Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Protecting Your Longevity against Heart Disease and Cancer:

Emphasis on Diet and Exercise



     There are no guarantees in life as we all know. But a good path to increase one’s longevity is to follow a prudent plan of healthy choices in the areas of diet (what to eat) and how best to exercise (what to do, activity wise).

Now most adults already are aware of these general statements, but often are not sure of exactly what healthy choices are, or how best to exercise. The purpose of this Blog is to more narrowly get specific as to answers needed, at least based on current research.

But there are three main obstacles to one’s desire to live a long life. Genetics is one, that is, what we inherit in our genes. The second biggest obstacle to a long life is disease. Many diseases can affect our lives but the two primary ones are Heart Disease and Cancer. A third obstacle to our success lies with the advertising industry. This later obstacle will be taken up in the final comments section of this Blog.

The following data sheds light on these diseases and comes from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):


Heart Disease in the United States

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.

These statistics relate to a barrage of specific ailments under the heading of heart disease. They include:

Americans at Risk for Heart Disease

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. As an aside, the risk factor of smoking is something people can absolutely control, if they want to. Here are some sobering statistics related to smoking:

Cigarette smoking causes about one of every five deaths in the United States each year. Cigarette smoking is estimated to cause the following.


  • More than 480,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke)
  • 278,544 deaths annually among men (including deaths from secondhand smoke) 201,773 deaths annually among women (including deaths from secondhand smoke)

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use


Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer in the United States

  • In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.
  • The most common cancers (listed in descending order according to estimated new cases in 2018) are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, melanoma of the skin, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer.
  • The number of new cases of cancer (cancer incidence) is 439.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 cases).
  • The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 163.5 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 deaths).
  • Cancer mortality is higher among men than women (196.8 per 100,000 men and 139.6 per 100,000 women). When comparing groups based on race/ethnicity and sex, cancer mortality is highest in African American men (239.9 per 100,000) and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander women (88.3 per 100,000).
  • In 2016, there were an estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. The number of cancer survivors is expected to increase to 20.3 million by 2026.
  • Approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2013–2015 data).
  • In 2017, an estimated 15,270 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,790 died of the disease.
  • Estimated national expenditures for cancer care in the United States in 2017 were $147.3 billion. In future years, costs are likely to increase as the population ages and cancer prevalence increases. Costs are also likely to increase as new, and often more expensive, treatments are adopted as standards of care.

Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer Worldwide

  • Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2012, there were 14.1 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths worldwide.
  • 57% of new cancer cases in 2012 occurred in less developed regions of the world that include Central America and parts of Africa and Asia; 65% of cancer deaths also occurred in these regions.
  • The number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030.


Healthy Food Choices

I’m not here to describe different types of recipes that would make use of the kinds of foods I’m about to suggest for a healthy diet. Instead I’ve chosen to describe the best foods to do three things: (1) help to prevent heart disease, (2) cancer, and (3) promote healthy living in general.

I’d like to point out what I discovered while doing research for this blog. I learned early on that some of the recommended foods in one area were identical to other areas as well. Here are the results of my research:


To Prevent Heart Disease


Leafy Green Vegetables

Whole Grains



Fatty Fish and Fish Oil



Dark Chocolate





Olive Oil


Green Tea


To Prevent Cancer





Onions and Leeks



Green Tea


Water or a once in a while beer

Brazil Nuts



Dark Chocolate


Foods for a Healthy Life


Brightly colored fruit and vegetables

Dark Chocolate

Oily Fish

Green Tea

Olive oil



The Coffee Bean


Best Foods for Longevity


All of the Above



The following article was published in the Business Insider by Erin Brodwin, September 8, 2018. It’s my opinion that this article will cover the best plan of exercise for most people. I’ve been employing both cardio and weight training for some time now. Detective Hunter (played by Fred Dyer) used to say on the TV show Hunter in the 1990s—“Works for me.”

“2 forms of exercise are the best way to stave off the effects of aging — here’s how to incorporate them into your life Sep 8, 2018, 8:19 PM

If you’re searching for an all-natural way to lift your mood, preserve muscle tone, and protect your brain against the decline that comes with aging, look no further than the closest mirror.

One of the most powerful means of reaping these benefits is exercise — and in many cases, you already have everything you need to get it: a body.

As we age, two forms of exercise are the most important to focus on: aerobic exercise, or cardio, which gets your heart pumping and sweat flowing, and strength training, which helps keep aging muscles from dwindling over time.

And most of the time, they don’t require any fancy equipment or expensive classes.

Read on to find out how to incorporate both forms of fitness into your life.

Aerobic exercises like jogging may help reverse some heart damage from normal aging.

Many of us become less active as we age. Over time, this can lead some muscles in the heart to stiffen.

One of those at-risk muscles is in the left chamber of the heart, a section that plays a key role in supplying the body with freshly oxygenated blood.

A recent study split 53 adults into two groups, one of which did two years of supervised exercise four to five days a week while the other did yoga and balance exercises.

At the end of the study, published in January in the journal Circulation, the higher-intensity exercisers had seen significant improvements in their heart’s performance, suggesting that some stiffening in the heart can be prevented or even reversed with regular cardio.

“Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past 5 years, this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life,” Benjamin Levine, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern who wrote the study, said in a statement.

Walking, another form of cardio, could help reduce the risk of heart failure — a key contributor to heart disease.

Intense cardio activities like running or jogging aren’t the only types of movement that may have protective benefits for the heart as we age.

In a study published in September in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers took a look at the physical activity levels of nearly 140,000 women aged 50 to 79 and found surprisingly salient links between walking and a reduced risk of heart failure, a condition when the heart stops pumping blood as it should. Heart failure is a key contributor to heart disease, the US’ leading cause of death.

For their work, the researchers looked at data from a 14-year women’s health study that documented heart failure and exercise levels.

When the researchers dove deeper, they found that the women who walked regularly were 25% less likely to experience heart failure than their peers who didn’t exercise. In fact, for every extra 30-45 minutes a woman walked, her risk of a failed heart dropped an average of 9%, the scientists concluded.

This is pretty important from a public health standpoint, given the poor prognosis this type of heart failure has once it’s present,” Michael La Monte, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health, said in a statement.”


Strength-training moves like tai chi are best for preserving muscles from age-related decline.

Strength or resistance training can take many forms, but it typically involves a series of movements geared toward building or preserving muscle.

Tai chi, the Chinese martial art that combines a series of flowing movements, is one form of strength training. The exercise is performed slowly and gently, with a high degree of focus and attention paid to breathing deeply.

Since practitioners go at their own pace, tai chi is accessible for a wide variety of people, regardless of age or fitness level.

Tai chi “is particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older,” I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a recent health report called “Starting to Exercise.”

There may be a powerful link between regular cardio, like swimming and walking, and a lower risk of dementia.

A study published in March in the journal Neurology suggested that women who were physically fit in middle age were roughly 88% less likely to develop dementia — defined as a decline in memory severe enough to interfere with daily life — than their peers who were only moderately fit.

Starting in 1968, neuroscientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied 191 women whose average age was 50. First, they assessed their cardiovascular health using a cycling test and grouped them into three categories: fit, moderately fit, or unfit.

Over the next four decades, the researchers regularly screened the women for dementia. In that time, 32% of the unfit women and a quarter of the moderately fit women were diagnosed with the condition, while the rate was only 5% among the fit women.

However, the research showed only a link between fitness and decreased dementia risk — it did not prove that one caused the other. Still, it builds on several other studies that suggest a powerful tie between exercise and brain health.

Activities like cycling may also protect your immune system from some age-related decline.

For a small study published in March in the journal Aging Cell, researchers looked at 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79, comparing them with 75 people of a similar age who rarely or never exercised.

The cyclists were found to have more muscle mass and strength and lower levels of body fat and cholesterol than the sedentary adults.

The athletic adults also appeared to have healthier and younger-looking immune systems, at least when it came to an organ called the thymus that’s responsible for generating key immune cells called T cells.

In healthy people, the thymus begins to shrink and T-cell production starts to drop off at around age 20.

The study found that the thymus glands of the older cyclists looked as if they belonged to younger people — their bodies were producing just as many T cells as would be expected for a young person.

“We now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer but not healthier,” Janet Lord, the director of the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said in a statement.

Other types of strength training can include moves like planks and squats.

At its most basic, strength training involves using weight to create resistance against the pull of gravity. That weight can be your own body, elastic bands, free weights like barbells or dumbbells, or weighted ankle cuffs.

Research suggests you can use heavy weights for fewer reps or lighter weights for more reps to build stronger, more sturdy muscles.

Chris Jordan, the exercise physiologist who came up with the viral seven-minute workout — officially called the Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout — told Business Insider that healthy adults should incorporate resistance training on two or three of the four or five days a week they work out.

Cardio workouts may also improve the look and feel of your skin.

A study from researchers at McMaster University found that people over 40 who regularly did cardio tended to have healthier skin than their sedentary peers. The overall composition of the regular exercisers’ skin was more comparable to that of 20- to 30-year-olds.

It’s not yet clear why our workouts appear to play a role in skin health, but the researchers found elevated levels of a substance critical to cell health called IL-15 in skin samples of participants after exercise — perhaps shedding light on why cardio can improve the look of our skin.

Aerobic workouts may guard against age-related decline because of reduced brain connectivity.

As we age, the brain — like any other organ — begins to work less efficiently, so signs of decline start to surface. Our memory might not be quite as sharp as it once was, for example.

But older people who develop Alzheimer’s disease often first enter a stage known as mild cognitive impairment, which involves more serious problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment.

A study published in May looked at adults with MCI between the ages of 60 and 88 and had them walk for 30 minutes four days a week for 12 weeks.

The researchers found strengthened connectivity in a region of the brain where weakened connections have been linked with memory loss. That development, they said, “may possibly increase cognitive reserve” — but more studies are needed.

Cardio may also be tied to increases in the size of brain areas linked to memory, but more research is needed.


A study of older women with MCI found a tie between aerobic exercise and an increase in the size of the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory.

For the study, 86 women between 70 and 80 years old with MCI were randomly assigned to do one of three types of training twice a week for six months: aerobic (like walking and swimming), resistance (like weight lifting), or balance.

Only the women in the aerobic group were found to have significant increases in hippocampal volume, but more studies are needed to determine what effect this has on cognitive performance.”


Final Comments


Most people know what is needed to promote the probability of living a long life. However, it takes a real commitment and motivation to make it happen. But even people who have the best of intentions fall off the health wagon from time to time. That’s normal human behavior. Most people blame themselves for failure to be perfect in diet and exercise. However, don’t beat yourself up too much over occasionally being less than perfect. I say this because you and everyone else trying to improve their health have an enemy out there. As I mentioned at the beginning of my Blog there are many obstacles to your success beyond your own occasional lapses in motivation.

One significant obstacle relates to the business and advertising industry. It appears that the constant onslaught of advertisers and commercial entities, whose motives are to sell products and make money, try to promote to consumers that their products are good for them no matter how fattening or injurious to our health they might actually be.

Commercials on TV have a choke hold over all of us. As a defense mechanism, I make regular use of my TV remote to pass over commercials. Try taping your programs in advance so you can later run through the commercials without listening to them. Granted, some commercials can be very entertaining but most don’t deserve any attention at all since most advertisers are just “bullshit” artists. Like a thief they just want to remove that wad of cash from your wallet or bank account. Your health and well-being at best would be lucky to be a tertiary concern to the advertising industry. In reality, it’s not even an afterthought!

Culture and society often works at cross purposes. That is the reality for now. This only makes it even harder for you to succeed in living a long life. I say best of luck to you in overcoming obstacles in your efforts to live a healthy life and, indeed, a long life.

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A Sociological Look at Frailty and Aging

[A Three-Part Series]

Part II


In Part II of this blog I am focusing on exercise and its impact on frailty and aging. Hopefully you are already in some program where you are exercising on a consistent basis. If not, then what follows in the way of research should give you all the motivation you need.


To be sure, many older Americans continue to lead active and productive lives. However, the nation’s increasing longevity is bringing new challenges for health and social programs. Americans’ life span in 2009 was 78.5 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three decades more life than in 1900, when the average was only 47.3 years.

“We’ve added 30 years to the human life span, which is an unparalleled success story for public health, medicine and education,” Fried says. “As a result, it is critically important that we help these people who are living longer stay healthy.”

Of those living alone or with families, not in nursing homes or hospitals, about 4 percent of men and 7 percent of women older than 65 were frail, according to the parameters used by Fried and her colleagues in the 2001 study. The researchers, who studied more than 5,000 adults aged 65 and older, also found that the chances of frailty rose sharply after age 85, to about 25 percent. These numbers, the most recent data available, reflected conditions prior to 2001, and leaving “an important but unanswered question as to whether the frequency of frailty is the same, increasing or decreasing” today, Fried said.

Also, women are more likely than men to be frail, possibly because women typically outlive men and “start out with less muscle mass than men and, once they lose it, they may cross the frailty threshold more rapidly than men,” Fried says.

Stephanie Studenski, principal investigator at the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at the University of Pittsburgh, has been practicing in the geriatrics field for more than 30 years and sees “older people across the full spectrum, from frail 60-year-olds to vigorous 95-year-olds,” she says.

