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Being Slightly Overweight Shortens Life

A review of 19 studies covering 1.5 million people shows that being even a little bit overweight shortens your life and the heavier you are, the more likely you are to die of cancer and heart attacks (New England Journal of Medicine, December 2, 2010). Two-thirds of North American adults are overweight or obese.

Doctors measure overweight with a Body-Mass Index (BMI) number: your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters. A normal BMI is 22.5 to 25. Having a BMI of 27.5 increases your chances of dying from a heart attack by 50 percent, and a BMI over 40 increases risk by more than 400 percent. Similar increases in BMI apply to death from cancers.

No Such Thing as Healthy Overweight Men
"There appears to be no such thing as metabolically healthy obesity," said Dr. Johan Arnlov, author of a 30-year follow up report of 1800 Swedish men showing that overweight middle-aged men are at increased risk for death and heart attacks, even if they do not have metabolic syndrome or diabetes (Circulation, January 19, 2010). Arnlov and his colleagues checked all the men for metabolic syndrome: high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides (fats), low HDL ("good") cholesterol and a broad waist size (40 inches for men, 35 for women). Metabolic syndrome is the presence of three or more of these risk factors. Follow-up for 30 years showed that the risk of a heart attack was 52 percent higher in overweight men without metabolic syndrome, 74 percent higher in overweight men with metabolic syndrome, 95 percent higher in obese men without metabolic syndrome and 155 percent higher in obese men with metabolic syndrome.

Reducing Overweight a Little Prolongs Life
Being overweight shortens lives because full fat cells produce immune cells that turn on your immunity to promote inflammation that causes diabetes, heart attacks, cancers, arthritis and other diseases. Losing as few as 10 pounds can reduce an over-active immune system to that of a thin person (The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, June 2010).

Exercise Helps to Prevent Weight Gain
The average person spends a lifetime gaining weight and exercise helps to prevent weight gain with aging. Researchers measured BMI and waist circumference in more than 3,400 men and women and followed them for 20 years. The most-active men gained 5.7 pounds less than those least active, and the most-active women gained 13.5 pounds less than the least-active women (JAMA, December 15, 2010). Many other studies show that exercising regularly helps to protect even those who continue to be overweight.

Message: Being even a little bit overweight shortens lives, and exercise helps to prevent weight gain with aging.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can you tell if you have frostbite?

Frostbite means that your skin is frozen. You have plenty of warning before that happens. Your normal skin temperature is around 90 degrees. As your skin temperature starts to drop, blood vessels close and your skin turns white. When the temperature reaches 59 degrees, your body attempts to re-warm your skin by opening the blood vessels, causing your skin to tingle, itch, burn and turn red. When this happens, get out of the cold. If you don't, the blood vessels in your skin will close down again and your skin temperature can drop below 30 degrees and start to freeze.

The most effective treatment for frostbite is to warm the skin in water set between 100 and 108 degrees Fahrenheit for at last 30 minutes (Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, July 2010). This is painful, and allowing the temperature of the water to rise higher than that can destroy the skin, necessitating skin grafting.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How can I get the most fitness benefit from my daily walk?

Walking is one of the safest and most effective sports for fitness, but to become fit, you have to move fairly fast. You should exercise vigorously enough to increase your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute more than when you rest. Walking at a leisurely pace will not raise your heart rate very much. You can increase your speed by taking longer steps or by moving your feet at a faster rate.

To lengthen your stride, swivel your hips so that you reach out further forward with your feet. This causes you to twist your body from side to side, which forces your toes to point to the outside when your feet touch the ground. By pointing your feet forward after your heel strikes the ground, you will gain a few inches. To move your feet at a faster rate, you have to move your arms at a faster rate also. Every time one leg moves forward, the arm on the same side moves back and the arm on the other side moves forward. For every step forward, there is an equal number of arm movements forward. To move your arms faster, you have to keep your elbows bent. The fulcrum of your arm swing is at your shoulder. The straighter your elbows, the longer your arms swing as a pendulum from your shoulder, reducing the frequency of arm swings. Bending your elbows shortens the swing and allows you to move faster.

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Recipe of the Week:

Pink Beans and Brown Rice

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

June 21st, 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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