Cardiovascular Disease Prevention In Women – Topic of the Month, November 2015

by on November 13th, 2015

Doctor Paul KennedyMany women (and men) think that cardiovascular disease will either happen to them or it won’t. Heart health issues are usually considered to be male dominated in terms of frequency and severity. But the truth is that cardiovascular deaths in men over the last two decades has declined a bit while cardiovascular disease in women has continued to outpace men in terms of the number of deaths related to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) such as heart attack and stroke. There also appears to be a higher rate of heart disease mortality rates for women based on ethnicity that shows that, of the four larger ethnic groups, African American females have higher rates of CVD than do white females (about 30% higher) while Hispanic and Asian women have somewhat lower rates (approx. 15 -40% lower than Caucasian women).

Many of the individuals that have cardiovascular disease also have many, if not all, of the symptoms of “Metabolic Syndrome” (see Archive) which is defined as three or more of the following five symptoms: a waist circumference equal to or greater than 35 inches (known as Abdominal Obesity); High Triglycerides (fat in the blood ); Low HDL cholesterol(a lipoprotein that helps to reduce fat levels in the blood);Elevated Blood Pressure (greater than 130/85);and Fasting Glucose (blood “sugar”) level above 100mg/dl, should make sure that they see their doctor as often as necessary to determine if these blood “markers” are elevated. Ignoring the presence of these factors, most of which are preventable and/or reversible via proper diet and exercise, can and will promote reduced health and wellness and even early death. Typical causes of these symptoms over time are a poor diet (generally high in fat and refined sugar), smoking, overweight or obesity and lack of regular exercise.

As one can easily see, preventing cardiovascular disease is possible for almost everyone. In many, if not most, cases of cardiovascular disease, a reduction of just 10% of body weight (if needed) can, in many cases, reduce these symptoms by over 50%. A healthier diet or eating plan AND regular exercise can significantly reduce many of the diseases and conditions listed above and can even extend lifespan. And don’t we all want to live longer AND healthier. The numbers don’t lie so be honest with yourself regarding your health and fitness levels. If possible, work with a certified professional trainer that can help to improve your heart and circulatory system as well as help control or (if needed) reduce your body weight. And give yourself some time to improve. A lifetime of neglect can’t be corrected in a few weeks so be patient with respect to your rate of weight loss or your new and improved level of fitness. You owe it to yourself and to your family. And as I always say, “Exercise IS Medicine!”.

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for November 2015.

Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!

Stand Up For Your Health, Wellness Topic of the Month September 2015

by on September 8th, 2015

2015-9-8_TopicOfTheMonth-September-WalkingWellness-final

We all know that sitting is considered the new smoking. Continuous sitting both at work and at home can contribute to obesity and poor general health as well as a number of acquired diseases. This is why standing desks and treadmill desks have become popular. But is there any positive benefit of standing frequently throughout the day? Research has now begun to show that standing as compared to sitting can help reduce the negative effects of constant sitting. I have written previously on the topic of sitting too much (see “Don’t Just Sit There and Die” in the archive) but there is now a relatively robust data base for the contribution of standing for improved general health. Indeed, it is possible for most of us to stand at our desks throughout the day for either short or long(er) periods of time and, it seems, the longer we can do that-even in short “bouts” of standing-the better.

A new study completed at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia and published in the “European Heart Journal” (July 2015) has shown some remarkable improvements in cardio metabolic health benefits when sitting is replaced by standing even for short periods of time. These cardiometabolic benefits include dietary lipid(fat) metabolism improvements and greater glucose (blood sugar) reduction and control.

The study (called the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study) involved over 700 individuals that wore “posture-based activity monitors” to measure their movement patterns throughout the day. Those participants that spent the most time sitting rather than standing or moving had a 3% higher body-mass index (BMI), a larger waist measurement , higher triglycerides (blood sugar) and a lower HDL-cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”) level. As one might expect, those individuals that stood for periods of time rather than sit throughout the day improved their blood glucose levels, had lower blood sugar levels and higher HDL-cholesterol counts. Indeed, each additional two hours of standing instead of sitting throughout the day produced a 20% reduction in triglyceride(fatty acid) levels in the blood as well  as reductions  in blood  glucose and HDL-cholesterol levels.

It should be noted that even people that are comparatively “active” outside of their work environment can also benefit from increase standing during the workday.

