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.

Dec
23
2023

Any Form of Exercise is good

Here are a few items that can prolong life; among them any form of exercise is good. This article concentrates on the exercise part in relation to longevity. A recent publication described how regular exercise prolongs your long-term survival. According to a study released on occasion of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session 2023 there are 8 major factors that prolong life: healthy diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep health, BMI, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.  Among this group of factors regular physical activity plays a major role to prolong your life. Researcher who studied various people found that those who neglected their physical health had a chronological age of 53, but their average biological age was 57. On the other hand, a group of fit people who engaged in regular physical exercise had a chronological age of 41 years, but a biological age of 36.

Clinical trials showing that any form of exercise is good

JAMA Internal Medicine study by Dr. del Pozo Cruz 

This study examined what the optimal amount of physical activity per week is to reduce mortality compared to an inactive population. 500,705 eligible US adults were observed for about 10 years. The abbreviations that the authors used in the study were as follows:

MPA: moderate aerobic physical activity

VPA: vigorous aerobic physical activity

MSA: muscle-strengthening activity

Results of mortality reduction with various amounts of physical activity

  • The best group engaged in more than 0 to 75 minutes of MPA combined with more than 150 minutes of VPA and 2 or more MSA sessions per week. Their mortality rate was 50% lower than an inactive comparison group.
  • The optimal combination for reduction of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer mortality risk was as follows: more than 150 to 225 minutes of MPA, more than 0 to 75 minutes of VPA, and 2 or more MSA sessions per week. This reduced combined mortality of CVD and cancer by 70%.
  • The researchers stated that the adjusted mortality rates represented 50% lower mortality rate for all-cause and cancer mortality. The mortality rate for CVD mortality was 3-fold lower than for inactive controls.

Smallest amount of exercise that reduces mortality

In a study published in the European Heart Journal the authors asked how little exercise per week was enough to reduce mortality from heart disease. They found that it takes at least 15–20 min/week of vigorous physical activity (VPA) to reduce mortality from heart attacks by 16–40%. If you increased the exercise level by 50–57 min/week the mortality rates reduced even further.

Are physically active jobs healthy?

Recent research showed that people who work in physically demanding jobs are more likely to develop early cognitive impairment. This is the pre-stage of Alzheimer’s disease. 15.5 % of people who worked in high levels of occupational physical activity developed dementia. This compared to 9% risk for people whose work involved a low level of physical activity, not too much and not too little. The finding confirms the notion that there is a need for balance of physical exercise. Several publications stressed what is optimal in terms of exercise: vigorous (75 to 300 minutes per week) and moderate physical activity (150 to 600 minutes per week). People who expose themselves to these amounts of exercise live the longest and stay healthy.

Discussion

The studies discussed here showed that the right amount of exercise can reduce mortality from heart disease and cancer. However, exercise is not the only factor that can do this. It is important to combine regular exercise with a healthy diet. Your diet should consist of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean proteins and limit saturated and trans-fat, added sugars, and sodium. In addition, you need enough sleep, maintain a healthy weight, manage your stress, and don’t smoke.

Any Form of Exercise is good

Any Form of Exercise is good

Conclusion

In this review I touched on the importance of regular exercise to reduce mortality from heart disease and cancer. Vigorous (75 to 300 minutes per week) and moderate physical activity (150 to 600 minutes per week) reduce mortality from heart attacks by 16% to 40%. But physical exercise is only one factor of mortality reduction. If you want the full benefit from other factors, you must quit smoking, eat a Mediterranean type diet with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins. Also you should limit saturated and trans-fat, added sugars, and sodium. In addition, you need enough sleep, maintain a healthy weight and manage your stress. Once you adopted this lifestyle, you live longer and you will get less diseases.

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.

Aug
12
2023

About your Bowel Movements

This article is about your bowel movements. Dr. Michael Camilleri is a consultant and professor in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He mentioned that in the Victorian era it was thought that a person should have a bowel movement every day. But now gastroenterologists agree that three bowel movements per week are satisfactory. If you don’t have that spontaneously, you are said to suffer from constipation. On July 12 CNN published a review about the same topic.

