Revisiting the Blue Zones

My great aunt Barbara is 98 years old. She lives alone, still plays bridge, does her own shopping, and really seems to enjoy her life. She's fairly agile, and one would have a hard time calling her frail. She gets to enjoy 3 generations of descendants in her family. She really enjoys her life.

While none of knows how long we will live, I suspect most of us would agree that we would like to live whatever years we have with a minimal degree of disability, pain, and limitation. We'd like to live our years as healthy as possible.

If that's true for you, you need to know about the Blue Zones.

What are Blue Zones?

I think this research is really cool. Dr. Dan Buettner and his team have identified 5 areas in the world where people seem to live, on average, significantly longer and healthier than the rest of the world, and they have studied what makes these people unique. The story goes that they originally circled these 5 areas on the map in blue marker, hence the name Blue Zones...

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Who are Your People? (Or, Creating Your Own Microculture)

Who is Your Tribe?

"You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with."

This quote has been attributed to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, and I believe there is a truth to it. The people you spend time with greatly influence your behavior - both in positive ways as well as negative ones. Your sister who always seems to say the right thing when you are down, to help you get back on your feet, that is positive. Your brother-in-law who keeps encouraging you to eat one more hotdog after you already declined ("C'mon, it's the weekend, live a little") is a negative influence.

So what does this have to do with health? Stay with me for just a moment.

Your World

Culture can be defined as "the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group." We can think of human culture, American culture, or even culture built around sports teams or dog breeds. Any time a group of people like to spend time together and have a...

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How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Metabolism

Sleep is Important for Your Metabolism

It might not be a shock to hear this, as the importance of sleep has been in the news more frequently, but proper sleep is important for your metabolism. Short sleep makes it harder for you to lose weight, and can increase insulin resistance and cause glucose levels to rise. This week I'll highlight two hormonal changes that occur when you don't get enough sleep - increases in ghrelin and decreases in leptin.

Ghrelin and Leptin

Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones discovered since 1994 which have important effects on metabolism. For our discussion, think of leptin as a hormone that signals when you have sufficient energy - caloric intake and fat stores - and works to decrease appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the stomach and is known to increase hunger.

In a classic study, researchers studied 12 healthy young men, and found that when they slept 4 hours nightly for 2 nights, compared with sleeping 10 hours, they had decreased...

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When Is The Best Day to Plant a Tree?

healthy lifestyle Oct 22, 2020

My father, before he passed away, often said things like "if I only knew then what I know now." He might be giving advice about working with a difficult boss, navigating the dating world, or taking care of his body.

It seems true in life that as we make progress on our journey through life, we make discoveries that would have been exceedingly valuable if we had taken action on them year prior. 

Prevention

You may have heard the adage that starts, "When is the best day to plant a tree?" Answer: 20 years ago. When is the second best day to plant a tree? Today.

This week's thoughts were prompted by a study that showed the rates of 6 obesity-related cancers are on the rise in young adults. Specifically, the rates of multiple myeloma, colorectal cancer, gallbladder cancer, kidney cancer, uterine cancer, and pancreatic cancer were increasing in adults ages 25-49 years old. While the exact cause of the increase is not known, one hypothesis is that the rising rates of obesity...

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Success Leaves Clues - Lessons from the National Weight Control Registry

"Success Leaves Clues"

I'm borrowing a quote this week, from personal development speaker Jim Rohn. The long version is “Success leaves clues. Be a better observer of the winners and the losers, those who are doing well and those who are falling behind. Take mental notes and say: ‘I’m going to adjust what I’m doing based on what I see.'"

By studying those who have already gone where you desire to go, you can "shortcut" the process and learn from their success (and their mistakes) so as to speed up your progress.

You may have heard that losing weight and keeping it off is difficult. In fact, there is a whole movement called Health at Every Size that states that we should stop encouraging folks to lose weight and instead focus on health. I do agree with the sentiment that we should not stigmatize overweight, and that people of any size can get healthier through nutrition, movement, and sleep, even if they do not actually lose weight....

