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Many people get to age 60 or so and, if they haven’t lived a healthy, active life up to that point, assume it’s too late for them. After all, things only get harder the older you get. You’ve got aches and pains. Your doc is always reminding you about your weight. Things creak and crack. You look wistfully at the gym you pass by every day, thinking to yourself, “It would never work.”
At least, that’s how most people deal with getting old: they lament their “inability” to do anything about it as oblivion approaches and overtakes them.
Forget all that. While you can’t turn back the chronological clock, you can “de-age” yourself by engaging in the right diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. So—how?
Realize That It’s Never Too Late
The scientific literature is rife with examples of older individuals making changes to their lifestyle, diet, and exercise and seeing great results.
How about 68-year-olds still getting gains from strength training?
Older women switching to high-fatty-meat or high-cheese diets and enjoying better heart health.
Verifiable examples (or “anecdotes”) from people online are also available. Like PD Mangan, who went from this to this. That’s not impossible, or even difficult to achieve. What you need is the will and means and know-how—all freely available.
Know that it’s possible. Know that it’s probable. Know that your efforts will not be in vain.
Realize That It’s Your Fault—And Even If It’s Not, It’s Your Responsibility
I don’t care where you fall on the belief spectrum. It could be that “your body is a temple ordained by God and you’d be remiss to let it fall to ruin and in doing so fail your creator.” It could be that “your body was the work of hundreds of generations of ancestors who fought and suffered and scrounged and died to ensure you’d make it and to fail to maintain your health is a huge insult to their sacrifices.” It could be that “your body is the product of millions and billions of years of evolution through natural selection, a chance byproduct of a process that probability says shouldn’t have even happened, and you’re going to waste it?”
However you approach it, what matters is that you have a remarkable body (and mind) that deserves your attention, care, maintenance and nourishment. Only you can do anything about it. Maybe you were fed bad food as a kid and bad info as an adult (this is most people). Doesn’t matter. You still have to own it and take the steps necessary to improve your condition. Responsibility means ability to respond. Claim it.
Eat More Protein
If you’re over 50, you need more protein than you think.
If you’re over 50, your ability to utilize protein isn’t as good as it used to be.
If you’re over 50, you need more protein to do the same job as a person 25 years younger.
If you’re over 65, the supposed negative relationship between meat and mortality the “experts” are always crowing about reverses, magically becoming a positive relationship.
And if one of your issues is trouble losing body fat, more protein will also help you beat back exaggerated hunger and keep food intake low enough to lose weight. Many people in the ancestral community don’t like acknowledging this, but it’s true for a great many people: protein is the most satiating macronutrient.
Moreover, protein will help you lose body fat and retain (and even gain) the all-important lean muscle mass. Losing muscle when you’re over 50 is harder and harder to recover from.
The only catch is that if one of your “aging-related maladies” is kidney failure, you may have to slow things down and keep your protein intake low to moderate. Emphasis on “may.” Check with your doctor if that’s the case.
Get As Insulin Sensitive As You Can
The relationship between insulin signaling and aging is a bit unclear. What we know is that people with higher insulin sensitivity live longer and healthier lives. We know that insulin resistance is strongly linked to most degenerative diseases, like cancer, diabetes, sarcopenia, and osteoporosis (to name only a few). But researchers are always oscillating between “cause” and “effect.” Is insulin resistance a cause or a sign of aging? Are insulin sensitive people healthier into old age because they’re insulin sensitive, or are they insulin sensitive because they’re healthier?
I’m not sure it really matters. Either way, to become more insulin sensitive you have to do a bunch of things that will also make you healthier and age better like lifting weights, quitting overeating, taking more walks, doing more low level aerobic work, and regulating your carb intake.
I’ve always said that you should burn as little glucose as possible. The more you can rely on stored body fat for energy and daily maintenance, the better. Well, the more insulin sensitive you are, the less insulin you’ll have blunting your ability to liberate stored body fat, the more fat you’ll burn and the better you’ll age.
Walk Every Day
One of my favorite predictors of mortality in older people is walking speed: they ask people to walk at their normal speed and then track how fast they go. The slower the walk, the higher their risk of dying earlier. It’s my favorite because it’s so elegant. And no, actively forcing yourself to walk more briskly when you get tested won’t increase your longevity. But if you get up and walk every single day, walking will be second nature. Your walking speed will increase naturally, and it’s the natural increase in walking speed that presages a longer, healthier life.
Walking will also force you to get out and see and experience the world. It’ll lower your fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose (hint: walk after meals). It will introduce novelty to your life and in doing so extend your time horizon.
Eat Tons Of Collagen
Collagen improves skin health, elasticity, and reduces wrinkling. This might sound superficial, but altering those “surface level” signs of aging indicates that you’re also modifying the internal aging markers.
Another reason to up your collagen intake is to balance out the meat you’re eating. As an older person, you’ll need to eat more meat to counter your suboptimal protein utilization. That means you need to process more methionine, which requires more glycine, which comes from collagen.
The easiest way to get collagen and hit a few birds with one stone is to eat lots of collagenous meats—shanks, skin, knuckles, oxtails, ears, snouts, feet, tendons. That way you get your muscle meat protein and collagen protein. Collagen protein powder is another option.
Lift Heavy Things To Build Your Musculoskeletal System
Exercise isn’t just good for your muscles and your heart. It’s also the only reliable way to build and maintain bone mineral density. But in order for exercise to improve bone mineral density, it must satisfy several requirements. It should be dynamic, not static. It needs to challenge you. It needs to challenge your muscles. In other words, you need to lift (relatively) heavy things. You need to progress in weight, intensity, and duration. It should be “relatively brief but intermittent.” No long drawn-out sessions that do nothing but overwork and overtrain you. Keep it short and intense. Also, the exercise should place an unusual loading pattern on the bones. That could be different movements, or increased resistance, as long as you’re introducing something “new” to the body; don’t just do the same old weights forever. Finally, for exercise to improve bone mineral density it must be supported by sufficient nutrition, especially calcium, vitamin D, sufficient protein, and vitamin K2.
Develop Your Balance Yesterday
The number one cause of death and degeneration after age 70 is falling and breaking something. You step out of the shower, slip, and break a hip, then never recover. You step off a curb and fall on your knee, breaking your femur, and never recover. Avoid this at all costs. Improve your balance as soon as possible.
Get a slackline: Keep it low to the ground, have a partner to help, or use something like a walking stick to support you. Focus on simply balancing rather than trying to walk.
Try standup paddling: Not only is it a great workout and a great time, paddling forces you to balance—constantly. And as long as you can swim, falling is totally safe.
Walk on uneven surfaces (carefully): Go for hikes, walk in the sand or in the grass, walk along cobblestone streets, walk on slopes.
Walk along curbs (very carefully).
Wear footwear that is as minimalist as you can handle (or just go barefoot if you’re up for it): The bottom of the foot is loaded with nerve endings that inform you and guide your balance as you make your way through the world. They help you subconsciously make those micro-adjustments to your posture and body position that make up “good balance.” A big clunky rubber sole blocks that out and cuts you off from your body.
Play Every Day
They say that when you stop moving, you start dying. I say when you stop playing, you start dying. We see this in dogs; once a dog no longer wants to play, chase the ball, roughhouse, or do the things he or she used to love doing, they’re on the way out. I firmly believe the same is true for people—just spread out across a longer timeline.
So have fun. Play sports. Try Ultimate Frisbee (my favorite).
Don’t forget about the mental games. Game nights. Crosswords in the morning (that’s what I do). Play cards. Do a weekly poker night with friends and make it a potluck.
What I’m not saying is that doing the crossword will stave off Alzheimer’s or make you smarter. What it will do is send the message to your brain and body that “this person hasn’t given up.” Ideally, your physical play will train your muscles, bones, and balance—that way you can satisfy all those requirements and have fun doing it.
Don’t Do It Alone
If you’re an older person reading this and actually preparing to make the changes necessary to be healthy and vigorous, you are a rare bird. Most of your peers have given up. Most have resigned themselves to being less healthy and less vigorous with every passing day. Don’t let that happen. Enlist a friend, a loved one, a peer. Not only will it give you another person to play, train, and walk with, but it will help you stay the course and enjoy doing it. It will also save another person—or at least give them the best chance they’ve got.
Those are the big tips. There are others, though. And for anyone interested in better health and longevity and more life in the years you have, Keto for Life, offers more information than I could fit here. All the points I covered today and many more are fleshed out and expanded upon twenty-fold.
But if you just focused on these 10 tips, you’d be pretty far along on your way to health (no matter what age you are).
That’s it for today, folks. Take care, drop your own tips down below, and have a great Thanksgiving!
The post Late To the Healthy Living Game? 10 Essential Tips Making the Transition to Better Health appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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The treatment usually prescribed by doctors, hormone therapy (HT), is controversial and not appropriate for some women. I won’t get into the HT debate here—Mark did a great job covering the pros and cons recently. Suffice it to say that HT isn’t the answer for everyone, and it’s not a panacea by any means.
Whether or not they choose to go the HT route, many women desire additional support during perimenopause and beyond. For the sake of keeping this post from becoming a novella, I’m going to focus on mind-body therapies today.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of nonhormonal options, nor is it meant to try to dissuade you from trying HT. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself with your doctor. The approaches below can be used alone or in combination with other modalities, including HT.
As with any medical-adjacent tools, if you are considering any of the options here, take the time to educate yourself, talk to your doctor, and find qualified practitioners to help you implement these practices.
A Note Regarding Research Evidence…
Because so many women are interested in complementary or alternative approaches, there’s a fair amount of research into nonhormonal treatments. There are also important limitations.
A lot of the randomized control trials—experiments that are best for establishing causal effects—are small. There is considerable variability in research design, so it’s difficult to generalize across studies.
Participants in these studies tend to be white and well-educated. Since there are cross-cultural differences in the experience of menopause, we shouldn’t assume that the findings apply to all women. Likewise, a lot of the research focuses on women with a history of breast cancer because HT is generally contraindicated in this population. While the results of these studies probably generalize to other women, it would be great to have more data.
