Thursday, January 25, 2007

Slow the Aging of Your Mind

As we age, our brains don't function as in our youth. Yet there are some people who remain sharp to the end. Is it hereditary or is it something we can control? It appears that we can control how our minds age through mental exercises and follow some of these suggestions.

Meditation on the Rise

An article that appeared in the Washington Post, "Giving Meditation a Spin" touts the popularity of meditation and how it releases stress.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Prevent and Unmask Diseases With Your Annual Examination.

Since the mind cannot work without the body, the body should be maintained too. A preventive program should include preventive annual examination and lifestyle changes such as exercises. Is the annual physical examination necessary? Most clinicians in the US will agree that it is necessary and has a future . Since it is an examination for healthy people, its aim is to unmask diseases so they can be managed in their early stages. You should know the reason for the tests your clinician asks you to do. Above all know your numbers:
  • Your blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of your arteries as the blood flows through the arteries. It should be 115/76; the national median is 129/86. If you're fifty years old you're one year older in your real age for every 5mmHg increase in the top number or 7 mmhg increase in the bottom number. If you drop the 160/90 reading down to the ideal, you make yourself 9 years younger.
  • Blood tests:
    • LDL - Bad cholesterol
    • HDL- Good cholesterol
    • Triglycerides
    • Homocysteine - It is the byproduct of protein digestion and it is made of crystals that bombard the walls of the arteries and cause nicks. Decrease it by taking folic acid.
    • High sensitive C-Reactive Protein - Measures the level if inflammation such as chronic sinusitis in your body. It causes inflammation in the blood vessels and leads heart disease. Lower it by taking antibiotics, infant aspirin and exercising.
    • Blood sugar - Keep it below 100mg/dl. Excess blood sugar damages the arteries by inactivating a specific chemical, phosphokinase, that prevents cracks and holes in the junctions of the arteries.
    • PSA to check for prostate cancer if you are a man. Have your prostate and testicles examined too.
  • Colonoscopy in your 50's. You should have the colonoscopy earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer. Follow with annual fecal blood check.
  • See your dentist every 6 months. Gum disease and inflammation can raise your High sensitive C Reactive Protein.
  • Know your family history.
  • If you are a woman you should have:
    • Pelvic and breast examination every 1 to 3 years depending on your age.
    • Annual Pap smears. You may have it every 3 years after menopause.
    • Have bilateral mammogram every one to two years from age 40 years. If you have a family history you may start your mammograms at an earlier age.
    • Bone density if you're menopausal.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stress And Heart Disease. It's Real.

That stress can have effect on your health is not in dispute. I see many patients in the office who request medications to relieve their stress. Some of these patients are so crippled by stress that you can see it on their faces and in their demeanor. The stress raises their blood pressure and affects their family and social relations. A study that appeared in the New Scientist shows that stress can have effects on the chromosomes by causing premature aging through its effect on the telomeres.

Telomeres are stubby strips of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes similar to the plastic tips on the end of shoe laces. They protect the ends and promote genetic stability. Each time a cell divides the telomeres shorten so the daughter cells have slightly shorter telomeres than their parents. However, in young people, telomerase, an enzyme, regenerates the ends and corrects the shortening. However, in older people, the telomeres shorten significantly and eventually their division stops.

Epel and her colleagues looked at the chromosomes of 2 groups of women. The first group had chronically sick children while the second group had normal children and hence had less stress. Women in both groups who had more stress had the shortest telomeres that represented nine to 17 years of cell ageing. Those that had been caring for a sick child the longest had worst outcome.

"I believe how we perceive the world can matter more than our objective reality. If we stress, it needs to be taken seriously because it may be embodied at the cellular level. Unfortunately, the longer the women were caregiving, the worse off they were."

In a recent article in the Lancet, a British medical journal,

"484 middle-age, high risk men, those with shorter leukocyte (white blood cell) derived telomeres had a 50% greater risk of coronary heart disease and might serve as a predictor of the disease."

If stress can shorten the telomere and a short telomere is a marker for heart disease, then it will appear that reducing stress may decrease heart disease and other age related diseases. Stress is part of life, however uncontrolled stress is harmful. We are lucky to have a Father who loves us and is our shepherd. Instead of downloading our problems on our shoulders we can upload it unto our shepherd to help us reduce stress, through meditation, creative visualization, prayers, church attendance and health maintenance strategies.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Your Roadmap For Health

As the new year begins, we have to take stock of the past year so we can enter the New Year with plans to improve our mental and physical health. Time is not on our side. The days roll on like a burglar at night. Silently and without fanfare, the year will come to an end before you blink. These are my prescriptions for the coming year. Consider them as a template and add or subtract as necessary.

  1. Find yourself a physician and visit her annually for your physical examination . This is the only way you can unmask silent diseases like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, thyroid diseases, prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and many others.
  2. Volunteer to do something for somebody. You may work in a soup kitchen, volunteer in a hospital or join a rotary club and do some good. Altruism does not only help the recipient. It also helps the giver.
  3. Forgive and move on. Forgiveness gives you a clean slate to paint your tapestry for the year. The chains of hurt around your neck are broken once and forever. This frees you to serve in any capacity your station in life requires. Nelson Mandela had his youth stolen from him by the oppressive South African regime. When he was released form jail, he started a new life by forgiving the authorities that imprisoned him. By so doing, he got the chance to heal and enjoy the rest of his life rather than carrying the hot coal of hatred in his hat to burn him whenever he put his hat on. By forgiving your enemies you also get the chance to heal.
  4. A saint who does not take care of his body cannot survive the onslaught of the germ. Hence find an exercise program that fits your lifestyle and do it consistently.
  5. Find time to meditate. Meditation has been found to relieve stress, which is part of life and if not relieved can kill you.
  6. Find time to socialize with your friends. If your links with your friends have been broken re-establish them. Your mental health partly depends on your relationships and social support.
  7. Find time to go to church. Religious activities have been found to be healthy and beneficial. The act of going to church with its social implications is in itself healthy and prolongs life.
  8. Find a stimulating hobby that can take the monotony from your life. Learning new things that are not related to your work keeps your mind younger by developing new neurons .
  9. Travel and expand your horizon. It makes you see the other side of the mountain and makes you realise that everyone is chasing after the same things in life. It also makes you love your neighbor as yourself.
  10. Your diet is medicine. It can make or unmake you. Therefore eat a well balanced diet with lots of fiber, nuts, fish, fruits and others. Prevention of disease is better than curing it.
  11. Add to your qualification and stay current in whatever you do at work. That way, when the downsizing comes, you would be ready to move on to another job easily. For example, you can do MBA if it will improve your job potential.
  12. Be kind to yourself. Don't take yourself too seriously. Life is short and fleeting. Enjoy it with all its disappointments.