Are You Paying Attention?

 

Watching television today, it’s no wonder so many of us are sick.  We’re literally bombarded by advertising for all sorts of different things that sabotage our health.  From fast food, to microwaveable meals, to prescription drug ads, and none of them are making us any healthier.  Have you been paying attention?

Let’s face it, we’re a nation of consumers driven by advertising.  The next time you’re watching your favorite show, count the number of commercials that showcase products which either specifically sabotage our health or promise better health with an alarming potential for side effects.  Have you ever marveled at the prescription drug ads that spend a few seconds (if at all) telling you about what the medication is for but then spend the bulk of the rest of add telling you about all the harmful effects of taking their product?  Sure, it may cure your hiccups, but when your teeth fall out it suddenly doesn’t sound like a miracle after all.

Just open your eyes.  First, there’s the commercial for frozen pizzas and fast food just before the ads for the bag of chips and soda come on.  Then there’s the alcohol commercials.  You know, the ones that make drinking hard liquor somehow glamorous and convinces you you’re a loser if you’re at a party and don’t have a beer in your hand.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be glamorous or sophisticated?  After all, I always drink my bourbon in a tuxedo with my tie undone…every night (kidding).  But wait, there’s more.

Next are the prescription drug adds…the advertising for chemicals to address the symptoms that came about from shoveling all that garbage into your mouth.  High blood pressure? Here’s a pill.  Diabetes?  Here’s a pill.  Can’t poop?  Here’s a pill.  Why take care of yourself?  Here’s a pill.  The problem is that the cause of all these problems is never really addressed.

Then, there are the insurance companies.  A product you’ll definitely need because your health has become a flaming dumpster fire that you keep fueling with bad habits and the treatment you need has become so expensive, you can’t afford to pay for it on you own.  I mean, who can afford to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars for preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer out of their own pocket?  But it’s really no problem because next, there are the attorneys and they’re itching to sue pretty much anybody, especially the medical companies, because they hurt you.  It’s a nuthouse in a nutshell and so the cycle continues.

So, here’s the translation.  First, you’re bombarded by ads for stuff that poisons you and makes you fat.  Those are followed by the drug companies trying to sell health in a bottle that turns out only to be empty promises of symptom control with a potential for side effects, so you need better insurance to pay for it.  Next, the attorneys are ready to sue just about anybody to get you some money so you can continue to eat more crap and drown your healthcare sorrows in a vodka and tonic.  Still paying attention?

You see, you may have no idea how much of your heath is controlled by the quest for profit.  Here’s a good example.  I would define someone who’s healthy as a person who does not depend on prescription medication or regular medical intervention.  In other words, drugs don’t make you healthy and a healthy person doesn’t need drugs.  A healthy person is pain free, can manage stress, sleeps well at night, and experiences general well-being.  Have you ever wondered how many of the patients that take prescription medications actually become healthier as a result?  Unfortunately, the answer is almost zero.  Remember, symptom control is not the same as health. Just because you’re taking a medication that keeps you blood tests within a certain range doesn’t mean you’re healthy at all. The fact that your symptoms need to be chemically altered to prevent you from dying, by definition, means that you are ill.  So, chew on this: Do you really think that the pharmaceutical companies have any vested interest in getting you well?  They wouldn’t want lose a good customer after all.  How much of their money is spent on advertising versus research after all?

The point is to open your eyes and become an active participant in your health.  Rather than being a sheep, the victim of the next ad or fad, do your own research.  Turn off the boob-tube, the advertising that brainwashes you into a product you really don’t need or want, and start thinking for yourself.  All the tools are there, after all, and most people already know what it takes to become and stay healthy.  They just don’t do it.  But, breaking out of the endless cycle of advertising and gimmicks may be a potent first step to better health.  Be well.

Fat and Happy or Fit and Healthy

There is an old expression that describes contentment as “sitting fat and happy.”  Our modern lifestyle seems geared toward having both, often at the expense of your health and longevity.  While the United States has one of the most sophisticated healthcare delivery systems in the world, we rank 37th in overall health according to the World Health Organization.  Why is that?

Look around you.  We live in an age that is designed to sabotage our health.  Cheap, poor quality food is readily available at every turn.  Our jobs are slowly moving away from physical labor toward a computer driven economy that inhibits exercise.  We even have moving sidewalks.  So, the question becomes is “sitting fat and happy” the picture you had for your life?

