I Think . . . .

They said it couldn’t be done—an impossible feat. For nine years Gunter Hagg’s record of 4:01.4 stood.

Then, on May 6, 1954, the impossible became possible; Roger Bannister set a world record for the mile with a time of 3:59.4.

With his record, Bannister also broke the psychological barrier. Having removed that obstacle, forty-six days later John Landy broke Bannister’s record with a time of 3:58 (his time of was 3:57.9 was rounded off by the IAAF).

At the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver on August 7, 1954, another record was broken when Bannister and Landy competed in the first race in which two runners ran the mile in under four minutes—Bannister, 3:58.8 and Landy, 3:59.6.

In 1983, another example of the power of our thoughts appeared in the World Journal of Surgery regarding a study on the effectiveness of chemotherapy for various types of cancer. Of the individuals who received a placebo, thirty percent had hair loss even though they were given a harmless substance. The hair loss occurred only because they thought it would.

Knowing the above examples, what about your thoughts in your daily life? Would you now pause before thinking: “I’m fat;” “I’ll never be able to change my eating habits;” or “I’ll never be consistent with my exercise routine.”

Periodically review your thoughts, question them, and then, eliminate any that no longer serve or limit you.

Taking Control

Chances are you have heard of Metabolic Syndrome (formerly referred to as Syndrome X). Although various organizations have slightly different criteria, the risk factors usually cited are:

  • Waist circumference greater than 40 inches in men and greater than 35 inches in women.
  • A serum triglyceride level above 150 mg/dL or taking a cholesterol medication.
  • HDL cholesterol below 40 mg/dL in men and below 50 mg/dL in women or taking a cholesterol medication.
  • High blood pressure—135/85 mm Hg or greater or taking a hypertensive medication.
  • High blood sugar—fasting blood glucose 100 mg/dL or above.

If you have three or more of the above markers, the syndrome is present, and your risk for health issues such as diabetes, heart attack, and/or stroke increases.

Take another look at the above indicators. What do you notice? You are, for the most part, in control of these.

With proper lifestyle changes, such as exercise, nutrition—eating whole foods (avoiding sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed food, etc.), and if you smoke, quitting, you could possibly lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, lower your triglycerides levels, reduce your waist size, and normalize your blood sugar levels.

Think about the influence you have over your health and wellbeing.  Begin taking control by making healthy lifestyle changes.

To make it easy, start with small shifts. You don’t need to develop a three-month health/fitness program or even a four-week one.  As I mentioned in an earlier post: “How about a walk at lunch or after dinner? Perhaps taking the stairs instead of using the elevator, or periodically stand up during the day and do some bodyweight exercises.”

By taking simple steps, you’ll avoid adding additional stress to your life (the last thing you need).  Also, begin to notice how you feel as you make your positive, healthy lifestyle changes.

“Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?”

Since I‘m constantly reading about health, wellness, exercise, and lifestyle, I want to periodically make you aware of books and articles you might find informative and beneficial.

My previous posts “And The Rx Winner Is . . .” and “Overtesting, Overdiagnosis, & Overtreatment” brought to mind Armon B. Neel, Jr., PharmD, CGP, and Bill Hogan’s book Are Your Prescriptions Killing You?  Neel, a consulting pharmacist, reviews the medications nursing home residents and hospital patients are taking as well as doing the same for individuals; Hogan is an investigative journalist.

Through his work, Neel advises his clients, age 65 or older, about the medications they shouldn’t be taking  (partly due to the reduced functions of their livers and kidneys as well the fact individuals “often lack the body chemistry that’s needed to breakdown drugs”); the possible drug interactions; discovering if the medications are the cause of certain symptoms/conditions; and how to reduce the number of pills someone is taking. Would you be surprised to learn that Neel has worked with and helped people who were on six or seven blood pressure medications a day as well as others who were taking up to twenty prescriptions a day?

Just within the first 30 pages, the authors highlight:

“Adverse reactions from prescription drugs are now the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease, cancer, and stroke, and that’s not counting the drug-induced deaths that are mistakenly contributed to illness or disease or are otherwise chalked up to natural causes . . . .”

“The risk of prescription drug errors is seven times greater for people sixty-five and older than for young people . . . .”

“Polypharmacy—meaning ‘many drugs’—refers to the problems that can occur when someone is taking multiple medications. It is a national epidemic. It’s responsible for up to 28 percent of all hospital admissions, studies show, and would rank as the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States if it were so classified.”

