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Is your job killing you?

19 Feb

I know it’s been far too long since I last posted anything, but the holidays ate me up and spat me back out and then work has just been nonstop. So apologies! Speaking of work, I want to focus today on the thing most Americans find themselves doing for prolonged periods of time everyday…SITTING!!!

Our body was designed for movement!

Our body was designed for movement!

I, like many Americans, work a “standard” 8-hour/day desk job that involves sitting for hours on end at your desk with little to no movement.  This is especially bad because linkages have been drawn between prolonged periods of sitting and an increased risk for many health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol etc.

The human body was designed to move…a lot.  So while it’s great that you may be exercising for 30 minutes to an hour every day, if you then proceed to plop down on your couch or chair post-workout for majority of the other 12 hours you’re awake, you could be counteracting all that good you just did.  So how do you continue to move while at work or home?  Read on for what I do to keep moving on the job!

Don't let your day start like this!!!

Don’t let your day start like this!!!

If you live within a safe walking or biking distance of your office, job, kids’ school, etc., instead of wasting  gas (did you know that Americans waste 1.9 billion gallons of gas per year in traffic?), leave a little earlier and hoof it to your destination.  It’s a great way to keep moving and you don’t have to waste hours of your life stuck in traffic!  In 2007, commuters in urban areas spent an average of 47 hours a year stuck in commute traffic, imagine what else you could do with those hours!!

Walking or biking is also a great option for those who take public transit, especially if you’re cash-strapped (like yours truly), it saves a heck of a lot in metro fares and helps you avoid the sweaty crush of rush hour on public transit.

Bonus– if you are able to walk/bike your kids to school, you will be instilling positive lifelong habits in them.  Now I get that in this modern age, having the ability to walk or bike everywhere is probably not practical or safe for everyone, but if you can, isn’t it worth the extra time?  I sure think it is!

18fitness.600

Wouldn’t you just love if you were able to walk all day? I know I would!

Now, let’s say you’re at work and you’re not lucky enough to have a super health-conscious organization which would provide you with a treadmill desk, then how do you stay moving?  I use several tricks to get moving throughout the day.  Firstly, I ditched my desk chair and bought a cheap 75cm stability ball from Amazon and use that to sit on throughout the day.  The minor movement helps me from feeling like a bump on a log, but doesn’t’ interfere with my work productivity.

I spend a lot of my day reading health reports and studies, so when I’m doing that, I like to jerry-rig a standing desk by stacking some large books under my monitor and stand while reading.  I will also stand or pace while on phone calls.

Take your meetings outside!

Take your meetings outside!

Another way I get moving is instead of calling or emailing a colleague who is just down the hall, I take a walk to see them, not only is it nice to have some face to face interaction, it’s a good opportunity to stretch the legs.  When the gang just needs to get out of the office, we try to do walking breaks instead of coffee runs.  When we just to need to vent or gab outside of the office, we much prefer to take a nice stroll around the White House (weather permitting of course) instead of spending 5 bucks for a calorie-laden Starbucks.  It’s a great opportunity for bonding, fresh air, and getting the blood circulating again!

When the drama ends, your movement begins!

When the drama ends, your movement begins!

The movement doesn’t end once you get home!  Next time you’re watching your favorite TV shows, get up and move during the commercials. Do whatever you feel like, but some good ones are push-ups, sit ups, marching in place, jumping jacks, or squats.

These are just some easy changes that I use in my life every day to stay active all day, long after I’ve finished my workout.  How about you? What things do you do to keep moving all day?

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Inspirational Story

11 Dec

Here’s a fabulous story about one girl’s journey to combat her weight problems and she’s only 9 years old. An inspiration to all!

 

If she can do it, so can you!

Keep On Sweating!!

