We talk a lot around here about inflammation, and some of you have raised good questions (and answers) regarding what we’re really getting at. A continuing thanks for your comments and thoughtful responses.
So, what do we mean by inflammation when we harp on the evils of sugars, grains, trans fats and other nutritional fiends? Ah, the many sides of swelling: abscesses, bulges, distensions, engorgements, boils, blisters, bunions, oh my! Do swollen ankles and puffy black shiners really have anything to do with the inflammation of arterial walls? Can flossing possibly help prevent heart disease? Let’s explore.
Dr. DeVany’s title quote has haunted me for years; I typically ponder the significance of this deadpan assertion during my morning jog. “Come on, this can’t be dangerous, can it?” I assert that my morning jog helps me enjoy nature, clear my mind for the impending busy day in front of a screen or microphone, and seemingly contributes to both my fitness base and my health. But only if I go slow! That is the revelation I have come to appreciate over decades of devoted endurance training. Walking is perhaps most health and longevity promoting activity of them all, the ultimate human experience of life and planet that our genes require daily for healthy functioning. This is especially true as you age. A UCLA study of the elderly revealed that walking more than 4,000 steps a day makes for a thicker hippocampus, faster information processing, and improved executive function. Sedentary folks were found to have thinner brains, lower overall cognitive function and increased disease risk. From a base of frequent daily walking (and other forms of low level movement like yoga), if you are fit enough to jog at a heart rate below “180 minus age” in beats per minute, there is pretty strong evidence that you are boosting health. If your “jogging” routinely drifts above that important MAF cutoff (surely the context for DeVany’s warning), you are likely actualizing the quote and endangering your health. This article details how I destroyed my health during a six-month binge of high volume aerobic exercise (playing Speedgolf, where you run around five miles while playing 18 holes as fast as possible) after a long layoff from real training. I overestimated my aerobic maximum heart rate by 12 beats (and exceeded that beeper limit on the golf course frequently as well!) and experienced that familiar steady spiral into declining energy and burnout. First, I delivered a free testosterone reading that was clinically low—as in, a candidate for hormone replacement. Next, on the heels of a two strenuous workouts in 100-degree temperatures over four days, I found myself in the hospital with extreme dehydration, a ruptured appendix and emergency surgery. Months of complications and follow up surgeries ensued. Doctors might assert that an appendix will blow out randomly, but I’m certain that my problems were driven by the six-month chronic cardio binge. In Case You Missed It: Don’t Jog, It’s Too Dangerous (Part 1) With five months of enforced rest and trading my slightly too difficult cardio for easy jogging and walking (after surgeries), I doubled my testosterone levels—going from clinically low to exceeding the 95th percentile for my age. In the aftermath of the ordeal, which coincided with me hitting the big Hawaii 5-0, I turned my attention to fitness goals better suited for longevity: building power, speed, explosiveness, flexibility, balance, and mobility. I increased my devotion to sprinting and strength training, and integrated the wonderful drills and skills highlighted in the basic running drills and advanced running drills videos and morning … Continue reading “Don’t Jog, It’s Too Dangerous: Part 2”
There is an epidemic of chronic lower back pain. It’s one of the leading causes of “Years Lived with Disability” (YLD), is responsible for over 7 million ER room visits each year, and costs us both time (hard to do much of anything when our lower back is hurting) and money (people with lower back pain end up spending thousands of dollars a year on average to treat it). I can’t think of anything that degrades overall quality of life more than persistent lower back pain.
And as is so often the case, our attempts to treat the condition often make it worse. What does the average person do when their back hurts?
Nerd neck. Tech neck. Computer neck. Text neck. Forward head posture.
You might not be familiar with these terms, but you almost certainly know what they describe. Picture someone sitting on a bus or park bench looking at their phone. See in your mind’s eye how their head juts forward of their shoulders and droops down? That’s forward head posture.
Before we were all sheltering at home, you couldn’t go out without seeing it everywhere. In coffee shops, restaurants, public transportation, even walking down the street, person after person hunched over their device. That’s not a natural posture for humans, and it’s taking a toll on our collective health.
Nerd neck, tech neck, text neck, and computer neck are interchangeable terms that denote the pain and other symptoms that come from spending too much time in this position. It’s not clear exactly how prevalent it is, but a quick survey of my friends revealed that every single one had experienced neck, shoulder, or back pain that they attributed to spending too much time on their devices. When the Pew Research Center polled American adults last year, 28% said they’re online “almost constantly.” Various surveys estimate the average person spends 3 to 5 hours a day just on their phones. This doesn’t count hours in front of a computer, watching TV, or playing video games. Teens’ and college students’ usage is considerably higher.
