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Isometric Exercises

Isometric exercise means that you push against something that doesn't move, such as a wall. Thirty years ago, most weightlifters and athletes is sports requiring strength used isometric training to make themselves stronger. Athletes don't use isometric training much anymore. The strength gained through performing isometric contractions is only within 20 degrees of the angle you hold. On the other hand, when you lift weights, you become strong through a wide range of motion. Isometrics cause your blood pressure to rise higher than the other methods of strength training. If you have weak blood vessels or heart trouble, you can rupture a blood vessel or develop an irregular heart beat.

According to Dr. John D. Fair, Chairman of the Department of History at Auburn University, the popularity of isometrics was the result of the success of some weightlifters who took synthetic male hormones called anabolic steroids and then claimed that their isometric exercises made them strong. They claimed that they were doing a revolutionary new training method of pushing against bars that didn't move. The steroids made them stronger by helping them to recover faster from tough workouts so they could do more work. The only stimulus to make a muscle stronger is to exercise that muscle against resistance. You can lift heavy weights, push against special strength machines and push against something that doesn't move, such as a wall or bar attached to the ground. Isometrics are not used much any more, but the steroids are still used, even though they are banned by most sport authorities.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is there any evidence that antibiotics are useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease?

Dr. Mark Loeb, associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, presented a study in San Diego at the meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America that shows how antibiotics may slow brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease (October 9, 2003). Patients on two antibiotics, doxycycline and rifampin, for three months had significantly less loss of mental function than those given placebos.

Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive loss of mental function and affects more than 4.5 million North Americans. So far, the drugs approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimer’s disease are barely more effective than placebos. Several studies associate Alzheimer’s disease with infections caused by the bacteria chlamydia and mycoplasma, but the vast majority of neurologists do not feel that infection causes Alzheimer’s disease. The author of this study believes that antibiotics may prevent plaques from forming in nerves. The trial found that those in the placebo group lost significantly more intellect than those on antibiotics.

There is no specific test for Alzheimer’s disease, so doctors make the diagnosis by eliminating other causes of brain damage. It is reasonable to prescribe antibiotics to Alzheimer’s disease patients because today no effective medical treatment exists. The four FDA-approved Alzheimer's drugs, Cognex, Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl, slow the rate of brain damage only a little bit and do not stop progression of brain damage.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can high blood pressure be lowered just by changing your diet?

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have shown why the DASH diet lowers high blood pressure to normal in more than 80 percent of people with high blood pressure. On the DASH diet you eat lots of leafy green vegetables that are rich sources of nitrites, common salts that your bloodstream, can be converted to nitric oxide which opens blood vessels (Nature Medicine, December 2003.). This means that nitrites could be a new treatment for high blood pressure, heart attacks, sickle cell disease, and blocked arteries leading the heart, brain and legs. Hemoglobin is the red pigment in red blood cells that carries oxygen in your bloodstream. When hemoglobin releases oxygen, it converts nitrites to nitric oxide, to widen blood vessels. Blood nitrite levels are low in patients with high blood pressure.

However, at high concentrations nitrites are toxic, so you must take limited amounts. Leafy greens are rich sources of safe amounts of nitrites. The nitrites go into the bloodstream, where exposure to oxygen converts nitrites to nitrous oxide which dilates arteries and lowers high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure should also eat lots of other plants for the same reason, and cut back on meat, poultry and processed foods that are rich sources of sodium which can raise high blood pressure. See my modified DASH diet


Prove to yourself and your doctor that you can lower your blood pressure with diet: Try my SHOW ME diet (a two-week introduction to the DASH diet)

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June 27th, 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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