Fly Fishing as a Guide to Our Health

I just had one of my best vacations in recent memory. Biking, hiking, and fly fishing my way through Bend, Oregon. The mountains, the rivers, the trails. It doesn’t get much better.

 

But I realized I can’t “turn off” completely and get away from my desire to help people improve their health and their lives. Nor do I want to.

 

My fishing guide and I had a 45-minute drive to the Crooked River northeast of Bend near Prineville, Oregon.  He is a great guy (and a phenomenal guide), and we immediately struck up a lively conversation. He is full of stories and tall tales of life as a fly fishing guide.

 

His tune changed, however, when I told him what I do. His response? “You can probably tell, I am not the healthiest guy around. I drink a little too much beer. Well, OK. A lot too much beer. I don't eat right. I'm active on the job but I’m not into exercise. I know I should be healthier. Do you have any advice to help me?” 

 

Where do I begin? I was at a loss at first where to start. I wanted to hear more stories about rainbow trout, nymphs, flies, and the “one that got away.” But since the conversation turned to health and I saw a chance to help, I knew this deserved a long discussion.

 

I could have told him to eat more veggies, get regular exercise, consume fewer empty calories, prioritize sleep more, and of course, Drink Less Beer.

 

Unfortunately, that wouldn’t have helped him at all. He knew all that. His problem was not one of poor advice or poor understanding of the unhealthy aspects of his lifestyle.

 

He didn’t need me to tell him what to do. Instead, he needed to understand why he does the things he currently does.

 

We all develop patterns and routines in our lives. Some become more entrenched than others. The key is making sure those routines are as healthy as possible.

 

For instance, we tend to have patterns of usual restaurants we go back to again and again. Whether it is a night with friends or loved ones, or a dinner business meeting, we likely have a handful of choices from which we choose.

 

Our job is to make sure those choices look more like True Food KitchenFlower Child, or Tender Greens and less like Olive Garden, the Chop House or other over-sauced, “under-vegetablized” establishments.

 

What about our post-dinner routine at home? Sitting on the couch, raiding the fridge for food our body does not need, and drinking one too many beers is an easy pattern to fall into.

 

Why not take a walk instead? Read a book in a room away from the kitchen. Meet friends for games that involve no or at most one beer.

 

The first step is understanding why our patterns exist.

 

My fishing guide drinks too much beer. He likes the taste. Ok, I say, but you can get the taste from one beer and savor it. That wasn’t it.

 

He likes the way it makes him feel, he likes the buzz. The buzz takes volume to get. One beer won’t cut it. We had to question, what else can give him similar joy? Did he need the buzz, or did he just need to feel good about something? 

 

It turns out, outside of fishing, his life was not very full. He had no nearby family, no real hobbies outside of fishing. He had plenty of friends, but they were all big drinkers and thus it was all too easy to drink on a regular basis.

 

I wasn’t going to help him by citing studies showing the dangers of being overweight, or the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.

 

He needed to escape his routines and the company he keeps.

 

It’s remarkably difficult to tell someone you just met that they need to find their purpose in life. They need to like themselves more. And they need new friends, or at least to see current friends less. 

 

Thankfully before I overstepped my bounds, we reached the river and were well on our way of creating our own tall tales of rainbow trout, nymphs, flies, and the one that got away.

 

In the end, however, I was able to lay the groundwork for what will hopefully be a change in perspective regarding his life. It won’t happen overnight. It will take time, and it will take work. And it all starts with understanding why we do what we do.

 

Ask yourself that question. Question your assumptions and your routines. Find ways to alter them a little more towards health. We don’t have to be perfect. We just need to be better.

 

And we all need to get to the Crooked River to catch some fish. It’s simply beautiful.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com

 

Action Item: Find one routine per day and question it. Even something as simple as where you park your car. Or where you sit after dinner. Question one routine per day. Understand why you do what you do. Then see if you can reframe it in a healthier way. You don't have to be perfect. Just be a little better every day.

 

Sleep as if your health depends on it!

We all need more sleep, right? YAWN! We have said it or heard it hundreds of times. Get more sleep for better health. Yet despite the prevalence of the advice, there is a clear disconnect between hearing it and implementing it. For one, there is a positive stigma or bragging rights associated with “I only need 5 hours of sleep per night.” Secondly, our lives have become so busy, over scheduled, and over stressed, that it is easy to prioritize everything else before sleep. And lastly, even when we want to get more sleep, many of us are unable to do so for a variety of reasons that we will address.

As with many areas of health, the first step is educating ourselves about the importance of sleep. Only once we understand the real importance of sleep can we prioritize sleep adequately, thus committing to the sleep hygiene practices that help us achieve better health. Without education, the rest never follows.

The scientific literature is saturated with evidence that sleep is important for health. It would be overwhelming to try to summarize all the literature here, but here are some of the highlights. Poor sleep has been linked to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Poor job performance
  • Poor athletic performance
  • Car Accidents
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Strokes

And more…

One of the most common associations is the connection between poor sleep and poor performance in life. What does that mean? It means not achieving your goals. Whether it is athletic performance, work performance, or improving your overall health, inadequate sleep dramatically reduces the chances of success.