But other people who consume a lot of fiber may have a bowel movement two or three times a day. This, too is considered normal. But in addition to the frequency of bowel movements the consistency of it is very important as well. “The stool form, appearance or consistency of the bowel movement is actually a much better criterion than the simple numbers to frequency,” Camilleri said.

Bristol stool chart

The Bristol Stool Chart classifies stools into seven groups. With this in mind, the healthiest types of stools are types three and four. This is where the stool is shaped like a sausage with cracks on the surface or snakelike and smooth.

Experts say that if you are excessively straining during an attempt to poop or if you feel like you have not totally emptied after a bowel movement, you have to make changes. Either you need to poop more often or you need to get a healthier stool quality.

Your body posture influences the ease of your bowel movements

If you put your feet on a stack of books, this raises your knees above your hips. In that position your pelvic floor muscles relax, which supports your bowel. The end result is that poop passes through more easily. This advice comes from Dr. Trisha Pasricha, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. She commented further: “We did not evolve to have our bowel movements sitting with our hips at 90 degrees on a chair, which is what we do now. We used to all have bowel movements squatting. Sitting at that sort of upright, 90-degree angle actually closes off the passageway.”

Proper food intake necessary for a good bowel movement

Start with a Mediterranean type diet, which consists of a lot of vegetables, salads, fruit, whole grains and nuts. According to the FDA the daily fiber load should be about 25 grams or more. Kiwis and prunes are useful as a dietary fiber source. On the other hand, you don’t want to overdo the fiber intake as it can cause abdominal bloating and loose stools. A high fat diet slows your digestive system down. But caffeine and caffein containing beverages stimulate your bowels. In addition, regular physical exercise gets your bowels moving.

Constipation

Constipation is an important symptom that prompts patients to see their physician. There seems to be a lot of confusion in the general public about this topic. There are enormous cultural differences. For instance, in Africa where the population eats on average a much larger amount of fiber, the bowel movements are much bulkier.

Sir Dr. Burkitt, the famous English surgeon, examined bowel movements (stools) of African tribes in comparison to his English countrymen and came to the conclusion that in the Western world we need to remedy our constipation problem and cancer of the colon problem by eating more fiber.

What we know now

He is still right: fiber is mainly treating constipation (not preventing cancer of the colon), but the chemicals that are also in the vegetables contain a multitude of natural anti-carcinogenic substances, which provide the powerful preventative action against colon cancer and many other cancers. Lycopene is one of these. Tomatoes and tomato products contain it.

Sir Dr. Burkitt’s observation that high bulk food (with vegetables and green leaves) prevents cancer is as valid today as it was in the early part of the 1900’s.

Chronic constipation

Chronic constipation cases that start insidiously, but then remain despite taking a high fiber diet, make the doctor think about other underlying causes such as hypothyroidism (= low thyroid function) or metabolic causes such as hypercalcemia and uremia from early kidney failure.

We find that elderly people become too inactive. This lowers the natural peristalsis of the gut. In combination with poor eating habits and chewing problems because of poor teeth it is often responsible for chronic constipation. Also, elderly people often are on multiple drugs, all of which have a weak “anticholinergic” side effect, which translates into suppressing peristalsis chemically resulting in constipation. Psychogenic factors and chronic depression as well as obsessive-compulsive behavior can also feed into constipation. It can lead to a hyper awareness of one’s own bowel pattern. This is unhealthy and requires counselling. But first the doctor must rule out any serious cause of chronic constipation.

Treatment for constipation (simple steps that help)

As mentioned above, the patient has to modify the food intake to include as much fresh and steamed vegetables as possible. This will lead to bulk in the colon and make the stool softer thus allowing it to pass through the rectum and anal canal easier. The other advantage of this simple step is that the bulkiness of the stool triggers the normal peristalsis movement of the colon moving the contents towards and through the rectum. Decreasing the passage time in the colon allows less water absorption, keeping the stool soft and pliable until it leaves through the anal canal. This is easily achieved by a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Cereals containing bran like slow rolled oats (not instant oats) are also useful when taken with breakfast. Cut down on meat and fat consumption.