For the younger group, who usually are frail because of multiple chronic conditions, “sometimes medications can worsen frailty with their side effects, so adjustments can help,” she says. ” I tell these patients I can often make you better, give you more reserve and increase your resilience although not totally cure you. We can’t change from black to white, but often can push the black into gray.”

For those in their 80s or older, however, the causes of frailty are sometimes less obvious.

Barbara Resnick, a geriatric nurse-practitioner in Baltimore, remembers an 85-year-old woman, living at home, who “stopped going out to dinner with friends; she would say she was too tired and didn’t have the energy. She wasn’t walking out to get her mail anymore. She was eating less and losing weight rapidly.”

Her adult daughter became concerned and brought her mother to Resnick “and asked us to fix the problem,” recalls Resnick, who chairs the board of the American Geriatrics Society.

But there often is no quick fix. Clinicians checked the woman for underlying disease — they found none — and adjusted her medications. They also urged the woman to increase her physical activity, Resnick says. “That’s really the best way to manage frailty: Engage as much as you can; optimize what you can do. What’s important is resilience.”

Similarly, Kaufman recalls “a wonderful gentleman” in his 80s who had been doing quite well until his wife fell, broke her hip and had to enter a nursing home. The couple had been married 60 years. After she left, he began to slow down physically, and he stopped eating.

“He just gave up,” Kaufman says.” There was no one specific thing. But within a few months, he died. What do you put on a death certificate? If it was a pediatric case, we’d say ‘failure to thrive.’ He died of frailty.”

Researchers also are studying the impact of moderate physical exercise in preventing the most powerful indicator of frailty: slow walking speed. An ongoing study of 1600 people between the ages of 70 and 89 is comparing the effects of a moderate-intensity walking and weightlifting program to a program of health education only.

The exercise group walks for 30 minutes several times a week and uses ankle weights to improve lower-body strength. The education group receives information on diet, managing medications and other health-related matters, but not about physical exercise.

A smaller, earlier phase of the study suggested that physical activity was key, with a 26-percent reduction in walking problems among those who worked out regularly.

“You don’t have to go to an exercise program at the gym,” Kaufman says. “Clean your house. Walk to the mailbox to get your mail, or work in your garden. The greatest common denominator of frailty is muscle loss and slowing of gait, and it’s amazing what physical exercise can do.” Walston agrees. “Growing old may be inevitable, but growing frail is not,” he says.

Benefits of Exercise

One of the Healthiest Things You Can Do

Like most people you’ve probably heard that physical activity and exercise are good for you. In fact, being physically active on a regular basis is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Studies have shown that exercise provides many health benefits and that older adults can gain a lot by staying physically active. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging.

Being physically active can also help you stay strong and fit enough to keep doing the things you like to do as you get older. Making exercise and physical activity a regular part of your life can improve your health and help you maintain your independence as you age.

Be as Active as Possible

Regular physical activity and exercise are important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. Staying physically active and exercising regularly can produce long-term health benefits and even improve health for some older people who already have diseases and disabilities. That’s why health experts say that older adults should aim to be as active as possible.

Being Inactive Can Be Risky

Although exercise and physical activity are among the healthiest things you can do for yourself, some older adults are reluctant to exercise. Some are afraid that exercise will be too hard or that physical activity will harm them. Others might think they have to join a gym or have special equipment. Yet, studies show that “taking it easy” is risky. For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they’ve aged. It’s usually because they’re not active. Lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.

Prevent or Delay Disease

Scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. In some cases, exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions. For example, studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems, or difficulty walking.

To learn about exercise and diabetes, see “Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes.” from Go4Life®, the exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging.

Manage Stress, Improve Mood

Regular, moderate physical activity can help manage stress and improve your mood. And, being active on a regular basis may help reduce feelings of depression. Studies also suggest that exercise can improve or maintain some aspects of cognitive function, such as your ability to shift quickly between tasks, plan an activity, and ignore irrelevant information.

Some people may wonder what the difference is between physical activity and exercise. Physical activities are activities that get your body moving such as gardening, walking the dog and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Exercise is a form of physical activity that is specifically planned, structured, and repetitive such as weight training, tai chi, or an aerobics class. Including both in your life will provide you with health benefits that can help you feel better and enjoy life more as you age.

Strength Training for a Healthy Heart

Regular exercise is a critical part of staying healthy. People who are active live longer and feel better. But what form of exercise is best? The standard teaching has been 30 minutes per day, five days a week of cardiovascular training, and three days a week of strength training. However, there has been a recent breakthrough in training approaches that focus on strength training for cardiovascular health.

The function of the cardiovascular system is to pump oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body and to remove waste products like carbon dioxide. The heart is a powerful muscle that contracts, expands, and hypertrophies, as other muscles do when worked. As the heart gets stronger, blood pressure and heart rate go down because the heart gets more efficient and can pump out more blood per beat.

Strength training, often called resistance training, refers to exercises that require muscles to exert a force against some form of resistance. The most common form of strength training is lifting weights, e.g., free weights, machines, elastic bands, body weight, or any other form of resistance. These types of exercises are known for developing and toning muscles, helping to develop and maintain the integrity of bones, increasing metabolism by increasing lean muscle mass, building stronger connective tissue and greater joint stability, and decreasing body fat. Strength training is beneficial for everyone. It is especially beneficial as we grow older because muscle mass naturally diminishes with age, and strength training will help prevent this muscle loss and rebuild what may have been lost.

Strength training as a component of a cardiac rehabilitation program is well-recognized by clinicians; however, it is now just coming to the forefront of preventive medicine for its profound effect in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease. There have been several research studies on the effect of high-intensity, short rest weight training and its effect on cardiovascular health and fitness.

The findings are remarkable as strength training has not generally been thought to improve cardiovascular fitness. Aerobic activities that increase heart rate and make one breathe harder— walking, biking, and jogging—have typically been recommended for cardiovascular fitness. We are now learning that maximum increases in strength and cardiovascular fitness can be obtained from one type of exercise—strength training. Properly applied, strength training simultaneously engages both the muscular system and the cardiovascular system. Recommended intervals are three to five times per week for 20 to 30 minutes at a moderate intensity-level, or two to three times per week for 15 to 20 minutes at a high-intensity level.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says that for healthy adults, a regular program of weight training not only increases muscle strength and endurance, it also improves heart and lung function, enhances glucose metabolism, reduces coronary disease risk factors, and boosts well-being. When our muscles are stronger, there is less demand placed on the heart. This allows the lungs to process more oxygen with less effort, the heart to pump more blood with fewer beats, and the blood supply directed to your muscles to increase.

Strength training provides numerous health benefits. It can be very powerful in preventing and reducing the signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and mild depression.

Additionally, it can help individuals recover from and prevent injury, improve endurance, flexibility, stamina, balance, and coordination. The idea is simple: strength is good. According to the AHA, strength increases “functional capacity,” which is the ability to perform daily activities. Being physically strong will decrease the strain that day-to-day tasks such as lifting, places on the heart.

Prior to beginning any form of exercise program, it’s important to see your physician for a complete physical examination to ensure you are healthy enough to begin an exercise regimen without risk. Share with your doctor your health goals and exercise plan, and seek his/her recommendations, especially those related to nutrition and smoking cessation.

Remember: regular strength training does more than just build better, stronger muscles—it builds a better, stronger, healthier body.

Strength Training for a Healthy Heart is an EHE International publication and is reprinted and distributed with its expressed written permission. EHE International, 10 Rockefeller Plaza, 4th Floor, New York, New York 10020; 212.332.3738; Information@EHEINTL.com.


Part II provided a general overview of the impact of exercise on frailty and aging. As everyone should recall the late Jack LaLanne was the ultimate guru of exercise and fitness. Jack was 96 years old when he came down with pneumonia and passed away. I can’t guarantee that you’ll live to be 96 years of age. But who knows!!! I’m not being facetious. Maybe with an excellent diet and exercise program, you’ll look back one day to a previous decade when you finally reached 100 years of age. Life is great! Even our “bad” days are “good” days. Why? Because we are alive, silly. Do everything you possibly can to live as long as you can. And while you’re doing that—live well and thrive. Enjoy the journey!

In Part III ahead I present data that summarizes major advancements in our knowledge of the impact of exercise on Frailty and Aging.

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It won’t be long before 2015 is upon us when people tend to make all sorts of resolutions for the New Year. Two popular resolutions are to lose weight and get into shape. Six weeks after the midnight clock turns twelve, most New Year’s resolutions are usually forgotten, or people simply give up making the effort.


Part I of this blog series will include: (1) an honest discussion of why a joint simultaneous program of diet and exercise is needed in order to really succeed at losing weight and get into shape, (2) discussion of the aging process and health, (3) self-evaluation and preparation, and (4) dieting basics.


Part II of this blog series will include: (1) cardio and warm-up exercises, (2) weight-training, (3) flexibility, stretching, and core exercises, (4) cool-down exercises, and (5) supplementation. This will be followed by a summary of the entire program.



     As always please see your primary care physician before undertaking such a program. For your health there may be certain foods or exercises that your doctor may find inappropriate for your particular set of medical circumstances or conditions. Once you get the “green light” from your physician, by all means you are welcome to start a program like mine.



Honest Discussion


Most people fail because of a lack of motivation, or because they do not develop a feasible and workable plan. The purpose of this Blog is to help my cyberspace audience develop a feasible and workable plan. This will include combining an effective diet plan along with a very effective cardio, warm-up, weight-training and cool down program.


Combining diet and exercise together is the only sensible approach to achieving the above goals to lose weight and get into shape. It’s important not to take short cuts or sidestep difficult moments in any endeavor in life, especially where your health is concerned.


A Word about Motivation


     People who become knowledgeable and learn about what’s going on in their environment usually develop the proper motivation and the proper skills to succeed in diet and exercise. Knowledge they say “is power.” I say usually, but not always. Knowledge alone is not enough. That is, our defense mechanisms also come into play as well.


One huge defense mechanism that often works against taking action of any kind—is denial. Denial occurs most often by creating obstacles that will forgo having to do something. What underlies the creation of such obstacles is rationalization (reasons, however plausible they might appear). In simplest language, people often try to avoid doing difficult things because difficulty implies effort and sometimes sacrifice, and even pain.


Can any blog, book, or expert make you do something you really don’t want to do? Probably not! All experts, personal trainers, doctors, and nutritionists can really do is point you in the right direction. You have to be motivated enough to make the required changes to your life.

To follow my plan will require effort and perseverance. Hopefully I can get you on the right path. But first everyone will need to conduct their own personal assessment. I’ll help you with this after the following section.


Everyone can talk about their own personal health in the abstract, but it’s really specificity that lures one to take personal action. When I was looking for motivational help, I didn’t have to look very far. I started by looking at myself in the mirror. I wasn’t a train wreck but certainly was kind of an accident waiting to happen.


Back in November 2013 I joined a gym. I had dieted on and off for many years but this was the turning point for me—combining dieting and exercise to achieve my personal goals; to lose weight, build lean body mass (muscle), and to increase my strength and vitality.


But like all good goal-setting, it needed to be combined with an underlying purpose. That underlying purpose (for me) was to no longer be a Category 1 obese person (in my case 32.5% BMI). I’m 6 feet, three inches tall so, for many years, I was able to hide this obese category 1 from my friends. My underlying purpose was a good reason for shedding the pounds and getting into shape. Old myths about aging die hard. I assumed because I was 70 years old I was “too” old to do bodybuilding. Man, was I wrong! There are men over the age of 90 (and a few over 100) who compete in bodybuilding contests in the United States and throughout the world.


After one year on my program, I am now at 14-16% BMI and have lost 16 lbs. (which is the result of both gaining lean muscle mass and losing non-essential body fat at the same time). The more muscle you build the easier it is to lose non-essential body fat. I started with a 47 inch waist and now it is 42 inches measured across the belly button; don’t measure your waist at the belt line. That type of measurement is two inches below the belly button. If one has got quite a bulge, perhaps one inch above the belly button might be a better way to measure the waist for that individual.


The protective fat that surrounds your bodily organs is known as essential fat—you don’t want to lose that fat. My ultimate goal is to be below 10% body fat. As a former social researcher I’m very data-driven in the way I perceive the world and how I come to make decisions in my life. What has influenced me the most is knowledge that being obese increases your chances of getting heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, and type 2 Diabetes?


Here are some important statistics (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) regarding the obesity epidemic in this country:



  • More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. [Read abstract Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) ]
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.


Obesity affects some groups more than others

[Read abstract Journal of American Medicine (JAMA)]

  • Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (47.8%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), non-Hispanic whites (32.6%), and non-Hispanic Asians (10.8%)
  • Obesity is higher among middle age adults, 40-59 years old (39.5%) than among younger adults, age 20-39 (30.3%) or adults over 60 or above (35.4%) adults.


Obesity and socioeconomic status

[Read CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief DF-1.07Mb]

  • Among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, those with higher incomes are more likely to have obesity than those with low income.
  • Higher income women are less likely to have obesity than low-income women.
  • There is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend—those with college degrees are less likely to have obesity compared with less educated women.

The Medical and Social Significance of Obesity

     It is important to know that “whether you are seven or 70 lbs. overweight, those extra pounds of fat can spell trouble for your health and your sex life. First, maintaining a healthy weight now will reduce cognitive decline later on.

