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    • Eating Right and Exercise Can Turn Back the Clock on Your Brain’s Age

      According to a survey by AARP,1 93 percent of Americans believe maintaining brain health is very or extremely important. Contrary to popular belief, forgetfulness and senior moments are not an inevitable part of aging. Although becoming forgetful is often regarded as normal as you get older, it is possible to maintain your quick wit and intelligence at any age. The good news is your brain is a dynamic organ, constantly adapting and changing, for better or for worse. Many of your daily activities, such as lack of sleep, can seriously interfere with your memory the next day. On the other hand, a healthy lifestyle supports your brain health and even encourages your brain to grow new neurons, known as neurogenesis or neuroplasticity. For instance, studies have found how your body responds to stress may be a factor in how your brain ages, including an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease.2 Exercise is a lifestyle choice affecting your reaction to stress and is often valued for physical changes. However, there is also ample evidence to demonstrate strength training is as important for healthy brain and nervous system as it is for muscle strength. A new study demonstrates the elderly may be able to improve cognitive function with changes to dietary and exercise habits.3 Small Changes Reap Big Rewards in Cognitive Function In just six months, researchers from Duke University found cognitive improvements in adults enrolled in their study. James Blumenthal, Ph.D., clinical psychologist from Duke University, led the research published in Neurology. He believes this was the first study to look at the separate and combined effects of diet and exercise on cognitive decline in those who are vulnerable to developing dementia later in life. There were 160 adult participants with a previous history of high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risks, who never exercised and had cognitive challenges in executive functioning.  Those who had a diagnosis of dementia were excluded. The average age was 65, and two-thirds were female. At the beginning of the study,4 the average cognitive skills in the participants were similar to those of individuals 93 years old — 28 years older on average than the actual age of the participants. The volunteers were divided into four groups. The first participated in a structured aerobic exercise program for the first three months and were given exercises to do at home in the last three months. The second group were asked to eat a low sodium DASH diet and were educated on the program. The third group were asked to exercise and change their diet at the same time. The fourth group served as a control and received a 30-minute educational session over the phone on how to improve their brain health, but were asked not to change their exercise or dietary habits.5 Results Revealed Reversal in Mental Age of Nine Years Before the start of the study each underwent a battery of cognitive tests, a treadmill assessment stress test and a dietary analysis. Additionally, blood sugar and lipid levels were recorded. At the conclusion, researchers found those who followed the DASH diet with no exercise did not have a significant improvement in their thinking skills. The group who only exercised had greater improvements in executive functioning than the group who did not exercise. But it was the group who changed their diet and exercised who were able to reverse their brain age by nine years, bringing their average mental age to 84. The control group's executive function declined by six months, which was expected as they underwent no interventions, and it was the total length of the study. Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine, who was not involved in the study, commented:6 "The results showed that controlled aerobic activity within a very short period of time can have a significant impact on the part of the brain that keeps people taking care of themselves, paying their bills and the like. Not only can you improve, but you can improve within six months!" Leg Strength Improves Nervous System Health The participants in the study were asked to do 35 minutes of continuous walking or stationary cycling just three times a week.7 The current study supports other recent data published in Frontiers in Neuroscience,8 showing neurological health is as dependent on signals from your large leg muscles as it is on signals from your brain to your muscles. In other words, it's a two-way street and neither is more important than the other. According to the press release, the finding9 "fundamentally alters brain and nervous system medicine — giving doctors new clues as to why patients with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other neurological diseases often rapidly decline when their movement becomes limited." The researchers found the ability to perform load-bearing exercises was not only important to muscle mass and atrophy, but also to your body's chemistry. Neurosignaling was impacted in such a way the nervous system and brain began to deteriorate in an animal study after only 28 days. Two genes were also adversely impacted, one of which plays an important role in mitochondrial health and function. Healthy well-functioning mitochondria are crucial for optimal health. This may be the root of nearly all chronic diseases, including neurodegeneration, as your brain requires the most energy of any organ, nearly 20 percent generated in your body. In her book "Sitting Kills, Moving Heals," Joan Vernikos Ph.D., former director of NASA's life science division, describes how weight-bearing against gravity is crucial component allowing human body and brain to function optimally. Another key factor is how exercise affects brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), found in both your brain and muscles. Exercise stimulates production of a protein called FNDC5, which in turn triggers BDNF. In your brain, BDNF preserves existing brain cells, activating them to convert into new neurons and promoting actual brain growth. In your neuromuscular system, BDNF protects your neuromotor, a critical element in your muscle protecting it from degradation. Neuromotor degradation is part of the process explaining age-related muscle atrophy. A list of studies demonstrating links between your muscles and brain in my previous article, "For Optimal Brain and Nervous System Health, You Need to Exercise Your Leg Muscles." Reduce Sitting Time to Protect Your Cognitive and Physical Health Lower body exercises are important to maintaining cognitive abilities as you age. Although the researchers demonstrated walking three times a week could improve cognitive abilities in just six months, other research has demonstrated physical damage done by sitting all day cannot be offset by exercising just once a day. Prolonged periods of time spent sitting can be deadly. A research team10 evaluated 8,000 Americans over age 45 for a four-year period. Data demonstrated those who moved more were healthier overall. Consistent exercise helps improve your metabolism, reduces your risk of diabetes and certain cancers, and helps maintain a healthy weight. Increasing inactivity as you age may also reduce your ability to remain mobile the older you get. One study11 found those who are most active and sat less than six hours a day were the least disabled as they aged, as compared to those who were the least active and got less than three hours of activity a week. The researchers concluded,12 "reduction of sedentary time, combined with increased physical activity may be necessary to maintain function in older age." Another study from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine13 tracked a group of women and found those who sat for 10 or more hours a day experienced telomere shortening equivalent to eight years of aging. In other words, too much sitting accelerated the physical aging process by eight years. Lead study author Aladdin Shadyab, Ph.D., UCSD School of Medicine, said in a news release,14 "Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age does not always match biological age." Cyclical Ketogenic Nutrition Plan and Intermittent Fasting Supports Brain Health In the featured study, participants used the DASH diet, which reduces processed foods and increases intake of whole foods. However, the food plan does not address the compelling changes in health produced by eating a ketogenic diet. One of the most striking studies15 on carbohydrates and brain health revealed high-carbohydrate diets increase your risk of dementia by 89 percent, while high-fat diets lower it by 44 percent. A ketogenic diet is high in healthy fats and low in net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber), prompting your body to start burning fat as its primary fuel, rather than sugar. This produces ketones, which not only burn efficiently but are also a superior fuel for your brain. Ketones also generate fewer reactive oxygen species (ROS) and less free-radical damage. Recent papers have also demonstrated the benefits of nutritional ketosis for brain health. In the first,16 researchers found a ketogenic diet improved neurovascular function, in part by improving your gut microbiome. In the second paper,17 the authors concluded a ketogenic diet acted as a veritable "fountain of youth" in their animal study by significantly improving neurovascular and metabolic functions, compared to the animals eating an unrestricted diet. Poor neurovascular function is associated with the loss of language, memory and attention and a reduction in cerebral blood flow which raises your risk for depression, anxiety and dementia. Authors of the study analyzing the effect of a ketogenic diet on neurovascular function in an animal model wrote,18 "Collectively, KD [ketogenic diet] may be protective against various neurological disorders, possibly through the restoration of neurovascular function and by maintaining healthy gut microbiome." Consider These Strategies to Support Cognitive Health Eating a ketogenic diet helps protect your brain from free radical damage and supplies the cells with preferred fuel. You may also consider including additional foods and strategies to support your cognitive health. In my previous article, "What Are Some of the Best Brain-Boosting Foods?" are listed foods you may easily incorporate into your daily nutrition plan. The following are additional strategies to consider: Vitamin D — Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that influences virtually every cell in your body, which is why maintaining a healthy level between 60 ng/mL to 80 ng/mL is important not just for your bones but also for heart and brain health, optimal immune function and general disease prevention. In fact, there's an important connection between insufficient vitamin D and insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, both Type 119 (insulin-dependent diabetes) and Type 2,20 and both affect brain health.21,22 Sleep — During deep sleep your brain activates the glymphatic system, allowing detoxification and elimination of accumulated waste products, including amyloid-beta proteins, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. It is important to achieve eight hours of quality sleep each night, which I discuss in my previous article, "Sleep — Why You Need It and 50 Ways to Improve It." Lowering Inflammation — Chronic inflammation and obesity can adversely impact your brain function.23 For a list of foods shown to reduce inflammation and a discussion about how inflammation is linked to brain volume, see my previous article, "Foods That Prevent Inflammation Also Enhance Your Brain Function." Some foods include garlic, blueberries, walnuts and spinach. Ashwagandha — Memory enhancement is one traditional use, particularly of the root. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements24 showed positive results using ashwagandha root extract to improve memory and cognitive functions in 50 people with mild cognitive impairment. Bacopa — Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), or moneywort, is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine used in India for over three centuries. The bacopa herb is commonly known as a nootropic herb, which means it can help repair damaged neurons and improve brain function. Nootropics are usually said to have the ability to "unlock" the brain when it comes to creativity and cognitive drive.25 Curcumin — A double-blind, placebo-controlled study26 included 40 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 with reported mild memory lapses but no dementia. Those who received curcumin supplementation saw significant improvements in memory and concentration, while the control group experienced no improvement. Dr. Mercola

