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Don't Let Your Brain Shrink!

What if I told you that there was a treatment that was medically proven to prevent your brain from shrinking?

Every day in our little clinic, I tell patients that walking a mile-a-day is the best medicine they can take.  Some look at me with doubt (those who haven't tried it yet) and some smile in knowing contentment (those who have).  Well, it seems that this daily medicine has been proven to have yet another benefit.

Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental FitnessYou see, medical science considers brain shrinkage to be one of the many bad effects of getting older.  For decades doctors have thought there was nothing that you could really do about your brain shrinking as your aged.  The bad part is, the more the brain shrinks, the more memory and other cognitive functions are affected.  A recent study in the online journal Neurology shows that walking about a mile a day actually prevents your brain from shrinking!  I just love it when the multi-billion dollar medical industry is forced to admit that there is a medicine which is free, has no co-pay, no side effects, and you doctor will never have to ask for the dreaded prior-approval (PA); Walking!  And before you say you are too old or out of shape to start walking, let me just say that the average age of the 300 people in this study was 78 years...

Even folks in their 80's can begin to stop and reverse brain shrinkage with a daily walk.  Humans are athletes their entire lives whether they know it or not; even if a person in their 80's has been completely sedentary for years, they can begin a walking program which will make their brain -- and hundreds of other body parts -- stronger on a daily basis.

Seniors Exercise DVD: Senior / Elderly Sitting Exercises DVD, Easy Sitting PILATES Strength, Rehab & Physical Therapy. Seniors Elderly Exercises DVD. This Sitting Seniors Fitness DVD is Good also for Easy Osteoporosis Exercises, Diabetes Exercises, Arthritis Exercises, Alzheimer's Exercises DVD.I have had several octogenarian patients who, even though they considered themselves a lost cause, started walking one or two laps up and down their hallway each day, some doing so with the help of a walker.  They continued to slowly and carefully increase the number of these hall-laps every few days and soon felt stronger and more energized.   Several of these folks have, over a few months time, worked their way up to walking a mile-a-day and fell better than they have in years.  There is no pill at the pharmacy that can do that!  So remember, you can always begin your training, no matter your age; today would be a great day to get started.  Just dig those old walking shoes out of the back of the closet and take off, your brain will thank you.

I can't find a good book to recommend to you on a walking program for the elderly, maybe I'll write one...

Is Your Night-Light Making You Fat?

It turns out that not sleeping in complete darkness can affect your sleep/wake/cortisol cycle and actually promote weight gain!  Although this study was performed on mice, I think the results are at least a little applicable to us humans. 

Prevention's Complete Book of Walking: Everything You Need to Know to Walk Your Way to Better HealthThe more gray hair I get (signs of wisdom, right?) the more it seems to me that in order to be happy and healthy, we should try to reproduce the conditions that humans have been living in for the past ten thousand years. (or one million years, for you evolutionists out there)  Eating the same types of natural foods, getting the same intermittent, vigorous types of exercise, and now sleeping in complete darkness, just like our ancestors... 

Of course I don't want to live in the woods and sleep with the bugs, but I don't want to gain weight just from the overly bright glow from my bedside alarm clock either!  With all our efforts to eat a better diet, and get more exercise, I'll be damned if I'm going to "plump up" just because I forgot and left the bathroom light on!

Here is the Study that shows that mice exposed even to dim light during sleep hours tended to gain more weight.  Turning off all the lights (and TV!) and putting thicker drapes on the bedroom window could actually help a little in the quest to lose weight, not to mention sleeping better.  It might take a few nights to get used to this new dark sleep environment, but the savage in you will be thankful that you did.  If you need a little help getting to sleep in this new environment, here is what I recommend.

There is Help for Memory Loss

Do you have someone you care deeply about whose increasing age seems to be hurting their memory or ability to think?  In years past we would chalk this up to just getting older, feeling there was nothing we could do about it.  Hopefully, times are changing.

A recent study has found that Low Vitamin D levels are associated with substantial cognitive decline in the elderly!  Those are strong words for a medical study, which are typically dry and Very boring.  Several other studies have looked at this subject, but have been flawed in one way or another.  This study contained a lot of people which makes its results much more dependable.  So what can you do to help your loved one who seems to be slipping mentally?

The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health ProblemFirst, their actual Vitamin D level needs to be investigated.  We can check a simple blood-test in the office to determine the Vitamin D level in a person.  With the results, we can then direct the patient as to how much Vitamin D they need to take each day.  Now obviously there are many causes of dementia and memory decline.  But, wouldn't it be really cool if we could improve your grandmother's memory with Vitamin D?  Then, armed with this knowledge, we replace low Vitamin D levels with a good quality Vitamin D-3 product.  To be fully absorbed, Vitamin D should be an oil-based product in a gel-cap, or be taken with a spoon-full of olive oil.