A study in the March 2009 issue of Archives of Neurology investigated whether total and/or regional body fat levels influence cognitive decline. Researchers found that in men, worsening cognitive function correlated with the highest levels of all adiposity measures. The fatter you are, the more likely you will experience cognitive decline later in life.”[i]

Another topic related to all this is known as Metabolic Syndrome. According to Dr. Jeffry S. Life, “what’s more, your weight affects every aspect of how your body functions. Obesity is such an enormous epidemic that we’ve created a new name for an old problem: Metabolic Syndrome, also known as Syndrome X. As many as 75 million Americans are now believed to be affected. Simply put, Metabolic Syndrome occurs when excess weight affects your health, particularly your heart, as well as your body’s ability to process sugar, leading to diabetes.

The four components of Metabolic Syndrome are obesity (especially abdominal obesity), diabetes or insulin resistance, elevated triglyceride levels (one of the fats in the blood), high blood pressure, and increased silent inflammation. There can also be other abnormalities as part of this syndrome, including elevated total cholesterol levels, elevated LDL (the bad cholesterol) levels, low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol), and elevated levels of fibrinogen ( a protein that promotes dangerous blood clot formation). Each of these components can also be linked to sexual dysfunction.”[ii]

The Good News

“Now for the good news—Metabolic Syndrome is completely and totally preventable and reversible. Weight loss, exercise, and correcting hormone deficiencies are the keys to preventing this disease. And, if you already have the syndrome, exercise will also correct the abnormalities that characterize the disease by improving receptor sensitivity. The key is to lose body fat—especially abdominal fat.”[iii]

The Aging Process and Health

     According to Dr. Jeffry S. Life (M.D. and Ph.D.), “We are all going to age, but we don’t have to get old. Getting old means the deterioration of health, declining energy levels, loss of sexual function, and loss of your zest for life. I don’t want any part of that, and I’ll bet you don’t either.”[iv]

   Because of the new knowledge that has been generated by research in the last 100+ years, there is now a changing paradigm shift (affecting both the medical community and the individual) in how our medical community thinks about health issues and disease. The traditional way of medicine was to define health as the absence of symptoms or disease. Doctors prescribed medicine and the patient simply played a passive role in his or her own health.

Today that notion of defining health as simply the absence of disease has given way to a new idea that the patient is primarily responsible for his or her own health. Within that idea of responsibility for one’s own health is the concept of prevention. And prevention requires a very pro-active approach to prevention of disease and long term deterioration (Use it or lose it!).

The paradigm shift I’m talking about within medicine itself is a shift that includes not only better technology in the treatment of disease, but now recognizes the vast importance of prevention and lifestyle changes. When I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s I was told the doctor was responsible for my health. That is no longer realistic in today’s world of health and disease.

Today, all of us need to take responsibility for our own health. What does this mean? Taking responsibility for one’s own health means becoming more knowledgeable, taking an active (not passive) role in one’s own health care decisions, and maintaining a normal weight, and exercising. Going to the doctor when you are sick just isn’t enough; you need to take positive, proactive steps to keep yourself healthy.

Lifestyle changes are the key.

At any age it is imperative that you take inventory of your choices: how/what you eat, how much or how little you exercise, drugs and alcohol, stress, and interpersonal relations. If you haven’t thought about these things, you’re probably in good company.

But, now the time has arrived for you to go into second gear where your health is concerned. What follows from this point is a workable plan you can use to help you lose weight and get into shape in the New Year. As said earlier, Part I will cover initial preparation and self- evaluation followed by dieting basics. Part II will cover cardio, warm-up exercises, weight training, flexibility, stretching, and core exercises, cool-down exercises and supplementation.

Initial Preparation and Self Evaluation

     Besides checking with your doctor as to the advisability of starting a new diet and exercise program, you’ll need to do some preparation and a self-evaluation. You can start by taking some initial measurements such as your waist in inches, weight in pounds and your height in inches.

     Use a tape measure and measure your waist circumference. Make sure the taped circumference is measured about I inch above the belly button. Why? It is because that measurement is simply more accurate than where one wears a belt, which is usually two inches below the belly button. Many experts think a person’s circumference should be 40 inches or less.

     However, because 40 inches is a rather arbitrary standard, it won’t apply to all people i.e., some people are short, tall, male, female, skinny, fat, young or old. What is needed is a “Waist to Height Ratio.”

     Although many people use the Body Mass Index (BMI), that measurement doesn’t account for the fact that people with very large muscles (muscles also weigh more than fat) are often miscalculated with BMI to be more (because of body weight) fat than people with less lean body mass but lots of visceral fat.

     The waist to height ratio (expressed as a decimal) is a simple measurement for assessment of lifestyle risk and being overweight. Compared to just measuring waist circumference, waist to height ratio is equally fair for short and tall persons. This calculation is also valid for children and adults. For example, a man with a 42 inch waist and 75 inches tall would have a ratio of .56 (Overweight).


  • Ratio less than .35: Abnormally Slim to Underweight
  • Ratio .35 to .43: Extremely slim
  • Ratio .43 to .46: Slender and Healthy
  • Ratio .46 to .53: Healthy, Normal, Attractive Weight
  • Ratio .54 to .58: Overweight
  • Ratio .59 to .63: Extremely Overweight/Obese
  • Ratio over .63: Highly Obese


  • Ratio less than .35: Abnormally Slim to Underweight
  • Ratio .35 – .42: Extremely Slim
  • Ratio .43 to .46: Slender and Healthy
  • Ratio .47 to .49: Healthy and Attractive
  • Ratio .50 to .54: Overweight
  • Ratio .55 to .58: Seriously Overweight
  • Ratio over .58: Highly Obese


Waist to height ratio ‘more accurate than BMI’

Your waist should be no more than half the length of your height, according to experts who claim that having too large a trouser size can dramatically shorten your lifespan.

According to an article written (May 14, 2013) by Nick Collins, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph, United Kingdom:

“Measuring the ratio of someone’s waist to their height is a better way of predicting their life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), the method widely used by doctors when judging overall health and risk of disease, researchers said. BMI is calculated as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters, but a study found that the simpler measurement of waistline against height produced a more accurate prediction of lifespan. People with the highest waist-to-height ratio, whose waistlines measured 80 per cent of their height, lived 17 years fewer than average. Keeping your waist circumference to less than half of your height can help prevent the onset of conditions like stroke, heart disease and diabetes and add years to life, researchers said. For a 6ft man, this would mean having a waistline smaller than 36in, while a 5ft 4in woman should have a waist size no larger than 32in.”[v]

 Summary of Preparations

It is essential to follow a healthy diet and to exercise. I recommend to write and record what you eat in a daily food diary (plenty of apps on the computer these days (e.g., Lose It! MyFittnessPal, etc.) Regardless of where you fall on the Waist to Height ratio, a healthy diet and regular exercise is still very important to your personal health and your long-term longevity.

   A healthy diet and exercise program can help the skinny man or woman as well as those who are obese. Aging affects everyone, not just the obese.

Dieting Basics

The most important thing about dieting is to keep it simple. Please remember—calories do count. The first thing you need to know is how many calories you normally consume in a single day. If it exceeds your metabolic rate you are going to gain weight; conversely, if it falls below your metabolic rate you are going to lose weight. It’s that simple!

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping a food journal. I know it’s tedious but it also is absolutely essential. You’d be surprised how much guessing we all make about how many calories we are consuming. Our errors tend always to be underestimates.

Getting started

Record every calorie you consume for one week. Then divide by seven to derive your average daily intake. This gives you an approximate idea (your actual biological metabolic rate may vary from this average but, for dieting purposes, is close enough) of how many calories you need on a daily basis to maintain your present weight. “Since your goal is to lose weight, you need to decrease this number by 20 percent. Multiply your current daily average by 20 percent, and then subtract this result from your present daily average to get your new daily calorie limit.”[vi]

In everyone’s diet one always needs three basic macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and protein) every day (Fat—15%, Carbohydrates—50%, Protein—35%). But how do we derive the right amount of calories for each macronutrient each day? Also, one needs to individualize the calculations.

For example, if your new daily calorie limit is 1800 calories a day, your daily calories for each macronutrient group would be:

Fat (15%)-270 calories

Then, divide this number by nine to convert fat calories into grams of fat. That would be 270/9 or 30 grams of fat per day. For carbohydrates and protein one would divide by four.

Then you need to calculate the number of calories of protein you will need to maximize your muscle-building efforts. Simply take in 1 gram per pound of your body weight and multiply this number by four (4 calories per gram of protein), and this will give you the number of protein calories you should need each day. If your body weight is 150 lbs. you’ll need 150 grams of protein per day. So the number of protein calories you need each day is 600.

Add your protein calories (600) to your fat calories (270) and subtract that number from your new daily calorie limit. In this case, the calculation is 1800 – 870 (270+600) or 930 carbohydrate calories per day. To summarize, based on an 1800 calorie per day diet, the number of calories from fat should be 270, protein 600, and 930 from carbohydrates. For this 150 lb. individual the percentage of daily macronutrients equals:




These percentages and the macronutrient calculations will all vary by an individual’s own body weight. Two people, with different body weights, on a diet of 1800 calories a day, will each have different percentages of fat, carbohydrate, or protein needed every day.

Now, I have suggestions on how to eat and what to eat as your diet program. I’ll explain the how first then the what.

How to Eat

It is best to eat 5-6 small meals a day. This approach will help stave off that empty feeling many people experience from a diet with just 3 meals a day. Three of my meals are small snacks of no more than 200 calories each in late morning, late afternoon, and late evening. The other three meals are, of course, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What to Eat (and drink)

When it comes to deciding what to eat, people have very different ideas. What you really need is, first and foremost, a healthy diet. You should stay away, as much as possible, from white breads, white rice, French fries, ice cream, all kinds of sweets, lots of red meat, and all fried foods. Limit your intake of starches, fats, and sugar, and drinking too much alcohol. If something is sold in a can, please be sure to read the label.

I highly recommend each person obtain a master listing of all foods on the glycemic index. What is the glycemic index?  

     The glycemic index measures how fast and how much a food raises blood glucose levels. Foods with higher index values raise blood sugar more rapidly than foods with lower glycemic index values do.


The body breaks down most carbohydrates from the foods we eat and converts them to a type of sugar called glucose. Glucose is the main source of fuel for our cells. After eating, the time it takes for the body to convert carbohydrates and release glucose into the bloodstream varies, depending on the type of carbohydrate and the food that contains it. Some carbohydrate-containing foods cause the blood glucose level to rise rapidly; others have a more gradual effect.     Emphasize using the index to choose fruits and vegetables, beans, grains, lentils, and leaner, better sources of protein.

For almost four years I’ve been a vegan. However, since starting an intense program of exercise in November 2013, I modified my diet to include good sources of protein such as salmon, eggs, tuna, and soy milk. I needed to increase goods sources of Omega3s as well. But the primary reason for wanting more protein is so that I could build more muscle mass in my body. The more muscle mass the more quickly fat can be burned off.

     It is best to use lower glycemic foods in your diet. Once you know what your fat-reducing limit is on the number of calories you should take in daily (2200, 2000, 1800, 1600, etc.). I suggest you prepare your own diet plan based on your own medical situation. I think you should emphasize giving yourself some protein at breakfast, as it will help you feel better throughout the day. Above all, check with your doctor and nutritionist before you launch into dieting. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association (check out their websites) can also be very helpful in developing diet plans, recipes, etc.

Hydration is important for all of us, but especially when one undertakes a vigorous training program and is dieting as well. “Water is your most important nutrient. You can only live three days without it, and it is involved in every metabolic reaction in your body.Yet most of us don’t drink enough liquids during the day. When we are properly hydrated, we feel better, our heart and blood vessels work much better, along with all of our other bodily functions—we think better, our strength and endurance are better, we are healthier, and we live longer.[vii]

     “If you drink 5 glasses of water per day, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that you reduce the chances of a fatal heart attack by 50 percent.[viii]” Extra water means your metabolism will increase and you will burn more fat. Over the course of a year, if you can increase your water consumption to 1.5 liters a day, you will burn an extra 17, 400 calories, for a weight loss of approximately five pounds. [ix]”    

In Part II of this Blog I will describe a sound exercise program you can do to meet and exceed your “getting into shape goals” for the New Year. Don’t wait; start your planning now.


[i] Jeffry S. Life, The Life Plan, (Atria Books, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, May 2011 hardcover edition) p.32

[ii] Ibid, p. 32-33.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid. ,p.15

[v] Nick Collins, Science Correspondent (UK, The Telegraph), May 14, 2013

[vi] Jeffry S. Life, p. 40

[vii] Ibid., p.64

[viii] Ibid., p.65

[ix] Ibid.

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Best Foods for Specific Human Body Organs


The purpose of this Blog is to describe a better way to conduct your weekly or bi-weekly grocery shopping, and maximize the potential for bringing into your home only the most healthful full-body array of nutritionally healthy grocery items.

A lot of people already include or incorporate healthy foods (and some not so good healthy foods) into their diets. I eat a modified vegan diet by including fish (no beef or chicken) and a few eggs (technically I’m an ova-vegetarian). I still struggle with desserts every time I shop. I only include healthy sources of protein (primarily salmon and eggs) so I can maximize muscle growth for my particular exercise program of cardio and weight training.

While fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are staples in healthy diets, I posed to myself the following question? What would happen if I looked at only the best foods for specific major body organs: Heart, Brain, Liver, Kidneys, Lungs and Pancreas? Would I be creating a better shopping list that actually maximizes eating foods that will better protect every major organ in the body? Since no one can predict when a major body organ is going to give us trouble or fail, wouldn’t it be good to give ourselves a little better insurance policy of prevention?

Consequently, here is what I found out on the internet. Mind you such lists are a matter of opinion and sometimes subject to change by those reporting on the foods they list. Also, remember everyone’s physical state is very individualistic; there may be reasons your doctor doesn’t want you to eat certain foods. MY RECOMMENDATION IS ONCE YOUR MASTER GROCERY LIST is CREATED GET a BY-OFF FROM YOUR PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN.  

As you peruse the following foods by body organ, remember that there will be duplication in places. This is good because you can generate a more efficient smaller list to manage at the grocery store.

Good Foods for Specific Body Organs






Olive Oil

Nuts (walnuts, almonds, macadamia)









Whole Grains


Nuts and Seeds

Wild Salmon


Coffee (3-5 cups a day)





Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Concord grape Juice





Grapefruit Juice


Leafy Greens (spinach and lettuce)

Green Tea


Broccoli and Brussels sprouts









Red Grapes

Flaxseed Oil


Green Tea





Red bell peppers






Blue berries




Red grapes

Egg whites


Olive oil





Fatty fish

Apple Juice






Beans (kidney, black, pinto)





Jalapeno Peppers


Green Tea







Water Cress

Fish Roe




Chicory Greens

Sweet Potatoes


     As one can see there are best foods that appear as a kind of theme that is needed for every body organ. While some people will like certain healthy foods, personal preference might dictate what foods you actually purchase. For example I might not buy Fish Roe from the Pancreas list. I also might only use Chicory Greens very sparingly. But I definitely would buy and eat all the other items on the pancreas list individually. Some items lend themselves better in a recipe. 

     To save you time, I’ve constructed a master list for my weekly grocery list. Slight modifications of my master grocery list may be needed as preferences do differ from one person to another. Being an ova-vegetarian I probably won’t include poultry on my list. However, in general I think my general master list will give you all the healthy foods your body needs. Stay healthy my friend! Life is good so stay around to enjoy it!


Here is my Master Grocery List (in no special order). Drum roll please!










Whole Grains




Water (tap water okay or bottled)

Sweet Potatoes


Apple Juice


Water Cress







Green Peas

Green Tea


Beans (kidney, black, pinto)

Nuts (walnut, almonds, macadamia)


Red grapes

Egg whites

Fish in general (cod, halibut, haddock, sardines, shrimp, crab, tuna, trout, etc.)


Red bell peppers


Jalapeno peppers

Flaxseed oil


Grapefruit Juice


Leafy Greens (spinach and lettuce)

Brussels sprouts


Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Concord grape Juice



Coffee (3-5 cups a day, caffeinated or decaf)

Flaxseed (sprinkle on soups or salads)




Health Tip:

     We all lead busy lives. But just as that is no excuse for not exercising, it is also no excuse for not getting back to cooking meals at home. Use your kitchen most of the time. Soon it will become a good habit and will seem second nature to you.

Post Script

Here are 21 healthy lifestyle quotes I found on the internet to help inspire you to kick-start your healthy lifestyle or make you appreciate your good health:

  • “The greatest wealth is health.”  –Virgil


  • “The power of love to change bodies is legendary, built into folklore, common sense, and everyday experience. Love moves the flesh, it pushes matter around. Throughout history, ‘tender loving care’ has uniformly been recognized as a valuable element in healing.” – Larry Dossey


  • “He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors.” – Chinese Proverb


  • “If you have health, you probably will be happy, and if you have health and happiness, you have the wealth you need, even if it is not all you want.” – Elbert Hubbard


  • “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” – Irish Proverb


  • “Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.” – B.K.S. lyerngar


  • “Happiness lies, first of all, in health.” – George William Curtis, author of Lotus-Eating


  • “To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha


  • “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” – Paul Dudley White


  • “Health and intellect are the two blessings of life.” – Menander (ca 342-291 BC)


  • “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” –Plato


  • “To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.” – William Londen


  • “There are lots of people in this world who spend so much time watching their health that they haven’t the time to enjoy it.” – Josh Billings


  • “The human body has been designed to resist an infinite number of changes and attacks brought about by its environment. The secret of good health lies in successful adjustment to changing stresses on the body.” – Harry J. Johnson


  • “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Siddartha Buddha


  • “Men worry over the great number of diseases, while doctors worry over the scarcity of effective remedies.” – Pien Ch’iao


  • “Prevention is better than cure.” – Desiderius Erasmus


  • “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn


  • “People who laugh actually live longer than those who don’t laugh. Few persons realize that health actually varies according to the amount of laughter.” – James J. Walsh


  • “The reason I exercise is for the quality of life I enjoy.” – Kenneth H. Cooper


  • “The groundwork for all happiness is good health.” – Leigh Hunt


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Exercise and Your Body: How Your Internal Organs Are Affected

     In this Blog I will explore how the human body benefits from exercise, and discuss my personal lifetime of experience with exercise-related activities. I will raise important questions people sometimes have when they initiate a new (exercise) program, and finish with the specifics as to how exercise affects various diseases we all know about, and their effect on the various systems and organs in the human body. If one is contemplating starting a new exercise program I highly recommend you first consult with your doctor or primary care physician.

It’s long overdue for a more precise understanding of just what impact exercise does, in fact, have on the human body, specifically our internal organs. All too often we hear one should exercise and that it is good for us. But most catch phrases are generalities at best. That is the primary question I am going to answer. Therefore, I am initiating a Blog on Exercise and Your Body: How Your Internal Organs Are Affected.


     I used to play a lot of sports when I was growing up. When I graduated from high school I was in the best shape of my life. In my late 20s I did scuba diving taught by a U.S. Navy Seal and in my 30s did some bodybuilding with weight training, and played on an adult softball team and a couple’s volleyball team. For a short time a buddy of mine and I did a 100 mile program of swimming at the local YMCA. During my 40s I no longer exercised regularly but, in my 50s, I played golf every week for 5 solid years going from a 30 handicap to a 14. In my early 60s I had a good walking program but was inconsistent in terms of how often or how long I walked.

In 2010, at the age of 67, I joined USA Track and Field and competed in the Master’s Program for two and a half years (4 gold medals, 6 silver medals, 3 bronze medals and a number of 4th through 7th place finishes) in local, regional and national master’s track and field events. My events included the shot put, hammer throw, weight throw, discus and javelin. The highlight of all my track & field meets was an honor to participate in the 2011 Master’s World Games as a member of Team USA. My Olympic type events at the Master’s World Games included Shot Put, Weight Throw, and the Javelin. I came in 6th in the world in the javelin, 12th in the weight throw, and 17th in the shot put. I was in the 65-69 year old age group at the time I competed.

In 2013, I had to drop-out of USA Track & Field due to a bad case of Sciatica. With good physical therapy I was able to regain my balance and ability to walk in a normal way; however, I was a long way from regaining full strength and physical fitness and my readiness to once again compete in track & field. Over my lifetime I would best describe myself as a kind of a sporadic athlete, not one normally committed to a regular and consistent program of exercise.

After some procrastination my wife and I finally made a commitment to join a health and fitness club. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of our lives. In fact, I became very angry with myself for having NOT joined a fitness club 10-20 years earlier.

On November 15, 2013 we started to work out for 1 hour and 45 minutes, three times a week, exercising 35 minutes of cardio (stationary bike or treadmill) and 1 hour 10 minutes doing weight training (machines and free-weights).

Here are some personal tips regarding how diet, and other personal choices, can help your body become healthier even if you can’t fully commit yourself to an intense, regular exercise program. For the last three years I have been a vegan. The vegan diet is great for providing nutritional needs for your body and includes: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber.

However, recently I added fish back into my diet (wild salmon, tuna, and sardines). The fish, besides being a great source of protein (for building muscles), provides Omega-3s in ample supply, particularly where salmon is concerned. Also, I am no longer taking any artificial sweeteners, caffeinated coffee, carbonated drinks, or any form of over-the-counter pain killers. Follow these dietary/other suggestions and your strength and vitality will return in no time.

What about Exercise?

Because of my background as a researcher I always have lots of questions about everything. Exercise was no exception. We know exercise is good for one’s health. However, I’ve already said that’s fine as a generality. But what are the real, specific internal benefits on the various systems and organs of the human body? All of us are different with different needs. Some of us have medical conditions and some of us do not. Should one engage in certain types of exercise, but not others? In the weight room, what exercises are better for a particular muscle, or major muscle group? For example, which exercises are best for the abdominals, deltoids, oblique muscles, trapezius, biceps, or quadriceps? Is blood flow better when one does cardio or when one does weight training, or is the blood flow simply different in different parts of the body? Is there an optimal level of sets and reps for exercising different types of muscles?

My quest for answers has taken me in a lot of different directions in a very short period of time; all of the questions I’ve posed are important for you to answer if you want to get the most out of any full-body exercise program.

In this blog, I am committed to answering what I think is the most important question of all: What Impact Does Exercise Have on the Internal Organs of the Human Body?

If you want justification to help motivate you to get out of that easy chair and starting exercising, answering the above question just might do the trick.  But first there is something everyone needs to know.

First Things First—Those First Few Weeks of Exercise

Many people have different goals when they start to exercise, such as lose weight, look better, or maintain or improve one’s health. For those of you who have weight reduction as a goal, here are some hints to understanding why you should not become disappointed at first when you’ve worked so hard but that scale of yours doesn’t seem to cooperate. You’ll come to understand the term hydration and its importance. I found an article on the SparkPeople website (in the section Ask the Experts). This question was asked of the experts: I just started exercising to lose weight, but I’ve gained weight. Why did this happen?

According to Dean Anderson, Certified Personal Trainer, “When you start doing more exercise, your body begins storing more fuel in your muscle cells, where it can be used easily and quickly to fuel your workouts. The process of converting glucose (carbohydrates) into fuel that your muscles actually store and use (glycogen) requires three molecules of water for every molecule of glucose. As your muscles are building up glycogen stores, your body has to retain extra water for this purpose. That’s what causes most of the initial weight gain or lack of weight loss. This is a good thing—not something to worry about.

However, despite what the scale says, you are actually losing fat during this time. The extra water retention will stop once your body has adjusted to the new activity level. At that point, the scale should start moving down. You’ll end up with less fat, and muscles that can handle a larger amount.”

The following is an article written by Judith Blake, a staff reporter, for the Seattle Times.

Full-body workout: Exercise benefits mind, organs, resistance to disease

“Need another reason to exercise? We’ve dug up a bundle of ’em.

Of course, there’s always that old standby, a sleeker body. It’s the reward that lures legions to the jogging trail, the health club or the aerobics class.

But did you know that exercise might alleviate depression, help keep cancer out of your colon, increase the number of cells in your brain (or at least in a mouse’s brain) and boost your immune system?

People have always believed that exercise is good for them, says Dr. John O’Kane, University of Washington sports-medicine expert and lead physician to the UW’s athletic teams. The latest research shows just how good for us it is.

Health experts also say you don’t have to run marathons or hit the gym for endless hours to gain significant benefits. Probably the best-known benefit is heart health, and for that, a program of regular, moderate exercise will do just fine, O’Kane said.

‘If you can just get yourself to start walking 30 minutes a day, that’s a good start,’ he said.

‘You do get benefits from more vigorous exercise,’O’Kane added. You burn more calories and gain endurance, for instance. And one study suggested that men who exercised vigorously had lower rates of prostate cancer.

Exercise does its best work when teamed with healthy eating. But studies now show exercise has its own beneficial impact, even when you’re not also following an ideal diet, he said.

The same is true with weight loss. A study at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas showed that even when individuals remained obese, exercise was linked to fewer heart attacks.

Exercise gets points today not only for health maintenance but for recovery. Jack Berryman, a UW medical historian, says that ‘for thousands of years we realized that exercise was healthy.’ Yet until the 1950s, complete bed rest was prescribed for many conditions, including heart-attack recovery.

That changed, he said, when President Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack while in office. Well-known cardiologist Dr. Paul Dudley White soon had him up walking and playing golf.

‘That was the beginning of the important movement of cardiac rehabilitation’ employing controlled exercise, Berryman said. Today, exercise is part of the recovery program for many conditions.

Here’s some of the latest research on health and exercise:


Breast cancer: Regular physical activity may lower risk. Of about two dozen studies on breast cancer and exercise, about two-thirds have found reduced risk of up to 30-40 percent with exercise, says Dr. Anne McTiernan, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Possible reason: Exercise may reduce production of estrogen (a possible cancer promoter) by the ovaries and by fat cells.

Exercise may also boost the immune system, possibly helping fight cancer. McTiernan and others are researching exercise’s impact on both the immune system and on estrogen levels in women.