Let’s look at the results of a sedentary lifestyle.  There are endless known effects of lack of exercise and poor diet, including:

1.        Increased risk of heart disease

2.       Increased risk of diabetes

3.       Increased risk of cancer

4.       Increased risk of stroke

5.       Decreases immune system

6.       Sleep difficulty

7.       Depression

8.       Digestive problems

9.       Decreased life expectancy

10.   General decline in health

The “fat and happy” lifestyle is a recipe for disaster.  While you may enjoy temporary satisfaction, you are setting yourself up for long-term failure.

Unfortunately, many people are led to believe that being healthy is out of their reach.  They’ve been told that illness is just inevitable and they are destined to suffer the rest of their life with some form of chronic infirmity.  Worse, many of the people telling them this are the very people they trust with their health decisions.

The truth is exactly the opposite and you have more power than you know.  Being healthy is a choice as much as being sick is your decision.  Your body is a self healing machine and functions optimally with adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  Further, where you are in your health right now is more likely a reflection of the decisions you have made up to that point rather than an accident of genetics or fate.  The biggest detriment to being healthy may be you.  Lack of exercise, poor diet, high amounts of stress, and poor nervous system health all contribute to a decline in your overall well being.

If we’re told that as we age getting sick is normal, does that make the 90 year old healthy individual on no medications abnormal?  When did sick become the new normal?  Where you are in your health is a product of the choices you make, a cause and effect.  If you choose to exercise or not, there will be an effect.  If you choose to eat junk food or vegetables, there will be an effect.  If you are able to manage your stress or not, there will be an effect…and so on.

Disease does not occur in a vacuum.  It’s the deliberate result of years of poor decisions and neglect…years of “sitting fat and happy.”  You need to understand that the decisions you make now about your health may determine whether you spend the later years of your life sick and tired or fit and healthy.  The decisions you make now may even shorten or prolong your life.

Even if you are sick, there are ways to restore your health.  No, taking ibuprofen for pain, an acid reducer for acid reflux, or an antibiotic for a sinus infection does not make you healthy.  You can’t get health from chemicals in a bottle.  Medications are only designed to alter body functions in order to manage a disease process…cause and effect.  They are not vital nutrients.  In other words, you’re still “fat” (or, more appropriately, sick) but at least you’re happy.  Health can only come from one place…from inside you.  The decision you have to make is whether you are willing to make the good decisions to take care of yourself as an insurance policy for your future.

The ironic thing about health is that most people know what they need to do to be healthy.  They know they need to stop eating the junk.  They know they need to eat more fruits and vegetables.  They know they need to get more exercise.  They know they should take care of their spines.  Many of the patients I talk to even know that the medications they take are not the solution they are looking for.  Still, they choose not to do anything about being well and prefer to live “fat and happy.”

Each day is a new cross-road in your life.  Each day, you have the option to take care of yourself or not.  Keep in mind that every day you choose not to act builds upon the next.  Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself whether you are going to live each day “fat and happy” or fit and healthy.

Limitless Choices: Finding The Exercise That’s Right For You

When it comes to exercise there are almost limitless options available.  With so many choices, people are often left guessing which type of exercise is right for them.  Facing this decision, there is a lot to consider, including:

1.        What are your goals?

2.       What are you physically able to do?

3.       What form of exercise will fit in your time constraints?

4.       What do you enjoy?

5.       What can you afford?

What are your goals?

This question is probably one of the most neglected when starting a successful exercise regimen.  To truly succeed and be consistent with your exercises, you must begin your goals in mind.   Which of the following is most important to you?

1.        Flexibility

2.       General Muscle Strength

3.       Endurance

4.       Overall muscle definition

5.       Core muscle strength

6.       Weight loss

Becoming clear on your goals will help point you in the direction of the exercise or exercises that will most allow you to accomplish those goals.  So, you have to consider what’s possible given the following primary exercise forms:

1.        Range of motion exercise – This form of exercise can include yoga, pilates, generalized muscle stretching, Tai Chi, or Qi Kung.  Range of motion exercises are ideal for that person who is looking to regain flexibility and decrease stiffness.  Generally, a person who suffers from stiffness or generalized soreness should include some form of range of motion exercise, though this form of motion is ideally suited for anyone.  Flexibility exercises will help lengthen tight muscles, decrease stiffness, and improve overall range of motion.  A weakness with this form of exercise is that it generally does very little to improve cardiovascular tone and may only minimally improve muscle strength.  Weight loss is also nearly impossible with range of motion exercises alone.