Enema with lukewarm water

A simple tool for chronic constipation is an enema with lukewarm water (1500 ml or 50 fl.oz.) in a Faultless enema bag without any additives in it. The person who gets the enema needs to lay on the left side. This way the water can flow in easily into the colon. When entering the nozzle into the anal canal, do not force it. Instead use a bit of Vaseline ointment to facilitate entrance. The response usually comes within 5 to 10 minutes following the enema. It works by dilatation of the bowel wall, which leads to a reflex bowel contraction. Although it would be safe to take this every day, usually you should not have to take it more than two or three times per week even in chronic constipation.

Extra fiber (bulking agents)

Next, if this is not tolerated or does not appeal to the patient, I would recommend a bulking agent such as psyllium (brand names: Prodiem Plain, Metamucil, Novo-Mucilax) and bran (Brand names: Kellogg’s All Bran and Post’s bran flakes). These are mild laxatives, which are safe to take every day and which will not make the patient hypokalemic.

Osmotic agents

Osmotic agent: One or two tablespoons of sorbitol as a 70% solution is a hyperosmotic solution, which stays in the gut and draws water by osmosis into the colon. The bulking effect creates peristalsis and the water retention makes the stool softer. It takes often 1 or two days to get the full effect. There can be transient abdominal cramps until the stool is passed. One variation of this theme is to give sorbitol in a mix with other osmotic agents as a micro-enema in the form of Microlax (from Pharmacia and Upjohn).

The emergency break (laxative)

The “emergency break”: Occasionally all of the above is simply too weak. The constipated person normally is controlled with the above measures, simply could not go to the bathroom for several days. Bisacodyl (brand name: Dulcolax) and sennosides (brand names: Ex-lax Sugar-Coated Pills and Senokot products) can help you unload any held back stool on a one-time only basis. Increase your vegetable and fruit intake, cut down on refined foods and fatty foods, which are devoid of fiber.

About your Bowel Movements

About your Bowel Movements

Conclusion

Because of its role in nutrient absorption and body detoxification the digestive system plays a direct role in overall health and wellness. When the colon is unclean, waste and toxins can become trapped. This places an extra strain on the detoxification organs (kidneys, liver) and weakens the immune system causing illness. It is therefore important to watch that your bowel movements are regular. When chronic constipation sets in there are several measures, we can take to keep our bowels moving. I explained this in detail above.

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Aug
27
2022

Ultra-Processed Food and Dementia

Researchers are more and more concerned about an association between ultra-processed food and dementia. A new study found that when you consume more than 20% of you daily food intake as processed food, you can start developing cognitive decline. Eating just 2 cookies per day, which have about 100 calories, will lead to cognitive decline.

What is processed food?

Foods such as instant noodles, hot dogs and ice cream are not healthy. There is too much salt, sugar and unhealthy fat in them that undermine your health. If you consider breakfast granola as “healthy”, you’d better take a look at the ingredients: sugar is one of them! Frozen meals, sugary drinks, take-out pizzas, deep-fried chicken and French fries also belong to unhealthy foods. Unless you buy fresh ingredients and make your own Mediterranean-style meals, you will struggle staying healthy. Processed foods lead to weight gain, which is difficult to shed unless you give up processed food.

Processed food often contains flavorings, colorings or other additives. White bread and bakery products, fried snacks, crackers, cookies, ice cream, candy, cream cheese and processed cheese, soda and frozen meals fall into this category.

Conference in San Diego

At the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego researchers revealed the results of a Brazilian study. 10,000 Brazilians were followed with dietary habits and intermittent cognitive tests for up to 10 years. In the beginning none of the participants had a cognitive deficit. The average age at the time of the beginning of the study was 51 years. When you eat more than 20 % ultra-processed food of your total calorie intake every day, cognitive decline is showing up on the cognitive tests. Specifically, patients who consumed more than 20% calories from ultra-processed food developed 28% faster decline in cognitive tests. They also developed 25% faster decline in executive functioning.

