Category Archives: Stay Fit

Physical fitness keeps you young.

These 5 Practices Will Make You Happier, Healthier And More Successful . . . At Any Age

The tagline for Forever Young Blog is “How To Be Happier, Healthier And More Successful . . . At Any Age” yet it occurred to me that I have never written an article on just that.

To correct my omission, I offer these suggestions.

1. Exercise And Make Healthy Eating Choices. Every Day.

Exercise

Move your body every day. 30 minutes is optimal, but anything is better than nothing. Establish the exercise habit.

Especially if you are a recovering couch potato, start slowly and build up. (Always consult your physician before starting or radically changing a fitness program.)

Make sure your exercise regime includes cardiovascular exercise and strength training. You need both.

Especially when you are starting out, choose exercises that you like. If you don’t like running, use a cross-trainer. If you don’t like the cross-trainer, swim. If you don’t like swimming, ride a bicycle. Play basketball. Play volleyball. Dance. If you don’t like any other exercise, walk. The fact is, you simply won’t continue doing something you hate. So find exercises you like, or at least dislike the least.

That’s the exercise part. Pretty simple, huh?

Actually, it’s quite simple. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 70% of Americans are overweight (weigh too much) and 35.7% of American adults are obese (have too much body fat, a BMI of 30 or higher). We are the second fattest country in the world, after only Mexico.

To beat these odds, focus on the increased energy and improved outlook that an exercise habit will give you. On the inevitable days you don’t feel like exercising . . . do it anyway. Sometimes you will get into it and be glad you started. Even on days when it never gets easy, you will be satisfied with yourself for toughing it out. Trust me: the benefits are worth working for.

Food plateHealthy eating is as important to your fitness as your exercise program. Maybe more so. Fitness experts often say that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. If you are eating crap, you won’t be fit even with adequate exercise.

Eat foods from all the food groups every day – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. And eliminate, or minimize, the fitness killers such as fried and processed foods. If you must have them, save doughnuts, french fries, chips, hot dogs, sausages and sugary cereal for your 21st meal, a concept that I created and explain here.

By the way, protein includes more than red meat. Try eggs, fish, avocado and nuts instead of artery-clogging red meat.

The reason this advice to get and stay healthy is listed first is that the rest of the list requires a strong body and the energy that comes with good health and fitness.

Health and fitness will provide a number of unanticipated benefits, too.

Fitness can help overcome injuries. I have some experience with that myself. I have been able to live an active life despite having had a herniated disc in my low back for more than 10 years because I am otherwise in good condition and the muscles surrounding and supporting my injury are strong. (Of course, I am not saying that you can exercise away all injuries. Get your medical advice from your doctor, not from some bozo with a blog.)

Exercise, nutrition and fitness are the best ways to slow the aging process. In fact, studies have shown that most of the maladies we associate with aging are actually caused not by aging but by lack of activity.

Here’s the bottom line: It feels good to feel good. So, clean up your diet and get moving!

2. Keep Learning. Every day.

Keep LearningTo reach your potential, and even just to keep up in this fast-paced world, you must keep learning and improving. If you are not moving forward, you are sliding backward.

You must continually gather new information, learn new skills and improve old ones.

Here’s a counter-intuitive suggestion: explore subjects and study things you don’t already know about and, in fact, might not even think will interest you. Exposure to different things will spur your imagination and creativity by teaching you different perspectives.

Fortunately, this is the best time in the history of the world to learn. Thanks to the Internet – the most important invention during my lifetime and, arguably, in all history – all of the world’s knowledge and wisdom are at your fingertips.

Here a few random, implementing recommendations:

  • Read every day for 1 to 2 hours.

  • Read on your digital products instead of on paper. Paper products are bad for the planet and not as portable or retrievable. So read newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. on your digital devices.

  • Use one of the fabulous news aggregator apps. My favorite is a free app called Zite (which is now owned by Flipboard). You tell the app what subjects interest you and the app searches the Internet for the best information on your topics and gives it to you in magazine format. It is basically a recommendation engine. For example, although I change this from time to time, my Zite app currently serves me articles about the wide-ranging subjects of entrepreneurship, healthy living, philosophy & spirituality, photography, psychology, social media, sports, technology, travel, productivity and atheism. I start every day sampling this smorgasbord of information on my iPad while I eat breakfast. Without fail, I read something that informs, intrigues or inspires me.

  • Take online courses. There is an educational revolution going on. Anyone with an Internet connection and a desire to learn can take free courses from the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world. Don’t miss this opportunity!

3. Take Action On Your Goals. Right Away And Every Day.

Take Action!Ideas are awesome. Goals are magic. But unless they are married to action, ideas and goals are just dreams.