Let’s look at one of the most frustrating failures of lack of sleep- inability to lose weight. Numerous studies have shown that poor sleep habits lead to increased hunger, increased snacking and poor nutritional choices. Not only is there a proven relationship, but there is also a biological reason for this. Ghrelin is a hormone in our body called the “hunger hormone.” It signals to your body that you are hungry and need to eat. Leptin has the opposite effect. It says to your body that you are full and don’t need to eat. When we do not get adequate sleep, our ghrelin levels spike and our leptin levels are inhibited. Thus we have a biological reason for feeling hungry and snacking more. Plus, since our mental clarity is reduced and our emotional control is inhibited by poor sleep, we tend to make impulse decisions in reaction to the feeling of hunger. Impulse decisions rarely end in preparing a well-balanced meal of veggies with high-quality fats and proteins. Instead, they may result in standing in front of the freezer eating the Ben and Jerry’s right from the carton with no end in sight. I’d be lying if I said I have never been there before. But I can also say that I will never be there again.

The next concept I want to address is our perception of how much sleep we need. Many people with inadequate sleep may feel like they are doing just fine. But a fascinating study published in the journal Sleep in 2003 showed that people who got no more than 6 hours of sleep for 10 days had a similar decline in cognitive function and physical reaction time as those who were completely deprived of sleep for 2 whole days. The amazing part, however, was that they had no idea how bad their performance was. They felt they were thinking clearly and performing well on all the required tests, and they did not feel tired. That makes it even more dangerous! To perform so poorly and not even realize it is a recipe for disaster. At least those who were deprived of sleep for two whole days knew they were exhausted, and they could change their lives accordingly. The same cannot be said for the group who got less than 6 hours of sleep per night. So it is clear that we frequently need more sleep than we realize.

Yet another incredible study was recently published looking at the sleep patterns of traditional hunter-gatherer tribes. Sleep problems were so rare in their cultures that the three tribes studied did not even have words for insomnia in their language.

The study showed that they averaged 7.5-8 hours in bed per night. In addition, they had an absolutely consistent sleep-wake schedule thus maintaining a stable diurnal rhythm. Couple that with their lack of distractions from computers and phones, and it is no wonder their society had no concept of sleep problems.

What about those who say “Sleep is a waste of time. It is unproductive time I could spend accomplishing things.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. “Restorative Sleep” is a combination of Stage 3 sleep and REM sleep. It is appropriately named because your body literally restores itself while you sleep. Learning, memory, and concentration are improved while you are in REM sleep, and your body is able to heal and restore physical energy when you are in Stage 3 sleep (deep sleep or delta wave sleep). Without adequate time spent in each stage of sleep, the body is not able to perform its essential “reboot” functions. Lack of sleep robs your body of these restorative functions. In addition, alcohol and sleep medications can disrupt the balance of sleep stages, thus resulting in less restorative sleep. Part of the importance of maintaining a steady sleep schedule is that it allows your body to cycle through the stages of sleep consistently, ensuring that you get adequate time in the deep and restorative stages.

Lastly, part of the problem is that even those who want to sleep more find they cannot. Insomnia is a growing problem in our society with prescriptions for sleeping medications increasing over 50% since 2008. As with many things in medicine, prescription drugs are simply Band-Aids. They treat the symptom without addressing the underlying cause. Sleeping medications come with their own risks of developing dependence, rebound insomnia, potential short-term memory loss, and distorting the stages of sleep so that the sleep you do get does not have the full restorative power of naturally achieved sleep.

Once you have made sleep a priority for your health, there are a number of specifics to consider. Here are some tips to incorporate into your life for better sleep:

  • Reduce exposure to screens and artificial light– they disrupt the circadian rhythm and fool your brain into not being tired. Avoid screens 60 min prior to sleep or if that is not possible, consider using blue blocker glasses which help filter out the blue light from your devices. You should also maintain a very dark room for sleeping. Use black out shades, cover your clocks (or if you need them keep them more than 3 feet away from your head), if you need light use low wattage yellow, orange or red lights, not standard white lights
  • Maintain a consistent schedule– this can be difficult for many, but going to bed and waking up at the same time every day has been scientifically shown to improve sleep performance and allow for consistent deep, restorative sleep
  • Meditation-A study comparing individuals engaging in a mindfulness meditation practice vs. those who were given general sleep hygiene education showed significant improvements in sleep quality as well as less depression and fatigue in the mindfulness group. This does not mean you need to meditate for an hour a day. Just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation has proven results.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you from falling asleep. Even those who say caffeine has no effect on them have demonstrated reduced sleep performance than those who do not drink caffeine
  • Limit alcohol or any liquid for that matter. The more you drink, the more likely you are to wake up to urinate, thus giving your brain a chance to wake up and start spinning and reducing the chance of going back to sleep. Although alcohol may make you feel tired and help you “get to sleep,” it can dramatically alter the stages of sleep and prevent you from getting fully restorative sleep
  • Get outside and get light exposure during the day- This helps your circadian rhythm stay in sync with proper sleep-wake patterns. Studies in Hunter Gatherer societies have highlighted the importance of daytime light exposure. This may also help with your vitamin D levels, which are also linked, to better sleep performance.
  • Exercise during the day, but not within an hour before going to bed.
  • Keep your room cool, between 60-68 degrees
  • Bed is for sleeping and sex only, no TV books or phone use
  • Journaling to clear your mind before bed. This helps you get your thoughts out on paper so your mind is not ruminating on them and keeping you from falling asleep.
  • Low carb diet increases slow wave sleep, but fat can increase GERD, very individualized
  • Magnesium supplements (usually in the form of magnesium glycinate or malate) has been shown to help with falling and staying asleep
  • Melatonin is beneficial for short-term use when natural timing is disrupted, such as with travel or when your sleep cycle has been disrupted for other reasons. It is not meant to be used long term
  • Get checked for sleep apnea – This is a very common cause of poor sleep and now there are easily accessible home screening tests that can be ordered by your physician. Keep in mind that sleep apnea is more common in overweight people, as well as those who drink alcohol or take sedatives

