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  • Health and Wellness

    Are You Missing These Important Tips For Health And Longevity?

    After digging through content from “foundmyfitness.com” webinars (Dr. Rhonda Patrick has a PhD in biomedical science), the textbook Dietary Patterns and Whole Plant Foods in Aging and Disease (by Mark L Dreher, PhD), 2017 guidelines from the American Heart Association, videos from Dr. Richard Isaacson (a Neurologist at Cornell who specializes in Alzheimer’s prevention), and the book, “What Are You Hungry For?” by Dr. Deepak Chopra, I have gathered lifestyle behaviors associated with improved health and longevity. The information provided below is based on prospective trials, randomized controlled trials, and biochemical/medical research. The four main topics covered will be general lifestyle and nutritional modifications, spices for wellness, and dietary modifications specifically tailored toward heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease prevention (ie: Alzheimer’s).

     

    Nutrition / Lifestyle

    longevity, health

    Our intestines regulate the inflammatory process that is associated with the aging process. A little bit of inflammation is beneficial to the body to heal and eliminate infection. However, if the amount of inflammation supersedes the body’s physiologic needs, scientific evidence suggests an associated higher rate of premature aging.

     

    Refined carbohydrates have been demonstrated to increase the inflammatory process. Think of “comfort foods” when it comes to refined carbohydrates: pasta, fries, white bread, cookies, pastries, ice cream, cakes etc. The inflammation induced by these foods causes cellular / DNA damage which can lead to cancer.

     

    Here are some general principals of lifestyle modifications to prolong the aging process:

     

    • Weight loss
      • Excessive “belly fat” – or “central adiposity”- is linked with inflammation and insulin resistance
    • Continuing to consume the “Western diet” increases your odds of unhealthy aging, frailty, and increased mortality amongst cancer survivors
    • Limit “energy dense” foods (think foods at the top of the food chain)
    • Limit low nutrient foods (think processed and refined foods)
    • Limit red meat and processed meat
    • Limit added salt and sugar
    • Increase fiber intake
      • Higher amounts of fiber reduce the risk of gut infections, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal (intestinal) cancer
      • Establishes a protective healthy population of bacteria in your gut
      • Increases bulk of stool which acts to dilute potential toxins and carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds
      • Aim for >28g / day
        • Randomized controlled trials show that increases in fiber intake can reduce body weight and waist circumference compared to low fiber Western diets (<20g/ day)
      • Eat fiber rich foods over fiber supplements
    • Increase phytochemical-rich minimally processed plant foods
      • The Mediterranean diet >> Western diets
    • Increase physical activity to most days of the week
    • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and waist size
    • Avoid smoking

     

    Wellness Spices

    longevity, health

    Ginger

    • Improves digestion
    • Alleviates nausea (especially in pregnancy)
    • Helps with intestinal gas and menstrual cramps
    • Alleviates anxiety
    • Use the fresh root over powdered forms (and organic whenever possible)

    Turmeric

    • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
    • Can help reduce elevated cholesterol levels
    • Can reduce pain and stiffness in arthritis
    • Can prevent cancer cells from developing (in animal studies)
    • Reduces the risk of stomach ulcers

    Cinnamon

    • Increases energy and treats colds, indigestion, and cramps through its antioxidant properties
    • Reduces chronic inflammation
    • Helpful in treating type 2 Diabetes by lowering sugar levels and increasing insulin production

    Peppers

    • Spicy and sweet peppers carry antioxidant properties (due to capsaicin)
    • Capsaicin improves pain from migraine / sinus headaches
    • Can be effective in killing pancreatic, prostatic, and lung cancer cells (in animal studies)

    Garlic

    • Relieves lung congestion and stiffness/ pain from arthritis
    • Calms anxiety
    • Promotes menstrual regularity
    • Improves libido in men
    • Raw garlic may reduce the risk of breast, prostate, stomach, and colon cancer
      • According to Dr. Deepak Chopra’s book; “Researchers found that people who eat >6 garlic cloves a week had a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer and a 50% lower rate of stomach cancer”
        • Unfortunately, I do not have the research study to validate this claim, but it is an interesting point to consider
    • When cooked or dried, garlic loses its benefits
    • Chew on parsley after consuming garlic to avoid garlic breath

     

    Heart Disease

    longevity, health

    • Stop smoking
    • Keep your blood pressure well-controlled

     

    The chart below is based on new AHA/ACC 2017 High Blood Pressure guidelines:

     

    Normal  <120 / 80 mmHg
    Elevated <120-129 / < 80
    Stage 1 130-139 / 80-89
    Stage 2 >140 / >90
    Hypertensive Crisis >180 / >120 = need for prompt changes in medication / immediate hospitalizations if ill

     

    If your blood pressure is in the “elevated” or above categories, it is very important to implement healthy lifestyle habits. I personally recommend a clean, low/no sugar diet (think- shopping the perimeter of a grocery store), which by default reduces your intake of sodium and processed foods. However, I have a lot more to say on this topic and will leave it at that for now!