Colon cancer: Exercise appears to reduce risk by up to 50 percent, based on about three dozen observational studies around the world, says McTiernan. She and others will try to learn more about the protective mechanism in a new study. They’ll take biopsies from the colon and rectum of exercising and nonexercising participants at the start and finish of the study to observe how cells are growing, dividing and dying. They’ll also check the balance of “good” and “bad” prostaglandins, body chemicals thought to be involved in colon cancer.

(For information on participating in the study, call 206-667-6444. Researchers are recruiting men and women who are basically sedentary and who have had a colonoscopy, a type of colon exam.)

The Brain

Mental sharpness: Exercise may help preserve it as you age. A recent study found that among women 65 and older, the least amount of cognitive decline over eight years occurred in those who exercised the most (walking 18 miles per week), while decline was greatest in those who exercised the least (walking half a mile per week). Decline decreased with each added mile. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and others studied 5,925 women 65 and older without cognitive impairment or physical limitations.

Brain cells: Physical activity may increase their numbers. In one study, researchers found that adult mice doubled their number of new cells in the hippocampus — a brain area involved in memory and learning — when they had access to running wheels. Whether exercise increases brain cells in humans has not yet been demonstrated.

Depression: Studies suggest exercise reduces symptoms, possibly by releasing mood-altering brain chemicals, such as endorphins.

The Rest of the Body

Impotence: Exercise may reduce risk. A study of nearly 600 men over eight years found that physical activity amounting to least 200 calories a day — the equivalent of walking briskly for 2 miles — may reduce a man’s risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Possible reason: Exercise boosts blood circulation, which may aid erectile function.

Enlarged prostate: One study showed a 25 percent lower risk of noncancerous prostate enlargement in men who walked two to three hours a week than in men who seldom walked.

Diabetes: Many studies show regular physical activity helps prevent or control diabetes. Exercise works on diabetes in two ways: By burning energy in the form of blood sugar and by reducing body fat (fat contributes to Type 2 diabetes by impairing the body’s ability to process insulin).

Bones: Many studies indicate that weight-bearing exercise such as walking and weight-training helps prevent the porous, fracture-prone bones of osteoporosis.

Regular exercise, including strength training, may also help older people avoid falling and breaking their bones. In one study, older women assigned to a home-based strength-and-balance exercise program had fewer falls than women who didn’t exercise.

In another study, researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Utah asked women ages 50 to 75 to wear weighted vests while performing lower-body strength and power exercises. Results after nine months: Improved lower-body muscle strength and balance — especially balance to the side. ‘This has been very exciting for us to find, because falling to the side raises the risk of breaking a hip 20 times over falling forward,’ said Christine Snow, the study’s co-author.

Arthritis: Both aerobic exercise and strength training, in moderation, can reduce joint swelling and pain and extend mobility.

The Heart: Perhaps the best-known effect of regular exercise is its benefit to the heart. Many studies indicate lower heart-disease risk with regular exercise, which boosts oxygen supply. Exercise also helps bring down high blood pressure, reducing risk of stroke.

And that’s not all: Studies also point to the power of exercise to help prevent or control sleep disorders, gallstones, diverticular disease (an intestinal disorder) and more.”

Sources: University of Washington medical faculty; Oregon State University; the Society for Neuroscience; Seattle Times files. This article includes information from the Associated Press, the Washington Post and Nutrition Action Health Letter.


The following is an article by Catherine Field of Demand Media.

What Major Organs of the Body Benefit the Most From Exercising?

Exercise benefits major organ systems and the body as a whole.

“The health benefits of general exercise are well-known. Those who exercise, in general, feel better and suffer from fewer health problems. Even those with chronic health conditions — like diabetes — can manage their conditions better with exercise. But depending on the type of exercise, some of the human body’s major organs benefit the most from exercise. And it’s this reaction that helps the exerciser obtain results such as weight loss, lower blood pressure and reduced blood sugar.

The Heart & The Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system is primarily comprised of arteries, veins, and, at the center, the heart. The heart is the system’s muscular power house that needs to be exercised to keep in top form. Exercises that increase the heart rate exercise the heart muscle and pump blood more efficiently throughout the body.

Running, jogging, aerobic exercises are just a few examples that will work the cardiovascular system. As the cardiovascular system improves the resting heart rate will decrease, circulation will improve and blood volume will increase. In addition, blood pressure will decrease, ‘bad’ cholesterol can decrease while good cholesterol can increase, and less plaque will build in your arteries.

The Muscular System

Through a process known as hypertrophy — an enlargement of cells — muscles, when exercised, not only become bigger but become stronger. Activities that create new muscular proteins, like weight training and non-bearing weight exercises such as lunges and squats, increase muscle activity and encourage muscle growth. Eating protein after a workout targeting strength training will encourage muscle growth.

Lungs & The Respiratory System

The lungs are exercised through normal respiration. The simple act of breathing exercises the lungs and the diaphragm. Performing aerobic exercises that increase heart and respiration rate, the amount breathed in at one time, will exercise the lungs. As the lungs are exercised, the body will take in more oxygen and be able to use it efficiently.



The Brain & The Central Nervous System

The central nervous system involves the brain and the spinal cord. The central nervous system is responsible for maintaining the human body’s autonomic functions, or the functions that are outside our control. These are, for example, breathing and heart rate. When the body exercises, it produces hormones. The brain produces its own hormones called neurotransmitters: serotonin, epinephrine, adrenaline, and endorphins. These can reduce pain and provide a euphoric feeling that can help those who suffer from mild, non-clinical depression. The release of these neurotransmitters can also improve sleep and help curb appetite.


The Role of Inflammation and the Effect of Exercise on it

Back in January, 2013 I wrote a Blog called: Update on Type II Diabetes in America [Epidemiology and New Research Findings]. During the course of researching for that Blog, I found out and reported that Inflammation (both low-grade and chronic) may be a causal variable in Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease, forms of arthritis such as Rheumatoid and Lupus, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, Sepsis (blood poisoning or the body’s inflammatory response to infection), Multiple Sclerosis, and allergies. And, it may be linked to all conditions ending in “itis.” Because this blog is about the effect of exercise, I found an article about exercise and inflammation.  This article was written by researchers at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ.

Lifestyle Measures to Reduce Inflammation



Chronic low-grade inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (T2D) may be ameliorated with exercise and/or diet. High levels of physical activity and/or cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with reduced risk of low-grade inflammation. Both aerobic and resistance exercise have been found to improve inflammatory status, with the majority of evidence suggesting that aerobic exercise may have broader anti-inflammatory effects. In particular, aerobic exercise appears to improve the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory markers. Improvement in inflammatory status is most likely to occur in persons with elevated levels of pro-inflammatory markers prior to intervention. A number of dietary factors, including fiber-rich foods, whole grains, fruits (especially berries), omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins (e.g., C and E), and certain trace minerals (e.g., zinc) have been documented to reduce blood concentrations of inflammatory markers.

Anti-inflammatory foods may also help mitigate the pro-inflammatory postprandial state that is particularly evident after ingestion of meals high in saturated fat. Intensive lifestyle interventions involving both exercise and diet appear to be most effective. For the most part, anti-inflammatory effects of exercise and diet are independent of weight loss. Thus overweight and obese men and women, who are most likely to have a pro-inflammatory profile, do not necessarily have to normalize body mass index to improve inflammatory status and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


The following is an article written by Sarah Klein of the Huffington Post in their HUFFPOST Health Living section.
This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise

“Whether you do it to lose weight, to reach a fitness goal or — dare we say it? — Just for fun, exercise changes you.

There’s the red face and the sweating, the pounding heart and pumping lungs, the boost to your alertness and mood, the previously nonexistent urges to talk about nothing but splits and laps and PBs.

But while we all know that staying physically active is essential to a long, healthy, productive life, we don’t often understand exactly what’s happening behind the scenes.

We asked the experts to take us through — from head to toe — what happens in the body when we exercise. Neuroscientist Judy Cameron, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine, Tommy Boone, Ph.D., a board certified exercise physiologist, and Edward Laskowski, M.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center spill the beans on what gets and keeps you moving.


The body calls on glucose, the sugar the body has stored away from the foods we eat in the form of glycogen, for the energy required to contract muscles and spur movement.

It also uses adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, but the body only has small stores of both glucose and ATP. After quickly using up these supplies, the body requires extra oxygen to create more ATP. More blood is pumped to the exercising muscles to deliver that additional O2. Without enough oxygen, lactic acid will form instead. Lactic acid is typically flushed from the body within 30 to 60 minutes after finishing up a workout.

Tiny tears form in the muscles that help them grow bigger and stronger as they heal. Soreness only means there are changes occurring in those muscles, says Boone, and typically lasts a couple of days.


Your body may need up to 15 times more oxygen when you exercise, so you start to breathe faster and heavier. Your breathing rate will increase until the muscles surrounding the lungs just can’t move any faster. This maximum capacity of oxygen use is called VO2 max. The higher the VO2 max, the more fit a person is.


Like any muscle, the diaphragm can grow tired with all the heavy breathing. Some argue that as the diaphragm fatigues, it can spasm, causing a dreaded side stitch. (Others argue a side stitch is due to spasms of the ligaments around the diaphragm instead, while others believe the spasms to originate in the nerves that run from the upper back to the abdomen and are caused by poor posture!) Deep breathing and stretching can alleviate the discomfort in the middle of a workout, and preemptive strengthening in the gym can ward off future issues.


When you exercise, heart rate increases to circulate more oxygen (via the blood) at a quicker pace. The more you exercise, the more efficient the heart becomes at this process, so you can work out harder and longer. Eventually, this lowers resting heart rate in fit people.

Exercise also stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, causing blood pressure to decrease in fit people.

Stomach & Intestines

Because the body is pumping more blood to the muscles, it takes some away from the systems and functions that aren’t top priority at the moment, like digestion. That can result in tummy troubles. Movement, absorption and secretion in the stomach and intestines can all be affected.


Increased blood flow also benefits the brain. Immediately, the brain cells will start functioning at a higher level, says Cameron, making you feel more alert and awake during exercise and more focused afterward.

When you work out regularly, the brain gets used to this frequent surge of blood and adapts by turning certain genes on or off. Many of these changes boost brain cell function and protect from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or even stroke, and ward off age-related decline, she says.

Exercise also triggers a surge of chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters, which include endorphins, often cited as the cause of the mythical “runner’s high.”

The brain releases dopamine and glutamate, too, to get those arms and legs moving, as well as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a prohibitive neurotransmitter that actually slows things down, to keep you moving in a smooth and controlled manner.

You’ll also likely feel better thanks to a bump in serotonin, a neurotransmitter well known for its role in mood and depression.


This part of the brain is highly involved in learning and memory, and it’s one of the only sections of the brain that can make new brain cells. Exercise facilitates this, thanks to the extra oxygen in the brain.

Even when you stop exercising, those new brain cells survive, whereas many other changes in the brain during exercise eventually return to their normal state should you become less active.


The hypothalamus is responsible for body temperature, as well as salt and water balance, among other duties. As your body heats up, it tells the skin to produce sweat to keep you cool.

Pituitary Gland

This control center in the brain alerts the adrenal glands to pump out the hormones necessary for movement. It also releases growth hormones. As the body searches for more fuel to burn after using up your glycogen stores, it will turn to either muscle or fat, says Cameron. Human growth hormone acts as a security guard for muscle, she says, telling the body to burn fat for energy instead.


The rate at which the kidneys filter blood can change depending on your level of exertion. After intense exercise, the kidneys allow greater levels of protein to be filtered into the urine. They also trigger better water reabsorption, resulting in less urine, in what is likely an attempt to help keep you as hydrated as possible.

Adrenal Glands

A number of the so-called “stress hormones” released here are actually crucial to exercise. Cortisol, for example, helps the body mobilize its energy stores into fuel. And adrenaline helps the heart beat faster so it can more quickly deliver blood around the body.


As you pick up the pace, the body, like any engine, produces heat — and needs to cool off. The blood vessels in the skin dilate, increasing blood flow to the skin. The heat then dissipates through the skin into the air.

Eccrine Glands

At the hypothalamus’s signal, one of two types of sweat glands, the eccrine glands, get to work. These sweat glands produce odorless perspiration, a mixture of water, salt and small amounts of other electrolytes, directly onto the skin’s surface. When this sweat evaporates into the air, your body temp drops.

Apocrine Glands

This second type of sweat gland is found predominantly in hair-covered areas, like the scalp, armpits and groin. These sweat glands produce a fattier sweat, typically in response to emotional stress that can result in odor when bacteria on the skin begin to break it down, according to the Mayo Clinic.


The capillaries close to the skin’s surface in the face dilate as well, as they strain to release heat. For some exercisers, this may result in a particularly red face after a workout.


Exercising puts extra weight on the joints, sometimes up to five or six times more than your bodyweight, says Laskowski. Ankles, knees, hips, elbows and shoulders all have very different functions, but operate in similar ways. Each joint is lined with cushioning tissue at the ends of the bones called cartilage, as well as soft tissue and lubricating fluid, to help promote smooth and easy motion. Ligaments and tendons provide stability.

Over time, the cushioning around the joints can begin to wear away or degenerate, as happens in people with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis.

The final article (actually a Blog from My 24, 2012) relates to exercise and dental health. The Blog was called 5 Ways Exercise can improve Dental Health and was written by Janet Lynch.

