Health Image

image of healthPeople can read the articles published on this website and learn a lot about their health and how they can maintain a good health image or improve their health if necessary. Physical health is something that many of us take for granted and it is only when things start to go wrong that we sit up and take notice. Some people are more proactive and take steps to ensure their health stays in the best possible state.

If you are concerned enough about the state of your health to want to take action and do something positive about maintaining it in a good state of happy health or improve it if is is a little under par, then you have come to the right place. There is a wealth of useful information on all aspects of personal health body image and here.

There is much that you can do to achieve your creative potential and make the most of the assets that you have in your ability to learn, understand and apply knowledge. The more that you know, the better equipped you are to make the most of your physical health.

There are many ways in which you can improve your physical health while also working with your mental abilities to literally create a new you. All it takes is some inner motivating force to get you to take action by acting on the information you can learn here.

Of course, merely reading about how you can improve your personal levels of health and fitness is one thing. You have to do something to bring it about! That means you have to take action to improve your diet and to get more exercise into your lifestyle.

While you may learn much from media such as television, there is no substitute for informative reading material. Your health is more important to you than anything else, so make sure you look after it. Having a good health image will help you live a long and happy life.

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The Health Benefits of Salty Sea Air

Posted by on 17 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: health

When I was a child and my parents took me to the beach, I always remember my dad standing there taking great deep breaths and telling me to breathe deep because the sea air was good for me. Back then, he probably had mo more idea than I did of just why that particular air was so good for me or even why we had to breathe it in so deeply. But it was just one of those things that people did and they all seemed to agree that it did you the power of good.

The medical science behind that layman’s belief is actually in complete agreement that breathing deeply of the salty sea air really is good for your health in ways you might not realize. Certainly if you suffer from a respiratory complaint such as asthma, c.o.p.d., bronchitis, emphysema for example, or if you have a smoker’s cough (which was more common than it should have been back then) or suffer from hay fever, the shortness of breath and wheezing seem to clear up after a few days of breathing in the salty air.

Speleotherapy

That’s because the minute particles of salt that are dissolved in the air can easily get into the bronchial airways and start to work their magic. Salt is a well known healing agent that clears up infections, kills harmful microbes and bacteria while it gently loosens any debris that may be blocking the airways such as phlegm or excess mucous along with other foreign particulates. It also soothes inflamed bronchial membranes that become more sensitive when an allergen or other irritant is present, reducing inflammation and widening the narrowed air passages.

For many years, a trip to the seaside was prescribed by doctors as a healthy, natural way to help treat a whole range of breathing problems. Similarly, in landlocked countries, a visit to salt mines was often taken as an alternative to breathe in the rich salty air in them.

This kind of salt air therapy has been given a name; speleotherapy. It comes from the Greek word speleo which basically translates into cave and is derived from the old salt mines that were once considered a place of punishment until it was realized that many of its inmates actually got healthier after spending a lot of time in them!

Modern Salt Therapy

Today, large respiratory clinics have been built around these saltmines, while in countries with easy access to the sea, such as in Britain, a seaside trip is still recommended by doctors to their patients. If it is not possible to travel to these places, there is an alternative that is gaining popularity known as the salt pipe or inhaler.

This is a small device which contains a quantity of rocksalt that the user simply inhales deeply via a mouthpiece and breathes out through their nose a number of times. This produces a similar effect as breathing sea air but in a more controlled manner.

The device delivers the healing air directly to the place it is needed and helps reduce the symptoms of a wide variety of respiratory conditions. This variation of salt therapy is a convenient and portable solution that many find highly beneficial to their respiratory health that works very well indeed.

In fact many asthma sufferers report that their reliance on their steroid inhaler is greatly reduced when using this device regularly. This can only be a good thing with regards to becoming less exposed to medications while still enjoying greater freedom from the debilitating symptoms of this condition.

More information on complimentary therapies for breathing complaints can be found here: www.asthma.org.uk
Here is a prominent newspaper report on salt caves: Daily Mail

The Health Benefits of Sunshine

Posted by on 19 Jan 2014 | Tagged as: health

When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, we are all often bombarded with well meaning warnings about spending too much time in the sun, what with skin cancer and premature aging among the things that no one really wants to be getting. But that doesn’t mean you have to hide under a wide brimmed hat the whole time you are out of doors, nor does it mean that you have to stay indoors all the time there is daylight. Unless of course you are a vampire.

So what is the reality here? Is the sun really so bad for us, or are we turning our backs on a free source of health and vitality?

Get Exposed!

