In this current day we are spending far too much of our lives being sedentary. Sedentary behaviour is described as a distinct class of behaviours (e.g., sitting, watching TV, driving) characterised by little physical movement and low energy expenditure. But is sitting REALLY the new smoking? Around 15 studies looking at the relationship between sitting and all-cause mortality indicate people who had the highest levels of sitting (around 8-9 hours/day) had ~20% increased risk of premature death compared to those people who sat the least. For smoking, however, smokers had around a 200% increased risk of premature mortality compared to non-smokers, and this risk increased to 400% for those who had the highest rate of smoking! As you can plainly see, the difference between smoking rate and mortality risk is MUCH higher than those who are sedentary. This is not to say that sedentary behaviour is not concerning to health. Risks are said to include:
- Decreased Metabolism
- Decreased bone mineral content
- Decreased vascular health
- Increased cardiovascular disease
- Increased plasma triglyceride levels
- Decreased levels of HDL (good) cholesterol
- Decreased insulin sensitivity
- Increased obesity
- Increased cancer risks
- Increased psychosocial problems
Being seated for long periods of time also increases pressure on your lumbar spinal discs which can increase the chance of disc bulges and herniations. This position also tightens up your hip flexor muscles and contribute to an anterior pelvic tilt that will lead to lower back pain. So try and break up long periods of sitting, and get up from your seat more often throughout the day. Stand up whilst taking phone calls, do calf raises whilst seated, take exercise breaks every hour where you get up and walk around. Think of creative ways to get up and about. Lots of little behavioural changes can contribute greatly to improving your health and reducing morbidity and mortality.
There are many myths surrounding health, nutrition, and fitness as most of us know, but there are none quite as big as the one on cholesterol! A little while back I came across a three-part Catalyst documentary on the ABC – it covered the truth on sugar, cholesterol, and statin drugs. It was hugely controversial and the ABC were even forced to remove these videos from their website. The other day I again saw a TV interview with two of the men on the afore-mentioned documentary who have since published a book called “The Great Cholesterol Myth”. The authors are Dr Stephen Sinatra MD who has been a cardiologist for most of his long life, and Dr Johnny Bowden PhD who is a well-respected nutritionist. What they have to say is important to help us at the very least question our beliefs and hopefully nudge us into some further investigation for ourselves.
As a society we largely believe information that is regurgitated without even looking into the facts. What I am encouraging is to at least make your opinions educated ones. It takes a long time to change perceptions, but remember we all used to believe the world was flat! We believed the myth that cholesterol caused heart disease as fact. We were taught this based on research done in the 1960’s and 70’s which has since been shown to be extremely faulty. That sort of research wouldn’t even get published if done today.
Most well-meaning doctors don’t have time to actually read the details of the research and in that research it shows pretty clearly that cholesterol doesn’t really lead to heart disease. It’s a bad predictor.
Here is some information that you may not have been aware of.
Cholesterol is an essential component for health. Here are some of its important protective uses:
- It is vital for cellular function
- Makes vitamin D in the skin
- It assists with cerebral-vascular function
- It helps with neurotransmitter function so we can think better
- It lubricates the skin
- It protects from diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs
Framingham studies have shown that increased cholesterol over the age of 40 correlates to increased lifespan. (The Framingham Heart Study is a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular study on residents of the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The study began in 1948 with 5,209 adult subjects from Framingham, and is now on its third generation of participants. It is the longest running study on heart disease).
The root cause of heart disease is inflammation, and inflammation causes the plaque that leads to heart problems. So what causes inflammation? Being overweight, what we put into our body, and SUGAR! Sugar is the villain. Sugar in your blood causes oxidative stress and plaque and you get an enormous insulin response.
Ok so what about stain drugs to reduce your cholesterol? Well they DO reduce cholesterol. But remember cholesterol isn’t the problem. By reducing it in your body you are also reducing the protective properties that cholesterol is responsible for. Plus statins have huge side effects. For the general population, for women and children, statins tend NOT to be useful. They do seem to work well with ONE population however….middle aged men with coronary disease, primarily with reduced HDL’s. Statin drugs have been shown to predispose women to diabetes and have also been linked to cancer. It has been linked to coronary calcification, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, muscle pain, and liver problems. In children statins can interfere with development….especially cognitive! Statin drugs are amazing at making pharmaceutical companies VERY rich by using their scare tactics on uneducated people.