Here is a Great Book on Vitamin D.  Here is another Good Book.  You can buy the Vitamin D that Ms. Bridget and I take here.  Come let us check your Vitamin D level, or the level of someone you love; correcting their Vitamin D deficiency could mean all the difference.

Our current modern diet consists of so many processed and pseudo-foods that many times a good meal can be devoid of Vitamin D.  During the summer, a few minutes of sun-exposure can give 2,000 IU of Vitamin D-3.  Tanning beds are not recommended as an alternative, therefore during the winter months a supplement is recommended.  This is one small, easy step to reclaiming your health and your memory

Gluten Could Be Your Problem!

Here is a great short video by Dr. Josh Axe about all the things a gluten intolerance can lead to for you.
Gluten intolerance is different from Celiac Disease in that it is more subtle and it's effects are not always obvious as to cause.  The only way to truly know if gluten is affecting your life is to go gluten-free.  There are many good books about an easy Gluten Free Diet.

Living Gluten-Free For DummiesGluten Free Every Day Cookbook: More than 100 Easy and Delicious Recipes from the Gluten-Free Chef

Dr. Ken's Outer-Wall Diet Plan

Every day I'm asked in the clinic to recommend a diet plan.  We all seem to want a list, or a plan, or a system within which we feel we will be safe, without too much thinking involved. The problem with this way of living is that the health of your family is the most important thing in your life.  Your health and the health of your family is far more valuable than your HD-TV, or your designer jeans, or a new car, and deserves your time, attention and money.  Eating true poison will kill you quickly, eating highly-processed crap you buy in the middle-aisles of the grocery will kill you slowly and sluggishly; eating true-foods prepared properly will optimize how well you feel and perform, and how long you will live.  Check out the following three ideas, pick one of the last two if you are just beginning to reclaim your health and need a guide to follow.

The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat Keep to the Outer-Wall - This diet is for general well-being, and is a quick general guide as to what real food actually is. For some reason, grocers place their raw fruit and vegetables, raw meats, dairy and eggs along the outer-wall of their store.  A grocer friend of mind told me once that you will find all of the healthy foods (real food) along the outer-wall, but he makes the most profit from the processed foods (fake food) in the middle-aisles of the store.  Not every food item on the outer-wall is right for you, but the percentage of actual food is very high along the outer-wall of any grocery.  Foods you will find along the outer-wall include fruits, nuts, seeds, veggies, lean meats, goat and almond milk, eggs, etc.  This is real food you can eat with much better peace of mind than with food you will find in the middle-aisles of the store.  See the picture below for a routine store layout, and where you might look for real food.

The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss The South Beach Diet - If you absolutely have to have a strict list to go by.  This is not perfect but is much better than most.  This nice book was written by a heart doctor who found that his over-weight patients did much more poorly than the ones who lost weight and got healthier.  This guide limits useless carbs and maximizes good foods.  It is much easier to make the South Beach Diet a part of your long-term eating habits, than The Atkins Diet.

The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy
 Primal Blueprint - has lifestyle info as well but includes enough dietary guidelines that you should feel fully informed to make food decisions.  The ideas in this book make a lot of sense, and are a great way to begin to return to the way we were made (or evolved) to eat.

We often spend hours studying the manual to our new car or new flat-screen TV; I really encourage you to start spending those hours studying about the single most important possession you have, you body.


Fast Food is NOT Food!

I tell patients all the time, "If you have to speak into a microphone before you get your it, then it ain't food!"  Click on the Nasty-Burger Pic to read an article that explains in more detail why and how this is...

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American MealReal food grows on trees, and grows in the garden.  Real food comes from farm raised, free-range animals that have not been over-dosed with antibiotics and steroids.  I know that real food can cost a little more than Mc-Wendy-Kings, but how much are you willing to endanger the health of your children to save a minute or save a buck???

You can get the full nasty story on just what the Multi-National Restaurants are interested in making here and here.


Almond Milk is a great Substitute

I was a mild baby; a big milk baby.  As a teenager, I would go through gallons of milk weekly.  I believed milk to be the ultimate for growth, energy and physical well-being.  I'm not sure where I got those beliefs; where does any teenager get their beliefs?  Only with increasing knowledge, and hopefully a little wisdom, have I been able to re-examine those beliefs, and decide the following.

