#365 What’s Better for Your Heart: Plant-Based Meats or Animal Meats?

April 13th, 2024 by

What’s Better for Your Heart: Plant-Based Meats or Animal Meats?

In the realm of nutrition science, the debate over the health benefits of plant-based diets versus animal-based diets continues to captivate researchers and health enthusiasts alike. A recent study conducted in Singapore aimed to shed light on this ongoing discussion by investigating the effects of plant-based “meats” compared to animal-based “real” meats on heart health among people at risk of diabetes.

The Plant-Based Meat vs Animal Meat Study

This study followed a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design, involving 89 participants. These individuals were instructed to replace their usual protein-rich foods with either plant-based meats or animal-based meats for a duration of eight weeks. There were 44 people randomized to the plant-based meats and 45 people randomized to the animal-based meats. Both groups were prescribed to consume 2.5 servings of their respective meat types daily, while maintaining the same intake of their other food.

What Plant-Based Meats Did They Eat in this Study?

During the study, participants in the plant-based meat diet group were offered a variety of plant-based meat alternatives to replace their usual animal-based meats. These included options like Impossible Beef by Impossible Foods, OmniMeat Mince by OmniFoods, and Chickened Out Chunks from The Vegetarian Butcher. Additionally, they had choices like Beyond Burger and Beyond Sausage Original Brat, both products of Beyond Meat, along with Little Peckers, another offering from The Vegetarian Butcher.

What Animal Meats Did They Eat in this Study?

For participants assigned to the animal-based meat diet group, their meals consisted of a selection of traditional animal-based meats sourced from a local butcher. These meats provided a range of options, including beef, pork, and poultry. Additionally, frozen chicken nuggets were included as part of their dietary intake in this study.

What Was Measured in This Study?

The primary outcome of interest in this study was LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), a key biomarker for assessing cardiovascular health. Additionally, the researchers evaluated secondary outcomes related to cardiometabolic disease risk factors, such as glucose levels and fructosamine. Moreover, a subset of participants underwent ambulatory blood pressure measurements, while others wore continuous glucose monitors to provide insights into glucose levels.

Results of This Study

Overall, while those randomized to the plant-based meats saw some positive changes in the quality of their diet and blood pressure. In contrast, those randomized to the animal-based meats seemed to have better control over their blood sugar levels.

The study didn’t find significant effects on other health outcomes including LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). In simple terms, the study showed that there wasn’t much difference in how plant-based meats and animal-based meats affected heart health.

Why Weren’t Plant-Based Meats Better for the Heart?

While many readers were probably surprised by the results of this study I wasn’t. I have always been very wary and have avoided these new highly processed “plant-based” meats.

Indeed, these new highly-processed “plant-based” meats don’t align with the natural diets of long-living cultures I’ve studied. In fact, during our 5-year study of the longest lived Chinese people that we published in our best-selling book, The Longevity Plan, we never saw any of these new highly-processed “plant-based” meats.

So, in my opinion as a cardiologist, both highly processed diets in this study were definitely not optimal for heart health or for living longer. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see that there wasn’t any real difference between them.

What is the Healthiest Diet for the Heart and Longevity?

After examining the best medical research, the outcomes of my patients, and personally studying longevity cultures, I’ve found that the best diet for heart health and living longer is a mostly plant-based one. This means eating plenty of fresh (not processed) vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. And the longest living cultures around the world also have wild or organic unprocessed meat 1-2 times a week (not the 2.5 servings daily of meats like the frozen chicken nuggets seen in this study). This is the diet I follow myself and encourage for my family’s well-being.

Disclosure

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. The author has no conflicts of interest to declare regarding the study discussed in this article. The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Readers are encouraged to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized recommendations regarding diet and health.

About the Photo

The image with this article shows the mountain biking trail I recently rode. This trail offers a sun-drenched route with picturesque views of Salt Lake City. As spring arrives, it serves as one of the first trails to thaw and dry out after the winter snow melts.

#364 Is Practicing Daily Forgiveness and Gratitude Better for Blood Pressure than a Medication?

April 12th, 2024 by

Is Practicing Daily Forgiveness and Gratitude Better for Blood Pressure than a Medication?

Does your blood pressure occasionally run higher than 120/80? And do you subconsciously keep reaching for your smartphone? Well, here’s some news that might just make you feel better about it!

A recent study presented this week at our annual American College of Cardiology meetings in Atlanta explored this topic. Could something as simple as reading a daily text message encouraging you to practice daily gratitude and forgiveness keep your blood pressure in check?

Let’s break down what this study, known as the FEEL study, found and what it means for you. The full name of this new study is as follows: “A Clinical Trial to Evaluate the Influence of a Spirituality Intervention on Blood Pressure Control, Central Hemodynamics and Endothelial Function – The Feel Study.”

What Was the Study About?

The FEEL study, conducted in Brazil, focused on adults with stage 1 and 2 hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension is when your blood pressure runs somewhere between 130/80 and 139/89. And stage 2 hypertension is when your blood pressure is above 140/90.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition that can lead to serious health issues if left untreated. For example, high blood pressure increases your risk of atrial fibrillation by about 50%. Also, untreated high blood pressure can take many years off your life in addition to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, etc.

The researchers in the FEEL study wanted to see if a simple daily text message encouraging gratitude and forgiveness could help manage high blood pressure and improve overall heart health.

What Did the Intervention Involve?

The 100 participants in the study were randomly divided into two groups: one receiving usual care for hypertension, and the other receiving usual care along with daily smartphone messages aimed at promoting spirituality and reflection. These messages encouraged participants to reflect on topics like optimism, gratitude, and forgiveness. They also included occasional tasks, such as writing messages of gratitude.

What Were the Results?

After 12 weeks, the researchers found some promising results. Participants who received the daily smartphone messages showed a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) compared to those who received usual care alone. Specifically, the group that got the text messages saw a bigger drop in their blood pressure, about 7.6 points, while the other group only saw a tiny drop of about 0.55 points.

A 7.6 point reduction in their systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading) is a big deal! In fact a 7.6 point reduction in the systolic blood pressure is more than what we see with a typical blood pressure lowering medication!

Additionally, the study looked at a measure called flow-mediated dilation (FMD), which is a marker of blood vessel health. The group receiving the smartphone messages showed a 4% improvement in their FMD, while those being treated the usual way for high blood pressure saw a 3% decrease in their FMD.

How Does Practicing Daily Gratitude and Forgiveness Help Blood Pressure?

Daily gratitude and forgiveness can potentially decrease blood pressure in hypertensive individuals through various mechanisms. Firstly, practicing gratitude and forgiveness may reduce stress levels by promoting positive emotions and reducing negative ones like anger and resentment. Lower stress levels can lead to a decrease in the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to elevate blood pressure.

Additionally, gratitude and forgiveness can improve overall mental well-being, which in turn may positively impact physical health.

Furthermore, engaging in these practices may foster healthier lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and better dietary choices, which are known to contribute to lower blood pressure. Overall, the combination of reduced stress, improved mental health, and healthier lifestyle behaviors may collectively contribute to the observed decrease in blood pressure among hypertensive individuals who practice daily gratitude and forgiveness.

What Does This Study Mean for You?

These findings suggest that practicing daily gratitude and forgiveness can help to keep your blood pressure down and your arteries healthy. And as we often say in the cardiology world, “you are only as old as your arteries.” So, the healthier you can keep your arteries the longer you’ll live, the healthier your brain will be, and the more likely you will be to avoid heart problems.

For me, yet another daily text message is highly stressful. Thus, instead of signing up for a daily spiritual reminder on my phone, I listen to two daily spiritual podcasts while driving to the hospital or during my daily exercise. As a physician for almost three decades, I’ve noticed significant cardiovascular benefits in my patients from incorporating some form of daily spirituality.

Disclaimer

The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. If you have high blood pressure work with your healthcare provider to get it under control as soon as possible.

About the Photo

Absorbing the spring warmth of Salt Lake City during my inaugural mountain bike excursion of the year this past week. This sun-drenched trail, providing a panoramic vista of the city skyline against the backdrop of lingering mountain snow, offers a captivating sight. These mountain bike outings afford ample opportunities for me to listen to spiritual podcasts, fostering gratitude, forgiveness, and in maintaining optimal blood pressure readings.

#363 Intermittent Fasting: Miracle Diet or Hazardous to Your Heart?

March 30th, 2024 by

Intermittent Fasting: Miracle Diet or Hazardous to Your Heart?

A recent study involving more than 20,000 adults discovered that people who adhered to an 8-hour time-restricted eating plan, a form of intermittent fasting, were 91% more likely to face a higher risk of dying from heart problems. How could this be? Isn’t intermittent fasting supposed to be heart-healthy, as I’ve previously reported in our 2 best-selling books The Longevity Plan and The AFib Cure? Read on to learn more…

The 91% Higher Risk of Heart Death Intermittent Fasting Study

In this study, scientists looked into how sticking to an 8-hour time-restricted eating plan (a 16 hour fast each day) could affect your health. They reviewed self-reported data about what time people ate each day from 2003 to 2018 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Then, they compared it to which people died in the U.S. from 2003 to December 2019, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Death Index database.

The people in the study were then followed for 8 years on average, with some being followed for as long as 17 years. And over the 8-year follow-up period those who fasted for at least 16 hours daily were 91% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

It is important to know that this study has not yet gone through the peer-review process nor has it been published. It was just an abstract that was presented at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting on March 18, 2024.

So, why am I discussing a study that hasn’t been published yet? Well, these initial study findings were shared with the press, sparking discussions worldwide. If you’re interested in seeing the complete data presented at this AHA meeting, you can click on this link.

3 Reasons Why This Presentation Was Totally Flawed

1. The study relied only on 20,000 people trying to remember how long they fasted every day for 8 years (at least 16 hours). Personally, I can barely recall how long I fasted from dinner last night until breakfast this morning, let alone my fasting time every day for the past 8 years!

2. The researchers didn’t mention what people were eating during this 8-year period. If their intermittent fasting method was to eat cheeseburgers and fries every night for dinner, that might explain the 91% higher risk of dying from heart disease.

3. This study wasn’t randomized, meaning it’s probable that the people who opted for intermittent fasting were quite different from those who didn’t. For instance, it’s entirely possible that individuals with more health issues decided to try intermittent fasting in this study.

The 1 Big New Finding from This Study

Despite the flaws in this study, it does make me wonder about something significant. Many studies over the years have warned that skipping breakfast isn’t good for your heart or your overall health. For example, in a recent study of 199,634 Americans, regularly skipping breakfast resulted in a 32% increased risk of dying prematurely.

Could it be that the 91% higher risk of dying from heart disease in this study was linked to people skipping breakfast? Is there something crucial in your body’s internal clock that benefits from starting the day with breakfast?

While we’re still lacking solid research on the long-term mortality risks of intermittent fasting, we can turn to existing longevity studies for insights. For instance, in our study of centenarians in China that we covered in our book, “The Longevity Plan,” all of them fasted for at least 12 hours each day. They typically had an early dinner around 6 pm and then didn’t eat until breakfast the next day at around 6 am. Could the key to a longer life be following this pattern: having an early dinner and then fasting for 12 hours until breakfast the next morning?

What Does the Science Really Tell Us About Intermittent Fasting?

To truly grasp the science behind intermittent fasting, we must examine all the randomized controlled trials published. These trials are much more reliable than observational studies, like the one with a 91% increased risk of cardiovascular death we’ve been discussing. In randomized controlled trials, patients in both study groups are similar, making the findings much more credible.

For example, in this recently published meta-analysis study of 130 randomized controlled trials, researchers found the following benefits with intermittent fasting in obese people:

1. Intermittent fasting was beneficial for weight loss. This weight loss benefit was most pronounced in the first 1-6 months of intermittent fasting after which there was limited additional weight loss.

2. LDL (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, and triglycerides all went down.

3. Fasting glucose and insulin levels both decreased.

4. Blood pressure was lowered.

Although this meta-analysis of 130 randomized controlled trials on intermittent fasting didn’t specifically explore its effects on longevity, the fact that it leads to reductions in weight, cholesterol levels, glucose, insulin, and blood pressure suggests it could be protective against heart disease.

Dr. Day’s Take on Intermittent Fasting

Although a rigid 16-hour intermittent fasting routine may not be suitable for everyone, I’ve observed remarkable changes in some of my patients as a result of it. For a select few, it’s the only eating schedule that has aided in weight loss and alleviated their atrial fibrillation symptoms. Personally, I aim for a 12-hour fasting window each day, as I find it to be most effective for me.

Furthermore, multiple studies suggest that consuming food late at night can negatively impact health. Hence, I advise my patients to refrain from eating after 6 pm. This allows them to fast for a minimum of 12 hours each day, assuming they don’t have breakfast until 6 am. Since most studies highlight the benefits of starting the day with a nutritious breakfast for overall health and longevity, I believe this approach is the most beneficial for my patients.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or dietary regimen.

About the Photo

Last weekend, I snapped this photo capturing my 8-year-old son enjoying his favorite jump off the 9990 ski run at Park City Mountain Resort. Skiing together is our favorite activity, bringing us joy and cherished memories.

#362 Can Exercise Triple Your AFib Ablation Success Rate?

March 17th, 2024 by

Can Exercise Triple Your AFib Ablation Success Rate?

Regular physical activity has long been recognized as a cornerstone of optimal cardiovascular health. Exercise strengthens the heart muscle, improves blood flow, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of obesity and diabetes – all factors that contribute to atrial fibrillation (AFib).

In a recent study conducted by my friend Dr. Oussama Wazni and his colleagues at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, the role of exercise in enhancing success rates for atrial fibrillation (AFib) was examined. The study aimed to explore whether individuals with higher baseline cardiac fitness, as assessed through a stress test prior to the procedure, predicted better outcomes following AFib ablation.

The findings of this study are remarkable and should grab the attention of anyone with atrial fibrillation contemplating an ablation procedure. Specifically, the study revealed that individuals who were in the best physical condition prior to the procedure experienced a staggering three-fold increase in the likelihood of a successful outcome. If you’re living with AFib, it’s crucial to continue reading to discover how you can significantly enhance your chances of a successful ablation.

The Study on Exercise Improves AFib Ablation Success Rates

In this study, the Cleveland Clinic researchers looked at 591 patients who had undergone a stress test within a year prior to their AFib ablation. They divided these patients into three groups based on their level of cardiovascular fitness: low, adequate, and high.

They then followed these patients for an average of 32 months after the procedure to see how often AFib returned and other related outcomes occurred. With regards to their AFib ablation success rates over the following 2-3 years they found the following:

-Low Cardiovascular Fitness: 21% success rate (30% for paroxysmal AFib patients)

-Adequate Cardiovascular Fitness: 46% success rate (55% for paroxysmal AFib patients)

-High Cardiovascular Fitness: 73% success rate (82% for paroxysmal AFib patients)

Additionally, patients with higher cardiovascular fitness levels were less likely to need to go back to the hospital for AFib-related issues or need more procedures to control their heart rhythm. Moreover, patients with higher cardiovascular fitness levels had a lower risk of death compared to those with lower fitness levels. Overall, the study suggests that being more physically fit before undergoing AFib treatment may lead to better outcomes and a reduced risk of AFib returning.

How Did They Define a Successful Ablation in this Study?

In this study, they checked on patients closely after their ablation procedure to see if it worked. Patients had to wear heart monitors afterward. If they had 30 seconds or more of AFib at any time, either seen on an ECG, heart monitor, home ECG, or any implanted device, the procedure wasn’t considered successful.

Dr. Day’s Take on this Study

Firstly, it’s essential to carefully assess how well the ablation worked. In this study, even if someone had AFib all the time before the procedure, finding just one short episode of AFib afterward, like 30 seconds during sleep, meant the procedure wasn’t seen as successful. A better way to measure success would be to look at how much AFib someone had before and after the procedure. From our experience, most of our patients who get an ablation see a big drop in their AFib burden and symptoms.

Secondly, I was surprised by the relatively low success rates seen in this study. One possible explanation could be the differences in the health status of the AFib patients we treat in Salt Lake City compared to those in Cleveland. Generally, it’s widely acknowledged that healthier patients tend to achieve more favorable outcomes with AFib ablation.

For example, Utah boasts notably low rates of smoking and alcohol abuse, both of which are recognized to complicate the elimination of AFib. Additionally, individuals in Utah tend to maintain higher levels of physical activity, facilitating the elimination of AFib. It’s worth noting that in our practice, we seldom encounter procedure failures among our physically fit and healthy AFib patients, particularly when allowing for a touch-up procedure.

Lastly, I’ve seen many patients over the years who decided to get healthier after not getting the ablation result they had hoped for. For instance, after still having some occasional AFib after a second procedure, they then lost weight and committed to going to the gym every day. Quite remarkably, I’ve then seen the AFib often go away completely.

How Does Exercise Help Treat AFib?

Exercise could very well be the best AFib medicine we have as it tackles several key factors that contribute to the condition. Firstly, it helps to lower blood pressure, which is a big risk factor for AFib. When you exercise regularly, it improves your heart health and helps keep your blood pressure in check.

Secondly, exercise can prevent and manage diabetes, another condition linked to AFib. By helping you maintain a healthy weight and better manage your blood sugar levels, exercise lowers your risk of developing diabetes and, in turn, reduces the chance of AFib.