For example, if one stands for 10 minutes each hour of an eight hour day instead of sitting, the reductions in blood glucose and blood lipids (fat in the blood) can be significantly reduced over time. Combined with regularly scheduled activities outside of the workplace  such as walking, running  and other forms of physical  exercise, standing at work and/or throughout the day when possible can be an important and effective adjunct to any fitness and wellness program whatever your current level of fitness may be.

…So “Take A Stand !” and feel better over time.

It’s a good way to get started on a new fitness program or to add it to your current program of fitness and wellness. If you have been sedentary for an extended time period, see your doctor before beginning any fitness program .

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for September 2015.

Good luck with YOUR  program . I KNOW you can do it.

Sports Drink Supplements – Bulletin, Topic of the Month – June 2015

by on June 3rd, 2015

Doctor Paul Kennedy
It is almost impossible to avoid the ubiquitous nature of sports drinks and their connection to fitness and exercise. I have watched for years while individuals “burn” 300 or more calories in a twenty or thirty minute exercise bout and then “re-hydrate” with a 300 calorie bottle of a “sports drink”. Most of these drinks are primarily sugar, water and coloring. But in recent years, even more ingredients have been added by the sports drink industry in an effort to provide a more complete replenishment of nutrients. Some sports drinks are worth the cost but, in my view, most are not.

Indeed, water is generally the best way to go with respect to “supplementation” on the run or during moderate to intense exercise.

But there are some ingredients that have no place in a sports drink or supplemental fluid. For example, a recent case report in the Annals of Internal Medicine (published online on May 12, 2015) suggested that an ingredient in a sports “drink” called “Jacked Power” contained an ingredient called beta-methylphenylamine (or BMPEA) that may have been responsible and/or related to hemorrhagic stroke. BMPEA is chemically similar to amphetamine. A previously healthy 53 year old woman, for example, suffered a “sudden onset of numbness” about 45 minutes into her workout. A subsequent diagnosis indicated that she was suffering from a stroke. She was hospitalized for five days and, thankfully, appeared to recover.

Many sport supplement drinks have additives, of course. But the fact is that many ingredients and additives like BMPEA are not always listed on the label. A similar sports drink additive called dimethylbutalymine (or DMBA) has been found in some sports drinks despite the fact that it (DMBA) has already been banned by the FDA. It appears that the manufacturer removed “Jacked Power” from the market recently. But the takeaway message here is to hydrate with water as much as possible (especially as summer approaches) and be wary of energy “supplements” that may or may not necessarily enhance performance, but could potentially cause adverse and/or allergic reactions.

A balanced and calorically adequate diet should provide all the electrolytes necessary for an active lifestyle and proper hydration should do the rest.

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for June 2015. Good luck with your program. I KNOW you can do it!

Remember to check with your doctor before beginning any fitness program especially if you have been inactive for an extended period of time.

Topic of the Month August 2014: Exercise and Gene Expression

by on August 7th, 2014

Doctor Paul KennedyThis is not a science fiction article or wild speculation about the positive effects of exercise on “gene expression” in the human body. Many people blame their genetics concerning their weight and, more importantly, their ability to lose weight or become more fit. But an article published online in the February 22, 2014 journal “Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics” discusses a direct link between regular exercise and positive metabolic changes at the molecular level. The study stands as another example of the fact that human beings are designed to move and exercise and, as a result, they can maintain and/or improve their cardiovascular health with respect to improvements in certain genetic markers. Although all of the participants lost weight as a result of the year-long study, weight loss was not the only focus in terms of dramatic changes at the molecular level.

All participants in the cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention study had two or more risk factors for CVD. These factors included high blood pressure, high total cholesterol levels, diabetes or a family history of heart disease. The group was matched and compared to a control group of the same average age (60 yrs.). The experimental group was entered into a one year long lifestyle change program that included a very low fat vegetarian diet, 180 minutes of moderate exercise per week (about 30 minutes per day), a stress management protocol (counseling) and weekly group support sessions. The results were spectacular. Hypertension was reduced from 41% to 17%, obesity dropped from 60% to 37% and dyslipidemia (unhealthy levels of fat or cholesterol in the blood) fell from54% to 37%. There was also a 7% drop in blood pressure and a 38% improvement in fitness levels due, in large part, to the daily exercise program.