Finally, vasomotor symptoms—hot flushes and night sweats—are studied more than other types of symptoms. Though they are the most common complaint, many women do not experience debilitating vasomotor symptoms. They might, however, experience mood fluctuations, depression, sexual issues, memory problems, and more. We know less about how these approaches might help those women.
Nevertheless, I’ll highlight some of the potentially fruitful avenues you might explore. When possible, I’ll focus on systematic reviews and meta-analyses. They pool the results of multiple smaller studies to help a more reliable picture emerge.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
In CBT, individuals are encouraged to explore how their thoughts (cognitions) affect feelings, behaviors, and physical symptoms. With help, they change their thoughts or beliefs about a situation to help manage their responses and improve coping skills.
Although there isn’t a ton of research on CBT for menopause, available studies are very promising. Whether or not CBT reduces the actual number of hot flushes—and the data here are mixed—CBT should work by changing women’s perceptions of their hot flushes. Multiple studies do find that after CBT women view their hot flushes as interfering less with daily life. As expected, they are also less bothered by them.
Women who see themselves as having less control over their hot flushes also tend to experience more distress. Changing their perceived control could be an effective intervention for improving quality of life. Indeed, in one study, 95 women received either group-based or self-help CBT. After therapy they reported feeling greater control over hot flushes and having better coping skills compared to women in a no-CBT control condition. Further analyses showed that women’s beliefs about control and coping predicted how problematic they found their hot flushes to be. (Having more positive beliefs about how hot flushes affect sleep also helped.)
Women who participated in CBT also experienced fewer sleep issues and insomnia as well as fewer depressive symptoms and sexual concerns. They also noticed less impairment at work. Positive results were found with in-person therapy, self-help programs, and telephone-based therapy. When studies included a follow-up assessment, the beneficial effects of CBT persisted for at least six months.
Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation Training
A cross-sectional study of 1744 women found that women with higher scores on a mindfulness assessment tended to report less severe menopausal symptoms. For women with higher life stress, this association was especially strong. The idea here is that when women are able to be present-focused and observe their symptoms without judgment, they are protected against some of the distress, and possibly the physical symptoms, associated with menopause.
Although some of the women in that survey are probably mindful by nature—lucky them—mindfulness is also a skill that can be learned and cultivated. Among the many reasons to do so, mindfulness and meditation training can apparently lessen menopausal symptoms.
For example, researchers assigned 110 women to either an intensive eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program or a control group. The women who received mindfulness training reported having less bothersome hot flushes, better sleep quality, less anxiety and stress, and greater overall quality of life compared to the control group. When the researchers followed participants over the next 11 weeks, these results persisted or became even stronger.
A few other studies found that women who receive mindfulness or meditation training report fewer and less bothersome hot flushes, improved sleep, and better psychological functioning, though the results have not consistently endured over time. However, when looking at more general relaxation training and paced breathing techniques, effects are minimal, at least for hot flushes.
An ethnographic study of nine female yogi masters concluded that they tend to skate fairly easily through menopause. The authors concluded that menopausal women should be encouraged to practice yoga. Of course, in addition to yoga, these yogi masters’ lifestyles included “healthy food habits, adequate sleep, and the use of nature cure techniques (i.e., fasting, detoxification, selection of suitable food products, and living in well-ventilated houses) that facilitated the art of living in tune with nature.” This sounds pretty great, but can we give really yoga all the credit here?
Probably not. However, two recent meta-analyses did conclude that yoga offers small but significant relief from symptoms of all types: vasomotor, psychological (including depression), somatic (including fatigue and sleep disturbances), and urogenital. Women also report better overall well-being and quality of life after receiving yoga training.
In one study, a group of breast cancer survivors received twelve weeks of yoga and meditation instruction, and they were encouraged to practice daily at home. Compared to women in a control group (no instruction), they reported fewer symptoms and improved quality of life at the end of the twelve weeks and again when asked three months later. A later analysis found that many of the effects were mediated by improved self-esteem in the yoga group.
Note that most of the individual studies are small, and they employ different types of yoga practices. This might be considered a strength insofar as different practices have been shown to work, or a weakness in that it’s not clear if one approach is particularly effective.
Cross-cultural surveys find that women who are more active tend to have an easier time with menopause. For example, two large surveys of Swedish women found that women who exercised at least once per week reported less intrusive symptoms than women who never exercised, and women who exercised more than three hours per week were significantly less likely to experience severe symptoms than their less active counterparts. Sedentary women in this Finnish study experienced more vasomotor, psychological, and somatic/pain symptoms than women who were at least somewhat active.
While promising, experimental studies have not yielded such favorable results. When women were assigned to “physical activity” conditions (often walking), some studies report improvements, but others find no improvements or even worsening symptoms (perhaps depending on women’s baseline fitness). Multiple reviews have concluded that there is no systematic effect of exercise, particularly not for vasomotor symptoms.
Does that mean menopausal women shouldn’t exercise? Obviously no. It’s clear that being active—or at least not being sedentary—is important for overall health, and it probably helps menopausal women through the transition. However, there isn’t enough research to know what types of exercise are most effective and when. Do the types of movement you enjoy and that make your body feel good.
A recent review concluded that acupuncture is effective for reducing vasomotor symptoms, both frequency and severity, as well as for improving quality of life. However, the reviewers also found that acupuncture was not reliably better than sham acupuncture where needles are inserted at points other than the prescribed pressure points and at a shallower depth—a placebo condition.
A handful of studies have shown that clinical hypnosis can reduce hot flush frequency and distress among breast cancer patients. Another study of 187 women without breast cancer found that women who received hypnotherapy had fewer, less severe, and less bothersome hot flashes, as well as improved sleep. These results were evident at the end of the five-week treatment protocol, and they remained or got stronger in the six-week follow-up period.
The Experts Weigh In…
In 2015, the North American Menopause Society released a position statement on nonhormonal management of vasomotor symptoms. Of the approaches discussed here, the only ones NAMS recommended based on the strength of the available evidence were CBT and hypnosis. Mindfulness-based stress reduction earned a “recommend with caution,” which means, “We think it might work, but the evidence isn’t conclusive.”
The others—yoga, exercise, relaxation and paced breathing techniques, and acupuncture—were not recommended. This does not mean they are not worth trying! It simply means that based on their standards, the evidence was not strong enough for the committee to conclude that they are likely to be effective treatments for vasomotor symptoms specifically. This says nothing about other types of symptoms, nor about general well-being or quality of life.
Mind-Body Therapy Pros and Cons
So where does this leave us? Each of these therapies shows promise for alleviating at least some symptoms of menopause. Moreover, all these therapies have the potential to improve overall quality of life, sleep, stress, and general health. While reading these studies, I did wonder whether some of the women felt better simply because they were investing time and energy in taking care of themselves. If so, is that a problem? I don’t think so. They are low-risk interventions with a lot of potential upside.
That said, these aren’t quick solutions. The effective mindfulness/mediation trainings included six to eight weeks of classes and multiple hours per week. Women practiced yoga for two to four months during the study periods. Hypnotherapy was five weeks or longer. It’s not clear what the minimum time frame is for each of these therapies to be useful, but they’ll certainly involve a time commitment that might not be practical for all women. However, yoga, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, and even CBT can all be practiced at home once you know the proper technique.
As I said at the beginning, this is not an exhaustive list of nonhormonal therapies. There are also various supplements that might help, as well as lifestyle modifications that most of you Primal-savvy readers are probably already implementing: eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, getting plenty of sunlight, practicing good sleep hygiene, and nurturing social connections.
Whatever you choose, be patient. Don’t just focus on one symptom; focus on the big picture. Pay attention to how you’re feeling more globally. Consider that while an intervention might not hit its desired mark, it might help you in ways you didn’t expect.
Have you used mind-body techniques (these or others)? What’s been your experience? Share your insights and questions below, and have a great week, everyone.
Atapattu PM. Vasomotor symptoms: What is the impact of physical exercise? J SAFOMS. 2105 Jan-Jun;3(1):15-19.
Goldstein KM, et al. Use of mindfulness, meditation and relaxation to treat vasomotor symptoms. Climacteric. 2017 Apr;20(2):178-182.
McMillan TL, Mark S. Complementary and alternative medicine and physical activity for menopausal symptoms. J Am Med Womens Assoc (1972). 2004 Fall;59(4):270-7.
Molefi-Youri W. Is there a role for mindfulness-based interventions (here defined as MBCT and MBSR) in facilitating optimal psychological adjustment in the menopause? Post Reprod Health. 2019 Sep;25(3):143-149
Moore TR, Franks RB, Fox C. Review of Efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2017 May;62(3):286-297.
Sliwinski JR, Johnson AK, Elkins GR. Memory Decline in Peri- and Post-menopausal Women: The Potential of Mind-Body Medicine to Improve Cognitive Performance. Integr Med Insights. 2014;9:17–23.
van Driel CM, Stuursma A, Schroevers MJ, Mourits MJ, de Bock GH. Mindfulness, cognitive behavioural and behaviour-based therapy for natural and treatment-induced menopausal symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJOG. 2019;126(3):330–339.
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Today I’m overjoyed to announce the release of my latest, greatest, and certainly broadest attempt at a comprehensive plan to live long and live awesome: Keto For Life. The book’s official on-sale date is December 31, and—as tradition goes on Mark’s Daily Apple—I’m offering an incredible group of free bonus materials as a pre-order gift. Here’s a link where you can access your favorite online retailers to order, but know you can also visit your favorite brick and mortar bookstore to pre-order, too.
Folks, I know many of you have been here with me and the MDA community for enough years to remember how this all began with the Primal Blueprint. It’s been such an awesome journey—and one that keeps evolving in incredible ways. I genuinely feel like it’s all been leading toward this one. I’ve poured my personal experimentation and hard-gained insight into every book I’ve written, but this one feels, well, like a whole new level of inquiry and practice. Keto has kicked off not just a dietary trend the last few years but truly a whole new realm of scientific research. I’ve been knee-deep in it in writing this book, and I’ve not only delved into these revolutionary findings but have also taken the integration of keto science and Primal lifestyle principles to an entire new level. Let me tell you about it….