The truth of the matter is that we all need to get some exposure to the sun and preferably daily to enable our bodies to manufacture our daily needs of vitamin D. Without this vital vitamin we risk a whole range of health problems from brittle bones to kidney stones through the resultant lack of ability to absorb calcium properly.

More interestingly, recent studies have revealed that lack of this vitamin is linked with obesity. That means the less natural daylight you expose yourself to, the higher your chances of gaining weight, especially if you are eating a poor diet or one that is high in sugars. That means excess calories from lots of sweetened or junk food potentially compounding the problem.

So it makes pretty sound common sense to ensure you get your full daily quota of sunshine to produce all the vitamin D that you will need to help you stay slim.

Sure, you can top up your body’s supply of vitamin D through supplements, but why would you want to spend money on pills to pop when you can get it for free for the sake of 20 minutes exposure to the sun a day?

That’s right, in 20 minutes, you’ll get enough exposure for your body to produce its own vitamin D, which some say is highly superior to what you have to try to absorb from a pill. In 20 minutes, even in the hottest sunshine, you are unlikely to risk burning or damaging your skin through harmful UV exposure, because of the short time spent in the sun.

The best part is that you don’t even need to strip off to a bikini or pair of swim shorts as just getting the sun to your face and arms in that time is sufficient.

Lift Your Mood

Apart from the obvious vitamin boost to health from exposure to the sun, it also helps lift your mood by boosting the production of serotonin in the brain which gives you a feel good factor that you won’t get stuck indoors all day. Getting lots of natural daylight also helps to counter the health effects of tiredness, as it gives you a much needed boost of energy and vitality.

When you’re in a good mood, life always seems better, making you more positive.

And when you’re in a positive frame of mind, your health reflects your mood. So get out in the sunshine for a while each day (weather permitting) and do yourself a big favor!

Health and Working on Computers

Posted by on 20 Nov 2013 | Tagged as: health

Well, there doesn’t seem much in the way of arguments about the detrimental effects to a person’s health when they spend all day, every day stuck in front of a computer, whether it be their job, or a way of whiling away the hours playing computer games or idly surfing the Internet for whatever.

Sedentary Lifestyle

It all adds up to a sedentary lifestyle which is definitely bad for you if you do it for a prolonged period. When weeks turn into months, then you are going to need to think of ways to counteract the lack of exercise that sitting still for several hours (or more) every day entails.

This all adds up to lack of energy and a feeling of tiredness and lethargy creeping over you more often. Physically, you will experience muscle wastage and a reduced metabolism, which combine to create a situation where you have even less energy and less will to do any exercise to correct the problem.

It leads to weight gain because your body is storing much more fat, due to the lack of its ability to burn off the excess. There is also the tendency to have a working lunch that consists of fast food or to eat more high calorie snacks while working in an attempt to improve concentration and stave off tiredness, which leads to a vicious circle of even more weight gain and less energy!

Getting More Active

The obvious thing to do is to take regular breaks from the computer and go out for walks if the weather is fine, or go to the local pool for a swim to shake out the cobwebs and give your muscles a reason for existing, other than to move a mouse around on its mat!

Other things you can do without even leaving the house is to take a few runs up and down the stairs until you are out of breath. Then rest until you catch your breath and try it once or twice more. You could do the dreaded housework with some gusto, making a concerted effort to swish that broom with purpose and really force that vacuum cleaner head into the carpet!

It all burns calories and forces your muscles to work, which is what you need to do to avoid the debilitating consequences that doing nothing will inevitably bring about. It also helps with losing weight naturally which is important especially if you have been gaining weight through a long period of inactivity.

So be open and honest with yourself about your current work situation. Make a point of reminding yourself, next time you have a marathon go on the computer, that your body was designed to move around. Then get up and go and do something!

Calorie Restricting for Longer Life

Posted by on 08 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: diet

A few months ago, I watched a BBC Horizon documentary on the effects of calorie restricting and how it affects the body’s aging process and I was intrigued to say the least. I watched it again a few nights ago just to remind me and press home the importance of the message it was getting across. Here’s my own take on what I learned from this.

The documentary explored the way in which restricting the calorie intake of mice resulted in greater longevity compared to mice that ate normally and resulted in reduced life span of those that were fed a high calorie diet. So far so good. These kinds of tests have been running for decades.

Restricting Calories

What I didn’t know was that there is a pretty big group in the United States that deliberately calorie restrict on a daily basis. A comparison set of tests done by the Horizon presenter, Michael Mosley with a man of similar age and build revealed that while they looked similar on the outside, it was a very different story on the inside. The physical age of the guy who had been calorie restricting for over 10 years had the internal layout of a 20 year old!