We have all heard of Lactose Intolerance.  The more I read, the more I see another very large group of people who may not have a lactose intolerance issue, but who just have problems consuming dairy.  The problems they have are not bad enough for a doctor visit, and sometimes are not even noticeable enough for them to make the connection between the symptom and dairy products at all.  Heartburn, fatigue, joint pain, allergic rhinitis, throat-clearing, rashes/eczema, mild diarrhea, mild bloating, and unexplained mild weight gain are just a few of these possible problems.  If you think you could be one of these people, then read on...

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dairy-Free EatingAfter three decades of being the milk-baby as described above, I had read enough to wonder if my chronic mild-moderate Heartburn, bloating and increasing joint pain/stiffness had anything to do with dairy.  I worried about the hormone issues of Soy Milk, and so decided to try Almond Milk.

Almond milk is very tasty and has about the same levels of calcium and Vitamin D as cow's milk.  It has no lactose, animal fat or casein, however; and for some folks that might just be a good thing.  Many people don't know that cow's milk does not naturally have any Vitamin D at all; it is added during the processing.  I personally was mildly shocked when I discovered this fact.  How had I not known that cow's milk contained no Vitamin D naturally?  After a trial of Almond Milk and no dairy, I was quite pleased with the changes.

The Milk-Free Kitchen: Living Well Without Dairy ProductsIt seems that many of us just outgrow the need for dairy, and the ability to digest it comfortably.  This makes sense if you look at nature; humans are the only species on the planet that routinely try to drink milk past infancy.  If you suffer from vague feelings of fatigue or any of the problems listed above, it is worth stopping anything dairy in your diet for a month and looking for any improvement.  If, after a month, you feel no differently, then you can probably still consume dairy just fine.  I would counsel you to repeat this month-long experiment every few years, as the landscape of your gut changes over time

As I have said,  I was a milk drinker until my late thirties; at that time I decided to try almond milk after reading an online article much like this one.  Within a week the mild, daily heartburn I had been having disappeared; vague, achy joint pains left; and, my energy level became better and more predictable.  I didn't believe this to be a true connection at first and restarted dairy; only to have the heartburn quickly return. 

Upon switching back to almond milk, the heartburn and other symptoms again went away.  Now, I hardly ever touch dairy, enjoying instead tasty almond milk.  Give it a try, I think you'll be glad you did.  Realize, these statements and research came very hard for me, as a previous fanatical advocate for dairy; I did not grow up in a household where it was acceptable to doubt dairy.

You can either buy a good brand like Blue Diamond, or you can very simply make it yourself (I've done it!) by using the instructions in this nifty video.

I don't put in the dates or salt they mention; but maybe will try it that way soon.  Enjoy!

Insomnia: Natural, Inexpensive Ways to Combat Sleeplessness

Not being able to sleep as deeply or a long as you think you should is a very common problem.  Part of this problem arises because of false beliefs about sleep, and part because of things we do that actually decrease our ability to sleep deeply.  There are very good medicines for people with true insomnia; this post is for those who have trouble sleeping, and would like to try every cheap and natural means to correct the problem before resorting to medications.  First, let's talk about the natural sleep cycle with respect to getting older, and some things that can mess up your sleep.

It is completely natural for it to take anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes for you to fall asleep.  Everyone is different in this respect, and one is not better than the other.  Using medication to try and change this is not a good idea.

Natrol Melatonin Timed Release, 3mg 100 tablets
Great Sleep Aid
As you get older it is a natural and normal thing for you not to sleep as deep, or as long, as you did as a younger person.  It is normal for a person who slept "dead to the world" for eight good hours every night in their 20's, to "cat-nap" for 5-6hrs nightly in their 60's and beyond. A good rule of thumb as one gets old is, if you don't find yourself falling asleep during waking  hours then you are getting enough sleep during your sleep hours, even if you feel that you are not sleeping well.  If you find yourself falling asleep in the car during red-lights, or dozing off in the doctor's waiting room then you may not be getting enough sleep.  If you are not sleeping well, then before you start taking a pill, let's make sure you are not doing anything to interrupt your natural sleep cycle.

Many patients want a pill that will "knock me out".  Since some doctors have obliged them in the past, they feel this must be a healthy request.  I have to inform them that it is not natural or healthy to be "knocked out".  Healthy, refreshing sleep is something you slip into gradually over 10-60 minutes.  Taking anything that will turn off the lights quickly is definitely a good way to wild up hooked on something, or to have long-term problems with your sleep cycle.

