutting Out Bad Lifestyle Habits Increases Life Expectancy

Conclusion

Bad lifestyle habits are what causes us to get illnesses and die prematurely. Functional medicine and anti-aging medicine are at the frontier of modern medicine. These specialties are teaching us how to stay well and age gracefully. For decades conventional medicine has treated only symptoms, but not the causes of diseases. But this has not changed the mortality rates of heart attacks and cancer. Smoking, a body mass index above 25.0, excessive alcohol intake, exercising less than 30 minutes of exercise per day and an unhealthy diet are causes that make us sick. These bad lifestyle factors cause chronic inflammation in our system. They are the real cause of heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes, the major killer diseases that prevent healthy aging.

Facing bad lifestyle habits

Bad lifestyle habits cause chronic inflammation. T he C-reactive protein blood test can measure the degree of inflammation that is present. A fasting insulin level can detect whether a person is in danger of developing diabetes and improved lifestyle habits can prevent this from happening. Men can add 12 years and women 14 years of healthy life by eliminating bad lifestyle habits. By eliminating chronic inflammation our new life expectancy, which is 79 to 80 years, now can reach 92 to 94 years. It is up to you how healthy you stay and whether or not you age gracefully.

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