290313 The connection between ageing, exercise and diabetes

There appears to be a direct connection between age, exercise, and your risk of developing diabetes. Even if you tend towards being on the lean side, the simple fact of getting older raises your chances of becoming a diabetic.

Associate professor of nutrition at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Brenda Davy, states, “one of the most commonly observed changes that contribute to diabetes risk is decline in muscle mass that starts after age 30.” She recently did a review of the impact that aging and exercise has on diabetes and found the link.

Individuals with less muscle mass may have a greater risk of becoming diabetic because the body naturally sends the majority of its blood sugar, i.e. glucose, into muscle tissue. Once there it is available as energy or stored, depending on the needs of the body.

Here is another reason to increase your lean muscle mass. It is a fact that less skeletal muscle means a lower metabolic rate. This means you are burning fewer calories throughout the day, even if you are sitting down or otherwise resting, in comparison to a person with more muscle. Muscle, by its very nature is continually active, unlike fat tissue, which is essentially inactive.

One of the premier ways to increase your lean muscle mass is by resistance training. The simple fact of having more muscle leads to the logical conclusion that you have increased the amount of tissue that uses glucose on a steady basis.

For you aerobic aficionado’s , aerobic exercise is not efficient at building muscle tissue. Even more importantly, after the aerobic activity is over, your body quickly returns to its normal homeostasis and continued use of the fat as an energy source ceases. This happens no matter how long you exercised in the so-called fat burning zone.

250313 Exercise-good for your bones

Exercise-good for your bones

After looking at the FRAX and maybe scaring yourself into doing something useful for your body when it comes to taking care of your bone health here are a few guidelines for starting an exercise program.

To begin with, exercising for at least a half an hour a day with weight bearing activities such as walking, jogging, skipping rope, running, or the mild plyometric rope skipping will improve the health of your bones. The literature recommends higher intensity load bearing such as that encountered when strength training.

When strength training, do so standing up, and not on a bench or a machine. The hips and spine seem to respond better to the upright position rather than the laying down or sitting versions of many popular exercises. A different neurological signal is sent to the bones when lying down as when compared to standing up.

Strength training exercise places a mechanical load on the bones and muscles. This in turn sends chemical signals to the osteocytes. These are cells within the bones that used to be osteoblasts, the bone forming cells that have been stuck within the bone itself. It is now thought that these trapped osteocytes have little tentacles that touch one another, thereby communicating amongst themselves that they need to begin building new bone tissues.

Therefore, when you are squatting with a bar on your shoulder or holding heavy dumbbells in each hand you are not only loading and making your muscles stronger, you are also strengthening your bones. When your muscles are strong, they exert a heavier pull on the areas of attachment to the bones and this in turn makes the bones even stronger.

Jogging, skipping rope and running all put at least your bodyweight on the joints and muscles as you do the exercise. This in turn makes the muscles stronger which contributes to denser and healthier bone structures.

220313 Assessing your risk of a bone fracture over the next ten years

Assessing your risk of a bone fracture over the next ten years

The World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Metabolic Bone Diseases, University of Sheffield, UK http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/FRAX/ (1) has developed a calculator that helps estimate your risks are of a bone fracture over the next ten years. FRAX, an acronym, of the Fracture Risk Assessment Tool that doctors are encouraged to use when prescribing medicine for their patients with a bone disease, either in its infancy such as osteopenia or full ranges of osteoporosis.

The FRAX guide takes into consideration the following when doing the calculations:

Weight (2)
Height (3)
Any previous fractures
Prior hip fractures
Smoking or nonsmoking status
The use of glucocorticoids such as prednisolone for over three months
Whether or not the person had rheumatoid arthritis
Secondary osteoporosis, i.e. menopause before turning 45 years of age or type two diabetes uses alcohol more than three times a day

Femoral neck bone mineral density

As one may see, this is a fairly thorough list of items the doctors look at to help guide them in their decision as to whether they should consider using medication or not in the treatment of an individual’s bone health.

For example, if the risk of a hip fracture is at least three percent or a bone fracture is at twenty percent or greater over the next ten years then the NOF recommends prescribing medication to slow down or stop the continuation of the disease. On a good note, according to the NOF, most men and women won’t enter these danger areas until they are in their seventies.