But here’s the real game changer, a genetic profile for each participant was taken at the beginning of the study and at the end of the study. After analyzing about 22,000 genes, 143 genes showed a significant change in the way they expressed themselves especially with respect to cardiovascular risk makers for the exercise group. Much of the “change” seemed to be involved in the body’s immune response as well as other known changes involving improved vascular flexibility which reduces blood pressure and inflammation. What this means is that the body can, over time, produce meaning sustainable changes to the cardiovascular system as a response to genetic changes. Indeed, the changes in genetic markers appeared to increase more rapidly from the third month to the twelfth month of the study. This indicates that exercise needs to be sustainable over a reasonable time frame in order to obtain optimal results and that time frame is a several months and not just a few days or weeks. This is also why exercise programs need to be established at reasonable and moderate levels at the start and gradually increase in intensity over time to a point that is sustainable and, therefore, more likely to produce regular adherence. The idea is to exercise the body—not torture it!

Ultimately, the study showed that the expression of genetic changes fostered by regular exercise and dietary common sense appear to work at the genetic level to prevent to heart and circulatory issues such as atherosclerosis (fat adhering to the lining of the arteries), medial arteriosclerosis (hardening of the major arteries), arteriolar sclerosis (hardening of the smaller, peripheral arteries), and endothelial responses necessary to improve or maintain arterial flexibility.

Therefore, the more we exercise and eat right, the greater are the chances that our bodies become “wired” to maintain and support a healthy heart and circulatory system. After all, to do so is in our genes!

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Week. Good luck with YOUR fitness and wellness program. I KNOW you can do it!

Topic of the Month July 2014: Pass (On) The Sugar

by on July 23rd, 2014

Doctor Paul Kennedy

Topic of the Month July 2014: Pass (On) The Sugar
It’s been nearly two years since I commented on sugar consumption in the USA. New research evidence has surfaced that indicates a continued overconsumption of sugar and “sweeteners” by many even though the sugar content of many processed and prepared foods has slowly (finally?) been reduced. It should be no surprise that the age groups most associated with sugar overconsumption are comparatively younger Americans. This does not mean that dietary levels of sugar in older populations have decreased significantly but it does indicate that younger people are still drinking highly sweetened beverages at an unhealthy pace. Parental control in this matter is, many times, non-existent and, therefore, young children and teenagers continue to consume sugar sweetened beverages at an unhealthy rate.

Although it is difficult to determine how much is too much when it comes to sweetened beverages and these sweeteners include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which has become ubiquitous in our total food supply and can be found in almost every “prepared” food. What are the health issues related to sugar and HFCS consumption? Well, aside from the high caloric intake which causes overweight and obesity, the nutritional value is nearly zero. As a result of high levels of dietary sugar and HFCS, circulatory issues tend to arise along with fat weight gain and obesity.

In fact, there have been over a dozen studies (involving over 400,000 subjects) showing a correlation between sugar and/or HFCS intake to hypertension (high blood pressure)—even in teenagers. This condition seems to occur slowly and innocuously over time but research has shown that hypertension becomes a real possibility after about 18 months of regular consumption of sweetened beverages and foods.

How does this hypertension happen?

It has to do with how our arterial function and how dietary sugar and HFCS make our arteries struggle to maintain proper blood flow.

Our arteries are amazing in that they carry oxygen and glucose (energy from the food we eat) to the cells to help us produce energy for our daily lives and activities. When we exercise, the inner membrane cell walls of our arteries give off a chemical called nitric oxide which allows our arteries to open even wider (known as vasodilation) to allow greater blood flow when we need it. This nitric oxide is essential for arterial health and performance and allows our heart to work more efficiently. Sadly, sugar-sweetened beverages can–and will–lower nitric oxide levels in the blood. This means that the arteries become narrower and more constricted which, in turn, causes blood pressure to rise. Similarly, another essential nutrient that helps normalize and/or control blood pressure that is negatively affected by sugar intake is magnesium. The more sugar in the system, the more tense the smooth muscles of the blood vessels become and the higher the blood pressure due to lower levels of magnesium. This is why high blood pressure in teens as well as adults appears to be strongly related to the consumption of sweeteners like sugar and HFCS.

How much is too much?