The list is long, but hopefully, you will notice that most of these are actions that are easy to implement. Once we understand the importance of restorative sleep, and we prioritize sleep as a pillar of our health, then the above list becomes an easy “to do list” that will help you on your path to better sleep, better health, and a better life. 

4 Fitness Apps To Try

Living a healthy lifestyle has many benefits, from taking fewer trips to your healthcare provider each year to managing stress and anxiety with ease. Luckily, getting on the path to your best health ever is right in the palm of your hand. Here are 4 fitness apps you should try today.

MapMyFitness

If someone asked you to choose your favorite workout style, could you choose just one? With MapMyFitness, you don’t have to. Choose from dozens of traditional workouts, like swimming, jumping rope, and weightlifting, to less traditional activities, like bowling, fishing, and horseback riding.

MapMyFitness also offers outdoor training routes near you, which are created and shared by other users. Simply search for a route based on the type of activity you want to do, make sure the app has a good GPS signal, and start your workout. If you’re a creature of habit, you also have the option to add private routes to your profile and do them again as often as you like.

Got a favorite way to exercise outdoors? There are several versions of the “MapMy” apps to choose from:

  • MapMyRun
  • MapMyHike
  • MapMyRide
  • MapMyWalk

All versions work the same way in terms of functionality, but each one provides map suggestions tailored to the default activity.

Charity Miles

Make your workouts meaningful with Charity Miles. Research shows that giving can be good for your mental health. Why not give your mind and body a boost by earning money for charity while you get fit?

All you have to do is pick a charity, select an activity, and start tracking your mileage using your smartphone’s GPS. There are more than 30 world-class charities to choose from, including the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, and Girls on the Run. Are you passionate about multiple causes? Charity Miles gives you the option to switch charities at any time.

A donation will be made for every mile you complete, and you can log miles through your choice of 5 outdoor and indoor activities. Once you tap to start tracking, the app lets you know who’s sponsoring your workout. Be sure to stop and save your miles when you’re done or your activity won’t count. (You can always tell the app to send you a reminder.)

Fitbit

Walking is a great way to boost your fitness level, lose weight, and feel healthier. It’s recommended that you get 10,000 steps a day, but how can you be sure you’re getting all those steps in? By tracking your daily steps with a wearable fitness device, like the Fitbit.

The Fitbit family of devices sync with the Fitbit app to give you a real-time look at your day. And you can track more than just exercise—the app allows you to log and monitor your sleep, weight, and food, which all adds up to a healthier and fitter you. Just choose the device that fits your goals, and then register it with the app.

Are you motivated by friendly competition? Get an extra dose of motivation by creating challenges among your Fitbit friends. Choose from fun options like Goal Day, Workweek Hustle, and Weekend Warrior. Or go on a virtual Adventure Race together and see who can reach the finish line first. The Fitbit app also features a community tab, where you can share your wins, join groups dedicated to your favorite healthy lifestyle topics, and connect with other Fitbitters.

MyFitnessPal

Keeping a food journal can help you build healthy eating habits—and what you consume is just as important as what you burn. Based on your fitness profile, MyFitnessPal will suggest a daily net calorie target to help you meet your nutrition and weight loss goals. As you fill up on foods and log your meals, the app will display your remaining calories. It will also show you the distribution of where those calories are coming from, be it fats, proteins, or carbohydrates.

Being mindful of what you eat and drink is a good practice for healthy living. As you create new journal entries, MyFitnessPal shares a snippet of nutrition advice to keep you aware of the healthy (or not so healthy) choices you’re making. For instance, if you decide to go out for an ice cream sundae, the app may alert you about the amount of sugar it contains, along with a reminder of your sugar goal for the day. Likewise, if you opt for a fruit cup, the app may tell you it has lots of Vitamin C.