Take a moment to look the site over and see how you fair. If you are in the danger zones talk to your doctor. Did you notice the Body Mass Index (BMI) listing just above the end result number? What number showed up?

For your information, here are the current recommendations as to the accepted BMI for good health. Warning, The BMI is not a useful tool if you are an active person with more than usual muscular development.

BMI Categories:

Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

Ponder the information here and decide for yourself whether you need to be seeing a doctor about your risk of a bone fracture.

[1] The FRAX® tool has been developed by WHO to evaluate fracture risk of patients. It is based on individual patient models that integrate the risks associated with clinical risk factors as well as bone mineral density (BMD) at the femoral neck.

The FRAX® models have been developed from studying population-based cohorts from Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. In their most sophisticated form, the FRAX® tool is computer-driven and is available on this site. Several simplified paper versions, based on the number of risk factors are also available, and can be downloaded for office use.

The FRAX® algorithms give the 10-year probability of fracture. The output is a 10-year probability of hip fracture and the 10-year probability of a major osteoporotic fracture (clinical spine, forearm, hip or shoulder fracture).

[1] To convert your bodyweight, in pounds, to kilograms http://www.onlineconversion.com/weight_common.htm

[1] to convert inches to centimeters or vice versa, here is the site that will convert inches to centimeters: http://www.onlineconversion.com/length_common.htm

210313 A lack of sleep may lead to a host of health problems

A lack of sleep may lead to a host of health problems

Many people find a direct association between a lack of sleep with being irritable and tired and having difficulty focusing on tasks. It has even been shown that there is a delayed reaction time with being sleepy. This can make you dangerous when driving down the road.

However, there are other less obvious health consequences of not getting enough sleep. A recent study found that those who regularly incur the sleep debt were more susceptible, by almost three times, to getting a cold. These people were compared to others who slept a minimum of eight hours a night.

It was also discovered that people who had difficulty in falling asleep or had a fitful night’s sleep of tossing and turning were 5 1/2 times more likely to catch a cold than others were who slept soundly for eight or more hours a night.

A more ominous problem arises with those who regularly sleep less than six hours a night. They have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure or worsening an existing high blood pressure condition. A person with high blood pressure or untreated high blood pressure increases their risk of a stroke and other heart problems. Sleep researchers believe that poor sleep prevents the normal nightly decline of blood pressure, which is common to those who sleep eight hours or more.

This continuous lack of sleep also hurts your body’s ability to control and manage its stress hormones, which over time contributes to higher blood pressure numbers. If you didn’t already know it by now, high blood pressure is a killer and must be controlled.

Frequently observed in those who don’t sleep well at night are migraines or tension headaches. However, this connection is not well developed but is certainly thought to be a contributing factor to these types of headaches. Oddly enough, not only is sleeping less than six hours a possible factor that leads to these headaches but also sleeping more than eight hours maybe just as bad for those who suffer from this problem.

If you are not getting at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, then you may want to consider talking to your doctor. There are strategies that can help you sleep better.

Some of the more obvious include:

Making changes to your sleep routine, including setting up your bedroom to exclude as much light as possible, keeping it cool and quiet,
Making behavioral changes in your going to sleep ritual,
Getting a better handle on your acute or chronic pain,
Cautious and thoughtful use of sleeping pills or
Even treatment for a sleeping disorder.

Getting a good night’s sleep can lead to better physical health.

200313 Get going when you are at your peak

It’s 0431 and the day is starting out with a bang. I have a hard time deciding what part of the day I like the best. It is either going to bed at night, or getting up early the next morning.

One thing I do know for sure, going to bed gets me into the busy part of next day sooner.

Once you know when you’re at your best, take advantage of it and get things done when you are the most productive.

In my case before going to bed, I make up my next days to do list. Sometimes I can’t wait to jump up early the next morning and get going on it. My lists are not impossibly long or detailed but it does tell what I want to accomplish during the day.