There were many more huge differences such as fitness, stamina and balance with physical/mental differences such as reaction times, motor skills etc. This guy was so healthy he had no need of any medication and the doctor carrying out the tests said that he would be unlikely to need them even going into old age.

I was particularly interested in the mental side of these tests, as it seems that restricting calorie intake can positively affect mental ability and reduce the risk of age related mental illness such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. After all, if this kind of lifestyle can mean living longer, I’d want to get old with my mind in as healthy a state as my body!

Cell Life

But there appear to be well understood reasons for this increase in physical and mental health as well as life expectancy. It all comes down to not necessarily what a person’s genes say, but in how their DNA “ages”.

Scientists now know that at the end of each strand of DNA is a “tail” known as a “telomere” and these are there to protect the DNA from damage. It is also known that as cells divide and reproduce, the length of the telomeres shortens slightly. The more times the cells divide, the shorter the telomeres get, leading to an indicator of how a person is aging. You can read more about this fascinating branch of science here: Are Teleomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?

We also know that when we feed ourselves normally (as we perceive it), our bodies are in GO-GO mode, constantly replacing damaged and aging cells with new healthy cells. We can make that process go even faster by working out and eating a high protein diet to force the production of new muscle cells. We do that in order to build bigger and stronger muscles as any bodybuilder or athlete knows.

IGF-1

This process is determined in our bodies by the levels of a growth hormone called Insuline-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). The more of this stuff our bodies secretes, the faster we build new cells to replace old ones. Up until I saw this documentary, I probably like most people, regarded this process as a good thing.

I appear to have been wrong!

The obvious putting of two and two here is that by accelerating the speed at which cells reproduce, we are speeding up the shortening of telomeres and that means speeding up the race towards the end of life! It also increases the risks of cancer cells growing faster as well as causing faster aging of the body.

The documentary focused a lot on how we can reduce our levels of IGF-1 and thereby literally slow down the aging process. This would happen because it would slow down the cell reproduction rate. Better still, instead of cells dividing and new cells being produced to replace old or damaged cells, they instead go into “repair mode” and repair themselves instead of self destructing to make way for new cells.

“As levels of the IGF-1 hormone drop, a number of repair genes appear to get switched on according to ongoing research by Professor Valter Longo of the University of Southern California.”

Eating and Fasting

The way to do this is to restrict the intake of calories daily. Goes back to where this article began, where we can literally prolong our normal life expectancy by choosing what we eat and drink. But there’s more…

If the idea of severely restricting your calorie intake every day doesn’t sound very appealing, you can get what is believed to be an even more profound effect by regular fasting. This means going for long periods without eating anything and just drinking water.

In many cultures, fasting on a particular day of the week is quite common. But there is fasting and there is fasting. The Horizon documentary covered several forms.

Michael Mosley had his IGF-1 levels checked via a blood test and found them to be relatively high. He then underwent a three day fast, at the end of which a further blood test showed his IGF-1 levels had halved. Unfortunately, the effects are not long lasting and regular fasts would be necessary to sustain the lower and safer levels of IFG-1.

He tried other kinds of fasting.

Alternate Day Fasting

Alternate Day fasting (ADF) is a more civilized way of restricting calorie intake, whereby you eat normally one day, and restrict calorie intake (600 for men and 500 for women) the next. The results of tests carried out by Dr Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago over an eight week period are consistent with reducing IGF-1 to desirable levels. She said,

“If you were sticking to your fast days, then in terms of cardiovascular disease risk, it didn’t seem to matter if you were eating a high-fat or low-fat diet on your feed (non-fast) days.”

Another form of this kind of fasting is the 5:2 Diet, where you eat normally for five days in the week and calorie restrict the other two. Mosley placed himself on this version and after several months reported low levels of IGF-1 and naturally some weight loss (14 pounds) along with reductions in blood cholesterol, glucose and triglyceride levels and an similar increase in health.

What Does it All Mean?

If you’re reading this and wondering what the implications could be for you should you decide to try reducing your weekly calorie intake, prepare to be amazed. I was so interested that I tried my own experiment, fasting one day a week but also reducing my calorie intake on normal days to 2,500 max, although I often stayed well below that.

I did this for a month, after which I got a blood test and y IGF-1 levels are now low, with cholesterol, triglyceride and glucose blood readings that pleased my doctor! I also lost around 10 pounds in weight. I continue with this routine although not quite so strictly and to date have not gained any weight.

