Lucky Man

I’ve been lucky. I was born in a relatively prosperous, relatively pleasant place and family. My health has been pretty good so far. Despite a crushing load of peccadilloes and irritating attributes, I acquired my LSW (long-suffering wife). We, with below-average parenting and organizational skills, managed to raise our children (who are great like gods).

Beyond all that, my major screw-ups have done little harm! I almost killed myself driving badly, but there was no accident. Twice.

It would take too long to list all my major screw-ups. Hopefully advancing age will erase my memory of them.

Sure, you can “make your own luck” by taking useful actions, which (usually) leads to more useful results than does inaction. But IMO, most of our fate is dealt to us like a poker hand that we must play.

Fast Followup

Recently my LSW* fasted for three days, with medical supervision.

The most amazing thing to me is that the feeling of hunger went away during the second day. Food still remained attractive, but the strong , distracting urge to eat faded.

Blood tests showed that the  “uric acid” level in her blood increased to .07 . Some doctors consider that too high, while others consider it the upper limit of normal. This may show that she drank too little water during the fast. It is typical that the urge to drink also disappears during a fast, and the faster must make sure to drink water.  However, it also is typical that uric acid levels increase during a fast. (This may be because the body recycles fat cells as it uses them, and all cells contain purines, which break down into uric acid.)

She showed symptoms of gout after the fast. Gout is actually uric acid crystals in the joints. Such crystals usually form when the uric acid level is too high. The new symptoms went away after a day of hydration and food.

She broke the fast carefully, as advised, with moderate amounts of bland melon every two hours. By hour eight she was eating small amounts of bland ordinary vegan food.

Before the fats, she ate an “elimination diet” for a month. She did not consume any gluten, nor animal foods, during that time, and halted her medications.

She was very tired during the fast and not a bundle of energy during the preceding month. She did not exercise during the fast.

By the end she had a large loss of weight, around 10% of her weight, and also lost muscle tone.

However, the hoped-for effect on her rheumatoid arthritis turned out quite the opposite. The RA symptoms had worsened slowly during the drug-free time. By the end of the fast, they were quite bad.

A few days later, a dose of prednisone gave considerable relief. Since then, daily doses have brought more improvement. At this point, five days later, almost all her joints were roughly how they were before all this, though the left knee and wrist remained worse. She also resumed methotrexate, and expects to resume Humira soon.

She still is eating the elimination diet, and is moderately exercising the parts that are pain-free enough. As before, she finds that the exercise reduces her inflammation and pain. Her energy has returned to the pre-fast levels. She still is deciding whether to try a longer fast, which would include going drug-free again.

Doctors like Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. Amen are advancing medical knowledge and publicizing treatments which have a scientific basis, but, are new and different from what the medical authorities (the AMA) has approved as “standard” practices. But doctors can fall in love with their own ideas, and fail to mention the cases in which their therapy fails or backfires.

And of course, one must be aware that unscrupulous frauds are rampant in the alternative-treatments world. The murderous quack who caused Charlie Sheen’s AIDS to come back springs to mind. People without any scientific background can be taken in by these white-collar killers. In fact, the guy who fixed my siding had been taken in by that very fellow, and excitedly told me that he could cure anything.

The point: pay attention to your symptoms and be your own best friend. But, if you don’t know the science, don’t be your own doctor, and do go to reputable doctors.

 

 

  • LSW: Long-Suffering Wife

Fast!

This has no connection to the previous post, “A Run”. In fact this isn’t even about me.

My LSW (Long-Suffering Wife) has tried a therapeutic regime that is becoming very popular and even trendy among doctors. Yes, “real” doctors. The idea is to avoid eating for a while, i.e., to fast.

Billions of people fast for a day, once in a while, many for religious reasons. Obviously, it is not dangerous, for a day; else this practice would become unpopular. It seems safe for one day even when a religion forbids drinking anything on that day.

