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Benefits from Lifestyle Change at Any Age

Richard Rivlin of Cornell University Medical School states that: "Age isn't a factor when it comes to improving your health and leading a healthier lifestyle. A better diet and exercise program is all that's needed to live better, even if you've had an unhealthy lifestyle in the past." His study placed older people on a low-calorie and low-fat diet that was high in vegetables and fruits, and a regular exercise plan (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2007). The participants lowered high blood pressure, reduced body fat and increased muscle size. They had lower cancer rates and less osteoporosis.

Another report from Université de Bourgogne followed men over 70 who spent three hours a week in a moderately intensive combined exercise training for one year (Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, August 2007). One year later, their oxygen uptake was significantly increased and their maximal leg muscle strength improved more than 15 percent. They could walk 10 percent further in six minutes and seven percent faster for 200 meters,. This shows that a relatively modest program of exercise will improve endurance, strength and quality of life at any age.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does exercise prevent diabetes just by controlling weight?

A fascinating study from Maastricht University in the Netherlands shows that exercise helps to prevent and treat diabetes by increasing the number of enzymes that transport fat from fat cells to muscle cells where it can be used for energy by the muscles (Acta Physiologica, July 2007). Before insulin can do its job of removing sugar from the bloodstream and putting it into cells where it can be burned for energy, it must first attach on special hooks called insulin receptors on the surface of cells. Fat stored in cells internalizes receptors so insulin loses its attachment sites and is unable to its job. Exercise causes muscle cells to markedly increase their production of certain fat transported proteins that remove fat from fat and muscle cells. So less fat is available to block insulin receptors and blood sugar levels drop.

Another study, from University of California at Berkeley, followed 36,000 male runners for almost a decade. Those who ran five or more miles per week were half as likely to develop diabetes as those who ran fewer than five miles per week (Diabetes Care, November 2007). Furthermore, researchers at the University of Western Australia showed that an eight-week exercise program markedly increased diabetics' ability to respond to insulin, even if they did not lose any fat (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, November 2007).

Anyone who wants to prevent diabetes should make exercise a priority. Because of the extremely high rate of heart disease in diabetics, all diabetics should have their hearts checked by a cardiologist. If they can pass a thalium stress test, they should be in some kind of supervised exercise program.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Are HGH injections harmful?

Many top athletes in virtually every sport that requires strength take Human Growth Hormone, or HGH. Since HGH is taken "under the table", virtually no studies have been done to track the consequences of its use in athletes. However, a study from Johns Hopkins shows that children who are growth hormone deficient and are given growth hormone for one year develop a progressive thickening of their heart muscle and of the blood vessels leading to their brains. They are 52 times more likely to have an atherosclerotic carotid plaque after one year (The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 92, 2007).

A very famous athlete died suddenly for no apparent reason. The autopsy showed that she had a huge heart that had outgrown its blood supply. HGH enlarges the heart without proportionately enlarging blood vessels that nourish it. HGH can make you a better athlete, but at a price. Athletes are so guided by their desire to win that they often are willing to ignore the consequences of the drugs that they take.


Note: Some of you asked about the adhesive foot warmer (or hand warmer) packets I mentioned in the question about cold toes. They're available in most sporting goods stores, cost about $1.50 a pair, and last for six hours or so. Also available at Amazon


Recipe of the Week

Black Bean Jumble Salad

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June 25th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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