With ground-breaking connections for how keto and Primal principles can literally reset your biological clock, Keto For Life is a revolutionary gateway into eating and living for increased longevity and resilient vitality. With endless how-tos in every chapter, a 21-Day Biological Reset plan with multiple holistic lifestyle prompts for each and every day, and more than 80 delicious keto recipes, it’s a deeply comprehensive and fully actionable resource for living Keto For Life—and all it’s meant to be.
Longevity is about much more than just healthy eating. However, oftentimes when you’re stuck in the disease state of carbohydrate dependency, you might as well forget about other lifestyle strategies until you can escape that certain destiny of pain, suffering, accelerated aging and disease. If you’re an ancestral health enthusiast, you likely realize the amazing health awakening that comes when you upregulate your fat burning genes and get off the carb dependency train. Favorable blood test values, dropping excess body fat, and escaping the common problems of energy, mood and appetite swings are indications that your metabolic flexibility is robust. While Keto For Life dutifully cleans up some of the misconceptions, hype, and misinformation that have come with the explosive popularity of keto, I’m expanding the entire picture into “Four Pillars of Longevity.”
I’ll give you a little teaser today about each section so you’ll be eager to dive right in when your book arrives! In the Introduction, you’ll learn how hectic, high-tech modern life is becoming more and more at odds with longevity, especially the hidden costs of hyperconnectivity, destruction of meaningful social connections, and forces like consumerism, flawed and manipulative marketing messages relating to diet and medical care, and even the fitness industry’s obsession with struggle and suffer instead of a more sensible approach to exercise. You’ll learn perspective-altering insights about our actual healthspan as well as intriguing multi-plane views of aging that will revamp the way you look at your later decades—and the journey leading to them.
A new perspective shows us that aging as we know it isn’t a normal and inevitable result of chronology but actually what Dr. Art DeVany describes as “the unrepaired accumulation of routine cellular damage… a loss of cell function, loss of cell integrity, loss of the ability of stem cells to renew tissues.” Embracing this truth, you can take tremendous control over the rate at which you experience decline, instead appreciating and optimizing the variety of human “peaks” we can achieve and harness throughout our lifespans. Chronology has far less to say than we’ve given it credit for.
Pillar #1: Metabolic Flexibility
This is the best catch-all term to convey the magnificent journey of escaping carbohydrate dependency and becoming a fat-burning beast. Literally, metabolic flexibility describes the ability to burn a variety of fuel sources—not just external ingested calories, but also internal sources such as stored fat, stored glycogen and ketones manufactured in the liver as a byproduct of fat metabolism—when carb intake is low. At the highest level of sophistication, you become a “closed loop system” that can survive and even thrive without needing the constant intake of external calories and certainly without needing to adhere to any regimented macronutrient eating patterns.
In this pillar, you’ll reacquaint with the importance of a comfortable, minimally stressful step-by-step process to escape carb dependency and progress toward metabolic flexibility. As detailed in the Keto Reset Diet, you’ll execute a 21-Day Metabolism Reset, a fine-tuning period, and a 6-week nutritional ketosis period. We’ll discuss some advanced strategies for fasting and eating in a compressed time window, particularly the importance of limiting your digestive function to 12 hours. You’ll get guidance on integrating the hottest longevity superfoods and supplements, as well as help sorting through the weight loss hype around them and pinpointing the best ways to use these products.
You’ll learn some of the best long-term keto strategies, including living in what I call the “Keto Zone,” where you eat in a general keto-aligned pattern without stressing about macros, as well as incorporating days or periods where carb intake might increase beyond keto limits without you stressing about it. You’ll also learn what NOT to do with various popular keto strategies that are ill advised or overhyped, including (but not limited to) the ridiculousness of dirty keto, obsessive weekend refeeds, and cheat days.
Pillar #2: Movement and Physical Fitness
Movement and physical fitness are two distinct concepts. Together, along with preserving sharp cognition, they represent the essence of aging gracefully. In contrast, when we lose cognition and mobility, our life expectancy and quality of life plummet as we are relegated to wheelchairs, beds, and medications that limit our physical freedoms and compromise our mental well-being.
The desperate obligation to increase all forms of general everyday movement can be best handled by JFW—Just F—ing Walk! Today, many fitness and health experts assert that simply moving around more (especially avoiding the prolonged periods of stillness that are so common in the digital age) has surpassed the importance of following a structured workout routine as the top priority to be fit for life. How can this be? Because moving around all day is one of our fundamental genetic expectations for health. Our genes crave movement and are averse to stillness. In as little as 20 minutes of sitting still, we can experience impaired glucose tolerance and acute insulin resistance, along with diminished cognitive function. When prolonged periods of stillness dominate your daily routine, it can cause chemical changes in the brain that promote further inactivity. This is quantified by a lower measurement of Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)—you burn fat less efficiently at rest and consequently crave more carbohydrates for energy.
Now, because modern life is so comfortable, we also have a desperate need for ambitious fitness endeavors like Spinning, CrossFit, or even completing a half-marathon, but these goals must be only contemplated after you have established a foundation of basic everyday movement, which I detail in the book.
Once your movement looks good, you can get into the genetically optimal workout pattern ala Primal Blueprint with a strategic blend of comfortably paced cardio, regular short duration, high intensity resistance workouts (weights, machines, or just bodyweight exercises like pushups), and occasional brief, all-out sprints (the ultimate Primal exercise to delay aging under the “use it or lose it” natural law.) Let’s also add what I call “play” endeavors that can feature each of the aforementioned. As you know from being a Primal enthusiast, there are massive hormonal and physiological benefits to be gained from putting your body under resistance load regularly, and opening up the throttle occasionally with all out efforts.
These activities, which have been almost completely neglected by most modern humans, give us a boost of adaptive, anti-aging hormones like human growth hormone and testosterone. Brief, intense efforts also help preserve muscle mass as you age, improving the critical longevity component of organ reserve. This is the functional capacity of your organs to perform above baseline level, one of the most fundamental ways to assess your state of health and longevity potential. This Primal approach to fitness is simple, time efficient, and within reach of everyone. It also gives you awesome protection against the accelerated demise associated with inactivity.
Unfortunately, many fitness enthusiasts follow an overly stressful approach that leads to breakdown, burnout, illness and injury. Chronic exercise leads to hormonal and immune dysfunction, and compromises metabolic flexibility—instead pushing you back in the direction of carbohydrate dependency. You’ll learn how to schedule and conduct the various workouts correctly, avoid chronic patterns, and apply an intuitive approach instead of a regimented approach to your fitness goals.
Pillar #3: Mental Flexibility
Mental flexibility makes you resilient for life in the same manner that metabolic flexibility makes you resilient enough to skip meals and maintain energy and focus. While looking after the physical vessel is essential, we must acknowledge the strength of the mind/body connection as previously discussed with the insights from Dr. Chopra and Dr. Lipton.
This section details numerous strategies to hone mental flexibility, starting with pivoting: going with the flow when facing life change. Pivoting entails knowing both when to persevere when your peak performance goals are aligned with your deep beliefs and calling to make the world a better place, and also recognizing when it’s time tone down the influence of your ego and quit when things don’t feel right in your gut.
You’ll learn how to avoid the disease state of ruminating, that is, the act of engaging in obsessive or destructive thoughts about the past or the future that cause you feel anxious, depressed, irritable, overwhelmed and downright sad. Instead, we can cultivate the esteemed skill of mindfulness—accessing a state of calm, present awareness through repetition and endurance.
Next, you’ll learn the importance of journaling, actually taking pen to paper and recording your thoughts, hopes, dreams and worries. Journaling can help you identify and correct self-limiting beliefs and behavior patterns. The specific practice of gratitude journaling, for example, has been scientifically validated to reduce stress levels, dissipate negative emotions, boost levels of the love hormone oxytocin, and activate calming parasympathetic nervous system function.
You’ll also read about learn to nurture meaningful, reciprocative interpersonal relationships—which might very well be the most powerful and important way to improve your longevity prospects in the entire book. Our genes are wired for connection, and the digital connections that are dominating modern life and coming at an extreme cost to our physical and psychological health. You’ll learn to cultivate a thriving social network, a smaller cluster of your closest family and friends, and place particular importance on the make or break health element of a loving partnership.
Pillar #4: Rest and Recovery
Optimizing your sleeping habits and environment will be the prominent focus here, but we must also consider a broad-based approach to chilling out amidst the hectic pace and constant stimulation of modern life. Strategies include disciplining your use of technology, taking frequent breaks from peak cognitive function to refresh depleted brain neurons, conducting recovery-centric workouts designed to promote relaxation and rejuvenation, and becoming competent at napping when cognitive function declines from afternoon blues. You’ll learn to pair mellow evening habits with a high energy morning routine (plenty of ideas included).
You’ll also turn your attention to proper recovery, both from fitness regimen and workplace overstimulation. You’ll learn about specially designed “Rebound Workouts” that can actually speed recovery in comparison to total rest by stimulating parasympathetic activity. And you’ll learn how to get better about focusing and prioritizing during the workday to avoid the dreaded cognitive middle gear, where you’re busy but ineffective. Finally, you’ll learn the importance of disconnecting on multiple levels to deliver profound hormonal and psychological benefits, stuff we have overlooked and disrespected with our warp speed technological progress.
21-Day Biological Clock Reset
After a comprehensive education and practical instruction about the 4 Pillars, it’s time for a transformative challenge: The 21-Day Biological Clock Reset. The reset features daily action items representing each of the Four Pillars. The journey, while short in duration, is designed to be highly focused and demanding. This is the only way to stimulate lasting lifestyle transformation and release you from the powerful pull of decades-old ingrained habits and powerful cultural forces pushing your out of a balance and stuck in carbohydrate dependency.
You’ll be exposed to a variety of strategies and concepts over the 21 days, and the idea is that you will pick and choose your favorites to integrate permanently into your lifestyle. You’ll be challenged to perform breakthrough workouts, increase daily activity, actually sit down and do stuff like a gratitude journal and create dark, mellow evenings instead of maximum screen time. It’s going to be fun, but it’s also going to be intensive, not to mention life-changing. Completing the Biological Clock Reset once a year is an excellent way to fine-tune your longevity muscles and clarify your focus amidst the constant distractions of modern life.