When I was a teenager, I could drink a 2-Liter Mountain Dew and then go immediately to sleep; now, if I have any caffeine after noon, I'll be up at 3 am tossing and turning!  Both caffeine and nicotine appear to have greater negative effects on sleep as you age.  So a good rule is to stop any caffeine at lunch, and keep nicotine use as far away from bedtime as possible; better yet, just QUIT SMOKING!

Say Good Night to Insomnia
Good Book
Some medicines can affect your sleep. Steroids like prednisone can really interrupt your sleep cycle.  So if you're having to take steroids for an itchy rash or some medical problem, you can expect to get less that good sleep until you have finished your medicine.  Beta-Blockers such as atenolol and metoprolol, and some pain medications can aggravate certain peoples sleep problems, and help others.  If you have to take these medicines then you will have to experiment with the best time of day for you to take them.

I personally have found that having kids or pets in the bed is a good way to get a bad nights sleep.  As much as you love them, if lack of sleep is interfering with your daytime happiness, it may be time to send them to their own bed.

Eating a light snack before bed-time may help you fall asleep, but a big meal can interfere with deep sleep, and also can cause heartburn.

Exercise is a must if you want to sleep deeply.  It is best to exercise at least 4 hours before bed; exercising too closely to bedtime can leave you tossing and turning.  I've had many a patient complaining of not sleeping deeply correct this problem immediately (and for free) by starting to walk a mile or two each day.

Some people notice that having milk or turkey helps them fall asleep better, this is because of of the tryptophan they contain.  This doesn't seem to help everyone, though.  Two other natural sleep aids are melatonin and Valerian root.  Neither will knock you out nor cause disruptions in the sleep cycle; but they will help most everyone have more restful nights.  Over the counter sleep aids like Tylenol-PM contains benadryl and are fine for occasional use.  No research has shown that any of these sleep aids to be habit-forming or problem-causing.

I Can Make You Sleep: Overcome Insomnia Forever and Get the Best Rest of Your Life! Book and CD
Good New Book
Many folks think that alcohol is a good sleep aid, but we need to talk about this...  Having one drink in the evening may in fact help you sleep better, but more alcohol is Not better.  Oh, and for my red-neck buddy's, one drink is defined as one 12oz beer, or 1oz of alcohol in a mixed drink, or 8oz of wine; sorry but "40's" and "stovepipes" count as more than one drink!  Too much alcohol before bed and you will fall asleep quicker, but you will stay in the shallow stages of sleep most of the night and thus not feel rested the next day, or wake in the middle of the night and be unable to return to sleep.  Also, you will quickly become habituated to this pseudo-sleep-aid and won't be able to fall asleep without more of it. 

More tips on getting a better night of sleep can be found here and here.

You can email this to a friend any friend who would benefit from this info by clicking the little envelope icon () just below...

Generic Medicines are Reliable and Much Cheaper

My Arm Gets Numb During the Night...-

Many times have I had a very worried patient tell me they have noticed that they wake from sleep with an arm that is numb and tingling lately.  This is usually someone between the ages of 30-60, ranging from average size to a little overweight.  Some just want to make sure this is a normal thing, and some are convinced they have brain cancer...

Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery, 5th Edition (Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness and Surgery)Part of my job is finding out what the patients true objective is.  Is she here just to make sure this is nothing to worry about, or is this really affecting her activities of daily living?  Both are good reasons to see the Doctor.

If you wake with an arm that is "asleep" consisting of being numb and tingly that goes away within 20 minutes after rolling over, that is almost never related to any serious condition.  As you get older and heavier and your fat/muscle ratio changes (sorry...), this sort of thing happens more often and does not mean anything is wrong with you. 

This sensation is called a parasthesia and have been written about in the medical literature for centuries.  It is not unusual (or hypochondriacical) to worry about such things as you get older.  Some symptoms, however, should prompt a visit to your doctor...

Warning signs that you should see the doctor for include but are not limited to:
  • waking to find both arms "asleep" at the same time
  • moderate to severe neck pain associated with an numb/tingly arm
  • if your arm falls "asleep" while you are driving, walking or sitting, or while at work
  • if it stays "asleep" for more than 30 minutes after you discover it
  • if there is tingling or numbness in the arm/hand/fingers the next day, even a little bit
  • any fever or weight loss associated with your arm falling "asleep"
The Merck Manual of Patient SymptomsI probably have 2 patients a month see me in the office with this question each month.  With a little bit of knowledge, this is one of those conditions that often does not require a visit to the doctor.  Hopefully, this post will set someones mind at ease; it is a parasthesia, not brain cancer!  Feel free to share this with your hypochondriac friend or relative...

You can email this to a friend any friend who would benefit from this info by clicking the little envelope icon () just below...