But as famed fitness advocates Hans and Franz say, “Hear me now and believe me later!!” :

I AM NOT A DOCTOR

I AM NOT EVEN AN EXPERT ON FASTING

DOCTORS AGREE THAT FASTING REQUIRES LOTS OF LIQUID

DOCTORS AGREE THAT FASTING FOR MORE THAN A DAY OR TWO REQUIRES PLENTY OF MEDICAL SUPERVISION AND PREPARATION

DOCTORS AGREE THAT ALL FASTING IS DANGEROUS FOR PEOPLE WITH CERTAIN CONDITIONS

SO DON’T FAST ON MY ADVICE! THAT WOULD BE STUPID!

TALK WITH A DOCTOR WHO HAS EXPERIENCE WITH FASTING PATIENTS

If you ever were worried about passing a blood test for marijuana, you probably read up on it, and learned that THC-family chemicals can appear for a very long time. This is because the body stores them along with fat.

It’s as if your endocrine system is worried there will be a “dry summer”. (That’s slang for a summer with no weed available. Yes, kids, there once was a time when weed supplies were unpredictable and unreliable. So Henry went to Mexico …)

When the body uses the stored fat, the chemicals dissolved in the fat are released back to the bloodstream along with the fat (as fatty acids). There are good things like vitamins and minerals in there, as well as toxins and allergens.

Many scientists are studying fasting these days. Much is known, but much is unknown.

Clearly it leads to weight loss, which is a huge boon to our cardio fitness and to our old joints. But weight loss also reverses easily.

There may be major benefits to the health of the brain due to ketone metabolism. Now, you may recall that long periods of ketosis occur in low-carb diets like South Beach. Ketosis also occurs after a few days of fasting, and continues until the fast is broken.

During ketosis, ketones flood the bloodstream. During prolonged fasting, the brain uses ketones for its energy needs instead of the usual glucose.  This may be beneficial.

Fasting also may improve health by getting  rid of toxins that were stored in the fat. This is a traditional belief which has some scientific basis.

Scientists still debate the benefits of fasting. They also haven’t settled on exactly the right way to conduct a fast. Some recommend exercise or vitamins, others do not. IMO, vitamins and other medications have not been proven to help, and may aggravate the digestive system, which goes into a mostly-shut-down state while fasting.

Which brings to mind the problems of breaking a fast. After prolonged fasting, one must be careful how food is reintroduced. Else, nausea or worse can result. One approach is to take small amounts of watermelon, or fruit juice, carefully timed.

Folks, if have any chronic conditions, you should find out whether fasting is dangerous for you. In any case, understand the potential problems and their symptoms. Don’t just rely on your doctor, unless your doctor is with you 24/7.

A Run

After stretching, I ran a little over quarter mile. I mean I ran it, no jogging, with an all-out finish for the final 50 yards. It was exhilarating. I estimate this is the first time in twenty years that I ran that far. (I never keep exercise records; this blog is the closest thing.)

At the end the cooldown took longer than the run. Now that’s life after sixty!

I give credit to the well-rounded exercise course at the park. Hiking is good for you, of course. It can be cardio. It is necessary  if you plan to do … more hiking.

But the park routine works all the major muscles. You can do more cardio than with just running or walking, because the legs get rest along the way. The routine builds more muscle in total than just walking or running. And, it’s better-looking muscle – chest, abs, arms, glutes! (My legs are just too hairy to be eye candy.)

I started regular workouts, walking fast, about two-and-a-half years ago. My cardio function has improved gradually. I am pretty sure that in two months of the park routine, it has improved faster.

Modafinil

I’ve been trying modafinil over the past two months.

I do not know enough science about it to discuss it from that angle. All I want to do is detail my own experience with it.

First off, there is a noticeable improvement in thinking. It’s hard to pin down. More patience, more concentration, more desire to do work, to write, to read, to think. It’s similar to caffeine in that way. It lasts longer than caffeine.

Second, it prevents sleep. This is unsurprising, since it is used to treat narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is  a sleep disorder; the sufferer falls asleep unpredictably and suddenly at any time of day. If I take 50 mg of modafinil after lunch, I will be up way past my bedtime.

Speaking of mg, at first I tried 50 mg, then 100. I like the 100 mg dose, but of course it has more tendency to produce insomnia. I try to use it every second day, or every third.