2.       Strengthening exercise – Building muscle strength is an extremely popular form of exercise.  Generally, this includes lifting weights (free weights or machines) and any other exercise that is done against resistance.  This form of movement is extremely effective for the person looking to boost muscle strength, produce definition in their muscles, and increase muscle mass.  Weaknesses with this form of exercise are that it produces very little cardiovascular workout unless resistance is produced with ballistic repetition (quick reps with a higher risk of injury).  Additionally, if weight loss is your goal, and it is for some, visual body changes will be a more reliable method of tracking progress than measuring weight.  Generally, resistance exercise will produce a bulky muscle mass rather than the leaner look which accompanies cardiovascular exercise.

3.       Endurance Exercise (Cardiovascular) – Probably the most important requirement for staying well is a healthy cardiovascular system.  Endurance exercises can include walking, but biking, running, elliptical, pool laps, or even calisthenics to help elevate your heart rate while boosting your exercise endurance.   This type of exercise helps to build lean muscle tone and can help to boost your metabolism, leading to increased energy.  Calorie burning is also relatively high, which can lead to rapid weight loss and generally results in a slimmed physique.  While cardiovascular exercise will help to boost your endurance, it will be more difficult to build muscle mass and short resistance to heavy load (found in strength training).  That being said, cardiovascular exercise should be a critical component of any exercise regimen as it helps to strengthen the heart and improves circulation to the extremities.  Keeping that in perspective, no one ever died of muscle weakness, but a weakened heart and circulation can kill you.

Generally a combination of all three is most ideal.  Having worked with thousands of patients over the years, I can say that flexibility exercises are the most neglected of the three major forms of exercise.  All, however, are important to improving and maintaining optimum health.   Many newer forms of exercise are emerging that incorporate aspects of all three such as cross-training, plyometrics, cardio kick-boxing, or boot camps.  There is an exercise regimen out there for you.  You just have to do it.

What Are You Physically Able To Do?

When beginning a new exercise regimen, you have to consider your own physical ability and limitations.  Not every exercise is meant for every person.  For example, a deconditioned person, not used to regular exercise, may not want to begin with a rigorous plyometric exercise.  Likewise, a person who is unable to bear weight for very long may benefit from starting with pool exercises before beginning a walking regimen.

Injuries while exercising are extremely common, usually the result of exercising beyond a person’s ability.  Two popular exercises I would also generally recommend against for most individuals are squats and dead-lifts.  Both have a very high risk of injury, usually because they’re done incorrectly, and have alternative exercises that will produce the same result with much lower risk of damage.

Exercising within a comfortable pain free range of motion is also key to preventing injury.  While the desire is to tax the tissue so as to produce a desired effect, that has to be weighed against the risk of tissue damage if you cross that line.  Exercising with proper form and being proactive about safety will give you a better workout and decrease the likelihood of having to stop your regimen due to an injury.

What  Form Of Exercise Will Fit In Your Time Constraints?

We live in a day and age where time is limited and valuable.  So, then, is your health.  With more and more people becoming more sedentary than ever before, it becomes ever more critical to incorporate an exercise regimen into your daily routine.  Simply put, you have to get moving.

The excuse I always hear is “I don’t have time to exercise.”  I need you to understand that statement is a total cop-out.  What it really means is “exercise is not important to me.”  Incorporating exercise into your regiment is a matter of priorities.  It’s always interesting how the person who “doesn’t have time to exercise” has plenty of time to watch TV, go out to dinner, sleep in on the weekends, or hang out with friends.  It’s never a matter of time.  It’s a matter of priorities. If it were important, you would make the time.

For those looking to be healthy, exercise becomes something that other commitments are scheduled around, not the reverse.  Ultimately, you will have to find an exercise that not only works for you but you can schedule your lifestyle to accomodate.

What Form Of Exercise Do You Enjoy?

It can truly be said that the best exercise in the world is the one you will actually do and do consistently.  With limitless possibilities for exercise, there is an exercise for just about anyone and there is some form of exercise that everyone will enjoy.  You just have to find it.

Whether, you have a knee replacement, back pain, or are just generally ill, there is an exercise for you.  So, what do you like to do?  Some like to hike while others prefer lifting weights.  Still others enjoy an evening run or a morning swim.  Finding what you love doing and sticking with it is a critical key to be successful at any exercise regimen you choose to pursue.

What Can You Afford?

