Saturday, August 15, 2015

Exercise and Diet: How To Prevent Dying In Your Sixties

I'm not bold enough to say physical exercise is the elixir of life, but I would say regular physical exercise can guarantee a longer and healthier life.

Yet the metabolic processes that maintain life are the very processes that produce free radicals that cause premature aging and death.

By the metabolic processes compound molecules are broken down to produce energy, while simple molecules are synthesized to form proteins to build and repair body tissues.

The energy for carrying out these catabolic and anabolic processes to maintain life is produced by the mitochondria within each of the 37 trillion cells in the human body. 

Electrons are transferred from one molecule to another as oxygen and sugar interact within the mitochondria to produce energy. In the process some molecules lose their electrons, and become free radicals. To return to their stable condition they must steal electrons from other molecules.

This is the beginning of oxidative stress within the cell, where free radicals make a determined effort to steal electrons from the DNA, proteins and membrane of cells in the body.

When free radicals succeed in stealing electrons from their host cells, the nature of these cells changes, disabling their internal control mechanism, and cause them to die prematurely, or change into cancerous cells.

From this we can see that even without external pathogens and toxins, the normal metabolic processes of life produce enough free radicals to ensure that we die in our sixties, if we did nothing to intervene.

When pathogens, carcinogen from cigarette smoke, and environmental and food toxins are added to the mix, the health problem becomes even bigger. We have no way out, while being exposed to toxins from the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. 

This is happening because we live in environments where herbicides are used to control weeds, insecticides to control inserts, fungicides to control fungus, and rodenticides to control rodents. Toxins from these and other pesticides enter our food and the air we breathe causing damage to our cells.

Not only that, toxins from industrial waste enter the water we drink, and toxins from chemical fertilizers enter the food we eat. But for our hard working immune system we would all be dead by our 21st birthday.

Fortunately, from the days of the Greek physician Hippocrates, dubbed "The Father of Medicine", we have been aware that we had to do something to help our immune system protect our bodies from invading pathogens and toxins.

We have done this successfully with medications and the tools of medical science, to the extent that we are now able to live beyond our 21st birthday, into our sixties and beyond. But there's a catch.

Every medication we take to extend our lives has side effects, including the common aspirin. What we have found is that you may go see your doctor about a health problem. After taking the prescribed medication, you may end up with another health problem from its side effects.

When you go back to see your doctor about the new health problem, he/she may prescribe another medication to take care of the side effect of the first medication. 

Since the second medication to cure the side effect of the first medication also has side effects, you may have to go back again to see your doctor for another medication to cure the side effects of the second medication. You see where I'm going with this?

This explains why once you get into the health system as a patient, you are likely to be prescribed more medications than not. Don't get me wrong though. I believe in medications, and I know they work. 

But considering the known side effects of medications, it's common sense that the fewer medications we take the fewer health problems we would have to deal with coming from the side effects of these medications.

You will also find that the only reason we are able to live beyond our 69th birthday is because we are taking more medications and having more surgeries, which brings into question the quality of the extended life. Are we living longer and healthier, or living longer and sicker?

This is the dilemma of modernity. Confronting this dilemma is the reason some people are now suggesting other ways to complement medications and surgery to extend life, while at the same time maintaining good health.

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician is quoted as saying, "Thou food is thou medicine". Nothing could be more truer. The food we eat provides our cells the nutrients they need to grow, repair and protect the organs of the body. In short, we are what we eat.

In pursuing this objective, many health conscious people have been searching all corners of the world for exotic diets to maintain good health and extend their lives. But this is doing too much for too little.

I say this because you can find all the foods and drinks from which to get all the nutrients your body needs for good health and longevity right here at home. Go to choosemyplate.gov, and plan your meals according to the recommendation provided by the food experts.

With those needing special diet, or having difficulty deciding on a diet, contact your doctor or dietitian for advice. Meanwhile, keep your food portion size small to medium to avoid gaining excess weight.