Others list things they want to get done the next day; however, their lists are sometimes so long it is difficult for them to finish it and if they don’t, they feel like failures. So make your list manageable and start seeing the results sooner.

200313 Sitting is dangerous

Sitting is dangerous

The American cancer society tracked approximately 53,000 men and 70,000 women over a span of fourteen years. After reviewing the questionnaires the researchers discovered that the longer a person sat, the greater were the chances they would die during the course of the fourteen year study.

The women who were dying sat longer than six hours a day and these times did not include time spent sitting at work. These women were thirty four percent more likely to die than those who sat less than three hours a day. Those who died did so from heart disease or stroke.

The seventeen percent of the men who sat in excess of six hours a day were more likely to die than their counterparts who sat less.

This was true whether or not these individuals regularly exercised.

The people who were the least active were the most likely to die as their risks were higher. For example, those who did not exercise, even missing out on a brisk walk, and who sat for at least six hours a day were nearly twice as likely to die when compared to the ones sitting for less than three hours.

The men suffered a similar fate. Those who sat for at least six hours a day and didn’t exercise were one and half times at risk for dying.

So what can you do to help prevent your early demise?

You all know the answer: Get up and start moving!

Move around at work, walk to the drinking fountain, carry your mail to the out box or the mailroom and get out of the office on your coffee and dinner breaks. Do some stretches in the break room, start a fitness trend at work. Find a fitness buddy and challenge one another to see who can exercise every day at work.

When you’re at home walk to the mail box or paper box, do a few fast runs in place for thirty to sixty seconds at a time. Do ten to twenty counter top push ups and then during the commercials do leg raises, flutters, curl ups, squats and calf raises.

The short and sweet of this is you have to get off the dime and get moving if you want to have a longer life.

150313 Is too much blood sugar shrinking your brain?

Is too much blood sugar shrinking your brain?

A recent study, published in Neurology, suggests there is an association between high blood sugar on the high end of normal and brain shrinkage in the areas of the brain “associated with memory and thinking” according to Dr. Gad Marshall was a neurologist at Harvard affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Previous research has already revealed links between high blood sugar, type II diabetes and brain shrinkage.

This study has found that people whose fasting blood sugar levels are at the high end of normal also have a higher possibility of brain shrinkage. After fasting, defined as six hours or more without eating or drinking anything with calories, the normal fasting blood levels are between 70 to 100 mg/dL. You have pre-diabetes if your fasting blood sugar levels are 100 to 125 mL per deciliter. At this point, you have definitely increased your possibility of developing diabetes. Any fasting numbers above 126 mg/dL indicates you probably already have diabetes.

Dr. Marshall says in the article that even though we’ll have to wait a little bit longer until more research confirms the study’s findings he sees these preliminary results as a red flag. “Having a high normal glucose level at age 60 or older can potentially serve as a useful marker of impending neural degeneration.”

He recommends the Mediterranean diet as one that will help prevent the cognitive decline that often shows up with aging. If you are unfamiliar with the Mediterranean diet here are a few highlights.

To get started with the Mediterranean diet, plan on eating as natural as possible with unprocessed foods such as fruits, whole grains, nuts and vegetables. Cut back on the unhealthy fats and begin using olive oil as your principal source of dietary fat. Begin easing back on the amount of red meat you eat on a monthly basis by substituting it with moderate amounts of fish. Also included in this diet is drinking a moderate amount of wine per day. This means about two glasses day for men and one for women.

130313 Brain activation results in those addicted to food

Brain activation results in those addicted to food

It comes as no surprise that if you are addicted to something there are going to be changes in brain activity that clearly shows up on brain scans. Nora D. Volkow, M.D. the director of the national Institute on Drug Abuse analyzed dopamine levels in obese adults. The results of these scans advanced the theory of potential addiction to food.

In October of 2011, researchers at the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, Oregon updated the original 2001 research. They noticed during MRIs, that regions of the brain directly related to reward and the senses were brighter in obese who anticipated a chocolate milkshake more so than when they were actually drinking the milkshake. This was not the case with the MRIs of those leaner girls participating in the study.