Thirdly, regular exercise can prevent sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder associated with AFib. By keeping your weight in check many cases of obstructive sleep apnea go away.

Lastly, exercise is known to improve mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are often seen in AFib patients. When you exercise, your body releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which can boost your mood and reduce stress. Overall, by addressing these different aspects of health, exercise becomes a valuable tool in treating and managing atrial fibrillation.

How to Start Getting Active?

Getting started with exercise can feel daunting, but it’s essential for managing atrial fibrillation and promoting overall heart health. Start by choosing activities you enjoy, whether it’s walking, swimming, cycling, or dancing. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Remember to start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts. Listen to your body and take breaks as needed. Don’t forget to warm up before exercising and cool down afterward to prevent injury.

Consider finding a workout buddy or joining a fitness class to stay motivated and accountable. And most importantly, be consistent – even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference in your heart health over time.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have underlying health conditions or concerns. They can offer personalized recommendations and guidance based on your individual needs and medical history.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

About the Photo

The accompanying photo captures a serene moment from yesterday, showcasing our family’s ski trail descending from the mountain after sunset. It reflects the joyous memories of a delightful day spent skiing on the majestic 9990 mountain, identifiable as the snow-covered peak in the center of the background, nestled in Park City, Utah.

#361 Do You Really Need 10 Servings of Vegetables and Fruit Daily for Optimal Health?

March 17th, 2024 by

Do You Really Need 10 Servings of Vegetables and Fruit Daily for Optimal Health?

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advocate for consuming 3.5 to 5 servings of vegetables and fruit daily. However, for those aiming to minimize the risk of heart disease, strokes, and cancer, this may not be enough. Based on an extensive study I’ve examined, achieving the goal of avoiding these diseases requires a more substantial intake. In fact, this study suggests that optimal protection against heart disease, strokes, and cancer is attained with a daily consumption of up to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit.

The 10 Servings Daily Study

This study, led by a group of scientists from Imperial College London, looked at data from 95 studies involving over 2 million people. They discovered that sticking to the recommended servings of veggies and fruits did help somewhat in the prevention of heart disease, strokes, and cancer. But when people bumped up their intake to 10 servings a day, the protection against these diseases got much better. They defined one serving as 80 grams, and found the best disease protection when people ate 800 grams of veggies and fruits each day (10 servings).

How Much Disease Prevention Can You Get with 10 Servings Daily?

What rewards await those who increase their daily intake of vegetables and fruits to 10 servings? This study outlines significant benefits:

-A 28% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease

-A 33% decrease in the risk of a stroke

-A 13% lower risk of cancers

-A 31% decreased chance of premature death

Which Vegetables Offered the Most Protection in this Study?

Among the standout veggies in this study are green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and lettuce, as well as cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. These powerhouse vegetables have been shown to have a profound impact on cardiovascular health and cancer protection. In addition, including green-yellow vegetables like bell peppers and carrots also offered significant protection in this study. By incorporating these nutrient-rich vegetables into your meals regularly, you’re taking proactive steps toward promoting your overall health and well-being.

Which Fruits Offered the Most Protection?

In the realm of fruits, the findings of this study highlight apples, pears, and citrus fruits as potent guardians against heart disease, strokes, and cancer. Moreover, tomatoes emerge as a noteworthy contender, offering substantial protection specifically against heart disease. Interestingly, although berries showed protection against disease in this study, they didn’t provide as much benefit as apples, pears, and citrus fruits did.

How Do Vegetables and Fruit Protect Against Disease?

Research indicates that fruits and vegetables play a crucial role in promoting overall health and well-being by reducing cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, and enhancing the health of our blood vessels and immune system. This is largely attributed to their rich array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

These essential components work together to support various bodily functions, such as regulating cholesterol and blood sugar levels, promoting digestive health, and combating harmful free radicals that can lead to cancer development. The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have the potential to minimize DNA damage, thereby lowering the risk of cancer. Overall, the complex network of nutrients found in these foods underscores their significance in preventing chronic diseases like heart disease, strokes, and cancer.

Why Are Cruciferous Vegetables the Best Cancer Fighting Vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts are known for their ability to fight cancer. They contain special compounds called glucosinolates that break down into substances like sulforaphane. These substances can help stop cancer cells from growing and encourage them to self-destruct. Additionally, cruciferous veggies are packed with antioxidants and other plant chemicals that protect cells from damage and inflammation, which are key factors in preventing cancer. Eating these vegetables regularly can significantly lower your risk of developing cancer, making them an important part of a healthy diet.

How Do You Get 10 Servings in Daily?

Increasing fruit and vegetable intake to 10 servings daily may seem daunting, but there are practical strategies to incorporate more of these nutritious foods into your diet. Start by aiming to include fruits and vegetables in every meal and snack. Fill half of your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner, and incorporate fruits into your breakfast or as a mid-morning or afternoon snack.

Experiment with different cooking methods such as roasting, grilling, steaming, or stir-frying vegetables to enhance flavor and variety. Consider adding fruits and vegetables to smoothies, salads, soups, and sandwiches for a quick and easy boost of nutrients.

Keep a variety of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables on hand for convenience and versatility. Get creative with your meals by trying new recipes and exploring different types of fruits and vegetables to keep things interesting. Finally, involve your family or friends in meal planning and preparation to make healthy eating a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone. By incorporating these practical strategies into your daily routine, you can gradually increase your fruit and vegetable intake and reap the numerous health benefits they provide.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or dietary changes.

About the Photo

Yesterday, my son and I shredded the slopes under the bright sun at Park City’s 9990 chairlift. In this snapshot, you can spot the chairlift’s peak reflected in our goggles. Skiing together on a balmy spring day is our ultimate joy—nothing beats the thrill of bonding as a family while enjoying the great outdoors and staying active!

#360 Does the Mediterranean Diet Prevent Atrial Fibrillation?

March 3rd, 2024 by

Does the Mediterranean Diet Prevent Atrial Fibrillation?

While researchers associate the Mediterranean diet with a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes, they continue to research its direct impact on preventing atrial fibrillation (AFib). In this article I review the latest study on how the Mediterranean Diet may prevent atrial fibrillation.

The PREDIMAR Study

Researchers conducted a study involving 199 patients from the PREDIMAR trial (PREvención con DIeta Mediterránea de Arritmias Recurrentes). The study aimed to explore the relationship between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) in people with atrial fibrillation. EAT refers to the layer of fat surrounding the heart. They also investigated how EAT and MedDiet adherence correlated with AF recurrence after ablation.

How May the Layer of Fat Surrounding the Heart Cause AFib?

Now, you might wonder how this fat can cause atrial fibrillation. Well, researchers have found that when there’s too much fat around the heart, it can lead to inflammation. This inflammation can affect the electrical signals that control the heartbeat. When these signals become disrupted, they can cause the heart to beat irregularly, which characterizes what we see with atrial fibrillation.

Epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) is a type of fat that wraps around the heart, sitting between the heart muscle and its outer layer. It works like a cushion, protecting the heart. EAT is also active in the body’s metabolism, which means it can release hormones and substances that cause inflammation, potentially affecting heart health.

So, in simple terms, having too much epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) can lead to inflammation around the heart, which in turn can disrupt the heart’s normal rhythm and cause atrial fibrillation. That’s why it’s important to keep a healthy balance of fat around the heart to help maintain a regular heartbeat.

How May the Mediterranean Diet Decrease the Fat Layer Around the Heart?

The Mediterranean diet might help decrease epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) because it’s rich in foods that are good for the heart. Eating a mostly plant-based diet, rich in vegetables, fruit, and legumes, along with whole grains and lean proteins like fish in moderation, can have a positive effect on your body. Avoiding health-harming foods like sugar, processed foods, or fast foods is essential. This healthy eating pattern can benefit your overall health, including potentially shrinking the fat layer around the heart.

5 Ways that the Mediterranean Diet May Decrease Fat Around the Heart

1. Healthy Fats: The Mediterranean diet includes sources of healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish. We know that these fats have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body, including around the heart where EAT is located.

2. Vegetables, Fruits, and Legumes: The Mediterranean diet is packed with veggies, fruits, and legumes, which are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients. These nutrients can help protect the heart and reduce the risk of inflammation, which in turn may help decrease EAT levels.

3. Fiber: Plant-based natural foods like veggies, fruits, and legumes are packed with fiber. And a high fiber diet fills you up so you don’t need to snack between meals. Fiber is also good for heart health as it helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. And these blood sugar and cholesterol levels are factors that can influence EAT accumulation.

4. Lean Proteins: Lean proteins like fish and poultry in moderation are lower in saturated fats compared to red meat, which can help keep cholesterol levels lower and reduce the risk of excess fat and inflammation around the heart.

5. Overall Healthy Eating Pattern: The Mediterranean diet isn’t just about individual foods—it’s a lifestyle approach to eating. By following this pattern of eating, you’re less likely to consume processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats, which can contribute to inflammation and EAT accumulation.

How Does the Fat Layer Around the Heart Correlate with Belly Fat?

Epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) and belly fat, also known as visceral adipose tissue (VAT), both constitute types of fat in the body, yet they reside in distinct areas and perform different functions.

EAT is the fat that surrounds the heart, located between the heart muscle and the outer layer of the heart. It acts as a protective cushion for the heart and is metabolically active, meaning it can release hormones and inflammatory substances that can affect heart health.

On the other hand, belly fat or VAT refers to the fat that accumulates around the abdominal organs, such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines. This type of fat associates with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Both EAT and belly fat can lead to health problems, but they aren’t directly linked. However, they can share some common risk factors, such as obesity, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and genetics. Individuals who have excess belly fat are more likely to have higher levels of EAT, but the relationship between the two can vary among individuals.

It’s important to note that reducing belly fat through lifestyle changes like healthy eating and daily exercise will likely also lead to a reduction in EAT.

How Do You Check Your Fat Layer Around the Heart?

The best way we can measure epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) is with directly imaging the heart. For example, an MRI or CT scan of the heart can readily identify the amount of epicardial adipose tissue (EAT). Unfortunately, physicians traditionally haven’t been taught about the link between the fat layer around the heart and the risk of atrial fibrillation, so you’ll rarely see the amount of EAT reported on an MRI or CT scan.

4 Main Findings of the Latest Study on the Mediterranean Diet and Atrial Fibrillation

The 4 main findings of this latest study on the Mediterranean Diet and atrial fibrillation can be summarized below:

1. The Mediterranean Diet is Associated with Less Epicardial Adipose Tissue (EAT): This research shows that adhering to the Mediterranean diet is linked to reduced levels of epicardial adipose tissue in individuals undergoing ablation for atrial fibrillation. This suggests that adopting a Mediterranean diet may help prevent the accumulation of EAT, which is associated with heart rhythm disturbances.

2. EAT is Associated with Persistent Atrial Fibrillation: Higher levels of epicardial adipose tissue are significantly associated with persistent atrial fibrillation, a more aggressive and challenging type of atrial fibrillation to treat. This underscores the importance of addressing EAT levels in individuals with atrial fibrillation, as it may impact the pattern and severity of the condition. In other words, the more EAT you have the harder it is to keep your heart in rhythm.

3. EAT Increases the Risk AFib After Ablation: The study suggests that a larger amount of epicardial adipose tissue may increase the risk of arrhythmic recurrence after ablation. This highlights the potential role of EAT in predicting the likelihood of recurrent episodes of atrial fibrillation post-treatment.

4. Mediterranean Diet Adherence May Help to Prevent AFib: While adherence to the Mediterranean diet shows a trend towards reducing the risk of arrhythmic recurrences after ablation, this association did not achieve statistical significance. However, in my experience, incorporating the Mediterranean dietary principles still offers many other benefits that are very helpful in managing atrial fibrillation.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet, exercise routine, or medical treatment plan.

About the Photo

Family fun in the sun! Enjoying a peaceful moment at the summit of the 9990 Chairlift at Park City Mountain Resort last weekend.

 

#359 Latest Research Confirms Tomatoes Lower Blood Pressure

March 2nd, 2024 by

Latest Research Confirms Tomatoes Lower Blood Pressure

In the quest for better health, we often overlook the humble tomato, considering it merely a tasty addition to salads or sandwiches. However, science reveals that tomatoes offer much more than just flavor – they could be the key to reducing high blood pressure. Let’s delve into the latest scientific study reporting the benefits of tomatoes in lowering blood pressure, which can help prevent atrial fibrillation and other heart problems, potentially extending your life.

Latest Tomato Study

The study, conducted within the PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) trial, involved 7,056 participants, the majority of whom were already dealing with high blood pressure. Researchers set out to investigate whether consuming tomatoes was linked to changes in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as the risk of developing hypertension over a three-year period.

Participants’ tomato consumption from all tomato products was meticulously measured using a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire and divided into four groups based on daily intake: lowest (<44 grams or 1/4 of a large tomato daily), intermediate (44–82 grams or 1/2 of a large tomato daily), upper-intermediate (82–110 grams or 3/4 of a large tomato daily), and highest (>110 grams or one large tomato daily).

Researchers then closely tracked the blood pressure of these 7,065 people over three years to see if daily tomato consumption from all tomato products helped to prevent or treat high blood pressure.

Results of the Latest Tomato Study

In this study, those people eating the equivalence of one large tomato daily (>110 grams) were able to reduce their blood pressure by three points. And for those who had not yet been diagnosed with high blood pressure, eating the equivalence of one large tomato daily reduced their chances of developing high blood pressure by 36%.

The authors of this study concluded that “Tomato consumption, including tomato-based products, is beneficial in preventing and managing hypertension.” This study fits nicely with other tomato studies showing that tomato consumption does indeed help to prevent and treat high blood pressure.

How do Tomatoes Lower Blood Pressure?

Tomatoes contain a powerful combination of nutrients and bioactive compounds that work synergistically to lower blood pressure. One key component is lycopene, a potent antioxidant responsible for the vibrant red color of tomatoes. Lycopene has been shown to improve blood vessel function, promoting better circulation and reducing the force against artery walls. Additionally, tomatoes are rich in potassium, a mineral known for its ability to counteract the effects of sodium, thus helping to regulate blood pressure levels. Moreover, the high fiber content in tomatoes can contribute to lower blood pressure readings by helping to promote a healthy body weight.

What Other Nutrients are Tomatoes High In?

In addition to lycopene, potassium, and fiber, tomatoes are also rich in several other essential nutrients that contribute to overall health. They are a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports immune function and promotes healthy skin. Tomatoes also contain vitamin K, which is important for bone health and blood clotting. Furthermore, they provide folate, which is crucial for cell division and DNA synthesis, as well as vitamin A, known for its role in vision and immune function. Additionally, tomatoes are a good source of several B vitamins, including thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), and vitamin B6, which play key roles in energy metabolism and nervous system function. Moreover, tomatoes contain minerals such as manganese and magnesium, which are important for various bodily functions, including bone health and muscle function. With this rich nutrient profile, tomatoes are not only delicious but also offer a wide array of health benefits.

How Do You Incorporate More Tomatoes In Your Diet?

Now that we understand the scientific benefits of tomatoes for lowering blood pressure, let’s discuss how to incorporate them into your diet:

1. Fresh Tomatoes: Enjoy sliced tomatoes in salads, sandwiches, or as a side dish with your meals.

2. Tomato-based sauces: Use tomato sauce or paste as a base for pasta dishes, soups, and stews.

3. Salsa: Whip up a batch of fresh salsa with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro to accompany your favorite dishes.

4. Smoothies. Start your day with a glass of tomato juice from a blended tomato or add a tomato to your favorite smoothie for a refreshing boost of nutrients.

5. My favorite way to boost my tomato consumption, especially, is by adding a can of diced tomatoes to cooked riced cauliflower. To enhance the flavor, I include a seasoning blend of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic, dried onion, and sea salt flakes.

Conclusion

Incorporating more tomatoes into your diet can be a delicious and effective way to lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. Whether enjoyed fresh, cooked, or blended in a drink, the nutrients and bioactive compounds found in tomatoes offer numerous health benefits. So, why not add a little more red to your plate and reap the rewards of this humble yet powerful fruit? Your heart will thank you for it!

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding high blood pressure or any other medical condition. For people suffering from kidney failure, increasing your tomato consumption could result in life-threatening high levels of potassium.

About the Photo

In this heartwarming photo, you’ll see our family, minus our 18-year-old son Jacob, relishing a sunny day of skiing on the 9990 chairlift at Park City Mountain Resort last weekend. Despite Jacob’s absence as he serves on a church mission with the Chinese immigrant community in New York City, we seized the chance to strengthen our bonds and forge lasting memories together. This snapshot perfectly captures the joy and togetherness we share while enjoying outdoor activities as a family.

#358 Does Losing Weight Help Atrial Fibrillation?

January 27th, 2024 by

Does Losing Weight Help Atrial Fibrillation?

Being overweight is directly linked to your chances of developing atrial fibrillation (AFib). Additionally, carrying extra weight makes AFib more likely to worsen over time. This is because the excess weight may cause scarring to the heart muscle resulting in damage to the electrical system of the heart.

Furthermore, weighing more than you should may lead to other health conditions such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or diabetes, all of which also contribute to AFib. Even if you have had a successful ablation, our research has shown that without getting your weight in check, there is a higher chance that AFib will come back.