World Diabetes Day

14 Nov

November 14th is World Diabetes Day.  The International Diabetes Federation (the sponsoring organization) wants to raise awareness of diabetes and how to prevent Type 2 and gestational diabetes.  Type 1, also known as Juvenile Diabetes, is not preventable.  Today, three-hundred and sixty-six million people around the world have diabetes and by 2030 it’s estimated that the world will see 552 million cases.  The scarier statistic is that more people than not go undiagnosed. 8.3% of Americans have diabetes and they estimate that there are nearly 7 million undiagnosed type 2 Americans.

Being stuck on a regular basis is no one’s idea of fun!

What is Diabetes?

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.  While all have distinctive characteristics, they all involve insulin and blood sugar.  Insulin is a hormone that is required to properly process carbs (including sugar) that is found in food.

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is the least common type of diabetes, affecting 5-10% of all diabetes patients.  Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs in childhood.  Type 1 causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack the insulin-producing cells located in the pancreas and destroys them.  People with type 1 must replace the insulin that is no longer produced in the pancreas.  The only way to replace insulin is through injections or a pump that is constantly hooked up to the patient.  Type 1 patients need to consistently checking their blood sugar levels throughout the day to make sure they haven’t injected too much or too little insulin.

There is no cure and no way to prevent type 1 and it hasn’t been linked to diet or lifestyle choices.  Children who are diagnosed with type 1 will have diabetes for their entire natural lives.

Type 2

Type 2 is the most common and well-known type of diabetes.  It used to be call adult-onset, but that has since been done away with since more and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 (in my opinion due to the rampant childhood obesity epidemic).  Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes insulin-resistant.  The body no longer uses insulin efficiently and blood sugar levels rise uncontrollably.  In response, the body pumps out more insulin and after years of this vicious cycle, the pancreas eventually gives up on trying to produce the abundant amount of insulin necessary to control blood sugar levels.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight has been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, however it should be noted that not everyone who develops it is overweight or fits the stereotype.

Unlike type 1, type 2 can be managed with lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating, losing excess weight and exercising regularly.  If that does not work, then patients will be put on some types of medications.  If all else fails, then type 2 patients may need to take insulin injections.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes is hard on both mother and child

Gestational diabetes is similar to type 2 in that the body becomes resistant to insulin, however it only occurs when a woman is pregnant.  If a woman develops gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, it generally disappears after the birth of her baby.  It should be noted that a woman who develops gestational diabetes is at a higher risk of developing type 2 later in life.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Type 1 symptoms generally come on quickly and it makes the patient so very sick, that it can be hard to miss, especially in children.  But in gestational and type 2 diabetes, the symptoms may be subtler and come on more slowly. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Increased thirst

Risk Factors for Diabetes

As I said earlier, type 1 is an autoimmune disease and there is nothing that can predict if one will develop type 1 (although having a family member with type 1, does raise your risk).

Type 2 has many risk factors that not so coincidentally also lead to other large health problems.  They include:

  • Obesity
  • Diet and physical inactivity
  • Increasing Age
  • Insulin resistance
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Ethnicity (African Americans have a higher risk for developing the disease)

Ouch!

Complications of Diabetes

There are many potential complications of diabetes if left untreated.  They include: cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, nerve disease, blindness, and women with gestation diabetes may have children who are large for their gestational age.

A Word on Prediabetes

An estimated 78 million Americans have what is known as Prediabetes. Before type 2 diabetics were type 2, they were almost always “prediabetic” which means that their fasting blood glucose levels were higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetic.  Some studies are showing evidence of long-term damage to the body occurring even in the stage of prediabetes.  The good news if you are diagnosed with prediabetes, you can take steps to reverse the trend and prevent ever developing type 2.

Even shedding 5-10% of your body weight will dramatically reduce your chances of developing type 2

Preventing Diabetes

As I said earlier, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.  But there are many things that you can do to prevent type 2. You’ve heard it over and over again on my blog.  Eating right and getting plenty of exercise is crucial for your overall health and well-being and it can also help reduce your risk for diabetes.  If you’re overweight or obese, and especially if you have a family member with type 2, it’s important to shed a little bit of that excess weight.  Even just 5-10% of your body weight will make an enormous difference in reducing your risk of developing not only diabetes, but many other diseases associated with obesity.  A study showed that regular walking for at least 30 minutes per day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 35-40%.