All this is to say, tech neck is undoubtedly widespread. I’d bet it’s become even more prevalent in the past few months as people are spending more time at home with their devices.
The good news is that it’s not terribly hard to correct and prevent. A few simple changes, plus easy daily exercises, and you’ll be standing tall once more.
Contrary to what we’ve been told, cholesterol didn’t evolve to give us heart disease. It’s not here to kill us. The actual roles of cholesterol in the body include insulating neurons, building and maintaining cellular membranes, participating in the immune response, metabolizing fat soluble vitamins, synthesizing vitamin D, producing bile, and kick-starting the body’s synthesis of many hormones, including the sex hormones. Without cholesterol, it’s true that we wouldn’t have heart disease, but we also wouldn’t be alive.
Given all the work cholesterol has to do, the liver is careful to ensure the body always has enough, producing some 1000-1400 milligrams of it each day. Dietary cholesterol is a relative drop in the bucket. And besides, the liver has sensitive feedback mechanisms that regulate cholesterol production in response to how much you get from your diet. Eat more cholesterol, make less in the liver. Eat less, make more in liver.
People do not pay much attention to how to strengthen tendons and ligaments, until they suffer a tendon injury. Only then do you realize that training your tendons is just as important as working on muscle strength and endurance.
Our bodies “expect” a lifetime of constant, varied movement. From a very early age, most humans throughout history were constantly active. They weren’t exercising or training, per se, but they were doing all the little movements all the time that prepare the body and prime the tendons to handle heavier, more intense loads and movements: bending and squatting and walking and twisting and climbing and playing and building. It was a mechanical world. The human body was a well-oiled machine, lubed and limber from daily use and well-prepared for occasional herculean efforts.
Maybe it’s an injury that took months to overcome. Maybe it’s an illness that left you bedridden (or demotivated). Maybe it’s simple disuse and neglect that dragged on and on—or lasted your entire life until today. Or maybe you read my recent post about claiming health in later life and want to get back on the road to vitality. For whatever reason, almost everyone will be forced to recover and rebuild their fitness and strength after an extended period of inactivity. But there’s a wrong way and a right way to do it.
Here are some tips for doing it the right way:
Cold season is upon us. Vitamin D levels are down. People are cloistered indoors. Kids are walking petri dishes. Drug stores are advertising free flu shots. It’s that time of year. I’m sure a few of you are even sniffling as you read this, or maybe trying to ignore the pain of swallowing with a sore throat.
Colds seem like an inevitability, maybe not so much since you’ve cleaned up your diet, but nothing is 100% fool-proof. You will get sick. You will catch a cold. Or someone close to you will. What can you do for yourself? For your sick kid or partner? Are there any natural cold remedies that actually work?
Let’s look at them.
Inflammation gets a bad rap in the alternative health world: “Inflammation causes heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease! It’s at the root of depression.” These are all true—to some extent.
Name a disease, and inflammation is involved.
Crohn’s disease is inflammatory.
Major depression is inflammatory.
Heart disease is inflammatory.
Autoimmune diseases, which involve an inflammatory response directed at your own tissues, are inflammatory.
Arthritis is inflammatory.
Even obesity is inflammatory, with fat cells literally secreting inflammatory cytokines.
Yes, but the story is more complicated than that. Inflammation, after all, is a natural process developed through millions of years of evolution. It can’t be wholly negative. Just like our bodies didn’t evolve to manufacture cholesterol to give us heart disease, inflammation isn’t there to give us degenerative diseases.
Older people (and those headed in that direction, which is everyone else) are really sold a bill of goods when it comes to health and longevity advice. I’m not a young man anymore, and for decades I’ve been hearing all sorts of input about aging that’s proving to be not just misguided, but downright incorrect. Blatant myths about healthy longevity continue to circulate and misinform millions. Older adults at this very moment are enacting routines detrimental to living long that they think are achieving the opposite. A major impetus for creating the Primal Blueprint was to counter these longevity myths. That mission has never felt more personal.
So today, I’m going to explore and refute a few of these top myths, some of which contain kernels of truth that have been overblown and exaggerated. I’ll explain why.