In this article, I’ll share the good news about optimizing your weight in the treatment of AFib. I’ll also provide the latest weight loss recommendations for AFib based on the atrial fibrillation treatment guidelines.

How Powerful is Weight Loss for AFib?

The good news is that shedding the extra weight can have profound effects on your heart, as well as on other conditions like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or diabetes. My good friend, Dr. Prash Sanders, has shown in his research that for patients who are overweight with a BMI of 27 or higher, dropping 10% of their weight could lead to a 6-fold decrease in their AFib episodes! To put this in perspective, it means that someone overweight at 200 pounds would need a 20-pound weight loss to reduce their AFib attacks by six times.

Not sure about your BMI? Here is a link to an online BMI calculator to check if your BMI is 27 or higher.

Losing Weight with AFib is Hard

I know from firsthand experience that losing weight is hard. As described in our best-selling book, “The Longevity Plan,” I was overweight and had many medical problems that all started in my early forties. As part of our experiment for this book, 12 years ago, I lost 30 pounds to get my weight where it needed to be.

To achieve this weight loss, I had to track every bite of food and every workout. Over the last 12 years, I have tried multiple times to stop tracking every bite and every workout. Sadly, every time I stop, I quickly regain about 10 pounds in a month. Even to this day, after tracking my food and workouts so carefully for 12 years, I still regained 7 pounds of the 30 I lost.

For my AFib patients, it can be even worse. Many cannot drop the weight because they feel so poorly from their AFib. For others, every time they exercise, their hearts will go back into AFib. And for these patients who can’t seem to get anywhere with their AFib, catheter ablation of their AFib has often allowed them to get their lives back.

The Latest AFib Guidelines on Weight Loss

Based on the compelling research by my friend, Dr. Sanders, the AFib Guidelines now recommend that people with AFib and a BMI of 27 or higher should lose 10% of their body weight if possible. So, for a 300-pound person with AFib, they should lose 10% of 300 pounds, which would be a 30-pound weight loss. Also, this weight loss should be maintained, as our experience has shown that yo-yo dieting can often make AFib worse. For individuals with AFib whose BMI is below 27, there is currently no clear evidence that losing weight will help with their AFib.

How Do You Lose the Weight and Keep it Off?

As everyone is different, there is no one right path for everyone. For some, programs such as Weight Watchers can be incredibly helpful. The key is that it can’t be a diet because diets don’t work in the long run. It has to be lifestyle changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life to keep the weight off forever. For those looking to learn more, here are two articles I have written: How to Lose 100 Pounds.  The 5 Easiest Ways to Lose Weight.

About the Photo

Over the past weekend, my daughter participated in a gymnastics competition in San Diego. During our stay, we took the opportunity to go on several extended runs along the beach. Here is a photo captured during one of our runs at Solana Beach.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of information presented in this article. The author and the website assume no responsibility for any actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.

 

 

 

 

#357 Is Optimizing Your Creatinine, Glucose, and Uric Acid Levels the Secret to Longevity?

January 7th, 2024 by

Is Optimizing Your Creatinine, Glucose, and Uric Acid Levels the Secret to Longevity?

In a new study, researchers examined 1,224 Swedish people who lived to 100 to help identify the cause of their exceptional longevity. The secret to why some hit 100 while others don’t might be hidden in the routine blood tests of these longest-living individuals. This study discovered that those who reached 100 tended to have lower levels of creatinine, glucose, and uric acid (all simple lab tests your primary care physician can order for you) when compared to those who never made it to 100.

In this article we’ll review this latest study on longevity and explore why these three routine lab tests are important for living a longer life. We’ll also discuss what you can do right now to make sure your creatinine, glucose, and uric acid levels are optimized for a long and healthy life.

The Latest Longevity Study

This study enrolled 44,000 Swedes who had regular health checkups from ages 64 to 99In the pursuit of a longer and healthier life, emerging research sheds light on the significance of maintaining low serum creatinine levels. Creatinine, a waste product generated by muscle metabolism, is typically filtered by the kidneys and expelled through urine. Interestingly, studies suggest that individuals with lower serum creatinine levels tend to exhibit improved kidney function and overall health. This is particularly noteworthy in the context of longevity, as optimal kidney function is closely linked to the body’s ability to rid itself of toxins and maintain a balanced internal environment. By understanding the role of low serum creatinine in promoting longevity, we gain valuable insights into potential lifestyle adjustments and health practices that could contribute to a prolonged and vibrant lifespan.. They were tracked for up to 35 years, and out of them, 1,224, or 2.7%, lived to reach 100. Like many studies on living longer, most of the people who reached 100 (85%) were women.

This study then focused on 12 common blood tests that check for inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, malnutrition, and anemia. Previously published studies have linked these 12 routine blood tests to longevity.

Among the various biomarkers examined in 12 routine blood tests, researchers identified creatinine, glucose, and uric acid levels as the most crucial for longevity.

Why is a Low Serum Creatinine Critical for Longevity?

In the pursuit of a longer and healthier life, emerging research sheds light on the significance of maintaining low serum creatinine levels. Creatinine, a waste product generated by muscle metabolism, is typically filtered by the kidneys and expelled through urine. Thus, people with lower serum creatinine levels tend to to have healthier kidneys.

Healthy kidney function is particularly noteworthy in the context of longevity, as optimal kidney function is closely linked to the body’s ability to rid itself of toxins and maintain a balanced internal environment.

9 Scientifically Proven Ways to Optimize Serum Creatinine for Longevity

If your aim is to enjoy a prolonged and healthy life, it’s essential to enhance your kidney function. Luckily, many individuals undergo an annual check of their serum creatinine levels through their primary care physicians, providing a valuable baseline. To ensure your serum creatinine lab tests remain at optimal levels, consider implementing these ten evidence-based strategies to enhance your kidney function.

1. Stay Hydrated: Adequate water intake is crucial for kidney health. Drink enough water throughout the day to help flush out toxins and support optimal kidney function.

2. Maintain a Healthy Diet: A healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, intact whole grains and lean proteins without processed foods or added sugars contributes to better kidney health.

3. Control Blood Pressure: As high blood pressure can damage the kidneys, make sure blood pressures are always well controlled.

4. Manage Blood Sugar: As high blood sugar can also harm the kidneys, always keep blood sugar levels in the normal range.

5. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Smoking: Too much alcohol and smoking both negatively impact kidney function.

6. Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity promotes overall health and can help maintain a healthy weight. Activities like walking, jogging, or cycling can be beneficial for optimal kidney function.

7. Avoid Overuse of Painkillers: Frequent use of certain over-the-counter pain relievers, such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen, can harm the kidneys.

8. Get Adequate Sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for overall health, including kidney function.

9. Manage Stress: Chronic stress can have negative effects on various aspects of health, including kidney function.

Why is a Low Blood Sugar Critical for Longevity?

Aiming for a low blood sugar level is critical for longevity due to its multifaceted impact on overall health. Elevated blood sugar levels are linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular issues, which can significantly reduce lifespan.

Beyond disease prevention, maintaining optimal blood sugar levels supports cellular health by minimizing oxidative stress and inflammation. Lower blood sugar is also associated with improved insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and supporting energy metabolism. Furthermore, it plays a pivotal role in preserving brain health, as high blood sugar is linked to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.

By prioritizing a balanced blood sugar level, individuals can promote cardiovascular health, enhance energy metabolism, and contribute to a healthier, more resilient aging process, ultimately increasing the likelihood of a longer and more vibrant life.

12 Scientifically Proven Ways to Keep Your Blood Glucose Levels Normal

Maintaining normal blood glucose levels is crucial for overall health and well-being. Here are 12 scientifically proven ways to help keep blood glucose levels in the normal range:

1. Healthy Diet: Follow a diet high in unprocessed whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, intact whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. Limit or avoid processed foods, added sugars, and snack foods.

2. Portion Control: Watch portion sizes to avoid overeating, as excess food intake can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. Pay attention to serving sizes and choose nutrient-dense foods.

3. Regular Physical Activity: Engage in regular exercise, including both aerobic activities (e.g., walking, jogging) and strength training. Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and regulates blood sugar levels.

4. Weight Management: Maintain a healthy weight through a combination of a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Weight management is crucial for preventing insulin resistance and maintaining normal blood glucose levels.

5. Fiber-Rich Foods: Include high-fiber foods in your diet, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Fiber slows down the absorption of sugar, helping to regulate blood glucose levels.

6. Healthy Fats: Choose sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These fats have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels.

7. Hydration: Stay well-hydrated, as dehydration can affect blood sugar concentrations. Water is the best choice for hydration.

8. Regular Meal Timing: Establish regular meal times. Consistent eating patterns can help regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day.

9. Avoid Sugary Beverages: Reduce or eliminate the consumption of sugary beverages, as they can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Also, minimize or avoid added sugars in any foods.

10. Manage Stress: Chronic stress can impact blood sugar levels. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing.

11. Adequate Sleep: Ensure you get enough quality sleep each night. Lack of sleep can affect insulin sensitivity and contribute to imbalances in blood sugar.

12. Regular Blood Glucose Monitoring: Regularly monitor blood glucose levels, especially if you have diabetes or are at risk of developing it. This allows for timely adjustments to lifestyle and medication, if necessary.

Why is a Normal Uric Acid Level Critical for Longevity?

Maintaining a normal uric acid level is critical for longevity. Elevated uric acid levels are linked to conditions such as gout, kidney stones, and hypertension, all of which can negatively impact overall health and potentially shorten lifespan. High uric acid levels have also been linked to inflammation and oxidative stress, contributing to the development of chronic diseases.

By keeping uric acid within a normal range, individuals may reduce the risk of these health complications, promoting optimal organ function and cardiovascular health. Additionally, maintaining a healthy uric acid level is essential for preventing conditions that could compromise the quality of life, ultimately supporting a longer and more robust lifespan.

8 Scientifically Proven Ways to Lower Uric Acid Levels

Lowering uric acid levels can be achieved through various scientifically proven methods. Here are some evidence-based strategies:

1. Hydration: Drinking an ample amount of water helps to flush out excess uric acid through urine. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day.

2. Dietary Changes: Adopting a low-purine diet can be effective. Limit or avoid high-purine foods such as organ meats, red meat, seafood, and certain vegetables like asparagus and spinach.

3. Cherry Consumption: Some studies suggest that consuming cherries may help lower uric acid levels.

4. Vitamin C Supplementation: Vitamin C has been associated with lower uric acid levels. Consider incorporating vitamin C-rich foods into your diet like broccoli, strawberries, citrus fruits, and tomatoes.

5. Limit Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol intake can elevate uric acid levels. Moderation or abstinence is advisable if your goal is to lower uric acid levels.

6. Weight Management: Losing weight, if overweight, can contribute to lowering uric acid levels. However, rapid weight loss or extreme dieting should be avoided, as it can temporarily increase uric acid levels.

7. Limit Fructose Intake: High intake of fructose, particularly from sugary beverages, has been linked to elevated uric acid levels. Reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and foods.

8. Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity helps with weight management and improves insulin sensitivity, which may contribute to lower uric acid levels.

Creatinine, Glucose, and Uric Acid Levels in Our Longevity Plan Study

As you may infer from the findings presented in our bestselling book, The Longevity Plan, our group of centenarians exhibited low levels of serum creatinine, blood glucose, and uric acid, aligning with their distinctive lifestyle. Of course, optimizing your lifespan is much more involved than just three simple lab tests.

Their routine, characterized by a predominantly natural, plant-based diet complemented by wild fish, an active physical routine, minimal mental stress, restful sleep, and strong social bonds, naturally played a role in maintaining optimal levels of serum creatinine, glucose, and uric acid.

Conclusion

In closing, let us embrace the inspiring journey toward longevity with the wisdom gleaned from centenarians and the insights shared here. By nurturing a mindful lifestyle, grounded in a nourishing diet, regular exercise, restorative sleep, and meaningful connections, we pave the way for a future filled with vitality and joy. Each positive choice we make contributes to our well-being.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog article is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on research and insights available up to the date of publication. Individual health needs and circumstances vary, and it is crucial to consult with qualified healthcare professionals for personalized advice and recommendations. Any actions taken based on the information provided in this article are at the reader’s own risk.

About the Photo

Captured at the breathtaking summit of a 10,000-foot mountain in Utah on New Year’s Day, this captivating photograph unveils the serene beauty of Scofield Reservoir draped in a pristine blanket of snow. The tranquil expanse of the reservoir, nestled within the awe-inspiring winter landscape, reflects not only the splendor of nature but also the spirit of adventure and shared moments. The climb to this snowy pinnacle with my wife symbolizes the resilience and determination we bring into the new year, facing challenges with our loved ones by our side.

 

#356 Does Aspirin Prevent Atrial Fibrillation Strokes?

January 7th, 2024 by

Does Aspirin Prevent Atrial Fibrillation Strokes?

Unless you or someone close to you has experienced an atrial fibrillation stroke, the idea of taking a blood thinner might not be appealing. Many people are understandably worried about the risk of bleeding, and the financial aspect adds another layer of concern. For individuals without good drug coverage, popular blood thinners, like Eliquis or Xarelto, can cost a staggering $600 per month in the US, often surpassing the expense of a typical monthly car payment.

Considering these factors, it’s not surprising that I often get asked this question in my clinic: Can aspirin stop strokes caused by atrial fibrillation? Even though I wish the answer was yes, unfortunately, it’s probably not. In this article, we’ll explore the risk of strokes related to atrial fibrillation and look into the data about whether aspirin can actually prevent these strokes.

How Do Blood Thinners Prevent AFib Stokes?

Since atrial fibrillation raises the chance of having a stroke, doctors frequently recommend anticoagulants. These drugs, also known as blood thinners, aid in averting the formation of clots within your heart. The lower the risk of developing a blood clot in the left atrial appendage, a situation that may occur when the upper heart chambers stop beating during AFib, the less chance there is for a clot to dislodge and block the blood supply, leading to a lack of oxygen to the brain or other parts of your body.

Our Aspirin AFib Study

For a long time, aspirin was thought to be protective against stroke. It turns out, though, that this cheap and common remedy is actually not all that helpful. While it would be nice to think that lowering the risk of stroke was as easy as “an aspirin a day,” a study we did a few years ago demonstrated that aspirin, even in people at lower risk of stroke, simply doesn’t work very well for this purpose and, instead, puts AFib patients at risk in other ways by increasing their risk of bleeding both in the brain and elsewhere. So, In these 4,124 patients we studied, we found that not only did aspirin not help prevent strokes caused by AFib, but it also increased the chance of serious bleeding that could be life-threatening.

What Do the 2023 AFib Treatment Guidelines Say About Aspirin?

In the latest AFib treatment guidelines, the authors didn’t even give aspirin the time of the day. In fact, the wording was quite strong: “In patients patients with AF who are candidates for anticoagulation (blood thinners), aspirin as an alternative to anticoagulation (blood thinners) is not recommended to reduce stroke risk.”

Put simply, if you have enough risk factors for stroke due to AFib (CHADS-VASc score of 2 or higher), don’t even consider using aspirin as a replacement for your prescribed blood thinner. If you’re unsure on whether you should take a blood thinner or not for your AFib you can quickly CHADS-VASc Score.

Congestive heart failure: 1 point

High blood pressure: 1 point

Age 65 or higher: 1 point

Diabetes: 1 point

Stroke or TIA history: 2 point

Vascular disease (blockage in any artery): 1 point

Age 75 or higher: 2 points

Sex (female gender): 1 point

The goal with the CHADS-VASc scoring system is to keep your score as low as possible. If your score is zero blood thinners are not recommended. If your total score is 1 then blood thinners are optional. And if your CHADS-VASc score is 2 or higher the guidelines recommend blood thinners.

Aspirin is Still Important for Other Medical Conditions

While aspirin may not be especially helpful for preventing Afib strokes, it is still used for other conditions. For example, if you have had a stent placed in one of your arteries, then chances are that your physician wants you to take aspirin for the rest of your life. Likewise, if you have had a heart attack or a left atrial appendage occluding device to help prevent AFib strokes, like Watchman, your cardiologist will also probably want you to take aspirin for the rest of your life.

Putting it All Together

The take home message is that aspirin may not prevent AFib strokes but this medication is still used for other reasons. If your CHADS-VASc score is 2 or higher and you can’t take prescription blood thinners for whatever reason, talk to your cardiologist about other options.

Disclaimer

The information provided is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

About the Photo

The image included in this blog post captures a moment from a recent run I undertook. This stunning run unfolded on a snow-covered trail situated high above Soldier Summit in Utah during the enchanting sunset hours.

#355 Does Testosterone Increase the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation?

December 25th, 2023 by

Does Testosterone Increase the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation?

In our best-selling book, The Atrial Fibrillation Cure, we noticed something missing back then – solid info on how testosterone supplements might affect the risk of atrial fibrillation. But fast forward today and we now have new studies hinting that taking testosterone might actually raise the chances of getting Afib. So, in this article, we’re going to discuss why so many men take testosterone, the possible heart-related risks it brings, and what you should think about if you’re dealing with cardiac issues and are considering testosterone therapy.

Why Do So Many Men Take Testosterone?