This section should almost be a non-issue, because exercising is basically free.  You don’t need a fancy gym membership or home equipment to exercise.  You can go walking or running outside for no charge.  You can also make a ‘poor-man’s weight set’ out of some empty milk jugs.  Stretching can be performed in your living room and you can do calisthenics with no additional equipment.   You need to change your perspective on what it takes to get moving.  Unfortunately, many people use expense as an excuse not to exercise.  True, there are many amazing gyms and facilities where you can get a great workout, but don’t let the lack of a membership deter you from getting the movement you need to stay healthy.

Joining a gym does offer several benefits, however.  Exercising with your peers adds motivation and being away from home may decrease the likelihood that some form of distraction will take you off task.  Further, the classes offered in a gym may also guide you toward specific forms of exercise and help you exercise more safely.  The equipment available may further open options for specific exercises not possible at home.  A personal trainer may also add accountability and ensure that you exercise safely.

If you are fortunate enough to afford a trainer, choose one that most matches your fitness ideal and seems to represent your own goals.  So, a person working toward larger bulk muscle mass and definition should not necessarily choose a fairly slim, slender trainer, and a person looking to build a more feminine physique may not want a male body builder to train them.

Ultimately, the most successful form of exercise for you is the one you will actually do and continue with.  Oftentimes, people will give up on regular exercise because they feel like they don’t enjoy it.  Well with so many possibilities, find what you do enjoy and stick with it.  Only consistency will give you the desired results you are looking for.  Becoming healthy takes time and you have to invest in yourself to get the results you expect.

Exercise: It’s In Your Genes

Having been in practice for about 15 years, one of the most difficult aspects of delivering patient care is getting them to become an active participant in their own recovery.  In my experience, most patients want health handed to them without having to do any work or make the difficult choices needed in order to become healthy and stay that way.   They also expect a speedy recovery despite the fact that it may have taken them years to get to their current health state.

Genetically, we’re designed as humans to live a “hunter-gatherer lifestyle.”  Meaning, we are genetically programmed to spend most of the day foraging for food and hunting for our dinner.   Think about how humans lived 10,000 years ago, when there were no televisions, computers, or cell phones.  People didn’t spend all day sitting on their butt knowing they can just swing through the drive-through on the way home for dinner.  They had to keep moving or die.

Nowadays, in this era of convenience, we expect life to be easy and, after all, exercising is inconvenient and requires work.  I even had one person tell me one time that they didn’t like to exercise because “they got hot and it made them sweat.”  It was no wonder that the patient has in generally poor health.

The most common excuse for not exercising that I hear on a daily basis is, “I’m too busy.”  I say ‘excuse’ because it’s never about time.  It’s about priorities.  We fill our days with countless tasks so that it seems as if we’re almost constantly busy.  However, when you actually sit down and evaluate your day, you’d be surprised how much time you waste or even how much time is spent on low priority tasks.  Those same patients who “don’t have time” will spend 2-3 hours a day watching television or are unwilling to get up an hour earlier to exercise early in the day.  Their television show is more important than exercise.  Getting that extra hour of sleep is also more important than investing in their health.

The American Medical Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week but when you realize how much exercise we are genetically programmed to get, about 12-16 hours per day, you can see how 90 minutes a week is a vastly inadequate amount of movement to stay healthy.

Look at tribal communities around the world.  Did you know that their instances of heart disease, diabetes, and chronic back problems is almost non-existent?  People living a tribal lifestyle, as we are built to, don’t suffer from heart attacks and sleep apnea, at least not like we do in industrialized countries.  They die from Ebola or injured in traumas.  So, living in a country like we do where the risk for severe infectious disease or being maimed by wild animals is rare, we really choose to experience the general declines in health that many suffer as they age.

Think about your average day.  The average person likely:

1.  Wakes up in the morning and gets ready for work then grabs a quick bite and heads out the door (limited standing and sitting).

2.  Spends 30 minutes in a commute to work (sitting).

3.  Spends 8-10 hours sitting in front of a computer at work, sitting in meetings, or sitting on the phone.

4.  Spends 30-60 minutes commuting home (sitting).

5.  Prepares dinner then watches 2-3 hours of television, all the while taking care of their kids and other committments (mostly sitting).

6.  Finally, goes to bed (laying).

It literally seems like we’re resting ourselves to death.  No one ever became healthy by spending all day on their butt.

Now, say you do get the 90 minutes of exercise recommended by the AMA, is that enough to counteract the 166 remaining hours in the week that you are largely immobile?  I think the answer speaks for itself.

You need to exercise for series of reasons:

1.  It helps improve your health and circulation.  Your heart is a muscle and your need to work it out.  Studies consistently show a direct correlation between exercise and a decrease in heart disease.  Increasing your respiration also helps with oxygen delivery to your tissues to decrease fatigue.