I recently read a great story about Richard Branson. In the early 80s, he was best known for creating Virgin Records. In 1984, he conceived the idea of creating a high quality airline. Only 3 months later, after leasing a plane, leasing space at airports, getting licenses and hiring staff, Virgin Atlantic Airways was born. 3 Months! I have been told that he took action on his idea the very day it occurred to him. As I was told the story, before the day was over he had leased an airplane and was in the process of leasing airport space and hiring staff.

Wow. You may not have the assets of billionaire Branson (yet), so you may not be able to implement such large ideas immediately (yet), but you can certainly take immediate action on most of your good ideas and goals.

In other words, the best way to start is to start. Get moving. Take action.

Most people never act on their ideas and goals, and most of those who take action quit when they aren’t instantly successful. But you can’t.

Immediate, and then persistent, action is the key to success in all areas of your life.

4. Travel

I surprised even myself with how important I think travel is.

Traveling isn’t just about going on a vacation to escape the stresses of everyday life, although that certainly is valuable.

Traveling is about getting out of your routine, even out of your comfort zone, and exposing yourself to different cultures, people, foods, activities, languages, activities, sights. No curious person comes back from a journey the way they started it..

Through travel you will inevitably start thinking a different way.

You will understand different perspectives and have new insights.

Here is one insight I have reached from traveling: even though different in many ways, people throughout the world have more in common with each other than not. There really aren’t any significant “us” and “them” divisions. It’s just us, the family of man.

If you doubt that, just look at this rendition of the universe.

Earth In Universe

The most important thing all 7 billion of us share is that we are passengers on an insignificantly tiny planet in a vast universe. Compared to that shared reality, such things as national boundaries, different religions and languages and virtually every other difference become insignificant.

5. Live Congruent With Your Core Values.

Live your valuesKnow who you are and what you stand for.

If you have never done this, you should identfy your core values. This article suggests a 3-step process for doing this. And this article lists as many possible values as I could think of or find.

Values are personal, and yours will be different than mine. However, for whatever benefit this example might have, these are my 5 core values (copied straight from my journal, where they are the first entry that I see every day):

  1. Action
  2. Continuous improvement
  3. Achievement
  4. Fairness & Justice
  5. Kindness

There is nothing magic about five core values. You could have two or 22. Or any other number. The important thing is that you recognize what your values are.

Once you know what your values are, live them. Living authentically brings serenity.

Final Thoughts

1. You can start these practices any time. It’s never too soon to start. And it’s never too late. You will always benefit.

2. You don’t have to be perfect to benefit from these practices. You just have to be better than you were to see obvious improvements in your life. How cool is that?

3. Follow these practices to lead an extraordinary life full of experiences, contributions, creations and, of course, good times.

In the comments section, please share your advice for how to be happier, healthier and more successful . . . at any age.

15 Personal Rules That Make Me Happier, Healthier And More Successful

Whether we think about them or not, we all have “rules for life.”

They are the values, beliefs and principles, even habits, that we use to negotiate life.

You should think about your personal rules for life, write them down and make sure they lead you toward your goals, not away from them.

To start you thinking about this subject, and to serve as an example, these are the rules, some specific and some general, that I try to live by to be healthier, happier and more successful . . .

Healthier

1. I go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. 7 days a week.

I am a “morning person” so I to start my day early. I want to be at my home office desk by 6:30 a.m. Knowing that I need 7 hours of sleep to feel rested, and how long breakfast and other preliminaries take, figuring out my sleep schedule was just math. “Extra” sleep doesn’t make me feel any better and it keeps me from working on my goals for my health, wealth, relationships and personal development.

2. I exercise every day.

Living the best life I am capable of requires abundant energy. In addition to getting adequate rest and eating a healthy diet, sufficient exercise is what gives me the energy I need. Four days a week, I do cardiovascular exercise, 45 minutes per session, or a total of 180 minutes of cardio each week. The other three days I lift weights for an hour.

3. I make healthy food choices almost all the time.

While exercise is necessary for good health and high energy, you cannot exercise away a bad diet. I eat mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and occasional chicken and turkey. (I get protein from eggs, fish, avocado and nuts, and do not eat red meat often.) Anyone who does not know that fruits, vegetables, grains and fish can be as delicious as anything you have ever eaten just doesn’t know how to prepare them. Fortunately for me, my wife Kathie does. (Hint: spices are a key.) Of course, we all have foods that we love but know we should not eat. This fact motivated me to create my “21st Meal Rule.” That rule allows me one meal a week where I can eat something less healthy and not feel bad about it. My favorite splurge is pizza.

Happier

4. I look for opportunities to practice kindness and compassion.

Even if it is something as little as smiling and saying “hello” to a stranger on the street, holding a door for someone or giving a few dollars to a person who needs it more than I do, I look for opportunities to be kind and compassionate. “We’re all in this together,” and we have to help each other out.