Comment from a co author

Co Author Dr. Claudia Suemoto, an assistant professor in the division of geriatrics at the University of São Paulo Medical School stated: “In Brazil, ultra-processed foods make up 25% to 30% of total calorie intake. We have McDonald’s, Burger King and we eat a lot of chocolate and white bread. It’s not very different, unfortunately, from many other Western countries”. She went on to say: “58% of the calories consumed by United States citizens, 56.8% of the calories consumed by British citizens, and 48% of the calories consumed by Canadians come from ultra-processed foods”. She expressed her concern that these statistics show that many more seniors than now will develop Alzheimer’s disease. In the Brazilian study researchers followed their subjects for up to 10 years. After decades of exposure to ultra-processed food the numbers of people with cognitive deficits and Alzheimer’s disease will be much higher.

Other means to prevent cognitive decline

A study showed that regular aerobic exercises (running, treadmill, walking) or stretching, balancing and range of motion exercises both prevented cognitive decline. The best is to build some form of exercise into your daily routine. This is particularly important for people who have desk jobs.

What are healthy foods to eat?

We need to eat more vegetables, fruit and cut out sugar, omit too many starchy foods, salt and unhealthy fats. So, how does that work? In the following I am giving examples of a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Breakfast

Start the day with fresh fruit, a bowl of rolled oats with milk or a milk alternative. Add a few almonds or chopped nuts or ground flaxseed. You could add raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries.

If you want a breakfast with egg, try an omelet with eggs or egg white with mushrooms, onions and chopped greens! No, it does not always have to be kale! Enjoy arugula or spinach. Add some salsa on the side.

For those who hate to prepare breakfast, take it easy: put 1/2 a banana, a cup of berries, 1 tablespoon almond butter and 3/4 cup of low-fat yoghurt into the blender. Blend at high speed. This takes less than 2 minutes. Enjoy! It does not get much easier than that.

Lunch

Assemble some mixed salad greens, 1 sliced tomato, 1 cup of sliced cucumber, half a sliced avocado and 1/2 shredded carrot on a plate or in a bowl. Add 2 slices of cheese or 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese. Add one boiled and sliced egg or alternatively 4 slices of chicken breast. Make a dressing of 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. You can prepare this easy lunch the evening before and take it to work.

If you want a warm lunch, cook a simple Italian-style vegetable soup. Sprinkle it with a tablespoon of grated parmigiano cheese and serve it with a slice of whole-grain bread. A vegetable chili is a good choice for a colder day. Have some fresh fruit for dessert.

Dinner

Make vegetables the main event. Do not have a huge steak with an afterthought of vegetables, but build a tasty meal around vegetables with a protein of your choice: lean meats, such as chicken breast, enjoy fish or other seafood or experiment with other protein sources, such as tofu. The latter works well in an Asian-style vegetable stir-fry. And otherwise: breaded and deep-fried chicken or battered fish are not healthy choices, even if you prepare the meal at home! Forget the breading and dip the meat into a tasty marinade instead! If you want to have a quick dessert, make a colorful fruit salad with a dollop of yoghurt on top. For all those who drool over a decadent dessert in a restaurant, go ahead and order that Tiramisu and share it with others of your party. But it should be an exception rather than a regular treat.

Ultra-Processed Food and Dementia

Ultra-Processed Food and Dementia

Conclusion

Researchers are more and more concerned about an association between ultra-processed food and dementia. A new study found that when you consume more than 20% of you daily food intake as processed food, you start developing cognitive decline. Eating just 2 cookies per day, which have about 100 calories, will lead to cognitive decline. It is fairly easy to cut out junk foods from your diet and to adopt healthy eating ha its.

Meal suggestions

Start the day with fresh fruit, a bowl of rolled oats with milk or milk alternative. Add a few almonds or chopped nuts or ground flaxseed. You could add raspberries, blackberries, strawberries blueberries. I sweeten everything with stevia extract and avoid sugar completely. For lunch you could have mixed salad greens with 2 slices of cheese or 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese. Add one boiled and sliced egg or alternatively 4 slices of chicken breast. For dinner make vegetables the main event. Do not have a huge steak with an afterthought of vegetables, but build a tasty meal around vegetables with a protein of your choice: lean meats, such as chicken breast, enjoy fish or other seafood or experiment with other protein sources, such as tofu.

