Archives for January 2009

Recent Test Results

I got some of my blood work back, and generally it is good news. First the bad:

– My globulin is a little low at 1.8 g/dL. However according to this source, it is a normal enough number.

– My albumin/globulin ratio is a little high at 2.7. However some seem to think a high ratio (which is not necessarily “normal” if by normal we mean what is common) is a good thing, indicative of longevity.

– My bilirubin is slightly high at 1.4 mg/dL. This could be a result of my exercise program, and this number is considered normal by some sources.

– My AST is slightly elevated at 42 U/L, a level not considered abnormal by all. My ALT level is good, and the ratio between the two looks normal (based on my research) so I am not too concerned. That I took the test after just waking up, at about 7:00 AM, could be responsible for the slightly high level (that and I was basically dehydrated).

My doctor doesn’t seem too concerned, and when he saw these results, his first question was “do you take protein supplements?” He said I should lay off of them for a month, and take a test again, just to be sure. I admit I was a little freaked at first, because the lady over the phone told me that my albumin was 2.7, when she meant the albumin to globulin ratio. An albumin level of 2.7 is rather low, and would indicate that my kidneys were not working very well because I consume about 100-120 grams of protein a day, so my albumin should be higher, not lower (my albumin is at the higher end of the normal range).

Now, the good:

– Cholesterol is 177 (HDL 50, LDL 115)

– Triglycerides are 62

– BUN and Creatinine are normal, which is good because my dad struggles with kidney problems

– Everything else is normal, and I feel great!

I should note that I have questioned the relationship between cholesterol consumed in foods to the levels of cholesterol in the blood. I eat a lot of eggs as a cheap protein source. In fact, since August 2007, I have consumed an average of 601 mg of cholesterol per day, and my blood cholesterol levels are fine.

My Experiences With a Neti Pot

Ok, not the actual pot, which has been back ordered. But, thankfully the internet has a bunch of ways to make your own devices without the pot that involve simply a bottle of dishwashing detergent (well cleaned!), sea salt, and warm water.

Last winter was a sinus disaster for me. It was a non-stop cold or sinus issue pretty much from Christmas to Easter, which was no fun, especially since I didn’t give up good breathing for Lent! I decided this year to take a new approach to preventing sinus problems.

First, I upped my intake of immune boosters like Vitamin D and supplements that have shown promise to help with upper respiratory issues like Quercetin.

Second, I decided to lower my level of anything that depressed the immune system like stress, overexercising, etc. As much as I love going to the gym, I’ve toned it down this winter. I get the same results, but with less physical stress.

Finally, I decided to try a neti pot (well, an equivalent) and so far the results of my sinus flushing have been pretty good. Immediately afterwards, I am able to expel a good deal of mucus and my sinuses actually feel…well…healthy. And I can hear a lot better, which tells me something is working. I don’t have a cold, but the preventative aspect of this device seems good so far.

For those interested: How to Make Your Own Neti Pot (from ehow)

Remember, all of the above reflect my own personal experience and are not medical advice. Everyone should consult a physician before attempting to address sinus or any other health realted issues.

So I’m Not Weird?

I think this goes without saying really, but an article in the Wall Street Journal makes the case that Alternative Medicine is Mainstream. I kind of default to alternative medicine, which is to say that unless an illness or condition strikes me as immediately serious (like when I slammed my finger in the car door), I try to treat it myself using natural treatments. This could be Glucosamine, weight lifting, Bromelain, and MSM for knee pain, or hyperthermia, Oregano Oil, and Vitamin D for a cold or other infection. This may be because alternative medicine is an interest of mine, because I would rather not get the doctor involved, because I know how going to the doctor needlessly raises health care costs, or perhaps it is all three. This is my way of being independent I guess.

I suggest reading the entire article, but below is something I found extremely interesting, and at the same time very disappointing. You’ll see what I mean (emphasis mine):

The choices are especially clear in cardiology. In 2006, for example, according to data provided by the American Heart Association, 1.3 million coronary angioplasty procedures were performed at an average cost of $48,399 each, or more than $60 billion; and 448,000 coronary bypass operations were performed at a cost of $99,743 each, or more than $44 billion. In other words, Americans spent more than $100 billion in 2006 for these two procedures alone.

Despite these costs, a randomized controlled trial published in April 2007 in The New England Journal of Medicine found that angioplasties and stents do not prolong life or even prevent heart attacks in stable patients (i.e., 95% of those who receive them). Coronary bypass surgery prolongs life in less than 3% of patients who receive it. So, Medicare and other insurers and individuals pay billions for surgical procedures like angioplasty and bypass surgery that are usually dangerous, invasive, expensive and largely ineffective. Yet they pay very little — if any money at all — for integrative medicine approaches that have been proven to reverse and prevent most chronic diseases that account for at least 75% of health-care costs. The INTERHEART study, published in September 2004 in The Lancet, followed 30,000 men and women on six continents and found that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease.