Research seems to indicate that more than one serving PER DAY may be associated with a higher risk hypertension and high blood pressure. And don’t forget that higher sugar intake is also related to the risk for Type II diabetes—particularly in the absence of regular and vigorous exercise. Kidney stones have also been linked to sugar/sweetener consumption. As usual, moderation of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverage intake is major key to better health.  Remember that every 12 ounce can of sweetened “soda” and many iced teas contain the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar!! And don’t forget to look for and avoid the hidden sugar in many prepared foods when you shop. In other words, read and compare labels when you shop. The closer that one gets to fresh or frozen food without the added sugar or sweeteners, the lower the risk of many of the conditions and diseases discussed above. It all adds up!

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for July, 2014. Good luck with YOUR program! I KNOW you can do it!

Topic of the Month June 2014: Lifestyle and Mortality Rates

by on June 19th, 2014

Doctor Paul KennedyNearly four years ago I wrote a “Topic of the Month” called “Don’t Just Sit There and Die” (September, 2010). As morbid as the title may have seemed, I received some very positive feedback concerning the importance of the message and the realization by many that being physically active can not only be fun but life saving and “life extending”. This information seems to have been verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a recent weekly report released on May 1, 2014. Although the information contained in the report was not necessarily a surprise, it was most certainly an eye opener in terms of the presentation.

According to health officials that designed the report:

  • Nearly two-thirds of all annual deaths were found to be caused by five conditions—all modifiable!!
  • Moreover, it was reported that 40% of those deaths were, for the most part, caused as a result of habits sadly engrained in our culture.

In other words, they were preventable!

What were those modifiable health risk factors? I’m sure that they are easy for one to guess. In no particular order, they were;

  • tobacco use (nearly 20% of Americans STILL smoke)
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • lack of physical activity (no surprise there!)
  • poor nutrition (including high fat, high sugar and processed foods)
  • exposure to second-hand smoke
  • drug and alcohol use
  • and even lack of adherence to the use of seat belts and motorcycle helmets.

In the study, it was found that that heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke and accidents (the top five causes) were responsible for 63% of all deaths. As one can see, nearly all of the above list includes preventable conditions. The data were collected over three years (2008 to 2010) from the National Vital Statistics System and included all deaths for people under 80. Four of the first five diseases or condition, as regular readers of this column are sure to realize, are directly related to “lifestyle”.

In other words, poor eating habits and lack of regular exercise were likely the underlying causative factor.

The top four conditions/diseases were: heart disease (91,000 deaths), cancer (85,000 deaths), respiratory diseases (29,000 deaths) and stroke (17,000 deaths). Another 39,000 deaths were caused by injury (the fifth major cause).

Therefore, approximately 222,000 people died in a three year period of diseases and/or conditions that were preventable with simple lifestyle changes.

The risk factors are modifiable with improvements in eating plans and involvement in a regular routine of movement and exercise.

Can anyone at any age benefit from better eating habits and regular exercise?
Of course! And we’re not talking about a “program” of celery sticks and triathlons.
Here are some very reasonable changes which can improve your life:

  • A small reduction in daily caloric intake and a simple walking program can make a huge difference over time in our body’s ability to fend off a whole list of diseases.
  • A 30 minute walk each day along with a reduction of just 200 calories per day can result in a reduction in body fat of about 20 pounds per year and a healthier circulatory system!
  • Add a strength training program to regain calorie burning muscle tissue and even more body fat can be lost.

Of course, there are no guarantees, but over time a healthier and more energetic body will emerge. Be patient in your expectations of improved health and fitness but rest assured that with compliance, you WILL succeed! Of course, always check with your doctor before starting any new fitness or wellness program. Don’t be a statistic.

And know that a healthier and fit life IS possible!

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for June 2014. Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!

Cancer Prevention—Lifestyle Behavior Examined

by on March 25th, 2014

Doctor Paul KennedyOur health and fitness article archive has many articles concerning lack of exercise and the incidence of cancer in those that choose not to lead a more active lifestyle. For example, I have written previously in this space about the relationship between smoking and cancer. The effects of lack of exercise on the increased incidence of cancer have also been previously discussed. But a new article in “Medscape Medical News” by Zosia Chustecka (www.medscape.com) on February 6, 2014 explained that the relationship between lifestyle and the incidence of cancer is growing ever stronger. As one might imagine, lifestyle factors revolve around dietary choices, obesity, high levels of alcohol consumption and, of course, lack of physical activity.