     

    The AHA (American Heart Association) has dietary recommends that can decrease the risk of heart disease by 20-33% compared to a Western diet:

     

    • Consume higher quantities of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, low-fat dairy and seafood
    • Limit (/ eliminate) intake of red and processed meat, refined grains, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages

     

    Cancer

    longevity, health

    Colorectal (intestinal) Cancer

    • Consume low inflammatory diets and increase your intake of fiber
    • When fiber is fermented by the bacteria in our gut, it produces butyrate which blocks cancer cells from starting and progressing
    • Ginger may prevent the growth of colorectal cancer cells

    Breast Cancer

    Lifestyle factors that are associated with an INCREASED risk of cancer (especially in postmenopausal women):

    • Being overweight / having an obese BMI-for the average person; excluding outliers such as performance athletes with high muscle mass:
    BMI Categories
    Underweight <18.5
    Normal weight 18.5-24.9
    Overweight 25-29.9
    Obese >30

     

    • Weight gain >15 lbs over 4 years
    • Physical inactivity
    • Western diet
      • High intake of red and processed meats
      • High energy dense foods
      • Foods/beverages with high glycemic indexes
        • The Glycemic Index (GI) is scale that measures how carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood sugar relative to glucose or white bread. You can find more information at diabetes.org
      • >1 alcoholic beverage / day
    • High consumption of alcohol

    Lifestyle modifications to REDUCE your risk

    • Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and vegan diet (see comparison chart below)
    • Intake of highly colored non-starchy vegetables

    western diet, DASH

     

    Neurodegenerative Disease

    longevity, health

    Diet and lifestyle are major contributors to the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

    • One hypothesis by Dr. Peter Attias is that type 2 Diabetes and decreased insulin sensitivity increases one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A term they used to describe diseases like Alzheimer’s is “Brain Diabetes.”
    • Richard Isaacson- a Neurologist at Cornell- states that dementia starts decades in advance of the first sign of memory loss, allowing us to have ample time to intervene on our health
      • Exercise: He emphasizes interval training or intensity of exercise where you are unable to text or talk on the phone
      • Control of blood pressure, cholesterol, and body fat % lower your risk of dementia
      • Dietary recommendations: omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish- lake trout, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, wild salmon, sardines)
        • Also: olive oil, strawberries, blueberries, avocado, leafy greens
      • Sleep: allows for “detoxing” of the brain and removal of harmful compounds
        • Researchers have demonstrated (in mice experiments) that while we sleep, our spinal cord fluid soaks our brains and “takes out the garbage” (ie: removes protein such as amyloid plaques that are linked with Alzheimer’s disease). This is known as our “Glymphatic System.”
      • Current Neurologic science focused on dementia prevention is aimed at using a patient’s genetic / biologic makeup to tailor a brain healthy diet individualized to them

    In reviewing the information, it is clear that recommendations typically boil down to moving your body at a high enough intensity where it is challenging to multi-task, keeping your weight at an appropriate BMI, consuming low density foods with a wide range of colors in their whole and natural state as possible (with as little added sugar as possible), and getting enough sleep.

    While most of these recommendations may not sound “ground-breaking” or “new,” the IMPLEMENTATION of these behaviors is a whole other ball game.

    I personally struggle with the recommendation to eat less red meat and less high-density foods. I am actively working on consuming more vegetables and plant based foods that make me feel lighter and “buoyant.” I encourage you to take an honest look at your daily and weekly eating habits. Identify the eating / behavior lifestyle patterns that you tend to make excuses for or justifications on. These areas are the key spots to focus your attention on making a change.


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    Bibliography

    Attia, Peter. “Peter Attia, M.D. on Macronutrient Thresholds for Longevity and Performance, Cancer & More.” FoundMyFitness, 14 Mar. 2016, www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/peter-attia.

     

    “Calculate Your BMI – Standard BMI Calculator.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm.

     

    de Grey, Aubrey. “Dr. Aubrey De Grey and Dr. Rhonda Patrick Talk Aging.” FoundMyFitness, 13 Aug. 2015, www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/aubrey-de-grey.

     

    Dreher M.L. (2018) Dietary Patterns, Whole Plant Foods, Nutrients and Phytochemicals in Breast Cancer Prevention and Management. In: Dietary Patterns and Whole Plant Foods in Aging and Disease. Nutrition and Health. Humana Press, Cham

     

    Dreher M.L. (2018) Dietary Patterns in Aging and Disease. In: Dietary Patterns and Whole Plant Foods in Aging and Disease. Nutrition and Health. Humana Press, Cham

     

    Isaacson, Richard. “Protect Your Brain against Alzheimer’s Disease.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 24 Aug. 2016, www.reuters.com/video/2016/08/24/protect-your-brain-against-alzheimers-di?videoId=369658888&videoChannel=118240&channelName=Health%2BWatch.

     

    Whelton, Paul K et al. “2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology Nov 2017, 24430; DOI:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.006

     

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