Does routine exercise protect you from sedentary death syndrome?

There are multiple studies that show that inactivity is hazardous to your health.  Muscles at rest for prolonged periods of time release a host of inflammatory factors that literally start the process of decay.  Sedentary death syndrome refers to the slow death that people experience when they are inactive.  Believe it or not, daily exercise is not enough to keep us fit.  Being fit has more to do with how active we are throughout the day.  It’s what we do when we’re not exercising that determines our true level of fitness.  The average person sits for approximately 9 hours per day.  How about you?   Much of our understanding about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle comes from the research on television viewers.

Multiple studies have shown that too much TV time is associated with an increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and death by any cause.  According to a recent study, people who watch four hours or more per day are 80 percent more likely to die from heart disease and approximately 50 percent more likely to die in general. Each additional hour spent in front of the TV increased the risk of dying from heart disease by 18 percent and the overall risk of death by 11 percent.  I am certain that the most dangerous thing about watching television is that you tend to do it on your butt.  The most important finding from these studies is that regular exercise does not protect you from the disease and death associated with watching too much television.  In other words, regular exercise does not protect you from uninterrupted periods of sedentary behavior.

Given the above, I strongly recommend taking a whole day approach to physical activity.  Muscles in motion promote health and wellness.  Active muscles actually release anti-inflammatory factors that slow down aging and decrease the risk of disease.  Think of creative ways to incorporate more movement into your daily routines.  For example, one of my patients plans to walk with her boss during her daily meetings instead of sitting in a conference room.  Walk while you’re talking on the phone.  Walk to see your colleague down the hall instead of sending her an email.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re stuck at a desk, get up and walk around the office at least once per hour.

The bottom line is this: it’s not ok to exercise for an hour or two and then sit around for the rest of the day.  We recommend accumulating at least 10,000 steps before you hit the pillow each night.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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What to do with unhealthy family and friends

Are you one of those frustrated individuals who have fought hard to adopt a healthy lifestyle only to find that you are doing it alone?  Do you have a close family member or friend who consistently makes unhealthy decisions?   If so, we have something in common and I have some advice to share with you.

It’s pretty easy to advise and support those who know that they have a problem and want to be helped, but what do you do when someone you care about doesn’t seem to want to change her lifestyle, even though she’s putting herself at risk? What if she really wants the benefits of eating well and exercising, but has no motivation to do what is required? What should you do?

What You Shouldn’t Do
Most of us have a tendency to try to motivate people with logic and persuasion.  If that doesn’t work, we move to nagging, threats, and manipulation.  Studies show that these approaches tend to be ineffective and are more likely to cause strain on your relationship than anything else.  Until your loved one wants to do something about his situation, your efforts will be wasted and possibly even harmful.

What You Should Do

Try to figure out what benefits the person is getting from the unhealthy behavior.  For example, eating cookies in bed is both relaxing and enjoyable.  People don’t engage in unhealthy behaviors with the goal of getting heavy, out of shape, and sick. Your job is not to persuade, correct, or preach. Most people who are “stuck” in unhealthy behaviors already know what’s wrong and what they need to change.  Your job is to listen and show that you really understand why they are engaged in their particular behavior(s).  When people feel heard and understood, they will be more receptive to helpful suggestions.

The second most important thing you should do is lead by example. The best reason you can give someone for adopting a healthy lifestyle is doing it yourself and letting her see how it has helped you. Share your struggles and the lessons that you have learned on the road to healthier living.  When you share in this way, it engages people emotionally.  People are motivated by emotion, not by logical verbal explanations.  Finally, follow the pleasure principle.  Like it or not, people are motivated by the desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Unfortunately, we are often willing to grab the immediate pleasure even if it causes great pain in the future.

The bottom line is this:  You are most likely to positively influence the people you love by being an awesome listener, living an exemplary life, and by demonstrating ways of making healthy behaviors as fun and pleasurable as possible.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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What Happens When You Combine Learning with Exercise?