Numerous medical studies suggest that testosterone plays a pivotal role in various aspects of men’s health. Research indicates that adequate testosterone levels contribute to muscle development, bone density, and overall vitality. Moreover, testosterone is associated with improved muscle strength, sex drive, cognitive functions, including enhanced mood and cognitive performance. Indeed, some have even claimed that testosterone might be the “Fountain of Youth” for aging men. But with all of these positive effects from testosterone, some studies suggested that testosterone may have a dark side when it comes to the heart.

Does Testosterone Supplementation Cause Heart Disease?

Given that studies were unclear on the cardiovascular effects of testosterone supplementation in men, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that manufacturers of testosterone products conduct clinical trials. In response to this FDA mandate, the TRAVERSE Study was just completed and published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

The TRAVERSE Study

The TRAVERSE Study was a multi-center study involving 5,246 men aged 45 to 80. These men all had symptoms of low testosterone levels below 300 ng/dL and either pre-existing cardiovascular disease or were at a high risk of cardiovascular disease. They were then randomized to receive testosterone supplementation or a placebo and were followed for a mean of 33 months to assess cardiovascular safety.

Findings of the TRAVERSE Study

Below are the key findings of this study:

1. There was no statistical difference between testosterone supplementation and placebo with regards to cardiovascular death, heart attacks or stroke, or requirement for coronary after bypass surgery or coronary stenting.

2. There was no statistical difference in the risk of prostate cancer between the two groups.

2. The risk of developing atrial fibrillation was 45% higher in the testosterone group (p=.02).

3. Twice as many people in the testosterone group had a pulmonary embolus (blood clot traveling to the lungs) when compared to placebo.

4. The risk of kidney damage was 53% higher in the testosterone group (p=.04).

Dr. Day’s Take on the Testosterone AFib Risk

This study, along with other studies, suggest a higher risk of atrial fibrillation linked to testosterone supplementation. Considering that a low testosterone level isn’t an immediate threat to life, the discovery of an increased atrial fibrillation risk is concerning.

For my patients dealing with significant discomfort due to low testosterone symptoms, we might think about trying out testosterone, keeping a close eye on their heart health. Ideally, everyone would have a home ECG device and check their heart’s rhythm daily. But, for some, monitoring at home isn’t possible. In those cases, I may recommend a 30-day heart monitor while starting testosterone to watch out for atrial fibrillation.

The main point is, if testosterone makes their atrial fibrillation worse, I suggest stopping the supplementation. But if it doesn’t make things worse, they can keep using testosterone safely.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The content is not a substitute for professional medical expertise, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider regarding any medical concerns, conditions, or treatment options.

About the Photo

The image included in this blog post captures a moment of me skiing alongside my daughter during the Christmas holiday, braving a wind chill temperature of 5 degrees below zero. Despite the bitterly cold weather, our commitment to spending quality time together on the slopes remains unwavering, ensuring that we never miss a skiing day whenever I have time off from work.

#354 How Many Hours of Sleep Does Your Heart Need?

November 25th, 2023 by

How Many Hours of Sleep Does Your Heart Need?

While everyone knows that not getting enough sleep is bad for your heart and for your lifespan, is there a risk associated with getting to much sleep? Also, for those who struggle to sleep at night, is there anything you can do to erase the risks of not getting enough sleep? Read on to learn the answers to these questions.

The Goldilocks Zone of Sleep

Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for a healthy heart and a longer life. The study, involving 92,221 participants who were followed for 7 years, found that sleeping 6 to 8 hours a night was considered optimal. This study used an accelerometer to accurately determine when people were exercising and when they were sleeping.

Those who slept less than 6 hours faced a 34% increased risk of dying over 7 years, with a striking 56% higher risk of heart disease-related deaths. Surprisingly, sleeping more than 8 hours also increased the risk, but not as much as insufficient sleep. Striking a balance, around 7 hours of sleep, emerged as the sweet spot for heart protection and reducing the risk of premature death.

Exercise Erases Any Bad Sleep in this Study

After examining the charts and tables, it seemed that getting just a bit more than 7 hours of sleep each day was the healthiest for shielding your heart and reducing the chances of dying from heart disease or any cause. For those snoozing only 3 hours a day, their risk of heart disease or any other fatal issue was incredibly high, off the charts, to be exact. Surprisingly, even people sleeping over 10 hours daily faced a significantly elevated risk of heart disease or death.

Now, the most fascinating part of the study emerges. If you’re someone really into exercise, you can wipe out the higher risks associated with both too little and too much sleep. Surprisingly, even those catching less than 3 hours of sleep each night saw their increased risks of heart disease and death virtually disappear with intense levels of exercise. The same went for those sleeping more than 10 hours – their heightened risks seemed to almost vanish with more than ample exercise.

The individuals with the lowest rates of heart disease and death in the study were the ones getting the usual amount of sleep (6-8 hours daily) and going beyond the recommended exercise levels (more than 150 minutes per week of intense exercise that gets your heart pumping and makes you break a sweat). On the flip side, those with the highest risks of heart disease and death were the ones doing less than 150 minutes per week of exercise and sleeping either less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours daily.

Cancer Risks Based on Sleep and Exercise Duration

Similarly, the study revealed that the correlation between sleep duration, exercise, and health risks extended to cancer as well. To achieve the utmost protection against both heart disease and cancer, it’s imperative to engage in more than 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical exercise per week while ensuring a consistent sleep routine of 6 to 8 hours each night.

Straying from these optimal ranges significantly elevates the risks of cancer and heart disease. Thus, maintaining a balance by meeting these recommended guidelines emerges as a powerful strategy for minimizing health risks and promoting overall well-being.

Why is this study so important?

This study is super important for a few big reasons. First off, it’s the first one I’ve seen that connects how much we move, measured by fancy gadgets called accelerometers, to how we sleep and how that affects our chances of getting heart disease, cancer, or even dying. This new way of looking at things gives us a better, more detailed understanding of how exercise, sleep, and our health are all interconnected.

Second, it gives us hope if you’re someone who either doesn’t get enough sleep or sleeps too much, you can basically cancel out those risks by doing more exercise than the usual advice suggests. And get this – there’s no such thing as too much exercise in this case; the more, the better.

Lastly, this study outshines the ones before it because it uses accelerometers to keep track of how much people move and how long they really sleep. This high-tech method makes the study’s findings much more reliable, making it way more trustworthy when it comes to understanding how sleep, exercise, and health are all interconnected.

How could exercise help those who don’t get enough sleep or sleep too much?

I think exercise might lower the risk of dying linked to both short and long sleep through different ways. When it comes to not getting enough sleep, there are a bunch of health problems tied to it, like your nervous system going into overdrive, insulin levels not well controlled, problems with your blood vessels, and inflammation.

Not sleeping enough also makes you eat too much, leading to gaining too much weight. Exercise does good things for your heart as it fights off inflammation, and helps your body handle sugar better. It can even fix some of the issues with blood vessels caused by lack of sleep. The various good things that exercise does for your health could be the reason it lessens the risk of dying from not sleeping enough.

On the other hand, when you sleep a lot, it might not be because of the sleep itself but a sign of other health problems. But in this study, the risk of dying went down more for people who slept a lot when they started exercising more. This might mean that the problems connected to sleeping too much could be balanced out by spending more time exercising.

Since both sleep and exercise need time, super long sleep might get in the way of doing enough exercise. These discoveries hint that exercising more could help offset the risks tied to sleeping too much and might be a key part of staying healthy.

Exercise: The Ultimate Equalizer

Even if you find yourself on the extremes of the sleep spectrum – either sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours – regular exercise can be your superhero. The study revealed that getting more than the recommended amount of exercise (more than 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise) completely erased the increased risk associated with too little or too much sleep.

Whether you’re a short sleeper or enjoy longer nights, engaging in more than the recommended amount of exercise eliminated the heightened risks. The magic combination for the lowest heart disease and death risk? Sleeping 6 to 8 hours daily and exceeding the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week.

Practical Tips for Optimal Sleep

Improving your sleep doesn’t have to be complicated. Establish a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Create an ideal sleep environment – a dark, cool room with minimal noise. Say goodbye to electronic devices before bedtime, and consider relaxing activities like a warm shower. As someone who battled insomnia, I’ve found that exercising for at least 2 hours a day, sticking to my 10 pm bedtime, and enjoying a warm shower before bed guarantee me an excellent night of sleep.

Make Exercise Enjoyable and Sustainable

Making exercise a regular part of your routine doesn’t have to be a chore. Find an activity you genuinely enjoy, mix it up to prevent overuse injuries, and consider group workouts for added motivation.

Personally, I love outdoor activities like mountain biking, trail running, and hiking, especially with my family during the warmer months. In winter, I hit the slopes for skiing with my wife or my children. On busy days at the hospital, I turn to our home’s indoor bike or elliptical machine. And whenever I’m sitting at my desk working I’m peddling a bike. Consistency is key – find what you love, and make it a daily commitment.

Take Control of Your Heart Health and Longevity

In conclusion, this groundbreaking study highlights the interconnectedness of sleep and exercise in influencing mortality risks. By optimizing both, you can significantly enhance your chances of a longer, healthier life (and avoid cancer as well). Strive for that sweet spot of 6 to 8 hours of sleep and exceed the recommended exercise guidelines. Your heart will thank you, and you’ll be on the path to a more vibrant, fulfilling life.

About the Photo

In the captivating image featured in my blog article, our family is joyously conquering the heights of a majestic mountain, blending the thrill of mountain climbing with the exhilaration of skiing down the mountain. Although only the beginner ski runs are officially open, the allure of untouched terrain beckons those willing to embark on a challenging hike. The sheer beauty of the snowy landscape, coupled with the physical exertion of climbing the mountain without the help of a chairlift, adds a unique dimension to the adventure.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. Reliance on any information provided by this blog is solely at your own risk. The author shall not be held responsible for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions in the content or for any actions taken based on the information provided here.

 

#353 Is There Really a Link Between Atrial Fibrillation Onset Age and Future Dementia?

November 12th, 2023 by

Is There Really a Link Between Atrial Fibrillation Onset Age and Future Dementia?

A study published this past week found that people who develop atrial fibrillation at a younger age are at increased risk of getting dementia later in life. Our research has shown that AFib doubles the risk of dementia but this is the first study to show that the earlier you get AFib the worse your dementia prognosis. Is this really the case and what can you do to protect your brain now?

The New Study: Age at Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation and Incident Dementia

This study, which looked at a large group of people over many years, used information from the UK Biobank, a public database in the UK. They collected baseline information from 2006 to 2010.

In their main analysis, they included 433,746 participants who didn’t have dementia or atrial fibrillation at baseline. They then followed these people for an average of 12.6 years to see who developed dementia and atrial fibrillation.

The study showed that being diagnosed with AFib at a younger age was directly linked to a greater chance of developing dementia. This risk was most significant for people diagnosed with AFib before turning 65 years old. The dementia risk was somewhat lower for those diagnosed with AFib between the ages of 65-74. And for those diagnosed with AFib at 75 or older, the dementia risk was the lowest.

Why Are AFib Patients at Increased Risk of Dementia?

The connection between atrial fibrillation and a higher risk of dementia is not completely clear, but there are several factors that seem to contribute:

1. Cerebral Microembolism:

AFib can cause blood clots in the heart, and these clots might travel to the brain, causing small blockages in blood vessels. These tiny blockages, or microemboli, can lead to small strokes, which may contribute to cognitive decline and a greater risk of dementia.

2. Reduced Blood Flow:

The irregular heartbeat in AFib can result in less efficient blood pumping, leading to lower blood flow to the brain. This reduced blood supply over time might contribute to the development of dementia.

3. Inflammation and Oxidative Stress:

AFib is associated with inflammation and oxidative stress, processes that can harm brain cells and contribute to neurodegeneration, which is linked to dementia.

4. Shared Risk Factors:

AFib and dementia share common risk factors like getting older, having high blood pressure, gaining weight, diabetes, and plaque build up in arteries. When these factors are present, it can increase the chances of both conditions happening at the same time.

5. Brain Changes:

AFib might be connected to changes in the structure of the brain, like the development of white matter lesions which can be seen on brain MRI studies. White matter lesions tend to occur in people with plaque build up in their arteries, high blood pressure, inflammation, poor lifestyles, or aging. In simpler terms, white matter lesions are like glitches in the brain’s communication network.

Why Might Younger AFib Patients Be at Higher Risk of Dementia?

While this study suggests that younger AFIb patients might be at higher risk for dementia, this is not yet proven. Younger individuals may have a longer time frame for the cumulative impact of risk factors associated with both AFib and dementia, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and vascular diseases (plaque build up in the arteries). The combined effect of these risk factors over an extended period may increase the likelihood of developing dementia.

On the flip side, it could result directly from atrial fibrillation. Over time, the formation of tiny blood clots, or microclotting, may occur with AFib. The consistently irregular and rapid heart rate might of AFib might harm vulnerable brains over the decades. Another possibility is that it stems from reduced blood flow to the brain when in atrial fibrillation.

6 Ways to Protect the Brain from Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder, not only poses challenges to cardiovascular health but can also impact brain function. Here are 6 ways to protect the brain from AFib.

1. Maintain Normal Sinus Rhythm if Possible:

Whenever possible, normal sinus rhythm should be the goal. Treating atrial fibrillation (AFib) early increases the chances of putting it into remission. Sadly, a lot of our patients have been dealing with AFib for years before coming to us. In these cases, getting back to a normal heart rhythm might be difficult because the AFib has been happening for too long.

2. Take a Blood Thinner if Indicated:

Given that strokes, mini-strokes, or even asymptomatic microclotting can harm the brain over time in individuals with AFib, it’s crucial to consistently take any prescribed blood thinners. If you have AFib, discuss with your doctor to determine whether a blood thinner is recommended for you.

3. Religiously Adhere to a Heart Healthy Lifestyle:

Studies suggest that the majority of cases involving AFib and dementia can be averted by consistently adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. This involves adhering strictly to a predominantly plant-based, unprocessed diet, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in daily exercise to heal the brain, prioritizing adequate sleep, addressing sleep apnea if present, managing stress, giving importance to quality time with family and friends, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.

4. Manage Risk Factors:

This involves monitoring your heart rhythm daily with a home ECG device for any indications of AFib, checking your blood pressure daily to ensure it remains at or below 120/80, tracking blood sugars regularly for those with diabetes to maintain normal levels, and consistently weighing yourself to sustain a healthy weight.

5. Mentally Stimulate Your Brain Daily:

To safeguard your brain from dementia, it’s essential to actively engage and stimulate it on a daily basis. The age-old saying “use it or lose it” rings true in this context. Participate in meaningful activities regularly that challenge and stimulate your brain, such as learning a new language or musical instrument. Maintain social connections to stay mentally active. Incorporate daily exercise into your routine to enhance blood flow and promote healing in the brain. Embrace the learning of new technologies to keep your mind sharp and adaptable.

6. Never Miss a Workout:

The importance of daily exercise cannot be overstated if your goal is to overcome AFib and reduce the risk of dementia. Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain and elevates BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factors), encouraging the brain to heal and establish new electrical connections. Think of BDNF as fertilizer for your brain. Therefore, keep a record of your daily workouts, and if you’re using a smartwatch like the Apple Watch, set a goal to consistently complete your “exercise rings” each day.

The Good News from this Study

Although younger individuals with AFib seem to face an increased risk of dementia, the positive side is that treating AFib in younger patients is more straightforward. In fact, the younger you are, the higher the probability that our treatments will effectively maintain a normal sinus rhythm in your heart. Additionally, at a younger age, your body is more resilient, healing more rapidly from any damage that AFib may have already caused.

About the Photo

Accompanying this article is a snapshot from one of my routine mountain runs, a cherished activity shared with my daughter. Taken during a breathtaking fall run in Neff’s Canyon, outside of Salt Lake City, the photo captures the essence of our 100% commitment to daily exercise. This serene backdrop serves as a reminder of the positive impact that daily physical activity can have on our lives. The trails we traverse not only strengthen our bodies but also symbolize the proactive steps we take to reduce the risks of AFib and dementia.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

 

 

 

#352 How Many Steps a Day Do You Need to Cheat Death and Avoid Heart Disease?

November 11th, 2023 by

How Many Steps a Day Do You Need to Cheat Death and Avoid Heart Disease?

Everyone knows that walking is healthy, but have you ever wondered just how many steps it takes to cheat death and steer clear of heart disease? In a world where the pursuit of longevity is a common goal, a recent meta-analysis of 17 studies, involving nearly 227,000 participants followed for 7. 1 years, unveils a captivating connection between the simple act of walking and the potential to extend life while fortifying the heart. This groundbreaking exploration brings forth a message of hope: each step you take is a stride towards a longer, healthier life, challenging preconceived notions and opening the door to a personalized path to well-being.

Your Risk of Dying in the Next 7.1 Years Based on Your Step Count

After looking at the graphs and tables in the study, it turns out that how much you walk each day can affect your chances of living longer. So here is my very rough estimate from the graphs in this study of how many steps you need each day to still be alive 7.1 years from now.

If you make an effort to walk around 5,000 steps every day, the chances of living longer become 50% better compared to someone who only walks 1,000 steps daily. If you want to get the most out of your efforts, increasing your daily step count from 1,000 to 5,000 gives you the highest rewards. So, according to what I learned from this study, it’s a good idea for everyone to do their best to reach at least the 5,000 steps daily goal. Remember, every step you take is a step toward a healthier and longer life, and it’s something achievable that can make a big difference if you still want to be around in 7.1 years.