Final remark

You see, it is fairly easy to avoid ultra-processed foods that lead to cognitive decline. It involves a critical look at your current eating habits and very likely some cleaning-out of less than desirable foods from your pantry.

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May
23
2022

What Works for Permanent Weight Control

A recent publication examined what works for permanent weight control and what not. The study came from the Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., AdventHealth, Fla. and the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala.

320 sedentary adults who were overweight or had obesity were treated by monitoring alone or by doing “small change approaches”. Both groups were observed for 3 years. The “small change approach” consisted of increasing their activity by 2000 steps per day and by limiting their food intake by 100 kcal per day. The researchers measured the weight, waist circumference and cardiorespiratory fitness of all the subjects.

The results at 3, 6, 12 and 15 months from the start showed significant reductions in weight. However, by 24 and 36 months the subjects had regained body weight.

Results of the study

Results from both groups, the non-intervention group and the small change group, were stacked against each other. There was no significant difference in terms of weight loss between 24 and 36 months into the trial. The researchers concluded that the approach of small change interventions failed.

Another approach to permanent weight loss

Valter Longo, a professor at UCLA, California has established that the fasting mimicking diet can help people to lose the last pounds that are difficult to lose. Patients do a 5 day semi-fast for 5 consecutive days, once per month. They eat three meals per day, but the total daily calorie consumption is only 500 to 800 calories. The calorie deficit leads to a reduction in body mass index between 0.3 and 0.9 for every monthly fasting mimicking diet. I have followed Dr. Longo’s fasting mimicking diet since December 2017. This allows me to keep my body mass index between 21.0 and 22.0.

Conditions that respond to the FMD

The following list shows some of the conditions that respond favorably to the FMD.

  • Obesity, because of the weight loss effect
  • Diabetes: insulin resistance becomes lower and blood sugar levels drop.
  • High blood pressure reduced: many patients were able to reduce their medications or discontinue them
  • Prevention of heart attacks and strokes
  • Pain conditions improve as all kinds of pain disappears, an effect for which there is no explanation at this point
  • Autoimmune diseases like MS and rheumatoid arthritis improve, likely because of the effect of increased stem cell circulation
  • Prevention of heart attacks because of reduction of LDL, triglycerides and CRP
  • Cancer cure rates improved by protecting normal cells and bone marrow function
  • Longevity improved in mice with a 3-fold increase of their life span. Telomere length in humans was increased. Increased stem cells will find defective areas that need repair. This effect opens up a new chapter in medicine.

The above was previously published here.

Discussion

The 3-year study that I mentioned at the beginning of this article showed that for the group that made “small changes” for 2 years there was a slight weight loss with a reduction of 100 calories per day. However, the patients got tired of dieting and regained their lost weight between 2 and 3 years. In contrast, the fasting mimicking diet requires a 1200 to 1500 calorie reduction for 5 days of each month. After a few months the patient becomes highly aware what leads to weight gain and what not. I use electronic body composition scales daily where I can determine weight, fat percentage and muscle percentage. It also records calories consumed and the body mass index (BMI).

Watching your fat percentage and BMI

I record all this data in a little booklet. Once per month I see that the fasting mimicking diet lowers my body mass index by 0.3 to 0.9 points. There is the negative experience of eating ice cream or a New York cheesecake that within one day shows as an increase in fat and the BMI. On the other hand, it is encouraging to see your elevated BMI melt away in only a few days every month. This motivates you over the years to cut out the big diet offenders and to keep your eating portions smaller. Also, you value the neutral effect of berries and vegetables.