    • Top 22 Intermittent Fasting Benefits

      30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here. Intermittent fasting is a powerful approach that facilitates weight loss and helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Research overwhelmingly supports the notion that ditching the "three square meals a day" approach in favor of intermittent fasting can do wonders for your health, as your body simply isn't designed to be continuously fed. Research by Dr. Satchidananda Panda suggests 90 percent of people eat across a span of 12 hours a day, and many across even longer timespans. Sadly, this is a prescription for metabolic disaster and will clearly wreak havoc with your metabolism over time. Intermittent fasting typically refers to not eating for at least 14 consecutive hours a day. However, not eating for 16 to 18 hours is likely closer to metabolic ideal. This means you are only eating your food within a six to eight-hour window. Why Intermittently Fast? The cycling of feasting (feeding) and famine (fasting) mimics the eating habits of our ancestors and restores your body to a more natural state that allows a whole host of biochemical benefits to occur. In recent years, it's become increasingly clear that your body cannot run optimally when there's a continuous supply of calories coming in. For starters, when you eat throughout the day and never skip a meal, your body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which downregulates enzymes that utilize and burn stored fat. As a result, you start becoming progressively more insulin resistant and start gaining weight, and most efforts to lose weight become ineffective. It's important to realize that in order to lose body fat, your body must first be able to actually burn fat. Two powerful ways of shifting your body from carb-burning to fat-burning are fasting and/or eating a cyclical ketogenic diet. For optimal results, you'd want to do both,1,2 as these strategies support each other, allowing for speedier results. To learn more about this, see "Why Intermittent Fasting Is More Effective Combined With Ketogenic Diet." Importantly, many biological repair and rejuvenation processes also take place while you're fasting, and this is a primary reason why all-day grazing triggers disease while fasting prevents them. The Many Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting A large and growing body of medical research supports the use of intermittent fasting, showing it has a wide range of biological benefits. For example, intermittent fasting has been shown to:3,4,5 1. Promote insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for your health, as insulin resistance or poor insulin sensitivity contributes to nearly all chronic diseases 2. Promote leptin sensitivity 3. Normalize ghrelin levels, also known as the "hunger hormone," resulting in lowered hunger 4. Improve blood sugar management by increasing insulin-mediated glucose uptake rates6 5. Lower triglyceride levels 6. Increase human growth hormone production (HGH) — Commonly referred to as "the fitness hormone," HGH plays an important role in maintaining health, fitness and longevity, including promotion of muscle growth, and boosting fat loss by revving up your metabolism. Research7 shows fasting can raise HGH by as much as 1,300 percent in women and 2,000 percent in men. The fact that it helps build muscle while simultaneously promoting fat loss explains why HGH helps you lose weight without sacrificing muscle mass, and why even athletes can benefit from intermittent fasting 7. Suppress inflammation and reduce oxidative damage8 8. Upregulate autophagy and mitophagy, natural cleansing processes necessary for optimal cellular renewal and function 9. Boost fat burning and improve metabolic efficiency and body composition, including significant reductions in visceral fat and body weight in obese individuals  10. Prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes, as well as slow its progression 11. Improve immune function9 12. Lower blood pressure 13. Reduce your risk of heart disease10 — One study11 found those who fasted regularly had a 58 percent lower risk of coronary disease compared to those who never fasted 14. Reproduce some of the cardiovascular benefits associated with physical exercise 15. Boost mitochondrial energy efficiency and biosynthesis 16. Shift stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal 17. Reduce your risk of cancer 18. Increase longevity — There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalizing insulin sensitivity is a major one, but fasting also inhibits the mTOR pathway, which plays an important part in driving the aging process 19. Regenerate the pancreas12 and improve pancreatic function 20. Improve cognitive function, thanks to rising ketone levels 21. Protect against neurological diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease13 and Parkinson's disease,14,15 thanks to the production of ketone bodies (byproducts of fatty acid breakdown, which are a healthy and preferred fuel for your brain) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, and triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health) 22. Eliminate sugar cravings as your body adapts to burning fat instead of sugar Note: These benefits are not listed in order of importance. Intermittent Fasting Considerations While intermittent fasting is likely to be beneficial for most people, here are some points to consider: • Intermittent fasting does not have to be a form of calorie restriction — It's a practice that should make you feel good. If your fasting strategy is making you feel weak and lethargic, you need to reevaluate your approach. • Sugar cravings are temporary — Your hunger and craving for sugar will slowly dissipate as your body starts burning fat as its primary fuel. Once your body has successfully shifted into fat burning mode, it will be easier for you to fast for as long as 18 hours and still feel satiated. • It is not advisable to practice intermittent fasting if your daily diet is filled with processed foods — While intermittent fasting may sound like a panacea against ill health and excess weight, it alone may not provide you with all of these benefits. The quality of your diet plays an important role if you're looking for more than mere weight loss. It's critical to avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar/fructose and grains. Focus your diet on vegetable carbohydrates, healthy protein in moderate amounts, and healthy fats such as butter, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and raw nuts. Considerations to Take Into Account Before Embarking on Longer Fasts One of the reasons I've reverted back to advising caution with water-only fasting is because multiday water fasting is very effective at liberating stored toxins from your fat, which can cause problems if your detoxification system isn't properly supported. While I've done several five-day water-only fasts in the past, I've now switched to a partial fast that supplies many of the nutrients your body needs to support your detox pathways instead. It involves a base of intermittent fasting for 16 to 18 hours, and once or twice a week you have a 300- to 800-calorie meal loaded with detox supporting nutrients, followed by a 24-hour fast. So, in essence, you're then only eating one 300- to 800-calorie meal in 42 hours. Using an infrared sauna and taking effective binders, like chlorella, modified citrus pectin, cilantro and even activated charcoal can help eliminate liberated toxins from your body and prevent their reabsorption. Gradually easing into longer fasts will also help minimize most side effects associated with fasting, as will transitioning over to a high-fat, low-carb diet, to help your body to adjust to using fat as a primary fuel. The so-called "keto flu" is often related to sodium deficiency, so it's recommended to take a high-quality unprocessed salt each day. This will also help reduce the likelihood of headaches and/or intractable muscle cramps at night. Another important mineral is magnesium. It's particularly important if you are diabetic, as magnesium deficiency is very common among Type 2 diabetics. If you are taking medication, especially for your blood sugar, you have to make sure you talk to your doctor, because there's a risk your blood sugar may end up dipping too low. If you're taking insulin, and keep taking insulin while fasting, you could also get yourself into trouble. If your doctor is adverse toward or unfamiliar with fasting, you'd be wise to find one that has some experience in this area so they can guide you on how to do this safely. There are also several absolute contraindications to water-only fasting. If any of the following apply to you, you should not do extended types of fasting: Underweight, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or less. Malnourished (in which case you need to eat healthier, more nutritious food). Children should not fast for longer than 24 hours, as they need nutrients for continued growth. If your child needs to lose weight, a far safer and more appropriate approach is to cut out refined sugars and grains. Fasting is risky for children as it cuts out ALL nutrients, including those they need a steady supply of. Pregnant and/or breastfeeding women. The mother needs a steady supply of nutrients in order to assure the baby's healthy growth and development, so fasting during pregnancy or while breastfeeding is simply too risky for the child. Take Control of Your Health With Intermittent Fasting Historically, generous amounts of food were not accessible throughout the entire year, let alone 24/7, and evidence shows you will radically increase your risk for chronic degenerative disease if you're keeping your body continuously fed. As noted in the paper "A Time to Fast," published in the November 2018 issue of Science:16 "Adjustment of meal size and frequency have emerged as powerful tools to ameliorate and postpone the onset of disease and delay aging, whereas periods of fasting, with or without energy intake, can have profound health benefits. The underlying physiological processes involve periodic shifts of metabolic fuel sources, promotion of repair mechanisms, and the optimization of energy utilization for cellular and organismal health. Future research endeavors should be directed to the integration of a balanced nutritious diet with controlled meal size and patterns and periods of fasting to develop better strategies to prevent, postpone and treat the socioeconomical burden of chronic diseases associated with aging … In general, both prolonged reduction in daily caloric intake and periodic fasting cycles have the power to delay the onset of disease and increase longevity." If you're new to the concept of intermittent fasting, consider starting by skipping breakfast; eat lunch and dinner within an eight-hour timeframe, and make sure you stop eating three hours before you go to sleep. The latter is important, as it helps protect your mitochondrial function. Recent research17 shows men who eat supper at least two hours before bedtime have a 26 percent lower risk of prostate cancer, and women have a 16 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who eat dinner closer to bedtime. For more details on why this is so, see "Eating Early Dinner Aids Weight Loss and Lowers Cancer Risk." When you do eat, focus on healthy protein in moderate amounts, minimize net carbs like pasta and bread, exchanging them for healthy fats like butter, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and raw nuts.  This will help shift you into fat burning mode. Remember, it may take a few weeks, but once you succeed, you may be easily able to fast for 18 hours and not feel hungry, making it that much easier to achieve your ideal weight. Virtually every aspect of your health will also begin to improve. >>>>> Click Here Dr. Mercola

    • Daily Walks May Decrease Severity of First Time Strokes

      A new study based on Swedish stroke registries suggests adults who participate in light to moderate physical activity may have less severe strokes than their physically inactive peers. The researchers recommended at least four hours of walking or two to three hours of swimming a week as a potential means of reducing stroke severity. Since it's rare to find a health condition that cannot be improved by exercise, these findings are not surprising. Especially when it comes to safeguarding your cardiovascular health, regular exercise provides numerous benefits. Let's take a closer look at how walking can boost your overall health and well-being, particularly as it relates to strokes. Research Associates Exercise With a Reduction in Stroke Severity The September 2018 edition of the journal Neurology1 highlights research about the potential relationship between physical activity and strokes. Data extracted from two Swedish stroke registries, involving 925 adult stroke survivors with an average age of 73 (range 20 to 104), associated weekly exercise with a reduction in stroke severity. Notably, the data on exercise habits was self-reported and gathered only after the participants had suffered a stroke — two potentially limiting factors for the research. After all, a person's memory and cognition may be negatively affected by even a mild stroke and those effects would likely be amplified in cases of a severe stroke. Researchers noted that 80 percent of the study participants had suffered a mild stroke and nearly 94 percent had had an ischemic stroke. About the study, Dr. Katharina Sunnerhagen, professor and chief physician in the department of clinical neuroscience at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, stated:2 "Stroke is a major cause of serious disability, so finding ways to prevent stroke or reduce the disability caused by stroke [is] important. While exercise benefits health in many ways, our research suggests that even simply getting in a small amount of physical activity each week may have a big impact later by possibly reducing the severity of a stroke." With respect to classifying their prestroke physical activity, participants were asked after the fact about their movement and exercise habits during leisure time before they had the stroke. Sunnerhagen and her team estimated the average amount of physical activity for each participant based on questions related to the duration and intensity of exercise performed. Below are some additional facts about the study: 3 Fifty-two percent of the participants said they were not physically active before their stroke; 42 percent had engaged in light activity; and 6 percent were involved in moderate physical activity Light physical activity was defined as walking at least four hours a week Moderate physical activity was defined as engaging in more intense forms of exercise such as brisk walking, running or swimming for two to three hours per week Relatives were asked to confirm the exercise levels reported by stroke survivors, when needed Neither diabetes, the patient's sex and smoking, nor the use of blood pressure medication or statin drugs, influenced stroke severity Based on the data, the researchers noted people who engaged in light to moderate physical activity before their stroke were twice as likely to have a mild stroke when compared to people who were physically inactive. Based on the outcomes, light and moderate physical activity were found to be equally beneficial, which means getting any kind of exercise is helpful to reduce stroke severity. "There is a growing body of evidence that [suggests] physical activity may have a protective effect on the brain," says Sunnerhagen. "Further research is needed to better understand just how physical activity influences the severity of a stroke."4 For now, she recommends physical inactivity be monitored as a possible risk factor for severe stroke. Regular Exercise Is One of the Keys to Optimal Health For strokes and nearly every other health condition, getting even a little exercise is better than none. In fact, it will be impossible for you to achieve optimal health unless you exercise on a regular basis. (Eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient sleep are two other important factors to ensure your well-being.) In an editorial accompanying the Swedish research, Nicole Spartano, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine in endocrinology, diabetes, nutrition and weight management at Boston University School of Medicine, and Julie Bernhardt, Ph.D., physiotherapist and clinical head of the stroke division at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the University of Melbourne in Australia, underscore the strong epidemiologic evidence that supports physical activity's effectiveness to prevent stroke. They stated:5 "Physical activity has a favorable effect on vascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, lipid profile and psychosocial factors, each known to affect stroke risk. A growing body of literature also suggests that even among individuals who have [had a] stroke, those who led a physically active lifestyle tended to have less severe strokes. Furthermore, experimental research in animal models supports the value of exercise before and after stroke as a modifier of poststroke outcome." On a weekly basis, the American Heart Association (AHA)6 recommends you get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both types. For moderate exercise, all you need to do is walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you prefer vigorous activities like biking or running, you should target at least 25 minutes a day, three days a week. "Even quite light physical activity — such as walking for at least half an hour a day — enhances the chances of having a milder stroke compared to inactive persons," Sunnerhagen told MedPage Today.7 The AHA also recommends you add moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity at least two days a week. One of my favorite types of high-intensity exercise is the four-minute Nitric Oxide Dump workout. For the best results, I suggest you perform the routine every day, at least three times a day. Once you try it, you're likely to make it part of your daily exercise regimen. Keep in mind that, generally speaking, the more vigorous the activity, the less time needed to get results. So with high-intensity activities like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you can achieve significant health benefits in just minutes a week. Beyond increasing your frequency of exercise, it's imperative you also take a closer look at how much time you spend sitting. A sedentary lifestyle is fast becoming a significant risk factor for chronic disease. With respect to the current study, Dr. Robert Glatter from the department of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, commented in Forbes:8 "Exercise and staying active is crucial as we age. The study, while limited due to the bias of self-reported data, still offers sound advice. Engaging in exercise may offer an extra benefit as we age, reducing the chances of having a debilitating stroke that could leave us paralyzed or reduce [our] cognitive abilities. What's clear from a growing body of medical literature is that our principal enemy is physical inactivity. We have to fight the urge to sit, and get up and become more active throughout the day and our lives." Do You Know the Risk Factors for Stroke? Glatter also called out modifiable factors known to influence your stroke risk. Left unchecked, he noted the following conditions can increase your risk of stroke:9 Atrial fibrillation (AFib) Cholesterol (Note: It's important to balance your levels, not eliminate cholesterol from your diet) Diabetes High blood pressure With the exception of AFib, Glatter notes the other factors also have been shown to increase your risk of coronary artery disease, making you susceptible to a heart attack.10 In case you are unfamiliar with AFib, it is an irregular or quivering heartbeat (also known as an arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, heart failure and stroke. The AHA says11 when left unchecked AFib doubles your risk of heart-related deaths and is associated with a fivefold increased risk for stroke. They also note some 2.7 million Americans are affected by AFib. If you are dealing with AFib or one or more of the other risk factors, it's important you face the reality you may be more vulnerable to stroke. Certainly, it's worth your time to dig into any potential underlying causes. For example, with respect to AFib, hyperthyroidism might be driving the arrhythmia. If so, treating the thyroid condition may be enough to resolve AFib. Similarly, if your high blood pressure is primarily driven by obesity, perhaps it's time to overhaul your diet. By reducing or eliminating your intake of processed foods and sugar you can get back to a healthy weight that will most likely bring your blood pressure down. Type 2 diabetes also has been shown to be reversable through dietary and lifestyle changes. If you are prediabetic or diabetic, reducing your fructose consumption is a great first step you can take to better your health. Strive for less than 15 grams per day of fructose from whole fruit and other sources. Finally, for useful information on balancing your cholesterol levels, check out my "How to Make Sense of Your Cholesterol Levels Infographic." Exercise Is Great for Your Brain Spartano and Bernhardt believe exercise may help make your brain more resilient, which is something I also believe. They stated, "Physical activity induces angiogenesis, neurogenesis and synaptogenesis in the brain and likely contributes to resiliency of the brain, the brain's cognitive reserve, through these mechanisms."12 In addition, they highlighted earlier research13 suggesting low-intensity daily walking helped preserve hippocampal volume and cognitive function in older adults. Spartano and Bernhardt noted that research "provides some of the strongest evidence for the influence of physical activity on cognitive reserve."14 To me, exercise is beneficial in helping to promote mitochondrial changes that can lead to whole-body benefits. Even low-intensity exercise like walking can be a "remedy" for the declines in mitochondrial biogenesis and mitochondrial protein quality typically seen with aging. Exercise can also promote mitochondrial biogenesis in the brain, potentially leading to a reduction or reversal of age-associated decline in cognitive function and assistance in repairing brain damage after a stroke. 15,16 The researchers who evaluated the effects of treadmill exercise on lab rats subjected to ischemia, said:17 "The results indicate that exercise can promote mitochondrial biogenesis after ischemic injury, which may serve as a novel component of exercise-induced repair mechanisms of the brain. Understanding the molecular basis for exercise-induced neuroprotection may be beneficial in the development of therapeutic approaches for brain recovery from the ischemic injury. Based upon our findings, stimulation or enhancement of mitochondrial biogenesis may prove a novel neuroprotective strategy in the future." Spartano and Bernhardt commented that animal studies also have demonstrated the role of exercise in promoting redundancies in your cerebrovascular system and decreasing stroke severity.18 "Maintaining an active lifestyle may help retain this collateral circulation, as well as having other protective effects on cognitive reserve that we have yet to fully understand," they noted. "A physically active person who has a stroke might, therefore, be protected." 19 The bottom line: Physical exercise is good for your brain and a potential "insurance policy" against strokes. Cross-Cultural Study Evaluates the Dynamics of Walking While you may not give much thought to how you walk, research published in the journal PeerJ — Life & Environment20 suggests there are unique aspects of this common physical activity that vary from country to country. After observing hundreds of walkers in the Northwestern U.S. and in Central Uganda, researchers from Seattle Pacific University assert people walk differently depending on where they live and with whom they walk. In Seattle, Washington, they noted: People sped up when they walked with others Men hurried when walking with other men Both men and women walked, on average, about 20 percent faster when walking with children In Mukono, Uganda, they observed: People walked more quickly when they were alone; the pace of solo Ugandan walkers averaged about 11 percent faster than lone walkers in Seattle Walkers in groups were slower Both men and women walked, on average, about 16 percent slower when accompanied by children, whether the kids were carried or walked on their own Given the observational nature of the study — the researchers did not interview any of the participants — the motivating factors of the walkers remains unknown. That said, lead researcher Cara Wall-Scheffler, Ph.D., biology professor at Seattle Pacific University, offers a hypothesis. She stated, "It seems plausible that people in Uganda use their time when they are walking in groups to socialize and bond."21 That may explain why they walk slowly with others, she says. Wall-Scheffler and her undergraduate researcher Leah Bouterse observed the pace of group walking in the U.S. was quite different from what they saw in Uganda. "If the kids are with you, the walking seems to become more task-oriented [in the U.S.]," Wall-Scheffler said. "You have to get things done. You hurry."22 Whether you choose to walk in a group or alone, walking is an easy exercise you can engage in nearly anywhere — and, as noted in the video above, it changes your body in positive ways. Now that you know even low-intensity walking can potentially help protect your brain from strokes, or at least reduce the stroke intensity, it's time to lace up your shoes and get moving. Dr. Mercola