“The health of your teeth and gums is directly linked to your overall health. The link is a two way street because people who have healthy habits tend to have good dental hygiene habits and people with a healthy lifestyle have an easier time maintaining a healthy mouth. A healthy diet is essential for a healthy mouth, but what most people do not think about is how important a role exercise plays in oral hygiene.

Burn off excessive carbohydrates

Sugar and refined carbohydrates are responsible for a great deal of the tooth decay we see today. While it is true that exercise does not keep the carbohydrates out of your mouth, it does help keep blood sugar in check. This can also keep you at a healthy weight. Being overweight is a known risk factor for tooth decay.

Reduce inflammation

Exercising is a good way to reduce the body’s inflammation response. Keeping the inflammation response in check can help reduce periodontal disease.

Help the body use vitamins and minerals more effectively

Exercise helps the body digest and use food more efficiently. Your body will be able to better absorb the vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy mouth.

Prevent Diabetes

Diabetes is another known risk factor for oral diseases. Regular exercise can prevent and even help reverse diabetes.

Improve circulation

Exercising helps make your cardiovascular system healthier. Better circulation overall means better circulation to your mouth. This will help your mouth stay healthy and help stop tooth decay.

It is important to realize that exercise should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Exercise should be part of a regimen that includes regular exercise, healthy diet and regular oral hygiene care. Diet is as important as exercise. While exercising can help burn off extra carbohydrates, it is even more helpful to take in fewer carbohydrates. This is especially true of refined carbs and sugar.

When you eat grain you should be eating whole grains that are high in fiber. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole, but it is even better if you stick to all high fiber, whole grains. You can kick the health benefits up a notch by limiting yourself to 2-3 servings of grains per day. The rest of your carbohydrates and fiber should come from fruits and vegetables.

Vegetables contain a high amount of fiber for a low amount of carbohydrates and low amount of sugar. Fruit is good as well, and is even better if you choose low sugar fruits. The best choices are melons and berries. Melons and berries provide you with a great deal of nutrition for low amounts of sugar. Once you stop eating sugary snacks you will find that these fruits can satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your oral health.

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for oral health. Exercising daily is important to help maintain weight, but if you need to lose weight to get to a healthy weight then you need to reduce your calorie intake. Substituting vegetables and fruits for starches can help you a great deal with just this one change. Other healthy steps include drinking water and measuring foods.

It is easy to overeat when you do not measure your food. Buying a food scale and a set of measuring cups is inexpensive and can help you properly measure your food intake. Measure everything you eat and track those numbers with a computer program or even a notebook.

Drinking water is important. Not only does water not rot your teeth the way sugary drinks do, it also keeps your mouth moist. A dry mouth is a perfect place for tooth decay, so keeping it moist with water can prevent oral problems. Drinking plenty of water keeps you hydrated and this is especially important if you are exercising.

Oral care is essential to improving dental health. In addition to exercising daily you should be brushing twice a day. Brushing after meals and snacks is better. You should be flossing once a day as well. Regular dental visits are important too. You should be seeing your dentist every 6 months.

There you have it. Exercise is important for your health and the health of your mouth. There are several benefits to regular exercise that have a direct impact on your teeth, gums and mouth. Make exercise a non-negotiable part of your day and you will start to see benefits in your body and your mouth as well. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you. 


I hope from this Blog you are able to take away some knowledge on how exercise can improve one’s level of fitness, help improve most kinds of medical conditions and, above all, help you feel and look better in the process.

What you do with this knowledge is up to you. But remember this: Our culture these last 100+ years has made it easier to live life in so many ways. And yet, such easy living has made us fatter and less physically capable, and dare I say it, less mentally fit as well despite all the technological improvements.

Bottom line: Our culture has inadvertently created the conditions whereby we are killing ourselves with little fanfare as the nation, including our children, become more obese, and less physically fit (physical education has been dropped in many high schools throughout the country or reduced substantially from five days a week).

The writing is on the wall. Be tenacious and start exercising your body on a regular basis. Encourage your children to do the same. Good luck!

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Kidney Disease: The Importance of Diet and Exercise

Part II


     In Part II of this series I will explore what is known regarding the benefits of diet and exercise as it pertains to kidney disease. Why is this topic important? If you have kidney disease you will need to work very closely with your doctor as he/she develops a treatment plan for you. And your relationship is important at all stages of kidney disease from Stage I to Stage V. Another reason this topic is important is that there is an accumulating body of research that strongly suggests that both diet and exercise will be critically important to the success of your treatment plan.

In your partnership with your doctor and health care team, you will be the primary one who actually carries out the treatment plan. And, where diet and exercise are specifically concerned, you have control over your own diet and exercise choices. And, as it turns out, like many other diseases (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, etc.) both diet and exercise are critically important.

Current Research Findings

 Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression

     Back in 2011 it was reported in Health Day News that, in a scientific study, that shedding pounds may be good for most people, especially for those with kidney disease. The study was published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Their review of previously published studies on weight loss through diet, exercise or surgical intervention found that the weight loss had a positive effect on kidney function in obese kidney disease patients.

Traditional weight loss from dieting and exercising cut down on proteinuria — the increased output of protein in the urine — while also preventing kidney function from worsening. The researchers noted these findings in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology. In addition, surgical procedures to induce weight loss helped bring down high filtration rates, a condition that increases disease risk in kidney patients, the studies showed.

The authors of the new
report, led by Dr. Sankar Navaneethan of the Cleveland Clinic, pointed out that their findings were based on their review of only 13 studies, and that a larger, more long-term look at weight loss and kidney function in obese kidney disease patients should be completed before definitive conclusions are drawn.

The following is an abstract from the Department of Epidemiology of the University of Pittsburgh. The authors looked at the association between physical activity and kidney function as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.



Chronic kidney disease is a condition characterized by the deterioration of the kidney’s ability to remove waste products from the body. Although treatments to slow the progression of the disease are available, chronic kidney disease may eventually lead to a complete loss of kidney function. Previous studies have shown that physical activities of moderate intensity may have renal benefits. Few studies have examined the effects of total movement on kidney function. The purpose of this study was to determine the association between time spent at all levels of physical activity intensity and sedentary behavior and kidney function.


Data were obtained from the 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a cross-sectional study of a complex, multistage probability sample of the US population. Physical activity was assessed using an accelerometer and questionnaire. Glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was estimated using the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease study formula. To assess linear associations between levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior with log-transformed estimated GFR (eGFR), linear regression was used.


In general, physical activity (light and total) was related to log eGFR in females and males. For females, the association between light and total physical activity with log eGFR was consistent regardless of diabetes status. For males, the association between light and total physical activity and log eGFR was only significant in males without diabetes.


When examining the association between physical activity, measured objectively with an accelerometer, and kidney function, total and light physical activities were found to be positively associated with kidney function.

Kidney Disease Patients Can Benefit From Exercise

     It was recently reported in Health Day News that researchers have found that exercise can be safe and effective in people with kidney disease, even if they have other related health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

According to the new study, a structured exercise and lifestyle program can improve kidney patients’ fitness, body composition and heart health, and this type of regimen can be offered to kidney disease patients with other co-existing medical conditions.

The program included 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise and group counseling about behavior and lifestyle changes. A health care team including a kidney specialist, a nurse practitioner, an exercise physiologist, a dietitian, a diabetes nurse and a psychologist were involved in helping the patients keep on track, the researchers explained in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.

A total of 83 patients with chronic kidney disease were randomly assigned to either take part in the program or receive usual care.

When the study began, only 45 percent of the participants were able to meet the exercise capacity expected for their age group. Patients who took part in the exercise program for one year showed an 11 percent increase in their maximal aerobic capacity, while those in the usual care group had a 1 percent decrease.

Patients in the program also had small but significant amounts of weight loss, according to the study published online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

“We demonstrated that this could be done safely in spite of patients having a number of other health problems. This was in part because of the expertise of the multidisciplinary team who frequently adjusted diabetic and blood pressure medications,” study author Dr. Nicole Isabel of Princess Alexandra Hospital and University of Queensland in Australia said in the news release.

Importantly, patients in the exercise group also showed improved heart function. People with chronic kidney disease have a high risk of premature death from heart disease, the study authors noted.

Erin Howden, also of Princess Alexandra Hospital and University of Queensland, stated that the, “findings suggest that with the inclusion of structured exercise training and the right team support, improvements in fitness are achievable even in people with multiple health issues.”  And Howden added in the news release: “Improvements in fitness translate not only to improved health outcomes, but result in gains that are transferable to tasks of everyday life.”

However, before it can be determined that this type of program can help reduce kidney disease patients risk of dying prematurely from heart disease, larger studies with longer follow-up are needed, Howden said.

About 60 million people worldwide have chronic kidney disease.

Exercise and Chronic Disease: Get the facts

 [What you can do]

     What follows was put together by Mayo Clinic staff: “If you have a chronic disease — such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or back or joint pain — exercise can have important health benefits. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine. He or she might have advice on what exercises are safe and any precautions you might need to take while exercising.

Find out what you need to know about exercise and chronic disease.

How can exercise improve a chronic condition?

If you have a chronic condition, regular exercise can help you manage symptoms and improve your health.

For example:

  • Heart disease. Strength training can improve muscle strength and endurance, make it easier to do daily activities, and slow disease-related declines in muscle strength.
  • Diabetes. Regular exercise can help insulin more effectively lower your blood sugar level. Physical activity can also help you control your weight and boost your energy.
  • Asthma. Often, exercise can help control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
  • Back pain. Regular low-impact aerobic activities can increase strength and endurance in your back and improve muscle function. Abdominal and back muscle exercises (core-strengthening exercises) help reduce symptoms by strengthening the muscles around your spine.
  • Arthritis. Exercise can reduce pain, help maintain muscle strength in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness.

What exercises are safe?

Your doctor might recommend specific exercises to reduce pain or build strength. Depending on your condition, you might also need to avoid certain exercises altogether or during flare-ups. In some cases, you might need to consult a physical or occupational therapist before starting to exercise.

If you have low back pain, for example, you might choose low-impact aerobic activities, such as walking and swimming. These types of activities won’t strain or jolt your back.

If you have exercise-induced asthma, you might choose activities that involve short bursts of activity — such as tennis or baseball. If you use an inhaler, be sure to keep it handy while you exercise.

If you have arthritis, the exercises that are best for you will depend on the type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Work with your doctor or a physical therapist to create an exercise plan that will give you the most benefit with the least aggravation on your joints.

How often, how much and at what intensity can I safely exercise?

Before starting an exercise routine, it’s important to talk to your doctor about how long your exercise sessions can be and what level of intensity is safe for you.

If you haven’t been active for a while, start slowly and build up gradually. Ask your doctor what kind of exercise goals you can safely set for yourself as you progress.


Do I need to take special steps before getting started?

Depending on your condition, your doctor might recommend certain precautions before exercising.

If you have diabetes, for example, keep in mind that physical activity lowers blood sugar. Check your blood sugar level before any activity. If you take insulin or diabetes medications that lower blood sugar, you might need to eat a snack before exercising to help prevent low blood sugar.

If you have arthritis, consider taking a warm shower before you exercise. Heat can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you might have before you begin. Also, be sure to choose shoes that provide shock absorption and stability during exercise.

What kind of discomfort can I expect?

Talk to your doctor about what kind of discomfort you might expect during or after exercise, as well as any tips for minimizing your pain. Find out what type or degree of pain might be normal and what might be a sign of something more serious.

If you have heart disease, for example, signs or symptoms that you should stop exercising include dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, chest pain or an irregular heartbeat.

What else do I need to know?

Starting a regular exercise routine can be tough.

To help you stick with your routine, consider exercising with a friend. You might also ask your doctor to recommend an exercise program for people who have your condition, perhaps through a local hospital, clinic or health club.

To stay motivated, choose activities that are fun, set realistic goals and celebrate your progress.

Share any concerns you might have about your exercise program — from getting started to keeping it up — with your doctor.”

Dealing with Kidney Disease—An Overview

     I’d like to make it clear in describing this next section that developing guidelines for how to treat any stage of kidney disease is highly individualistic. That is, one size does NOT fit all. This is why what is prescribed for your stage of kidney disease will vary from patient to patient. In addition, even patients with the same stage of kidney impairment will nevertheless receive a highly individualistic treatment plan. What you read next is a set of general guidelines that may not apply to all patients.

General Guidelines

     When you have kidney disease, your kidneys are no longer able to filter waste products and fluids from your blood. You can help control a buildup of these substances by avoiding foods that tend to make the problem worse.

It is also important to make sure you get enough calories. Healthy eating can help control your blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol and blood sugar levels to help slow the progression of kidney disease. Your doctor may recommend calcium supplements or vitamin D for bone health.

Each person has different needs, based on body weight, size, and remaining kidney function. Most people need to limit sodium, fluids, and protein. Some also have to limit potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. A registered dietitian or nutritionist can help make an eating plan that is right for you.

To limit sodium:

  • Make a habit of reading food labels. Avoid foods that list salt (sodium) or monosodium glutamate (MSG) near the beginning of the list.
  • Do not use processed cheeses or canned, pickled, or smoked meats, which may be high in sodium.
  • Do not add salt to your food. Use lemon, herbs, and other spices to improve the flavor of your meals.