What Works for Permanent Weight Control

What Works for Permanent Weight Control

Conclusion

An interesting diet study of 3-year duration showed that small caloric reductions of 100 calories per day are ineffective over a longer period of time. In this study the effect of small caloric reductions wore off after two to three years. On the other hand, I experienced the effects of the fasting mimicking diet (FMD) of Dr. Longo for more than 4 years. This helps me to keep my body mass index (BMI) in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. Without the FMD I would slowly slip into the overweight category. Following the FMD every month and recording the body composition scale values daily keeps me motivated to watch what I eat resulting in persistently low BMI values. Knowing that this is also a key to health keeps should keep anybody motivated.

Sep
04
2021

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

A study followed younger patients for 32 years looking for the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. The researchers determined the heart attack and stroke rates when the participants were in their 50’s to 60’s. When on a plant-based diet cardiovascular disease rates fell by 52% compared to a control group with a meat containing diet. One subgroup changed the diet from a regular diet to a plant-based diet over 13 years. This reduced the risk ratio by 61% for heart attacks and strokes when assessed later.

Details of this study

There were 4946 adults as participants of this 32-year study. They were recruited in 1985 and 1986, at which time none of them had cardiovascular disease. The study completed in 2018. The results were published on Aug. 4, 2021. The researchers assessed the plant-centered diet quality using a tool with the name “A Priori Diet Quality Score” (APDQS). The higher the score, the higher the quality of the food. This means the person consumed nutritionally rich plant foods, limited amounts of high-fat meat products and less healthy plant foods.

Although a plant-rich diet consisted primarily of nutritionally rich plant foods, small amounts of animal products were also allowed. This involved low-fat dairy products, non fried poultry and steamed or grilled fish. This made the diet tastier and ensured that people would stick to this diet for decades.

Improvements of heart attack rates with plant-centered diet

After 32 years 289 cases of cardiovascular disease developed. The researchers compared participants with the highest food quintile to participants with the lowest food quintile. As mentioned, the risk for participants on a plant-based diet was 52% lower to get a cardiovascular disease. Moreover, a subgroup changed from a higher risk (fatter meals, meat, less vegetables) diet to a lower risk diet (lean fat, lean poultry, vegetables). Physicians followed this subgroup for 13 years and the risk ratio for heart attacks and strokes fell by 61%.

Comparison to other diet studies

There are other studies that looked at the effect of diet changes on the risk of developing heart disease. One such study examined 86 cross-sectional studies and 10 prospective studies in a meta-analysis. Vegetarian diets reduced deaths from heart attacks by 25% and brought down the incidence of total cancer rates by 8%. A vegan diet reduced the risk of total cancer by 15%.

In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. The question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with 12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

Another study from Spain

Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which otherwise increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that there is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

No processed food means healthier living

The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means that the limit is one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. After dinner go for a walk!

Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

A 2012 study from Spain has found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil increases the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles have the name HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles. This cleans out plaques from arteries more effectively than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Conclusion

Several large, well-controlled studies showed that there are pronounced effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. Heart attack rates and mortality rates were reduced by 25% to 73% on a Vegan diet or a Mediterranean diet. When people combine a plant-centered diet with regular physical exercise they also live longer. One of the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil. It contains polyphenols that lower total and LDL cholesterol. It also increases the larger particles of HDL cholesterol with the name HDL2. HDL2 is more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL cholesterol from arterial plaques.

What you can eat on a plant-centered diet

A plant-centered diet incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Instead of large portions of beef and sausages shift to seafood (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines), walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed. The statistics clearly showed the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife with a reduction of heart attacks and mortality.

Some of the text above was published previously here.

Dec
05
2020

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

A European Society of Cardiology study found that mother’s lifestyle predicts heart attack risk for offsprings. This study was published in the Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology. It was also summarized in Science Daily. The study author Dr. James Muchira of Vanderbilt University, Nashville said: “This maternal influence persists into the adulthood of their offspring.” What he meant is that the study found that lifestyles of mothers influence the choices of lifestyles of the offsprings, and with poor choices even determine when the next generation gets their heart attack or stroke.

In previous research the team established that both genetic factors as well as environmental and lifestyle factors are responsible for cardiovascular disease. Now the researchers wanted to determine the influence of each parent on the risk of cardiovascular disease of the offspring.