As for controlling the free radicals and toxins in your body, fruits and vegetables are recommended. The problem is that it's difficult, if not impossible for many of us to eat the recommended quantity of fruits and vegetables per day, in order to have the maximum cleansing effect in the body.

Home juicing of fruits and vegetables is the solution to this problem. Since you will need about six medium size apples to make 16 ounce of juice, you would have more antioxidants quickly entering your bloodstream at one sitting than you would have if you attempted to eat six apples, if this was possible at all.

As you would be consuming more fruits and vegetables by juicing, so too you would be ingesting more toxins, if any are on the fruits and vegetables you use. You will then end up fighting a battle you can never win, as more toxins are brought into your body by the home made juice you drink.

For this reason, I will recommend you use only organic fruits and vegetables for your home made juicing. Organic produce are more expensive than inorganic fruits and vegetables, no doubt. 

But if your aim is to provide your body with sufficient antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals in your body, and to detoxify your body of environmental and food toxins, then it's worth paying a little bit more now, than paying much more later for a heart surgery, or spending the rest of your life on a kidney dialysis machine. 

If you are still with me, we've come to the point where your body has all the nutrients it needs in terms of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and mineral salts. You have enough antioxidants in your bloodstream from home made juice to keep the free radicals in your body under control.

You are eating gelatinous foods like aloe vera, sea weeds, chia seeds or okra as part of your diet. These foods bind with toxins in your body and hold them hostage in the bile salts until they are eliminated when you go to the toilet.

Before all these good things happen though, the 37 trillion cells in your body should receive sufficient daily supply of oxygen, nutrients, hormones and enzymes. These are transported to your cells by your blood circulatory system. 

When we were young, we had no problem boosting our blood circulatory system because of the increased physical activity that comes with youth. As we get older and our physical activity decreases, so too does the strength of our blood circulatory system.             

As a result, our cells do not get the maximum amount of oxygen, nutrients, hormones and enzymes they need, and at the time they need them. Weakened by insufficient nourishment and oxygen, our cells are not able to grow, repair and protect themselves as well as they would otherwise.

How we protect our cells from being impaired and slow down the match toward premature aging and death, is to increase our physical activity as we get older by regular physical exercise.

And while we may be able to stumble along through life relying solely on medications and surgeries to still alive, without physical exercise, we may not survive what awaits us in our sixties.

In our sixties, degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's rear their ugly heads in our lives. They are usually caused by damage to the brain cells by free radicals produced in the mitochondria as it metabolizes oxygen and sugar to produce cellular energy.

Metabolic syndrome is another degenerative disease that awaits us as we enter our sixties. It is a cluster of health problems, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, overweight, and high bad cholesterol level occurring together to increase our risk for heart attack, stroke and diabetes.     

In our sixties is when the chicken come home to roost. We can choose to get on a healthy diet that provides our cells the right nutrients they need to grow, repair, protect themselves and keep us healthy. 

Get on an age and health appropriate regular physical exercise routine that brings sufficient oxygen into our bodies, and boost our blood circulatory system to keep us healthy and increase our lifespan.

Or we can choose to wait until we become fatter and sicker, then go see our doctors for prescription drugs or surgery, only to go back again and again, because we've developed new health problems, or the old health problem won't go away. It's your choice.

Meanwhile, review the health benefits of regular physical exercise. They will help you make the right choice for your health and longevity.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Health Benefits Of Physical Exercise

Physical exercise improves your breathing and strengthens your lungs muscles. As a necessary part of physical exercise, deep breathing lowers your diaphragm to allow your lungs to take in maximum oxygen upon inhalation, and your abdominal muscles to squeeze out the maximum amount of carbon dioxide from your body upon exhalation.

The rate of expansion and contraction of your lungs increases during physical exercise giving your lungs muscles a good workout. 

Not only that your diaphragm and abdominal muscles also get a workout, allowing your respiratory system to bring in the oxygen your body needs, and get rid of the carbon dioxide it doesn't need.

