Electromagnetic radiation and your health (Part I, background)

RF radiation

Electromagnetic radiation around you

The future is friendly – or so you believe.  With advances in technology and the inevitable development of the Internet of Things, your house – as well as the houses of your neighbors, your offices, coffee shops and pretty much all locations are now hosting multiple “smart” devices, WiFi networks, Bluetooth speakers, cellular phones, wireless chargers and other wonders of civilization.

All of this is easy to get excited about – an environment where most devices are connected to each other and to the Internet, where you can roam free and seamlessly synchronize your work or entertainment across multiple devices without the limitation of tangled wires or busy hands, where the processing power of an average modern fridge (that can take pictures of your food and wirelessly push notifications and reminders to your cell phone) probably exceeds the processing power of a supercomputer just a few decades ago, the environment where thermostats self-adjust after learning your habits and preferences, doorbells can send you pictures of your guests, lights dim in response to your voice commands and even your coffee maker is able to accept your requests from across town and start brewing your favorite drink – all of this would have seemed like a scene out of science fiction novel just a few years ago.

The future is already here.

But all this convenience may come at a very high price if you consider all the potential impact it has on your health.  And when you realize how big the impact actually is and how hard it is to escape it – the science fiction may turn into a horror story.

The truth of the matter is that, unfortunately, most of what you are going to read is not widely discussed and most people just don’t realize the impact – and those who may suspect something prefer to hide their heads in the sand, living in the ignorant bliss, happy to reap the rewards modern technology has to offer.

What we are hoping for is that your views will change once you realize that this ignorance can be deadly – for you, your children, your pets and any other living thing.

Read more

All about inflammation and anti-inflammatory lifestyle (Part 2)

anti-inflammatory strategies

In Part I we discussed how inflammation can cause a wide variety of serious medical conditions.  So, obviously, you should make every effort to keep inflammation at bay.  This article discusses anti-inflammatory strategies to improve your health and prevent chronic diseases.

One big problem with the way inflammation is being treated in traditional medicine today is that – as with many other conditions – the emphasis seems to be on managing symptoms with anti-inflammatory drugs, rather than eliminating the root cause (one could argue that this is a much more profitable approach for pharmaceutical companies in the long-run).  Anti-inflammatory drugs (also called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs) reduce pain, fever and swelling by blocking proteins and enzymes naturally produced in response to tissue damage.

You probably know most of the brand-name NSAIDs – Aspirin, Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen, Motrin, Naproxen, Celebrex, Voltaren – there are also a dozen or so generic variants, some of which can be bought over the counter and some require a prescription.  They are typically used for pain relief – from headaches to back pains to more serious and chronic conditions, such as arthritis.

But while they can definitely eliminate the discomfort and improve the quality of life, anti-inflammatory drugs could be a double-edged sword.

Not only it is now understood that NSAIDs can cause complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, worsening of asthma symptoms, stomach ulcers, intestinal bleeding and fluid build-up in kidneys which may lead to higher blood pressure – and the risks that are even higher when more than one NSAID is used at the same time, (to a point of such drugs carrying warning labels regarding these conditions) – the direct benefits that anti-inflammatory drugs promise are also questionable.  When you recall that inflammatory response also initiates tissue healing and elimination of pathogens – blocking such response could, essentially, help the pathogens proliferate and do more damage.  This, by the way, is not only the case with invading pathogens, but also with auto-immunity-type inflammatory reactions, such as osteoarthritis – in fact, anti-inflammatory drugs can accelerate osteoarthritis-related tissue-degeneration, by blocking the production of healing prostaglandins.

Read more

All about inflammation and anti-inflammatory lifestyle (Part 1)

inflammation

Over the course of evolution, our bodies developed some fantastically complex and truly amazing defense mechanisms.  Jointly, they keep us safe and alive, protecting us from foreign bacterial and viral invasions, ensuring tissue regeneration and healing, cleaning up cellular metabolic debris and deactivating and destroying malfunctioning cells to limit the damage that they can inflict on surrounding tissues.

Many times, however, the same processes that are supposed to protect our bodies from harm cause greater harm when allowed to progress unchecked.  For instance, cholesterol patches originally deployed to limit the damage from vascular lesions may lead to dangerous plaque formations that elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Free radicals, the generation of which is a part of normal ATP production in mitochondria wreak havoc in large amounts – to a point of causing DNA damage. Our immune system, designed to combat foreign microbes and irritants and keep us safe, can go out of control and cause a whole range of dysfunctions – from benign allergies to serious auto-immune disorders like lupus or arthritis, when it loses the ability to differentiate between foreign invaders and host tissues.

This article will discuss yet another biological process that is a part of your innate immune system and is intended to protect you from harm, but often gets out of control and creates the opposite effect.

We are, of course, talking about inflammation.

