It took a long time to settle on topics for this month's letter. There is so much happening in the field. It was hard to choose. This month emphasizes the practical rather than specialized research findings.
Few people talk about one of the of the main causes of Osteopenia and Osteoporosis.
Most people know about prescription drugs, calcium - magnesium - Vitamin D (Though many are not told about the 'trace minerals' and other vitamins they need) and weight bearing exercise. But this list leaves out a really important factor.
It is a factor that has adverse effects on cardiovascular health, diabetes, bone building and on mental acuity and memory. In fact, it has become so widespread that many 40 and 50 years old's are going to their health care providers because 'they are losing their memories". They forget where they put their keys, their wallets. They can not remember a week's appointments without writing them down. These new memory difficulties have become so common that neurologist have
even developed a name for it, "mid-life memory impairment". Such memory impairment is not normal any more than Osteopenia before the age of 79 is normal.
So what is going on?
Well, a lot of things but researchers tell us that CORTISOL is usually the culprit in all these conditions.
Cortisol is a hormone produced in response to stress. It makes the 'fight/flight' response possible. And although it is a good thing to have if a truck is bearing down on you at 60 miles an hour, a constant production of Cortisol is destructive. It destroys your brain, your bones and harm your cardiovascular system.
Now you may be thinking, Stress? Not me, no way. But wait. Let me explain. The brain experiences every sensory input - every sound, every color, every flash of light. When there are many of these, the brain/nervous system feels on overload. It is stressed.
Remember as human beings we are wired for the world in which our species appeared. Noticing inputs by our brains and nervous system was important. Any sound could be a predator coming
though the trees. A flash could indicate a reptile about to strike.
If you have ever walked through a dangerous part of town at night or spent time doing an army patrol during warfare, you know how important it is that we do register each sight and sound. But contemporary life has millions of such inputs every single day.
As a result our nervous system are increasingly on 'overload'. We have too much Cortisol production and it is not getting sopped up through defensive action of 'fight' or flight'. So it is destroying cells.
Just think of how much more stimuli you experience than your parents or grandparents did a hundred years ago. There
were no electric lights, no flashing neon signs, no radio, no TV, no Telephone and although a run away horse might come
at you at 40 miles an hour, you were not moving in the midst of 60 mile per hour vehicles every week or everyday. Sirens, Ipods, Cell phones, background music, talk radio --- the sensory input is interminable....and often loud. As a result our bodies are producing lots of Cortisol and it is destroying brain cells and your health.
Of course many people try to address this daily stress. They walk, jog, work out. But if you go to the gym, they have music
blasting - creating more extreme sensory input. Working out in silence has become so foreign that directors of health clubs and gyms are astounded at a request to shut the music off.
Now, so much for background. I could quote study after study or give example after example, but I assume that you get the point. I do want to say, however, that if you have Osteopenia or Osteoporosis and are not addressing the issue of too much Cortisol, you are making your bone building task very difficult. In fact, the excess cortisol coursing through your system could be undoing some of the good you are doing.
So what to do? I think that each of us needs to create our own stimuli reduction program to go along with the rest of our treatment program. Let me offer a few ideas.
1. Shut off the radio. If you commute, start by keeping it off for at least the first 15 minutes of your drive.
2. At home do not have radio or TV as 'ambient background noise'. It would be good to ration you TV exposure - in part because there is so much visual interruption by ads or changing camera views. Why not decide on 3 or 6 hours a week at most.
If all of that is going to be for Sunday football, so be it. If you are watching Soaps, make some choices. And do you really need 2 hours of news and weather each night. Take care of yourself. Limit your stimuli.
If you already limit your radio and TV, try to think of other ways to limit you sensory input each day.
3. Buy some power strips and use these to turn on TV, radio, microwave so you do not have the glowing light all the time. You will save energy and reduce the sensory input.
Now be prepared.
Some people go through a real 'withdrawal' when they first cut back on sensory input. How to get through it?