Take steps today to protect yourself from developing type 2, and see your doctor right away if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, if it goes undiagnosed it can cause irreversible damage to your body.  For more information please visit the International Diabetes Federation or the American Diabetes Association.

Keep on Sweating!

The Disease Americans Fear Most

13 Nov

Hi all, it’s been far too long since my last post, but, as usual, life gets in the way. But I’m back and trying to start up again, especially with the holiday season officially in full swing.  I’m going to help you through the season of weight gain, I mean cheer.  But today, I want to focus on preserving those holiday memories with friends and family.

A recent survey shows that Alzheimer’s is the disease most feared by Americans.  At first glace, those results surprised me, most feared even when compared to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes?  But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Alzheimer’s is the one disease that destroys who we are and leaves us with an empty shell where our memories and personalities used to reside.  You can beat cancer, you can take steps to prevent heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but Alzheimer’s seemingly strikes at random and there is little you can do to prevent it.  I lost my grandmother to the disease, and as a result, I never really got to know who she was pre-Alzheimer’s, and in the end she didn’t even remember my dad.  Even as a little girl, it was heartbreaking to watch my dad try enjoy his time with his mom, all the while knowing she had no idea that this man talking to her was her son.  And upon further reflection, I realize that I’m with the majority; the thing I fear most is that myself or a loved one will develop this horrible disease and become a shell of their former selves.

Alzheimer’s disease strips its victims of their identity

So what exactly is Alzheimer’s disease? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.” Sadly, Alzheimer’s has no cure, and the treatments do not reverse or stop the progression of the disease. Drugs do temporarily slow down the worsening of the dementia and provides, at least for a time, a better quality of life for patients and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s leaves no survivors.  As the brain cells are destroyed, the disease causes memory changes, erratic behaviors and loss of body functions. In an excruciatingly slow manner, it destroys a person’s identity and personality and their ability to connect with others. Patients eventually revert into being as helpless as a baby, relying on others to feed, bathe, and clothe them, eventually even losing control over their bodily functions.

But not all hope is lost, there are things you can do that may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association lists 5 things that you can do today to reduce your risk of developing the disease:

Head-Heart Connection

We already know that our bodies are intricately connected and what happens in one part is bound to affect another.  The risk for Alzheimer’s appears to increase as a result of many of the same conditions that also damage the heart or blood vessels.  This includes the standard culprits: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high cholesterol.  Some autopsy reports demonstrate that as many as 80% of people with Alzheimer’s also had heart disease.  But of course, this still leaves the question of did heart disease cause Alzheimer’s or did the same lifestyle choices that gave someone heart disease also give them Alzheimer’s? That question remains unanswered, but in the meantime, there are things you can do.

Continue to do heart-disease prevention activities such as weight control, proper nutrition, and daily exercise, you may be able to simultaneously reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This leads me to my next point–

Physical Exercise and Diet

Exercise is critical to more than just brain health

As I pointed out earlier, there is a strong connection between your heart and your brain.  Your brain uses about 20% of the total oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries, so it is important to take care of your ticker.  Whatever you do to your heart, will directly affect your brain.  Make sure you get the recommended amount of heart healthy exercise per week (again, 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week).  A sensible and healthy diet is a no-brainer.  Pick heart-healthy fats to include in your diet and they will also help your brain.

Social Connections

Some studies suggest that maintaining strong social bonds throughout our lives reduces our risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s as we age.  Make sure you are spending quality time with friends and family.  Pick up a new hobby or take an old hobby and find a way to make it social.  Enjoy reading?  Find a local book club, which kills two birds with one stone; it allows for interaction with people on a social level, and it provides an intellectual activity (see below).