You can also use the app to track your activity. Depending on how many calories you burned, the app automatically adjusts your net calorie needs for that day. Just sync your daily step counts and workouts from your smartphone or wearable fitness device to the app, and MyFitnessPal will figure out the rest. Another option is to manually log your cardio and strength workouts—the app will estimate your calories burned based on your current fitness profile.

Using an app is a great to get in shape and stay fit. Making small tweaks to your daily routine—like moving more and eating better—can go a long way in helping you live your best health ever. Try out one of these fitness apps today and let us know how it worked for you.

 

 

Activities for the Whole Family

Have you made the decision that YOU want to start living your best health ever? What about your family? It’s hard to get on track without the support of your loved ones and that’s why it can be necessary to make sure they’re on board for your lifestyle changes as well! It doesn’t have to be a tedious task for them or feel like a burden, it can be fun and a great way to spend more time together. So why not pack in the quality time while getting in a good workout and being active? Here are some perfect examples to get you started as you incorporate your family life into your journey to your best health ever. 


Go Hiking Together


As long as you do your research ahead of time you can find plenty of family friendly hikes where you live. Map out how long it will take you to get there, have some classic car games ready, plenty of water and snacks, and make a day out of it. Pack a healthy picnic to enjoy when you reach the top of your destination and enjoy a beautiful day outdoors while kicking up your heart rate. 


Try Out Fun Sports

You don’t need to be an athlete to play a friendly game of basketball or soccer. Try out a basketball game of HORSE or run around with a soccer ball at your nearest park. Tennis can also be a great game to get the whole family in on. Find your nearest court and grab a couple of rackets and balls. You’ll get some sun and burn off a ton of calories running back and forth on the court. If you’re not feeling so adventurous, just grab a frisbee and head to the beach. Before you know it you’ll be starting your own Ultimate Frisbee team!


Sign up For A 5k Walk Or Run 


See what’s coming up on active.com for the latest 5k Walks and Runs. These events are usually family friendly, a great way to build community and the perfect opportunity to get some steps in. Better yet, find one that is for a cause close to your heart and educate your family on why it means so much to you. You’ll feel the positive impact not just physically, but also get a mental boost for supporting a charity that you feel personally connected to. 


Start a Neighborhood Recreation League


Get your neighbors involved in your health journey by starting a friendly weeknight Kick-Ball league (or Ultimate Frisbee team!) with one side of the street against the other. You’ll create a greater sense of community within your neighborhood, meet new people and maybe even find your next babysitter. You can also do some research to see if your town already has social sports leagues set up and join an existing team with your family and friends. Weeknight games are a great way to break up your weekly routine and add some diversity to your exercise habits. 

Travel With Games

Keep a soccer ball or a frisbee in your trunk. Instead of waiting in the car in between errands or after school activities, get out of the car and throw the ball around. If you’re on your own, try jump roping wherever you are. You can burn as many as 200 calories in just one 10-minute jump-rope session. Or make sure to just get out of the car and walk around, as long as you’re moving you’re one step closer to achieving a healthier life!

Go For A Bike Ride

A great way to burn calories and explore your neighborhood, biking is a perfect outdoor activity. Whether you’re on a beach cruiser or a tandem bike, you’ll be enjoying the ride so much you won’t even mind the burn when you’re going up those hills. Make sure to strap on a helmet, ride with water and plan out a fun pit stop. Check out TrailLink to find safe, family-friendly trails in your city. 

Get Technology Involved 

Add an element of competition between family members and see who can get the most steps in the day. You can use the Health app on your phone or invest in a FitBit to track your steps. Set a goal of 10,000 or 20,000 steps a day and create incentives for whoever hits the goal first. For example, the winner doesn’t have to do dishes that night or gets to choose what movie you’ll see that weekend! 

Make sure your family and friends know about your commitment to your healthier lifestyle so they understand how important it is to you that you have their support. Rallying your community is a pivotal step towards achieving your best health ever and there are endless fun and active ways the whole family can join in on your journey. 

A Beginners Guide to HIIT 

Not sure what HIIT is or what it even stands for? This is the perfect place to start your education on a training program that has incredible benefits to your health and can add that diversity to your workout routine that you’ve been looking for.

High-Intensity Interval Training is defined by its bursts of high-intensity anaerobic exercise alternated with periods of low to moderate intensity exercise. The high-intensity portions of the workout will work your body to its max for anywhere between 30 seconds to 4 minutes, and the lower intensity periods that can last the same period of time will allow your body to recovery while you still remain active. This type of training has become increasingly popular in the fitness world due to its many health benefits, it’s shortened exercise time and it’s ability to be practiced anywhere, even from home.

So what exactly are the health benefits of HIIT? 

  • You burn a ton of calories, even after you’re done working out! Thanks to Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, your body is still using calories after a high-intensity workout to recover and restore itself from the effects of the exercise you just completed. This is also known as the “afterburn effect” and not only helps to burn additional calories hours after your workout but also helps to burn fat! 