If you go up to 10,000 steps every day, the benefit is even bigger – your chance of dying is about 80% less than someone doing only 1,000 steps a day. But here’s the catch: once you go beyond 10000 steps daily, the benefits start to slow down.

For example, taking 15,000 steps daily only decreases your risk of dying by 90%, and going all the way up to 20,000 steps daily only decreases your risk by 95%, compared to someone who only moves 1,000 steps daily. So, it’s not just about walking more; finding the right balance that fits your abilities is key, and even a small increase in daily steps can make a big difference in how long you live.

How Should You Track Your Steps?

When it comes to keeping tabs on your daily steps and overall heart health, investing in a smartwatch is a wise move, especially for those under my care as a cardiologist specializing in cardiac arrhythmias.

For  my patients that are iPhone users, I highly recommend the Apple Watch series 4 or later (or any of the Ultra models), which not only monitors your heart rhythms and conducts ECGs but also effortlessly tracks your daily steps.

On the Android front, my preference leans towards the Samsung Galaxy Watch or one of the Fitbit watches that can also track heart rhythms and ECGs in additions to steps. Equipping yourself with a smartwatch tailored to your phone not only ensures accurate step tracking but also provides valuable insights into your heart health, empowering you to take proactive measures for a healthier lifestyle.

If investing in a smartwatch is not within your budget, there are free pedometer apps available for both iPhones and Android phones. These pedometer apps allow you to monitor your daily steps without the need for any additional expenses. While these smartphone apps don’t offer ECG capabilities, there are more affordable ECG devices, such as the Kardia monitor, priced between $70 to $80 on Amazon.

A Message of Hope

In conclusion, this comprehensive meta-analysis study offers a resounding message of hope: every step you take is a step toward a healthier heart and a longer life. Regardless of age, gender, or location, the benefits of walking are universal and attainable. The study not only reaffirms the importance of physical activity but also encourages a personalized approach to health, highlighting that every step counts.

Once you have received approval from your physician to boost your physical activity, aim to add at least one more step to your daily count compared to yesterday. Gradually increase your step count, taking small, manageable steps toward a more active and healthier lifestyle.

So, lace up your walking shoes and embark on a journey towards improved cardiovascular health. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll or an ambitious walk, your heart will thank you for every step you take. Remember, the power to enhance your well-being is right beneath your feet!

Disclaimer

Prior to making any significant changes to your physical activity, especially in relation to step count, it is crucial to consult with your physician or healthcare professional. Increasing your step count should be done gradually and under the guidance of a healthcare provider to ensure it aligns with your individual health needs and conditions. This article provides general information and encouragement, but individual health considerations should always take precedence, with professional advice sought for personalized guidance.

#351 The 4 Secrets Why the Tsimane People Don’t Get Heart Disease, AFib, or Dementia

October 28th, 2023 by

The 4 Secrets Why the Tsimane People Don’t Get Heart Disease, AFib, or Dementia

Tucked away in the secluded corners of the Bolivian Amazon, there’s a community that’s a source of fascination for researchers and health enthusiasts—the Tsimane people. Surrounded by the rich and diverse Amazon rainforest, the Tsimane live a life far removed from the advancements of modern society. Across generations, they’ve thrived by relying on the resources of the land while upholding a distinct social structure that greatly contributes to their exceptional health and overall well-being. In this article, we’ll delve into the four secrets as to why the Tsimane people don’t get heart disease, atrial fibrillation, or dementia.

Life in a Tsimane Village

In the villages lining the Amazon River in Bolivia, you’ll find about 16,000 Tsimane people. Their homes are built using natural materials such as wood, palm leaves, and thatch. What’s striking about their community is how closely-knit it is, fostering a strong sense of shared responsibility and support among its members.

The Tsimane way of life revolves around sustaining themselves from the land. They hunt, fish, and farm to meet their daily needs. Hunting provides meat, while fishing adds fish to their diet. Their farming includes growing crops like plantains, maize, and manioc. They also gather wild fruits, nuts, and other edible plants from the forest, which are crucial parts of what they eat.

Living in Tsimane villages means living with limited access to modern conveniences like electricity, running water, or high-tech gadgets. Their lifestyle is far removed from the complexities of the modern world.

Their community’s structure is based on family ties and social connections. Decisions are often made by reaching a consensus within the community, and the elders are highly respected for their wisdom and experience.

The Tsimane Don’t Get Heart Disease Study

For many years, Dr. Hillard Kaplan and his team from the National Institute on Aging and St. Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City have been amazed by the Tsimane people living deep in the Amazon jungle. These indigenous folks show an incredible resistance to heart disease. Recently, the results of their extensive research have grabbed global attention in the media.

The research team dived into a thorough study, visiting 85 Tsimane villages to closely check how common heart disease was among this community. They used CT scans on every adult Tsimane they could find for the study, a total of 705 participants. These scans were super important in looking at heart health, checking things like coronary artery calcification, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and signs of inflammation linked to heart disease.

For those not familiar with medical tests, a CT scan that looks at coronary artery calcification is a powerful way to find blockages or heart problems. And as we know, how we live greatly impacts whether we might get clogged arteries. Plus, the level of artery hardening often connects to how long a person might live. And if you’re interested in what you own coronary calcium score might be, for a fee of just $69, you can undergo this test at our hospital.

The research revealed something amazing: out of the 705 Tsimane adults studied, a huge 85% had no signs of any heart artery plaque. This gave them a perfect score of zero on this test, showing their hearts were in great shape. What’s even more incredible is that 65% of Tsimane folks over 75 years old had no heart plaque at all.

To put this in perspective, nearly all people over 75 in the United States have some heart artery plaque. What the Tsimane people showed in this study about their low heart disease risk is unlike anything seen before, showing just how resistant they are to heart issues compared to most people in the world.

Even though the Tsimane people face a lot of inflammation from dealing with many infections, they have the least amount of heart disease ever recorded compared to any other group. This study tells us that most people can prevent heart artery problems by having low cholesterol, keeping their blood pressure and sugar levels low, having a healthy weight, not smoking, and staying physically active throughout their lives.

The Tsimane Don’t Get Atrial Fibrillation Study

In this Tsimane Afib study spanning from 2005 to 2019, researchers examined the occurrence of atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm issue, among the Tsimane. The objective was to understand how prevalent this heart condition was in these communities characterized by an active lifestyle, a lean diet, and low levels of heart disease, while also facing a high burden of infectious diseases and resulting inflammation.

The study involved 1314 Tsimane individuals aged between 40 to 94. Electrocardiograms (ECGs) were conducted to check for atrial fibrillation. Later, a subset of the participants underwent additional ECGs to assess the incidence of new cases.

Remarkably, at the study’s beginning, only one Tsimane man showed signs of atrial fibrillation, marking a very low percentage among the total population. Over the follow-up period, only one new case was identified among the Tsimane in over 7000 patient years of observation.

The findings were astounding—this indigenous group displayed significantly lower rates of atrial fibrillation compared to high-income countries, suggesting that their lifestyle, heavily focused on physical activity and a diet low in processed foods, contributed to protecting their hearts from AFib. Despite facing frequent infections and associated inflammation, the results imply that lifestyle factors have a significant impact on heart health, indicating that atrial fibrillation might not be an inevitable consequence of cardiovascular aging but rather a disease influenced by one’s way of life.

The Tsimane Don’t Get Dementia Study

In a study looking at memory problems in the Tsimane people, researchers checked 435 individuals over 60 years old using memory tests and brain scans. They found five cases of dementia among the Tsimane, which was very low—just 1.2% of the group. This number is much lower than almost anywhere else in the world.

Surprisingly, even though the Tsimane have a high chance getting the Alzheimer’s gene (ApoE4), they still have some of the lowest levels of dementia worldwide. This indicates that their way of life—hunting, gathering wild foods, staying active, and having strong social bonds—not only helps protect them from heart disease and atrial fibrillation but also seems to shield them from memory problems like dementia.

The 4 Secrets Why the Tsimane People Don’t Get Heart Disease, AFib, or Dementia

Why don’t the Tsimane people suffer from heart disease, AFib, or dementia? It’s not because they have super-human genes. Instead, it’s their way of life. Many studies show that no matter what genes you were dealt in this life, a healthy lifestyle can silence most of your bad genes.

1. Eat Plant-Based Natural Foods with Wild Meats

The Tsimane people eat natural, unprocessed foods like wild meats, lots of plants, fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds. Everything they eat comes straight from nature, without any processing.

To adopt the Tsimane diet into our modern American lives, we can focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods. This means choosing lean wild or organic meats and adding more fruits and veggies to our meals. Snacking on nuts and seeds can give us important nutrients. By reducing processed foods and going for natural choices like the Tsimane, we can improve our overall health in our everyday American lifestyle.

2. Never Stop Moving

The Tsimane don’t spend their time sitting in front of screens or hitting the gym for exercise. Instead, they’re naturally active all day long.

Tsimane men walk around 17,000 steps every day, while Tsimane women take about 16,000 steps each day. Even as they get older, those over 60 still manage more than 15,000 steps daily.

But the Tsimane don’t achieve these impressive step counts by strolling around their neighborhoods or on a walking track. Their steps come from hunting, foraging, fishing, and farming. Men typically spend around 6-7 hours each day on these activities, while women usually dedicate 4-6 hours to the same.

3. Always Stay Socially Connected

This study overlooked an important aspect: the deeply interconnected lives of the Tsimane. When they weren’t hunting or gathering food, the Tsimane spent their time with friends, family, or neighbors.

The Tsimane have a tradition of daily visits to their friends’ and neighbors’ homes, both in the mornings and evenings. Sometimes, these visits lasted for weeks or even months, with one Tsimane family staying with another.

Without computers or TVs, the Tsimane had to spend time talking and sharing stories with each other every day. Despite not having many possessions, their close-knit social life led to high reported levels of happiness. Additionally, despite facing the stress of potential food shortages, their strong social connections kept their stress levels much lower than those in modern societies. Everyone in these villages knew about each other, creating a tight-knit community.

4. Live a More Unplugged Life

The Tsimane live an “unplugged” life in their villages, mostly without electricity. This means they’re not constantly on phones, checking social media, or keeping up with the news. Instead, their focus is on genuine connections with one another. This raises a question: could this be why they experience such low levels of stress?

It makes us wonder if our modern reliance on technology and constant news exposure might contribute to our stress and unhappiness. While we might not need to entirely embrace a technology-free lifestyle like the Amish, there might be something to learn from the Tsimane. Taking a day each week to unplug, setting the phone aside, turning off the TV, and even taking breaks from news consumption could potentially improve our well-being.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of information presented in this article. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

#350 Is it Your Genes or Your Lifestyle that Determines How Long You’ll Live?

October 22nd, 2023 by

Is it Your Genes or Your Lifestyle that Determines How Long You’ll Live?

Many of my patients believe that their fate in terms of heart disease and early mortality is solely written in their genes. They often tell me things like, “My grandma and mom both had atrial fibrillation, so it was no surprise when I was diagnosed with it.” But it’s essential to consider whether they shared the same genes or simply shared a similar lifestyle. In other words, their shared lifestyle choices might have contributed to their same health issues, like fitting into the same-sized jeans and experiencing Afib.

A New Study on Genes vs Lifestyle:

A recent study involving 5,446 women with an average age of 78.2 years shed light on this subject. Researchers examined their key longevity-related genes and monitored their physical activity by strapping accelerometers onto them. After six years of observation, 1,022 of these women had passed away.

The findings were clear: Irrespective of your genetic makeup, the more physically active you are, the longer you tend to live. Similarly, sitting less correlates with an extended lifespan. When it comes to longevity, the influence of physical activity significantly outweighs the genetic hand you’ve been dealt.

These results align with a wealth of other studies, all pointing to the same adage: “Move it or lose it.” If you stop moving, you risk losing the ability to move as you age. Additionally, reduced physical activity makes it increasingly difficult to maintain mobility in later life. As the saying goes, “motion is lotion,” and it holds true – if we don’t move, we may eventually lose the ability to move.

What do other study say on genes versus lifestyle?

A second study focused on the lives of nearly 3,000 identical and fraternal twins from Denmark, taking into account both genetic and environmental factors. So, while these individuals shared nearly identical genetic backgrounds, they displayed a wide range of medical conditions and lifespans. Their conclusion was enlightening – “longevity seems to be only moderately heritable.” For women, they estimated that approximately 26 percent of longevity was influenced by heredity, and for men, it was about 23 percent. The rest, they affirmed, is within our control.

In a third study, researchers analyzed 54 million family trees utilizing data from Ancestry.com. Astonishingly, they found that only 7 percent of a person’s lifespan can be attributed to their genes.

Our Research Findings on Genes versus Lifestyle

In our bestselling book, “The Longevity Plan,” we embarked on an incredible journey to unravel the mysteries of long and healthy lives. Our destination: China, where we conducted a remarkable five-year study of centenarians, individuals who had reached the extraordinary age of 100 and beyond. What we discovered was truly astonishing.

At first glance, it appeared that these centenarians possessed genes that, by all predictions, should have made them vulnerable to heart disease, dementia, and early mortality. But here’s the incredible twist: these remarkable individuals had not fallen victim to these grim predictions. Instead, they were living vibrant, healthy lives well into their 100s. How did they manage this seemingly miraculous feat? The answer, we found, lay not in their genes, but in their lifestyle.

You see, it’s not just about the genes you inherit; it’s about how you influence them through the way you live your life. This concept can be summed up in one word: epigenetics. Think of your genes as the instructions for your body’s functions. Epigenetics, in essence, is like the conductor of an orchestra, telling the genes which notes to play and when to play them.

The centenarians we studied had genes that could have played a rather unpleasant tune—heart disease, dementia, and early demise. However, their extraordinary longevity was a result of their lifestyle choices. These choices effectively “reprogrammed” their genes, like a skilled conductor guiding an orchestra toward a beautiful symphony.

So, what can we learn from these remarkable individuals? Your genes might set the stage, but you hold the conductor’s baton. With a healthy lifestyle, you can lead your genes toward harmony, ensuring that they play a melody of long-lasting health and vitality, instead of a tune of illness and aging. It’s a powerful reminder that the choices you make today can pave the way for a long and vibrant life tomorrow.

Your DNA is Not Your Destiny

These four studies collectively emphasize one essential truth: your DNA is not your destiny. Even if your ancestors suffered from heart disease or early mortality, it doesn’t mean you are fated to the same outcome. Ultimately, it’s not your genes but your lifestyle choices that predominantly determine your susceptibility to health issues in this lifetime.

What do I tell my heart patients?

So, what’s the daily prescription I give to my patients for a long, joyful, and healthy life? It’s genuinely straightforward: prioritize a diet rich in natural, plant-based foods to maintain a healthy weight. Dedicate an hour each day to exercise. Ensure you get at least seven hours of restful sleep every night, and seek treatment if you have sleep apnea. Incorporate daily stress-reduction practices. Lastly, make ample time for friends, family, neighbors, and the community – these connections are invaluable to a long and fulfilling life. Your destiny is in your hands, not in your genes.

About the Photo

Incorporating the captivating essence of our blog post’s photo, it captures the idyllic scene of sheep leisurely grazing against the stunning backdrop of the Park City ski resort, set under the golden hues of a late October afternoon. This particular day was not just about the breathtaking landscape, but also a tale of adventure and exploration. My son and I were embarking on a remarkable 26-mile, 3.5-hour mountain bike journey that wound its way through a dynamic terrain, seamlessly connecting the mid-mountain and Wasatch Crest trails. As we traversed these scenic routes, the sheep’s serene presence served as a reminder of the tranquility that can be found in the heart of the wilderness.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog article is intended for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

#349 10 Reasons Why You Might Be So Tired

October 1st, 2023 by

10 Reasons Why You Might Be So Tired

In the clinic this past week, many of you shared your struggles with fatigue and a desire to understand why you’re feeling so tired. Drawing from my years of research and clinical experience, I want to shed light on the 10 common reasons why you might be experiencing low energy levels.

1. Your Sleep Might Be Off

Quality sleep is the foundation of boundless energy. Sleep apnea, nighttime awakenings, and even nocturia (frequent urination at night) can disrupt your rest. If you snore or suspect sleep apnea, seek evaluation. Sleep apnea dramatically increases your risk of atrial fibrillation and may even shorten your life.

Also, consider the timing of diuretic medications, and if necessary, consult a urologist for urinary issues. For my patients taking “water pills,” I encourage them to take these medications in the morning so that the effects are gone by bedtime.

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule to promote better sleep quality. If you can train your body to go to bed and awake at roughly the same time each day your energy levels should increase.

2. You May Not Be Exercising Enough

Believe it or not, exercise is a potent energy booster. Regular physical activity enhances mood, aids in weight management, and significantly improves sleep. Indeed, the very best “energy pill” I can offer my patients is regular daily exercise.

I encourage my patients to gradually increase their activity levels, aiming for 10,000 daily steps and at least one hour of moderate-intensity exercise. And for my patients who can achieve these exercise goals they all sleep better at night.

Everyone can do something for regular daily exercise. Even my elderly patients confined to a wheelchair can still do wheelchair aerobics, yoga, or workout with arm weights.

