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Intense Exercise Better for Reducing Belly Fat

Researchers at the University of Virginia show that intense exercise is far more effective in reducing belly fat than less intense exercise (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, November 2008).

Storing fat primarily in your belly usually means that you have very high insulin levels which increase risk for heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and even some cancers. Insulin causes fat to be deposited in your belly.

Exercise makes muscles more sensitive to insulin so that you need less to do the same job. The more intensely you exercise, the more sensitive muscles become to insulin. You cannot exercise intensely every day because intense exercise damages muscles and you have to allow time for muscles to recover. However, you can check with your doctor to make sure that you do not have a health problem that can make exercise unsafe for you. If you pass, try to exercise intensely at least once a week.


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Flu shots
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Follow-up on inflammation, cholesterol and heart attacks:

I received so many questions about last week’s article on inflammation that I’m devoting the rest of this issue to a more detailed explanation. Several years ago I started telling listeners to my radio show that they should get a C-reactive protein (CRP) blood test for inflammation because it is a better predictor of heart attacks than cholesterol levels. Many doctors called this ridiculous and refused to order the CRP test on their patients.

Six years ago we learned that women with high levels of CRP were twice as likely as those with high cholesterol to die from heart attacks and strokes (NEJM, November 2002). The lowest risk for a heart attack was in women whose CRP was below one- half milligram per liter of blood. Those who had both high cholesterol and high CRP were at very high risk for heart attacks.

The dietary cholesterol theory of heart attack risk is questionable for several reasons. Saturated fat raises cholesterol only when you take in too many calories and only when the fat comes from animals. If you ate nothing but meat (which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol), but reduced your calories by one third, your cholesterol would go down. Saturated fats from plants (such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils) have not been shown to cause heart attacks or raise cholesterol. Furthermore, adding three eggs a day to the American diet does not raise cholesterol, even though eggs are one of the most concentrated food sources of cholesterol.

On the other hand, I know of no data that contradicts the theory that inflammation causes heart attacks. When a germ gets into your bloodstream, you are supposed to produce white blood cells and antibodies that help to kill these germs. So inflammation is good because it helps to protect you from infection. However, if your immunity stays active all the time, it can cause heart attacks by attacking fatty plaques to cause them to break off from the inner linings of arteries and travel down the ever-narrowing artery to form a clot that completely blocks blood flow. The part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery dies from lack of oxygen. Inflammation also causes strokes, cancers, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and so forth.

Other causes of inflamation include high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, and lingering low-level infections such as chronic gum disease. Statin drugs used to lower cholesterol also reduce inflammation, and so does a daily dose of aspirin. Brand names of the statins include Lipitor (atorvastatin), Lescol (fluvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Zocor (simvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin).

Zetia (ezetimide), another cholesterol-lowering drug, does not reduce inflammation; it only blocks the absorption of cholesterol from your intestines. Zetia has not been shown to prevent heart attacks.

Older adults who have been infected with the cold sore virus (herpes simplex virus 1) are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or die from coronary heart disease as those who have not been infected with the virus (Circulation, November 2000). In another study in the same issue of Circulation, researchers from the University of California in San Francisco found that people recovering from heart attacks who have high levels of white blood cells are less likely to survive the heart attack. Further studies show that people who are given antibiotics immediately after suffering a heart attack or severe chest pains have 40 per cent fewer repeat attacks over the next year. These studies suggest that you can prevent heart attacks by preventing or treating causes of inflammation. Known causes of inflammation include infections anywhere in your body, gum disease, diabetes, overweight, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking, excessive drinking, high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol levels, exposure to radiation, radon or anything else that damages your body. Promiscuous sex increases your risk of infection. I believe that eating meat from mammals should be added to the list, as I reported two weeks ago.

Your doctor should now be willing to order a CRP test for you (based on the widely-reported study in the November 9, 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine). If it is high, look for any of the known causes of inflammation (listed above) and work to correct them. Until your CRP returns to normal, your doctor may also recommend taking one of the statins.


Recipe of the Week

Another favorite healthful holiday recipe: Root Veggies with Cranberries

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 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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