5. I laugh often.

My favorite movies are comedies. All the buttons on my car radio are set for the satellite radio comedy stations. We go to comedy clubs regularly. I receive jokes daily from “AJokeADay.com.” I choose friends with senses of humor. I often write about humor at Forever Young Blog. I always look for the lighter side of things. I laugh at myself often.

6. I dance.

This sounds frivolous but I believe that deciding to dance more was one of the best decisions I ever made. Moving in time with the music (more or less) is a joyous thing to do, especially with someone you love. To get the benefits, you don’t even have to be a good dancer. You just have to not care that you aren’t.

7. I do not stay angry.

I would love to be able to write that I never get angry, but that would be a crock. But I try to get over anger quickly, hopefully within moments. I absolutely never make any important decisions – take any actions or say anything I could later regret – while I am angry. I never hold grudges (mainly because of what they do to me).

More Successful

8. I approach each day with enthusiasm.

And with a sense of urgency. An extraordinary life requires persistent action and extraordinary effort. But it’s worth it.

9. I plan each day at the end of the previous day and then I follow my plan.

All productive and happy people use their time wisely. Wasting your time is wasting your life, and who wants to do that? One essential component of my day is a period of uninterrupted time to work on special projects, such as writing this blog. My Thrive Time, as I call it, is from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

10. I start the day by reading something inspiring.

Just as exercising revs up my metabolism, reading something inspiring builds my energy. Among the things that inspire me are stories of good deeds and kindnesses. I read about them every day at such places as DailyGood.org, GoodNewsNetwork.org, and HelpOthers.org.

11. I learn something new every day.

In a rapidly changing world, you cannot stand still. You are always either moving forward of backward. You are moving toward your goals or away from them. That’s an easy choice to make.

12. I care about important issues in the world, but I do not obsess about things over which I have no control.

I focus on the things where I can have an impact. If I can’t do great things, at least I will do smaller things in a great way.

13. I refuse to live in fear.

Of failing. Of being embarrassed. Even of looking foolish. Since adopting this rule, I have accomplished things that I would not have even tried earlier. When I was afraid of making mistakes, I stayed in my warm and comfortable zone. Big mistake. Very limiting. I have actually come to believe that mistakes are “good.” They teach something. They enable us to show what we can overcome. They ultimately make us better. Here is a quote on this subject from Richard Branson that I like: “The best lessons are usually learned from failure. You musn’t beat yourself up if you fail – just pick yourself up, learn as much as you can from the experience and get on with the next challenge…The brave may not live forever, but the cautious never live at all.

14. I make offers, commitments and promises carefully and then I honor them.

I want the people in my life to know they can count on me, that I am trustworthy. Being true to your word shows respect for the other person. Of course, you can’t over-promise or you will spend your life fulfilling promises to others instead of achieving your own goals and dreams.

15. I do and create things that help people..

My goal is to contribute more to the world than I take from it. Is there really any other justification for existence? It turns out that adding value to the lives of others is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the best business strategy. As the immortal Zig Ziglar famously said: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

For me, the overarching purpose of having well-chosen personal rules is to lead an extraordinary life full of experiences, contributions, creations and good times.

Since these are personal rules for life, yours will be different from mine. How about sharing some of yours in the comment section.

White Water Rafting: Good Exercise And Great Fun

White Water Rafting On The Youghiogheny RiverRegular exercise is a requirement for a healthy and “forever young” life. To put more years in your life — and more importantly, more life in your years — you must exercise.

The best approach to exercise is to simply “set it and forget it.” That is, make exercise a regular part of your life. Make it a habit, a part of your daily routine. Don’t think about it, just do it.

Another strategy is to add fun exercise activities to your life. Doesn’t it make sense that the more fun something is, the more likely you will do it?

Adventure Sports And Extreme Sports

Have you ever tried any of the adventure sports?

These are sports that not only provide exercise but also are thrilling and adventurous. Water-based examples are white water kayaking and white water rafting. On land, you can do mountain biking. And in the air, you can bungee jump or skydive.

Actually, depending on how you define “adventure sports” or “extreme sports,” the list could include such things as Base Jumping, BMX, Canyoning, Caving, Cliff Diving, Climbing, Hang Gliding, Kite Surfing, Motor Cross, Mountaineering, Parachuting, Rock Climbing, Scuba Diving, Ski Jumping, Skiing, Snowboarding, Surfing, Ultra Distance Running, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Windsurfing, Wingsuit Flying and more. (There’s even something called Skyaking, where you skydive in a kayak!)

Mixing adventure and extreme sports into your exercise regime can be incredibly exhilarating and mucho fun.

I recently reminded myself how much fun white water rafting is.

White Water Rafting On The Lower Yough

White Water Rafting On The Youghiogheny RiverLast weekend, we spent 5 hours white water rafting on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.

Most people call the river simply “the Yough” (pronounced “Yock”). We arranged our rafting trip on the Lower Yough through White Water Adventurers.