“A person taking 10 medications, for example, has 44 possible drug interactions that need to be analyzed; a patient taking 15 medications has 104 such possible interactions.”

Some of the chapters highlight specific medical conditions, the drugs used to treat them, and the potential perils connected with their use. Thus, chapters headings include: “Off the Charts: Do You Really Need Those Blood Pressure Drugs?,” ”Phantom Killers: NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs),” “Statin Roulette: Drugs of Last Resort,” “The Bone-Scare Drugs: What You Should Know About Bisphosphonates,” “Does Dad Really Have Alzheimer’s?: A Look at Drug-Induced Dementia.” Just from these titles, you know the authors are addressing the drugs a majority of the Americans are taking.

Neel and Hogan discuss such points as how various drugs work, their histories, their benefits, common side effects, their interactions with other medications, and the contraindications for older individuals taking them.  Their remarks will make you think twice (and maybe grab this book first) before blindly filling a prescription and then, taking the pills.  They also offer drug-free approaches for various conditions at the end of chapters.

Through their book, Neel and Hogan ask us to become our own advocates by taking such actions as asking our doctors questions about the prescriptions they write for us (while insisting they use legible handwriting and plain English); finding out why our practitioner is prescribing the medication; ask about its side effects; should you try a nondrug approach first; and finally, a new step for most of us, having your medications reviewed on a yearly basis by a consultant pharmacist.

At the end of the book, the authors provide a self-assessment quiz for individuals 65 and older regarding the medications they’re prescribed.  The quiz is a quick way to see if you should consult with a board-certified geriatric pharmacist (to find one go to The Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy) about what you’re taking.

I highly recommend you read this book and then, share it with others.  The information could improve the quality of your life or of someone you love; it might even save a life.

An Age-Proof Life II: Shattering Aging Myths

In my previous post, I wrote about the inspiring athletic achievements of older individuals. Today, I’m focusing on the accomplishments of individuals in other walks of life. In no particular order:

  • Former President Jimmy Carter (90) still monitors elections in foreign countries.
  • Cecily Tyson (90), who won a Tony in 2013 at age 88 for The Trip To Bountiful, will star with James Earl Jones (84) in a new production of The Gin Game on Broadway this fall.
  • Seymour Bernstein (88) is a musician, composer, and teacher who is the subject of Ethan Hawk’s documentary Seymour: An Introduction.
  • Iris Apfel (93) an interior designer, fashion icon, and business woman is the focus of Albert Maysles’s film, Iris.
  • John Williams (83) who has written the scores for the Star Wars series will do the same for Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens.

Look at your life and those around for your own inspiration. In mine, I have my father-in-law who turns 91 next month. In the last six years he has published a book about his World War II experiences, traveled (Africa, New Zealand, Culebra, St. John, Palm Springs, and St. Lucia), is a political junkie, and catches up with us on the news, television, books, and movies.

With the above individuals and those mentioned last week as examples, think about the possible richness of the second half of your life. I’m not necessarily advocating entering a relay race or appearing on stage. Think of this as an opportunity to be yourself and find your passion. Discover what’s right for you.

An Age-Proof Life: Shattering Aging Myths

At their respective ages of 92, 91, 97, 96, and 91, Roy Englert, Charles Boyle, Champion Goldy, Sr., Orville Rogers, and Charles Ross set USA Masters Track & Field records in the 4×100-meter, the 4×400-meter relay, and the 4×800-meter relay in July 2014. Also, Englert, around the same time, broke a 25-year-old American age-group record in the 5,000 meters. Yes, since these men were the first age 90+ to compete, they won by just finishing each event. Even though they had no competition, this fact does not diminish their achievement.

At the same meet, Irene Obera, for ages 80-84, claimed records in the 200-meter sprint, the 100 meter, 400 meter, 80-meter short hurdles, 200-meter hurdles, and the long jump (9’8”, if you’re curious). I neglected to mention, this was the first competition in which Obera ran hurdles.

For additional inspiration, visit the website of Olga Kotelko who passed away at age 95 in June 2014. At age 77, she began participating in track-and-field events. At the time of her death, she held 37 world records, wrote an autobiography, The O.K. Way to a Healthy, Happy Life and was the subject of the book What Makes Olga Run?