That bears repeating: The disease that accounts for more premature deaths and costs Americans more than any other illness is almost completely preventable simply by changing diet and lifestyle. And the same lifestyle changes that can prevent or even reverse heart disease also help prevent or reverse many other chronic diseases as well. Chronic pain is one of the major sources of worker’s compensation claims costs, yet studies show that it is often susceptible to acupuncture and Qi Gong. Herbs usually have far fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.

While I do not necessarily trust our government or those making money from health care to change anytime soon, we can make healthy lifestyle changes RIGHT NOW that could save lives, and millions of dollars, now and in the future. I am already making dietary and activity changes that benefit my heart and circulatory system (for example, exercising regularly, eating foods high in Omega-9 fats, taking/eating fish oil, which are high in Omega-3 fats, etc). Maybe our new year’s resolution as a country should be to take cheap, effective, and side-effect free “integrative medicine” seriously, to begin to tackle our out-of-control health care costs.

I Like Them, Just Not Enough to…

A co-worker told a story today about a child who assured her mother that she liked brussel sprouts. The mother enthusiastically served them as a side dish at dinner, but noticed they were left on her daughter’s plate as she was clearing the table. She gently asked her daughter, “Didn’t you say you liked brussel sprouts?”

“Yes,” the girl replied, “just not enough to eat them.”

This story made me laugh when he told it this morning and it also got me thinking. While we often say that we value something, how much do we really value it? Enough to change? Enough to live it?

When it comes to health and fitness, it seems too many of us are like the little girl. We really like health, wellness, and fitness, but just not enough to actually embrace them and practice them. Too often health becomes about eating some fad food or trying some fad diet. Wellness becomes about reading a few articles or from a corporate standpoint sending a few token emails. Fitness is reduced to buying a new music player and having the right clothes.

I don’t want to sound too preachy or judgmental. In fact, I’ve been one of the biggest offenders and a pretty big hypocrite. I’ve been “into” health for 15 years (I started at age 15) and could tell you a lot about diet, health, wellness, and fitness. And, oh yeah, it was an important part of my identity. Except, I didn’t practice what I preached. I was the thrice divorced marriage counselor or the environmentalist whose company polluted the rivers. So, while I try to avoid being judgmental, I feel that I need to speak on the topic.

I’m all for concrete ways to change, so here are some suggestions to go from “liking” the brussel sprouts to actually “liking them enough to eat them.”

1. Be food smart- Don’t embrace the latest fad diet, but build eating habits that are sustainable for a lifetime. If a diet seems to good to be true, it is. And ask yourself, “could I do this for the next 50 years?” If the answer is no, you should probably move on.

2. Create a healthy lifestyle- This is related to number one. I always think back to a friend’s dad who lost a lot of weight on a low carb diet and said how happy he was he lost the weight so he could go back to eating normal again. I have a hunch he gained it all back. If you change your lifestyle to one of health and fitness, you’ll be more likely to lose the weight and keep it off.

3. Exercise is for life; learn to love it- My stepdaughter, fatigued by loads of homework, was shocked to learn that you never stop going to school. She thought somehow when you left high school and college it all ended. Too many people take that view with exercise and see it as a temporary unpleasantness to be endured. In reality, it has to be an important part of a healthy lifestyle…for life. That’s why you need to find activities you love or learn to love them.

4. Substance first, style second- Basically, if you look and smell good enough to avoid hitting the showers after a workout, get back to work. You’re not at the gym, the track, the club, etc. to look like a pampered prince or princess. You’re there to lose weight, build muscle, and/or get fit. You should be sweaty and smell at least a little raw. Crank up the intensity at the gym to earn that hot body you can show off nice and clean at a later time.

So, there are a few suggestions to actually live a healthy lifestyle. It takes work, but liking it enough to actually do it is worth it in the end.

48

I exercise because I am self-motivated, and I enjoy it, but occasionally there are the little recognitions that show me that I really am working hard and doing my body a favor. One such example is at the doctor last week when I went for a check-up.

The nurse took my pulse. “48,” she said, “that can’t be right; that is too low; let’s take it again.” She took it again and got the same number. “Do you work out a lot or something?” I smiled and said yes. The doctor came in and examined my breathing and also listened for my pulse as she did it. “Your heart is very strong. How often do you work out?” I told her and she told me to keep it up. A lower resting pulse rate is (usually) a sign of physical fitness, and athletes typically are in the 40-60 range. So I came home from the doctor rather excited. My blood pressure was also normal (which was not the case when I was overweight). Blood tests are due back in a few days.

