“Let food be thy medicine,” said some old Roman guy, I think. Whoever he was, he was right. Food is the foundation for preventive medicine. It’s the first thing we examine when figuring out a health issue, and successful changes to what we eat usually have the most profound effect on our health. If we don’t eat well, we won’t be healthy – simple as that.
But what if food literally was medicine? What if certain foods had specific, established pharmacological effects that rivaled certain pharmaceuticals?
For years, experts have known that in mild to moderate cases of depression exercise is as effective (or more effective) a treatment as prescription drugs. Yet, here we are in 2014, with still climbing obesity rates and higher than ever numbers of people taking anti-depressants – a 400% jump in the last 20 years. This past week, exercise as medical therapy got another round of press after The Atlantic highlighted the issue in their thought provoking feature “For Depression, Prescribing Exercise Before Medication.” Let me add, however, that we aren’t just missing the boat in terms of depression therapy. Research has shown time and again that exercise offers just as good if not better results for an array of medical conditions. I might be preaching to the choir with the general theme, but let’s go beyond the basic assumptions and home in on the critical underlying messages reflecting why exercise isn’t just the safest and often most effective choice but why it so often remains the least accessed therapy.
This is a guest post from Dr. Ronesh Sinha (aka Dr. Ron). Dr. Ron is an internal medicine physician in Northern California. He specializes in helping patients from diverse ethnic backgrounds reduce heart disease risk factors through lifestyle changes. I’ve recently published Dr. Ron’s book The South Asian Health Solution. You can learn all about the book and the special offer that ends tomorrow here. Enter Dr. Ron…
I started off about a decade ago with an internal medicine practice in the heart of Silicon Valley. I learned from medical training that a typical heart attack patient is an overweight, old white guy who smokes and eats red meat. That would have been incredibly useful if I was put in a time capsule and sent back to the 1950s to practice medicine in the heart of Framingham, Massachusetts, which is where the outdated guidelines originate from. I was flooded with sedentary, mostly non-smoking, non-white, non-obese and often vegetarian patients who looked nothing like those case studies from medical training. Back then they were getting employer-based health screenings that only drew their total cholesterol level. Most of them had a total cholesterol of less than 200 and if these screenings happened to check LDL levels they often looked “good” also. These individuals were patted on their back, told they were doing great, and sent home. However, these same patients, mostly Asian Indian, were developing rampant diabetes and heart disease. One of my first heart attack cases was a 32-year-old, non-smoking Indian vegetarian. I started seeing similar cases and as I delved through the research back in those early days, I discovered that Asian Indians had one of the highest incidences of heart disease in the world. The part that puzzled me was when I looked at their cholesterol through my medically trained Framingham lens, their cholesterol numbers continued to look pretty normal…or so I thought! I went to big companies and lectured about cholesterol and feverishly preached the virtues of a low-fat, high fiber diet, one that I also practiced. However, something started happening. I never reached an overweight BMI, but my waistline did start expanding a bit and as I started checking my own numbers I noticed that my total cholesterol and LDL looked really “good,” but the other numbers on my cholesterol panel didn’t. Let’s take a look at my lipid timeline:
Sprinting is a powerful asset to any training program. It’s brief and effective and long-lasting and reverberates throughout multiple aspects of health and performance. If you sprint regularly, you’ll likely improve your body composition, strength and fitness levels, metabolic flexibility, stamina, and explosiveness. Since sprinting is “going as fast as you can,” it’s infinitely and instantly scalable to your ability level. Anyone who can sprint but does not is making a huge mistake.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. You have to do it right. Sprinting actually isn’t very dangerous compared to other athletic pursuits. You’re more liable to get injured playing a team sport, where you’re responding quickly to unpredictable changes in the game, moving laterally and vertically, diving and leaping for balls or discs, jostling for position. Sprinting is linear, straightforward. You go from point A to point B. However, the very thing that makes sprinting work so well – the fact that it represents the highest intensity your body can muster – can lead to injury if you’re not prepared.
For this week’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ve got three of your questions and three of my answers. First up, I discuss the sugar content of gummy vitamins. Is it a problem for growing kids? Next, find out my take on heirloom rice, including whether it’s worth all the work required trying to get around the antinutrients. I also get into the somewhat counterintuitive role of antioxidants after exercise. Last, I give my opinion on the importance (or lack thereof) of getting regular checkups or physicals at the doctor just… well, because.
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