When Susan and I were in medical school we learned a few things that have since been disproven.  For example, we were taught that we only have a set number of neurons or brain cells.  We believed that once a brain cell was lost due to injury or toxicity, it would never be replaced.  It is now know that, in healthy brains, the creation of new neurons is an ongoing and lifelong process.  Unfortunately, the number of new neurons we produce slowly declines with age. There is, however, something that we can do to prevent this “natural” decline in mental function.

An abundance of research shows that everyday forms of learning stimulate the brain cells to function at optimum levels.  The brain is stimulated by reading, learning new tasks, attending lectures, engaging in problem solving, and so on.  It’s not a total surprise that using your brain actually makes you smarter.  However, I am fascinated by the research that links exercise to intelligence.

It is well known that aerobic exercise in children is associated with better attention, improved memory, better decision making, and higher academic performance.  These benefits are also seen in young and elderly adults.  So, how does exercise make you smarter?  Answer: exercise increases the number of neural stem cells in the brain.  These stem cells ultimately develop into mature brain cells.  When you combine learning with exercise two things happen.  Exercise stimulates the production of neural stem cells and learning promotes the maturation of these stem cells into brain cells.  More brain cells allow for more storage of knowledge and information.

The bottom line is this: both learning and exercise are required to optimize intelligence and to prevent the natural decline in mental function. Grow ever smarter by exercising routinely and living a life filled with learning and exploration.

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Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Are grains good for your health?

When I encourage my patients to give up Captain Crunch and doughnuts, most seem to understand the logic behind this recommendation.  When I urge them to also eliminate or minimize their consumption of whole grain food, this advice is often met with significant resistance.   This is likely because the general consensus among medical professionals is that grains are not only healthy, but essential for our existence. They acknowledge that processed grains are bad, but still hold to the erroneous belief that we should eat 6-11 servings of “healthy whole grains” every day.  How could wheat, barley, oats, rice, rye, millet, and corn be unhealthy?  Let’s review the facts.

Grain is known to cause dramatic spikes in insulin levels.  Elevated insulin is associated with multiple serious diseases, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.  Lectins are proteins found within grain and add to the insulin problem.  One of the wheat lectins is known to mimic insulin and binds to the insulin receptor of fat cells.  Unlike insulin, this lectin remains indefinitely attached to the insulin receptor giving the cell a constant signal to make fat.

In addition, lectins are known to have a negative impact on the intestinal lining. Grains also contain gluten or gluten-like proteins that are sticky in nature and are harmful to the intestinal lining. The combination of sticky proteins and lectins damages the bowel lining, eventually letting partially digested particles of food leech into the blood stream.  These particles excite the immune system and are a major cause of allergies to common foods. In fact, these particles are associated with a host of medical problems, some of which are mentioned below.

While most health authorities tout the benefits of whole grains, there is a growing body of research that tells another story.  Grain consumption has been linked to gall bladder disease, gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, autism, psychiatric disorders, allergies, and infertility.  Given this, I would recommend getting the bulk of your carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts.

Studies have shown (and we have seen in our own patients) that a minimal grain diet can correct lipid disorders, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, eliminate skin conditions, alleviate digestive issues, increase fertility, and dramatically improve energy levels.  Are you struggling with any of the problems mentioned above?  If so, consider eliminating grains from your diet for a few months.  Discover new and delicious foods.  You may never want to go back.

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Are sugar substitutes safe?

I think that it’s safe to say that refined sugar is poison.  I’ve stated this so many times that some of you may be actually rolling your eyes.  You know it’s true.  The consumption of sugar can lead to tooth decay, weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, cancer, and so on.   Without a doubt, the evils of refined sugar spawned the pursuit of “safe” and tasty sugar substitutes.   Although the artificial sugar industry has done pretty well with re-creating the sweetness of sugar, I’m not so sure about the safety factor.

Unfortunately, most of the studies on sugar substitutes have been performed on mice and rats.  The new research on gene mapping shows that the majority of mouse, rat, and human genes are identical.  Moreover, these animals suffer from many human diseases.  Given this, I do tend respect the findings gathered from rodent studies.