Sing. Singing is stress reducing. I mean out loud, belt-it-out singing. Patriotic songs, folk songs, hymns, children's songs. Start the day by singing Happy Birthday. it is easy, melodic and somewhere in the world there is probably someone with a birthday who has no one to sign to them. Sing to the sky, the trees, the road. If you hop in your car and sing for 15 minutes you will feel refreshed - if for no other reason than you have
increased your Oxygen intake.
If watching TV is what you did, try a new hobby. I know a longshoreman who knits. He says it is relaxing and helps
the arthritis in his hands. Embroidery or make modeling planes or building legos takes just enough attention to allow the rest of us to relax. You will find something.
Oh, and if you are worried about your memory, here is a practice from Tibet that is very helpful.
At night, before sleep go back in memory through your day. Start with whatever you did just before NOW. Example, I slipped off my slippers....and before that I walked to the bedroom from the bathroom...in the bathroom I brushed my teeth .......and so on.
If you do this regularly you will eventually be able to go back in memory through your whole day to the moment you awoke in the morning. Voila! Better memory in the making. HINT: you will find it easier is you 'see' what you did instead of just trying to 'name' it.
Now i know that some of you already practice stress reducing things. Good. But if you decided to start a new practice this month....even something as simple as Singing every day, I'd be interested in knowing your response after 2 or 3 weeks. Now I may not be able to reply to every email but I promise to read any with - Osteopenia stress reduction - in the subject line.
Second item for today connects with the change in the seasons.
Every Fall and Every Spring millions of people decide to 'get in shape' for the holidays or before summer. And they diet.
For the past few years the most lucrative part of the health market is dieting. Go to Amazon and type in diet and you will be amazed at the number of diets on the market.
If you have Osteopenia or Osteoporosis, please do NOT diet. When you diet, 10% of the weight your lose is bone. (I know I have said this before but do read it again) If you lose 10 lbs [the aim of most people], you have lost 1 pound of bone. Can you afford that? And most people do gain the weight back BUT they gain fat not bone and so the pound of bone is remains lost.
Now if you health care provider says that you have some medical condition and really need to lose weight. Just remind them that you have bone loss AND THEN FOLLOW TO THE LETTER ANY DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS THEY MAKE.
As for the rest of us, we can still lose weight in ways that will NOT LOSE BONE. How?
Muscle burns more calories than fat. If you strengthen [grow] your muscles, you will begin to burn more calories. Also as muscle begins to substitute for fat, you will lose inches if not pounds.
How to do this? Lift your weights very slowly. 10 seconds up, pause, and then just as slowly bring the weight back down (another 10 seconds). I usually find a 10 second phrase to say to myself as I life. Eg. 1 my bones are getting stronger, 2 my bones are getting stronger etc.
Lifting up and down slowly allows your to get the full stress on your bones. You will see the young 'jocks' lifting fast...but their aim is to lift the most weight and they want to use the force of speed and gravity to let them lift more. But we want full weight and slow is better. It is better to do
only 1 set to a slow count of 10 than 2 or 3 faster sets.
Some time I get notes asking how much weight some one should lift? The author of the POWER OF TEN who has made a career of helping people get in great shape lifting only once a week, notes that you want to lift to 'muscle failure'. It is muscle failure that causes your tissues to rebuild themselves stronger.
How do you know if you have reached muscle failure? You just can not push the weight any further. So you are doing lat pulls and when you reach 6, you just can not pull the weight all the way down. Hold it where you have it for the full count of 10 and then bring it back up to the same slow count of 10. Sometimes you can tell when you are approaching 'muscle failure' because your muscles will 'burn' or they tremble. Good. You are almost there.
the Power of 10 states that when you can lift a given weight 8 or 9 times without experiencing muscle failure, you are ready to raise the weight. Example: You may start your 'leg press' at 30 pounds but in a year, find you are setting the machine at 100 pounds. As long as you stay within the guidelines of slow lifting, you will be fine and adding more weight is what will stimulate your osteoblasts.
Slow lifting...very slow lifting up and down.
Until next month - when I hope to focus the newsletter on an exciting new food development.