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
  • Frostbite
  • Stabbing/Cut/Laceration
  • 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.

  1. First, something painful and unpleasant happens; choose one of the above injury options.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Omega-3 Index

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

I’ve written extensively on HRV in the past. Long story short, high HRV predicts lower levels of inflammation.

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.

Water Retention

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.

Stress Load

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.

Overtraining

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 bedlean 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 dietsHigh-sugarhigh-processed carb, high-industrial fat, high-glutenhigh-CAFO meat, low-nutrient food is a pretty accurate descriptor of the modern Western diet.
  • Insufficient omega-3 intakeOmega-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 sleepPoor 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.

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References:

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.

The post The Definitive Guide to Inflammation appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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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:

And about that “excess methionine” and “increased IGF-1”?

You can easily (and should) balance your methionine intake with glycine from collagen, gelatin, or bone broth. In animals, doing so protects against early mortality.

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.

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References:

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.

The post 5 Biggest Longevity Myths appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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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?

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References:

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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I’ve been around the block. I’ve spent thousands upon thousands of hours in the gym, on the track, on the bike, in the water. I’ve tasted glory and defeat. I’ve been sidelined with injuries, I’ve gone stretches where I felt invincible. I’ve trained with, and trained, some of the best to ever do it. And along the way, I learned a lot: what to do, what not to do, what matters, what doesn’t.

Last week a comment from a reader gave me a great idea for a post: Give fitness advice to younger Groks. Help them avoid the mistakes I made and capitalize on the wins.

Let’s get right to it.

“Gain As Much Muscle As You Can Through Natural Means.”

Lean mass, which primarily includes muscle mass but also connective tissue and organ reserve, is in my opinion the single most important variable for overall health, wellness, physical capacity, and performance. The more muscle you have, the better you’ll age. The younger people will assume you are. The more capable you’ll be. The less frail. The harder to kill. The better to conceive children, give birth, and be an active parent (and eventually grandparent). You’ll have more energy. Basically, more muscle allows you to resist gravity, and gravity is what slows you down, breaks you down, and makes you feel old.

The more muscle you have when you’re younger, the more muscle you’ll retain as you grow older. Because when you’re older, you can still gain muscle, but not as easily. You’ll need more stimulus and more protein to get the same effect.  And entropy is working against you.

And by “natural means,” I mean don’t take anabolics unnecessarily (unless you have low/lower testosterone and a doctor helps you gain physiological levels via TRT). Don’t spend three hours a day in the gym. Don’t let strength training take over your life.

“Listen To Your Gut. If Something Feels Wrong, or Even Not Right, Back Off.”

I realized that every single time I hurt myself, I knew it was coming on some level. I had a premonition that I shouldn’t train or perform that day. Sometimes that message would come hours before the injury. Sometimes it would come moments before. It was usually non-specific, often nothing more than a vague sense of disquiet. But there was always something.

That time I strained my bicep tendon maxing out on bench, I remember waking up in the morning feeling like I probably shouldn’t go for the PR. Still I went for it and paid the price.

And last year during a set of pull-ups, I’d noticed I was leading with my chin—something I’m usually good about avoiding—and told myself to stop. But I thought I had another rep in me and, sure enough, as I was trying to finish the next pull-up, I felt something to the left of my ear and down around my trap give. I actually did keep the chin neutral but still got hurt. Leading with my chin was my body’s way of indicating that I was reaching the limit. I ignored that indicator and regretted it.

It’s not always a physical sensation or “pain” at all. Sometimes it’s just a weird feeling in my gut that says “this isn’t right.” Listen to that feeling. One day it won’t just be a tweaked shoulder or tendon. It might be downright catastrophic.

“Pull More Than You Push.”

Your phone. Your desk job. Look around at the average person walking around—their shoulders are rolled inward, internally rotated. Are yours? Society pulls our shoulders inward at every turn, and then you go to the gym and do a bunch of push-ups, bench presses, and dips, followed by a few sets of rows. That’s not enough. To maintain shoulder health (and build a strong, stable back from which to exert great shoulder force), you should train with a 2:1 pull:push ratio. That means for every 10 reps of presses (dips, pushups, bench, overhead press, etc) you do 20 reps of pulls (rows, pullups, face pulls, etc). If you already have problems with your shoulder or posture, bump that up to a 3:1 ratio.

“Focus On Compound Movements, But Include Some Isolation/Bodybuilding Movements As Well.”

While compound, multi-joint movements are the best way to build total body strength and athleticism, it turns out that training the “beach muscles” is important too. For instance, an exercise like curls can go a long way toward building up your bicep tendons and ligaments, preparing you for placing more stress on the muscles themselves and helping you avoid injuries down the line.

Plus, they make you look good—which is its own benefit but also motivates you to keep going.

“Compete With Yourself.”

Competition is good. Competition compels us to be greater, to improve ourselves. Just be wary about whom you’re competing with. These days, you have billions of potential competitors. You can hop on social media and find hundreds of people with better bodies, stronger lifts, faster times, and more perfect technique than you. It’s fine to use these people as motivation to improve yourself, but don’t beat yourself up—or, worse, get yourself injured—trying to beat them. Not everyone can do everything. We have different skills, different capacities, different priorities.

What you can and should do is compare your current self to your past self. Are you getting stronger than that person? Faster? Fitter? Leaner? Great. That’s how you do it. That’s what matters most.

“Walk Every Day.”