Welcome to 2015 and individuals who are shattering the stereotypes and myths of aging as well those surrounding health and fitness. So much for the beliefs of the “ravages of aging”—shrinking muscles, loss of flexibility, stiff joints, and comments such as “it’s all part of growing older.”

Most likely many of these older athletes were not necessarily focused on exercise earlier in their lives; their generation predated “the fitness boom.” Individuals like Kotelko, Obera, and the above men came of age during the Depression and World War II where the focus was on going off to war, your job, providing for your family, and raising your children as well as wanting a better life for them.

At that time, people like Jack LaLanne were notable exceptions; he is another inspiration for shattering aging stereotypes. For example, his website states: “Age 70: handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1½ miles.”

Since I’m growing older, my thinking about these athletic achievements becomes personal. Think of yourself in the future. Do you envision yourself competing in a USA Masters Track & Field event in your 90s? Could you even compete in such an event today? If not, how mobile do you think you will be 20 to 30 years from now?

Have the above individuals’ ability to shatter the stereotypes of aging and live life on their terms got you thinking? Take some time to reflect on your beliefs about growing older. Ask if they’re based on stereotypes and if so, are they holding you back? If you answer, “yes,” begin eliminating those beliefs that no longer serve you, and establish new ones that will assist you in living the healthy, positive life you desire and deserve.

I want us all to rethink our beliefs surrounding aging and how such thinking affects the quality of our lives. I am not advocating that we all lace up our running shoes tomorrow morning and hit the road for a five-mile run. Not all of us enjoy running. In truth, I don’t have the best knees, and for that reason, when I run, I do so on a treadmill. What I am advocating is making the decision today to get active and move your body on a regular basis.

Some thoughts:

  • If you’re not currently active, what activity would you enjoy that would get you moving?
  • What physical activities did you enjoy as a kid?
  • Regarding exercise, what have you always wanted to try?

Maybe it’s walking, swimming at the “Y,” taking a martial arts class, or perhaps planting that garden you always wanted—think of the double reward of exercise plus fresh food and flowers from your garden.

Some additional points to consider as you think about an activity you would enjoy:

  • Do you like indoor or outdoor pursuits?
  • Do you prefer exercising in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings?
  • Do you like silence or using music to motivate you?
  • Do you enjoy working out on your own, with someone, or in a class/group?

You get the idea.

First, choose an activity you’ll enjoy, and one you will do with consistency. Consistency is the key. As you begin, what’s the better choice: doing a daily ten-minute exercise routine that fits your current schedule or being unable to honor your goal of exercising forty-five minutes a day? Your ten-minute program (which could easily be done at home using your bodyweight) might just be the catalyst for the transformation you desire.

We have the choice to be active or not. I know time can be tight. Review your schedule and see where you can find those extra minutes. How much time do you spend watching TV, browsing the Internet, talking with friends, or on social media? Begin by making small shifts with your time. How about a walk at lunch or after dinner? Perhaps taking the stairs instead of using the elevator, or periodically stand up during the day and do some bodyweight exercises.

Think about yourself today, at this moment. Don’t feel the need to compete with your younger self. Be realistic; please don’t try to relive the past. Who truly cares how far you could run or bench press in your 20s? Decide, from this point forward, you’ll make your aging process a fit, healthy, fun, and positive one.

By the way, who wants to participate with me in a 4×400-meter relay when we’re on our 90s?

Overtesting, Overdiagnosis, & Overtreatment

As promised, today I’m talking about the other article that connects to the one discussed in my previous post.

Atul Gawande, a surgeon, professor, and the bestselling author of Being Mortal, was eating lunch and clicking through medical articles. One in particular that caught his eye was a study of more than a million Medicare patients: “They studied how often people received one of twenty-six tests or treatments that scientific and professional organizations determined to have no benefits or to be outright harmful. . . . In just a single year, the researchers reported, twenty-five to forty-two per cent of Medicare patients received at least one of the twenty-six useless tests and treatments.”

In his article, “Overkill,” Gawande uses this Medicare study as a starting point to cover a range of medical topics including overtesting, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment.