My exercise levels are unchanged, with about an hour a day dog walking. I always take the stairs when I encounter them and feel more energetic than I have done in years. I don’t know if this will result in longer life expectancy, but I do hope that I keep my health for as long as possible this way. That alone makes it worth doing.

I’m not sure too many people will be willing to participate in anything similar, because eating the way we do in the West has become so ingrained in our culture that it will be tough to change it. Giving up the hamburgers, fries, red meat, dairy, white bread, cakes, cookies, candy, soda and all those other nice things can be pretty tough if you’re used to having them all the time.

I found it fairly easy, as I already eat a predominantly Mediterranean diet because of where I live (on the Mediterranean coast!) and do not eat anything processed or out of a packet or can. That means my sugar intake is very low (see my last post). I don’t drink any soda or other flavored drinks, almost no dairy or red meat, so yeah, it was an easy transition.

The implications of this information are huge. It appears that we can, by adjusting what we eat, how much and when we eat it can seriously prolong our lives and improve our health. Who wouldn’t want that? You can read about the BBC Horizon documentary here: The power of intermittent fasting.

Terry Didcott

My Sugar Concerns

Posted by on 18 Oct 2012 | Tagged as: healthy diet

sugar concernsOver the last few months, I’ve become more and more concerned about the consumption of sugar. I’m not talking about whole populations at large, at least not in this paragraph. I’m talking about myself. You see, over the last few years, while my main, staple diet has always remained very good and I very rarely ever eat foods that you would call “processed”, I had included some foods that were high in sugar.

Now, they never really gave me any problems and my weight has always remained fairly stable over the last 10 years. I put that down to not overeating, not drinking any soda and getting some daily exercise to counterbalance the fact that I spend several hours at the computer to do my job. But as I read more into the potential time bomb that is refined sugar, the more concerned I became until I decided it was time to call “Time” on the sugar!

Toxic Sugar

In a previous post where I talked about the importance of eating more fresh fruit in our diet, I also mentioned some things about refined sugar and pointed to a controversial article published a while ago on the New Your Times calling sugar “toxic”. I’ve added a link to that article at the bottom of this post so you can read it if you like. That and some other things I’ve read lately have really gotten me thinking about the whole sugar debate.

I suppose I really became interested on a personal level when I last had a checkup with my doctor earlier in the summer and a blood test revealed a higher than normal PSA reading. For those that don’t know what that is, its an indicator of an enlarged prostate gland. Now when men of my age (over 50) get that kind of news, it’s time to sit up and listen.

Research Time

If I ever wanted to know anything about prostate cancer, that was the time. I delved into recent research and a lot of information pointed to the way in which tumor cells are enriched by our old friend, refined sugar. That means sucrose or fructose, at the least the version found in high fructose corn syrup or HFCS for short. Add to the potential danger the now known fact that cancer cells don’t just grow when you feed them sugar, but they also divide and multiply faster the more sugar they get.

I wasn’t so concerned about HFCS as I rarely consumed anything that contains it. But I was consuming stuff with plenty of sucrose, namely chocolate, home baked cake and cookies. Remember, I’m only referring to reined sugars here. Not natural fruit sugars or carbs or anything else. Just the refined stuff!

Anyhow, I thought to myself, why don’t these findings ring very loud alarm bells for the researchers and anyone with any authority? Am I the only one to see the very obvious link here?

Sugar + tumor = bigger tumor!

Wait. More research has revealed that when a tumor is starved of its main source of fuel, namely sugar, it stops reproducing and actually shrinks. Isn’t this obvious too?

No sugar + tumor = smaller tumor!

Is this not an already documented fact? I read about it, so I guess it must be (see references, below). Well. I decided I’m not waiting for some caring government official to break the news. I decided to act.

No More Sugar

chocolate cakeSo for me, no more chocolate, no more home baking and cold turkey on anything that has sucrose or HFCS in it. Was it tough? Nope! It was and still is surprisingly easy. I just decided to stop eating that stuff and I did.

A couple months later another blood test showed PSA levels normal. Whew!

Whoa… hold on there boy! Did I just write something significant? I believe I just did.

Now, before you go out and start lynching your doctor for not telling you this, you have to understand this is only my own little experiment on little old me. What I did was break an old habit and in the process staved my body of refined sugar and I got a happy result. It doesn’t mean anyone else will and it doesn’t prove anything.

Just for the record, its been about 3 months into this new anti-sugar eating regime for me. I first noticed I was more tired and lacked energy, but this soon passed and now I feel more awake and alert and I also feel like I have more energy. I lost a few pounds too. Nice by-product!