     
  • Although this type of exercise might sound like a heart attack waiting to happen, it will actually benefit your cardiovascular system more than you think. Many people may be intimidated by the idea of going at 80% – 90% of their speed capacity on a treadmill but if you’re training properly you don’t need to worry that this will lead you to a heart attack, it will actually have the opposite effect! The intensity of the workout will help to increase the elasticity in your blood vessels and arteries, allowing for a better flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. So even though you might feel like your heart is about to pump out of your chest, it’s actually becoming stronger and healthier.
 
     
  • The more your practice HIIT the more you’ll increase your body’s rate that it can consume oxygen. Your body has a specific rate at which it can consume oxygen while you are physically active and in the high-intensity phases of a HIIT, your body is demanding to be filled with even more oxygen than it would during a lower paced cardio exercise. Each workout can increase the threshold of oxygen you take in, and with that extra oxygen your muscles will perform better and you’ll boost your stamina. 

     
  • We all have busy lives and would probably rather spend our extra time with our families or catching up with friends than putting in the hours at the gym. And that’s another reason why HIIT is so great – it doesn’t have to take up as much time as your other workouts! You can even get a great fat-burning session done in just 20 minutes by practicing the technique of high-intensity exercise bursts mixed in with moderate to low-intensity exercise bursts. 


     
  • HIIT tests both you both mentally and physically. When you’re in the high-intensity phase of the workout you are going faster and harder and pushing yourself beyond what you thought possible. Not only are you testing yourself physically, but you’re giving yourself that mental challenge of pushing back against thoughts that might tell you aren’t strong enough. Guess what though, you ARE and with HIIT you’ll learn you have more mental and physical endurance than you once thought. 

     
  • Diversity is key in your workout regime and high-intensity interval training can be practiced among a range of different exercises from cycling, swimming, running and weight-lifting. It’s easy to incorporate into your favorite workout and you can even try it from your own home.

Although it might sound intimidating, high-intensity interval training can be practiced by almost anyone, anywhere. It’s a great workout to incorporate into your routine 2-3 times a week and will help keep you motivated and energized. Try out an Orange Theory Fitness Class (they’re all about HIIT!) and let us know what you think. 

 

The Number One Secret to Living Forever!

OK, maybe not forever, but pretty darn long. Here is the secret to the fountain of youth.

 

Metformin.

 

Maybe.

 

Metformin is a common medication used to treat diabetes and has also been shown to decrease the cellular aging process in mice and other animals. Now it has been approved for human studies to see if it increases our longevity as well. If not, then we will just have a bunch of young mice running around as we continue to age away.

 

The longevity community is full of excitement that this may be the one drug that pans out and makes a real difference. Not just for the high-profile Silicon Valley CEOs who want to live forever, but for masses of people. The hope is that it will drastically delay the onset of cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases. We have been down this road before  with resveratrol, so many are tempering their enthusiasm.

 

But this time may be different! Or so we hope.

 

How Metformin Works

 

Metformin helps us lower our glucose production, keep our insulin levels low, and helps our cells respond better to insulin.

 

It works by activating an enzyme called AMP Kinase, which decreases glucose production in the liver. The key point is that it lowers glucose levels without increasing insulin.

 

Insulin is a fat storage and potentially pro-inflammatory hormone. It is also associated with an increase in insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1), which has been implicated in cancer promotion over the long term. Safely minimizing insulin, therefore, should have direct health and longevity benefits. 

 

Metformin has other actions that directly improve muscle cell sensitivity to insulin. This means our bodies require less insulin to provide us with energy, thus ultimately reducing insulin resistance.  In addition, metformin can potentially alter the oxygenation of cells, providing the right balance of oxygen to stave off cellular aging.

 

 

Why would this help us live longer?

 

Lower blood glucose and insulin levels mean lower risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and probably neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. That certainly seems like a reasonable goal.

 

In addition, lower insulin and lower insulin growth factor 1 (IGF1) could mean less risk of developing cancer. In fact, studies have shown that those who take metformin have a lower incidence of most cancers. This does not prove that metformin itself reduces cancers, but it certainly makes for an interesting hypothesis that deserves further investigation.

 

And of course, anything that can slow down cellular aging could be of great benefit for longevity.

 

We have plenty of data to suggest metformin might be a fountain of youth.  Now, we eagerly await the results of the randomized, prospective, placebo controlled trial. The pinnacle of scientific evidence.

 

In the meantime, what can we do to help us extend our lives?

 

What Else Has Shown Promise for Longevity?

 

For starters, don’t smoke. No brainer there.

 

Also, wear your seat belt.

 

Don’t text and drive.

 

Don’t drink and drive.

 

It may sound like glib advice, but if you want the biggest return on your longevity investment, start there.

 

Caloric restriction

 

As the saying goes, caloric restriction may not make you live longer, but it certainly makes your life feel much longer

 

Calorie restriction has different definitions, but in general it means cutting your caloric intake by 30-50% or down to about 1500 kcal per day while avoiding malnourishment. If you have tried this, it can be a challenge to do and remain a social being in modern day society.