    • Top 8 Benefits of Squats

      30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health This article is included in Dr. Mercola's All-Time Top 30 Health Tips series. Every day during the month of January, a new tip will be added that will help you take control of your health. Want to see the full list? Click here. If you're looking for a powerful way to boost your overall fitness and get fast results, consider adding squats to your routine. Squats are relatively simple to perform, require no equipment and can be done just about anywhere. Importantly, while squats are often regarded as a leg exercise, they actually benefit your entire body, including your core. Top 8 Benefits of Squats What makes squats such a fantastic exercise? They: Help your body produce nitric oxide (NO) — This is actually one of the primary reasons squats are so beneficial. NO is a soluble gas produced and stored in the lining of your endothelium (blood vessels), which acts as an important signaling molecule throughout your body. When you exercise and your muscles ache, it's because you've run out of oxygen, which your body compensates for by releasing NO (to dilate your blood vessels making it easier for oxygen to be delivered). This process fuels muscle development. NO also promotes healthy endothelial function, heart health and healthy blood flow by helping your veins and arteries dilate. This, in turn, allows vital oxygen and nutrients to flow freely throughout your body. NO also plays a protective role in your mitochondrial health and improves your immune function. By stimulating the thinning of your blood and decreasing its viscosity, squats may also help discourage the development of blood clots that could cause a heart attack or stroke. Build muscle in your entire body and tone your abs and glutes — Squats obviously help to build your leg muscles (including your quadriceps, hamstrings and calves), but they also create an anabolic environment, which promotes bodywide muscle building. In fact, when done properly, squats are so intense that they trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are vital for muscle growth and will also help to improve muscle mass when you train other areas of your body aside from your legs. So, squats can actually help you improve both your upper and lower body strength. Burn more fat — One of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is to gain more muscle, as muscle is more metabolically active, and is thought to burn about three times more calories than fat, pound for pound.1 Improve mobility and balance — Strong legs are crucial for maintaining mobility as you get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core, stabilizing muscles that are important for balance. They also improve communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which can help prevent falls. Taken together, these benefits translate into your body moving more efficiently. Prevent athletic injuries — Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. Squats also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility (squats improve the range of motion in your ankles and hips) and balance, as noted above. Boost sports performance — Whether you're a weekend warrior or a mom who chases after a toddler, you'll be interested to know that studies have linked squatting strength with athletic ability.2 Specifically, squatting helped athletes run faster and jump higher, which is why this exercise is part of virtually every professional athlete's training program. Improve insulin sensitivity — Muscles participate in the regulation of glucose metabolism, lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, so by building muscle throughout your body, squats help protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Help with waste removal — Squats also improve the movement of body fluids, thereby aiding in removal of waste and delivery of nutrition to all tissues, including organs and glands. They're also useful for improved movement of feces through your colon and can lead to more regular bowel movements. How to Perform Squats Properly Squats have long been criticized as being destructive to your knees, but squats can actually improve knee stability and strengthen connective tissue when done properly. As noted in one scientific review:3 "Concerns about degenerative changes of the tendofemoral complex and the apparent higher risk for chondromalacia, osteoarthritis, and osteochondritis in deep squats are unfounded …   Provided that technique is learned accurately under expert supervision and with progressive training loads, the deep squat presents an effective training exercise for protection against injuries and strengthening of the lower extremity. Contrary to commonly voiced concern, deep squats do not contribute increased risk of injury to passive tissues." In the featured video, personal trainer and coach Darin Steen demonstrates safe squat techniques for beginner, intermediate and advanced. Here's a brief summary of the key points: Warm up first Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart, feet parallel, toes pointing forward and the weight of your body distributed evenly between your heels and the ball of your foot Be sure to keep your back in a neutral position, and your knees centered over your feet On an in-breath, slowly bend your knees, hips and ankles, lowering until you reach a 90-degree angle. Make sure your quadriceps are engaged. Your behind should move back as though you're about to sit in a chair while your arms move forward slightly for balance. You can do a shallower squat if you have knee or back pain Raise yourself back up to starting position as you breathe out. Repeat 15 to 20 times. Beginners are advised to not exceed two or three sets per session, and to not do squat exercises more than two or three times per week The Four-Minute Nitric Oxide Dump Workout Squats are one of the four movements included in the Nitric Oxide Dump workout, developed by Dr. Zach Bush. It's a really simple yet effective form of high-intensity exercise that you can do just about anywhere. While I've not made any changes to Bush's movements, I do recommend breathing through your nose and not your mouth, as your nose regulates more than 30 physical processes, including the release of NO. There are only four movements to learn for this workout: squats, alternating arm raises, nonjumping jacks and shoulder presses. For a demonstration, see the video above or the illustrations in the infographic below. Start with four sets of 10 repetitions, moving to 20 repetitions as your fitness level increases. You can also add in weights as you progress. Ideally, you'd want to do this workout three times a day, with a minimum of two hours between each session. >>>>> Click Here Dr. Mercola