You won’t get the physiological/fitness effects right away, but they build up over time. Walking every day for the rest of your life is all about accruing compound interest.

Benefits?

From being in nature to improving blood glucose control to better cognitive function to improved insulin sensitivity to fat loss to joint mobility, walking is legitimate exercise.

“Get a Tribe.”

There’s research showing the physiological benefits of training in a group setting, but that’s tangential to my main point: having a fitness tribe—a group of friends, a sport, a training school—creates accountability, which promotes consistency. When someone’s counting on you, expecting you, you’re more likely to stick with the training. When you train with your friends or tribe toward a common goal, it becomes a joyous occasion. And even when it’s downright difficult and miserable, you can endure by drawing on the energy of the others.

“Have Fun.”

If you can figure out a way to train in a way that you love and truly enjoy on an intrinsic level, you’ll never be out of shape.

For some people, that means CrossFit. Or powerlifting. Or bodybuilding. Or running, martial arts, wrestling, parkour, or rock climbing. Dancing, mountain biking, surfing. There are many ways to skin the cat, but what really matters is that you enjoy the act of training for its own sake.

For me, I trained in the opposite manner. I loved the feeling of finishing a race. I liked the accolades and pride I felt and received when I won. But the act of racing? The moment to moment experience of training all those days? Miserable. That should have been an indication that I shouldn’t be doing it. I ignored it, though, and paid a price.

“Train To Support Your Goals.”

These days, as I’m fond of saying, I train to play. I train to support my Ultimate Frisbee match every weekend. I train so that I can get out on the paddle board twice a week. I train so I can try all the fun new fitness gadgets. If I were to do heavy squats and deadlifts 3 times a week, I wouldn’t be able to play Ultimate very well or go paddling whenever I wanted. I’d be recovering. Since my goal is to play, my training has to support that.

Search within your soul and figure out what your goals are, then hew your training to them. Are you trying to get as strong as possible? As fast? To build up your VO2max? To look good naked? Then align your training with your goals.

“Don’t Think You Have To Squat and Deadlift and Press With a Barbell.”

Those lifts are fantastic for building strength and developing athleticism, but they aren’t the only paths. Lunges, single leg deadlifts, kettlebell swings, trap bar deadlifts, and dumbbell presses are excellent alternatives that work many of the same muscles and can even be gentler on the body than the Big Three lifts.

There’s probably way more that can be said on this subject, but that’s where you come in. Down below, let me know what you’d say to your younger self who came to you asking about fitness tips. What would you do differently? What would you keep the same?

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The post Fitness Advice From A Primal Elder to Younger Groks: What To Focus On and What To Let Go Of appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week how to save your kids from sugar, pesticides dangerous for unborn children, and lavender works as well as valium.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week it’s time to stop fat shaming, natural beauty product makers want more regulation, and how much strength training is necessary.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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While skipping just the occasional meal can be beneficial, cycling periods of fasting (usually in the morning) and feasting (usually at night) can aid detoxification, encourage fat burning, and improve immune function.

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Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Quick announcement: I’ll be at the Fireside conference Sept 6-9 in Canada, and doing a live podcast on stage with the venerable Yoni Freedhoff. Would love to see you there!

Short list this week. Your spit helps you quit picky eating, breakfast boosts carb burning, and water doesn’t help with weight loss.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week the health value of friendship, the trouble with the carbohydrate-insulin model, and the sad state of the EPA.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Abel James, alters your genetic expression, alzheimer's, alzheimer’s disease, apoptosis, bdnf, blood glucose, blood glucose management, brain cells, brain fuel, Brain Health, brain maker, brain science, brain-boosting fats, brain-building effects, burning fat, caspase enzymes, Cholesterol, dha, Diabetes, diabetic, dna, dna shift, doctor, doctor yourself, doctor’s advice, doctors, dr. perlmutter, eat fat, eat more fat, eat your veggies, eating more cholesterol, eating veggies, epigenetic, epigenetics, Episodes, fat adapted, fat burning, fat burning man, fda, Featured, fuel with fat, genetic control, genetic engineering, genetic sequences, glucose, glucose in the brain, good science, grain, grain brain, green vegetables, heart attack, heart attacks, heart disease, hippocampus, how much fruits and vegetables, how to become fat adapted, how to reduce inflammation, how to regrow brain cells, how to supplement, improve brain health, increase brain function, inflammation, inflammatory, inflammatory biomarkers, interview, Interviews, keto diet and ketosis, ketones, ketosis, Longevity, losing brain cells, mitochondria, mitochondrial biogenesis, music and the brain, musical training, neurochemical, neurologist, neurology, Nutrition, nutrition and health, nutritional ketosis, nutritional science, omega-3, omegas, Paleo, pharmaceutical industry, physiology, podcast, Podcasts, power of music, pre-diabetic, real science, reduce inflammation, regrow brain cells, regrow your hippocampus, regrown your brain, reprogram your brain for success, reprogram your genetic expression, rewire brain, science, stroke, supplementation, the brain, the fat burning man show, the hungry brain, the musical brain, The Wild Diet, type 2 diabetes, type 2 diabetic, understand cholesterol, upgrade your brain, Vegetables, videos, vitamin d, vitamin d deficiency, vitamin d dosage, what sugar really does to your brain, wheat, Wheat Belly, whole food supplements, wild superfoods
Dr. Perlmutter is a board-certified neurologist and author of #1 New York Times bestseller, Grain Brain. In this interview, he’s going to tell you 2 things you can do right now to actually regrow your own brain cells.

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