The guides, who were named “A.J.” (although his tat said “A.D.” for some reason), Smiles and Anna, started us off with instructions. Mostly, they made sure we knew how to wear our safety equipment, a life vest and a helmet. (It turns out snug is the way to wear both.) They admonished us not to clobber our raft mates with our paddles. And they told us what to do in the likely event we got pitched out of our raft going through the rapids.

Their number 1 “you’re in the water, now what do you do” tip was this: don’t try to stand on the bottom in the rapids. There are cracks and crevices in the rocks where you could get a foot caught. You don’t want that because the rushing water could then force your underwater, even with a life jacket on. If you and your raft go different directions through the rapids, and you cannot climb back in, get on your back and keep your feet up and facing downstream through the rapids.

We were part of a midday Sunday group that had about 15 rafts. In our raft were our group of 4 — Kathie, Laura, John and me — as well as 2 others that joined us, Liz and Numbnuts (that may not have been his actual name, but it’s what we now call him because we found him a little, shall we say, annoying).

After 20 minutes or so of instructions, we carried our rafts to the river. That’s when we discovered that the water temperature was 56 degrees! Talk about having an incentive to stay in the raft!


White Water Rapids Classifications


Class I: Class I rapids are the easiest. This is generally flat, moving water with few or no waves or obstructions. Very little steering is needed.

Class II: Class II rapids are slightly more difficult. This water may have medium-sized waves and may require some maneuvering around rocks.

Class III: Class III rapids have many moderate, irregular waves, fast currents and narrow passages. These rapids are less forgiving if you make a mistake. You may encounter large but easily navigable waves.

Class IV: Class IV rapids are very difficult and require advanced maneuvering skills. These rapids have cross-currents, fast and turbulent water and large, powerful waves.

Class V: Class V rapids are extremely difficult. These waters are intense and have powerful currents, cross-currents, large drops and holes as well as obstructed, turbulent rapids.

Class VI: Class VI rapids are impossible, or almost impossible, to navigate.

The Lower Yough has class II, III and IV rapids. (The Middle Yough is much tamer and the Upper Yough is for white water Class V maniacs.)

As we approached each rapid, our entire group gathered in an eddy at the side of the river and one of the guides “talked us up.” That’s guide-speak for telling us what the upcoming rapid is like and the best way to get through it with all your body parts intact.

As you go through each rapid, the idea is to stay in the raft and keep your raft off the rocks.

We did fairly well at staying in the raft. Over the course of the trip, we only had 2 flip outs, and they didn’t totally leave the raft. They thoughtfully left us a leg or an arm to use to drag them back in.

Missing the rocks was a different matter.

We kept getting stuck on rocks. Once we were just paddling down the river between rapids when we got stuck on a rock we didn’t even see (although we should have). How embarrassing.

Actually, getting stuck on rocks is easy to do. Getting unstuck isn’t always easy. If the water is not deep and not moving too rapidly, you can jump out of the raft and push it off the rock. Otherwise, you figure out where the rock is under your raft and get everyone to the opposite side of the raft, where you bounce up and down to free the raft. The bouncing looks incredibly silly, but it usually works.

As we went through one of the exhilarating Class IV rapids, we slammed into a gigantic rock . . . and got stuck there. While our pulses accelerated to NASCAR speeds, we struggled to free our raft while being bombarded by fast-rushing white water. Fortunately, there was a guide on the rock who helped get us off. He nonchalantly told us later that if another raft had hit us while we were stuck, our raft would have flipped for sure.

While it may not sound it, we actually got pretty good at handling our raft. We figured out when one side should be paddling harder than the other, when everyone should be paddling hard and straight, when to back paddle and when to just hang on.

Probably the most important thing we learned is to keep paddling through the rapids, to hold your raft on course. There’s a tendency to forget to paddle and just hang on as you are jerked to and fro by the river but you should keep paddling.

Going through the rapids was exhilarating, especially the 2 Class IVs. And we felt a real sense of accomplishment every time we came out of a rapid and were still in the raft.

The weather was great. The river was beautiful. We could have gone on indefinitely.

However, seven miles down the river, and 15 or so Class II, III and IV rapids after we started, we came to the end of our trip. We took our rafts out, carried them to waiting trucks and hopped on a bus which took us back to our cars.

How was it? Incredible! We all loved it! We can’t wait to go again.

Is White Water Rafting For You?

White Water Rafting On The Youghiogheny RiverWhat you trade for the excitement of white water rafting is some degree of danger. If you are not comfortable with that, or if you have physical limitations, you should skip white water rafting.

However, if your fitness level allows it, white water rafting can be a great activity for virtually any age. Most in our group were in their 20s and 30s.

And then there was us. Kathie and I were twice as old as most of the others, but we’re sure we had twice as much fun as them, too.

Life Expectancy Calculators: How Long Will You Live

Life Expectancy CalculatorsAccording to the 2010 census, there were 53,364 people in the United States who were at least 100 years old.

