Meet Mark

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...

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Tag: prevention

11 Signs You’re Not As Healthy As You Think You Are

You could be the picture of health to everyone who beholds you, feel generally “okay” on a daily basis without any real complaints, and never really feel compelled to visit the doctor for any specific issue. Plus, you’re Primal, so what could possibly go wrong? Except that many of us, if we stop to think about it, have little niggling symptoms that annoy us. And some of them could portend more serious conditions. I don’t want to worry anyone or freak you guys out. I just want you to be aware of seemingly inconsequential symptoms before they become more serious.

I’ve omitted the obvious signs that people don’t ignore, like blood in the toilet or the sudden inability to bear weight on one leg, to focus on the subtler symptoms that many of us take for granted.

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Why Some Sun Exposure Will Protect You from Deadly Skin Cancer

How does sun exposure relate to skin cancer risk?

The simplistic, popular story is that sunlight exposure has a linear relationship with cancer, similar to how we view smoking. None is safest and each additional minute in the sun will increase our chance of getting cancer. Many people (maybe most) therefore live in a world with danger lurking beyond every shadow, umbrella, overhang, and roof. You let your kid go outside without a layer of sunblock so thick he looks like he’s been smashed in the face with a whip cream pie, and you’re a terrible mother. And don’t even think about the beach unless you’re wearing a burqa. It’s even got a scary name: ultraviolet radiation. Radiation! Isn’t that the stuff inside nucular bombs?

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4 Foods That Have Surprising Medicinal Benefits

“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?

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Will We Ever Accept that Exercise is Often the Best Medicine?

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.

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Cholesterol, Culture, and Being Flexible!

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:

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19 Tips for Avoiding Injuries During Sprint Sessions

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.

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Dear Mark: Gummy Vitamins, Heirloom Rice, and Regular Checkups

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.

Let’s go:

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Dear Mark: Cable Machine Weights, Plaque Regression, Lab Grown Meat, and Swiss Ball Chairs

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a four-parter. First up is a question about using the cable weights at the gym to build strength. Should they be discarded by the serious trainee in favor of exclusive barbell work, or do they offer something unique and worthwhile? Next, I discuss potential strategies for the reversal of arterial plaque. It’s not guaranteed, but there are some promising leads. After that, I give my take on stem cell meat. Am I opposed? Am I intrigued? Finally, I give my take on replacing your desk chair with a Swiss ball for a reader who can’t get a treadmill desk and wants the next best thing.

Let’s go:

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7 Things You May Be Doing That Impair Workout Recovery

Simplicity is baked into the Primal Blueprint by design. You eat plants and animals, avoid grains, get plenty of sleep and sun, and spend time doing things you love with people you love, and things just kind of fall into place. You can tinker around the edges and get really into the details, but I try to make this stuff as simple as possible. I’ve especially tried to distill exercise, a notoriously contentious topic, down into a simple, “universal” recommendation – move frequently at a slow pace throughout the day, lift heavy things twice or thrice a week, and sprint once in a while. While I maintain such a regimen will get most people reasonably fit and let them recover easily from their workouts without having to think too hard about recovery, it’s not the same for everyone. Some folks, particularly my harder-charging readers, my CrossFitters, my endurance athletes, and my barbell fanatics could use a more detailed discussion on workout recovery (since, after all, recovery is everything).

Today, I’ll start that discussion with a focus on seven factors that can impair your workout recovery:

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An Open Letter to Doctors

I realized recently I’ve never written this kind of open letter. I figure if kids and Taco Bell got the benefit, maybe primary care physicians could as well. Kidding aside, there’s a genuine mismatch these days between standard medical advice and effective lifestyle practices. I think we can all do better. I’m not letting patients off the hook here either. (Maybe that’s fodder for another letter.) However, we naturally look to our physicians as our healers, as the experts, as our guides. Unfortunately, we’re not always well served by that kind of faith. I’m of course not talking about any one doctor or set of doctors. I happen to know a great many primary care doctors and other medical practitioners who are incredibly forward and critical thinking professionals. They balance their perspectives with the likes of medical logic, broad based study of existing research and close attention to real life results. While I think I’m not the only one who would have much to say to many specialists out there as well, let me specifically address primary care physicians here. They’re on the front lines – for all the good and ugly that goes with it. More than any specialist, they have the whole picture of our health (and a fair amount of our life stories to boot). It’s more their job (and billing categorization) to provide general health and lifestyle counseling to their patients. It’s with great respect that I offer these thoughts. As my readers can guess, this could easily be a tale of ninety-nine theses, but let me focus on a few central points.

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