3. You Might Be Eating the Wrong Foods

Your diet plays a crucial role in energy levels. Processed foods, prepared foods, eating out, sugary snacks, and refined carbohydrates can zap your vitality.

Fuel your body with energy-rich foods, with a special focus on vegetables and avoiding sugary and highly processed items. To optimize your energy levels, eat as naturally and clean as you possibly can and avoid any foods that spike your blood glucose levels like bread, pastries, or snack foods.

4. You May Not Be Drinking Enough Water

Dehydration can leave you feeling tired. Aim to drink enough water daily until your urine has a slight yellow tinge. Many find that sipping water throughout the day helps combat fatigue.

5. You Might Be Too Stressed

Stress is an energy thief. If you’re juggling multiple responsibilities, look for ways to reduce stress. Explore stress-relief techniques such as yoga, meditation, prayer, nature walks, or regular exercise to find what works best for you.

6. You Might Be on too Many Medications

Certain medications, especially beta-blockers, can cause fatigue. Review your medication list with your physician to identify any potential culprits and explore alternatives.

While you should never stop a medication on your own, there may be natural approaches to get you off some of your pills. For example, many of my patients have found that by losing 10 to 20 pounds they may be able to get off their blood pressure or diabetes medications. Likewise, for my patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, an ablation procedure may allow they to get off their beta-blockers and other fatigue inducing antiarrhythmic medications.

7. You May Have a Medical Condition that isn’t Being Optimally Treated

Atrial fibrillation, heart failure, thyroid problems, anemia, depression, etc. can all contribute to fatigue. Consult your doctor for testing and appropriate treatment to regain your energy.

For my patients suffering from AFib, many find that if we can keep their hearts in normal sinus rhythm their energy levels improve. And for those who may have been out of rhythm for too long to get back into normal sinus rhythm, often just controlling their atrial fibrillation heart rate significantly improves energy levels.

8. You Might Be Carrying Too Much Weight

Excess weight can weigh you down, both physically and energetically. Many of my patients have experienced a surge in energy as they shed those extra pounds. Also, many of your health conditions or medications may go away if you can drop a few pounds.

9. You’re Smoking or Might Be Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can drain your energy and hinder sleep quality. Seek guidance from your healthcare provider if you’re looking to quit or reduce these habits.

10. You May Have a Caffeine Problem

While caffeine can provide a temporary energy boost, excessive or late-day consumption can disrupt sleep patterns. Be mindful of your caffeine intake and aim to limit it, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Conclusion

Your energy levels are a valuable asset, and it’s within your power to rejuvenate them. By addressing these ten common factors, you can take proactive steps toward a more energized, vibrant, and fulfilling life.

About the Blog Photo

When our family needs a recharge, Lake Powell is our sanctuary for exercise, de-stressing, and quality family time. The real magic? In most spots, there’s no cell signal, giving us a much-needed technology ‘detox.’

Disclaimer

The information in this blog article is for educational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider regarding any medical concerns, and never disregard or delay seeking medical advice based on information in this article.

#348 Too Busy to Exercise? New Study Shows Weekend Warrior Exercisers Get the Same Benefit

October 1st, 2023 by

Too Busy to Exercise? New Study Shows Weekend Warrior Exercisers Get the Same Benefit

In our fast-paced lives, finding the time for daily exercise can be a challenge. But here’s some fantastic news that might just make your day: a groundbreaking study conducted by Harvard Medical School, led by Dr. Patrick Elenor, who was my former Stanford medical student and current chief of cardiology at Harvard, reveals that you can enjoy the same health benefits with concentrated weekend workouts as you would with daily exercise.

The Importance of Physical Activity:

Guidelines have long recommended at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week for overall health benefits. However, the big question has always been whether it’s better to spread your exercise evenly throughout the week or concentrate it into just a couple of days.

The Study:

To answer this question, the study examined data from the UK Biobank cohort, which included 89,573 individuals. These participants wore accelerometers to track their physical activity levels between June 8, 2013, and December 30, 2015.

The researchers compared three exercise patterns: the “active weekend warrior” (achieving at least 150 minutes with more than 50% of total exercise over 1-2 days), “active regular” (achieving at least 150 minutes spread out fairly evenly throughout the week), and “inactive” (achieving less than 150 minutes).

The Positive Findings:

The results of the study are incredibly encouraging. Both the ‘active weekend warrior’ and ‘active regular’ groups showed similarly lower risks of heart disease.

Atrial Fibrillation Episodes: Active weekend warriors saw 22% fewer AFib episodes, and active regular exercisers saw 19% fewer AFib episodes when compared to inactive people.

Heart Attacks: For heart attacks, the active weekend warriors enjoyed a 27% lower risk, while the daily exercisers enjoyed a 35% lower risk than couch potatoes.

Heart Failure Risk: When it came to heart failure risks, the results were similar. Weekend warrior exercisers had a 38% lower risk, and the daily exercisers had a 36% lower risk when compared to couch potatoes.

Stroke Risk: For the dreaded risk of a stroke, once again, weekend warrior exercisers experienced 21% fewer strokes, and the daily exercisers experienced a 17% lower risk.

Hard-Core Exercisers Had the Same Positive Benefits:

Interestingly, when Dr. Patrick Elenor and his team examined the ‘hard-core’ exercisers, those who engaged in 230 minutes or more of exercise each week, they discovered a similar outcome. Both the weekend warriors and the daily exercisers experienced significantly fewer instances of atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, or heart failure when compared to couch potatoes.

Conclusion:

The study’s conclusion is clear: you don’t need to exercise every day to reap the rewards of physical activity. Concentrating your exercise efforts within 1-2 days can provide the same health benefits as spreading it out throughout the week. So, if your schedule is hectic and you find it challenging to work out daily, don’t be discouraged. Embrace the role of a weekend warrior, and you’ll still be on track to a healthier, happier you.

Remember, the most important thing is to find an exercise routine that fits your lifestyle and is sustainable in the long run. So, get out there, make the most of your weekends, and enjoy the many benefits that come with being a weekend warrior! Your health will thank you for it.

About the Photo:

This photo captures a memorable weekend adventure that perfectly complements the uplifting message of the article. In the image, you’ll see the fall colors adorning the Brighton Ski resort from a 10,000 foot view.

Together with my two teenagers, we embarked on an exhilarating mountain bike ride along the scenic Wasatch Crest Trail this past Saturday. This photo embodies the spirit of seizing weekends for fulfilling and health-boosting activities, even amidst our busy lives.

Disclosure:

Before embarking on any new exercise program or making significant changes to your current routine, it’s essential to prioritize your health and safety. Please consult with your healthcare provider or a qualified medical professional before starting a new exercise program. They can assess your individual health status, provide valuable guidance, and tailor an exercise plan that is safe and suitable for your unique needs and circumstances.

#347 Is Fiber the Secret to Avoiding Heart Disease and Living to 100?

September 4th, 2023 by

Is Fiber the Secret to Avoiding Heart Disease and Living to 100?

Are you looking for a simple yet highly effective way to enhance your cardiovascular health and boost your chances of living a long, vibrant life? Look no further than your daily diet. Increasing your fiber intake might be the key to achieving these goals, according to a recent study. In this blog, we’ll break down the findings of this study and provide practical tips on how to integrate fiber into your daily routine to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and promote healthy aging.

The Study: Unlocking the Fiber Secret

A comprehensive analysis of nearly 250 studies has unveiled the remarkable protective effects of dietary fiber. Researchers found that individuals who consumed ample fiber from vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains slashed their risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer by up to 30% compared to those with lower fiber intake.

How Could Boosting Fiber Prevent Heart Disease?

Fiber is a dietary powerhouse that plays a significant role in preventing cardiovascular disease. This indigestible plant material, found in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, offers a multitude of heart-healthy benefits. Indeed, high fiber diets have been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, body weight, and inflammation levels.

First, one of fiber’s primary functions is to help lower levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, in the bloodstream. Soluble fiber, in particular, acts like a sponge, binding to cholesterol particles and escorting them out of the body, reducing the risk of cholesterol buildup in the arteries.

Second, fiber promotes healthy blood pressure by supporting optimal blood vessel function and reducing inflammation.

Third, fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels, which is crucial for preventing diabetes—a major risk factor for heart disease.

Fourth, Inclusion of fiber-rich foods in your diet not only promotes a feeling of fullness and aids in weight management but also contributes to overall cardiovascular wellness, making it a simple yet effective addition to your heart-healthy lifestyle.

Fifth, high fiber diets have been shown to decrease inflammation levels, as measured by CRP (C-reactive protein) which is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

Fiber Intake in China’s Longevity Village

In our extensive five-year study of the most densely populated centenarian region in China, which was featured in our Amazon best-selling book The Longevity Plan, a striking discovery emerged. We identified a pivotal factor contributing to the remarkable longevity of these individuals, who lived beyond the age of 100 without experiencing heart disease, dementia, or mobility challenges – their remarkably high-fiber diet. Our observations revealed that their daily fiber intake consistently ranged from 60 to 90 grams, which is two to three times the recommended daily allowance of fiber in the United States.

How to Boost the Fiber in Your Breakfast: The Green Smoothie

1. Start with a base of leafy greens like spinach or kale for your green smoothie. Add a tablespoon of chia seeds for fiber, and a cup of unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened yogurt for creaminess.

2. To increase fiber content, consider adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed or psyllium husk. These are excellent sources of soluble fiber that can help regulate cholesterol levels and promote bowel regularity.

3. Sweeten your smoothie with fiber-rich fruits like berries (blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries) for an extra dose of antioxidants and fiber.

How to Boost the Fiber in Your Lunch: Chickpea Salad

Create a delicious chickpea salad with canned chickpeas, diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, broccoli, kale, and fresh parsley. Dress it with olive oil, lemon juice, and your favorite herbs and spices. Chickpeas, broccoli, and kale are all fantastic sources of fiber and are all plant-based proteins. And if you want to add some chicken or fish to your salad that is perfectly acceptable. Likewise, if you want to substitute edamame or black beans instead of chickpeas that works as well.

How to Boost the Fiber in Your Dinner: Quinoa and Roasted Vegetables

Prepare a quinoa and roasted vegetable bowl. Roast a mix of fiber-rich veggies like broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, onions, and zucchini with olive oil and seasonings. Serve them over cooked quinoa. Quinoa is a whole grain that’s higher in fiber compared to many other grains. You can also add some black beans or lentils to your quinoa for an extra fiber and protein boost. And if you want to add a little chicken or fish to your roasted vegetables that is certainly an option.

3 Tips When Increasing Fiber

1. Gradual Transition: Introduce fiber into your diet gradually to allow your digestive system time to adapt. This helps minimize any potential discomfort.

2. Stay Hydrated: Increasing your fiber intake necessitates higher water consumption to maintain digestive health. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

3. Consult a Physician: If you have any existing digestive issues, especially constipation, consult your healthcare provider before making significant changes to your fiber consumption.

Conclusion

Incorporating more fiber into your daily diet isn’t just a health-conscious decision—it’s a recipe for a longer, heart-healthy life. The evidence is clear: fiber is your ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease and a key player in promoting healthy longevity. So, start today by embracing fiber-rich foods and making them a delightful part of your daily menu. Your heart and your future self will thank you for it.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog article is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

About the Photo

This photo was taken on my mountain bike ride through Park City, Utah, over the weekend. It is a picture of the McPolin Barn, an iconic landmark in this picturesque mountain town.

#346 Pulsed Field Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation: A Game-Changer in AFib Treatment

September 2nd, 2023 by

Pulsed Field Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation: A Game-Changer in AFib Treatment

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is a common cardiac arrhythmia that affects millions of people worldwide. For years, radiofrequency and cryoballoon ablation have been the standard treatments for AF, but a new player has emerged on the scene – Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA). In this article, we’ll explore the mechanisms, pros, and cons of PFA in comparison to the traditional methods, and dive into the recent ADVENT Study, shedding light on its implications for the future of AF ablation.

Comparing Radiofrequency, Cryoballoon, and PFA Ablations

Radiofrequency ablation employs heat energy to create scars in the heart tissue that disrupt AF triggers. Cryoballoon ablation, on the other hand, uses freezing temperatures to achieve the same goal. PFA, however, takes a different approach. It uses precisely controlled electrical fields to ablate heart tissue, making it a non-thermal option. Pros of PFA include shorter procedure times, faster recovery, and reduced risks of complications like esophageal injury, phrenic nerve injury, and pulmonary vein stenosis. However, PFA is still relatively new, and long-term data is limited. Radiofrequency and cryoballoon have a longer track record, and some operators may prefer these methods due to their experience.

The ADVENT Study: PFA vs Radiofrequency or the Cryoballoon

The groundbreaking ADVENT Study randomized patients with paroxysmal AF to receive either PFA or thermal ablation (using radiofrequency or cryoballoon). Paroxysmal Afib is when Afib begins and ends spontaneously. It’s typically an earlier, more manageable stage of Afib. On the other hand, persistent Afib is when Afib doesn’t stop on its own, indicating a more advanced and challenging form of Afib to treat.

The ADVENT Study involved some 65 of the most skilled operators in the U.S. from 30 centers, who were mostly unfamiliar with PFA. The primary endpoint was 1-year freedom from AF without antiarrhythmic drugs and only one ablation procedure. The PFA device used was a first-generation technology. In comparison, radiofrequency and cryoballoon technologies belong to the second, third, or even fourth generation of devices.

I had the privilege of serving on the Data Safety Monitoring Committee for the ADVENT Study, essentially acting as its overseer. This role granted me the opportunity to assess all the data in real-time throughout the study, giving me an early glimpse into the findings well before they were made accessible to the public. To provide full transparency, it’s important to note that I received compensation in the form of an hourly wage for my dedicated hours spent working on the ADVENT Study. This compensation may potentially influence my evaluation of this emerging technology.

Safety: PFA vs  Radiofrequency or Cryoballoon

From a safety perspective, there was no statistical difference in the primary endpoint in the ADVENT Study. This is quite remarkable considering PFA was a brand new device and cardiac EP’s usually need hundreds of cases before their skills are honed with a new technology. And as might be expected, there were some early “learning curve” complications with PFA (cardiac tamponade) that should go away with time and experience. However, the secondary safety endpoint, which was freedom from pulmonary vein stenosis, clearly favored PFA in this study.

Efficacy: PFA vs Radiofrequency or Cryoballoon

Efficacy-wise, both PFA and thermal ablation showed similar results, but PFA procedures were notably quicker. The single procedure success rate was 73% for PFA and 71% in the thermal ablation group (radiofrequency or cryoballoon). There was no statistical difference in these success rates. It’s important to mention that this impressive outcome refers to the percentage of patients who remained free from Afib for one year after a single treatment, and they didn’t require any additional heart rhythm medications.

Durability: PFA vs Radiofrequency or Cryoballoon

When considering long-term effectiveness, it’s crucial to opt for an ablation method that maintains its efficacy. In the ADVENT Study, the rate of needing a repeat Afib ablation within one year was 4.6% in the PFA group, whereas in the thermal group (radiofrequency or cryoballoon), it was 6.6%. Clearly, from a patient standpoint, you want the risk of having to have a repeat ablation as low as possible.

Recovery: PFA vs Radiofrequency or Cryoballoon

One remarkable difference between PFA and thermal ablation (radiofrequency or cryoballoon) was that the procedure times with PFA were much shorter. And in my experience, shorter procedure times often result in faster recoveries.

The Future of AF Ablation with PFA

1. Improved Success Rates: As operators gain experience with PFA and as the technology evolves (the ADVENT Study used a first-generation device), success rates for paroxysmal Afib are expected to increase. For persistent Afib, PFA may offer an advantage in treating the posterior wall of the left atrium, which is often a contributor to ongoing Afib. Thus, I expect success rates for both paroxysmal and persistent Afib to increase over the next 5 years as cardiac EPs gain experience and the technology improves.

2. Safer Procedures: PFA’s shorter procedure times and avoidance of the certain dreaded complications of Afib ablation, like esophageal injury, phrenic nerve injury, and pulmonary vein stenosis, definitely make it a much safer option in my opinion. Also, in addition to much shorter anesthesia times, PFA ablation should help to decrease the risk of post-procedure chest discomfort and fluid overload. This safety profile could encourage more complex Afib cases to be treated with ablation instead of antiarrhythmic drugs.

Should You Wait for PFA?

Not all PFA technologies are equal, and every device company in the Afib space is developing their own PFA device. The PFA device used in the ADVENT Study, from Boston Scientific, is expected to be commercially available in the U.S. by the summer of 2024. Of note, this PFA technology is currently available in Europe.

However, if you need an ablation now, radiofrequency or cryoballoon are well-established and safe options. Waiting for PFA may be an option if your AF is under control and your cardiac EP physician agrees it’s safe to wait.

In Summary

PFA is a promising addition to the arsenal of Afib treatment options. While it currently offers similar success rates for paroxysmal Afib as radiofrequency and cryoballoon, its advantages in safety and procedural efficiency make it a compelling choice. As cardiac EPs gain more experience and technology advances, success rates for Afib ablation should steadily improve. Thus, PFA’s role in treating Afib is expected to grow rapidly, potentially totally reshaping the landscape of Afib ablation in the coming years.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

About the Blog Image

The accompanying blog image for this article is a captivating representation of a catheter ablation procedure for atrial fibrillation, created using AI technology known as DALL-E. This AI-generated image offers an artistic interpretation of what the procedure might entail, adding a unique visual dimension to the discussion.