That means that, in the U.S., roughly 1 person in every 6,000 celebrates a 100th birthday.

Fifty years ago, only 1 person in every 67,000 reached the century mark. So the trends are clear.

How ‘bout you? Would you like to be a centenarian?

Even if you have no particular desire to live to 100, do you ever wonder how long you will live?

It turns out that there are quite a few life expectancy calculators online. Some are run by reputable authorities on longevity.

Of course, even legitimate scientifically-based life expectancy calculators can only estimate your likely life expectancy. Sorry, no guarantees.

These 3 life expectancy calculators are a good place to start your search for your life expectancy . . .

Social Security Administration Life Expectancy Tables

The Social Security Administration collects information about life expectancies to help beneficiaries decide the best age to begin collecting Social Security benefits.

At the Social Security website, there is a simple life expectancy calculator.

To use the SSA calculator, you simply enter your gender and date of birth and, presto, the calculator spits out your statistical life expectancy.

For example, if you are a 35-year-old male who was born on August 21, 1976, your life expectancy, according to United States Government Life Expectancy Tables, is another 45.6 years, to age 81.4. If you are a 26-year-old female who was born on February 25, 1985, you are likely to live to the age of 85.0, another 57.7 years.

The Social Security Administration life expectancy calculator is a good place to start calculating your longevity. But that calculator does not take into account a wide number of factors that could increase or decrease life expectancy, such as current health, lifestyle, and family history.

Living To 100 Life Expectancy Calculator

Living To 100 is a website created by Thomas Perls, M.D., MPH, FACP, who is the founder and director of the New England Centenarian Study, the largest study of centenarians and their families in the world. (You can learn more about the study here.)

The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator poses 40 questions about your health and family history. Plan on spending about 10 minutes completing the questionnaire.

Based on your responses, using the most current and carefully researched medical and scientific data, the Calculator gives your life expectancy as well as personalized feedback for each of your answers.

It also provides a list of things you can do differently and how many years you will add if you do.

Virtual Age And Life Expectancy Calculator

This Life Expectancy Calculator is also a “virtual age” calculator. Your “virtual age” is your chronological age adjusted for longevity factors such as family history, current health and lifestyle choices.

You start by entering your actual age and then, as you answer a series of questions, the Calculator simultaneously displays both your virtual age and your life expectancy. This calculator lacks the authority of the other two, but it is pretty cool stuff.

The valuable information to take from these calculators is this list of the main factors that affect your longevity . . .

  • Family history, especially for cancer and heart disease.
  • Exercise frequency, duration and intensity.
  • Diet.
  • Height, weight and body composition.
  • Cholesterol level.
  • Blood sugar level.
  • Blood pressure.
  • Stress.
  • Sleep.
  • Relationship status.
  • Attitude about aging.
  • Number and closeness of friends.
  • Smoking.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Regular medical checkups.
  • Time spent working.
  • Whether your work is physical or sedentary.
  • Educational level.
  • Miles driven each year.
  • Seatbelt use.
  • Safe sex practices.
  • Eating breakfast.
  • Pets.
  • Religiosity.

  • Flossing!

(These factors are not necessarily listed in order, although the first factor listed, family history, is believed to be somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 responsible for your longevity. So, I hope you chose the right parents.)

My First Colonoscopy: I’m Glad It’s Behind Me

After putting it off for years, I recently had my first colonoscopy. And I’m glad I did.

Like many others, I had put off having a colonoscopy because of the unpleasant preparation that is required. And, yes, the preparation is somewhat unpleasant; but it’s not that bad and the benefits of the test far outweigh the inconvenience of the preparation.

Read on to learn more about the colonoscopy procedure and my experience with my first colonoscopy.

What Is Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure in which a physician inserts a flexible instrument which allows her to look inside your colon and rectum, primarily to search for cancerous or pre-cancerous growths called polyps.

Colonoscopy can be done by primary care physicians or surgeons, but it is usually performed by a gastroenterologist.

How Is A Colonoscopy Done

Colonoscopy
Large Intestine
First, some basic biology.

The large intestine consists of the colon and the rectum. The beginning of the large intestine, where partially digested food goes after it leaves the small intestine, is called the cecum. Typically, the distance from the cecum to the rectum is about 4-6 feet. The rectum is about 6 inches long. The rectum leads to the anus.

The colonoscopy procedure involves the insertion of a flexible instrument about the size of your index finger, called a colonoscope, or “scope,” through your anus and into your colon.

The scope has a light on the tip and a camera which takes pictures of the inside of your colon.

The colonoscope is carefully inserted through the anus into the rectum, through the sigmoid colon, then up the descending colon, across the transverse colon and down the ascending colon to the upper end of your large intestine. Then, the scope is carefully withdrawn. Both coming and going, the doctor looks for growths and abnormalities and makes pictures through the scope’s camera.