It should be stated at the outset that about one-third of all cancers are preventable as a result of a few simple alterations in dietary habits and improvements in the inclusion of regular moderate levels of exercise. For example, even something as simple as slight reductions in calorie consumption (perhaps as a result of a reduction in the levels of foods containing saturated fats and, of course, sugar), can, over time, have a preventative effect with respect to certain forms of cancer. Moreover, a simple daily walking program can be a great way to begin a personal fitness program that can evolve to include other activities such as strength training. Together, these activities should be viewed as preventive medicine. Indeed, as I have stated many times in this space “Exercise IS Medicine”.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has investigated the preventative health “connections” mentioned above with respect to cancer prevention and came to some conclusions that many have suggested but that now have a more robust data base. In other words, the data is simply showing that better eating habits and regular exercise have a very strong position with respect to cancer prevention. Simply stated, there appears to be a “dose” response with regard to exercise and the lowered incidence of many forms of cancer. Of course, some of this “connection” has to do with the control of weight management and obesity. Dr. Walter Willet, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health has stated that “although the (individual) risks of cancer for a person who is overweight or obese are not as great as they are for a tobacco smoker, in the United States and some other countries, the much higher prevalence of overweight and obesity than smoking means that the numbers of cancer deaths caused by these two factors are now similar”. In other words, the death rate in the United States related to overweight and obesity is now equal to the earlier death rate of smokers! This is a chilling statistic particularly because it involves a PREVENTABLE cause related to lifestyle. And that cause is a shocking lack of movement of any kind since many Americans go through the day with little or NO physical activity. We have become a nation of sitters with respect to our work AND our leisure time.

It should also be noted that of the many causative factors regarding obesity, the role of sugar sweetened beverages in the typical American diet continues to be an area of concern. There is no question that one of the major causes of overweight and obesity—and, hence, its relation to the incidence of cancer– in the American culture is “soda” and its derivatives. Although the level of consumption of sugar sweetened beverages has leveled off to a small degree, it remains a major issue in weight control and related disease prevention. And, as discussed above, the corollary to the battle against cancer (aside from dietary issues) is the other lifestyle “choice” involving a lack of exercise! With a small amount of effort, a more nutrient dense eating plan, less dietary “sugar” (which includes “high fructose corn syrup”) and a simple exercise program, anyone (regardless of their current level of fitness and wellness) can significantly reduce their chances of acquiring this insidious disease. The choice is yours and the solution is simple. Make the right choice and lead a healthier and more disease free life.

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for March 2014. Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!

Strength Training – What Are You Waiting For, Kick Off in 2014

by on January 1st, 2014

Dr. Paul KennedyThe topic of strength training is never easy because so many people define it in so many different ways. In many cases, it is referred to as “weight lifting’ which carries a competitive connotation for some and is a turn-off for many others. It is looked at as an activity that is only for people with large muscles and, perhaps, even larger egos.

For many, it is skipped altogether for three major reasons.

These reasons that I have encountered over the years as a fitness specialist are:

  1. Lack of knowledge as to what to do,
  2. Not enough time
  3. Too dangerous or too hard.

The first reason is understandable since much of the information provided to those seeking it is contorted, misapplied and even dangerous. What must be understood, however, is that the proper label for a program that involves gaining muscular strength, flexibility and added muscle tissue is “strength training.

Sadly, however, it appears that many (most) individuals that are involved in a fitness “program” do not include strength training on a regular basis and, for many, the strength training exercises that are being used are extremely unchallenging in terms of “workload”—the amount of weight being used, “intensity”—generally defined as getting as close as possible to momentary fatigue, and “comprehensiveness”—training only a few muscle groups (usually the chest and arms) to the exclusion of many others. It also appears that only a small percentage of individuals engaged in a regular fitness program do not include strength training as a regular part of their routine. For example, a recent study of over 16,000 adults involved in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) it was found that only about 13% had participated in some form of strength training and even fewer participated in some form of strength training twice or more per week. Considering the fact that at least two to three times per week is recommended to increase or at least MAINTAIN lean muscle tissue, it indicates a huge gap in “comprehensive strength training activities” in the general population.