 

If living longer means being hungry and grumpy all the time and not being able to socialize, then no thanks. I will pass. As will most of the Silicon Valley elite.

 

But what can we learn from why long term caloric restriction works?

 

It turns out, caloric restriction improves insulin sensitivity, sound familiar? It also reduces our metabolic rate and reduces oxidative stress.

 

Calorie restriction also reduces the activity of a compound called mTorc1. The long name for this compound is mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1. The drug rapamycin has been around for decades as an antifungal and anti-cancer drug, but has now become the new kid on the longevity block. Some believe that the right dosing of rapamycin and/or inhibition of mtorc1 could reduce cellular aging and delay age related diseases.

 

Interestingly, AMP Kinase (the same mechanism stimulated by metformin) also inhibits mTorc1. When mechanisms combine, that gets scientists really excited. And when scientists get really excited, watch out.

 

So, in the end, we want to reduce glucose levels while also keeping insulin and IGF1 levels low. We want to reduce oxidative stress. And we probably want to reduce mTorc1.

 

Metformin can do this. Calorie restriction can do this. Rapamycin might be able to do this.

 

We Don’t Need Drugs

 

But guess what?  We Don’t Need Drugs to do all that!

 

If you are sleeping 4 hours per night, you are stressed out, you eat low quality- high carb fast food, and you sit on your arse all day, do you think metformin will help you live longer? Sorry Charlie.

 

If we have any interest in living longer and living better, we all have to start with the basic and critical elements called lifestyle.

 

Consistent, restorative sleep improves your cortisol levels, thus improving your glucose and insulin levels.

 

Managing your stress likewise reduces your cortisol and adrenaline spikes, again maintaining lower average glucose and insulin levels.

 

High intensity exercise and resistance training increases our mitochondrial activity, which increases glucose utilization, thus decreasing serum glucose and insulin levels.

 

Then there is nutrition.

 

This is a big one, and potentially the topic that is more variable from person to person. The key is to eat the minimum number of calories needed for nourishment, while still allowing you to enjoy your life and thrive. Specifically, we need to choose food that will keep our average blood glucose and insulin levels as low as possible.

 

A few tricks to achieve that:

  1. Avoid/limit added sugars. Hopefully this is obvious to everyone at this point.
  2. Avoid/limit processed simple carbohydrates (white flour, packaged snack foods etc.).
  3. Make low starch veggies (like green leafy veggies, cauliflower, zucchini etc.) the focus of the majority of your meals.
  4. Liberally add healthy fats (nuts, avocado, olives and olive oil).
  5. Don’t overdo it on the proteins. We only need 0.36- 0.5 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight each day. So, if you weigh 180lbs., you only need 65-90gm of protein per day. If you are overweight and weigh 250lbs (but your ideal body weight is around 180 pounds), you still only need a maximum of 90gm of protein per day. So, don’t worry too much about getting enough protein. Instead, make sure you are not eating too much.

 

Once you have implemented all those lifestyle factors, then and only then should you even start to think about the effects of metformin, rapamycin, or other fountain of youth drugs. The future may be promising for a quick fix to slow the aging process. But one thing will hold true for ever:

 

The best way to live better and live longer is to make your life worth living.

 

Live with a purpose.

 

Take care of yourself emotionally and physically.

 

Take care of others.

 

And don’t forget to take care of the earth as well. Our health may just depend on it.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com 

How To Be A Morning Person

There are many benefits to rising early. It boosts your energy and lifts your mood. It amplifies your productivity and sparks your creativity. And it improves your chances of getting to work on time!

Are you looking for ways to become a morning person? Getting more sleep is a great first step. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of shuteye each night. But it’s not just the number of hours you sleep that affects your ability to wake up and seize the day. It’s also the quality of those ZZZs.

Even if you’re a true night owl, you can transform yourself into a morning person by making a few tweaks to your daily routines. So what are you waiting for? Adopt these healthy sleep habits and you’ll soon find yourself waking up refreshed and ready to go

  1. Set bedtime reminders: Sticking to a healthy sleep schedule starts with hitting the sheets around the same time every night. On your smartphone, set an alarm with a soothing sound that reminds you when it’s time to start winding down. (If you have an iPhone, check out the Bedtime tab on your alarm clock for a sleep analysis bonus.)
     
  2. Start slowly: Training your body to get sleepy when it should doesn’t mean you need to convince yourself to hop into bed at 9 p.m. when you’re used to doing so much later. Making too big of a leap will keep you lying awake and restless, plus more likely to rebound into old habits. Instead, try turning in just 15 minutes earlier than usual. When your body adjusts to this new bedtime, turn in another 15 minutes earlier.
     
  3. Stay consistent: Waking up at the same time every day will also help you stick to your new schedule, which you may find easier to commit to on weekdays. If you’re tempted to reward yourself with extra shut-eye on the weekends, resist the urge to lounge in bed. Sleeping in a couple of hours later than normal may feel luxurious now, but it can throw off your body’s internal clock—and land you with “a case of the Mondays.”
     