If they are found, a doctor can remove growths, called polyps, during colonoscopy and later test them in a laboratory for signs of cancer.

Polyps are common in adults and are usually harmless. However, most colorectal cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent cancer.

Anesthesia For Colonoscopy

While it is possible to have the procedure without sedation, 99% of colonoscopies in the United States are done using sedation.

The sedation can be administered by the doctor performing the colonoscopy or by an anesthesiologist. In my case, a nurse anesthetist administered the sedation and monitored me.

I was extremely impressed by the anesthesia used in my case, Propofol. It was administered through an IV and took effect very quickly. At least, that is how it seemed to me. The next thing I knew, it was 15 minutes later and I was awakening in the procedure room.

I had absolutely no memory of the procedure. And there was no discomfort of any kind.

As soon as I awoke from the effects of the Propofol, I was surprisingly alert. There was no groggy, drugged feeling. After only about 15 minutes in their recovery area, I was able to walk out, feeling good. (Nonetheless, following the recommended procedure, my wife drove me home.)

Preparation For Colonoscopy

The part of the process that kept me from following my primary care physician’s annual recommendation to have a colonoscopy — not to mention my wife’s persistent entreaties — was the preparation that is required.

Since I had no abnormal symptoms and no family history of colorectal cancer, I didn’t see a reason to go through the inconvenience. However, based on my research, and my experience with my first colonoscopy, I now think I was wrong.

Before your colonoscopy, your colon must be completely cleaned out so that the doctor can see any abnormal areas. To clean the colon, you have to stop eating and take a strong laxative to empty your bowels.

My doctor’s office gave me specific, written instructions for how to prepare. Because my procedure was scheduled for mid-afternoon, I had to avoid solid food for what ended up being almost 2 days. By then, I was pretty hungry.

Late in the afternoon on the day before the procedure, I had to take a laxative pill and a laxative powder which I mixed with Gatorade.

The result was what you would expect, a series of trips to the bathroom which, in my case, lasted for several hours. I was able to sleep that night without interruption.

For me, the worst part of the preparation was being hungry. Next time, I will schedule my colonoscopy first thing in the morning. I also had withdrawal headaches because I chose to not drink my favorite caffeinated soft drink during the preparation.

Who Should Have A Colonoscopy

For those with a normal risk of colorectal cancer, colonoscopy is recommended beginning at age 50. That is because more than 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in people ages 50 and over.

Those with symptoms or a family history of colorectal cancer, and those with a higher-than-normal risk such as African Americans, may have to be tested sooner. Consult with your doctor.

Some guidelines recommend that routine screening continue until age 76, with screening an option between ages 76 and 85, depending on overall health and risk factors. Screening is not recommended after age 85.

Studies show that too few people get colonoscopy or any of the other recommended screenings (which are listed below).

The Government Accountability Office found that only a quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 to 75 had undergone any of the recommended screenings from 2005 to 2009. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute found that only 58.6 percent of men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 got screened in 2010, far short of the national goal of 70.5 percent.

It is recommended that colonoscopy be done every 10 years unless polyps are found. In that case, the test should be repeated in 5 years.

In my case, a small non-cancerous polyp was found, and removed, so I intend to return for my second colonoscopy in 5 years.

Why Should You Have A Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is used for a number of specific reasons including investigation of these problems::

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel habits, like persistent diarrhea
  • Iron deficiency anemia (a decrease in blood count due to loss of iron)
  • Chronic, unexplained abdominal or rectal pain
  • An abnormal x-ray exam, like a barium enema or CT scan
  • Unexplained weight loss

However, the most common reason for colonoscopy is to screen for colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and the fourth worldwide. While deaths from colorectal cancer have been declining for more than two decades – mostly because of screening such as colonoscopies – more than 143,000 new cases of cancers of the colon or rectum are expected in the U.S. this year and nearly 52,000 people will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.

Because of these realities, don’t be as naive as I was. Remember this: Just because you don’t have any pain, bleeding or other symptoms does not automatically mean that you don’t have colorectal cancer.

How Effective Is Colonoscopy

A study done at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and reported in the February, 2012, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, removed any lingering doubt about whether colonoscopy is effective in preventing deaths from cancer.

That study, which involved following patients who had polyps removed for as much as 20 years, concluded that removing precancerous growths spotted during colonoscopies can cut the risk of dying from colon cancer in half – by 53% actually.

What Are The Alternatives To Colonoscopy

There are alternative screening tests for colorectal cancer.

One is a stool test, such as the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), or the stool DNA test (sDNA). If this is what you use, it is recommended that you do the FOBT and FIT every year or the sDNA every 5 years.

Another option is the Sigmoidoscopy, which involves inserting an instrument which allows your doctor to examine the rectum and sigmoid colon, but not the rest of the colon. This test is recommended every 5 years.