More kinda interesting stuff:

My total blood cholesterol levels dropped, with a slight drop in LDL and a slight rise in HDL, so all good there. My blood pressure is normal (no change). My levels of visceral fat has dropped significantly. Yea! Well, no real surprise there.

It’s worth noting here that visceral fat is also believed to be a potential cause of colon and breast cancer (just saying). Excess sugar causes greater visceral fat levels unless its burned off with excess exercise. I guess my daily dog walking wasn’t enough to do that. Now it is!

What can someone take away with them from reading about my own experience?

That you can certainly lose weight by cutting out all foods that contain refined sugars. Duh. I doubt I’ll get any argument on that point. That you can potentially reduce your risk of prostate cancer if you’re a guy over 50. Not saying that’s a given, just a possibility.

ALWAYS check that one with your doctor. It is NOT something you should leave to chance.

It was a very good choice for me to make. A good decision. A very good decision, I think. It also proved something to me: that I could break a habit just like that, not by exerting any power of will… but by making a firm and positive decision. And sticking by it.

Now, that’s real power!

Terry Didcott

References:

Here’s the link to the toxic sugar article in the NYT: Is Sugar Toxic?

Here’s a link to an article on prostate cancer you might find interesting: Food for Thought

How Healthy is Your Diet? Part 4: An Apple a Day…

Posted by on 31 Aug 2012 | Tagged as: diet

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

healthy appleThat’s an old saying that I remember from my childhood and even though I probably didn’t understand it back then, time and research has revealed there is a lot of truth back of it. Apples have been used as a food for about as long as humans have walked on two legs and have a variety of culinary uses. But what is it that the humble apple has that makes it such a valuable and healthy food?

There are several factors that make an apple a great source of nutrition, vitamins and minerals and all-important fiber. Apples should be eaten as fresh as possible, raw and with the skin on because that’s where most of the beneficial nutritional constituents are to be found. Let’s take the main reasons why apples are so healthy one at a time:

Healthy Fiber

Dietary fiber is important for the efficient functioning of the intestines and colon, helping to keep things moving along properly and helping to prevent the build-up of unfriendly bacteria and other unwanted infiltrators. A medium size apple contains around 4 grams of dietary fiber which is made up of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber such as pectin helps to prevent the buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessel wall lining. This is essential in reducing the incident of atherosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber, which present in the skin of apples provides bulk in the intestinal tract which helps to hold water which cleanses and helps to move food quickly through the digestive system.

Antioxidants

There is around 8mg of vitamin C in a medium size apple, most of which is found directly beneath the skin. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant as well as an immune system booster and has recently been found in studies to possess anti-aging properties. It is an important factor in helping the body to remove harmful free radicals effectively decreasing teh risk of certain cancers.

In addition to vitamin C, other antioxidant phytonutrients found in apples help fight the damaging effects of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood stream.

Malic Acid

Malic acid is found in many fruits but the apple is the best known source. When used in conjunction with magnesium, malic acid has been found to offer some relief from muscle pain and fatigue which is associated with fibromyalgia. It also plays an important role in the Krebs cycle that promotes muscular energy. The acid binds to metal toxins and can be a useful substance for detoxifying the body of certain heavy metals.

There is also some evidence to suggest that the malic acid contained in apples plays a role in the prevention of the onset of arthritis and also as a natural cure when contained in apple cider vinegar. It is believed that this acid is capable of slowly dissolving the hard uric acid deposits that occur in and around affected joints, thus helping to retard the progress of the disease at its root cause.

Nutrition Facts

Apples contain the essential trace element boron, which has been shown to strengthen bones. This is a good defense against the onset of osteoporosis. Apples also contain fructose, a fruit sugar that is more easily processed by the body than refined sugar (sucrose, which is also present in a lower amount) into glucose for energy.

Information on exact nutritional information for apples can be found here: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

While the humble apple may not be considered a total protection from disease or health related conditions, it does provide a valuable service in being a small, portable, nutrient packed package that is a far superior snack (health-wise) to anything man-made (such as energy bars or other confection). It helps the body digest its food thanks to a relatively high level of fiber and makes a tasty, sweet snack that is infinitely preferable to getting a sugar hit from a candy bar or bar of chocolate.

So does it really keep the doctor away? Well, if you eat one a day you are less likely to suffer from certain conditions that would call for the doctor, so at least in some ways the answer has to be “YES” …although it will not protect you against everything a doctor may be needed for!

Terry Didcott

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