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

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capsule and sent back to the 1950s to practice medicine in the heart of Framingham, Massachusetts, which is where the outdated guidelines originate from.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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7 Characteristics Associated with Long Life (and How to Cultivate Them)

As much as we focus on food and fitness as the “physical” arbiters of health and longevity, there appears to be much more to it. In fact, most research fails to find any grand commonalities in the diet and fitness patterns of the longest lived. From Okinawans with their sweet potatoes to Japanese centenarians with their dairy to the Ashkenazi with their higher rates of smoking, drinking, and lower rates of formal exercise to the 107 year old with her butter, no exercise, and mistrust of medicine to the supercentenarians with their liver, bacon, wine, chocolate, and eggs to the other supercentenarians with their caloric restriction. Sure, they’re generally not eating Twinkies and Panda Express, but the secret to longevity – at least as it’s practiced by living centenarians – does not lie in one specific diet.

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Dear Mark: Fruit Wax, Placentophagy, and Second Hand Smoke

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ll be covering several topics. First, I cover fruit wax, that lovely layer of ultra-thin sheen applied to many fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. Is it harmful or innocuous? Find out below. Next up is one that makes most people extremely squeamish: placentophagy, or the consumption of the placenta by the mother following birth. Does it do anything? Should people do it? What’s the deal with it? Finally, I field a question from a guy who hangs out in a bar for a few hours a week with his friends. All good, right? Unfortunately, this particular bar allows smoking, so he’s wondering whether or not he’s doing any real damage to himself from exposure to second hand smoke.

Let’s go:

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Dear Mark: Adding a Workout to an Active Life and Topical Wound Ointments

We’ve got a nice pair of questions for today’s Dear Mark. In the first, a young woman who’s perhaps the most intuitively active person I’ve ever heard about asks whether or not she should incorporate a dedicated, formal workout to her schedule of skiing, playing with dogs, hiking, manipulating heavy bags of dog food (in a physical sense, not an emotional sense), yoga, and rafting. You guys might be able to guess the gist of my response, but read on to find out what I say. In the second, a guy asks about topical ointments that promote wound healing. As a response, I discuss the standard over the counter ointments (antibiotic ointments, petroleum jelly-based ointments) as well as the more “natural” alternatives like honey, coconut oil, and garlic.

Let’s go.

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Should We Ice Injuries?

I’ve said this before, but inflammation is a necessary response to injury. It’s the inflammatory response that increases blood and lymphatic flow to and from the injured tissues, bringing healing nutrients and inflammatory mediators and removing damaged refuse. It’s the inflammatory response that makes injuries hurt, which prevents us from using and re-injuring the injured area. And yeah, the inflammatory response can get out of hand and do more damage than the initial insult, but it’s ultimately how our bodies heal damaged tissues and recover from injuries. If we didn’t have an inflammatory response, we’d never get anywhere. This was the crux of a very interesting blog post by Kelly Starrett in which he questioned the typical use of ice after injury. In short, Kelly says that putting ice on a healing tissue is counterproductive because it halts or at least disrupts inflammation, which is really how we heal.

Do we want to use ice in order to reduce the inflammation incurred after a soft tissue injury?

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