A third effect is an improvement in my mood. It’s not prescribed for that and, from my reading, it does not do that for everybody.  Anti-depressants (and anti-histamines) have  mental effects that vary greatly from person to person. Often, the same drug that makes one person agitated, makes another person sleepy.

One downside of modafinil is that it does not mix well with alcohol. I haven’t experienced this, I just avoid mixing.

Another downside: sleep is important for your health. Stimulants that prevent normal sleep can be very dangerous. Fact: if you do not sleep, your brain will go insane after about 100 hours, until you sleep. Wealthy cocaine users often display this adorable trait (“Winning!”). You must be wealthy to get enough cocaine to have this effect. But ordinary folks can use meth instead and get just as crazy.

Modafinil is not exactly a stimulant. Stimulants increase our wakeful, active hormones (e.g., adrenaline). It is believed that modafinil does not do that, but instead, that it disrupts the mechanism in your brain that leads to sleep.

But the loss of sleep is just as much a problem. It does not matter whether it is due to crank, coke, modafinil, the Late Show, or a hot young girlfriend. Health and alertness depend on sleep, especially alertness.

 

“If You Have Some Young Folks Around”

Governor Christie and his administration just guided the state of NJ through a snow emergency. It appears they did an excellent job. In a press conference, talking about people shoveling their snow, Christie said,  “If you have some young folks around, get them to do it.”

It is a shame that older people can no longer shovel their snow safely. We are a nation of fat weak out-of-shape lazy sickly people, many of whom are old. Some of us are victims of circumstance. Most of us are victims of ourselves.

!WARNING! If you are an out-of-shape reader, DO NOT shovel 20 inches of wet snow from your driveway and sidewalk. It would kill you or put you in the hospital. I wouldn’t want that. (It would cost me indirectly, in taxes or insurance premiums.)

I saw my great-grandfather mowing the hay in the back acres. With a scythe! (He had sweet set of sickles and scythes in assorted sizes.) He was eighty years old.

!WARNING! If you are an out-of-shape reader, who has acres of ripe hay and a sweet set of sickles and scythes, DO NOT mow the back acres with your scythe, it would put you  etc etc

So, for my beloved readers who happen to be shamefully weak and shapeless, what exactly am I suggesting?

You will benefit from a moderate plan of exercise which starts with what you can do comfortably. Then, make progress slowly. I spent a year walking and hiking before I began to jog, and then, only on downhills. It is important not to overdo it, because you will be injured and that will reverse your progress, because you will weaken as you rest the injury.

Patience is one of the hardest parts.

I would write more, but it’s time to shovel the snow.

Sugar Sugar

Jack LaLanne, 1914-2011, was a well known bodybuilder, strongman, and health advocate. He was the father of the American fitness movement, long before Jane Fonda made a fitness tape into a VCR ;  in fact, long before VCRs were invented.

He had a remarkable record of fitness and strongman stunts until an advanced age. For instance, he received a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. At his induction ceremony, at age 88,  LaLanne did push ups on the top of his star.

His first and most important idea was the importance of regular exercise. Close behind – and less accepted to date – was the poisonous and addictive nature of sugar. LaLanne entirely banned sugar from his diet, except as it appeared in fruits and vegetables.

Modern medicine accepts that the chief cause of adult diabetes is a diet high in sugars, refined starches (white rice, white flour, etc.)  and other foods with  high “glycemic index” (potatoes). The “white foods” all digest quickly into sugar. Sugars go into the bloodstream quickly. The amount of increase in blood sugar from eating a given food is called the food’s “glycemic index”.

Diabetes is the body’s inability to control the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Diabetics age rapidly. All the normal effects of age occur more quickly in diabetics, including cataracts, wrinkles, and heart disease. This is due to over-high levels of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream.

At the chemical level, the accelerated damage to the body is the reaction of glucose with protein (“glycosylation”) . Proteins play many key roles in the body. Protein molecules are long chains. Glucose can link several separate protein molecules permanently, when they should not be linked. This degrades the proteins’ function.