    • Sauna Use Four Times per Week Slashes Heart Disease

      Some of the simplest strategies have a tremendous impact on your health. Many produce increasing benefit, in much the same way compound interest works. In other words, little changes each day can build to produce significant impact over time. Sauna use is one of those strategies. Historically, saunas have been an approach used in Eastern Europe, Asia and Finland for detoxification, relaxation and health.1 Athletes use extreme heat for post-workout stress reduction and to improve conditioning and athletic performance by increasing endurance.2 Exposure to extreme temperatures is also beneficial for mitochondrial functioning, the tiny powerhouses in your cells providing your body with energy required to function. Saunas provide heat stress to your body, an important way of optimizing heat shock proteins (HSP) inside the cells, triggering mitochondrial biogenesis.3 This supports your overall health, and especially your cardiovascular and brain health. Over time, HSP are damaged. An accumulation of HSP may lead to plaque formation in your vascular system. An estimated 610,000 people die from heart disease in the U.S. every year.4 Heat stress helps prevent this chain of events.5 Not surprisingly, much of the research on sauna use has come from Finland, where most people use the sauna at least once a week. Recent research6 has once again associated sauna use with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality. This same study also finds sauna use may predict cardiovascular risk in men and women. Sauna Use Inversely and Strongly Associated With Fatal Heart Attack Previous evidence indicates sauna use has a positive effect on reducing the risk of fatal heart attacks and all-cause mortality in men.7 The aim of this study was to look at the relationship between sauna habits and CVD mortality in men and women. The researchers were particularly interested in whether information on these habits could predict mortality risk. The researchers gathered data from over 1,650 participants with a mean age of 63, of whom 51.4 percent were women. During the study period of 15 years, 181 fatal CVD events occurred, with the risk of mortality decreasing linearly with increasing sauna sessions each week. Interestingly, the researchers found no threshold effect. In other words, even one sauna session a week conferred benefits to the user.8 After adjusting for known CVD risk factors and potential confounding factors, the researchers found the duration of use was inversely associated with mortality. They also found the additional information on frequency provided predictive value of the long-term risk for CVD mortality. The authors offered several explanations for this reduction in risk, including an increased demand on the cardiovascular system without active muscle work, and the fact that heat exposure has blood pressure-lowering effects, decreasing peripheral vascular resistance and arterial stiffness.9 This supports previous data from the University of Eastern Finland where researchers tracked 2,300 middle-aged men for an average of 20 years. Over the course of the study, 49 percent of the men who used the sauna once a week died as compared to 38 percent who used it two to three times a week and just 31 percent of those who used it four to seven times per week.10 Heat Stress Improves Fitness Affecting Heart Health Saunas increase nitric oxide (NO) production in much the same way as high-intensity exercise. NO is a potent vasodilator that stimulates your brain, kills bacteria, defends against tumor growth and helps boost muscle growth and strength.11 Another benefit to fitness can be attributed to thermogenesis. Exposure to extreme temperatures improves mitochondrial function. When your mitochondria are not working properly, your body's ability to generate energy is impaired. The key is to eliminate old mitochondria and generate new ones — a process called biogenesis. Strategies to support mitochondrial biogenesis are exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures, exercise and intermittent fasting. Each of these stimulates a transcription coactivator, which is the primary driver for mitochondrial biogenesis. Cardiovascular functioning and good health are dependent on a strong system of functioning mitochondria. Sauna Use Helps Rid Your Body of Heavy Metals Yet another benefit to sauna use is helping to boost the elimination of toxins, including pesticides and heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury. Even if you may live a relatively clean lifestyle, it is not uncommon to acquire heavy metals from cosmetics or secondhand smoke or vaping. Near-infrared saunas are particularly beneficial for detoxifying heavy metals as they heat your tissue several inches deep and enhance your natural metabolic processes, blood circulation and tissue oxygenation. A problem with reduced sweating may be the result of an increased toxic load, which in turn can adversely affect your heart and brain health. Compared to other strategies to detoxify from heavy metals, sauna use may be one of the best, as it lowers your toxic load in a natural way. As discussed in a previous interview with Dr. George Yu, mobilizing stored toxins for removal may be enhanced by using niacin (vitamin B3). Niacin helps mobilize fat, freeing up toxic chemicals in lipophilic tissues such as your brain. When taken in conjunction with sauna use, the mobilized toxins are safely eliminated through your sweat. Heavy Metal Poison Increases Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Acute heavy metal poisoning, such as what happens when you receive a high dose at one time, leaves you feeling confused, vomiting, passed out or numb. However, it's more likely you will have a buildup of heavy metals in your system over time, resulting in symptoms such as headache, weakness and tiredness, achy joints and muscles, or constipation.12 Another effect of long-term exposure to heavy metals is CVD. Traditionally, heavy metal toxicity is not counted as a risk factor for CVD.13 However, you likely have been exposed through food, water and your environment. Once in your body, metals displace essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium and increase the rate of inflammation. Repeatedly, large studies like the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey have found heavy metal levels are correlated with cardiovascular health.14 Other perspective studies have confirmed the presence of cadmium,15 lead16 and arsenic17 are associated with hypertension, peripheral vascular disease and other CVD risks. It is important to know adverse events don't occur only at high levels, but have also been linked to exposure below current safe standards.18 One of the unexpected positive results in a trial to assess chelation therapy was a reduction in cardiovascular events.19 The National Institutes of Health initiated a secondary study in an attempt to replicate the findings and establish the removal of toxic heavy metal from the body as a plausible explanation for the benefits of chelation therapy on heart health. A recent study20 published in the BMJ used a meta-analysis to demonstrate even low levels of toxic heavy metals pose a risk to your cardiovascular health. Lead study author Rajiv Chowdhury, Ph.D., an associate professor in global health at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., commented:21  "It's clear from our analysis that there's a possible link between exposure to heavy metals or metalloids and risk of conditions such as heart disease, even at low doses — and the greater the exposure, the greater the risk." Sauna Use Reduces Your Risk of Multiple Conditions Sauna use not only reduces your risk of CVD through multiple channels, including detoxifying heavy metal accumulation, but also helps reduce your risk of other health conditions. For example, sauna use has been shown to: Reduce your risk of stroke22 — Taking a sauna one to three times each week has been shown to lower your stroke risk by 12 percent, while daily sauna use (four to seven times a week) can reduce your risk by as much as 62 percent. Researchers suggest sauna use reduces stroke risk by lowering inflammation, reducing arterial stiffness and improving blood flow through your circulatory system. Benefit your brain — By increasing the production of growth factors and brain derived neurotrophic factor,23 sauna use activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons,24,25 thereby lowering your risk for dementia and Alzheimer's. Boost your mood — Your body responds to heat through the production of dynorphin,26 the chemical opposite of endorphins. However, dynorphins sensitize your brain to endorphins, which tends to boost mood. If you've ever had a sauna, you've probably experienced this "mellowing" effect. Improve fitness and athletic performance — Exposure to heat increases your endurance,27 in part by boosting NO. Heat stress also increases plasma volume and blood flow to your heart, which reduces cardiovascular strain and lowers your heart rate during exercise. Since sauna use increases blood flow to your muscles, it also reduces fatigue, and by improving thermoregulatory control and increasing sweat rate, it allows your core body heat to remain lower, even during intense exertion. Protect heart health — Exposure to heat improves vascular health, and reduces blood pressure and heart rate.28 Aid detoxification — Flushing toxins out of your body, including pesticides and heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury, protects your neurological29 and cardiovascular health. Boost your immune function — Sauna use increases white blood cell, lymphocyte, neutrophil and basophil counts. Reduce pain — Infrared saunas may reduce pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis30 and fibromyalgia,31 as well as headache pain. In a study of patients with fibromyalgia, a reduction in pain32 between 33 percent and 77 percent was noted after use of a far infrared dry sauna. Six months after the conclusion of the study, participants continued to report a reduction in pain between 28 percent and 68 percent. Kill disease-causing microbes. Lower inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. Improve respiratory function — Study participants with asthma, bronchitis and obstructive pulmonary disease experienced improved respiratory function after sauna use.33,34 Reduce all-cause mortality.35 Testing for Heavy Metal Toxicity There are a number of different ways to test for heavy metals, including hair, urine and stool. Certain metals, such as thallium, show up best in a urine dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) challenge test. DMSA is a chelating agent that can be administered either orally or intravenously. When taken together with a synergistic agent like glycine, it binds to the metals in your body, forcing them out through your stool and urine. Wendy Myers, a functional diagnostic nutritionist, founder of MyersDetox.com and author of "Limitless Energy: How to Detox Toxic Metals to End Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue," is a treasure trove of information on the topic of detoxification. Myers typically starts with a hair mineral analysis as it's easy to do, relatively inexpensive and provides a significant amount of information. Ideally, you'll want to do all three — hair, stool and urine tests — as no one test is perfect. Some metals come out in hair, others in urine and/or stool. Cadmium, for example, comes out in stool, so a stool test will be the most accurate. General Recommendations for Sauna Use If you've never used a sauna, start by spending only four or five minutes and work your way up to between 15 and 30 minutes. You will lose important electrolytes when you use a sauna, so it is important to make sure you supplement with salt. Salt your food with pink Himalayan salt, or put a half-teaspoon in 2 ounces of water and flavor it with lemon or lime juice and use it as salt shot. Even if you can comfortably tolerate the heat, remember the detoxification process can be severe if your toxic load is high. If you experience detox symptoms or feel ill after sauna bathing, try cutting down on the time spent and slowly work your way up. You'll find a discussion on the different types of saunas in my previous article, "Boost Your Cardiovascular Health and Fitness With Regular Sauna Use." With those considerations, here are some general recommendations for using a sauna: Infrared sauna — 160 to 180 degrees F for 15 to 30 minutes Regular (Finnish wet or dry) sauna — 180 to 190 degrees F for 10 to 20 minutes Additionally, consider the following safety tips at all times: Avoid using a sauna by yourself; always sauna with a buddy. Listen to your body when deciding how much heat stress you can tolerate. If you're ill or heat-sensitive, decrease the temperature, time spent in the sauna or both. Do not use a sauna if you've been drinking alcohol. Be sure to drink plenty of pure water before and after your sauna session. To replace electrolytes use Himalayan salt as discussed above. Avoid the sauna during pregnancy. You may want to rest either sitting or lying down for about 10 minutes afterward. Dr. Mercola