So why the gap?
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Fit and Fat, Part 2 – Topic of the Month – December 2013

by on December 5th, 2013

Doctor Paul KennedyIn May 0f 2011, I wrote about the concept of being fit when one is also overweight or fat. The general assessment of “fatness” is based on a procedure called Body Mass Index (or BMI) that compares scale weight to height. The information is “charted” and produces a number that estimates adiposity (“fatness”). Although the estimate is just that—an estimate—it gives a general idea of an individual’s level of body fat versus lean body tissue (muscle mass, bone, internal organs, etc.). The focus of the measurement, of course, is the amount of body fat one possesses. In general, a BMI “number” of less than 18.5 indicates too LITTLE body fat, 18.5 to 24.9 is considered “normal” or “healthy”, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, 30 to 34.9 is considered Obese-Level I, 35 to 39.9 is considered Obese-Level II and a BMI greater than 40 is known as “Extreme” Obesity. Your BMI is an important number for you to know to assist in maintaining a healthy weight. For an easy measurement, go to cdc.gov/healthyweight and plug in YOUR numbers to determine your BMI.
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Stress and Illness – Topic of the Month – November 2013

by on November 1st, 2013

Doctor Paul KennedyMost people understand that being stressed or under stress is not a “healthy “ state—especially over time. But what is the physiological link to stress and an unhealthy state (i.e. illness)? Indeed, what is known as “short-term” stress (as opposed to “chronic”stress) can actually boost the immune system rather than compromise it. So, what are the fitness and health factors that help to keep stress related illness from happening? A look at stress related illness causation, then, is appropriate. The list of causes, as one might guess, is varied.

One of the most common areas of stress causation deals with nutrition. When the body’s nutrients are depleted, as happens often with chronic and/or long-term stress situations, critical nutrients in the body acquired from the diet are used up at a faster rate than normal—especially minerals. This depletion has a direct link to a slower metabolism—the rate at which one burns calories—and the result can be unwanted weight gain. Additionally, stress can encourage poor eating habits that produce a higher intake of junk food and more processed foods. In other words, meals higher in calories and lower in nutritional value can compromise the immune system over time. In a related way, there is research that indicates that stress can increase the risk for diabetes since stress can actually alter the insulin response from cells. Moreover, a stress-related suppressed immune system can even increase the incidence of some forms of cancer due to the suppression of what are known as naturally occurring killer cells which help prevent the growth of small cancerous tumors.
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Regaining Lost Fat Weight

by on October 1st, 2013

Doctor Paul Kennedyby Dr. Paul Kennedy, Wellness Outreach Doctor – October 2013 Topic of the Month

We’ve all heard the term “yo-yo” dieting and many of us have probably had an experience in re-gaining weight (specifically fat weight) as a result of additional unwanted pounds gained soon after a “diet” is abandoned. I have written before about the reason that “diets” don’t work and the main reason, of course, is that they are generally too severe in terms of calorie restriction and poorly balanced in terms of nutrient content. In other words, they are UNsustainable. It is my view that the calorie restriction component of most “diets” is the major reason that failed attempts at losing weight are common and lead to futility—not to mention that future attempts will be less likely to happen once severely restricted eating plans are experienced.

I have written before about the fact that no weight loss eating plan should restrict calorie intake by more than 10-15% unless the current calorie count of the dieter is vastly greater than the normal range.

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How Do We Approach Fit and Fat?

by on September 6th, 2013

Doctor Paul Kennedyby Dr. Paul Kennedy, Wellness Outreach Doctor – September 2013 Topic of the Month

Over 46 years ago, the first “Fat In” demonstration was launched at the Sheep Meadow in New York’s Central Park in an effort to “protest discrimination against the fat”. The leader of the demonstration weighed 210 pounds and stood 5 feet 11 inches tall. In today’s world, he would be literally unnoticed and possibly considered as being just a bit overweight. But it was perhaps at that event where “fatness”, rightly of wrongly, became part of the national nomenclature. The message to the public at that time was that fat people-and this was the term they preferred-were not necessarily gluttonous or purposely inactive (lazy?). In the intervening 46 years, the level of “fatness” in our nation (now known as obesity) has gone to a whole different and UN-healthy level. As a corollary, it should be understood that many (most?)“fat rights” advocates still prefer the term “fatness” to the term obesity. In one sense, obesity has become the term for a medical condition rather than a description of “fatness”.