This would indicate that people who find food to be exciting are more likely to eat more, which results in weight gain. Going back to the original research findings in October 2011, the results of the MRIs clearly show that the more you eat high-fat and high sugar foods the less your brain responds to these foods. The outcome of such a situation is a greater internal demand for these types of foods, which ultimately results in eating more to achieve the same feeling of pleasure.

At this point is important to note that not all members of the American Psychiatric Association subscribe to the food addiction theory and it has not been formally recognized as such by this association. The objective evidence that food addiction exists is presently lacking, which leads us down the road to a question of whether not the possibility of food addiction contributes greatly to the epidemic of obesity in our nation or not.

Even though investigation into the theory of food addiction is continuing, there have been only a few studies on its prevalence. Recently investigators at Yale University developed a questionnaire that helps identify people showing signs of addiction to high fat and sugar foods.

Their research is leaning towards a comparatively small percentage of individuals within a wide range of weight categories that may actually be addicted to food. This 2011 study found that just about 11% of college students in the normal weight ranges may be considered addicted to food. Contrast this study with one recently conducted in Germany that found of the 750 people studied using the Yale University questionnaire nearly 38% of the obese participants and 14% of those overweight were addicted to food. They went so far as to say that 10% of the underweight participants and 6% in the normal weight categories in the study were also addicted to food.

As far as Kelly Brownell, PhD., Director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity is concerned “ there’s no longer any question about that in my mind” when asked about the concept of food and addiction being a viable source contributing to the obesity situation currently exploding in our nation.

If you feel that you may be addicted to food or any other substance, take time to set up an appointment with your healthcare provider and get help.

Now is the time to get started with better eating habits.

120313 The effect of excess weight and fat on your blood pressure

The effect of excess weight and fat on your blood pressure

If your blood pressure is pre hypertensive [1] or higher, it could very well be the result of carrying too much bodyweight. Even if your scales are telling you that your weight is normal, you could still be carrying more visceral fat, the fat surrounding your internal organs, than is healthy. Visceral fat adversely affects your blood pressure and increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and various other health conditions.

Body fat tissue discharges disrupting hormones that upset your body’s normal hormonal balance. This causes a cascading effect on the rest of the hormones. Abdominal fat causes an increase in insulin levels, which then activates the sympathetic nervous system causing a rise in the catecholamine product levels. Catecholamines include dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These constrict the blood vessels and increase blood pressure.

Additional problems arise with added fat pressure on the kidneys because this pressure activates hormones in the kidneys that regulate blood pressure, causing it to rise. And finally, insulin causes additional salt retention in the bloodstream, which can also raise blood pressure.

Often times, the body mass index is used as a guideline in measuring weight and fat. However, this can give erroneous readings because there is no differentiation between lean muscle and fat. This means the visceral fat in the abdominal area maybe overlooked. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, overweight is 25.29.9 is and anything above 30 is obese.

A study in 2007 using MRI scans discovered 45% of women and almost 60% of the men with normal scale weight and waists had excessive abdominal fat according to current height and weight ratios.

Dr. David Heber, MD, PhD specializing in endocrinology and the UCLA director of the Center for Human Nutrition and Risk Factor Obesity Program termed this BMI/visceral fat discrepancy sarcopenic obesity, now used as a prognostic tool for the risk of breast cancer.

In order to mitigate the dangers of sarcopenic obesity Dr. Heber recommends combining resistance strength training such as weightlifting with sound nutritional practices. Following a healthy protein rich diet ensures you are able to maintain your muscle mass while controlling your appetite and losing fat tissue at the same time.

100313 Increasing endurance and thereby increasing the ability to strength train longer and harder

Increasing endurance and thereby increasing the ability to strength train longer and harder

In preparing to exercise aerobically, remember that aerobics are only a part of a full conditioning program. Other necessary components include flexibility, strength and power, muscle endurance and a safe healthy body composition. In other words, be able to do the task at hand without carrying excess body fat around.

Here are the steps to follow before exercising for the first time.

