The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
My staff and I are quite close. Things stay busy these days, so there isn’t a lot of downtime, but I’ve worked with some of these folks for over a decade. We don’t discuss every grisly detail of our lives with each other. But we do share. We care about each other.
So when one of the Worker Bees mentioned he was having some potentially serious medical issues, I asked for details. Turns out he went to his doctor for a hard lump on his throat that was getting progressively bigger. Initial pokes and prods were inconclusive. An MRI led to a biopsy, which led to an email in the middle of the afternoon with the results and a hell of an opener: “This may be a cancer.” May helped. It wasn’t a sure thing yet.
This is an updated version of a Dear Mark column from 2012. You can find the original version archived here. The below has been completely updated for 2018.
The blank slate hypothesis has fallen. Everyone comes into this world imbued with attributes, characteristics, and predilections that are uniquely theirs. We’re all humans, but we’re a diverse bunch, and that makes it interesting. And though it also makes giving cookie cutter health advice impossible, I just take that as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and provide actionable advice that genuinely helps real people.
A perfect example is biological sex. Anyone who’s lived with the opposite sex, been married, or had kids of different sexes knows that males and females are different—on average.
There’s a ton of overlap, don’t get me wrong.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First, is power yoga—a more “intense” version of yoga that includes strength exercises—a suitable alternative to strength training for aging women? Probably not, but that doesn’t make it bad or wrong to do. Second, what’s the deal with pelvic floor dysfunction after menopause? What’s the best way to improve that situation? And third, is the Keto Reset right for older women with osteoporosis?
Let’s find out:
Generally speaking, the basic Primal Blueprint for fitness and physical activity applies equally to men and women of all ages. Lifting heavy things works in everyone. Sprinting is a fantastic way—for anyone who’s able—to compress workouts and improve training efficiency. Improving one’s aerobic capacity through easy cardio doesn’t discriminate between the sexes. And everyone should walk, hike, garden, and perform as much low level physical activity as possible. These basic foundations—the 30,000 foot view of fitness—don’t really change across age or sex.
But the details do, especially for women.
Living life on your own terms isn’t just a quaint turn of phrase. It has huge effects on your health. A large body of research shows that the less control you think you have over your life, the higher your mortality risk. That persists even when you control for other health variables and biomarkers. It’s even true for animals. Self-agency—or even the illusion of it—appears to be a requirement for healthy, happy aging.
And unlike some of the characteristics shared by centenarians, like good genes, control is malleable. You can’t change the structure of your DNA. You can, however, wrest control over your own life. Despite whatever challenges present themselves, you get to decide what purpose you contribute to each day.
I like intensity when I train. Lifting heavy, running sprints, playing Ultimate Frisbee. I keep it brief, and the foundation is always a lot of slow movement throughout the day—easy runs, long walks or hikes, rarely sitting—but I go hard when I “work out.”
What if you were to go slow, on purpose?
Entire schools of physical culture are founded upon slow, deliberate movements. They squash momentum and lambast rapidity. They’re difficult in a different way. They require patience and fortitude.
“Insufficient play is another major disconnect in modern life, causing reduced productivity, increased stress, and accelerated aging. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul and one of the world’s leading experts on play, calls play a ‘profound biologic process.’ He explains that play, across the span of a lifetime, promotes the development and maintenance of a ‘cognitively fluid mind.’
“Cognitive fluidity—being able to go with the flow, think outside the box, process what-if scenarios, and react quickly and effectively to changes in our environment—is believed by anthropologists to represent one of the most profound breakthroughs in human evolution. This breakthrough in brain function, probably emerging 60,000 years ago, meant that humans’ brains could link knowledge from different domains. The way humans understood and approached the world became both more flexible and more expansive. This enabled more creative use of technology, better transfer of knowledge between generations, and a resultant spike in human longevity. Cognitive fluidity is still essential today, helping us adapt and thrive in a complex, high-tech society. When we get stuck in patterns of overwork and overstress, we lose that important connection with our creative, intuitive, playful selves. Our work suffers and so does our happiness.”
—From The New Primal Blueprint
I’ve always been a student of performance—in my athletic days and now. Whether it’s nutritional intake, training strategies, or supplement choices, this is where science comes to life for me. Over the years, I made this interest work for my fitness performance and now for my optimal health. It’s not about “hacking” the body’s functioning but understanding it from the ground floor up. This knowledge helps me live and age through life more on my own terms, which is exactly the way I like it.
If you look at the latest stats, you might assume there’s no cognitive health crisis. The overall number of dementia cases are going up, but that’s because the aging population is growing. Older folks are living longer than ever before, so there are more people around who can develop dementia. Dementia and Alzheimer’s rates are dropping in the Western world. Politicians, those archetypical paragons of cognitive aptitude, are hanging around in office longer than ever. Technology, science, and other fields that require large amounts of cognitive ability are progressing.
But broad trends and large numbers are just statistics. However reassuring they are to public policy analysts, they mean nothing to the individual suffering from cognitive decline. They’re too abstract. Your grandpa no longer knowing who you are? That’s real. You, personally, don’t want to lose your cognitive abilities as you age. You, personally, don’t want to see the people you love get Alzheimer’s. Individual cases matter to those individuals and their loved ones. And it’s still happening more than it should.
Most discussion of chronically-elevated insulin levels (hyperinsulinemia) and insulin resistance revolves around their relationship to bodyweight. This is unsurprising. Bodyweight’s what “sells tickets.” It’s why most people get interested in diet, health, fitness, and nutrition—to lose weight or avoid gaining it.
But improving insulin sensitivity and reducing fasting insulin levels have major ramifications for your health, longevity, and resistance to disease. And it’s not just because “weight gain is unhealthy.” Insulin itself, in excess, exerts seriously damaging effects. Today, I want to impress upon you the importance of controlling your insulin response by laying out some of the health problems that stem from not controlling it.