But the food… Folks always want to know about the recipes. The 80+ Keto For Life recipes are a collaborative effort among numerous authors, coaches, chefs and well-known keto experts, including Dr. Cate Shanahan, Keris Marsden and Matt Whitmore of The Paleo Primer series, William Shewfelt of the carnivore diet movement, Dr. Lindsay Taylor and Layla McGowan, my co-authors on the Keto Reset Instant Pot Cookbook, Tania Teschke, author of The Bordeaux Kitchen, and more.
You’ll find everything you need for beginning, recommitting or reinvigorating your keto eating enjoyment with this diverse selection of dishes, from gourmet to quick and easy, from breakfast to beverages, snacks to side dishes and everything in between.
Let me share one today that might appeal….
Sneak Peek Recipe: Keto Cheesecake
Prep Time: 40 minutes (plus refrigeration time)
Cook Time: 60 minutes
FOR THE FILLING
- 16 ounces (453.59 g) organic cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup powdered stevia or 1-2 tablespoons honey
FOR THE CRUST (OVEN METHOD ONLY)
- 1 cup (96 g) almond flour or 1 cup (128 g) coconut flour
- 4 tablespoons (60 g) butter, at room temperature
- 1–2 tablespoons powdered stevia
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CRUNCH TOPPING
- ¼ cup (34 g) macadamia nuts or assorted nuts
- 1 bar (3.5 ounces/100 g) dark chocolate (85% cacao or greater), broken into pieces
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil 2–3 tablespoons fine coconut flakes
Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice, sea salt, eggs, and sweetener. Mix thoroughly with an electric mixer on low speed.
Choose between the Instant Pot Method and Oven Method and proceed as directed.
Instant Pot Method: Pour the filling into a round glass bowl or springform pan that can fit inside the Instant Pot. Cover the bowl carefully with foil. Pour 2 cups water into the Instant Pot. Place the cheesecake on the handled steam rack (or in a steamer basket accessory if you have one), and lower the cheesecake into the pot. Cook on High pressure for 25 minutes. When the Instant Pot beeps, allow the pressure to release naturally, about 15 minutes, then lift out the cheesecake.
Oven Method: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Make the crust: In a bowl, combine the almond flour, butter, stevia, and vanilla until well blended. Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan or round glass or ceramic baking dish.
Bake until the crust darkens slightly, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes (leave the oven on). Pour the cheesecake filling mixture into the pan and smooth out the top with your hand (just kidding, use a spatula).
Bake until the middle is almost firm, but not quite, about 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
While the cheesecake is cooling, make the chocolate crunch topping (use for either version): In a small food processor, blend the macadamia nuts until they resemble a crumbly flour. In a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and coconut oil. Mix the nuts and coconut flakes into the melted chocolate.
Drizzle the topping carefully across the top of the cooked and cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate the cheesecake until the crust feels hard, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Slice and serve.
Macronutrients Per Serving:
Instant Pot Method: 323 calories; 29 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrate; 7 grams protein
Oven Method: 459 calories; 42 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrate; 10 grams protein
I realize that there is an overwhelming amount of content hitting us today from books, magazine articles, blogs, podcasts, YouTube and streaming media, and it’s easy for a new book to get lost in the shuffle or buried on a “read later” list. That’s why I want to reiterate what a hugely expansive and life-changing this book Keto For Life represents. My longtime writing/publishing partner Brad Kearns and I joke that we always underestimate the difficulty and duration of a book project by half, and this was no exception. Keto For Life represents an intensive project that took an entire year to complete, with devoted efforts from a sizeable team of researchers, editors, agents, publicists and publisher. It’s designed to stand proudly for years to come as an owner’s manual for longevity. I hope it can help you claim your fullest and longest life.
Now For the Keto For Life Pre-Order Bonus Gifts…
This is always my favorite part. For those who order the book early, I have a few gifts for you (available right away even though the book itself comes out 12/31/19).
Bonus Audio Summary
Enjoy a detailed overview of every section of the book to get you excited and prepared to begin your Keto For Life journey. My co-author, Brad Kearns, describes the 4 Pillars in detail.
Sneak Peek Excerpt Booklet
Read some choice excerpts to give you a feel for the comprehensive nature of the book, where you obtain a deep education and scientific rationale for the 4 Pillars, as well as get practical, step-by-step guidance to implement, and (finally) enjoy a few of the delicious 80+ recipes from the book.
$10 Discount at Primal Kitchen®
Grab some of your favorite keto-friendly products to add variety and ease to your keto cooking ventures.
That’s what I got today, and I’m thrilled to offer it up to the community where it all began and where it’s still evolving. Folks, I hope you enjoy reading the book and putting it into practice as much as Brad and I enjoyed writing it. Thanks for being here.
Reprinted from KETO FOR LIFE by Mark Sisson with Brad Kearns. Copyright @ 2019 by Mark Sisson. Photos copyright @ 2019 Jennifer May. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
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Inflammation gets a bad rap in the alternative health world: “Inflammation causes heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease! It’s at the root of depression.” These are all true—to some extent.
Name a disease, and inflammation is involved.
Crohn’s disease is inflammatory.
Major depression is inflammatory.
Heart disease is inflammatory.
Autoimmune diseases, which involve an inflammatory response directed at your own tissues, are inflammatory.
Arthritis is inflammatory.
Even obesity is inflammatory, with fat cells literally secreting inflammatory cytokines.
Yes, but the story is more complicated than that. Inflammation, after all, is a natural process developed through millions of years of evolution. It can’t be wholly negative. Just like our bodies didn’t evolve to manufacture cholesterol to give us heart disease, inflammation isn’t there to give us degenerative diseases.
So, Why Does Inflammation Happen?
When pain, injury, or illness hit, the first responder is the acute inflammatory response. In other words, it is brief, lasting several days or less. All sorts of things can cause an acute inflammatory response. Here are a few:
- Trauma (punch, kick, golf ball to the head)
- Infection by pathogens (bacterial, viral)
- Burn (sun, fire, seat belt buckle on a summer day)
- Chemical irritants
- Allergic reaction
Things happen pretty fast in an acute inflammatory response and involve several different players, including the vascular system (veins, arteries, capillaries and such), the immune system, and the cells local to the injury.
- First, something painful and unpleasant happens; choose one of the above injury options.
- Then, pattern recognition receptors (PRR) located at the injury site initiate the release of various inflammatory mediators, which in turn initiate vasodilation (or widening of the blood vessels). This allows increased blood flow to the injury site, which warms the site, turns it the familiar red, and carries plasma and leukocytes to the site of the injured tissue.
- The blood vessels become more permeable, thus allowing the plasma and leukocytes to flow through the vessel walls and into the injured tissue to do their work. Emigration of plasma into tissue also means fluid buildup, which means swelling.
- At the same time, the body releases an inflammatory mediator called bradykinin, which increases pain sensitivity at the site and discourages usage of the injured area. These sensations—heat, redness, swelling, pain, and a loss of function—are annoying and familiar, but they’re absolutely necessary for proper healing.
Why Is (Acute) Inflammation Essential?
Allow me to explain why the four primary symptoms of acute inflammation are necessary, despite being unpleasant:
- Increased blood flow warms the injury and turns it red, which can be irritating and unsightly, but it also carries the guys—leukocytes—that will be cleaning up the injury site, mopping up pathogens, and overseeing the inflammatory process.
- Swollen body parts don’t fit into gloves, are really sensitive, and don’t work as well as their slim counterparts, but a swollen finger is a finger that’s full of a plasma and leukocyte slurry and therefore on the road to recovery.
- Pain hurts, but if an injury doesn’t hurt and it’s serious, you’ll keep damaging it because you won’t know not to use it.
- Loss of function prevents you from using what could be one of your favorite body parts, but you don’t want to make it worse be re-injuring it. Besides, it’s only temporary.
What About Chronic Inflammation?
These symptoms both indicate and enable inflammation (and, thus, healing), but what’s the deal with inflammation being linked with all those chronic illnesses—like obesity, heart disease, and depression? How does something normal and helpful go haywire and become implicated in some of the most crushing, tragic diseases of our time?
When inflammation becomes chronic and systemic, when it ceases to be an acute response, when it becomes a constant low-level feature of your physiology that’s always on and always engaged, the big problems arise.
The inflammatory response is supposed to be short and to the point. And because a big part of inflammation is breaking the tissue down, targeting damaged tissue and invading pathogens, before building it back up, the inflammatory response has the potential to damage the body. That’s why it’s normally a tightly regulated system: because we don’t want it getting out of hand and targeting healthy tissue. But if it’s on all the time—if chronic inflammation sets in—regulation becomes a lot harder.
Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation
A perfect example of the acute inflammation versus chronic inflammation dichotomy is exercise.
A single hard workout raises inflammation. It’s a stressor, a damaging event imposed upon your body. See for yourself.
A hard run spikes C-reactive protein for up to two days.
During exercise, skeletal muscle releases the inflammatory cytokine IL-6, a marker of damage.
Volleyball practice elicits spikes in IL-6 in both male and female elite volleyball players.
Acute exercise spiked CRP in cardiovascular disease patients (but a four-month exercise program lowered it).
This table of inflammatory responses to strenuous endurance events shows some massive spikes in CRP, some up to 20-fold the baseline value.
Yet, study after study (epidemiological and clinical alike) shows that extended exercise programs generally reduce markers of inflammation (like C-reactive protein) over the long-term:
- In elderly Japanese women, a 12-week resistance training program reduced circulating levels of inflammatory markers compared to baseline; reductions in CRP were associated with increases in muscle thickness.
- American adults who engaged in frequent physical activity tended to have lower CRPs than adults who were more sedentary.
- In type 2 diabetics, (key term coming up) long-term high intensity resistance and aerobic training reduced inflammatory markers over the course of a year (independent of changes in body weight, meaning activity was the key factor).
- Endurance combined with resistance training reduced CRP in young, healthy women better than endurance training alone.
- In obese, post-menopausal women, a basic moderate cardio program lowered CRP without really affecting body weight either way over the course of a year.
There are many more out there, but the general gist is that regular exercise tends to lower markers of systemic inflammation while acute exercise increases markers of acute inflammation. And sometimes what’s acute can become chronic. How do we make sense of this? How do we avoid making those acute spikes a chronic, constant thing?