    • Plantar Fasciitis — Diagnosis and Natural Treatment Options

      Plantar fasciitis (heel pain) is a common occurrence, especially among runners. Unfortunately, the exact underlying cause is still being debated. While the pain is typically believed to be caused by inflammation in the ligament that runs along the sole of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes, some research has shown plantar fascia pain can occur even in the absence of inflammation. According to one such study:1 “Findings include myxoid degeneration with fragmentation and degeneration of the plantar fascia and bone marrow vascular ectasia. Histologic findings are presented to support the thesis that ‘plantar fasciitis’ is a degenerative fasciosis without inflammation, not a fasciitis. These findings suggest that treatment regimens such as serial corticosteroid injections into the plantar fascia should be reevaluated in the absence of inflammation and in light of their potential to induce plantar fascial rupture.” Possible Causes of Plantar Fasciitis It appears plantar fasciitis can be triggered in a number of different ways, some involving inflammation and others not. Possible underlying causes and/or contributing factors include:2 Inflammation of the plantar fascia due to excessive stress placed on the heel bone and soft tissues. The ligament attachment is located at the bottom of your heel bone, which is why the pain is felt in your heel. Improper footwear is typically part of the problem, and research3 by Michael Warburton, a physical therapist in Australia, found that running barefoot decreases the likelihood of plantar fasciitis Microscopic tears in the plantar fascia Stress fractures to the bones of your heel Myxoid degeneration (this is when the connective tissue is replaced by a gelatinous substance) Collagen necrosis (a form of cell injury that results in the premature death of the cells, in this case collagen, a crucial component of connective tissue) Hyperplasia of the plantar aponeurosis (enlargement of the plantar fascia) Overly tight Achilles tendon Loss of arch support (if you’re flat-footed) Risk Factors As noted the 2016 paper, “Management of Plantar Fasciitis in the Outpatient Setting,”4 anything that places stress on the plantar fascia is a risk factor for plantar fasciitis, and these risk factors can be divided into intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Additional factors are also mentioned in a systematic review5 of diagnostic and treatment strategies for athletes. Intrinsic factors include obesity, flat footedness (pes planus), excessively high arches (pes cavus), reduced range of ankle dorsiflexion, tight calf muscles, overpronation, leg-length discrepancy, excessive lateral tibial torsion and/or femoral anteversion, tight Achilles tendon, weakness in the foot muscles, heel fat pad atrophy or aging, and plantar fascia stiffness Extrinsic factors include overuse, running on hard surfaces, walking barefoot, a sudden increase in running intensity and/or volume, prolonged walking or standing and inadequate footwear Diagnostic Elements The pain of plantar fasciitis is typically gradual in onset, and most noticeable when you’re taking your first steps after getting out of bed in the morning or after prolonged sitting. Aside from the presentation of pain in your heel, other diagnostic elements include:6 • Evaluation of intrinsic and extrinsic risks • Blood testing, checking for inflammation markers • Ultrasonography imaging of your plantar fascia. According to the outpatient treatment guidelines, this “is a very useful and reliable tool in diagnosing plantar fasciitis.” That said, imaging is typically unnecessary unless the problem is resistant to treatment, or to rule out other heel pathology.7 The plantar fascia thickness in asymptomatic healthy adults ranges from 3.3 millimeter (plus or minus 0.3 mm) to 3.9 mm (plus or minus 0.5 mm). A thickness greater than 4.0 mm is considered abnormal Treatment Recommendations Treatment recommendations for plantar fasciitis — some of which I will describe further in sections below — include:8,9,10 Rest and activity modification — If you’re a runner and you feel mild pain in your heel, know that this is a warning sign and if you keep running, it’s only going to get worse as the plantar fascia gets increasingly irritated.11 Orthopedic experts will often recommend avoiding running for four to six weeks, and doing nonweight-bearing exercises such as cycling, swimming or rowing instead. Once you’re asymptomatic (no longer in pain), you can gradually return to load-bearing activities. Plantar fascia stretch — As described in “Management of Plantar Fasciitis in the Outpatient Setting:”12 “The plantar fascia-specific stretch is performed by dorsiflexing the toes with one hand (taking advantage of the windlass mechanism) and palpating the plantar fascia with the other hand to ensure that it is taut. The stretch is held for a count of 30 seconds and repeated at least three times in each session. This should be done daily, especially before taking the first step in the morning and before standing following a period of prolonged sitting.” Ice massage — A simple way to massage the area with ice is to freeze a bottle of water (leave airspace as water expands when frozen and can cause the bottle to burst) and then simply roll it underfoot with moderate pressure for up to 10 minutes at the end of each day. Using a dorsiflexion splint at night — Many patients notice improvement after four weeks of use and resolution of symptoms within 12 weeks Platelet-rich plasma injections Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) — Recommended for chronic cases (pain lasting six months or longer) Laser therapy — Like ESWT, class 4 laser therapy also speeds your body’s natural healing and reduces pain and inflammation Acupuncture — In one small trial,13 patients who received five acupuncture treatments per week for two weeks reported improvement in plantar fasciitis pain While cortisone and anti-inflammatory drugs are also typically prescribed, I would suggest exercises and other nondrug alternatives first, which is the focus of this article. Aside from offering only temporary relief, side effects of corticosteroid injections include fat pad atrophy and plantar fascia rupture.14 Exercises for Plantar Fasciitis Aside from the plantar fascia stretch described above, other exercises that target your foot, calf and Achilles tendon are recommended. The featured video demonstrates a program consisting of five exercises that target plantar fascia pain: Wall stretch, to stretch and elongate your calf muscles Tennis ball massage, to stretch your plantar fascia Pick up a sock or towel with your toes, to tone your plantar fascia Seated calf stretch Belt stretch Shockwave Therapy — ‘Closest Thing to Miracle Cure’ for Plantar Fasciitis While surgery is sometimes recommended for stubborn cases that are resistant to treatment, ESWT (extracorporeal shock wave therapy)15 may be a far preferable alternative, and may eliminate the need for surgery altogether. As previously noted by podiatrist Dr. John E. Mancuso:16 “… Manhattan Podiatry has been using … ESWT for patients who did not respond to conservative treatments. ESWT uses high-intensity sound waves to heal the injured plantar fascia. In our practice, this innovative treatment has reduced the need for invasive surgical treatments by approximately 90 percent.” The high-pulse sound waves are mechanical, not electric, and basically speed up your body’s natural healing processes by increasing blood flow to the area. A course of three treatments, one to two weeks apart is typically recommended, and research shows the earlier you do it the better.17 ESWT does have some caveats; for example, you should not undergo ESWT if you are pregnant, have bone cancer, are taking anticoagulants or have had a steroid injection within the past 12 weeks. You also may experience some pain or discomfort, which is usually manageable, although some doctors may administer a local anesthetic to help make you comfortable.18,19 According to Dr. Amol Saxena, a podiatrist specializing in sports medicine at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and sports medicine editor of the International Advances in Foot and Ankle Surgery journal, ESWT “is the closest thing we have to a miracle cure” for plantar fasciitis.20 Another Surgical Alternative — Ultrasound Therapy Another alternative is ultrasound-assisted treatment of the damaged tissue with a hollow needle. Sedation isn’t necessary with this procedure since it takes only about a minute and a half to do. In one study, patients reported a 90 percent improvement or more after two weeks. As reported by Medicinenet.com:21 “[T]he … ultrasound therapy … uses ultrasonic energy to cut and remove damaged, pain-generating tissue while sparing healthy foot tissue. In the study, [Dr. Rahul] Razdan's team tested the procedure on 65 patients who sought care at an interventional radiology clinic in 2013 and 2014. All had chronic plantar fasciitis, and all had failed to respond to standard treatments. During the ultrasound therapy, doctors guided a hollow needle tip into an area of ‘problem’ tissue by means of ultrasound guidance. Once in position, the tip targeted a combination of high frequency/low amplitude sound to the damaged foot region. That broke up the pain-generating tissue, which was then extracted out of the foot. In total, average treatment time was about a minute and a half, and sedation was not used.” Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet While the pain will typically resolve in a few weeks or months, the problem can sometimes turn chronic. A foundational aspect of addressing most inflammation-related pain is to make sure you’re eating an anti-inflammatory diet high in healthy fats and low in sugars and non-vegetable carbohydrates. More specifics are detailed in “A Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet.” Dr. James DiNicolantonio also provides important information about the specific types of fats you need, and which ones actually promote and aggravate inflammation, in “Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health.” Specific herbs and individual foods are also known for their anti-inflammatory contributions. These include but are not limited to: Herbs and spices such as garlic, cloves, ginger, rosemary and turmeric Berries such as blueberries, strawberries and cherries Animal-based omega-3 fats found in sardines, anchovies, mackerel, wild-caught salmon, fish roe and krill oil Shiitake mushrooms Fermented vegetables and traditionally cultured foods (which quell inflammation by reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria that help optimize your immune function) Foods to avoid, as they increase the inflammatory response in your body, include: All forms of sugar (glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose) and artificial sweeteners Refined carbohydrates Excessive alcohol (as it too turns into sugar) Artificial trans fats and processed vegetable and seed oils, such as corn oil and canola oil Processed meats Collagen for Soft Tissue Injury and Repair As mentioned earlier, collagen necrosis is one possible cause of plantar fasciitis, but even if it isn’t, taking extra collagen is probably going to be a good idea if you have plantar fasciitis. I recently interviewed Mark Sisson about the importance of collagen for soft tissue injury and repair, and you can find more information in that article. In short, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and fascia — basically connective tissue — are all collagen-based tissue that tend to get weaker and less elastic with age. These connective tissues require very specific raw materials, namely animal-based collagen such as gelatin and bone broth (sourced from organic grass fed animals), in order to heal. This collagen material is amino acids that get incorporated into your body to become this matrix of connective tissue. There are no hard and fast rules on dosage though. When treating his Achilles tendinosis, Sisson opted for a larger-than-normal dose and took 20 grams of collagen twice a day to start. After a few months, he cut down to a maintenance dose of 20 grams a day. Within four months, his Achilles’ were much improved. Dr. Mercola

    • Common Fasting Regimens Reviewed

      Understanding what makes for a healthy diet and lifestyle has never been more important. Shockingly, obesity has now become a greater global health crisis than hunger, and is the leading cause of disability and chronic illness around the world.1,2 On average, the global population is plagued by obesity-related pain and illness during the last 14 years of life, which takes a significant toll on quality of life.3 One lifestyle factor that appears to be driving not only obesity but also many chronic disease processes is the fact that we rarely avoid eating for more than 12 hours. In fact, Dr. Satchin Panda's research shows that 90 percent of us eat across more than 12 hours a day. Historically, generous amounts of food were not accessible throughout the entire year, let alone 24/7, and evidence strongly shows your body simply isn't designed to run optimally when continuously fed and will radically increase your risk for chronic degenerative disease when you regularly violate this principle. If you eat throughout the day and never skip a meal, your body adapts to burning sugar as its primary fuel, which down-regulates enzymes that utilize and burn your stored fat. If you struggle to lose weight, this may well be a significant part of the problem — your body has simply lost the metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel. Moreover, research has confirmed that many biological repair and rejuvenation processes take place in the absence of food, and this is another reason why all-day grazing triggers disease. In a nutshell, your body was designed to a) run on fat as its primary fuel, and b) cycle through periods of feast and famine. Fasting May Be a Key Intervention to Improve Health and Longevity Fasting — where you abstain from food either for a large part of each day, or a few days each week or month — is one of the oldest dietary interventions in the world, and modern science confirms it can indeed have a profoundly beneficial influence on your health and longevity. The paper4 "A Time to Fast," published in the November 2018 issue of Science, reviews many of these health benefits, noting that: "Adjustment of meal size and frequency have emerged as powerful tools to ameliorate and postpone the onset of disease and delay aging, whereas periods of fasting, with or without energy intake, can have profound health benefits. The underlying physiological processes involve periodic shifts of metabolic fuel sources, promotion of repair mechanisms, and the optimization of energy utilization for cellular and organismal health. Future research endeavors should be directed to the integration of a balanced nutritious diet with controlled meal size and patterns and periods of fasting to develop better strategies to prevent, postpone and treat the socioeconomical burden of chronic diseases associated with aging … In general, both prolonged reduction in daily caloric intake and periodic fasting cycles have the power to delay the onset of disease and increase longevity." How Fasting Benefits Health While there are many different types of fasting, the key component is the cycling of feeding and fasting. By mimicking the eating habits of our ancestors, you restore your body to a more natural state that allows a whole host of biochemical benefits to occur.5,6,7,8 For example, research9 published in Cell Metabolism concluded that time-restricted eating not only prevented but also reversed obesity and related metabolic dysfunction. Indeed, intermittent fasting is one of the most effective interventions I've found to reverse insulin resistance, shed excess weight and improve body composition, decrease your risk for heart disease and cancer, protect cognitive function and increase longevity.10 Two core mechanisms responsible for these benefits are: 1. Improved insulin and leptin sensitivity, and improved circulating glucose and lipid levels 2. Triggering your body to more effectively burn fat for fuel, which encourages your liver to create water-soluble fats called ketones that: • Burn far more efficiently than carbs, thereby creating fewer reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals that can damage your cellular and mitochondrial cell membranes, proteins and DNA • Decrease inflammation, as ketones are histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors that radically reduce inflammatory molecules • Mimic the life span-extending properties of calorie restriction, which includes improved glucose metabolism and reduced inflammation11 • Have a similar structure to branched-chain amino acids, thereby aiding the building of muscle mass and promoting longevity12 Ketone metabolism also increases the negative redox potential of your family of NAD coenzyme redox molecules, which helps control oxidative damage by increasing NADPH and promoting transcription of enzymes of the antioxidant pathways though activation of FOXO3a.13 In a nutshell, ketone metabolism effectively reduces oxidative damage, which translates into improved health and longevity. Both calorie restriction and intermittent fasting also inhibit the mTOR pathway, which has been shown to play an important role in life extension. Note that ketone metabolism, not ketone supplements, has been shown to produce these benefits. Intermittent Peak Fasting Is a Simple Way to Reap the Benefits of Fasting What I call "peak fasting" involves fasting for 16 to 18 hours each day and eating all of your meals within the remaining six to eight hours. To make this schedule work, you need to skip either breakfast or dinner. If you choose to eat dinner, be sure to do so at least three hours before bedtime, to avoid the creation of excessive amounts of damaging free radicals. Avoiding late-night eating is a simple way to protect your mitochondrial function and prevent cellular damage from occurring. There are also other intermittent fasting plans where you dramatically cut back on your calories for a certain number of days each week, while eating normally during the remainder. The 5-to-2 intermittent fasting plan is one such example. The fasting mimicking diet, developed to match the effects of water-only fasting, is another. Intermittent Fasting Is Even More Effective Combined With a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet Recent research also suggests the effects of intermittent fasting are bolstered by combining it with a pulsed ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet provides many of the same health benefits associated with fasting and intermittent fasting, and when done together, most people will experience significant improvements in their health. This includes not just weight loss, which is more of an inescapable side effect of the metabolic improvements that occur, but other benefits such as: Improved insulin sensitivity14 Increased muscle mass Reduced inflammation Reduced risk of cancer and Alzheimer's15 Increased longevity16 As with fasting, the cyclical pulsing of nutrients will optimize your benefits when on a ketogenic diet. Most people believe continuous keto is the key to success, but mounting evidence suggests this is not the case. This is why the mitochondrial metabolic therapy (MMT) program detailed in my book, "Fat for Fuel," stresses cyclical ketosis. There are at least two significant reasons for the pulsed approach: • Insulin suppresses hepatic glucogenesis, i.e., the production of glucose by your liver. When insulin is chronically suppressed long-term, your liver starts to compensate for the deficit by making more glucose. As a result, your blood sugar can begin to rise even though you're not eating any carbohydrates. In this situation, eating carbohydrates will actually lower your blood sugar, as the carbs will activate insulin, which will then suppress your liver's production of glucose. Long-term chronic suppression of insulin is an unhealthy metabolic state that is easily avoidable by cycling in and out of keto. • As with fasting, many of the metabolic benefits associated with nutritional ketosis occur once your intake of net carbs increases. This is why I stress the importance of increasing your net carb and protein intake at least once or twice a week once you have attained metabolic flexibility. Ideally this is done on days when you do strength training. As a general recommendation, triple the amount of net carbs on these high-carb days. However, you first need to make sure your body can efficiently burn fat for fuel before you start this pulsing. Keto testing strips can be used to confirm that you're in ketosis, defined as having blood ketones in the over 0.5 t mmol/L. Too many net carbs will effectively prevent ketosis as your body will use any available glucose first, since it's a much faster-burning fuel. Fasting Boosts Brain Power and Protects Against Neurological Diseases More and more people are now starting to recognize the health benefits of fasting. The strategy has quickly become popular with Silicon Valley executives, who recognize it as biohacking, opposed to mere dieting.17,18 Geoffrey Woo, CEO of the biohacking company HVMN (pronounced "human"), told The Guardian,19 "Ketones are a super fuel for the brain. So a lot of the subjective benefits to fasting, including mental clarity, are down to the rise in ketones in the system." Indeed, while many worry that fasting will lead to a deterioration of mental processing and physical functioning, the converse is actually true. As noted by Woo, right around the three-day mark your hunger significantly decreases and mental clarity increases, thanks to rising ketone levels. In the video above, Mark Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging and a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, explains this process. Fasting also has long-term brain benefits that can help ward off neurological diseases and dementia, as the process of autophagy allows your body to break down and recycle beta amyloid protein in your brain believed to contribute to Alzheimer's. Then, during the refeeding phase, growth hormone increases, boosting the rebuilding of new proteins and cells. Research shows fasting can boost growth hormone by as much as 1,300 percent in women and 2,000 percent in men.20 Fasting also boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) by 50 to 400 percent, depending on the brain region,21 which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. BDNF also protects your brain cells from changes associated with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Comparison of Four Fasting Strategies I used to be a strong advocate of multiday water fasting but in researching my next book, "Keto Fast," I realized that this is not the best strategy for most. Compliance is a serious issue with water fasting and very few people will ever agree to go that long without food. More importantly, I believe that it can actually be dangerous for many. Why? Because when you fast you release fat soluble toxins stored in your fat and unless you have optimized your detox pathways these toxins can contribute to health complications. I ultimately settled on a partial fast that supplies many of the nutrients that your body needs to support your detox pathways. It involves a base of intermittent fasting for 16 to 18 hours, and once or twice a week you have a 300 to 600 calorie meal loaded with detox supporting nutrients, and then you don't eat anything for 24 hours. So you are only eating one meal in 42 hours. That said, the featured paper,22 "A Time to Fast," reviews four different types of fasting strategies and the metabolic and cellular responses triggered by each. These include: Classical calorie restriction, where daily caloric intake is decreased by 15 to 40 percent — Benefits include reduced cancer incidence, life span extension, reduced oxidative damage, enhanced cellular turnover and protein homeostasis, improvement of age-related metabolic disorders such as obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and hypertension. According to the authors: "[Calorie restriction] induces profound metabolic and molecular changes in components of the nutrient-sensing and stress-responsive pathways, such as growth hormone, insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) signaling, mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), adenosine 5′-monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), forkhead box protein O (FOXO), sirtuins, and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2)." Time-restricted eating (or what I call "peak fasting"), which limits daily food intake to a narrow window of time, without reducing caloric intake — Animal studies have shown this strategy helps reduce body weight, increase energy expenditure, improve glycemic control, lower insulin levels, decrease hepatic (liver) fat and hyperlipidemia, and lowers inflammation. According to the authors: "The molecular mechanisms responsible for the effects of altered meal patterns on metabolic health appears to be related, at least in part, to the synchronization between the time of fasting-feeding and the circadian rhythm … A strong relation exists between the circadian clock and metabolism, as they share some common regulators. Indeed, time-restricted feeding can restore cycling of metabolic regulators, such as … cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), mTOR, AMPK or the insulin signaling pathway, all of which take part in the life span and health-span benefits of calorie restriction." Importantly, studies included in this review confirm that in order to optimize benefits from this strategy, you need to eat your meals earlier in the day. When food intake was restricted to late afternoon or evening, at best no benefits were found, and at worst, postprandial glucose levels, beta cell responsiveness, blood pressure and lipid levels worsened. Intermittent fasting where "no or few calories are consumed for periods of time that range from one to several days, followed by ad libitum [meaning without restriction] feeding on the remaining days" — One example would be alternate-day fasting: a 24-hour water fast followed by 24 hours of normal eating. This type of intermittent fasting has been shown to boost resistance to stress, "presumably by shifting energy from growth and reproduction to maintenance, recycling and repair in order to increase cellular protection and survival." In animal research, periodic fasting has been shown to extend life span and protect against obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and neurological diseases. It also slows tumor growth and sensitizes many cancer cell types to chemotherapy, thereby making them easier to treat, and enhances brain function, improving both performance and behavior. Partial fasting diets, which "maintain a physiological fasting-like state by reducing caloric intake and modifying diet composition but not necessarily fasting" — As explained by the authors: "[A fasting-mimicking diet] has low calories and provides for plant-based soups, herbal tea, energy bars, nut-based snacks, and supplements to be gradually implemented in a five-day cycle each month for three months." Benefits of partial fasting include the maintenance of low circulating concentrations of IGF-1, insulin and glucose, while increasing plasma concentrations of IGF-binding protein 1 and ketone bodies. It's also been shown to have rejuvenating effects, ascribed to an increased number of progenitor stem cells, and improves several disease markers and markers for metabolic function. In rodents, the diet has been shown to lower cancer incidence and extend health span, but not maximum longevity. It also has antidiabetic effects, regenerating pancreatic beta cells and restoring insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis in mice. It's also been shown to improve control of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases through the regulation of the immune system. Interestingly, in very old animals, the fasting-mimicking diet has demonstrated detrimental effects, and may therefore not be advisable for the very old. >>>>> Click Here Dr. Mercola