For instance, the protein elastin can stretch and recoil. It is a major part of every muscle. When multiple molecules of elastin become cross-linked by glucose, they lose their ability to stretch and recoil. Another example: when the clear protein that forms the lens of the eye becomes glycosylated, it becomes a cloudy cataract.

Over the years, scientists believe, the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar degrades if it is repeatedly challenged with high amounts of sugar and “white food” in the diet. The pancreas seems to wear out.

But Jack LaLanne wasn’t just trying to avoid diabetes.  He believed that exercise and a natural diet would bring vigor and health to everyone. His remarkable life proved his point.

Old Man (in) Winter

In the winter, my physical fitness slackens and my waist expands. At least, until last year.  Last winter there was snow to shovel, a great workout if you don’t overdo it. And I set up my old Nordic Track exerciser and used it in-between snows.

This winter my region is setting records for warm temperatures. Some of the spring bulbs came up in December. I have exercised outside almost every day.

Outdoor exercise in the daytime is great for my mood.

I have battled a tendency to depression for a long time. Before I realized this, I thought I was poetic. (Thanx and a tip o’ the hat to JJ for some solid feedback!) It isn’t bright enough in Winter to make Vitamin D (thanx and a tip o’ the hat to Dr. M for some solid science!), but the bright light is great against depression.

It stayed abnormally warm until New Years Eve here. The past two days have been more seasonal, which is, wind-chill numbers around 20 degrees. I did a long walk one day, and did the exercise course in the park the next day, with many layers of clothing, and no terrible discomfort. But the next two days will be a lot colder.

I am pretty sure that older bodies do not produce warmth as effectively as younger ones.  There is some science that shows that being cold does not cause the common cold.  But, I have to think that cold is stressful.

I want to become able to hike in the cold. I hope to do long hikes in the next few years, and cold weather is likely to occur. I hope these cold-weather workouts will improve my ability to handle cold, without making me ill. This is the classic problem: stress makes the body build up, but too much stress breaks it down.

Modern science brings us warm clothing with efficient, inexpensive, lightweight insulation, along with breathable yet waterproof fabrics. I will test these as the wind-chill approaches zero.

Dr M Says

AFAIK, Dr M is one of the medical greats. I haven’t had any medical problems he couldn’t help with. Maybe I haven’t presented any great challenges.

But  I am straying from his advice. Dr M advises older folk against running, including some people under sixty. He says it is hard on the joints. (Cue Cheech and Chong.)

I would imagine that longer distances of real running are a lot harder on the joints than my current regime. At the exercise course, I jog between stations, around a mile total, plus a sprint at the end. Otherwise, I do a path that measures 1 1/4 miles, walking and  jogging. Or I do similar distances elsewhere. Yesterday’s work was walking the path three times, with a little jogging.

A muscle in my right thigh was sore before that, and again after. I hate to lose progress, but I think today’s day off for the legs was a good idea.

A (former) life of desk jobs and frequent bouts of inaction decimated my core muscles and cardio fitness. The very same was very easy on the joints. Maybe I have cartilage to burn. I’ll rethink it if and when pain, nature’s messenger of truth, tells me otherwise.

Energy Crisis

Sometimes the best-laid plans go awry. Today I had an errand, so I had a late lunch, so I was hungry, so I ate a lot, so afterward I fell asleep in the recliner chair. When I awoke after an hour, the light of day was waning. (The shortest day of the year is a week away.)

I was tempted to eschew the exercise course. But I went. I did eschew the pull-ups and monkey bars, due to my left shoulder’s issues. Everything else was a chore.

I tried to use my aesthetic attitude and appreciate the sky. It was a dull dishwater grey.

It was colder today than it has been for weeks. Ancient hibernation hormones demanded a sensible course of inaction. I guess everybody has to find their own motivation and their own inspiration. I find Tom Petty’s “Climb That Hill” works for me lately.

When I was young, while I ran, I used to imagine myself in a Stone-Age clan, chasing down some meat on the hoof with the other hunters. In comparison, Tom Petty’s music is tired, slow, and low-energy. Oh well.