Identifying Chronic Inflammation: Objective Markers
First, we need to be able to identify chronic inflammation. What symptoms and biomarkers can we use to track our inflammation levels?
CRP, or C-Reactive Protein
CRP is a protein that binds with dead and dying cells and bacteria in order to clear them from the body. It can always be found (and measured) in the bloodstream, but levels spike when inflammation is at hand. During acute inflammation caused by infection, for example, CRP can spike by up to 50,000-fold. CRP spikes due to acute inflammation peak at around 48 hours and declines pretty quickly thereafter (post acute-phase inflammation CRP has a half life of 18 hours). Thus, if the incident causing the inflammation is resolved, CRP goes back to normal within a few days. If it persists, the infection/trauma/etc. probably persists as well.
Highly sensitive to many different kinds of stressors, CRP rises in response to essentially anything that causes inflammation. This makes it valuable for determining that inflammation is occurring, but it makes it difficult to determine why that inflammation is occurring—because it could be almost anything. But if you’re looking for confirmation that you are chronically, systemically inflamed, an elevated CRP (in absence of any acute infections, injuries, burns, or stressors) is a useful barometer.
“Normal” CRP levels are supposedly 10 mg/L. Absent infection or acute stressors, however, ideal CRP levels are well under 1 mg/L. You want to stay well below 1; you don’t want “normal.” Between 10-40 mg/L (and perhaps even 1-9 mg/L, too) indicates systemic inflammation (or pregnancy), while anything above that is associated with real acute stuff. Note that exercise can elevate CRP, so don’t get tested if you’ve worked out in the last couple days.
IL-6, or Interleukin-6
T cells (type of white blood cell that plays a huge role in the immune response) and macrophages (cells that engulf and digest—also known as phagocytosing—stray tissue and pathogens) both secrete IL-6 as part of the inflammatory response, so elevated IL-6 can indicate systemic inflammation.
Tissue Omega-3 Content
This is a direct measurement of the omega-3 content of your bodily tissue. It’s not widely available, but it is very useful. Remember that anti-inflammatory eicosanoids draw upon the omega-3 fats in your tissues and that inflammatory eicosanoids draw upon the omega-6 fats. People having a higher proportion of omega-6 fats will thus produce more inflammatory eicosanoids. Now, we absolutely need both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory eicosanoids for proper inflammatory responses, but people with high omega-6 tissue levels make way too many inflammatory eicosanoids. Studies indicate that people with the highest omega-3 tissue levels suffer fewer inflammatory diseases (like coronary heart disease).
Research (highlighted and explicated here by Chris Kresser) suggests that omega-3 tissue concentrations of around 60% are ideal, which is a level commonly seen in Japan—the seemingly paradoxical land of high blood pressure, heavy smoking, and low coronary heart disease rates.
This measures the EPA and DHA, the two important omega-3 fatty acids, as a percentage of total fatty acids present in your red blood cells. It doesn’t correlate exactly to tissue amounts, but it’s pretty good and a powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease risk. The omega-3 index doesn’t measure omega-6 content, but those with a low omega-3 index are probably sporting excessive omega-6 in their red blood cells.
Anything above 8% corresponds to a “low risk,” but levels of 12-15% are ideal and roughly correspond to the 60% tissue content mentioned by Chris’ article. Four percent and below is higher risk and can be viewed as a proxy for increased inflammation (or at least the risk of harmful systemic inflammation developing from normal inflammation).
Heart Rate Variability
Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Score
There’s the systemic inflammatory response syndrome, which is incredibly serious and has four criteria. If you have two or more of them at once, congratulations: you qualify—and should probably see a health professional immediately. This isn’t relevant for low-grade systemic inflammation, like the kind associated with obesity or autoimmune disease.
- Body temperature less than 96.8 F (36 C) or greater than 100.4 F (38 C).
- Heart rate above 90 beats per minute.
- High respiratory rate, 20 breaths per minute or higher.
- White blood cell count fewer than 4000 cells/mm³ or greater than 12,000 cells/mm³.
Of these objective markers to test, I’d lean toward CRP, HRV, and one of the omega-3 tests. CRP is pretty comprehensive, HRV is a two-fer (inflammation and general stress/recovery), and, while omega-3 tissue or blood cell content doesn’t necessarily indicate the existence of systemic inflammation in your body, it does indicate the severity of the inflammatory response you can expect your body to have. Taken together, these tests will give you an idea of where you stand.
Identifying Inflammation: Subjective Markers
There are also subjective markers. They may be harmless artifacts, but they may indicate that something systemic is going on.
Flare-up of Autoimmune Conditions You Haven’t Heard From In Ages
Sore joints, dry, patchy, and/or red skin, and anything else that indicates a flare-up. For me, this is usually mild arthritis.
Acute inflammation is often characterized by swelling at the site of injury. The same effect seems to occur in states of systemic inflammation, although they aren’t localized, but rather generalized.
If you feel stressed, you’re probably inflamed. I’m talking about the kind that has you rubbing your temples, face palming, sighing every couple minutes, and pinching the space between your eyes very, very hard.
Persistent But Unexplained Nasal Congestion
Could be allergies, sure, but I’ve always noticed that when I’m under a lot of stress and generally in an inflamed state, my nose gets clogged. Certain foods will trigger this, too, and I think it can all be linked to a persistent but subtle state of inflammation.
If you fit the bill for the eight signs of overtraining listed in this post, you’re probably inflamed.
Ultimately, though? It comes down to the simple question you must ask yourself: How do you feel?
I mean, this seems like an obvious marker, but a lot of people ignore it in pursuit of numbers. If you feel run down, lethargic, unhappy, your workouts are suffering, you struggle to get out of bed, you’re putting on a little extra weight around the waist, sex isn’t as interesting, etc., etc., etc., you may be suffering from some manner of systemic, low-grade inflammation. Conversely, if you’re full of energy, generally pleased and/or content with life, killing it in the gym, bounding out of bed, lean as ever or on your way there, and your sex drive is powerful and age appropriate (or inappropriate), you’re probably not suffering from chronic inflammation.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation
We need to determine why inflammation is “on” all the time—and then take the steps to counter it. I’m going to fire off a few things that both induce inflammation and tend toward prevalence in developed countries. You let me know if anything sounds familiar to you.
- Toxic diets: High-sugar, high-processed carb, high-industrial fat, high-gluten, high-CAFO meat, low-nutrient food is a pretty accurate descriptor of the modern Western diet.
- Insufficient omega-3 intake: Omega-3 fats form the precursors for anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response. Poor omega-3 status means insufficient production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids and a lopsided inflammatory response to normal stimuli.
- Excessive omega-6 intake: Omega-6 fats form the precursors for inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response. High omega-6 status (especially when combined with poor omega-3 status) means excessive production of inflammatory eicosanoids and a lopsided inflammatory response to normal stimuli. The more omega-6 you eat, the more omega-3 you crowd out for anti-inflammatory eicasonoid formation.
- Lack of sleep: Poor sleep is linked to elevated inflammatory markers. Poor sleep is a chronic problem in developed nations. Either we go to bed too late, wake up too early, or we use too many electronics late at night and disrupt the quality of what little sleep we get. Or all three at once.
- Lack of movement: People lead sedentary lives, by and large, and a lack of activity is strongly linked to systemic, low-grade inflammation. People don’t have to walk to get places, they take escalators and elevators, they sit for hours on end, and they don’t have time for regular exercise.
- Poor recovery: Other people move too much, with too little rest and recovery. When I ran 100+ miles a week, I certainly wasn’t sedentary, but I was chronically inflamed. Overtraining is a form of chronic inflammation.
- Chronic stress: Modern life is stressful. Bills, work, commuting, politics, exercise that you hate – it all adds up and it doesn’t seem to let up or go away. And if it becomes too much for you to handle (I know it’s too much for me at times), your body will have a physiological, inflammatory response to emotional stress.
- Lack of down time: When you’re always on the computer, always checking your email/Facebook/smartphone, you are always “on.” You may think you’re relaxing because your body is stationary, but you’re not relaxing.
- Lack of nature time: We spend too much time contained in cubicles, cars, trains, and cities, away from trees, leaves, and soft earth. In a way, nature is home for us. Going home certainly has its measured benefits.
- Poor gut health: The gut houses the bulk of the human immune system. When it’s unhealthy, so is your inflammatory regulation. A healthy gut is also selectively permeable, allowing beneficial compounds passage into the body and keeping toxins out. An unhealthy gut often becomes leaky, allowing toxins into the body to stimulate an immune, inflammatory response.
- Poor acute stressor/chronic stress ratio: We respond far better to acute stressors than repeated, sustained stress – even if the latter is of a lower intensity.
See what I mean? Since we’re set up for acute stressors requiring an acute inflammatory response, all this other low-level, evolutionarily-discordant, superficially mild stuff set against a backdrop of misaligned fatty acid ratios and impaired gut health throws us off and sets us up for a lifetime of chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a complex physiological process that can go wrong in a lot of ways. But luckily, sticking to the tried and true dietary and lifestyle measures will get you most of the way toward preventing inflammation from becoming chronic and untamed.
If you have any further questions about inflammation, fire away down below! Thanks for reading.
Eliakim A, Portal S, Zadik Z, et al. The effect of a volleyball practice on anabolic hormones and inflammatory markers in elite male and female adolescent players. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(5):1553-9.
Lara fernandes J, Serrano CV, Toledo F, et al. Acute and chronic effects of exercise on inflammatory markers and B-type natriuretic peptide in patients with coronary artery disease. Clin Res Cardiol. 2011;100(1):77-84.
Ford ES. Does exercise reduce inflammation? Physical activity and C-reactive protein among U.S. adults. Epidemiology. 2002;13(5):561-8.
Balducci S, Zanuso S, Nicolucci A, et al. Anti-inflammatory effect of exercise training in subjects with type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome is dependent on exercise modalities and independent of weight loss. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2010;20(8):608-17.
Daray LA, Henagan TM, Zanovec M, et al. Endurance and resistance training lowers C-reactive protein in young, healthy females. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011;36(5):660-70.