    • Best Foods to Eat to Gain Muscle Mass and Strength

      If you're interested in muscle growth and definition, there's no getting past the fact you need to exercise. However, while exercise helps to build muscles, you cannot exercise your way out of a poor diet. One of the common beliefs about building muscle definition is you need to eat a lot of protein and carbohydrates. However, nutritional concepts are just not that simple. For example, even when deprived of food, your body has a mechanism to build muscle. Additionally, amino acids and proteins are not just building blocks for tissue and muscle. Some amino acids also signal genes to build protein during times of food deprivation — most notably branched chain amino acids like leucine — as long as you have them circulating in your bloodstream. While carbohydrates do fuel muscle, high-carb diets are a disaster as they promote insulin and leptin resistance, which promotes chronic disease. Similarly, eating more protein than your body uses may promote elevated blood sugar and kidney stress, and even stimulate the growth of cancer cells. On average, peak muscle mass occurs sometime during your early 40s. As you age, muscle mass begins to gradually decline, eventually leading to negative changes in mobility, strength and independence. However, muscle mass loss has other implications as it may also lead to an overall decline in metabolic function and play a role in your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Without intervention, you can lose an average of nearly 7 pounds of muscle per decade.1 Research data show that after age 50, strength loss of 1.5 percent to 5 percent a year may occur.2 However, such losses are not inevitable. Exercise, in the presence of balanced nutrition, is a powerful intervention to address muscle loss at any time in life. Balance Your Meal Planning for the Greatest Gains Scientists have been trying to answer the question of what constitutes the ideal and most practical diet for athletes to improve performance. In a recent review in Sports Nutrition, the authors provide an overview about how athletes should eat, commenting:3 “Despite an enduring belief in a single, superior ‘athletic diet,’ diversity in sports nutrition practices among successful athletes arises from the specificity of the metabolic demands of different sports and the periodization of training and competition goals.” In other words, the researchers found the type of diet best utilized by elite athletes was dependent on the sport they performed, their specific goals and their training routine. However, the number who train for the Olympics is a small percentage compared to those who seek the best nutritional base for optimal health and muscle growth. In an interview, Louise Burke, sports dietitian and professor at Australian Catholic University, advises the use of 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates each hour during endurance events lasting several hours. While some athletes find it difficult to consume during an event, she also advises to practice during training. When asked if athletes should steer clear of high-fat diets she replied:4 “I wouldn’t say that at all. Some athletes love them. And we know that high-fat diets stimulate different molecular changes in the muscles than high-carb diets, some of which could be beneficial for performance.” When your goals are to add weight and muscle, your nutritional plan may be simpler and easier to adhere to than when you’re seeking to shave off less than a second from your time, or lift another 10 pounds. However, no matter your goals, the following strategies will help improve muscle definition, and improve your chances of success. Up Your Vitamin Intake It may have been easy to overlook vitamins necessary to improve muscle growth and definition if you consigned vitamins only to helping lengthen your life, or to avoid the common cold. • Vitamin A — One of the most potent vitamins necessary to utilize proteins to repair and build muscle is vitamin A. It is also necessary for the utilization and production of testosterone and human growth hormone, both of which are necessary to grow strong muscle.5 In one human study,6 researchers found the administration of vitamin A and iron had results equivalent to taking testosterone. While protein is necessary, diets high in protein deplete vitamin A reserves in the liver and increase the reserves in non-liver tissue. Researchers theorize it results as vitamin A is necessary for the transport of protein molecules to the muscles. High-protein diets deplete vitamin A reserves necessary for the synthesis of new protein.7 In an animal study, researchers found rats deficient in vitamin A had reduced testosterone production until the organ atrophied, indicating the vitamin was essential to production.8 In another study9 with 102 participating teenage boys, the researchers found the results suggested delayed growth issues could have been avoided with an increased consumption of foods high in vitamin A and iron. The researchers theorize that with similar hard work and dedication, body builders may be able to achieve good results taking cod liver oil and eating foods rich in vitamin A on a regular basis, rather than the practice of supplementing with testosterone precursors. Liver is very high in vitamin A and a healthy addition to your nutrition plan. Although many find it distasteful, consider cooking the liver, cutting it into pill-sized shapes, freezing it on a tray and storing it in your freezer. These homemade liver supplements may now be swallowed frozen as you would a pill, without the taste. Keep in mind that men and non-menstruating women should not take iron supplements but get their daily requirements from food, as I discuss in my previous article, "Why Managing Your Iron Level Is Crucial to Your Health," as their risk for elevated iron is already high. Discover more about the benefits of organ meat in my previous article, “Are Organ Meats Good For You?” • Vitamins B6, B9, B12 — These B vitamins play a direct role in protein metabolism. B6 is used to support the absorption of vitamin B12 and together are essential in the production of red blood cells and the support of your immune system. Vitamin B9, in combination with B6 and B12, helps to reduce homocysteine levels and improve nitric oxide production, the end result of which is improved blood flow and delivery of nutrients to your working muscles.10 Vitamin B complex deficiency affects muscle growth and development, and also may lead to dementia, respiratory conditions and psychiatric symptoms. Discover more about this vitamin complex in my previous article, “What Are the Signs of B Complex Deficiency?” • Vitamin C — This precursor to the manufacturer of testosterone is deficient in the dietary intake of 43 percent of adults, according to the Environmental Working Group.11 Although not low enough to trigger scurvy, the endpoint of vitamin C deficiency, vitamin C plays an important role in many aspects of physiology, including the production of steroids. There is also a direct connection between low vitamin C and high levels of cortisol,12 released when you are under stress. Vitamin C has a suppressive action on cortisol, helping to reduce the impact cortisol has on the body. Cortisol also inhibits the action of testosterone,13 so even if circulating levels of testosterone are high, the effect is negated with high levels of cortisol, impacting muscle growth and development. Vitamin C-rich foods, such as papaya, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli and Brussel sprouts, may also help your skin, and may even prove to be a powerful adjunct treatment for cancer and support your heart. • Vitamin D — Arguably one of the more important nutrients, vitamin D is a fat-soluble steroid hormone produced in your skin in response to sun exposure. Vitamin D is also necessary in the production of testosterone. One study found a close relationship between vitamin D deficiency and low levels of testosterone which reversed when participants spent more time in the sun.14 Another demonstrated supplementation increased levels of testosterone in middle-aged men.15 Include the Best Foods to Gain Muscle Mass and Definition Healthy nutrition, including fats and proteins, is essential to building lean muscle. Fats are a necessary part of your diet, but not all fats are created equal. It is important to seek out healthy saturated fats from real, unprocessed foods and avoid polyunsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils and margarine. Avocados, coconut oil and walnuts are high in healthy fats, as is the meat discussed below. Similarly, protein is a necessary structural component for muscle repair, enzymes, signaling molecules and cellular receptors. It is especially important to consume enough protein as your age increases, to ward off age-induced muscle loss or sarcopenia. If your goal is to increase muscle mass, you will need to increase your protein intake. The important point here though is to not increase it continuously. Ideally you should have 80 to 150 grams of protein, depending on your lean body mass, on days that you are engaged in strength training. Protein like whey concentrate that is high in branched chain amino acids will help stimulate muscle building. However, it is important that you reduce your protein intake on days you are not training as continuous high protein can overstimulate mTOR, which will inhibit autophagy and your body’s ability to ward off cancer. As important as quantity is the quality of protein. As a general rule, the only meat I recommend eating is grass fed, grass-finished, organically raised meats, eggs and dairy. This is far superior to factory farmed meats, which are likely to be contaminated with herbicides, hormones, antibiotics and other drugs. A key strategy to improving your food quality is cooking most of your meals at home using real food. See my previous article, “18 Foods That Promote Muscle Growth and Definition,” for a list of healthy, nutrient-dense, muscle-building foods to include in your meal planning. Plan and Prepare Your Meals in Advance Making changes to your nutrition plan takes a little bit of effort, especially when you're incorporating foods you haven't used before. Consider preparing your meals ahead of time in batches or making menus for the week so you aren't faced with the question of what to make and tempted to order out when you come home from work. Planning also allows you more time to incorporate your workout during the day. Cooking in batches is not as difficult as you might imagine; check out my recipe section for ideas of healthy, nutrient-dense meals you can cook ahead. Consider cooking with a friend, sharing the results of your efforts. This helps to make the work lighter and a friend or two can turn the event into a party. Remember to label everything you make. You might think you'll remember what's in the freezer and the date it was made, but you'll be surprised how quickly you forget. Think about prepping your vegetables for the week. By cleaning, slicing and dicing and then storing in glass containers in your refrigerator, you'll have the vegetables you need for a large tossed salad, a stew or casserole ready at a moment's notice. Homemade salad dressings can be made up to a week in advance and stored in the refrigerator, and vegetable and beef stock can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for up to four days or frozen first in ice cube trays and then bagged for up to three months. It’s important to choose your protein sources wisely. Most meat at the grocery store today, unless otherwise labeled, is raised on a processed diet in confined quarters and injected with antibiotics — producing low-quality nutrition. To learn your best choices see my previous article, “Study Shows Link Between Strong Muscles and a Strong Brain.” Intermittent Fasting Builds Muscle and Improves Insulin Sensitivity Intermittent fasting is not only excellent for your metabolism and overall health but also has a profound effect on your muscle mass. Using this type of eating plan means you restrict your normal eating into a six- to eight-hour window without cutting any of your calories. This helps increase your insulin and leptin sensitivity, driving more nutrients into your muscles. Intermittent fasting reduces inflammation and free radical damage and increases your ability to burn fat. If restricting the hours during which you can eat seems overwhelming at first, consider adding grass-fed butter and coconut oil into your morning coffee, giving you calories to burn until you're scheduled meal. Working out first thing in the morning may help reduce any feelings of hunger when you go to sleep at night, and increasing your water intake both helps you to feel full and maintains your hydration status throughout the day.16 Gaining Muscle as You Age Critical to Performance and Independence Maintaining your muscle as you age is critical to maintaining your independence. Seniors who exercise more had lower levels of heart disease related biomarkers, including C-reactive protein, Interleukin-6 and leptin. Overall, participants in this study who undertook more activity had lower levels of negative biomarkers, translating into less sedentary time and associated with more favorable cardiovascular profiles.17 The best way to maintain your independence as you age is to develop a strong foundation of muscle growth and definition before you need it. While it may be easier to maintain muscle mass than to start from scratch, it is never too late to start developing muscle strength and improving your potential for remaining independent as you age. In a study18 by Mayo Clinic to determine the type of exercise which works better to protect aging muscles, the researchers tested high intensity interval training (HIIT) on stationary bikes, vigorous resistance training or combination of both. They found those who did the interval workouts had a higher increases in the number and health of their mitochondria, particularly among older cyclists. Data have also linked strong muscles to improve brain health for many years, including memory, reaction speed and logical problem-solving.19 If you've been following the trends in exercise, you know there is no shortage of conflicting and confusing advice. It can be a struggle to separate fitness fact from fiction. I share my opinion on eight misconceptions in my previous article, “8 Fitness ‘Tips’ That Are Doing More Harm Than Good.” If you’ve been eating the wrong foods, you may have struggled to make inroads in your goals to gain muscle mass and definition, whether to improve sports performance, maintain your independence or to live healthier. You'll find the combination of healthy nutrition and exercise helps achieve your goals no matter what your age. Dr. Mercola