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The Sitting Dilemma – “Sitting is the new Smoking”

by on August 9th, 2013

Dr. Paul Kennedyby Dr. Paul Kennedy, Wellness Outreach Doctor – August 2013 Topic of the Month

Nearly two years ago in this space I wrote an article called “Don’t Just Sit There And Die!” As morbid as the title may have seemed, I followed it up in December of 2012 with an article called “Too Much Sitting” as a result of the continuing research into this area of inactivity.

Some recent research has uncovered even more information about our penchant for sitting which now averages between 55 and 75% of the time that we are awake.

In other words, if we are awake for 16 hours (and sleep for eight hours) we spend about 9 to 12 HOURS sitting! Moreover, the course of study known as Exercise Science now has a corollary area known as “Inactivity Science” which may be euphemistically described as the science of “why we sit and do nothing for so long every day”. I don’t mean to make light of this new scientific pursuit but it’s worth knowing that most of the new information regarding our activity levels is not good. In fact, it’s a little frightening.

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Fundamentals of a Healthy Workplace Environment

by on July 3rd, 2013

2013-7_fundamentalsby Dr. Paul Kennedy, Wellness Outreach Doctor – July 2013 Topic of the Month

All of us probably have some things about our work environment (indoors or outdoors) that we would like to improve to make our lives easier, safer and even healthier. Indoors or outdoors, there are always things that can be done by ourselves or those that we work with that can improve our lives and our ability to do our jobs well. The checklist of health and safety measures for our outdoor and indoor work environments are similar in some ways and, of course, different in others. So a brief discussion of a list of those items that should be part of a healthy and productive workplace would be in order as a way of improving our lives and our careers. They are in no special order but all are important and are repeatedly requested or suggested by employees and even health and wellness professionals in many places of work. Not every jobsite or place of business is perfect but a few improvement here and there can really boost employee wellness AND the company bottom line. See if your list matches mine!

The first area usually suggested for improvement is the proximal working environment—in other words, the area near or around our personal workspace. Usually, simple improvements such as adequate lighting, a comfortably sized workspace (cubicle?) with sufficient ventilation and airflow are an inexpensive and efficient way to keep employees comfortable and focused. Tight spaces with inadequate airflow and poor lighting can actually reduce productivity and increase the average number of sick days. Another coming advance in workspace “technologies” are standing desks and even treadmill desks. These innovative ideas allow more movement when desired (in other words, you don’t have to stand or walk ALL DAY) and are remarkably easy to interface with current office environments. And as we already know, sitting ALL DAY is not the best way to keep our bodies healthy and fit (despite ergonomically designed chairs) but by standing or walking for at least part of the day, we can increase the number of calories that we “burn” each day.

Every work environment should plan or allow for sufficient access to food, water and healthy snacks. By providing some of these items for free (such as healthy snacks), productivity and job satisfaction is generally improved. Consider also that you may be able to establish a flexible work schedule thanks to the advances of the computer age. Indeed, many individuals now spend part of their work week at home which allows them to turn some of their commuting time into active pursuits that will improve health and wellness. For those that work in an office or for companies that have a central office, consider scheduling exercise classes such as yoga and step classes in the morning, afternoon or even after work if space permits. It is possible that someone in your office or company can teach such a class or consider paying a professional to schedule and lead the class if the budget allows. Fitness and wellness lectures (also known as “Lunch and Learn” classes) can help employees to focus on or learn more about simple fitness and wellness habits and activities in addition to “burning” more calories and controlling or losing unwanted body weight. Forming fitness “clubs” for activities such a walking, running, hiking, biking, etc. can help others to get involved in a more active lifestyle.  Installing a well-equipped fitness center accessible to all employees (not just management!) is another great way to get employees launched on a regular exercise plan that will pay for itself over time in lower employee health costs.

And finally, engagement and encouragement from upper management is a major part of any company fitness and wellness program.  An encouraging word every now and then concerning employee health and wellness is a simple and inexpensive way to let employees know that they are special and are cared for as a part of the “team”. Moreover, small health insurance incentives to lose weight, stop smoking or reduce blood pressure can, over time, have a multiplicative effect on participation and results. After all, a healthier workforce is a happier and more productive workforce with lower absenteeism and fewer injuries. And besides, it’s just the right thing to do!

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit “ Topic of the Month for July 2013. Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!