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Older people (and those headed in that direction, which is everyone else) are really sold a bill of goods when it comes to health and longevity advice. I’m not a young man anymore, and for decades I’ve been hearing all sorts of input about aging that’s proving to be not just misguided, but downright incorrect. Blatant myths about healthy longevity continue to circulate and misinform millions. Older adults at this very moment are enacting routines detrimental to living long that they think are achieving the opposite. A major impetus for creating the Primal Blueprint was to counter these longevity myths. That mission has never felt more personal.
So today, I’m going to explore and refute a few of these top myths, some of which contain kernels of truth that have been overblown and exaggerated. I’ll explain why.
1) “Don’t Lift Heavy: You’ll Throw Out Your Back”
Obviously, a frail grandfather pushing 100 shouldn’t do Starting Strength right off the bat (or maybe ever, depending on how frail he is). That’s not my contention here. My contention:
Lifting as heavy as you can as safely as you can is essential for healthy longevity. That’s why I put it first in the list today. It’s that important.
For one, lean muscle mass is one of the strongest predictors of resistance to mortality. The more muscle a person has (and the stronger they are), the longer they’ll live—all else being equal. That’s true in both men and women.
One reason is that the stronger you are, the more capable you are. You’re better at taking care of yourself, standing up from chairs, ascending stairs, and maintaining basic functionality as you age.
Another reason is that increased lean mass means greater tissue reserve—you have more organ and muscle to lose as you age, so that when aging-related muscle loss sets in, you have longer to go before it gets serious. And that’s not even a guarantee that you’ll lose any. As long as you’re still lifting heavy things, you probably won’t lose much muscle, if any. Remember: the average old person studied in these papers isn’t doing any kind of strength training at all.
It doesn’t have to be barbells and Olympic lifts and CrossFit. It can be machines (see Body By Science, for example) and bodyweight and hikes. What matters is that you lift intensely (and intense is relative) and safely, with good technique and control.
2) “Avoid Animal Protein To Lower IGF-1”
Animal protein has all sorts of evil stuff, they say.
Methionine—linked to reduced longevity in animal models.
Increased IGF-1—a growth promoter that might promote unwanted growth, like cancer.
Yet, a huge study showed that in older people, those 65 or older, increased animal protein intake actually protected against mortality. The older they were and the more protein they ate, the longer they lived.
Meanwhile, low-protein diets have been shown to have all sorts of effects that spell danger for older people hoping to live long and live well:
- Slow the metabolism, increase insulin resistance, and cause body fat gain.
- Impair the immune system and make infections more severe.
- Reduce muscle function, cellular mass (yes, the actual mass of the cell itself), and immune response in elderly women.
- Impair nitrogen balance in athletes.
- Increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Increase the risk of sarcopenia (muscle wasting).
And about that “excess methionine” and “increased IGF-1”?
In both human and animal studies, there’s a U-shaped relationship between IGF-1 levels and lifespan. Animal studies show an inverse relationship between IGF-1 and diabetes, heart disease, and heart disease deaths (higher IGF-1, less diabetes/heart disease) and a positive association between IGF-1 and cancer (higher IGF-1, more cancer). A recent review of the animal and human evidence found that while a couple human studies show an inverse relationship between IGF-1 and longevity, several more show a positive relationship—higher IGF-1, longer lifespan—and the majority show no clear relationship at all.
3) “You’re Never Getting Back That Cartilage—Once It’s Gone, It’s Gone”
Almost every doctor says this. It’s become an axiom in the world of orthopedics.
But then we see this study showing that people have the same microRNAs that control tissue and limb regeneration in lizards and amphibians. They’re most strongly expressed in the ankle joints, less so in the knees, and even less so at the hip—but they’re there, and they’re active.
I’ve seen some impressive things, have been able to personally verify some stunning “anecdotes” from friends and colleagues who were able to regrow cartilage or at least regain all their joint function after major damage to it. Most doctors and studies never capture these people. If you look at the average older person showing up with worn-down joints and degraded or damaged cartilage, how active are they? What’s their diet?
They are mostly inactive. They are often obese or overweight.
They generally aren’t making bone broth and drinking collagen powder. They aren’t avoiding grains and exposing their nether regions to daily sun. They aren’t doing 200 knee circles a day, performing single leg deadlifts, and hiking up mountains. These are the things that, if anything can, will retain and regrow cartilage. Activity. Letting your body know that you still have need of your ankles, knees, and hips. That you’re still an engaged, active human interacting with the physical world.
4) “Retire Early”
This isn’t always bad advice, but retiring and then ceasing all engagement with the outside world will reduce longevity, not increase it. Having a life purpose is essential for living long and living well; not having one is actually an established risk factor for early mortality. And at least when you’re getting up in the morning to go to work, you have a built-in purpose. That purpose may not fulfill your heart and spirit, but it’s a purpose just the same: a reason to get up and keep moving.
Retiring can work. Don’t get me wrong. But the people who retire early and make it work for their health and longevity are staying active. They’re pursuing side projects or even big visions. They have hobbies, friends, and loved ones who they hang out with all the time.
The ones who don’t? Well, they are at at increased risk of dying early.
You don’t have to keep working a job you hate, or even a job you enjoy. You can retire. Just maintain your mission.
5) “Take It Easy As You Get Older”
As older people, we’re told that sex might be “too strenuous for the heart” (Truth: It’s good for it). We’re told to “take the elevator to save our knees.” They tell us “Oh, don’t get up, I’ll get it for you.”
They don’t tell me that because, well, I’m already up and doing the thing. I’m active and obviously so. I don’t take it easy.
Stay vigorous, friends. Stay vivacious. Don’t be foolhardy, mind you. Be engaged.
“Take it easy” quickly becomes “sit in the easy chair all day long watching the news.” Don’t let it happen.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t rest. Rest is everything. Sleep is important. But you must earn your rest, and when you have the energy, take advantage of it. Don’t rest on your laurels.
As you can see, there are tiny kernels of truth in many of these myths. We should all be careful lifting heavy things and pay close attention to technique and form. Everyone should care for their cartilage and avoid damage to it. No one should continue working a job that sucks their soul and depletes their will to live if they can move on from it. And so on.
What we all need to avoid is sending the message to our brain, body, and cells that we’re done. That we’ve given up and our active, engaged life is effectively over. Because when that happens, it truly is over.
Someone asked me when aging begins. How old is “old”?
I think I know now. Aging begins when you start listening to conventional longevity advice. As I said on Twitter earlier today, healthy aging begins when you do the opposite.
Want more on building a life that will allow you to live well into later decades? I definitely have more on that coming up. A perceptive reader shared the news in one of the Facebook groups already, so let me mention it here. My new book, Keto For Life: Reset Your Biological Clock In 21 Days and Optimize Your Diet For Longevity, is coming out December 31, 2019. I’ll have more info, including a special bonus package for those who preorder, in just a few weeks. In the meantime, you can read more about it here on our publisher’s page.
That’s it for today, friends. Chime in down below about longevity or any other health topics you’re thinking about these days. What are the most egregious aging myths you’ve heard? What do you do instead? Take care.
Karlsen T, Nauman J, Dalen H, Langhammer A, Wisløff U. The Combined Association of Skeletal Muscle Strength and Physical Activity on Mortality in Older Women: The HUNT2 Study. Mayo Clin Proc. 2017;92(5):710-718.
Malta A, De oliveira JC, Ribeiro TA, et al. Low-protein diet in adult male rats has long-term effects on metabolism. J Endocrinol. 2014;221(2):285-95.
Carrillo E, Jimenez MA, Sanchez C, et al. Protein malnutrition impairs the immune response and influences the severity of infection in a hamster model of chronic visceral leishmaniasis. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(2):e89412.
Castaneda C, Charnley JM, Evans WJ, Crim MC. Elderly women accommodate to a low-protein diet with losses of body cell mass, muscle function, and immune response. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;62(1):30-9.
Gaine PC, Pikosky MA, Martin WF, Bolster DR, Maresh CM, Rodriguez NR. Level of dietary protein impacts whole body protein turnover in trained males at rest. Metab Clin Exp. 2006;55(4):501-7.
Wu C, Odden MC, Fisher GG, Stawski RS. Association of retirement age with mortality: a population-based longitudinal study among older adults in the USA. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2016;70(9):917-23.
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Today’s post is offered up by the good people at Joovv, a company devoted to researching and harnessing the science of red light therapy. I’ve gotten to know (and love) their technology over the last year, and my family has, too—especially my daughter and son-in-law. Today I’ve invited Scott Nelson and his team to share some of their research into red light therapy, a topic I’ve written about now and then over the last few years. It’s an area of ancestral health I find fascinating—and one where modern science can help us recreate or even enhance natural ancestral inputs to foster better well-being today. Enjoy—and be sure to check out the giveaway below.
Diet and fitness are the pillars of a healthy life built on ancestral principles. But food, water, and exercise aren’t the only factors that affect your health and function on a day-to-day basis. Natural light is also a major pillar of a healthy, ancestral lifestyle, and unfortunately, many people don’t get nearly enough of it.
You can complement your diligence in the kitchen and your hard work in the gym with the “nutrients” that come from natural light. This post gives an overview of photobiomodulation (aka “red light therapy”), a natural health intervention that’s helping people get the light their bodies need for optimal health and fitness.
The Problem With Modern Light Exposure
Our Ancestors Lived with an Abundance of Natural Light. We Don’t Get Nearly Enough.
One of the biggest differences between our modern lives and those of our ancestors is the amount of time we spend outside and how much natural light we experience every day. Even if you’re eating well on a Paleo or Keto diet and exercising every day, odds are you spend most of your days indoors. In fact, the average American spends more than 90% of their time inside.  That’s not nearly enough natural light for our bodies, and it’s a far cry from our ancestors’ lifestyles.
In the past, people were outdoors every day out of necessity. The human body and our biology evolved in the presence of lots of sunlight, and light is still essential to our health. It helps regulate our sleep cycle, powers our cells and energy production, which allows our bodies to function as they were intended.
To make matters worse, we’re currently faced with a modern light problem as well. All of our overhead lighting, plus the bright blue light from our phones, TVs, and computer screens, is negatively affecting our health. Many of our sleep problems can be traced back to the abundance of bright, artificial light we take in at all hours of the day. 