You probably hear about it quite often – most likely in the negative context.  From doctors prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs, many popular websites talking about anti-inflammatory foods and diets, etc. – but just as in many other cases, most of these measures are trying to fight the symptom, rather than the root cause.

What exactly is inflammation and should you really fear it or fight it?  What causes it and what effects does it have on your body?  What should you do to control it and how can you minimize any negative effects?

Continue reading to find out!

Read more

Compound Exercises vs Isolation: How to Make the Right Choice

Compound exercises vs isolation

Here is one of the biggest questions around physical activity that pops up every now and then: should you stick to compound exercises or isolation exercises as a part of your training schedule?  Is one better than the other?  If compound lifts are so good  – how come there are so many gyms that offer a huge variety of expensive machines targeting specific muscles?

The truth is – both methods can be used to improve strength.  Both methods can be used to build a better body.  But there are scenarios where one would work better than the other.

Instead of taking sides, in this article we will explore advantages and disadvantages of both compound and isolation exercise and then try to boil everything down to a simple routine that utilizes the best elements from both camps.

Read more

Sauna benefits: get stronger and live longer

sauna

Sometimes, there is only a very slight difference between high performers and those who just spin their wheels.  The latter often do most of the things high performers do, but still fail to achieve the same results.  This is because high performers know about and implement little tricks that may seem unimportant at first but which, in combination, make a significant difference.  Each incremental effort, each little detail can provide that slight edge and lead to greater results.

One of such tricks that can make you stronger, healthier, leaner and more resilient is quite simple, but yet –little known to most people.  We are, of course, talking about hyperthermic conditioning, more commonly referred to as “sauna”.

When it comes to the goals listed above, sauna is typically not on most people’s list.  Some enjoy the process – especially when it involves some social element, as well (in many cultures sauna is a place to spend time with friends and socialize), some use it for all the wrong reasons (yes, there are still many misconceptions and myths surrounding sauna use), yet some others (especially those who don’t do it right) don’t really care about it – but few people really think of sauna as some superhero-lab-level procedure and performance enhancer.

Which is unfortunate, because – with healthy individuals who have no pre-existing medical conditions that would restrict sauna use – it is a wonderful and grossly underutilized tool that can help on many different fronts.

Let’s look at what intense heat can actually do for you – and how to use it properly (heads up: sauna benefits have very little to do directly with sweating and flushing out the mythical “toxins” as a result, as many gurus would have you believe – the mechanisms involved are actually much more interesting).

Read more

6 big myths and misconceptions in healthy eating

healthy eating myths debunked

When it comes to healthy eating, there are many myths and misconceptions that just won’t die.  Some of them may be silly, while some others may be dangerous, because following them may lead to the results opposite to what you would expect (to the detriment of your health).

The funny thing is that most people who propagate them by trying to “educate” their friends have no idea why they need to follow these “guidelines” – they were just told to, at some point, by another friend, a popular magazine or even doctors, who got stuck in the last century and didn’t care to update their knowledge with the latest research.

Are any of these myths worth believing in?  See for yourself!

Myth # 1: Low-fat food

For many years, caught in the semantics and mislead by mass media (and even some very authoritative sources), people have been equating dietary fat (the fat you eat) to body fat (the fat you store).  The solution, in the age of prevailing heart disease and stroke and total cholesterol hysteria, seemed simple – remove fat from your food and you will be forever lean and healthy.

As it turns out – that’s not quite the case.  In fact, the effect is often the opposite – if you get overzealous, you risk developing quite a few health problems.

Read more

Weight training for kids – best workout or a way to stunt growth?

weight training for kids

We have previously seen how unsubstantiated fears kept most women away from weights for many decades because someone, somewhere took a liberty of defining women as overly fragile, helpless beings that were unable (and unwilling) to ever lift more than the weight of their purses.  (Of course, producers of 0.5lb barbells missed the fact that just to be prepared for the challenges of everyday life, women would need to lift, push, squat and carry much higher weights – like their own babies).

In any case, hopefully, you realize by now that when we compare males and females – there are more similarities than differences in metabolic pathways, muscular function and useful methods to achieve athletic and health goals.  So this limiting belief does females a great disservice.

But a similar ill advice and unsubstantiated fears are now defining our attitudes towards weight training for kids.  Most parents still have many reservations when it comes to weight training for kids – because they have heard, at some point, that lifting weights stunts growth (and that lifting free weights causes injuries, generally speaking).

How much of it is true?  Does weight lifting stunt grown in children, as many people believe?  Are there benefits of weight training as a part of structured exercise early in life? And, if you are a parent – what should you know about your child’s training protocols?

Let’s try to take a closer look.

Read more

Tired of being tired? Here is how to avoid fatigue and boost your energy

feeling tired

A lot of people these days complain about feeling tired all the time.