Connecting with the above quote, some key points Gawande mentions are:

  • “Millions of people are receiving drugs that aren’t helping them, operations that aren’t going to make them better, and scans and tests that do nothing beneficial for them, and often cause harm.
  • “Researchers have come to refer to financial as well as physical ‘toxicities’ of inappropriate care—including reduced spending on food, clothing, education, and shelter.”
  • “The United States is a country of three hundred million people who annually undergo around fifteen million nuclear medical scans, a hundred million CT and MRI scans, and almost ten billion laboratory tests.
  • “One study found that between 1997 and 2005 national health-care expenditures for back-pain patients increased nearly two-thirds, yet population surveys reveal no improvement in the level of back pain reported by patients.”

I find these points disturbing, and I also understand all the blame cannot be placed on the medical community. Gawande highlights the dilemma faced by doctors: “We’re more afraid of doing too little than of doing too much. And patients often feel the same way.” Connecting with this, he talks about removing a patient’s thyroid, because she feared a small tumor that was discovered.  He writes he was against the operation: “The surgery posed a greater risk of causing harm than any microcarcinoma we might find . . . .”

Gawande also discusses another perspective—individuals who are fortunate enough to have healthcare providers who do not jump to surgery and utilize various medical specialists to treat their patients’ conditions.

He spends some time discussing the WellMed model whose president, Carlos Hernandez views “the primary care doctor as a kind of contractor for patients, reining in pointless testing, procedures, and emergency-room visits, coordinating treatment, and helping to find specialists who practice thoughtfully and effectively.” This approach, in part, addresses the above points on the Medicare study.

These providers took time with their patients. As an example of replacing unnecessary care with care people need, Gawande talks about a man with diabetes whose blood-sugar levels were dangerously high, but his body had developed a tolerance to spikes in blood sugar. This man’s doctor spent 45 minutes with him and explained his condition and how to treat it.

Then, a nurse who was also a certified diabetes educator, spent another 45 minutes with him. She also arranged to call him every other day for a week and to bring him back into the office if necessary. This individual was a Medicare patient, and his doctor was a WellMed physician. Such steps have resulted in “a large reduction in the overuse of care and better outcomes for patients.”

In part, Gawande’s article provides an alternate perspective on the usual medical model. Is it a cure-all? He himself wonders: “Could a backlash arrive and halt the trend?” “If doctors are rewarded for practicing more conservative medicine, some could end up stinting on care.” These and other issues must be raised in the ongoing healthcare debate. Gawande points out the possibility of better care for patients as well as reduced medical costs.

I have only provided highlights of this article. In fairness to Gawande, please read his piece when you have a chance.

And The Rx Winner Is . . .

I’ve recently read two articles that touch on similar topics. I’ll talk about one of them today, and the other in my next post.

First, I want to stress I know the importance of prescription medications. I always remind clients to follow their doctors’ or healthcare professionals’ advice on them including to not stop taking them or changing the dosage on their own.

The first article, “Medicare Releases Detailed Data on Prescription Drug Spending,” points out:  “. . . officials said they decided to make the information available on a public website to encourage experts to weigh in, potentially leading to new solutions for policy challenges, like how to contain costs.”

By no means am I an “expert” they referred to in the quote. What I do have is an interest in the overuse of prescription drugs, and the costs related to them. I’m raising these questions because I would like you to shift your perspective, consider other possibilities, and ask your own questions whenever you read articles on health/wellness/fitness.

The above article lists the 10 top drugs prescribed to Medicare patients in 2013. Number one on the list was Nexium (for acid reflux) accounting for a total cost of over $2.5 billion and 8,192,326 prescriptions filled. Think about these two figures. Please note, Nexium lost its patent protection in 2014 and is now available as a generic.

As I read this piece some thoughts that came to mind are:

  • The side effects of Nexium—some of which are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, nervousness, abnormal heartbeat, muscle pain, leg cramps, and weakness. Think of the potential chain reaction if these individuals are prescribed another medication to counteract one of Nexium’s side effects.
  • The possibility that individuals on this drug don’t have too much stomach acid but rather too little to properly digest their food, or they’re experiencing discomfort because of having a damaged esophagus lining.
  • Could their symptoms be treated and eliminated through dietary changes without the need for medication.
  • Allowing doctors to spend more quality time with their patients so they can uncover the root causes of conditions rather than treating symptoms.
  • People’s desire for an immediate solution leads to a constant search for a “magic bullet.”
  • The risks associated with people self-medicating with the over-the-counter version of Nexium. This thought also connects to the first bullet point.

If you get a chance, please read the article and see what questions come to your mind.

As mentioned, my next post will discuss an article that compliments the one I wrote about today.