1. Complete a Physical Activities Readiness Questionnaire aka a PAR-Q
2. Speak to a doctor before beginning any exercise program
3. Begin slowly in your program-consult with a National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) or a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
4. Always warm-up prior to exercising, get the pulse up and the breathing rate increased to meet the demands of the upcoming exercise session. After exercising then cool down and stretch.
5. Follow the fitness triad prescription of flexibility, strength and cardiovascular throughout the week
6. Don’t overexert but stay within the guidelines for your age and experience-see number three above for a CSCS or CPT recommendation
7. If you are sick or injured, don’t exercise. You can however exercise common sense and prevent any further delays in getting better by taking it easy for a short time until you are well again.
8. Select a NSCA certified trainer

Introduction to aerobic conditioning

Aerobic conditioning is your body’s adaptations to working continuously ‘with oxygen’ or in other words ‘with air’. It is also known as cardio respiratory endurance or aerobic power. The word ‘power’ indicates a strong response to imposed conditions.

Cardio work is a continuous activity that puts an increased demand on the heart, lungs, and circulatory systems of the body. Generally, large muscle groups of the body are involved for extended periods without a break, thus the term, ‘with air’. The original term “aerobics” came from the father of cardiovascular training, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, of the famed Cooper Institute.

Cardiovascular training

How hard an individual exercises aerobically will be determined by age and current physical condition. The Tanaka formula is the most precise for figuring out the target heart rate range.

Figure your target heart rate using the Tanaka formula.

1. 207 – 70% of your age = Maximum heart rate.
2. MHR – Resting heart rate taken as soon as you awake = Heart rate reserve.
3. Heart rate reserve X 70% + resting heart rate = Heart rate target range.

So why are so many aerobically out of shape? Is it due to a lack of desire, lack of time, or a lack of motivation? The reasons are many but the truth of the matter is this; “in order to make changes change is necessary”. [1]

Research has clearly shown the benefits of increased cardiovascular health in lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and other unhealthy heart and lung conditions. [2] Now is the time to make these positive life style changes and you can by following these suggestions for a successful new beginning.

• Begin by seeing a doctor for an overall physical.
• Set up your personal fitness goals.
• Dress for success. Wear good fitting walking, running or bicycling shoes. Dress in proper fitting clothing, layered in the winter and reflective in the summer.
• Exercise EVERY SINGLE DAY by putting a check mark on the calendar to show yourself you CAN make the necessary changes to succeed.
• Chart your progress every day, write down how you did, how you felt. Make it your personal workout diary.
• Drink enough to stay hydrated; your urine should be a pale yellow. If not and it is bright yellow and strong smelling then you are dehydrated unless you are taking in excessive vitamin B supplements.
• Progress slowly. Start out by walking, riding a bicycle and then finally by jogging and running. Vary the cardiovascular workout mode for added benefits.
• Chart your target heart range and stay in it for the recommended amount of time for your age.
• Overload your body correctly, but don’t change any one variable by more than 10% each time. For example, if you are running for ten minutes add only 10% to the increase for the next level. In other words, add one minute. Gradually get used to the new time, or longer distance or faster pace, but only by 10% of the previous times, distance or pace.
• Acclimatize your body to its new routine. Vary the load, intensity and frequency so your body does not become accustomed to these variables.
• Make exercise a habit.

Safety cautions

• Let someone know where you are going and for how long you will be gone.
• Exercise with a partner if you have a difficult time in remaining self-motivated.
• Walk, run and ride in a safe legal manner, follow your state statues for engaging in these activities.


Within the first SIX MONTHS, most people QUIT. Are you going to be one of them? Try these tricks of the trade to avoid dropping out of the exercise mode.

• Make exercising FUN.
• Go at a comfortable yet challenging pace.
• Do more than just walk, run and bicycle. In other words, cross train.
• Take music along with you. Just don’t have it blaring in your ears through an earplug. You cannot avoid danger if you can’t hear it coming. Leave one plug out so you can still hear.
• Exercise the same time each day. Get it out of the way early or make it the last thing you treat yourself to at the end of the day. Make it natural and convenient. You will be better able to stick with it.
• Keep records of your achievements each day.

Once you have your trainees working out at least twice a week and them seeing improvement in their ability to do things without running out of breath, it is time to introduce strength training into their schedule.