 

#345 How to Double the Longevity Benefit of Exercise

July 29th, 2023 by

How to Double the Longevity Benefit of Exercise

In the pursuit of a healthier and longer life, regular exercise has long been regarded as a fundamental component. But is it possible to double the longevity benefit of exercise?

We have all heard about the importance of meeting the federally recommended amount of physical activity to reduce the risk of premature death. However, recent research conducted by Harvard’s School of Public Health reveals a fascinating new twist. According to their study, individuals who go above and beyond the minimum guidelines can enjoy even greater benefits, significantly lengthening their lifespan. In this article, we explore the intriguing findings that suggest exercising more than recommended could be the key to a longer and healthier life.

The Study

The study, published in the prestigious journal Circulation, involved an extensive analysis of 30 years’ worth of medical records and mortality data from over 100,000 adults enrolled in the renowned Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The study aimed to investigate the relationship between physical activity and its impact on life expectancy.

Recommended Exercise Guidelines

Before delving into the study’s findings, let’s review the federally recommended physical activity guidelines. For optimal health benefits, adults are advised to engage in either:

150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or

75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity.

Basically, Americans are asked to exercise 21 to 43 minutes daily of moderate-intensity activity or, if they want to reduce their exercise time by doing vigorous-intensity activity, they could cut this time in half to 11 to 21 minutes each day.

The Impact of Meeting the Minimum Guidelines

The researchers found that individuals who adhered to the minimum recommended guidelines enjoyed a considerable 21% reduction in their risk of early death. These statistics alone confirm the importance of regular physical activity in enhancing overall health and longevity.

Exceeding the Recommendations

However, the study’s most intriguing revelation came when investigating the effects of surpassing the minimum guidelines. Participants who exercised two to four times more than the recommended amount experienced an astonishing 31% reduction in their risk of early mortality. This significant improvement in life expectancy demonstrates that there might be additional benefits to pushing the boundaries of our physical activity routines.

The Importance of Finding the Right Exercise Balance

Although the study’s results are promising for those who prefer a more active lifestyle, it is essential to approach intense exercise with caution. It’s crucial to strike a balance between challenging ourselves physically and avoiding overexertion, which could lead to injuries or burnout. Consulting with a healthcare professional or fitness expert before adopting a more intense exercise regimen is advisable, especially for individuals with pre-existing health conditions or who have been relatively sedentary in the past.

My Daily Exercise

As one who is guilty of exercising about 800 minutes a week (approximately 114 minutes daily), I have to cross-train to avoid repetitive stress injuries. During the summer I rotate through mountain biking, hiking, running, wake surfing, and using an indoor elliptical machine. And during the winter months I switch it up by rotating through downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, running on snow-packed trails, and use an indoor elliptical exercise machine. If I’m traveling I just use the hotel’s elliptical machine.

How Does Exercise Lengthen Your Lifespan?

While the study establishes a link between higher levels of physical activity and increased life expectancy, the exact mechanisms behind these benefits remain a subject of ongoing research. One possible explanation is that more intense exercise contributes to improved cardiovascular health, stronger immune function, and enhanced metabolic efficiency. Additionally, regular exercise has been shown to combat stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can impact overall health and longevity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the groundbreaking study conducted by Harvard’s School of Public Health sheds new light on the relationship between physical activity and life expectancy. While meeting the federally recommended guidelines already confers significant benefits, those who choose to challenge themselves further and engage in more intense exercise may enjoy more than double the longevity benefit of exercise. Nevertheless, finding the right balance and listening to our bodies remain crucial in ensuring that exercise remains a sustainable and enjoyable part of our lives.

As further research continues to unlock the mysteries of human physiology, it is clear that regular physical activity will remain a cornerstone of a healthy and fulfilling life. So, let’s lace up our running shoes, hit the gym, or take that dance class we’ve been considering—all in the pursuit of a longer, happier, and healthier life.

About the Photo

The blog article’s featured photo captures a heartwarming moment of pure joy and togetherness. The image showcases my two youngest children engaged in the exhilarating activity of wake surfing on the breathtaking waters of Lake Powell in southern Utah.

Surrounded by stunning natural beauty, the family enjoys one of their favorite summer pastimes—surfing behind a boat on this picturesque lake. As the kids share laughter and excitement, the photo beautifully encapsulates the essence of family bonding and the love for an active lifestyle.

Combining exercise with cherished family time not only promotes physical health but also enriches our emotional well-being. It is a testament to the idea that the benefits of exercise can be amplified manifold when experienced with loved ones. This delightful snapshot serves as a reminder of the power of shared experiences, making lasting memories, and the joy that comes from living life to the fullest.

Disclaimer

The information presented in this blog article is for general informational purposes only. Readers are advised to consult with qualified healthcare professionals or fitness experts before making any significant changes to their exercise routines or lifestyles. Each individual’s health and fitness needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

#344 Can You Stop the Progression of AFib with a Catheter Ablation?

July 29th, 2023 by

Can You Stop the Progression of AFib with a Catheter Ablation?

The Natural Progression of Atrial fibrillation (AFib) can start with sporadic episodes, where the heart’s rhythm is irregular but self-terminates. This stage where AFib terminates on its own is known as paroxysmal AFib. Paroxysmal AFib may not cause significant harm to the heart initially, and some individuals may not even be aware of the condition.

Unfortunately, if left untreated, the progression of AFib ultimately may lead from the self-terminating paroxysmal form to the persistent or permanent stages. During the persistent phase, the episodes often become more frequent and may no longer self-terminate. Indeed, medical intervention, like an electrical cardioversion or “shock,” may be required to restore normal sinus rhythm. If AFib remains untreated, AFib may eventually evolve into a permanent state, where any efforts to restore normal sinus rhythm may be futile.

In this article, I share the results of a new study comparing antiarrhythmic medications versus a catheter ablation procedure to stop the natural progression of AFIb.

Why is AFib so Dangerous?

Atrial fibrillation or “AFib,” for short is often described as an irregular and rapid heartbeat, affects millions of people worldwide. Left unchecked, this condition can progress from occasional episodes (paroxysmal) to more frequent and sustained occurrences (persistent) and ultimately to a chronic and irreversible state (permanent). The repercussions can be severe, leading to fatigue, shortness of breath, strokes, and heart failure.

However, there is hope. Advances in medical science have introduced effective interventions that can halt AFib’s progression and even send it into remission particularly if coupled with healthy lifestyle changes. Among these, catheter ablation stands out as a game-changer. But before we explore the remarkable power of this procedure, let’s understand the natural progression of AFib if left untreated.

Breaking the Chain: Interventions that Make a Difference

The good news is that the progression of AFib is not set in stone. Early detection and appropriate measures can significantly alter the course of this condition. Making lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and adopting other heart-healthy habits, can provide a positive impact.

Additionally, antiarrhythmic medications may be prescribed to control the irregular heart rhythm and prevent further complications. While these interventions can be beneficial for some patients, many patients cannot tolerate these medications or these medications don’t work for them. And for those patients in whom the drugs don’t work or they don’t want to be stuck on these drugs for the rest of their lives, the answer is often a catheter ablation procedure.

What is a Catheter Ablation?

Catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation (Afib) is a minimally invasive medical procedure designed to restore the heart’s normal rhythm by targeting and eliminating the abnormal electrical signals responsible for the irregular heartbeats. It is an outpatient procedure which doesn’t involve any cutting or stitches.

During the procedure, thin, flexible catheters are threaded through an IV in the leg and guided to the heart. Once in position, the catheters deliver controlled energy, such as radiofrequency or cryotherapy, to target the misfiring heart cells causing the AFib. Catheter ablation has emerged as a highly effective treatment option to restore normal sinus rhythm without the need for lifelong antiarrhythmics.

The Power of Timely Treatment: Results of a New Study

In a groundbreaking study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from Canada compared the effectiveness of catheter ablation to antiarrhythmic drugs in slowing AFib’s progression.

The study involved 303 patients who were followed for 3 years. One group was randomized to ablation and the other group was randomized to antiarrhythmic drugs. Over a 3-year follow-up, the ablation group experienced significantly better outcomes. Only 1.9% of patients in the ablation group had persistent AFib episodes, compared to 7.4% in the drug therapy group.

The ablation group also had less overall AFib episodes and 3-times less hospitalizations due to Afib-related issues. Also, serious adverse events were twice as likely with the antiarrhythmic drugs when compared to catheter ablation. Thus, not only was catheter ablation much better at stopping the progression of AFib but was also much safer than the antiarrhythmic drugs.

Beyond the Study: Insights from Our Experience:

Drawing from our extensive experience in treating tens of thousands of Afib patients, we can attest to the transformative effects of catheter ablation. For many of our patients, this procedure, especially when coupled with healthy lifestyle changes including weight loss, has resulted in significant improvements and generally complete remission of Afib without the need for antiarrhythmic drugs.

Remember, you don’t have to face Afib alone. Reach out to a cardiac electrophysiologist or “EP” (a cardiologist specializing in atrial fibrillation) near you to explore treatment options, and make lifestyle changes that support your heart’s well-being.

The Blog Photo

Feast your eyes on the breathtaking beauty of the Wasatch Crest Trail, a mountain biking and running trail that stands as one of the most scenic and awe-inspiring trails in the US! Stretching from Big Cottonwood Canyon to Millcreek Canyon, this epic path at about the 10,000 foot level offers a mesmerizing panorama of the majestic mountains overlooking Salt Lake City and Park City. For the last 2 days, my daily exercise has been to ride this trail on my mountain bike. And if you look closely you can still see a few patches of snow that haven’t yet melted…

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog article is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice or a substitute for professional medical consultation, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

If you are a resident of Utah, Wyoming, or Idaho (these are the states that I have a medical license in), I would be happy to see you either in-person or by a telemedicine visit by calling my office at 801-266-3418.

#343 Dr. Day’s 10 Food Suggestions for Longevity and Cardiovascular Health

July 4th, 2023 by

Dr. Day’s 10 Food Suggestions for Longevity and Cardiovascular Health

Building and maintaining a healthy diet is a cornerstone for longevity and cardiovascular health. The choices we make about what we eat and drink can have a profound impact on our well-being, energy levels, and long-term health. In this article, I will share my 10 food suggestions for longevity and cardiovascular health.

For those readers looking for a deeper dive on nutrition for longevity and cardiovascular health, please check out my books The Longevity Plan and The AFib Cure. In each of these books I provide a chapter on how to optimize nutrition, including meal suggestions, for longevity and cardiac health.

1. Be Careful with Grains

While there has been a recent wave of books and websites vilifying grains, the scientific literature doesn’t support this belief. It is processed grains that should be a cause for concern, as they are essentially sugary products responsible for the obesity crisis and the prevalence of conditions like atrial fibrillation, diabetes, and a premature death.

When it comes to grains, moderation is key. While they can certainly be a part of a balanced diet, it’s important to consume them in appropriate quantities. For individuals aiming to lose weight, temporarily eliminating grains from their diet until they reach their target weight may be worth considering. This allows for better control over calorie intake and can help with weight management.

When incorporating grains into your diet, opt for whole or intact grains rather than processed ones. Whole grains retain their nutrient-rich bran and germ, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Processed grains, on the other hand, have been stripped of these valuable components, leaving behind little more than refined starch.

Flourless bread, such as Ezekiel bread, can be a healthier alternative for those seeking a grain option that won’t cause a rapid spike in glucose levels. Without the finely ground flour, the release of glucose into the bloodstream is more gradual, providing sustained energy and reducing the risk of blood sugar imbalances.

Another option to consider is sourdough bread. The fermentation process involved in making sourdough lowers the glycemic response of the bread, meaning it causes a slower rise in blood sugar levels compared to conventional bread.

Remember, everyone’s nutritional needs and sensitivities are different, so it’s important to listen to your body and make choices that work best for you.

2. Nuts and Seeds Daily in Moderation

When it comes to nuts and seeds, they are nutritional powerhouses that offer a wide range of health benefits. While some popular health books and websites may have demonized peanuts, it’s important to look at the scientific evidence. From a scientific standpoint, peanuts provide similar health benefits as other nuts. So, if you enjoy them, there’s no need to exclude them from your diet.

Incorporating a variety of nuts and seeds into your eating routine is beneficial. Each type brings its unique combination of nutrients, including healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The wider the variety, the better, as different nuts and seeds offer varying profiles of beneficial compounds.

While I recommends nuts and seeds daily, it’s important to consume nuts and seeds in moderation. They are energy-dense foods, meaning they contain a high number of calories. Keeping portion sizes in check is key to avoid excessive calorie intake. The good news is that nuts and seeds can actually help with feelings of satiety due to their high fiber and protein content so you don’t always feel so hungry.

When enjoying nuts and seeds, be mindful of added flavors, coatings, or salt. Opt for raw or lightly roasted varieties whenever possible to maximize their nutritional value and avoid unnecessary additives.

Consuming nuts and seeds regularly has been associated with numerous positive outcomes for overall health. They have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, improved cholesterol levels, and better blood sugar control. Incorporating a variety of nuts and seeds into your diet can support brain function, lower inflammation, and contribute to healthy aging.

Remember, individual nutritional needs may vary, so it’s important to listen to your body and choose the nuts and seeds that you enjoy and suit your dietary preferences.

3. Fruits and Vegetables: 9 Servings Daily

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, they are the foundation of a healthy diet. Aim to include a generous amount of these nutrient-packed foods in your daily meals. I recommend consuming a total of 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, with the majority of those servings coming from vegetables.

Eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables is important to ensure you receive a diverse array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Each fruit and vegetable offers unique nutritional benefits, so incorporating a variety is key to obtaining a well-rounded nutrient intake.

When preparing vegetables, it’s best to avoid drowning them in cheese sauces or dressings that can add unnecessary calories, saturated fat, and sodium. Instead, opt for healthier cooking methods such as steaming, roasting, or sautéing with minimal oil. This allows the natural flavors and nutrients of the vegetables to shine.

One group of vegetables that deserves special attention is cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables are known for their exceptional health benefits. Examples of cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and bok choy. These vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and various bioactive compounds that have been associated with reduced cancer and cardiovascular risk and improved overall health.

When it comes to fruits, berries stand out as a particularly nutritious choice. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. They have a low glycemic response, meaning they have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels. The high fiber content in berries further supports satiety and digestive health.

Remember, these recommendations are general guidelines, and individual nutritional needs may vary. It’s important to choose fruits and vegetables that you enjoy and suit your dietary preferences. By focusing on a variety of vegetables, with an emphasis on cruciferous vegetables, and incorporating nutrient-rich berries into your fruit intake, you can maximize the nutritional benefits of these plant-based foods.

4. Legumes Daily

Legumes are an incredibly nutritious and versatile food group that often gets overlooked. Including legumes in your diet is highly beneficial, and I recommend incorporating them into your meals on a daily basis.

Legumes encompass a wide range of plant-based foods, including beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and Edamame or soybeans. These humble yet powerful legumes offer an abundance of nutrients, including protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also typically low in fat and cholesterol-free.

It’s worth noting that soybeans, a type of legume, have faced some criticism in popular literature and websites. However, when it comes to unprocessed whole soybeans, the scientific data tells a different story. The demonization of soybeans stems mainly from concerns about their phytoestrogen content. However, extensive research indicates that consuming unprocessed whole soybeans have been associated with various health benefits, including improved heart health, reduced risk of certain cancers, and better bone health. It’s important to distinguish between whole soybeans and heavily processed soy products when considering their impact on health. Incorporating whole soybeans into your diet, such as edamame, can be a nutritious and beneficial choice.

Including legumes in your daily meals has numerous health benefits. They contribute to heart health by reducing cholesterol levels, supporting weight management due to their high fiber content and ability to promote satiety, and aiding in blood sugar control. Legumes also provide essential nutrients for overall well-being, such as potassium, magnesium, and folate.

To incorporate legumes into your diet, try adding them to salads, soups, stews, or as a base for vegetarian dishes. You can also enjoy them in spreads like hummus or as a filling for tacos and burritos. The possibilities are endless!

Remember, legumes are a fantastic addition to a balanced and nutritious diet. Aim to include them in your meals on a daily basis to reap their many health benefits and enjoy their delicious flavors.”

5. Dairy is a Personal Choice

When it comes to dairy, it’s important to recognize that its consumption is a personal choice. While dairy products can be a source of various nutrients, such as calcium, protein, and vitamin D, it’s worth reviewing the scientific data to make an informed decision.

Contrary to common belief, consuming three servings of dairy daily is not a necessity for maintaining healthy bones. Interestingly, cultures with the highest consumption of dairy don’t have lower rates of osteoporosis or bone fractures. This suggests that other dietary and lifestyle factors play significant roles in bone health.

While some studies have suggested a potential link between dairy consumption and certain health benefits, including improved bone density and reduced risk of colorectal cancer, the overall scientific evidence is mixed. Moreover, dairy products can be problematic for individuals with lactose intolerance or milk allergies.

If you choose to include dairy in your diet, opting for unsweetened fermented options may be a better choice. Fermented dairy products, such as plain yogurt, kefir, and certain types of cheese, undergo a fermentation process that can enhance digestibility and increase the availability of certain nutrients. Additionally, fermented dairy products may contain beneficial probiotics that support gut health.