It’s true that the pace of life seems to be picking up with each day – most people have to deal with multiple distractions, tasks and problems – which often takes significant effort and results in the lack of energy.  We are all busy – so busy, in fact, that most of us admit to getting less sleep than we need.  Quickly eating on the go (because who wants to waste time on a formal sit-down meal in a relaxing environment, when you have so many tasks to complete, right?) makes stellar dietary choices difficult – and results in consumption of loads of junk that makes us fat, slow, sleepy, tired and dissatisfied with everything.

Many food and drink producers seem to be offering a helping hand in fighting this lack of energy.  From seemingly benign coffee, tightly intertwined into many cultures, to “energy drinks” (that contain a wide variety of compounds and make an even wider variety of claims to “give you wings” – or at least keep you alert and focused) – there appears to be plenty of solutions.

But before you attempt to artificially boost your energy (and, if you overdo it – give yourself heart palpitations, anxiety and sleep problems in the process) – perhaps it makes sense to try to understand why you have a lack of energy in the first place.  If you are feeling sleepy and sluggish during the day, if you were rather left alone, if you drag yourself everywhere you need to go, if you cannot concentrate on the task on hand and if your solution to this is upping your caffeine intake – this article is for you.

Let’s look at how you can better manage your mental and physical energy and always be full of life and ready to go!

Read more

Heart Health: Part III – regeneration, genetics and supplements

heart health

Wear and tear, cell regeneration and impact on heart health

Most people pretty much accept the inevitable decline in heart health as they age, believing that the heart (just as the rest of the body) wears out with time.  It is almost expected that your heart, as you get older, will start changing for the worse – the cardiac muscle is expected to thicken (and weaken at the same time), arteries – to stiffen and overall cell regeneration process – to slow down.  The implied lack of exercise at an older age makes these processes accelerate even further.

This grim picture, however, doesn’t have to be your reality.

It is true that myocardium cells may not possess the same remarkable regenerative capacity as liver cells, for instance (although they do, of course, regenerate following normal cell death), but as long as you can prevent current cells from dying too quickly – you can extend the lifespan of the whole heart.  The rules we discussed in relation to overall aging prevention apply equally when trying to prevent premature aging of the heart.

As with most organs, aging of the heart means the loss of ability of myocardium cells to divide and replicate (at least, at a rate that surpasses the rate of normal cell death).   And the factors that drive this are the same as what we have previously discussed – excessive free radical damage, inflammation and muscle atrophy.  If you prevent these generally (by making slight adjustments to your lifestyle and diet) – you will keep your heart young, strong and healthy.

Read more

Heart health: Part II – Heart rate, variability and food

checking for heart rate

Resting heart rate – slower is better

As your heart gets more efficient and stronger – it can pump more blood with each stroke (and, potentially, require less energy to do that).  Eventually, what this leads to is slower resting heart rate.  Remember, the heart rate is a product of the demand for oxygenated blood and your heart’s ability to satisfy that demand.  As this ability improves, the heart doesn’t need to beat as fast.

This is precisely where the benefit of exercise comes in.  Exercise not only strengthens the heart itself and makes it more efficient in accessing oxygen in the blood (by growing more mitochondria) – but it also triggers the growth of new mitochondria (as well as improvement in oxidative capacity of existing mitochondria) at the periphery (i.e. – within the target tissue).  All of that means that tissues in need of oxygen could now use less of it to satisfy the same demand for energy – which means your heart doesn’t need to beat as fast.

What benefits does slower heart rate have?  There may be a couple:

  • Slower heart rate means a bigger “buffer” between current and maximum heart rate to keep up with more demanding situations when the heart needs to beat faster. Remember – the maximum rate is a finite number for everyone – your heart can’t just beat faster and faster in response to the demand – because the heart itself needs oxygen from blood to perform the work. Faster heart rate means higher energy demand for the heart muscle itself – and at some point, the ability to fuel this process by oxygen delivered by the blood will be limited by the supply of that freshly oxygenated blood and the speed at which it is utilized within the aerobic metabolism pathways.  No available energy at any given moment means no ability to contract.  So a slower heart rate potentially means more energy-efficient heart and a higher capacity to increase that rate to address spontaneous demands for blood delivery;
  • As we have already mentioned, muscle contraction requires energy – which comes from oxidation of fat, glucose or ketone bodies. Cellular energy metabolism – while being absolutely essential for life – also generates several chemical and electrical by-products that, in large amounts, can be harmful.  For instance – we have already discussed positive hydrogen ions (H+) generated by muscle contraction that raise the acidity of the cell.  Also, cellular metabolism generates reactive oxygen species that are known to inflict damage to cell’s DNA and cause various disorders.  It follows, then, that less energy required for resting heart rate means less of such by-products – which, by the way, may contribute to the wear and tear and, as a result – the longevity of the heart itself.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that animals with generally slower heart rates live longer?

Read more

1 2 3 11