Set-up of the study

The study was done with offspring and the parents of the Framingham Heart Study. 1989 children from 1989 mothers and 1989 fathers were enrolled 1971 and followed for 46 years. The average age of the offspring at enrolment was 32 years. The study ended 2017. Dr. Muchira said: ”Crucially, the study followed children into most of their adult life when heart attacks and strokes actually occur.”

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease

The researchers rated the risks of fathers and mothers in the study according to 7 factors.

  • Smoking status (non-smoker preferred)
  • Diet (healthy or not)
  • Physical activity
  • Body mass index (normal or not)
  • If blood pressure is too high
  • Level of blood cholesterol
  • Blood sugar values

The researchers established three categories of cardiovascular health: poor (fulfilment of 0 to 2 factors); intermediate (fulfilment of 3 to 4 factors) and ideal (fulfilment of 5 to 7 factors). The researchers wanted to know how long the offspring were able to live without symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

Findings of the study

Here are the findings of the study.

  • Children of mothers with ideal cardiovascular health lived free of cardiovascular symptoms for 27 years; they were on average 32+27= 59 years when symptoms started.
  • Children of mothers with poor cardiovascular health lived free of cardiovascular symptoms for 18 years; they were 32+18= 50 years old when symptoms started; this is 9 years earlier than children from mothers with ideal cardiovascular health.
  • Father’s cardiovascular health did not influence the children’s onset of cardiovascular symptoms.

Cardiovascular risks of the children are due to a combination of things

A combination of the health status during the pregnancy and the environment in early life influenced the children.

Dr. Muchira said: “If mothers have diabetes or hypertension during pregnancy, those risk factors get imprinted in their children at a very early age. In addition, women are often the primary caregivers and the main role model for behaviors.” Sons were much more affected by their mother’s cardiovascular health status. Dr. Muchira explained: “This was because sons had more unfavourable lifestyle habits than daughters, making the situation even worse. It shows that individuals can take charge of their own health. People who inherit a high risk from their mother can reduce that risk by exercising and eating well. If they don’t, the risk will be multiplied.”

Discussion

We remember that the Framingham Heart Study long time ago established the above-mentioned risk factors for heart disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4159698/ It is also important for the offspring to quit smoking as this is a high-risk factor for heart disease. Next eat a balanced diet, like the Mediterranean diet. With this you eat more vegetables, less meat, more fish and add olive oil. Engage in regular exercise, which will raise the protective HDL cholesterol. Keep your body mass index low (in the 21.0 to 22.0 range, but definitely below 25.0). Keep your blood pressure in the normal range (120/80 or less). Make sure that your blood cholesterol and blood sugar values are normal. This will give you the lowest risk to develop a heart attack or a stroke.

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

Conclusion

We are normally concerned about our own cardiovascular health. But in a new study researchers examined children of participants in the Framingham Heart Study and their parents. This showed that the cardiovascular health status of the mother had a significant influence on the children’s  cardiovascular health. The offspring had an average age of 32 years when the researchers started to follow them for 46 years. When the mother was in poor cardiovascular health, the offspring developed cardiovascular symptoms at age 50. But when the mother’s cardiovascular health was ideal, the children got symptoms of cardiovascular disease only at age 59. This delay of 9 years of disease onset was purely due to the mother’s cardiovascular health status.

Risk management of cardiovascular risks

The authors of the study say that the children can do a lot to minimize the cardiovascular risk. They need to work to reduce the known risk factors and also start a regular exercise program. The authors of the study mentioned that even people who inherited a risk for cardiovascular disease benefit significantly from cutting out risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

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.

Oct
17
2020

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

A recent article by CNN describes what can happen to your body over months of isolation at home. The article is rather negative showing all the possible things that can go wrong. I have been isolated as well since March 2020. I handle the isolation differently than described in the article. I will comment to each point what can be done differently to avoid the complications mentioned.

Muscle loss

The CNN article makes the point that inactivity can make you lose muscle bulk within only one week. A lack of exercise weakens your muscle strength. And muscle strength has been associated with longevity.