  4. Reframe your thinking: Do you tend to procrastinate when it’s time to go to bed? How you think about bedtime sends signals to your body, which may trigger or inhibit a sleepytime response. By the time you feel tired, you might find yourself saying, “It’s late, I should go to bed.” A little trick to make bedtime less flexible is to shift the way you think about it. Next time you’re up an hour later than intended, try saying to yourself, “It’s an hour past my bedtime.”
     
  5. Destress your morning routine: How you start your day can set the tone for a positive day—or not. Hectic mornings may seem like the norm, but they don’t have to be. Shorten your morning to-do list by shifting tasks to the night before, like picking out what to wear, preparing a make-ahead breakfast, packing a healthy lunch, setting the coffee timer, and organizing your work bag.
     
  6. Skip the snooze button: Tired of being tired, even after a full night’s sleep? If you tend to hit the snooze button, you may be making yourself more tired than you think. Setting your alarm to go off just eight to 10 minutes into a new REM cycle can lead to sleep inertia or that feeling of heavy morning grogginess that’s hard to shake. Moving your alarm clock away from your bedside will encourage you to get up and start moving right away.
     
  7. Cut back on caffeine: Any coffee lover knows that going cold turkey on the joe can be quite the feat. Gradually scale back on your caffeine intake. Not only will it help you snooze more soundly, you’ll be less likely to spend those extra dollars on a cup of coffee the next morning.
     
  8. Jumpstart your day: You don’t have to leap out of bed and hit the gym for a vigorous workout to reap the benefits of morning exercise (unless, of course, you want to).There are plenty of early-bird workouts you can do from the comfort of home, and all you need is 10 – 30 minutes of moderate physical activity to get your heart pumping and feel more energized for the day ahead.

All it takes to start your journey to becoming a morning person is to make one small change. You’ve got this! Which healthy sleep habit will you try tonight?

 

 

 

 

How to Outsmart the Grocery Store 

It’s happened to all of us. You ended up in the grocery store, hungry, tired and unprepared and suddenly you have a cart filled with frozen pizzas and potato chips. You end up staring at shelves upon shelves of Kraft Mac & Cheese, intriguing cereal boxes, microwave dinners and twelve different types of fruity, sugary yogurts. You definitely don’t need any of these items but you somehow end up with a cart full of them and you leave the store guilty of falling prey to the hidden psychology tricks of grocery stores. Have you ever noticed how essential foods like milk and eggs are spaced farthest from the entrance and to get back there you have to walk by all those packaged foods you didn’t even think you wanted? Or what about all the candy and sodas that are so conveniently placed by the checkout to tempt you while you stand in line waiting for your turn at the register?  Or take a look at how large grocery carts are lately, do you really need to fill that much space or could you opt for a smaller shopping basket? Grocery stores are smarter than we think…but we can beat them at their own game and here’s how! 

Make A List

Do not enter the grocery store without a list, whether it’s on your phone or written down on an old receipt you found in your car. Make sure to plan ahead, list out the items you truly need and do not allow yourself to deviate from this list once in the store. It may take an extra five minutes to do before you head in but it will save your wallet will be thankful for taking that time after you’re done the shopping!Also, don’t even think of walking down an aisle that doesn’t have one of the items you need.Not only will this save you from purchasing that junk food you don’t need, it will also save you time AND money. You could even turn this challenge into a game by timing yourself each time you go into the store. How quick can you get in and out? Get your friends in on the challenge and see who can make the best time!

Never Go To The Store Hungry 

This is a rule everyone should live by. Your eyes are always bigger than your stomach and going to a grocery store with an appetite can land you in the frozen dinner section, or even worse, the bakery section picking out a donut to eat as you stroll through the rest of the store. Have a healthy snack before you go like an apple or a hard boiled egg. This will provide you with the energy you need to tackle the produce aisle and stock up with all your fruits and vegetables for the week! If you end up at the grocery store without a snack, just grab an apple or a banana from the fruit section (but don’t forget to pay for it on your way out!!).

Avoid Grocery Stores Completely

That’s right! Abandon the grocery store completely! Buy meat from a butcher and get your fruits and vegetables from your local farmers market. Or if you have a busy schedule, grocery shop online. There are countless platforms like Vons and Amazon that will deliver groceries right to your door. After having a snack and making your list, you can opt to shop online for the healthy foods you really need to stock your kitchen. If you’re interested in learning to cook new recipes you could also try one of a meal delivery service like Blue Apron or HelloFresh! These services can be very affordable and help you inspire you with creative & healthy new dinner options. 

Stocking up your kitchen with the right foods is just one of the first steps of living your best health ever! If you can successfully get through your trip to the grocery store you’re already on your way to improving your health with meals that feature the foods you really need to fuel your body and your mind. If you need inspiration for your next meal, try out this great recipe from our friends at Whole30! 