Similar to how our diets have grown to include more grains and processed foods, and our physical activity has dwindled as we became more sedentary, the negative effects of artificial light combined with a lack of natural light have separated us even further from the roots of good health.
Using Red Light Therapy to Get the Natural Light You Need
Jobs, school, busy schedules, and changing seasons prevent many of us from getting outside every day, even if we want to. That’s where red light therapy comes into play: it’s a natural, noninvasive health intervention you can use in your home to get a full day’s worth of natural light, even if you can’t get out in the sun.
Light therapy is a non-invasive, convenient treatment that powers your cellular function with concentrated, natural light. This natural light stimulates the mitochondria in your cells, which helps you produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used by your body for muscle and skin healing, pain relief, and clearer skin. We’ll get into detailed health benefits later, but check out Joovv’s learn library now if you want to dig in now.
Many people are still in the dark when it comes to red light therapy. There’s a lot to know and a lot of misleading information out there. Let’s explore what red light therapy is, how it works, and how it can help maximize your health and Paleo goals.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
A quality red light therapy device—like a Joovv— delivers concentrated wavelengths of natural red and near infrared light directly to your skin and cells. All you really have to do is sit or stand in front of the light for a few minutes every day. In other words, red light therapy is very easy to do, but it produces some pretty incredible health results that have been demonstrated across hundreds of peer-reviewed clinical studies.
On top of ATP production, red light therapy increases circulation and reduces oxidative stress associated with cell injury and things like muscle fatigue, joint pain, and inflammation. A treatment only takes 10-15 minutes with a professional-grade device. Because red light therapy is natural and non-invasive, there are virtually no side effects or risks either.
Red light therapy is backed up by a large base of clinical research, originally driven by NASA’s involvement in the 1990s. After that, red light therapy devices could only be found in expensive and exclusive spas. With advancements in LED technology, combined with more awareness of the therapy, there are now many light therapy devices on the market. We’ll break down some of the most important factors to consider in a light therapy device towards the end of this post.
Natural Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy
The benefits of red light therapy are backed up by a large base of clinical research. Here are some of the most studied and well-documented health benefits, complete with links to the published and peer-reviewed studies:
More Restful Sleep and a Healthy Circadian Rhythm with Red Light Therapy
Light exposure is one of the biggest factors in our sleep quality, and it also has a major impact on our sleep cycles, a.k.a. our Circadian Rhythm. Our bodies and brains take cues from the light we’re receiving at any given time. For example, when we get way too much bright, artificial light in the evenings, our bodies get the signal that it’s time to be awake. 
Light therapy helps your body produce more natural melatonin, unlike artificial blue light, which hinders your body’s melatonin production. Many people will take supplements and sleep aids to boost melatonin, but it’s much healthier and more effective for your body to make its own melatonin. 
For a full overview of how red light therapy helps you sleep, check out this post.
Improving Physical Performance and Muscle Recovery with Natural Light
Muscle cells require a lot of energy, and show significant improvements with natural light treatments. In study after study, red light therapy has been found to enhance physical performance when paired with exercise.  That’s a big reason why so many pro athletes and personal trainers have incorporated red light therapy systems into their training facilities.
Red light therapy improves speed, strength, and endurance for women and men, and people at every level of fitness. [8,9] Researchers looking at red light’s effects specifically on middle-aged and older women of all fitness levels saw the same performance enhancing qualities.  And after an intense workout, red light therapy reduces post-exercise muscle fatigue and has also been found to help people recover more quickly after exertion. [11,12]
It only makes sense that when you give your body and muscles the fuel they need, they’re going to perform better, and heal and recover faster. Check out this article for a rundown of all the ways red light therapy enhances physical performance and muscle recovery.
Red Light Therapy for Joint Pain and Inflammation
Light therapy has a natural anti-inflammatory effect.  Natural light treatments increase circulation and helps clear out the swelling that keeps us feeling sluggish. This anti-inflammatory effect is what helps people recover from surgery while reducing their pain.  Reducing inflammation has a big effect on joints and pain too. Researchers have also found red light therapy to be a helpful natural treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, hand osteoarthritis, and knee osteoarthritis. [15,16,17]
Better Cognitive Function with Natural Light
The most important muscle of all—your brain—also performs better when your body is exposed to healthy, natural light. In one of the first human studies to test cognitive performance and red light therapy, researchers found the light treatments improved reactions times, increased memory, and boosted positive moods.  Light therapy has even been found to help treat Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia symptoms in some very encouraging preliminary research. [19,20]
Check out this article to learn more about red light therapy’s positive effect on brain health and cognitive functions.
More Collagen and Healthier, Younger-Looking Skin with Natural Light
Collagen is essential to your physical function. Red and near infrared light has been found to naturally increase collagen production, which is critical for skin health too.  Thanks to the collagen increasing properties of light therapy, treatments have been found to reduce fine lines and wrinkles as well as other signs of aging, leading to all-around clearer, younger-looking skin.  Researchers have found specifically that light therapy is beneficial in helping children recover from scars and helping middle-aged women look younger. [23,24]
These collagen and skin benefits are why you’re seeing more skincare professionals like estheticians and dermatologists offer red light therapy treatments in their practices. Here’s an informational article you can check out to get the full picture on the rejuvenating benefits of red light therapy.
What to Look For in a Red Light Therapy Device
There are numerous red light therapy options out there. So where do you start? What should you look for in a red light therapy device? The basics are size & coverage, power, and design quality. Let’s look at these major factors to help you pick the best device for your health needs.
Bigger Devices for More Coverage
The most important and simplest thing to remember when it comes to red light therapy devices is that bigger is better. Medical professionals and independent diagnostic testing labs agree that bigger devices that offer full-body coverage are more effective than smaller devices that only treat targeted areas.
A larger coverage area translates to more of your body that is able to take in the energy in natural light. And the more your body can take in, the more your cells can use that energy and the more positive health effects you’re going to see. Don’t fall for a cheap, small device that advertises big power and benefits.
With a larger device, you’re getting more total light energy, which takes irradiance and surface area coverage into account. Harvard Medical School photomedicine researcher Dr. Michael Hamblin, a member of Joovv’s scientific advisory board, explains why total delivered energy is needed:
“Total light energy is the most accurate and comprehensive way to measure the power of light therapy devices and treatments,” says Dr. Hamblin. “If you only account for irradiance—versus how much total energy a device delivers—you miss the larger picture of how light therapy positively benefits the person using it.”*
Power Matters, and So Does Independent Verification
Beyond size, the main spec you’ll want to look for is total energy, or how much clinical power the device can deliver to your skin and cells. One issue you might run into with power stats is how easy it is for a company to throw out a big number without much behind it. You’re going to see a lot of red light therapy companies make claims about the power of their devices. One quick way to see through their claims is to make sure they have had these power specs verified by an independent testing lab.
Joovv contracted ITL (Independent Testing Laboratory) to conduct a series of radiometry tests on our devices and the devices are other light therapy brands to verify the claims made by different companies. Those independent results showed that Joovv offered the most powerful light therapy available.
So many of the small and cheap devices you’ll find haven’t been tested independently. There’s no way to know if the numbers they throw around are valid or not. What’s worse is that a lot of these devices aren’t registered with the FDA either, nor do they follow GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), which makes sure products are up to the industry-regulated quality standards.
Design Quality and Versatility
There are a wide variety of red light therapy devices on the market right now. Some look like space-age showerheads, some look like orbs you hold in your hands and move around your body. There are even some that you wear like a belt or a shirt.
Most companies offer a single device that is meant to be your only purchase, a one-and-done approach that amounts to “you get what you get.” Joovv’s patented modular design is unique in the light therapy world, and allows you to start with a smaller device and build it into a larger one over time by adding more lights for more power and coverage, as needed. Joovv’s devices work together and can pair up to form larger, full-body systems like the pros use.
Joovv is known for its larger, full-body devices, but we also make a portable handheld model called the Joovv Go that’s ideal for clinical-grade light therapy away from home.
Better Health and Fitness with Red Light Therapy
Our ancestors thrived on lots of natural light, and our bodies are still designed to function that way. We’ve gotten away from these principles and surrounded ourselves with unhealthy artificial light almost 24/7. With red light therapy, it’s possible to still get the natural light your body needs every day, in the comfort of your home.
Red light therapy is backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed, clinical studies and analyses that show significant improvements in sleep quality, skin health, muscle performance and recovery, joint pain relief, inflammation relief, and improved cognitive function. A common theme across these studies is that natural light treatments from a medical-grade device like a Joovv have virtually no side effects or risks.
If you’re looking for a natural health intervention that fits the paleo or keto lifestyle, consider getting more natural light every day with a quality light therapy device.
Now, For the Giveaway…
Intrigued? Interested to learn more or give it a go? Why not enter to win a Joovv device?
I’ll be choosing two random winners to receive a Joovv Go, plus $100 in Primal Kitchen® products.
The winners will be announced and contacted via direct message on Instagram on October 22, 2019. Good luck, folks!
Sources and References:
 Klepeis NE, Nelson WC, Ott WR, et al. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2001 May-Jun.
 Lunn RM, Blask DE, et al. Health consequences of electric lighting practices in the modern world: A report on the National Toxicology Program’s workshop on shift work at night, artificial light at night, and circadian disruption. The Science of the Total Environment. 2017 Dec 31
 Moore, R. “Suprachiasmatic nucleus in sleep-wake regulation” Sleep Med. 2007, Dec 8
 Morita T., Tokura H. “ Effects of lights of different color temperature on the nocturnal changes in core temperature and melatonin in humans” Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 1996, September
 Loeb LM, Amorim RP, et al. “Botulinum toxin A (BT-A) versus low-level laser therapy (LLLT) in chronic migraine treatment: a comparison.” Arquivos de neuro-psiquiatria. 2018 Oct
 Naeser MA, Zafonte R, et al. “Significant improvements in cognitive performance post-transcranial, red/near-infrared light-emitting diode treatments in chronic, mild traumatic brain injury: open-protocol study.” Journal of Neurotrauma. 2014 Jun
 Leal-Junior EC, Vanin AA, et al. Effect of phototherapy (low-level laser therapy and light-emitting diode therapy) on exercise performance and markers of exercise recovery: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Lasers in Medical Science. 2015 Feb
 dos Santos Maciel T, Muñoz I, et al. Phototherapy effect on the muscular activity of regular physical activity practitioners. Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 May
 Dellagrana RA, Rossato M, et al. Photobiomodulation Therapy on Physiological and Performance Parameters During Running Tests: Dose-Response Effects. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2018 Oct
 Paolillo FR, Corazza AV, et al. Phototherapy during treadmill training improves quadriceps performance in postmenopausal women. Climacteric. 2014 Jun.