A 2008 Purdue University study released in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience reported that rats on diets containing the artificial sweetener saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food.  The rats whose diets contained artificial sweeteners were more likely overeat.  Studies in laboratory rats during the early 1970s linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer.  In humans, saccharine has been associated with eczema, nausea, diarrhea, nerve problems, and headache. In 2005, a laboratory study found more lymphomas and leukemias in rats fed doses of aspartame (nutrasweet) equivalent to drinking 8 or more cans of diet soda daily.

Sucralose (splenda) is one of the newest products on the market and has already raised some concern.  A recent animal study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health reported that sucralose reduced the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by 50 percent.  The fact that Splenda can destroy up to 50 percent of your healthy intestinal bacteria is a serious problem.  This disturbance in the balance of your gut bacteria is referred to as dysbiosis.  Dysbiosis has been linked to autoimmune diseases, eczema, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases, and more.  Acesulfame is not as well known, but is another highly utilized sugar substitute.  Studies have shown that it is associated with leukemia, lung diseases, and breast tumors.

Avoiding sugar is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle.  This can be difficult for those who are tormented by a sweet tooth.  Given my understanding of the research, sugar substitutes are potentially dangerous and should be avoided.  For those times when you need to sweeten your foods and beverages, I highly recommend using stevia extract.  This sweetener is a safe and natural herb.  There is an overwhelming body of research that shows the many health benefit of eating naturally low-sugar whole foods. Moreover, these health promoting foods can be quite delicious.

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Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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From God’s Lips to My Ears

I want to be clear.  I am by no means trying to push my faith on anyone else.  I just want to share an experience that I had this morning. 

I usually get up between 5 and 5:30am so that I can exercise before going to work.  This morning I felt exhausted and miserable.  I was scheduled for an intense cardiovascular work-out and thought of multiple excuses for why I should take it easy on myself.  Just as I was getting ready to wimp out, I had a divine thought pop into my head.  “If my Son could endure crucifixion for your sins, I’m sure that you can handle a 30 minute work-out.”  Boy did that put things into perspective.  I dragged my tired butt to the basement and had one of the best workouts ever.

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Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

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Do you know anyone who has acne?

As many of you know, my wife and I are the proud parents of 3 teenagers and one pre-teen.  Pimples and zits are a part of our every day conversation.  I can honestly say that I know a thing or two about acne.  For years, the common belief within the medical field was that diet had absolutely no effect on acne.  I know first hand that this belief is wrong.  My wife and I can tell how poorly our kids have been eating based on their complexion.

A recent study published in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has finally given science a conclusive link between a high sugar, high grain diet, and acne. In this study, participants followed a diet low in sugar and grain.  This resulted in a significant improvement of their acne within 3 months.  I wonder why most people suffering from acne have never heard of this study?

It is well known that sugar and grain consumption results in a rapid rise in blood sugar.  Rapid spikes in blood sugar are associated with multiple health problems.  According to a review published in Experimental Dermatology in 2009, it is not sugar itself that contributes to acne, but the effect that blood sugar spikes have on acne producing hormones.   Unfortunately, acne is caused by more than just sweets and grains.

Acute inflammation is a normal response to injury or infection.  It starts the healing process and without inflammation you wouldn’t survive. Acute inflammation is short lived and quickly fades as the body heals.  Chronic inflammation is a whole different story.  Our exposure to pollution, environmental toxins, processed food, long hours of inactivity, poor sleep, and high stress leads to persistent internal injury.  This constant abuse results in chronic inflammation.  The term chronic refers to being stuck in a state of overdrive.  This taxes the immune system and leaves less energy and resources to fight infection, avert cancer, and kill acne-causing bacteria.

In summary, skin complexion can be a reflection of overall health.  I recommend addressing diet and lifestyle factors before resorting to acne medications.  This approach always results in an improvement in overall health, as well as a significant improvement in acne.  With all of the controversy surrounding the health risks of certain acne medications, it is refreshing to know that there is a safe, cheap, and effective treatment option.

Thanks for tuning in!

 

Dr. C

Uthman Cavallo, MD

 

 

 

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