    • Yoga and Meditation Are Becoming Mainstream

      Yoga and meditation are becoming increasingly mainstream according to a new report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As compared to data collected in 2012, rates of involvement with these two complementary health approaches were on the rise in 2017, with more women than men taking advantage of these activities and the health benefits associated with them. CDC Reports Increased Use of Yoga, Meditation and Chiropractic Based on data compiled through the National Health Interview Survey, which was conducted in 2012 and 2017, the report, which was issued by the U.S. CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, notes:1 Greater numbers of adults aged 18 and older used chiropractic, mediation and yoga in the past 12 months than ever before In 2017, more women than men benefited from these alternative therapies Alternative therapies are more often used by non-Hispanic white adults than Hispanic adults and non-Hispanic black adults "Many people turn to complementary health approaches, such as yoga and meditation, in order to help with symptom management, such as pain. As well, they turn to these approaches for a general sense of well-being," noted report coauthor Richard Nahin, Ph.D., lead epidemiologist at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), in an email to CNN.2 When comparing the results of the 2012 and 2017 surveys, Nahin and his colleagues observed:3 The use of yoga as a complementary health approach increased from 9.5 percent in 2012 to 14.3 percent in 2017 Meditation use increased more than threefold from 4.1 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017 The use of chiropractors edged up slightly from 9.1 percent in 2012 to 10.3 percent in 2017 About the survey outcomes, the NCCIH said:4 “Over the past five years, more Americans of all ages are rolling out their yoga mats and meditating. A large nationally representative survey shows that the number of American adults and children using yoga and meditation has significantly increased over previous years and that use of chiropractic care has increased modestly for adults and held steady for children.” Nahin told CNN all three methods of complementary medicine are believed to have health benefits. Specifically, he noted:5 Yoga is thought to improve not only your general well-being, but also mental health6 and stress management7 Yoga has been shown to relieve lower back8 and neck pain9 Meditation can help you deal with medical problems such as the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)10 Chiropractic spinal manipulation is said to help alleviate low back pain,11 as well as whiplash-associated disorders12 Yoga Is a Powerful Mind-Body Practice Yoga, which has been around for thousands of years, is a form of exercise you can perform at any age or skill level. It provides both mental and physical benefits. Beyond being a form of physical exercise, yoga can be a lifestyle practice that integrates mental and spiritual elements as well. With regard to the latter, yoga can be viewed as a form of meditation that demands your full attention as you move from one asana (yoga position) to another. As you learn new ways of moving and responding to your body and mind, other areas of your life tend to shift and change, too. In a sense, you not only become more physically flexible, but your mind and approach to life may gain some flexibility as well. A report by the Institute of Science in Society13 details how meditative practices such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, just to name a few, can actually alter your genetic expression through their impact on your mind. Indeed, thousands of genes have been identified that appear to be directly influenced by your subjective mental state. Examples of genetic effects obtained through yoga and other meditative practices include the down-regulation of cellular stress response genes and genes associated with the pathway responsible for the breakdown of proteins, while expression of heat shock proteins and immune function are increased.14 One study investigating genetic changes triggered by the relaxation response determined that meditative or mindfulness practices affect no less than 2,209 different genes.15 Among its many health benefits, regular yoga practice can:16 Alleviate anxiety and depression Diminish job stress Improve your immune function and sleep Lower your blood pressure and blood glucose levels Promote balance, body alignment, flexibility, stamina and strength Reduce your risk of migraine headaches Relieve low back pain According to the CDC survey,17,18 in 2017, 19.8 percent of adult women said they had done yoga in the last year, compared to 8.6 percent of men. In terms of how race plays into the results, about 17.1 percent of white adults stated they practiced yoga, compared to just 9.3 percent of black adults and 8 percent of Hispanic adults. Laughter and Goat Yoga Are Two New Twists on This Ancient Practice As demonstrated in the video above, laughter yoga combines some of the benefits of regular yoga with the joyfulness of laughter. About this unique form of exercise, certified laughter yoga teacher Celeste Greene, director of Laughter Yoga Atlanta, told CNN: “In laughter yoga we come together in a group and generate laughter as a form of exercise. We make eye contact … and engage in playful exercises. It’s called laughter yoga because of the diaphragmatic breathing that takes place — when we laugh, it’s a full inhalation and a full exhalation.” One participant in Greene’s program claims laughter yoga helps her manage stress more effectively because she is in a more relaxed frame of mind. Another says laughter is a good form of exercise and it lifts his spirits. About laughter yoga, Sophie Scott, professor of neuroscience at the University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said: “It feels good to laugh because you get a change in the uptake of naturally circulating endorphins and those are the body’s painkillers. You actually get a measurable increase in your ability to tolerate pain. A lot of time you get a decrease in cortisol and cortisol is a stress hormone. When you laugh, you’re more relaxed, you feel better and you become less stressed.” If you are bound by stress and are looking for a light-hearted form of exercise that can be performed by nearly everyone, you may want to check out laughter yoga or, perhaps, goat yoga, which got its start in the U.S. in 2016. Because the animals may urinate on your mat or climb on your back during certain poses, goats bring an unexpected level of fun and laughter to traditional yoga sessions. Meditation May Help You Reduce and Manage Stress Stress is one of the biggest challenges facing U.S. adults, with many reporting the negative impact stress has on their mental and physical health. The American Psychological Association’s 2018 Stress in America survey19 revealed the average reported stress level of American adults on a scale of 1 to 10 is 4.9. Older adults were on the low end of stress (3.3), whereas millennials claimed to have the highest stress level (5.7). Other results include: 20 74 percent of American adults suggest they have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month 64 percent name work and money as sources of significant stress 63 percent consider health-related concerns to be a significant source of stress 56 percent felt they needed more emotional support in the past year 45 percent say they lie awake at night due to stress 37 percent eat too much or eat unhealthy foods due to stress Given the extent of stress and its far-reaching effects, meditation is a simple technique you can practice anytime, anywhere to alleviate stress. If you are not sure where to begin, gratitude can be a great focal point for lower stress. Simply reflecting on things for which you can be thankful (versus what is irritating or lacking) can do wonders to energize your mood and ratchet down your stress levels. One type of meditation easily applied to virtually any activity is called "mindfulness,” which involves paying attention to the moment you're in right now. Rather than letting your mind wander, you actively choose to live in the current moment, while letting distracting thoughts pass through your mind without getting caught up in them. You can incorporate mindfulness into virtually any aspect of your day — eating, doing household chores, driving or working — simply by reining in your mind and paying attention to the sensations you are experiencing in the present moment. In a 2017 study,21 70 adults with generalized anxiety disorder who completed a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class fared better when facing stressful situations than those who were trained in stress-management techniques alone. In the MBSR class, participants learned elements of mindfulness meditation, including paying attention to the present moment, as well as gentle yoga and body scan meditation. The MBSR group reported meditation helps reduce stress. Notably, their physical measures of stress were also lower, including the stress hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) and proinflammatory cytokines, which are markers of inflammation. Though awareness of meditation is growing, the numbers are still pretty low. According to the CDC survey22,23 just 16 percent of women said they had practiced meditation in the past year, as had about 12 percent of men. Race is not a significant factor with respect to meditation based on the fact 15.2 percent of white adults, 13.5 percent of black adults and 10.9 percent of Hispanic adults said they had meditated in the past year. To learn more, check out my article “How Meditation Benefits Your Mind and Body.” Chiropractic Adjustments Help Relieve Pain and Treat Chronic Conditions While previously used most often to treat back pain, chiropractic treatment addresses many other problems — including asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, musculoskeletal pain, neck pain and whiplash.24 The video above provides an overview of this popular alternative therapy. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.25 During your initial visit, a chiropractor will likely record your health history and perform a physical examination — with special emphasis on your spine. If chiropractic treatment is considered appropriate, your clinician will create a treatment plan to address your particular needs. Although spinal manipulation is the type of adjustment most commonly associated with chiropractic, your practitioner may also use:26 Acupuncture Electrical stimulation Heat and ice Rehabilitative exercise Relaxation techniques Children Also Increasingly Turning to Meditation and Yoga Lest you think adults are the only ones supporting the trends toward alternative therapies such as chiropractic, meditation and yoga, the CDC survey revealed:27,28 Yoga use by children ages 4 to 17 years increased from 3.1 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent in 2017 Meditation use by children increased significantly from 0.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2017 Chiropractic use by children remained unchanged between 2012 (3.5 percent) and 2017 (3.4 percent) In 2017, girls were more likely to have done yoga during the past 12 months than boys In 2017, children ages 12 to 17 years were more likely to have visited a chiropractor or used meditation in the past 12 months than children aged 4 to 11 years Non-Hispanic white children were more likely to have used yoga and chiropractic in the past year than non-Hispanic black children or Hispanic children Mindfulness meditation has been making inroads to schools, such as the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, where disruptive kids are no longer sent to the principal's office for misbehaving.29 Instead, they go to the “Mindful Moment Room,” which is tastefully decorated with lamps, plush pillows and other comfortable surroundings. Rather than staring at a wall or sitting in a corner, kids are encouraged to engage in healthy practices like breathing and meditation designed to help them calm down, focus and re-center. An adult also helps them calmly talk through what happened. Schools like Coleman Elementary and nearby Patterson Park High School that use meditation instead of traditional detention programs note lower rates of absenteeism and suspensions. The Coleman Elementary program, which is sponsored by the Holistic Life foundation, a local nonprofit, teaches pre-K through fifth-grade students proper breathing, mindfulness meditation and yoga. “It’s amazing,” says Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Coleman Elementary, “You wouldn't think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do."30 Dr. Mercola