Still another option is the Computed tomographic colonography (CTC), which is also called a virtual colonoscopy. This test should be done every 5 years

Colonoscopy Negatives

Colonoscopy finds more polyps and cancers than other screening test and permits their immediate removal or biopsy. But there are some downsides.

For one, it is expensive, and insurance doesn’t always cover the cost. (However, the new health care reforms will greatly expand the number of people who can get colonoscopies and other proven preventive services without paying anything out of pocket.)

Another downside is that the bowel preparation done in advance is unpleasant, as I have discussed.

Also, most patients are sedated during the procedure, so they can’t go home on their own afterward.

Most importantly, in one of every 400 colonoscopies, there are complications — serious bleeding, colon perforation, infection, abdominal pain, or a cardiovascular event.

Obviously, the risk of complications is reduced if you are being treated by an experienced and skilled colonoscopist. See tip 1, below.

Tips for Your First Colonoscopy

1. Before choosing a doctor to do your colonoscopy, ask about the doctor’s polyp detection rate. Doctors doing colonoscopy should find one or more polyps in at least 25 percent of men and 15 percent of women who are age 50 or older and undergoing screening colonoscopy. Practitioners who find fewer than that may not be careful or thorough enough.

2. Ask for a copy of the report and the photos that were taken. If there is a video, you can ask for that; but there will probably be a charge. You can look at the pictures and assure yourself that there were no polyps that were missed, or you can show them to another doctor for a second opinion if you have any doubt.

3. Be smarter than me, don’t put off your first colonoscopy. Talking with my doctor before my test, I admitted that I was still not sure why I was having the procedure done, other than to keep my wife happy. So, I asked him: with no symptoms or any kind and no family history of colorectal cancer, why am I having a colonoscopy? He said, “because colorectal cancer is a terrible way to die, and it’s completely preventable.”

In short, colonoscopies save lives.

How Does Diet Affect Brain Aging?

Brain FoodDoes your diet affect how your brain functions? Are there foods you can eat that will delay brain aging? If so, what are they?

There’s a fascinating new study dealing with these sorts of questions that was done at Oregon Health & Science University and published in the December 28, 2011, online edition of the journal Neurology.

The study involved 104 volunteers who were elderly (average age 87) but relatively healthy. Researchers analyzed their blood for a variety of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins B, C, D and E, saturated fat, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol and trans fats.

Then they compared those levels to the participants’ performance on cognitive tests as well as to MRI scans showing the size of their brains.

These are some of the highlights of the study:

  • Participants who had higher blood levels of vitamins B, C, D and E and omega-3 fatty acids scored higher on the mental-function tests, including memory tests, than those with lower levels of these nutrients.

    Vitamins B, C and E are high in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids are found primarily in the flesh of fatty fish, such as salmon.

  • These participants also tended to have larger brain size.
  • On the other hand, people who had higher levels of trans fats in their blood scored lower on these tests. They took more time overall to complete the tests and had more trouble with memory and language skills.
  • Trans fats come largely from packaged, fried, frozen and fast foods, along with baked goods and margarine spreads.

  • These people also had more brain shrinkage. (Some amount of brain atrophy, or shrinkage, occurs with aging. However, more significant shrinkage is associated with mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease.)

This study is observational. That means that it observed an association between these nutrients and brain size and function, but it did not establish a cause and effect relationship. Therefore, more research is needed.

In the meantime, however, the advice that we get so often is also suggested by this study: Eat more fruits and vegetables and fish, and avoid trans fats.
Fruits and Vegetables

Prebiotic Digestive Health Supplements

I want to tell you about prebiotic digestive health supplements, but first I want to explain why this topic is so important.

The 100 trillion or so cells that comprise our bodies require basic nutrients and essential substances to divide, grow and perform their normal activities.

Mostly, these nutrients – water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals — are extracted from the food we eat.

Digestion of our food begins in the mouth and continues in the stomach. From there, the food goes to the intestines where 95% of the absorption of nutrients occurs.

Good bacteria
"Good Bacteria"
In our intestines, there are trillions of bacteria, including about 500 different species.

Some of these bacteria are helpful to digestion, absorption and to overall health, but other bacteria are harmful. It is important to have a balance between good and bad bacteria in the intestines, or in the “gut flora” as it is sometimes called.

I take a digestive health supplement to balance my gut flora because I want the full benefit of the foods I eat and the supplements I take. I want nutrients from the food to be absorbed and carried by my blood stream to the parts of my body where they are needed.

I have chosen to take a PREbiotic digestive health supplement, and I am very pleased with the results.

If you are not familiar with PREbiotics, read on.

What Are Prebiotics?

As I have explained, our digestive systems are host to a wide range of bacteria.

"Bad Bacteria"
"Bad Bacteria"
Some of these bacteria are beneficial. They are critical to the healthy development of our immune system and they fight off germs (pathogens and microbes) that would do us harm.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s call the healthy bacteria the “good bacteria” and the bacteria they are fighting the “bad bacteria.”