To limit protein:

  • Work with a dietitian to develop an eating plan that balances your need for less protein with enough protein to stay healthy.
  • Your dietitian may tell you to limit high-protein foods to 5 to 7 ounces (142g to 198g) a day. A 3-ounce (85g) serving of protein is about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Learn about the sources of protein. Most people know that meats, fish, and dairy products contain protein. They may not know that foods such as breads, cereals, and vegetables also contain protein.
  • Choose high-quality protein, such as lean meat, chicken, fish, cheese, or eggs, in your diet. If you eat tuna, choose water-packed, and rinse it well before eating.

To limit fluid:

  • Do not have more than 48fl oz. of fluids a day. Food that is liquid at room temperature, such as soup, Jell-O, and ice cream, count as fluids.
  • Be aware that some fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water and will count in your fluid intake. Examples include grapes, oranges, apples, lettuce, and celery.

To limit phosphorus:

  • Limit your phosphorus intake to 800 to 1000 mg a day.
  • Limit your intake of dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, or ice cream.
  • Avoid nuts, peanut butter, seeds, lentils, peas, and beans.
  • Avoid drinks such as beer, cola drinks, and cocoa.

To limit potassium:

  • Ask your doctor if it is all right to use a salt substitute. Some people with kidney disease need to limit their potassium intake.
  • Use lemon, herbs, and other spices to flavor your meals. Most commercially available salt substitutes are very high in potassium.

If you are having trouble keeping your weight up, keep the following in mind:

  • You may eat bread, tortillas, and cereals, but avoid bran breads or cereals. Do not eat pretzels, chips, or other salted snack foods.
  • You may use margarine, oil, and mayonnaise to add calories to your diet. Vegetable oils like olive oil, canola oil, or safflower oil are the healthiest choices.
  • Unless you have diabetes, you may use honey and sugar to increase energy and add calories.
  • It is important to continue to eat meals and snacks at regular times.

If you are overweight:

  • Limit the amount of calories you take in daily.
  • Increase your overall physical activity.

How can I stop kidney disease from progressing?

Stopping the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) can be as simple as changing daily habits. The most common way kidney disease accelerates is high blood pressure. Exercise and a healthy diet can greatly improve blood pressure, as well as prescription medicines called ACE inhibitors and angiotensin-II receptor blockers. The ideal blood pressure for kidney disease patients is 130/80 or lower. Being under a doctor’s care can help determine if medication is necessary.

Smoking also advances kidney disease and interferes with high blood pressure medicine. According to the American Lung Association, as few as 1 to 4 cigarettes per day nearly triple the risk of death from heart disease. Cigarette smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals, 60 of which are known to cause cancer. The detrimental effects of smoking can multiply the complications for CKD patients.

It’s crucial to take all medication as prescribed by your doctor and keep scheduled doctor’s appointments. Skipping appointments or not taking medication (or taking too much) can reduce the effects of the drug or can be toxic. Half of the people who have chronic kidney disease don’t have symptoms. Unlike other conditions, feeling healthy doesn’t mean kidney disease is cured. CKD needs to be monitored regularly. It’s also very important to tell a doctor about over-the-counter medications and vitamins. Anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen can be harmful to kidneys and multivitamins can cause spiked potassium levels.

How kidneys age

Kidneys are similar to skin. They both show signs of age. Even the healthiest person will most likely lose a bit of kidney function due to the natural process of growing old. How fast a person ages can be up to them. If the skin is exposed to too much sun, cigarettes, alcohol, abusive behavior or an unhealthy diet, it wrinkles quicker. Similarly, kidneys can be treated well to help maintain function. Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease can never get better, but you can help maintain and even prolong kidney function.

Exercise and diet are important tools to maintain health

Exercise is an excellent way to maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure. By lowering blood pressure, it helps reduce the progression of kidney disease. Other benefits to exercise are building body strength and according to USA Today, can improve memory. Exercise increases the supply of oxygen to the brain, which helps expand memory. Walking 30 minutes a day can help provide better physical and mental health.

A proper diet is crucial to help lower blood pressure and aid kidney function. Here are some dietary considerations that should be discussed with your doctor:

  • Protein – A protein heavy diet can strain kidney function. Protein includes: meat, fish, cheese, eggs, milk and nuts. Ask your doctor or a dietitian how much protein you should have each day to help prolong kidney function and maintain good health.
  • Alcohol – Too much alcohol can increase blood pressure, interfere with medicines, prevent kidneys from maintaining proper fluid and mineral balance, and lead to dehydration. While alcohol in moderation can be okay, ask your doctor if it is okay for you to drink alcohol.
  • Fluids – Fluid can build-up in CKD patients when kidney function declines. People on dialysis are generally given a fluid restriction, which includes foods such as: jelly, ice cream, milk on cereal, porridge, pudding, soup, gravy and sauces. Your doctor or dietitian will let you know if you need to restrict your fluid intake.
  • Sodium – A salty diet can increase blood pressure and lead to thirstiness. A high-sodium diet can make a fluid restriction difficult. Talk to your doctor about how much sodium you can have each day and ask your dietitian for tips on eating a low-sodium diet.
  • Potassium – When kidneys aren’t functioning properly, they cannot get rid of potassium in the blood. High levels of potassium can be dangerous to the heart. You may be instructed to limit high-potassium foods. Some foods high in potassium are: bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, kidney beans and milk products.
  • Phosphorus (phosphate) – It’s a mineral found in the bones. Kidneys normally get rid of excess phosphorus, which can cause thinning of the bones, joint pain and can damage blood vessels. As kidney function declines, you may be instructed to limit phosphorus intake. Some foods containing high levels of phosphate are: colas, chocolate, citrus candy, processed meats,      mayonnaise and hot dogs. People on dialysis are usually prescribed phosphorus binders, or phosphate binders, to absorb the phosphorus in the gastrointestinal system so it doesn’t get into the bloodstream.
  • Cholesterol – Foods high in cholesterol, including red meat and dairy, may need to be reduced to protect your heart.
  • Triglycerides –Triglycerides are a type of fat. People who have kidney disease often have higher triglyceride levels. Foods that contain high triglyceride are alcohol, fried foods, fast foods, prepackaged snack foods, sugary foods,fruit juices and energy bars.

Follow your doctor’s advice and take prescribed medicines

Several conditions may accompany kidney disease and can be helped with prescription medication. The following conditions can be treated by your doctor:

  • Fluid overload – It can cause swelling throughout the body and shortness of breath.
  • High blood pressure – Causes blood vessel, kidney and heart damage, which can lead to stroke, heart disease and circulation problems.
  • Anemia – A deficiency of a hormone produced by the kidneys to stimulate red blood cell production from the bone marrow.
  • Bone disease – A serious problem for CKD patients that causes joint pain and bone fractures.
  • Acidaemia – An excess of acid waste in the blood.
  • High cholesterol – It can lead to increased risk of heart disease.
  • High triglycerides – May lead to high blood pressure and increase risk of heart disease.

Post Script

Learning about chronic kidney disease, being aware of resources available for people with CKD and making healthy lifestyle choices can help you get the support you need to help slow the progression of chronic kidney disease.

In the meantime while scientists are pursuing finding a cure for many of the diseases that are out there (heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, etc.) it is perhaps more important for everyone to adopt a few positive steps they can take ownership of: There are no guarantees in life, but you can do something very important if you are ever diagnosed with a disease: (1) maintain a very positive attitude, (2) be tenacious and a good steward of your own life (take personal responsibility for your health with a proactive take-charge attitude), and (3) adopt a healthy lifestyle, eat right, and become very physically active. Do it for your family and friends, but above all do it for you.

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This is Part I of a two-part series on diabetes in America. Part I is intended to provide a portrait of this disease in terms of types of diabetes, the epidemiology of diabetes, its prevalence and who is at risk for the disease. I will also describe my personal experience with diabetes, and provide a better understanding of the roots causes of diabetes, based on our current state of knowledge.

 In Part II of this series I will describe the Vegan Diet, what it is, how it differs from other forms of a vegetarian diet and the many benefits of a Vegan diet, including reversing diabetes and related medical problems.

 As a society we’re closing in on the root causes of this disease and improving its management all the time. There is absolutely new hope for those who suffer from this disease, and there are great steps being launched to prevent it. Like any other thing we do in life—unlocking the mystery of diabetes requires two things: (1) research is the key and (2) human determination and intelligence are the underlying forces for turning that research key in the right direction.

For purposes of this Blog there are two components to understanding the disease of diabetes: (1) Understanding the epidemiological facts surrounding this disease, and (2) Understanding what may be the root causes of diabetes and how one in the 21st century might better treat and deal with this, at times, dreadful disease. Before launching into the epidemiological facts of the disease and its root causes, I would like to share with you my own experience with this disease. I will then launch into describing the types of diabetes, epidemiological facts, followed by its root causes.


I have a family history of diabetes.  My father had diabetes (he died at 57 in 1963) and my older brother (age 73) has diabetes. In terms of pre-diabetes, I was 37 years old when a test for glucose tolerance first revealed there was something wrong with my body’s ability to control blood glucose, i.e., blood sugar. This news gave me ample warning that one day I might develop diabetes. Nevertheless, I was slow to react to the news. I didn’t do anything in response to it like suddenly engage in daily exercise, or convert immediately to a more healthy diet. Instead, I continued on my “Fat-food Buffet of Life” with my own special, “See Food diet” i.e., whenever I saw food— I ate it. Eleven years later in 1991 at the age of 48, I paid the ultimate price—I was officially diagnosed with Type II diabetes.

I cleaned up my act for six weeks then fell back upon old habits. In the early to mid-1990s I struggled with seriously coming to grips with my own “up and down” approach to diet and exercise. I had all the excuses, and was lying to myself regarding my efforts to fight this disease. I was constantly struggling with inconsistency in both proper diet and exercise. And such inconsistency led to improvement one month, only to be followed by less successful control the next. As a result, in 1999, I finally had to go on medication (oral hypoglycemics) to get my blood sugar under better control. And, indeed, the medications actually did a very good job in helping me to maintain better blood sugar control.

 By this time I was actively engaged in utilizing the American Diabetes Association’s standard diet which emphasized a low-fat, more complex carbohydrate diet. That was a step in the right direction as it brought my HA1c down from a range of 8.5 to 9 to a better level, 7.5. However, animal protein was still part of the menu (generally, lean cuts of meat, as well as fish and chicken). And, in many recipes it still called for dairy products like eggs, cheese, yogurt and milk (my preference 1%).

In 2006, I started a low carbohydrate diet and would eat in restaurants a lot less often. I started to lose weight 8-12 lbs and was feeling I was really on the right track. My HA1c was bouncing up and down between 7.0 and 7.3. Nevertheless, up until August of 2009, I was still a couch-potato. I started a program of walking 30 minutes a day 5-6 times a week. Where I live there is a beautiful park so it was very pleasant to use the park as my walking course. In January 2010, I began to expand my exercise horizons. That is, I became a member of USA Track & Field and became actively involved in the Master’s Senior Olympics. I still continued, despite the low-carb diet, to use recipes that called for animal protein and fat along with additional fat consumption via the dairy products that I loved so much.

 I now want to tell you about a new way of eating that I think is an improvement for diabetics to follow. It is a Vegan Diet. At the beginning of 2011—I became a Vegan. It’s new to me, but it is a very ancient approach where plant protein sources are the mainstay of eating, not animal sources of protein. Instead of using the old food pyramid the Vegan diet utilizes just four food groups: grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.

 A Vegan diet is a stricter form of Vegetarianism, as the latter is a matter of degree to which certain foods are included or excluded regarding animal protein and various dairy products. Typical might be the ovo-vegetarian where dairy products, meat, fish, and fowl are excluded, however, they will still eat eggs. Instead of going into great detail on a Vegan Diet in Part I, I’d rather refer you to an excellent book on the subject that I acquired in December, 2010. The name of the book is, “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.”  This book will provide you with all the detail you need (including the research on which the book’s recommendations are based) in order to get started with a Vegan diet. And, as always, see your physician before embarking on any serious changes to your diet or activity level.

What I’d prefer to do with the rest of the Blog is, as they say, cut to the chase. The question running through your mind is, or should be—why should you do this? What’s so important about making a drastic change in the way one eats and going vegan?  To answer that question I’ll share with you research and the benefits of the vegan diet. For now, I just want to share with you my own personal experience with the vegan diet. For me, I’ve lost 1+1/2 lbs a week since the start of the new year; and my Lipid Profile is outstanding (Total Cholesterol is now 139, HDL is 45, LDL is 67, and Triglycerides are 135).

 In Part II of this series I will provide you with details on what a Vegan diet is all about, including all of its benefits that are known at this time. I want to add that it is also important for the general public as well (not just diabetics) to consider making dietary changes to the Western diet and way of eating. The health of the nation may well depend heavily upon making changes to the way we approach eating food.

Lobbyists in Washington are working very hard, on behalf of certain industries (dairy, cattle, fast foods, etc.) to keep things as they are and maintain a policy of praying at the altar of the all-mighty dollar. Your health and well-being isn’t even a tertiary consideration.