The best things to do to reduce the risk of heart disease and to keep the heart healthy are:
- Reduce inflammation.
- Processed foods, sugar, trans fats, alcohol, omega 6 rich foods (vegetable oils) when not balanced adequately with omega 3, ALL encourage inflammation.
- Look for natural foods that have anti-inflammatory properties such as those rich in omega 3, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries, apples, garlic (which helps to reduce blood pressure). Doing a google search will give more specifics.
- Get rid of toxic relationships
- Lower stress in your life (stress is a very high risk factor for heart disease)
- Getting adequate sunshine and Vitamin D (see earlier blog for information on this)
- Getting enough fresh air
- Regular exercise/physical activity
- Saturated fats CAN increase cholesterol, but more of the GOOD cholesterol (yes there is ANOTHER myth). Remember though that there are both good and bad foods that are high in saturated fats so choose the healthy natural ones like coconut oil, nuts, oily fish rather than ones like processed meats.
Keeping the heart healthy is NOT the same as lowering cholesterol!
For 99% of the population cholesterol in the diet has virtually NO effect on anything of importance! Can you hear the eggs screaming out in victory? 🙂
As far as tests are concerned, the number one medical test that could predict your risk of heart disease is the “Particle Size Test”. This test measures specifics about the bad cholesterol in your body. It measures LDL (low density lipoprotein) but not all LDL is as harmful as commonly believed. The small LDL’s are the ones that tend to attach themselves to artery walls (they are oxidized LDL’s). The large ones are not the monsters they are labelled. The small LDL’s get into the nooks and crannies of the arteries and when they bore in they explode, This causes inflammation and contributes fundamentally to the plaques and to the risk of a heart attack.
So if you are someone who likes to think for themselves, I ask you to do some further research and actually investigate the findings. Don’t just been sheep who follow the others in front who have no idea where they are going. Remember….a million wrong people are still wrong.
Happy self-awareness everyone.
It would have been my late fathers birthday a few days ago and reflecting back on his life gave me the idea for content for today’s blog. Coupled with a Precision Nutrition reading that finished with the words “Don’t just survive – THRIVE!” I was compelled to discuss this subject matter in detail.
Ok, so firstly let me set the scene with some family history. Both of my parents were born early last century – my father in 1920 and mother in 1926. Sad;y, both have now passed and each of them lived to around the age of 80 (so lifespan was very similar). However, they lived their lives VERY differently. By the time I was born my mother was in her early 40’s. All I remember growing up is her sitting in her chair watching TV and smoking like a chimney. She suffered depression quite badly and never left the house. Whenever she did anything remotely active she would be in pain for days afterwards. In my eyes, my mother was always old and frail, and though I loved her with all my heart I cry for the life that she had. My father, on the other hand, was forever out and about. He never smoked and was always out taking numerous walks or scenic drives. He was strong and capable and forever present with life and nature. Clearly, their lives were completely opposite to one another.
Quality of life is something that is very precious and often people neglect to make the effort to enhance theirs. Genetics is an important indicator for longevity and disease but your behaviour matters! Your genetics will not counteract bad behaviour. Quality of life principles are really quite simple, but like anything worth having, it requires dedication and effort.
- Physical activity. Get moving! Move more, and move with intent. Work the heart and lungs, strengthen muscles, and improve range of motion by stretching regularly.
- Nourish your body. Eat natural healthy foods with a balance of nutrients amongst all food groups; drink plenty of clean water; get adequate sunlight (without burning the skin); enjoy quality replenishing sleep;
- Nurture your mind. Take time out to relax and unwind the mind; be present with nature (earth yourself on grass, sand, sea). Explore ways to de-stress and be at peace.
- Avoid toxins. Minimise toxic foods (processed, high sugar, trans fats, additives and preservatives); give up cigarettes and control intake of alcohol. Look for other alternatives to prescription medications if needing to take them long term (some medications can be alleviated by change of lifestyle!). Research toxins that surround you everyday – your toiletries, sunscreen, household cleaning agents etc and see if there are healthier alternatives.
Yes this all takes time and effort and it isn’t going to happen all at once. But once you start focusing on health and see the results healthier behaviours can yield then the snowball effect will stem into other areas of your life. I don’t just want to exist. I want to enjoy the time I have on this earth. If quality of life is something that you are lacking, then look for ways to make improvements and bit by bit you yourself may find yourself starting to thrive!