    • Weightlifting for an Hour a Week Cuts Risk for Stroke and Heart Attack Up to 70 Percent

      Strength training is foundational for good health, especially as you get older. Importantly, lifting weights is not just about keeping your musculature strong; it has a number of other health benefits that at first glance may seem unrelated, including improved metabolism, cognition and mental health. Strength training is also important for heart health, and recent research1,2 shows less than an hour of strength training per week can reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke anywhere from 40 to 70 percent. Weightlifting Protects Against Heart Attack and Stroke The study3 in question, which had a mean follow-up of 5.4 and 10.5 years, analyzed data from nearly 13,000 adults taking part in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, looking at three health outcomes: Nonfatal cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke All cardiovascular events, including death All-cause mortality Strength training reduced the risk for all three. According to the authors:4 “Compared with no resistance exercise, weekly resistance exercise frequencies of one, two, three times or total amount of one to 59 minutes were associated with approximately 40 to 70 percent decreased risk of total cardiovascular disease events, independent of aerobic exercise. However, there was no significant risk reduction for higher weekly resistance exercise of more than four times or ≥60 minutes.” The fact that the cardiovascular benefits of weightlifting were independent of aerobic exercises such as walking and running means strength training is sufficient in and of itself. It alone will lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, even if you don’t meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic activity. (The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends5 at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both.) Weight Training Is Cardiovascular Exercise It’s worth remembering that cardiovascular exercise involves any physical exertion during which your heart and respiratory rates accelerate. While most people equate cardiovascular exercise with aerobic exercises such as running or cycling, fitness experts note you cannot fully access your cardiovascular system unless you’re performing mechanical work with your muscles. So, strength training is in fact a cardiovascular workout. Overall, in this particular study6 resistance exercise was found to influence cardiovascular event risks in two ways, as it: Had a direct U-shape association with cardiovascular disease risk Indirectly lowered cardiovascular disease risk by decreasing body mass index It’s also noteworthy that even small amounts of strength training can have significant benefits. As noted by Duck-chul Lee, associate professor of kinesiology and one of the study’s authors:7 “People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two sets of bench presses that take less than five minutes could be effective … The results are encouraging, but will people make weightlifting part of their lifestyle? Will they do it and stick with it? That's the million-dollar question." Interestingly, your grip strength has also been shown to be predictive of your heart attack and stroke risk. In one study,8 there was a 17 percent increased risk of cardiovascular death, a 7 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 9 percent increased risk of stroke for every 11-pound decrease in grip strength. In fact, grip strength was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure. Strength Training Also Lowers Risk for Metabolic Syndrome  Lee’s team has also analyzed the relationship between weight training and metabolic syndrome9 (a risk factor that raises your risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke) and high cholesterol.10 Again, less than one hour of resistance training per week lowered the risk of both — metabolic syndrome by 29 percent and high cholesterol by 32 percent — and again these reductions were independent of any other aerobic exercise. Lee commented on the results, saying:11 “Muscle is the power plant to burn calories. Building muscle helps move your joints and bones, but also there are metabolic benefits. I don't think this is well appreciated. If you build muscle, even if you're not aerobically active, you burn more energy because you have more muscle. This also helps prevent obesity and provide long-term benefits on various health outcomes." Leg Strength Linked to Cognitive Health Strength training also benefits your brain. In fact, there’s a strong link between muscle strength — especially leg strength — and cognitive health. This fascinating link was again demonstrated in a recent study12,13 published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, which shows that neurological health is as dependent on signals from your large leg muscles as it is on signals from your brain to your muscles. In other words, it’s a two-way street, and neither “lane” is more important than the other. As noted by the authors: “… [P]atients affected by chronic movement-limiting pathologies face impairment in muscle and/or brain performance … Severe movement limitation can influence not only the motor and metabolic systems but also the nervous system, altering neurogenesis and the interaction between motoneurons and muscle cells … The overall results support the existence of a link between reduction of exercise and muscle disuse and metabolism in the brain and thus represent valuable new information that could clarify how circumstances such as the absence of load and the lack of movement that occurs in people with some neurological diseases, may affect the properties of NSCs and contribute to the negative manifestations of these conditions.” According to the press release,14 this finding “fundamentally alters brain and nervous system medicine — giving doctors new clues as to why patients with motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other neurological diseases often rapidly decline when their movement becomes limited.” In other words, whenever you’re unable to perform load-bearing exercises, you not only lose muscle mass due to muscle atrophy, but your body chemistry is impacted in such a way that your nervous system and brain also begin to deteriorate. In this study, neural stem cells — undifferentiated stem cells that can develop into both neurons and other brain cells — declined by a whopping 70 percent in mice who were prevented from using their hind legs for 28 days, compared to unhindered controls. This suggests weight-bearing exercise signals the brain to produce healthy neural cells. What’s more, by not using the leg muscles, two genes were adversely impacted. One of them, known as CDK5Rap1, plays an important role in mitochondrial health and function, which is yet another important reason for getting weight-bearing exercise. Another, perhaps key, factor that helps explain the link between muscle strength and brain health is related to how exercise affects brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a remarkable rejuvenator found in both your muscles and your brain. In your brain, BDNF helps preserve existing brain cells,15 activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons (neurogenesis) and promotes actual brain growth, especially in the hippocampus area, a region associated with memory. Other Studies Demonstrating Muscle-Brain Link Many other studies have confirmed this intriguing muscle-brain link, including the following: • Walking boosts hippocampal volume — In a 2011 study,16 seniors who walked 30 to 45 minutes, three days per week for one year, increased the volume of their hippocampus by 2 percent. Typically, your hippocampus tends to shrink with age. The results prompted the authors to claim exercise is "one of the most promising nonpharmaceutical treatments to improve brain health." • Leg strength maintains cognitive function — A 2016 study17 in the journal Gerontology found that working your leg muscles helps maintain cognitive function as you get older. According to the authors, simply walking more could help maintain brain function well into old age. The study followed 324 female twins, aged 43 to 73, for a decade. Cognitive function such as learning and memory was tested at the outset and at the conclusion of the study. Interestingly, leg strength was found to be a better predictor for brain health than any other lifestyle factor they reviewed. Consistently, the twin with the greatest leg strength maintained higher cognitive functioning over time compared to her weaker twin. The stronger of the pair also experienced fewer age-related brain changes over time. • Leg workout enhances memory — A Georgia Tech study18 (featured in the video above) found that 20 minutes of strength training enhanced long-term memory by about 10 percent. • Resistance training reduces age-related brain shrinkage — Resistance training also helps reduce shrinkage of white brain matter, thereby improving your cognition. In one study, elderly sedentary women taking part in a 12-week strength exercise program improved their cognitive ability by 19 percent.19 Weight Training Benefits Your Health in Numerous Ways Aside from protecting and improving heart and brain health, strength training has also been shown to: Improve your insulin sensitivity — Mark Peterson, assistant professor of physical medicine at the University of Michigan, notes: "Muscle is very metabolically active, and it uses glucose, or blood sugar, for energy."20 Thus muscle activity reduces your risk of insulin resistance. Reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome — This cluster of conditions includes a large waist circumference, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, which raises your risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Research shows working with weights for just under an hour per week can cut your risk of metabolic syndrome by 29 percent.21,22 Other research has found a twice-weekly resistance training program improved insulin sensitivity and reduced abdominal fat in older men who had already developed Type 2 diabetes, without any dietary changes.23 Lower inflammation — Resistance training lowers inflammation in your body, a hallmark of most chronic disease, especially heart disease and cancer. Improve mental health — In a meta-analysis of 16 previously published studies evaluating the effect of strength training on anxiety, the data demonstrated resistance training was associated with a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, whether or not the participant had a diagnosis of a mental health disorder.24 Reduce your risk of sarcopenia — Strength training helps prevent the natural loss of skeletal muscle that occurs with advancing age, called sarcopenia. This is an important factor in the loss of independence and functional decline. In one study,25 researchers demonstrated strength training reversed muscle atrophy in 70-year-old participants. Reduce your risk of osteoporosis — As it improves your muscle mass, strength training also reduces your risk of osteoporotic changes to your bone and thus prevents broken hips, wrists or vertebrae from calcium loss and thinning. Improve mobility and reduce your risk of falling — Bone and muscle loss are compounded by a sedentary lifestyle, increasing your risk of loss of mobility. Weak muscles in combination with a brittle bone structure are a recipe for crippling and disabling falls. Boost your metabolism — Increased muscle mass also boosts your metabolism and helps you to lose or maintain your weight. Prevent joint damage — Inactivity and muscle loss increases the potential damage to large joints, leading to arthritic changes and pain, while strength training helps prevent these changes.26 Reduce perimenopausal symptoms in women — Symptoms of perimenopause, including anxiety and depression, mood swings, irregular periods, weight gain and brain fog, are reduced with strength training. In part these changes are the result of increasing production of testosterone, typically thought of as a male sex hormone. During menopause, natural levels of testosterone may drop by as much as 50 percent.27 Although women should not take testosterone supplementation, improving your natural production using strength training is a safe way to address perimenopausal symptoms. Important Cautions if You Are New to Strength Training Before you get started, I advise you to take a moment to evaluate your level of readiness for strength training by considering some important cautions. Check with your doctor first if you: Are a senior citizen who previously has not been physically active Are currently dealing with a serious illness Have a chronic condition, such as low-back pain or a bad knee It's best to warm up your muscles before launching into strength training because cold muscles are more prone to injury than warm ones. Five to 10 minutes of brisk walking or another aerobic activity can help warm your muscles. As you do each set of repetitions, listen to your body. If you experience pain, stop the exercise immediately. You might try again by changing your posture or position or using less weight. Using proper technique is an important aspect of strength training. Not only will good technique help you avoid injuries, but it will also ensure you achieve maximum benefits from the workout. Another technique you can try is blood flow restriction training or Kaatsu training. It involves performing strength training exercises while restricting venous blood flow (but not arterial flow) to the extremity being worked. A significant benefit of the method is that you can do strength exercises using just 30 to 50 percent of the weight you'd normally use while still reaping maximum benefits. By restricting blood flow to the muscle, lactic acid and other waste products build up, giving you the same benefit as heavy lifting but without the dangers associated with heavy weights. For this reason, it's a great strategy for the elderly and those who are recuperating from an injury. If you are brand-new to weight training and feel unsure about how to approach it, take a class or watch a video. Another option is to work with a personal trainer to learn the correct form and technique for the types of strength training of interest to you. Dr. Mercola