My comment:

I do a brisk walk of 5 to 7 kilometers daily. This maintains my muscle bulk. But I have a treadmill in the basement and a couple of weights that I can use, if it rains outside.

There is a danger that heart and lungs get weaker

You need to raise your heart rate and you also need to perfuse your lungs through exercise. Many people do not like exercise. They sit in front of the TV for hours or they surf the net on the computer. Even just reading a book does not give you enough exercise to get your heart rate up and increase your lung perfusion.

My comment:

A brisk walk with proper distancing gives you fresh air, exercises your muscles, your heart and your lungs. It maintains your cardiovascular fitness.

Weight gain

Being home all the time allows you to look into the fridge more often and eat snacks that are processed. People tend to eat more often than 3 times a day. The end result is that you gain weight. In the beginning of the epidemic people stocked up on non-perishable foods. Often they contain more sugar and carbohydrates. Consuming these foods leads to weight gain. Wearing masks, frequent hand washing, isolation practices and change of normal routines makes people get stressed. Stress leads to overeating and weight gain.

My comment:

In the last 6 months that I did home isolation my body mass index (BMI) stayed in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. I ate three meals a day. I avoided processed foods as they are overloaded with sugar, salt and refined carbs. Once a month I do a 5-day fasting mimicking diet according to Dr. Longo. This ensures that my BMI stays within the range I indicated. Otherwise I eat a Mediterranean diet, which is anti-inflammatory.

Your posture could suffer

When you are seated in front of the computer or the TV you tend to engage in poor postures. This can lead to strains of your back, neck, shoulders and hips. Staring at the computer screen or the TV can also give you eye strain.

My comment:

The key is movement, such as getting up and walking around; doing other activities like lawn mowing, weed eating or doing dishes. This interrupts any longer stretch of bad posture.

Your sleep quality can suffer

The more exposure to sunlight during the day you get, the more vitamin D you produce in the skin. Some people lack the necessary enzymes in the skin to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. But exposure to sunlight also helps to reinforce your diurnal hormone rhythm. This is also called circadian rhythm. Avoid blue lights (TV, computer, iPhones etc.) in the evening before bedtime as this can interfere with a deep sleep later. Also go to bed early enough (between 10 and 11 PM) to allow your circadian rhythm to take over.

My comment:

Some people (above the age of 60) benefit from 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime. After the age of 60 people no longer produce enough melatonin in the pineal gland. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I take another 3 mg of melatonin prior to 3AM. Caution: after 3 AM melatonin can give you a bit of a hangover in the morning.

Your brain can slow down

The brain needs nutrition and exercise. Exercise can eliminate certain amino acid by-products that otherwise turn into neurotoxins. With exercise you even prevent neurotoxins to enter the brain.

My comment:

I find that I must at least do a brisk walk of 4 kilometers a day. It prevents back pain, helps me sleep better and keeps my mind clear. But as mentioned earlier I prefer doing a brisk walk for 5 to 7 kilometers a day. In the past (prior to March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic started) I went to the gym every day. When it finally reopened, they had one Covid-19 case at the gym. I decided that it is too dangerous to go back to the gym until a safe Covid-19 vaccine is available in the summer of 2021. I feel the same way about flying. It is not worth the risk. I can just stay local and do my own program. The pleasure of traveling can wait until the summer of next year.

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

Conclusion

A recent CNN article described the dangers of passively staying in home isolation. I felt that this article was on the negative side. I found that by including a regular brisk walking program into my daily lifestyle the day got more structured. I felt I had more energy and I had no aches or pains. If I spent too much time watching TV or spending in front of the computer, I developed back aches and felt sluggish. I incorporated a 5-day fasting mimicking diet according to Dr. Longo once per month into my regular Mediterranean diet. This allowed me to keep my body mass index in the 21.0- 22.0 range. Doing what I described above I could continue to hold my weight, have energy and stay pain free for many more months. But when the Covid-19 vaccine arrives in spring/summer of 2021 I hope that things will return to normal.