Physical exercise reduces your risk for hypoxia (oxygen deficiency), which can cause severe damage to your brain, liver and other organs in just few minutes.

Physical exercise also ensures that carbon dioxide level in your blood is kept at a minimum to protect you from acidosis, which is an increase in the acidity of your blood, a major cause for fatigue, confusion and shortness of breath.

Physical exercise strengthens your heart muscles by expanding the arteries and capillaries that supply nutrients and oxygen to your heart muscles. This keeps your heart muscles in good physical condition to deliver blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout your body.

Physical exercise can lower your blood pressure, and lower the level of triglycerides (bad cholesterol) in your blood. This lowers your risks for heart attack and stroke, which are mainly caused by plaque from a build up of cholesterol inside your coronary and carotid arteries.

Cholesterol plaque can narrow your arteries and reduce the flow of blood to your heart muscles, and in severe cases can block the flow of blood to the heart muscles and cause a heart attack.

Cholesterol plaque can also narrow or block the carotid arteries that supply oxygenated blood to your brain. This is fatal because not only would it disrupt the cognitive functions of thinking, learning and judgment skills, it can also cause a stroke.

Research shows that you can reduce your risk for a heart attack, stroke, diabetes and impaired cognitive functions by regular physical exercise. 

Physical exercise improves your digestive system. When you take in food and drinks, your stomach breaks them down into carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and mineral salts to be absorbed through the walls of your stomach into your bloodstream for delivery to your cells, which are the end users of all that you eat and drink.

The digestive system is also responsible for eliminating waste products from your body. A weak digestive system would cause heartburn, diverticulitis and constipation. And if you've had any of these maladies, you know how problematic they can be.

Assuming you are eating a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables, regular physical exercise would improve the contraction of your intestinal muscles to help the absorption of nutrients into your bloodstream, and speedup the movement of food through your intestines for eventual disposal from your body.  

Physical exercise improves your blood circulation. Regardless of how healthy your diet may be, if the nutrients from them cannot get to your cells, they may as well not exist.

Your blood circulation is the transportation system that delivers oxygen, nutrients, hormones and enzymes to your cells, and the means by which waste products from cellular activities are picked up from every corner of your body for disposal.

Your circulatory system has two pathways to and from your heart. Oxygenated blood from your heart is moved through your arteries by the pumping action of your heart. Deoxygenated blood returning to your heart flows through your veins, which have no pumping system of their own.

Consequently, the returning blood, or venous return is moved toward your lungs and then to your heart by the movement of your skeletal muscles, which are the large muscles in your body.

The contraction and relaxation of your large muscles as you do your daily tasks compress and decompress the veins located in them, thus moving the deoxygenated blood toward your heart, while at the same time not allowing a backward flow of blood, by the alternating opening and closing of the distal and proximal valves within your veins.

Needless to say, the high level of physical activity that comes with youth is the reason young people have better blood circulation, better health, and need to see their doctors less often.

As we get older, and our level of physical activity decreases, the rate of returning blood flow to our hearts also decreases. This reduces the volume of oxygenated blood the heart can deliver to cells through out the body to perform their metabolic functions.

When your cells are not getting adequate oxygen and nutrients to perform their repair and protection functions, as a result of poor blood circulation, they would become malnourished, and your body would become vulnerable to invading pathogens and diseases.

Regular physical exercise will change all this. As your muscles contract and relax during exercise the volume of blood returning to your heart would increase, and so would the volume of blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to your cells, enabling your cells to perform their metabolic functions to keep you healthy.  

Physical exercise can reduce minor joint pain. Ligaments hold your bones together. The ends of the articulating bones are covered with smooth articular cartilage, enclosed in the joint capsule to create the synovial cavity.

The synovial cavity is important because it holds the synovial fluid, which lubricates the two articulating bones and allow them to glide over each other without friction.

Pain occurs when the function of the synovial fluid is degraded by inflamation, bacterial, crystals, or bleeding from an injury. Pain from these can be severe, and normally affects the knee, shoulder, hip and ankles. See your doctor when you have any of these pain.