Prebiotics are food ingredients that stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut and thereby increase resistance to bad bacteria and invading germs.

Prebiotics promote digestive health by feeding the good bacteria that resist the bad bacteria. And a balance between the good and bad bacteria is essential for optimal digestive health.

Benefits of Prebiotics

A report published in the August, 2010, edition of the British Journal of Nutrition listed these multiple health benefits of prebiotics:

    1. Increased calcium absorption and enhanced bone density and strength.

    2. Enhanced immune function in both the gut and body.

    3. Stronger and healthier bacterial balance in the gut.

    4. Improved bowel regularity, bulking and softness.

    5. Leaky Gut and Toxins. Prebiotics strengthened the bowel wall and reduced permeability (leaky gut) with reduced toxin absorption.

    6. Appetite suppressant due to increased blood hormones that reduce the sense of hunger.

    7. Reduced risk of intestinal infection.

In addition to these 7 health benefits which have been established through research, these 3 additional health benefits are suggested by the evidence, but require further proof:

    8. Reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

    9. Reduced risk and/or improvement in digestive inflammation-Crohns Disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.

    10. Reduced risk of colon cancer.

Sources of Prebiotics

Prebiotics are natural substances that occur in foods, mainly fruits and vegetables and legumes (lentils and beans).

In addition to these natural sources, prebiotics are now being added to various processed foods.

For those who want to be sure that they get sufficient prebiotics to keep their good and bad bacteria in balance, supplements such as Xtend-Life Natural Products’ Kiwi-Klenz are available. You simply take 1 or 2 vegetarian capsules a day and your prebiotic needs are met. This is the prebiotic digestive health supplement that I take.

Compare Prebiotics and Probiotics

You may be more familiar with PRObiotics so let’s compare and contrast prebiotics and probiotics.

Probiotics and prebiotics come from different sources and are used differently in the digestive tract.

As I have explained, prebiotics feed good bacteria.

Probiotics are a form of good bacteria.

Prebiotics come from non-digestible carbohydrates such as are in fruits and vegetables, from any form of whole grain such as legumes and from supplements.

Probiotics come from fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and yogurt, and from supplements. From whichever source, the most common strains of probiotics are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillis bacteria.

In short, prebiotics are food for probiotics and other good bacteria.

The Best Place To Learn More About Prebiotic Digestive Health Supplements

You can learn much more about prebiotics and prebiotic digestive health supplements at Best-Prebiotic-Supplement.com. (Full disclosure: with the assistance of a team of researchers and writers, I created Best-Prebiotic-Supplement.com because I use a prebiotic supplement myself and I believe in the benefits of prebiotic digestive health supplements.)

Which Affects Longevity More, Fitness Or Fatness?

For longevity, fit trumps fatTo live a long life, which do you think is more important, keeping your weight down or your fitness up?

According to a recent study that was done at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health and published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, fit trumps fat as far as longevity is concerned.

In the study, those who maintained or improved their fitness level were less likely to die from heart attack or stroke, or anything else for that matter, than those whose fitness level dropped over time. And that was true even if their weight increased.

Stated from the other point of view, participants whose fitness declined were more likely to die than those whose weight increased over time.

According to fitness experts, such as the World’s Greatest Personal Trainer, my wife Kathie Lamir, there are 7 components of fitness.

This study focused on the fitness component of cardiorespiratory endurance.

cardiorespiratory enduranceTo measure endurance, the scientists gave each participant a series of treadmill tests over the course of the study.

In addition to the overall fitness-is-more-important-than-fatness conclusion, the doctors learned something else that is very important.

Every little bit helps!

That is, each increase in endurance level resulted in a lower risk of death.

Conversely, the men who grew less fit were more likely to die from any cause.

The new findings validate previous studies on the health benefits of fitness, says American Heart Association spokesman Richard Stein, M.D. He is the director of the Urban Community Cardiology Program at the New York University School of Medicine. “Fitness is a much greater predictor of [death] than weight,” Stein says.

“If you have been struggling with your weight for years, putting your work into endurance fitness is clearly a very powerful predictor of living longer,” he says.

Here”s the point: For many, increased endurance is not only an easier goal to attain than weight loss but is also pays greater dividends.

For longevity, fitness trumps fatnessThe test subjects were all average weight at the outset of the study. Therefore, without further testing, the doctors are not sure whether the results apply to obese people, too.

What about naturally thin people?

As for them, Dr. Stein says, “don’t fool yourself into thinking, ‘I am skinny and will be fine if I don’t do any exercise.’ You won’t be. Being [inactive] is not OK, even if you are skinny.”

As is often the case when I report on health studies, the takeaway is that, for a long and healthy life, you must stay active and maintain or increase your fitness level over time.