Out With the Skis

I finally made my maiden cross country skiing voyage yesterday and it was a great experience. I blazed my own trail so it wasn’t speedy, but it was a great workout. But, it was more than just the workout. On an absolutely cold and snowy day (we ended up getting 10 inches) I was not cooped up inside, but was out in nature with the brisk air in my face creating paths. I was alone with my thoughts and had inspiring music on the mp3 player. It was pretty wonderful.

Recent Employee Health Screening

I’ve mentioned it before that my employee recently started a wellness program in order to benefit employee health (and, to be honest, save money; not that anything is wrong with that). One of the first ideas was to conduct a day of health screenings for all employees paid for by the company. Here are my thoughts on the day.

The Good- People were able to get tests that normally would involve scheduling an appointment and at a minimum shelling out for a copay. Now, they could do it at work and for free. Also, the tests were fairly diverse covering cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure. Other aspects of health were analyzed such as weight, body fat, etc. I’m sure this was a wakeup call for many people and it put health on their radar. The nurses chatted with all employees about their results and gave out pamphlets. All very good.

The Bad- The weight/fat measurements were, in my opinion, faulty, which skewed the results and recommendations. First, they used the BMI, which, while good for the average person actually penalizes success in health and fitness. See my previous post for more on this. Second, they use the bioelectrical impedance analysis to measure body fat percentage, which is one of the least accurate measuring techniques (as was evident by how much that day’s measurement differed from the readings of people’s home models according to the conversations). So, people were given health advice based on possibly faulty readings and indicators.

The Ugly- The results many people got. Granted, some would fall under the good and bad too. But, I’m sure for many people this day was a necessary wakeup call to the risks they face if they do not change, which is a good example of how the ugly can lead to good.

What’s next? Now, the wellness committee (of which I co-chair) is going to find ways to educate people on their results and ways to improve. For example, my HDL was a little low. I researched it and am going to take Niacin which, according to what I’ve read, is very effective. I also want to discuss with the committee ways to get more accurate readings for next year.

Overall, I’d consider the day a huge success, but also something we can build on.

Health Benefits of Green Space

sun room with view of lawn

When Jennifer and I decided to buy a house, one thing I insisted on was a decent-sized yard with some trees. In my neighborhood, the houses are spaced far apart, and it feels like we are in a country development, which means there is plenty of greenery around us. I am drawn to exercising in nature, and do it frequently. Now we may know the reason:  serene greenery improves health. The article Three Studies on the Health Benefits of Living Near Greenery lists three health benefits of living near greenery, all backed by scientific studies. They are:

– More greenery narrows the health gap between rich and poor

– More greenery lowers asthma rates among children

– More greenery lessens obesity among children

Read the entire article for details about the studies. This is really cool. It helps us make a case for adding more green to our neighborhoods!

Image of our sunroom, with view of green space

Bull@#!* Muscle Indicator

My employer, in line with its emphasis on wellness, did a health evaluation yesterday. It was a very successful day and included cholesterol tests, weight, glucose, etc. I will blog more on this later. However, the primary way they determined healthy weight was through the BMI or body mass index. It is simple, you plug in your height and your weight and it gives you a number that determines whether you are low, normal, preobese (i.e. overweight), or obese.

The problem is, it’s too simple. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are athletic or actively lift weights, the system breaks down. A recent study showed that according to the BMI over half of professional basketball players are overweight and four were obese! Likewise, Tom Brady (Patriots QB), George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Will Smith are all overweight and Tom Cruise and the Rock are obese! All according to the BMI anyway.

So, why I am I going on about this now? Because the BMI skewed my whole wellness profile and now my weight is listed as a concern even though if I got to BMI’s “normal” range I would look gaunt and lose my muscular, athletic physique. Fortunately, I’m on the wellness committee and will address this issue in the future.

Perhaps BMI should stand for Bull@#!* muscle indicator.

Fresh Just in Time for the New Year

I can’t get a machine at the YMCA and everybody working out around me has new workout clothes so…it must be the new year!

This is a perfect time for us to debut our new Weight Loss Ideas and Resources page here at Life in Your Years. The current focus of this brand-spanking new site is the weight loss and fitness tips that Jonathan and I compiled on Life in Your Years (they have been significantly expanded for this new project). So check out my weight loss tips, and Jonathan’s weight loss tips as well. These come from years of experience (do you know how many times I have lost those 30 pounds?? I am a pro by now trust me). And yes, that is my bicep on the logo.

Also, while Life in Your Years is still developing, I also now host the Every Vitamin Page at Life in Your Years, which includes historical research about every vitamin or pseudo-vitamin that ever existed (Wikipedia even uses it as a source…is that good or bad?). I hope everyone is having a great New Year!