Regular physical exercise can reduce minor joint pain by strengthening the muscles and tissues surrounding your joints, improves blood flow to supply the synovial cells with adequate oxygen and nutrients to maintain your synovial fluid. Exercise also helps your body release endorphins that interact with your brain cells receptors to reduce your perception of pain.

Contrary to the common view, physical exercise doesn't increase minor joint pain or stiffness. However, it is important to talk with your doctor about the appropriate physical exercise for your age and health condition before starting any physical exercise program.

Physical exercise can reduce weight and keep it off. Excess calories from the food and drinks you consume are stored in the muscles and adipose (fat) tissue as reserve energy. Increase in the size of adipose (fat) tissue is the main cause of weight gain and obesity.

During physical exercise, your body first uses the stored calories (glycogen) in your muscles. When glycogen is depleted, your body breaks down the adipose (fat) tissue into fatty acids to provide energy for your body.

As more fat tissue is broken down to fatty acids and used up as energy for your body during regular physical exercise, the amount of fat tissue decreases. This reduces your body weight, and protects you from overweight related diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Physical exercise helps reduce stress, which is a major cause of overweight and diseases like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and others. Physical exercise helps control the effects of stress, and helps you sleep better.

Physical exercise helps your body release endorphins that interacts with the receptors on your brain cells to improve your mood and trigger a feeling of well being.

This far, I can think of no other human activity that does so much for your health and longevity than physical exercise. 

When your lungs muscles are healthy and can bring in adequate oxygen, and promptly remove the carbon dioxide you body doesn't need. 

When your heart muscles are healthy and can pump sufficient oxygenated and nutrient rich blood through out your body.

When your digestive system is healthy and can extract maximum nutrients from the food and drinks you consume, and quickly remove waste products from your body. 

When your blood circulatory system is robust and can promptly deliver oxygenated and nutrients rich blood to your cells and remove cellular waste from your body.

When your body demand for energy increases, and causes more fat tissue to be burned to protect you from high triglycerides levels and weight gain.

When your stress and pain levels are reduced, and you can sleep better at night, and wake up every morning refreshed with a heightened feeling of well being. 

When all these good things are attributed to physical exercise, I can think of no other activity closest to the elixir to good health and longevity, than physical exercise. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

How To Control Stress

Stress is the expression of fear, and it's the reason your body initiates the "fight or flight" response when under stress. 

The fear of not meeting a deadline. The fear of being late for work or an appointment. The fear of losing your job. The fear of a divorce. The fear of falling. The fear of dying. The fear of flying. The fear of embarrassing yourself in public, or the fear that something may go wrong.

These are some of the drivers of fear and stress. Given the responsibility to maintain tranquility in your mind and body, your nervous system produces hormones to prepare you to deal with stress.

These hormones are adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands to bring you a surge of energy, maintain your blood pressure and fluid balance, as well as make you more aware of your environment, awake and focused on making the split second decision to fight the problem causing your fear, or to run away from it.

Resting heavily on your mind as you make this split second decision is the acute awareness that it could change your life for the better or for the worse. 

This explains why when you are in a stressful situation, and adrenaline and norepinephrine are flowing in your blood, your heart rate increases, you breath faster, your muscles become tensed and you begin to sweat; indicators that you are under pressure to make a quick decision with no room for error.

If you will allow me, I will digress to tell you a story about how I once dealt with a stressful situation. When I was in college years ago, I took a summer job with a delivery company. I was living in New Jersey at the time.

On this particular day, my dispatcher who was in his late fifties, told me to pick up a package from Edison going to the UPS hub in Secaucus, which is about 15 miles from Edison.

My dispatcher said I had to deliver the package before the deadline, in order to have it on the UPS truck for the overnight delivery. He begged me to do everything I could to meet the deadline because he would lose his job if the package missed the overnight delivery.

