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Exercise Makes Cells More Efficient

Why does risk for heart attacks, strokes or diabetes increase with age? A team from Yale University showed that as you age, you lose your ability to make AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) (Cell Metabolism, February 2007). This enzyme functions to increase mitochondria in muscles. Anything that reduces the number or efficiency of mitochondria interferes with your body's ability to burn fat and sugar for energy. As a result, blood sugar, fat and cholesterol levels rise.

Most cells in your body contain many mitochondria, small furnaces that burn food for energy. With aging, the number and the efficiency of mitochondria both decrease. This interferes with your body's ability to turn food into energy. The extra calories that are not burned accumulate in your body as fat in your muscles, liver and fat cells. This causes you to gain weight. Extra fat in cells block their ability to take in sugar from the blood stream, so blood sugar levels rise and you are at increased risk for developing diabetes. Extra fat in the liver prevent the liver from removing extra insulin, so insulin levels rise to constrict arteries and cause heart attacks. Insulin also makes you hungry all the time to increase your chances of gaining weight.

AMPK is increased by exercise and by drugs used to treat diabetes, such as metformin or Actos. The best way to increase the number and size of mitochondria in your cells is to exercise. If you do not have a regular exercise program, you are shortening your life.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What kinds of foods should I eat before a race?

You should eat before any competition to maintain blood sugar levels, but you should not eat a lot of foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar, such as sugared drinks. A study from the National Taiwan College of Physical Education shows that eating a sugary meal three hours before competition hurts your performance (International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, October 2006).

When you take in a lot of sugary foods before you exercise, your blood sugar can rise too high. This causes your pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. Then you start your competition with high blood levels of insulin. Exercise drives sugar from blood into muscle cells, and insulin does the same thing.. Having high levels of insulin when you exercise uses up blood sugar very quickly. This affects both your brain and your muscles to tire you earlier so you can't exercise as long. Your pre-race meal should include foods such as oatmeal, eggs or seafood that are easily digested and will not raise insulin too high.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should statins to lower cholesterol be taken at any particular time of day?

Researchers at Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY reviewed the world's literature and showed that the best time to take statin is in the evening (Annals of Pharmacotherapy, January 2007). The greatest difference between morning and evening dosing was found with simvastatin (brand name Zocor).

Numerous studies have shown that your doctor should try to lower your blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol as much as possible, at least below 75. The Treatment to New Targets (TNT) study reported at the 2005 meeting of the American College of Cardiology showed that very high doses of 80 mg per day of Lipitor lower cholesterol far better than lower doses, and reduce the rate of heart attacks and strokes by 29 percent. At the 2006 meeting, the Asteroid study showed that taking 40mg per day of Crestar for one year removed plaques from arteries. Doctors are encouraged to treat people at high risk for heart attacks with diet and statin drugs. Statins usually do not have serious side effects, but they can cause muscle pains, particularly in heavy exercisers. All people at increased risk for heart attacks should restrict saturated and partially hydrogenated fats and refined carbohydrates, and base their diet on plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans), whether or not they take drugs. More

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Recipe of the Week

New Potato Salad

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June 26th, 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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