 Leal Junior EC, Lopes-Martins RA, Dalan F, et al. Effect of 655-nm low-level laser therapy on exercise-induced skeletal muscle fatigue in humans. Photomed Laser Surg. 2008 Oct
 Borges LS, et al. Light-emitting diode phototherapy improves muscle recovery after a damaging exercise. Lasers in Medical Science. 2014 May
 Hamblin M. “Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation”. AIMS Biophys. 2017
 Langella L., Casalechi H., Tomazoni S., Johnson D., Albertini R., Pallotta R., Marcos R., de Carvalho P., Leal-Junior E., “Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) on acute pain and inflammation in patients who underwent total hip arthroplasty-a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial”. Lasers Med Sci. 2018 Jun.
 Brosseau L, Welch V, et al. Low level laser therapy for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis. The Journal of Rheumatology. Aug 2000
 Paolillo AR, Paolillo FR, et al. Synergic effects of ultrasound and laser on the pain relief in women with hand osteoarthritis. Lasers in Medical Science. Jan 2015
 de Paula Gomes CAF, et al. Incorporation of photobiomodulation therapy into a therapeutic exercise program for knee osteoarthritis: A placebo-controlled, randomized, clinical trial. 2018 Oct
 Barrett DW, et al. Transcranial infrared laser stimulation produces beneficial cognitive and emotional effects in humans. 2013 Jan.
 Berman MH, Halper JP, et al. Photobiomodulation with Near Infrared Light Helmet in a Pilot, Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial in Dementia Patients Testing Memory and Cognition. Journal of Neurology and Neuroscience. J Neurol Neurosci. 2017 feb.
 Saltmarche AE, Naeser MA, et al. Significant Improvement in Cognition in Mild to Moderately Severe Dementia Cases Treated with Transcranial Plus Intranasal Photobiomodulation: Case Series Report. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2017 Aug.
 Barolet D, Roberge CJ, et al. Regulation of skin collagen metabolism in vitro using a pulsed 660 nm LED light source: clinical correlation with a single-blinded study. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2009 Dec.
 Wunsch A and Matuschka K. A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2014 feb.
 Alsharnoubi J, Shoukry K, et al. Evaluation of scars in children after treatment with low-level laser. Lasers in Medical Science.
 Kim HK, Choi JH. Effects of radiofrequency, electroacupuncture, and low-level laser therapy on the wrinkles and moisture content of the forehead, eyes, and cheek. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2017 Feb.
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Hypertension is a problem. It raises the risk of heart disease; it’s one of the most consistent risk factors for that condition, as well as others like kidney disease. But before you start freaking out about your high blood pressure, make sure you actually have it. A single elevated reading does not a hypertension diagnosis make. Readings are snapshots in time. They can be a part of a trend, or they can be an isolated case. Don’t assume based on one bad reading.
I can remember going to the doctor about ten years ago for a routine checkup, showing 140/100, and almost getting a prescription based on that. It was absurd, so absurd that I took matters into my own hands and got a fancy blood pressure device to measure my own over the next couple weeks. The result?
There was almost no pattern. Maybe it was a lot lower after dinner, due to relaxation, but other than that there weren’t any trends. Sometimes it was high, mostly it was low-normal. It all depends on stress
Okay, say that’s not you. Say you have a legitimate problem with protracted and consistently high blood pressure. What can you do in addition to (or besides, if your doctor says it’s safe to wait) opt for the prescription?
1) Eat More Potassium
A common cause of salt-related blood pressure increases is inadequate potassium intake. Very few of us eat as much potassium as we evolved eating.
The pre-agricultural environment was potassium-rich and sodium-poor. That’s why we have a physiological taste for salt, and why salted food tastes so good: we had to seek it out. That’s why we don’t have a physiological taste for potassium: it was everywhere. Loren Cordain estimates some hunter-gatherer groups got upwards of 10-12 grams of potassium a day, whereas the average American gets about 2.5 grams.
Studies show that both sodium-sensitive and potassium-deficient subjects with high blood pressure see the biggest improvements with increased potassium intake.
I love sodium, and it’s actually beneficial for endothelial health when consumed with enough potassium, but you have to eat potassium too.
2) Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity
Ever since earlier studies established that hypertensive patients tend to exhibit abnormally high insulin responses to standard glucose loads, researchers have wondered about a connection between insulin and blood pressure. It turns out there is a powerful connection.
- In non-diabetic people with normal blood pressure, insulin levels and shifts in blood pressure are related—higher insulin, higher blood pressure; lower, lower.
- In both diabetic and non-diabetic subjects, lower insulin sensitivity predicts elevated blood pressure.
- Insulin increases sodium retention in the blood, which increases blood volume and pressure. The less insulin sensitive you are, the more insulin you’ll release in response to a given stimulus, and the more sodium you’ll shuttle into the blood.
- Both insulin resistance and the compensatory hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin levels) that results have distinct pro-hypertensive effects.
Luckily, there are dozens upon dozens of ways to improve your insulin sensitivity. Choose a few, or all of them (a better proposal, actually), to not only improve your blood pressure but also your health and life in general.
3) Earn Your Carbs With Physical Activity
The ones you earn through physical activity, that is. Let’s look at two scenarios.
First: You eat way more carbs than you actually earn through training. You haven’t trained, so you’re more insulin-resistant than the You from the alternative universe who did train. This means any carbs you eat will cause a greater spike in insulin, which has been shown to increase blood pressure.
Second: You only eat the carbs you’ve earned through training. Since you’re training, your insulin sensitivity is high, and you don’t actually secrete all that much insulin in response to the carbs. Training also upregulates non-insulin dependent glycogen repletion, meaning you can shove glycogen into muscles post-workout without even using insulin.
Once or twice, this isn’t an issue. But if you’re consistently eating more carbs than you need, the resultant elevation in insulin will raise blood pressure. At the very least, it won’t help.
Not only that, but regular training improves endothelial function and reduces the risk of high blood pressure on its own.
4) Eat Fermented Dairy
Milk fermented with the L. helveticus bacteria has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension in a number of studies.
In one, they drank the fermented milk for 21 weeks.
In another, they drank the milk for 10 weeks.
Look for products that include Lactobacillus helveticus, such as kefir, aged cheese (Swiss, emmental, pecorino romano, cheddar, parmigiano reggiano),
5) Get Your Zinc (Red Meat and Oysters)
Zinc is an essential nutrient for regulating the nitric oxide synthase system in the body. Without adequate zinc, your ability to produce nitric oxide—which increases blood vessel dilation and thus regulates blood pressure—is hampered.
6) Get Sunlight
There are consistent relationships between adequate vitamin D levels and normal blood pressure, though it’s unclear whether this is causal. Studies haven’t found a consistent blood pressure effect of actually supplementing with vitamin D. What might be going on is that vitamin D is acting as a marker for sun exposure, because we know that sunlight increases the production of nitric oxide, a compound that improves the function of your blood vessels.
Sure enough, human studies show that sun exposure causes the conversion of nitrogen oxide in the skin to nitric oxide, lowering blood pressure and improving endothelial function.
7) Address Your Stress
Stress might be the biggest trigger for hypertension, especially since most of us live lives laden with hidden, inevitable stressors—commutes, jobs we don’t like, bills, and the like. It’s everywhere, we can’t really escape it entirely, so we have to figure out how to deal with it.
I know how I do it (paddling, Ultimate, walks, quality time with family, smart supplementation). There are other ways, like adaptogens, or this, or this. You can rethink stress entirely. You can meditate, or try alternatives that achieve similar things. What are you going to do?
If your blood pressure is resistant to dietary, exercise, or lifestyle changes, make sure you manage it with your doctor.
8) Take ACE Inhibitors or AR Blockers If Warranted
The body uses a hormone called angiotensin to raise blood pressure in a couple ways. First, by directly constricting blood vessels and increasing flow pressure. Second, by promoting the release of aldosterone, a hormone that shuttles sodium to the blood to increase blood volume. ACE inhibitors inhibit angiotensin secretion and AR blockers block angiotensin receptor sites. While I know we’re usually suspicious of drugs that block or inhibit the secretion or action of hormones, ACE inhibitors and AR blockers appear to be quite safe and effective. And there’s even evidence that normotensive subjects who take them live longer than normotensive subjects who don’t.
They do tend to lower zinc status, though, so keep up with your zinc intake.
That’s it for today, folks. The good news is that high blood pressure is manageable with diet and lifestyle changes, and even if that doesn’t work, the available medications seem better than most.
How do you manage your blood pressure? What’s worked? What hasn’t?
Sebastian A, Cordain L, Frassetto L, Banerjee T, Morris RC. Postulating the major environmental condition resulting in the expression of essential hypertension and its associated cardiovascular diseases: Dietary imprudence in daily selection of foods in respect of their potassium and sodium content resulting in oxidative stress-induced dysfunction of the vascular endothelium, vascular smooth muscle, and perivascular tissues. Med Hypotheses. 2018;119:110-119.
Filippini T, Violi F, D’amico R, Vinceti M. The effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure in hypertensive subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Cardiol. 2017;230:127-135.
Takano T. Anti-hypertensive activity of fermented dairy products containing biogenic peptides. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 2002;82(1-4):333-40.
Seppo L, Jauhiainen T, Poussa T, Korpela R. A fermented milk high in bioactive peptides has a blood pressure-lowering effect in hypertensive subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(2):326-30.
Jauhiainen T, Vapaatalo H, Poussa T, Kyrönpalo S, Rasmussen M, Korpela R. Lactobacillus helveticus fermented milk lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects in 24-h ambulatory blood pressure measurement. Am J Hypertens. 2005;18(12 Pt 1):1600-5.
The post A Primal Guide to Blood Pressure: 8 Common (and Not So Common) Interventions appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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