2.  In helps improve immune function.  Exercise stimulates lymphatic flow and improves function of the lymph nodes.

3.  It helps improve digestion.  Movement helps contents move through the gut.

4.  In strengthens your muscles and maintains bone density.  Regular exercise helps boost your endurance, increases your energy, and decreases the degenerative effects of aging like arthritis.

5.  It will help you sleep at night.  Physically exhausting your body will encourage healthy sleep.

6.  It helps to keep your nervous system healthy.  Your nervous system is a sensory and motor processing machine that requires constant mental and physical input and output to stay at peak function.  Exercise has been linked to decreases in pain, depression, and degenerative neurological conditions.

The question becomes are you getting enough exercise to maintain minimal health?  Are you willing and able to make the sacrifices necessary to become healthy and stay that way?  Staying well is a journey, not a destination, that requires constant work and attention.  With unlimited potential but a vast minority of Americans who have a structured exercise regimen, are you, and your unwillingness to change, the only thing standing between you and being well?

Including Chiropractic: Don’t Skip the Most Important Step to a Healthier You

Why should you see a chiropractor?  After all you really don’t have any back pain, right?  As a chiropractic physician, one of the biggest misconceptions I see in our office on a near daily basis is the assumption that chiropractic care is just for back pain.  This erroneous myth is perpetuated by the amazing success that chiropractors have with caring for patients with back pain in our office.  It’s also the result of a reactive ‘disease management’ system that only treats people after they’re already sick.

To be honest, for a chiropractor, most cases of back pain are fairly straightforward.  Making a difference in the patient’s health and moving them away from ‘crisis management’ thinking is a lot more difficult.  Seeking chiropractic care for just back pain is like thinking about going to the dentist just for cavities.  There’s more to it than that.  The big difference is that you can replace your teeth but you only get one chance to take care of your spine and nervous system.  There’s no such thing as a spinal transplant.

Did you know that the first documented chiropractic adjustment was not for back pain at all?  It was for a case of hearing loss.  Unfortunately, this is a history lesson that is even lost on some of my own colleagues. In 1895, the founder of chiropractic care, D.D. Palmer performed a spinal mobilization on a deaf janitor named Harvey Lillard.  Mr. Lillard claimed to have been deaf for years and believed it began when he felt something shift in his upper back.  Reasoning that if a bone shifting out of place could lead to hearing loss then moving the bone back should restore it, Palmer mobilized the vertebra in Harvey Lillard’s upper back, ultimately restoring his hearing.

In the past 100 years, chiropractic care has established a reputation as an alternative option to traditional medicine.  Today, there are over 60,000 chiropractors in every state in the country.  Chiropractors are so intertwined with treating back pain because that condition produces such a rapid improvement with little residual as to be astounding in many cases.  If you read the research, though, you’ll find that chiropractic care has been shown to be effective for everything from headaches to digestive problems.  It’s even effective for pediatric conditions such as colic and asthma.

Most people regularly accept the importance of diet and exercise in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Few however, other than a chiropractor, really teach about the importance of maintaining healthy nervous system function to maintain health and ward off disease.  In fact, less than 10% of the population has even been to a chiropractor before.

Not many people could argue against eating well and getting regular exercise as important to health, but my experience has shown me that most physicians will actually discourage chiropractic care unless the patient has a back pain symptom.  While this approach is in line with treating disease, this is not a ‘healthcare’ approach.  To treat back pain only after it occurs does nothing to prevent the condition in the first place, minimize the risk of back injury, or maintain healthy nervous system function.

To be truly healthy, you have to reject the ‘disease management’ model that is reactive when it comes to health.  To be truly well, you need to take proactive steps to prevent pain and illness from happening in the first place.  I would argue that chiropractic care is most effective when the patient has little to no pain, essentially when the body is not in acute distress and can accept the adjustment and hold it.

We are constantly bombarded by physical and mental stresses.  These stresses can be disastrous to the the body if left unchecked.  How many stresses do you endure on a daily basis that your body has to respond, adapt, and deal with?  Disease ensues when your body is no longer able to counter the stresses in a healthy way.  Chiropractic care helps improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress by decreasing the physical load on the body and removing pressure from the nervous system.

To be truly healthy, you must include all aspects of a healthy lifestyle.  That includes eating well, exercising, and maintaining your body’s nervous, muscular, and skeletal system.  If you want to be at your best, just like regular diet and exercise, you need spinal adjusting on a regular basis.