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Are You Living By Design or Default?

healthy lifestyle mindset Oct 07, 2020

The Brain-Behavior Gap

Have you ever had one of those moments where you stop all of a sudden and wonder, "when did I stop doing that?" I know meditation is good for me personally (I tend toward racing thoughts), but the habit of meditation has never been very "sticky" for me. Recently I had a busy week, and somewhere in the midst of it, my meditation habit fizzled out.

Do you have a recent experience like this? If so, let me share some insight from Kyra Bobinet, MD, a researcher at Stanford who I heard discuss behavior change on the Sigma Nutrition Radio podcast.

She tells a story of interviewing a woman in a weight loss program who was excited about the progress she was making, but then said, "I know what I should do and eat, I just don't know why I don't do it." That is a thought I've heard repeated in my clinic over and over through the years. Anyway, this thought motivated Dr. Bobinet to delve deep into what she termed the brain-behavior gap. That is, the gap that...

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Can You Use Food to Decrease Inflammation? A Look at Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Nutrition and Energy

In last week's post, we focused on energy production, and one of the points introduced was this:

  • Think about inflammation and healing. Your body works best when its repair system is functioning well, and excess inflammation can impair the healing process. Excess inflammation is associated with many adverse health outcomes including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Ways you can help:
    • Choose unsaturated fat over saturated fat (there is controversy about saturated fat currently but the scientific literature clearly supports that unsaturated fat has greater health benefit)
    • Choose quality carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, whole grains)
    • Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I received several inquires about omega-3 fatty acids, so let's take a deeper look.

One way to improve your nutrition, and therefore your health, is to simply start thinking about food quality, and looking for ways to "upgrade" what you eat....

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Where Do We Get Our Energy?

I felt like I'd been unplugged

In 2018 I had surgery to repair a damaged leg artery. I was recovering nicely for the first week, and then something changed. It was like I had been unplugged. For 2 days, I could barely get out of bed. It was hard to keep my eyes open. The trip downstairs to the couch was so taxing I'd nap for hours. I recall wondering if I'd ever get back to normal.

To this day, I don't know what happened. After 2 days, my energy improved and I got back to recovering from the surgery. When I think back, I feel gratitude that my energy was restored and 

But what  if you have fatigue and it's not getting better? What if you're not recovering? I frequently evaluate and treat people for whom fatigue is a daily struggle.

Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints that lead people to see a physician. Unfortunately, an explanation for fatigue is not always available, even after thoughtful analysis and testing. If you are experiencing fatigue, I...

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Gut Bacteria and Your Blood Sugar

Uncategorized Sep 17, 2020

The Microbiome

Current estimates for the number of bacteria comprising the "microbiome," or bacteria living in the human body (mostly in the colon), suggest that there are 38 trillion bacteria that live in or on you. That number is larger than the 30 trillion human cells that comprise your body. Yes, there are more bacteria than human cells! These bacteria express genes, make proteins, use energy, and contribute in many ways to the function (and dysfunction) of your body.

I've been interested in microbiome research for several years, and I believe the current science is strong enough to state that there are healthy and unhealthy changes in the microbiome that can occur within you, that these changes can impact your health in positive or negative ways, and that paying attention to "gut health" is worthwhile as you pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Interesting Studies

I wanted to briefly highlight 2 studies of interest. In the first, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found...

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What Is The Best Diet? Results of the DIETFITS Study

What is the Best Diet?

I know, we keep coming back to this question. I get asked this question frequently. I think that's cause lots of people are frustrated with the glut of conflicting information available, and want to know how to get results.

I wish there were a quick answer. I will say, when it comes to healthy lifestyle, I've be come obsessed with helping people understand what will produce the results they want in their own bodies. We all grow tired of the same advice of "just eat less and exercise more." While there is a certain truth to this statement, for most people such advice does not lead to changes that actually produce benefit. Something is missing.

Low-fat vs. Low-carb

Low-carb is an approach that works well for many people. Low-fat diets have fallen out of favor, although traditional low-fat diets are not the same as healthy low-fat diets that don't rely on processed foods (think vegetarian approaches that emphasize plants and whole grains).

So,...

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