Crosswords increase your mental agility

Intellectual Activity

Think of this part as weight training for the brain.  Doing things that challenge your brain make it stronger.  Try to “brain lift” a few times a week.  There are limitless options.  A few examples are brain teasers, riddles, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and math problems. I could go on and on, but the point is to engage the brain in a way that challenges it.  While there may be no concrete evidence to suggest that doing brain teasers helps prevent Alzheimer’s, in my opinion, it doesn’t hurt and it’s really fun!

Preventing Head Trauma

Protecting your noggin is key beyond just the developmental years.  There appears to be a significant link between serious head trauma and future risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  It goes without saying to ALWAYS WEAR A SEAT BELT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not only could it save your life, but it could spare you a debilitating disease 20 or 30 years down the road. Wear a helmet when participating in sports (yes this includes when on a bike).  Taking steps to prevent head trauma prevents more than just a massive headache, it could prevent against Alzheimer’s.

So until we develop a cure (and even after), there are key things that you can do to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.  Most of them you should already be doing (*cough, cough* wear a seat belt!*cough, cough*) and some that maybe you had known about, but were too lazy to try.  So the next time you see that crossword puzzle in the Sunday paper, don’t just throw it out, give it a try, it may help save your memories and your life one day.

Keep on sweating!

The Weight-Loss Drug You Really Don’t Need

3 Jul

Are those pills really helping you see a change? Or is it the diet and exercise?

Don’t run to your doctor and demand a prescription just yet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a new weight-loss drug, Lorcacerin, its first in more than a decade. But what exactly does this mean for those dreaming of a smaller body? Is it really it? Let’s find out…

You’ve heard me say it before, but I’m going to say it again. There is no such thing as a magical pill, you can use pills to supplement weight loss, key work supplement. You have to stick to a health, low-cal diet and exercise religiously to see strong, long-term weight loss.

Lorcacerin, or Belviq as it will be marketed as, helps to curb the signal your stomach sends to your brain to say “I’m hungry! Feed me!” The drug is approved for adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over – which indicates obesity – or overweight individuals (BMI of 27 or greater) who have at least one weight-related health problem such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.

The FDA cited multiple studies totaling approximately 8,000 overweight and obese patients were treated for a year with the drug or a placebo, along with exercise and diet counseling. The studies found that patients lost about 3-3.7% of their body weight on average over the year. Doesn’t seem like much of a magic pill does it? Let’s do the math shall we?

Let’s say a female is 5’5″ and weighs 200 lbs. that puts her at a BMI of 33.3, squarely in the obese category. So her doctor puts her on this pill and she sort of keeps to the diet and exercise plans. A year later, she’s lost on the high end of the average, or 3.7% of her body weight. That means in a year she got down to 192.6 lbs or 7.4 lbs of weight loss. HUH? That means in she lost about .11 lbs per week. Even is we pretend she’s one of the 47% without Type 2 who lost 5% of her body weight that still only translates into 10 lbs in a year.

I understand why the FDA approved it, the tests show that it was somewhat effective with minimal side effects (migraines, depression, and memory lapses, you know the usual!), but what I won’t get is if doctors actually prescribe this nonsense! Why would you take yet another pill to go with the rest of your cocktail, when exercise and diet work better?

I hate to break it to you (again), but there is no such thing as a MAGIC PILL! (sorry)

Let’s be honest here, losing weight is HARD WORK! There’s no easy fix, it’s going to take blood, sweat, and tears, but it is still the most effective form of weight loss. I don’t understand why you’d shell out more in co-pay fees and doctors visits for a pill that only results in 3.7% of weight loss over the course of the year, if you’re lucky. The FDA advises that you quit the drug after 3 months, if you don’t see any weight loss.

Maybe there is a real medical use for this drug, but many who are overweight suffer from emotional eating and this pill cannot block that signal. That ones in your head boys and girls. My advice? Save the money you’d save on ridiculous co-pays for a drug that, in my opinion, only sort of works, and instead get some killer gym clothes and buy organic produce.

What do you think about the new drug?

Keep on sweating!

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