Apparently, he dispatched the package late, and the big boss was very upset. To get to Secaucus from Edison the fastest route is the New Jersey Turnpike. A minutes after I got on the turnpike my dispatcher called me to check on my progress toward Secaucus. 

It was about 5:00 pm, the time of the day when traffic was the heaviest on the turnpike, not only because there was a toll both before the Secaucus exit, most of the traffic was heading toward the Lincoln Tunnel into New York City.

I told my dispatcher there was traffic on the turnpike, but I was making steady progress, and was hopeful to get the package delivered before the deadline.

Fifteen minutes before the deadline, he began calling me every 2 minutes to check how far I was from Secaucus. Meanwhile, I was in a bumper to bumper traffic. Frustrated drivers were changing lanes recklessly, while others were driving on the turnpike shoulder to beat the traffic.

To reduce the distraction from the ringing phone, I put it on vibration. I was now becoming stressed. I could sense the nervousness in my dispatcher's voice. He was in distress. I could only imagine what was going on in his mind. 

He was going to lose his job if the package didn't get on the overnight delivery truck. He would lose his income. He wouldn't have money to pay his mortgage. He wouldn't have money to make his car and insurance payments. He would lose his house, his car, his wife, and probably become homeless.

I was stressed not by the fear of missing the overnight delivery truck, that was my dispatcher's fear. My fear was I will be distracted by the ringing phone, and not paying full attention to the traffic get into an accident. That would really send my stress level through the roof.

I decided to solve the problem that was causing my fear, and it was, the possibility I may get into an accident. My solution was to let the phone vibrate while I focused my attention on safely getting through the traffic.

I could imagine how worried and stressed my dispatcher was when I didn't answer the phone, but I knew he would be more stressed were I not to concentrate on the traffic, and got into an accident. If that happened, it was certain the package would not get on the overnight delivery truck.

As it turned out, I made the delivery in the nick of time and got the package on the overnight delivery truck. But I learned something from the experience. 

When we focus our mental and physical resources on finding a solution to the problem that is causing our fear, the stress would disappear because there will be nothing to fuel it and keep it coming at us.  

Unfortunately, I have not always been able to follow my own advice on controlling stress. Telling someone to calm down and focus on the solution, rather than the stress, is like telling the person to calm down and sleep while his bed is on fire.

It's not easy to control stress, particularly not in our modern times. Still, if you allow it, stress would take control of your thoughts, your life, and manipulate you like a puppet on a string.

What is even worse are the stress related diseases like depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, constipation, weight gain, weakening of the immune system, stroke, cancer and others, which can cause havoc to the body and its organs.

Stress is a skillful manipulator. It disguises itself as your normal thoughts, in order to distract you from identifying the cause of your fear, and finding solution to the problem that fuels it.

All the same, smart as it is, stress can be caught off guard. When your thoughts are making your heart beat faster, your breathing faster, your muscles tensed and your palms sweating, these are signs that you are under stress. Normal thinking would not cause these reactions.

When you figure this out, you can focus your effort on finding the fear behind your stress, and then the problem that is causing the fear. On finding the solution to your problem, your fear will go away, and so would your stress.

But then, so long as the problem remains, your fear would remain, as would your stress. In some cases though, the stress may remain even when the problem that caused it no longer exists. This is the type called chronic stress. 

As for acute stress, it will go away when the fear generating problem is solved. If anything good can be said about stress, acute stress is a necessary part of modern life. It puts us on our toes, and motivates us to meet deadlines and get our jobs done both at home and at work.

Stress is destructive when it becomes chronic. Chronic stress is a mental problem, as it is a physical problem. It may have a physical origin, like a painful past experience, an unfavorable job situation, insufficient money to pay bills, and things of that sort.

When you cannot stop thinking about the negative effects of these problems on you. When you cannot see the bright side of life, then chronic stress has taken control of your thoughts and life. 

And until you solve the obsession problem, you will continue running into roadblocks stopping you from solving the effect of the physical problem, which is the root cause of your stress.