 

 

 

Simple Ways to Burn Extra Calories Throughout the Day

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for the body to be in peak condition. You need to be physically active to make sure your excess fat and stored energy are used up. Staying active is also vital for our mental health as exercise acts as a natural form of treatment for stress and anxiety. You will be at your best health ever only when you have a proper fitness regimen that you stay committed to, watch your health and nutrition, and be an active member in your community. 

That said, busy schedules and demanding lifestyles can mean you don’t always have that extra hour or two to hit the gym every day. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t be in control of your body AND burning those extra calories! Here are a few simple tips to get you through the day when you notice you’ve been more sedentary than usual and you don’t have time to lace up for a run. Don’t think of these as a substitute for working out but as an extra boost when you need to pick up the pace throughout your day! 

  • Park farther away from your end destination. Whether it’s the parking lot at work or at the grocery store, find an empty spot as far away as you can to add in those extra steps. This adds a few minutes on your feet and can give you extra ‘burn time’.
     
  • Cycle to work. This is a great way to pick up a new hobby while joining the movement to reduce air pollution (and save on gas money!).
     
  • Take the stairs. Forget elevators or escalators and always opt for the old-fashioned staircase. To burn some extra calories, take 5 minutes out of your day to run a couple of laps up and down the stairs in your office building or in your home!
     
  • At your desk, when seated, flex your core constantly. Sit upright and flex your glutes, stretch your back, and try your best to not sit idle at any time. 
     
  • Take a walk around the office during breaks. If you are on the phone, get up and walk as you talk. Doing this has the added benefit of no one overhearing your conversations as well, a double win! If you need a reminder, set a timer on your phone every 30 minutes so you know to get up and move around. 
     
  • Purchase a fitness tracker like a Fitbit. This can help keep you accountable as it tracks your steps throughout the day. You can even set goals for 10,000 or 20,000 steps a day and compete against yourself to make sure you're always hitting that number!
     
  • If you have a dog, add an extra 10 minutes to your daily walks with them. Not only will your body appreciate being outside and active for longer, so will your furry friend. 
     
  • Do you already walk to the nearest Starbucks or coffee shop by your home or work? Check out where the second nearest one is and opt for that one each morning when you're going to grab your daily cup of joe! 

Try out any of these tips to burn some extra calories and you’ll feel the difference in your body, physically and mentally. Also, make sure to take the time to examine your day to day routine and find other opportunities that you could be using to walk around and be more active. It’s easy to get caught up in the race to get from point A to B but if you begin to move with more purpose you’ll be one step closer to living your best health ever.  

 

 

 

3 Simple Breathing Techniques You Can Practice Anywhere

It doesn’t always take a vacation to a private island or a lavish spa day to get some relaxation time in. There are simple, quick techniques you can learn and incorporate into your everyday schedule to help ease that nagging tension and anxiety you might feel, and they take only take 5 minutes or less! Any time you might feel overwhelmed by an upcoming deadline at work or stressed out just coping with everyday tasks, you can try out any of these three breathing techniques. Find a quiet space wherever you are (even at work!) and try one of these out to help you feel more relaxed and ready to tackle the rest of your day. 

Belly Breathing 

Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, this technique requires you to focus on expanding your stomach, rather than your chest, as you take in each deep breath. 

1. Preferably lying on your back, place one hand over your stomach and another over your chest. 

2. Breathe in slowly through your nose and through your stomach so that you feel your stomach rise against your hand as your abdomen fills with air. 

3. Exhale completely and as you exhale through your nose, feel your stomach deflate to its neutral position. 

4. Repeat this process for 5-10 minutes, focusing on the sensation of your stomach rising and falling with each breath. 

The 4-7-8 Method

This exercise helps you breathe more deeply while putting your mind into a meditative state as you focus on counting the seconds during each breath in and out. 

1. Sit in a comfortable position and start by slowly inhaling through your nose on a count of 4 seconds.

2. After the fourth second, hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds*

3. After 7 seconds, exhale your breath for a count of 8 seconds. Repeat this exercise 3-4 times. 

*If 7 seconds feels too long, lower the count to a number of seconds that feels more comfortable for you. 

Progressive Relaxation

Your entire body will take a role in this breathing exercise as you coordinate each breath with the tensing and relaxing of your toes and feet all the way up to your shoulders and head. 

1. Lying or sitting, start by tensing the muscles in your feet as you breathe in through your nose. Hold the breath for a moment as you experience what the tension feels like in your feet and toes. 

2. As you relax your feet, release your breath and exhale through your nose. Take another moment to appreciate the feeling of your feet no longer tensing and contracting. 

3. Continue the process throughout your whole body, including your legs, abdomen, arms, hands, shoulders, jaw and eyes. 

4. Finish the exercise by tensing the entire body as you take a final deep breath in, and as you release your breath make sure to focus on the sensation of each muscle returning to a relaxed state. 

Taking the time to breathe deeply not only helps remind your brain to calm down but it can help remind you to be mindful and present in the moment.  Just by taking 5 to 10 minutes out of your day to try any of these breathing techniques you’ll notice a difference in how you cope with your stress, negative thoughts and the tension you’re holding in your body. Give it a try and let us know which one works best for you! 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

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