In ending Part I want to describe the root causes of diabetes. For hundreds of years diabetes was thought to be a very mysterious disease whose causes were unknown. Doctors, other health professionals, and those affected by the disease (including close family members) saw the havoc diabetes had on the lives of millions of people; but understanding how this disease comes about and how the human body works was quite another matter. However, in the last 10-15 years our knowledge on the causes of diabetes is beginning to form a picture. As said before, research is the major key to unlocking the mystery of diabetes. I don’t mean to oversimplify what I’m about to present—but I think it provides a clearer picture on the causes of diabetes. While not all pieces of the puzzle are known at the biochemical, cellular, and genetic levels, the following is what we do know.  

 Types of Diabetes

 There are basically three types of diabetes. They are Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes. They are defined as:


Type 1This type of diabetes usually manifests itself in childhood or young adulthood. It used to be called childhood-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, something has damaged the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin; therefore there is a need to take insulin, usually by injection. As Dr. Neal Bernard explains in his book, Dr. Neal Bernard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, it is an autoimmune disease because the damages done to the insulin producing cells of the pancreas are attacked by the body’s own white-blood cells, those substances that are supposed to fight bacteria and viruses. More will be reported later on what triggers that process.

Type 2—This type of diabetes affects 9 out of every10 individuals who are diagnosed with the disease. This used to be called adult-onset diabetes, or sometimes non-insulin-dependent diabetes. Most people with this form of the disease still produce insulin; the problem is that their cells resist it. Insulin tries to bring glucose into the cells, but the cells respond like a door with a malfunctioning lock. In response to these sluggish cells, your body produces more and more insulin, trying to overcome the resistance. If the body’s insulin supply cannot overcome the resistance, glucose simply builds up in your blood. More will be reported later on how to overcome insulin resistance.

Gestational Diabetes —This type of diabetes is similar to Type 2 except that it occurs in women during pregnancy. While it typically disappears after childbirth, it is a sign of insulin resistance, and that means that type 2 diabetes may be around the corner. Steps taken to prevent Type 2 diabetes may be useful also for those women who have gestational diabetes. Two things women should do post-pregnancy is continue monitoring their blood sugar, and give strong consideration to implementing a more healthy lifestyle, and especially—a more healthy diet.  As always, see your primary-care physician first.

The Epidemiology of Diabetes

Epidemiological Facts

 The data presented here are from the 2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet (the most recent year for which data is available).

Total: 23.6 million children and adults in the United States—7.8% of the population—have diabetes.

Diagnosed: 17.9 million people

Undiagnosed: 5.7 million people

Pre-diabetes: 57 million people

New Cases: 1.6 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older each year.

Total Prevalence of Diabetes

Under 20 years of age

  • 186,300, or 0.22% of all people in this age group have diabetes
  • About 1 in every 400 to 600 children and adolescents has type 1 diabetes
  • About 2 million adolescents aged 12-19 have pre-diabetes

Age 20 years or older

  • 23.5 million, or 10.7% of all people in this age group have diabetes

Age 60 years or older

  • 12.2 million, or 23.1% of all people in this age group have diabetes


  • 12.0 million, or 11.2% of all men aged 20 years or older have diabetes


  • 11.5 million, or 10.2% of all women aged 20 years or older have diabetes


Race and Ethnic Differences in Prevalence of Diagnosed Diabetes

After adjusting for population age differences, 2004-2006 national survey data for people diagnosed with diabetes, aged 20 years or older include the following prevalence by race/ethnicity:

  • 6.6% of non-Hispanic whites
  • 7.5% of Asian Americans
  • 11.8% of non-Hispanic blacks
  • 10.4% of Hispanics

Among Hispanics rates were:

  • 8.2% for Cubans
  • 11.9% for Mexican Americans
  • 12.6% for Puerto Ricans.


Morbidity and Mortality


Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2006. This ranking is based on the 72,507 death certificates in 2006 in which diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death. According to death certificate reports, diabetes contributed to a total of 233,619 deaths in 2005, the latest year for which data on contributing causes of death are available.


Heart Disease and Stroke

• In 2004, heart disease was noted on 68% of diabetes-related death certificates among people aged 65 years or older.

• In 2004, stroke was noted on 16% of diabetes-related death certificates among people aged 65 years or older.

• Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes.

• The risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people with diabetes.


High Blood Pressure

• In 2003–2004, 75% of adults with self-reported diabetes had blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/80 mmHg, or used prescription medications for hypertension.


• Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20–74 years.

• Diabetic retinopathy causes 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness each year.

 Kidney Disease

• Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44% of new cases in 2005.

• In 2005, 46,739 people with diabetes began treatment for end-stage kidney disease in the United States and Puerto Rico.

• In 2005, a total of 178,689 people with end-stage kidney disease due to diabetes were living on chronic dialysis or with a kidney transplant in the United States and Puerto Rico.

 Nervous System Disease (Neuropathy)

• About 60% to 70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage.


• More than 60% of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.

• In 2004, about 71,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations were performed in people with diabetes.

Cost of Diabetes

$174 billion: Total costs of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2007

  • $116 billion for direct medical costs
  • $58 billion for indirect costs (disability, work loss, premature mortality)

After adjusting for population age and sex differences, average medical expenditures among people with diagnosed diabetes were 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association has created a Diabetes Cost Estimator that takes the national cost of diabetes data and provides estimates at the state and congressional district level.

Factoring in the additional costs of undiagnosed diabetes, pre-diabetes, and gestational diabetes brings the total cost of diabetes in the United States in 2007 to $218 billion.

• $18 billion for the 6.3 million people with undiagnosed diabetes
• $25 billion for the 57 million American adults with pre-diabetes
• $623 million for the 180,000 pregnancies where gestational diabetes is diagnosed

For Additional Information

These statistics and additional information can be found in the National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2007, the most recent comprehensive assessment of the impact of diabetes in the United States, jointly produced by the CDC, NIH, ADA, and other organizations.

 The Root Causes of Diabetes

 Many people believe that genetics plays the most important role in determining who gets diabetes and who doesn’t. We now know that this isn’t necessarily the case. Why? It’s because environmental factors and human behavior also play a significant role in diabetes. For example, there have been many studies conducted on Twins particularly in psychology so that greater knowledge could be found that better explained heredity versus the environment.  And many Twin studies have been conducted in the field of medicine as well.

Twins have the same genes. Yet, if one twin is diagnosed with diabetes, the other twin should develop the disease if genes are so determinative of disease causation. This however is not the case. The other twin only has a 40% chance of developing diabetes.

Other factors are involved. And, whether someone lives a long life obviously depends on both individual behavior and environmental factors.

Individual behavior, of course, really matters. Recently, the exercise and fitness icon/guru Jack Lalaine died at the age of 96. Jim Fixx, the famous runner of the 1980s, should have died earlier in life if genetics determined everything (His father died of a heart attack at 43). By my standards Jim Fixx also died young; he was only 52 years old. But he still outlived his father by 9 years because of his personal fitness as a marathon runner.

What implication then does environment and behavior, as causal factors, have on the prevalence of diabetes?  As most of you probably know epidemiology is the study of the prevalence and incidence of disease. It is a kind of sociology of medicine where large population studies take place. And, like the research field of psychology or sociology, the research conducted in epidemiology is extraordinarily important.

What I’m presenting in this Blog is only a short summary overview of the causation of diabetes.  

 Epidemiological Clues to Diabetes Begin to Form 

The most common treatment approach for decades has been the diabetic diet and exercise. Lots of exercise is always good and the exercise revolution went into high gear four decades ago. Besides exercise (30 minutes a day most days of the week) the basic recommendation of the medical community was to follow the ADA’s diabetic diet that included very little sugar and limited starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, rice, and pasta. This was logical since starch breaks down into sugar in your digestive track. Diabetic diets generally cut calories so one could simultaneously lose weight and limit certain fats. This would help to reduce heart disease and other complications. Over time however weight loss was generally modest and the diet itself was not enough to bring blood sugar down under excellent control.

 The first clue that something was amiss came from the field of epidemiology based on studies from other cultures. Large population studies revealed that diabetes was rare in Japan, China, Thailand, and other Asian countries. It was also found to be quite rare in parts of Africa. Such studies were showing something else. That is, people in countries where diabetes was rare or uncommon were not following anything like the diabetes diet. The typical Asian diet (and in Africa) did not avoid carbohydrates and included rice and other grains, starchy vegetables, bean dishes, and noodles.

 Despite eating lots of carbohydrates (much more than among North Americans or Europeans) diabetes was relatively rare. Among the Japanese eating their traditional Japanese diet the prevalence of diabetes is 1 percent. Among Americans the prevalence is 30 percent. However, when Japanese move to North America their risk of acquiring diabetes dramatically increases as does their risk of heart disease, obesity, and other medical problems.

 Unfortunately for Japanese living in their homeland, the American way of eating has finally come to them; they now have Burger King, McDonalds, and KFC. Meat, cheese, and other greasy foods, and other Western eating habits, are replacing rice and vegetables.  It turns out that the genes that allow diabetes to occur are surprisingly common among the Japanese, but as long as they stuck to their traditional diet, the disease was held mostly in check.

 The inescapable fact is that the problem is not a diet of lots of carbohydrates (sugar and starch). The causal problem is actually how the body processes them. Type 1 diabetes has an additional problem that I explain below.      

Cause of Type 1 Diabetes

It turns out Type 1 diabetes occurs because of what might be called “friendly fire.” This is the current explanation:

For many years researchers have known that type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Your immune system, of course, is your defense against viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. It is not supposed to attack your own healthy tissues, but that is exactly what occurs in type 1 diabetes.

As you probably know your immune system is made up of specialized white blood cells. Evidently, some of the cells engulf invading germs and digest them. Others make antibodies—molecules that attach to invading organisms like harpoons and identify them for other immune cells to attack. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your immune system has made a major error. It has attacked and destroyed your insulin-producing cells, making it what scientists call an autoimmune disease.

Everyone’s question has been—why does this occur? In 1992 a team of Canadian and Finnish researchers reported on an important discovery in the New England Journal of Medicine. They examined the blood samples of 142 children newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. They found that each of the children had antibodies that were primed to attack cow’s milk proteins.

These antibodies had apparently arisen in response to cow’s protein in their infant’s formula, but the antibodies were also capable of attacking the body’s insulin producing cells in the pancreas. A portion of the cow’s milk protein turned out to be an exact match for a portion of human insulin-producing cells. The antibodies thus ended up attacking the children’s insulin-producing cells. This biochemical reaction led to the children being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Cause of Type 2 Diabetes


All humans need energy to live. Consequently, every cell in the body needs energy, including cells in our large muscle groups. How do our cells get this energy? Normally, the foods we eat provide that energy. The food is then converted to blood glucose (blood sugar) and leads to circulation in our blood stream. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, and sends it into your bloodstream to travel to the various cells of the body. Insulin then attaches to a receptor on the cell’s surface and causes the cell membrane to permit blood glucose to enter. In Type 2 diabetes this system doesn’t work very well. The insulin gets to each cell; however, when it arrives, it has trouble unlocking the door to each cell and then the cell fails to permit the glucose to enter. Since glucose cannot get into the cells, it then builds up in the bloodstream. This condition is called Insulin Resistance.

The mystery of Type 2 diabetes has always been to find out why Insulin Resistance occurs. We now have a pretty good idea of the cause. So, what is the cause of Type 2 diabetes? Insulin’s ability to work is blocked in the human cell (like gum jamming up a lock as the metaphor suggests) by actual FAT. The cell’s receptors are blocked or jammed by fat. Normally small amounts of fat are stored for energy in an emergency in each cell. However, in a diet (like the Western diet high in fat and cholesterol) excessive fat builds up in each cell creating the jamming process that prevents glucose from entering. If fat, called intramyocellular lipid, accumulates inside the cell, it interferes with insulin’s intracellular signaling process. Tiny organelles, called mitochondria, are supposed to burn fat. But their failure to keep up with the accumulating fat may be the origin of Type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, evidence shows that diet can reduce the amount of fat inside the cell. And, once excess fat is removed, insulin resistance greatly improves by once again allowing blood sugar to enter the cell.

My initial reaction to all this new information was to ask myself why not, rather than diet, find a way to simply increase the important mitochondria in the body first? Bright ideas aren’t quite so bright sometimes, especially when talking about bio-chemistry of the human body. What happens is that, through diet, one can easily add excessive fat (as we do in the American diet).  Traces of fat begin accumulating many years before diabetes manifests itself. Our genes in the body at the cellular level are a blueprint for mitochondria.

It turns out fatty foods actually do more than add excessive fat to each cell—they also interfere by turning off the genes that would help them create mitochondria and thus burn fat. The genes become disabled and do not allow the cells to produce the needed mitochondria. Your ability to eliminate fat inside your cells seems to slow down when you eat fatty foods. Continue this faulty intracellular activity long enough, and guess what—you end up being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  

At the Imperial College of Medicine in London, researchers studied a group of individuals following a vegan diet. They compared the participants to others who were similar in age and body weight but were not following a vegan diet. When the researchers measured the intramyocellular lipid in each participant’s calf muscles, they found it was 31 percent lower in the vegans than in the omnivores. These findings strongly suggest that a vegan diet may significantly alter the problem of insulin resistance.

In Part II of my series on Diabetes in America, I will present details on what a vegan diet is. If you combine exercise with the vegan diet, you will possess two tools to create a permanent one-two punch that will knock diabetes to the canvas while the referee for a healthy life counts it out.

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