It’s worth noting that there are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium and other essential nutrients. Foods like leafy green vegetables, fortified plant-based milks, tofu, almonds, and sesame seeds can provide adequate calcium intake. Furthermore, maintaining a balanced diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods can contribute to overall bone health.

Ultimately, the decision to consume dairy or not is a personal one. It’s important to consider your individual health needs, preferences, and any dietary restrictions or intolerances you may have. Listening to your body and choosing the best options that work for you is key to maintaining a well-rounded and nutritious diet.

6. The Right Meats in Moderation

When considering meat consumption, it’s valuable to examine the dietary practices of the healthiest and longest-lived cultures worldwide. These cultures typically consume meat sparingly as part of a balanced diet. Here are some key points to consider when making informed choices about meat:

Choose Wild and Organic Meats: Opting for wild or organic meats whenever possible can be a healthier choice. Wild game meats like venison or elk are leaner and offer a distinct nutrient profile compared to conventionally raised meats. Organic meats are produced without antibiotics or hormones, providing an option for those seeking to minimize their exposure to these substances.

Prioritize Fish over Red Meat: Wild fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are preferable to red meat. They are rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, essential for heart and brain health. Additionally, fish offer protein, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to a well-rounded diet.

Chicken as an Alternative: If poultry is your preference, chicken is generally considered a leaner option compared to red meat. It can be a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Choosing organic or pasture-raised chicken may provide additional benefits related to animal welfare and potential differences in nutrient composition.

Moderation is Key: Regardless of the meat you choose, moderation is crucial. Incorporating a variety of protein sources into your diet, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and plant-based alternatives like tofu or tempeh, is essential. Balancing your protein intake with a diverse range of plant foods ensures a wide array of nutrients and supports overall health. Ultimately, the decision about meat consumption is personal.

Some individuals opt to reduce or eliminate meat from their diets due to ethical, environmental, or health concerns. Others may include small amounts of meat as part of a balanced approach. The key is to prioritize high-quality sources, consume meat in moderation, and maintain a diverse and nutrient-rich overall diet.

By making conscious choices about meat and considering other protein alternatives, you can craft a diet that aligns with your values and supports your well-being. Remember, a balanced approach and individual preference play significant roles in creating a sustainable and nourishing dietary pattern.

7. Eggs are a Personal Choice

Eggs have been a subject of debate in the scientific literature, and the conclusions can be mixed. While eggs are a source of high-quality protein and contain essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, their impact on health can vary among individuals.

For those without high cholesterol or heart disease, eggs can be a reasonable option to include in a balanced diet. However, it’s important to consider your individual health needs and consult with a healthcare professional if you have specific concerns.

Some studies have suggested that the dietary cholesterol in eggs may not have as significant an impact on blood cholesterol levels as previously thought. Nonetheless, moderation is key, and it’s advisable to monitor your overall cholesterol intake from various dietary sources. Additionally, the way eggs are prepared can also affect their healthiness. For example, opting for boiled or poached eggs over fried eggs cooked in unhealthy oils can make a difference.

As with any food, it’s important to listen to your body and make choices that work best for your individual health and preferences.

8. Foods to Minimize or Avoid

When it comes to optimizing your diet, there are certain foods that are best minimized or avoided altogether due to their limited nutritional benefits and potential negative impact on health. Here are some examples:

Sugar: Sugar provides empty calories and lacks significant nutritional value. Consuming excessive amounts of sugar has been linked to various health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Minimizing or avoiding added sugars, such as those found in sugary beverages, desserts, and processed snacks, can be beneficial for overall health.

Fast Foods and Fried Foods: Fast foods and fried foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and calories, while lacking essential nutrients. Regular consumption of these foods has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems. Minimizing or avoiding these foods can support a healthier lifestyle.

Processed Foods: Processed foods, such as packaged snacks, sugary cereals, and pre-packaged meals, are often loaded with additives, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. They tend to be low in fiber and essential nutrients. Reducing reliance on processed foods and opting for whole, unprocessed alternatives can contribute to a more nutritious diet.

By minimizing or avoiding foods high in added sugars, fast foods, fried foods, and processed snacks, and instead opting for healthier alternatives like dark chocolate, you can make positive choices for your overall well-being.

9. Make Dark Chocolate (in moderation) Your Desert Choice

When it comes to desserts, it’s possible to satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthier way. One recommended option is dark chocolate.

The higher the cocoa content, the better, as it tends to have a lower sugar content. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, specifically flavonoids, which have been associated with various health benefits. These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation, improve heart health by supporting healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and potentially enhance cognitive function.

However, it’s important to enjoy dark chocolate in moderation, as it still contains calories. Aim for a small portion, and choose varieties with minimal or no added sugars.

10. Make Water Your Drink of Choice

When it comes to choosing beverages, opting for the right options can significantly contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Here are some recommendations for what to drink:

Water: Water should be your go-to beverage choice. It is essential for hydration and has zero calories. By drinking water, you can quench your thirst without adding unnecessary calories to your diet. If plain water seems boring to you, try infusing it with slices of lemon, cucumber, or adding fresh fruits like strawberries to enhance the flavor naturally.

Minimize or Avoid Caloric Drinks: It’s advisable to minimize or avoid caloric beverages such as sugary sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweetened teas. These drinks can be high in added sugars, providing empty calories without providing a sense of fullness or satisfying hunger. Opting for healthier, low-calorie alternatives can make a significant difference in your overall calorie intake.

Artificial Sweeteners: While artificial sweeteners may seem like a low-calorie alternative, it’s best to minimize or avoid them as well. Some research suggests that frequent consumption of artificial sweeteners may have adverse effects on metabolic health and contribute to cravings for sweet foods. Instead, opt for natural alternatives or moderate your intake of sweeteners.

Smoothies: Smoothies can be a nutritious option, especially when made with the right ingredients. Incorporate plenty of greens, such as spinach or kale, into your smoothies for a boost of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Adding berries not only adds natural sweetness but also provides antioxidants and fiber. To enhance the nutritional value, include nuts and seeds for healthy fats and added protein.

Avoid adding excessive amounts of sweeteners, and let the natural sweetness of the fruits shine through. By prioritizing water as your main beverage, avoiding caloric drinks, minimizing artificial sweeteners, and incorporating nutrient-dense ingredients into your smoothies, you can make healthier choices for your overall hydration and well-being. Remember, staying well-hydrated is crucial, and water remains the best choice to satisfy your body’s needs.

The Photo for this Article

The accompanying photo captures a memorable moment from a recent adventure—a long mountain bike ride in Park City, Utah. This weekend excursion took us along the scenic Wasatch Crest trail, where my son and I immersed ourselves in the breathtaking beauty of the surroundings. The photo showcases Desolation Lake, a serene body of water nestled amidst the picturesque landscape. It serves as a reminder of the joys of outdoor exploration and the importance of incorporating physical activity into a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this blog article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your diet or any medical condition. The author and publisher of this article are not responsible for any adverse effects or consequences resulting from the use or application of the information presented here.

#342 The 2-Minute Workout to Prevent AFib and Extend Your Healthy Lifespan

May 29th, 2023 by

The 2-Minute Workout to Prevent AFib and Extend Your Healthy Lifespan

Everyone knows daily exercise is at the heart of a long and healthy life. However, it is disheartening to observe that two-thirds of my patients, and most people in the US, don’t exercise consistently. In light of this, I would like to share a revolutionary approach inspired by the work of James Clear from his book, Atomic Habits, that can help everyone incorporate exercise into their daily routine.

By dedicating at least two minutes each day to physical activity, and never missing twice, you can decreases your chances of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and extend your healthy lifespan. This article delves into the data supporting the benefits of exercise, tells inspiring stories of individuals who have embraced the two-minute workout, and offers practical tips on overcoming challenges and developing lasting habits.

The Power of Exercise in Preventing AFib and Extending Lifespan

Studies have consistently shown that regular exercise significantly reduces the risk of developing AFib, a condition characterized by irregular heartbeat and associated with numerous health complications. Not only does exercise prevent AFib, but it also extends our overall healthy lifespan. Engaging in physical activity enhances cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, improves mental well-being, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. The evidence is clear: exercise is a powerful tool for promoting longevity and vitality.

The Two-Minute Workout

The beauty of the two-minute workout lies in its simplicity. Regardless of physical ability or busy schedules, everyone can commit to at least 2 minutes of exercise each day. Of course, the real goal is to exercise much longer than 2 minutes each day but the commitment here is that you will exercise for at least 2 minutes daily. In other words, do something physical for 2 minutes each day and you can feel good about checking off the exercise box for the day.

One of my all-time favorite authors, James Clear, the author of “Atomic Habits,” wisely reminds us, “You just have to be consistent.” The most important thing is to create the daily exercise habit. Missing one day of exercise is human but you never want to miss twice. Missing twice is the start of a new bad habit.

Commit now to 2 minutes of exercise every day. Everyone has 2 minutes in their day that they can carve out to do something physical. Embracing this mindset allows you to prioritize consistency over perfection, fostering a sustainable exercise habit that can transform your health and well-being.

Even individuals confined to a wheelchair can participate in this routine. The key is to choose any form of exercise that suits your preferences and capabilities. Whether it’s stretching, walking, dancing, or using resistance bands, two minutes of intentional movement is all it takes to kick-start your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

Never Miss Twice

Clear’s insights echo the importance of never missing a workout. He emphasizes that progress stems from showing up consistently, even when motivation wanes or life gets hectic. As he states, “Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new (bad) habit.” By committing to the 2-Minute Workout and never allowing a missed workout to become a habit, you build resilience, discipline, and ultimately, a stronger foundation for your overall fitness journey.

When James Clear advises to “never miss twice” when trying to develop a new habit, he emphasizes the crucial importance of consistency and resilience. Missing a single day may be seen as an isolated incident, a temporary stumble on the path to change. However, if that missed day turns into a pattern, it becomes a new habit altogether—one that contradicts the desired behavior.

The principle of “never miss twice” is rooted in the understanding that setbacks are inevitable, but it’s how we respond to them that determines our success. By promptly getting back on track after a missed day, we prevent the missed action from becoming the norm, safeguarding the progress we have made so far.

When we miss a day, it is essential to view it as an exception rather than an excuse to abandon our efforts. The power lies in our ability to recover swiftly, to acknowledge the slip-up, learn from it, and resume the desired behavior immediately. By doing so, we demonstrate our commitment to change and protect ourselves from falling into the trap of developing a new, counterproductive habit.

James Clear’s advice encourages us to approach missed days with a growth mindset. Instead of dwelling on guilt or disappointment, we can reframe our perspective and view setbacks as learning opportunities. Each missed day presents an opportunity to reflect on the obstacles that caused the deviation and proactively seek strategies to overcome them in the future.

By adhering to the principle of “never miss twice,” we cultivate resilience, discipline, and perseverance. We recognize that progress is not linear but consists of ups and downs. By refusing to let a missed day define our journey, we maintain our focus on the long-term goal and reinforce our commitment to the desired habit.

Ultimately, embracing the idea of “never miss twice” empowers us to navigate the inevitable challenges and setbacks that arise during habit formation. It reminds us that consistency is key and that true success lies in our ability to bounce back and remain steadfast in our pursuit of positive change.

Why Just 2 Minutes?

The philosophy of never missing a workout aligns with the principle of the 2-Minute Rule. While two minutes may seem insignificant, it is the act of honoring your commitment every single day that sets the stage for transformative change. Each time you complete those two minutes, you reinforce the belief that you are capable of sticking to your goals and nurturing a healthy relationship with exercise.

Remember, the power of the 2-Minute Workout lies in the consistency and dedication to never miss a session. Even on days when time is tight or energy is low, those two minutes become your anchor, reminding you of your commitment to self-care and personal growth. As James Clear eloquently puts it, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” With each workout, no matter how short, you are casting your vote for a healthier, more vibrant version of yourself.

So, embrace the simplicity of the 2-Minute Workout and let it be a guiding principle in your fitness journey. Take inspiration from James Clear’s wisdom and let the words of motivation resonate within you: “Make it so easy you can’t say no. Focus on effort, not results. Stay focused on the practice, not the performance.” By never missing a workout, you unlock the potential to create lasting change and pave the way for a healthier, more fulfilling life.

The Power of the 2-Minute Rule

The 2-Minute Rule is a catalyst for change, empowering you to overcome resistance and embrace a consistent exercise habit. By starting with a mere two minutes, you lay the foundation for lasting transformation. Tony Robbins once said, “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” Let this principle fuel your motivation as you embark on your own fitness journey.

The beauty of the 2-Minute Rule, as advocated by James Clear, lies in its simplicity. It asserts that everyone has two minutes to spare, regardless of how busy or overwhelmed they may feel. This notion challenges the common excuse of lacking time for exercise or any other habit we want to cultivate. By breaking down our desired behavior into a two-minute action, we remove the barriers of complexity and time commitment that often hinder progress.

Psychologically, the 2-Minute Rule brings about significant behavior change by leveraging the power of momentum and overcoming the inertia of starting. The rule capitalizes on the psychological principle that initiating an action is often the most challenging part, while once started, it becomes easier to continue.

When we commit to just two minutes of exercise, we lower the activation energy required to begin. We eliminate the mental resistance and friction associated with starting a workout. This small and manageable commitment helps to alleviate feelings of overwhelm or intimidation that often accompany longer exercise sessions. It shifts our focus from the magnitude of the task at hand to the simplicity of getting started.

Moreover, the 2-Minute Rule taps into the concept of habit stacking, where we associate the new behavior with an existing habit. By connecting our two-minute exercise routine with an established activity, such as waking up in the morning or brewing a cup of coffee, we capitalize on the existing neural pathways and make the habit easier to implement. This approach leverages the power of triggers and cues to prompt us to take action.

The psychological impact of the 2-Minute Rule extends beyond just the immediate two minutes of exercise. It creates a positive feedback loop. Completing the two minutes reinforces our sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and self-efficacy. These feelings of success and progress fuel our motivation to continue and gradually increase the duration or intensity of our workouts.

The 2-Minute Rule challenges the common perception that significant behavior change requires a significant time commitment. By demonstrating that even the smallest actions can have a profound impact, it reshapes our mindset and helps us adopt a more optimistic and growth-oriented approach. It encourages us to focus on consistent progress, reinforcing the belief that small, consistent steps can lead to significant and lasting transformation.

In essence, the power of the 2-Minute Rule lies in its ability to bypass the psychological barriers that impede behavior change. It empowers us to overcome inertia, build positive momentum, and create lasting habits that can transform our lives. By embracing the philosophy of “just two minutes,” we unlock our potential for consistent action and open the door to meaningful and sustainable change.

Story 1: John – The Young Executive Balancing Work and Family

Meet John, a young executive with a heart problem and three lively kids and a demanding job. Juggling the responsibilities of work and family, John realized the importance of taking care of his health. Inspired by the concept of the 2-Minute Workout, he committed to never missing a day of exercise, no matter how busy life became.

Every morning, before the chaos of the day ensued, John woke up a few minutes earlier and found a quiet space in his home. With his children still fast asleep, he engaged in a two-minute bodyweight workout routine. Push-ups, squats, and jumping jacks became his morning companions, energizing him for the day ahead.

On weekends, John seized the opportunity for longer workouts. He and his wife coordinated their schedules, arranging for a babysitter to watch the kids while they prioritized their physical well-being. They would go for a jog together, take a bike ride, or explore new hiking trails. These weekend sessions allowed them to bond as a couple while nurturing their fitness habits.

To track his exercise progress, John utilized a simple habit-tracking app on his phone. Each day, he logged his 2-Minute Workout, noting the date and duration. The visual representation of his efforts motivated him to stay on track and visually reinforced his commitment to consistency.

Admittedly, there were days when the demands of work and family threatened to derail John’s commitment. However, he remained steadfast in his resolve. On particularly hectic days, he would break his workouts into smaller chunks throughout the day—two minutes here and two minutes there. The cumulative effect of these mini-workouts reinforced his dedication to never miss a day, regardless of the circumstances.

John’s unwavering commitment paid off. Not only did he experience physical benefits like increased strength and stamina, but he also noticed a positive shift in his physical and mental well-being. He became more focused, productive, and better equipped to handle the challenges of his busy life. And his heart symptoms gradually all went away. By putting in his reps each day, John solidified a daily exercise habit that became an integral part of his lifestyle.

Story 2: Lisa – The Middle-Age Working Mom Mastering Consistency

Enter Lisa, a middle-aged working mom juggling a demanding career and the responsibilities of her family. Determined to prioritize her health despite her busy schedule, she embraced the 2-Minute Workout as a catalyst for transformation.

Every morning, as the house bustled with activity, Lisa carved out two minutes for herself. In the midst of getting her children ready for school, she squeezed in a quick burst of exercise. Whether it was a brisk walk around the block or a short yoga routine, those two minutes became her daily anchor—a symbol of self-care amidst the chaos.

One day, life threw Lisa a curveball, and she missed her workout. Recognizing the potential danger of developing a new habit, as highlighted by James Clear, she quickly rebounded. She refused to let one setback define her journey. Lisa used that slip as a reminder of the importance of consistency and the potential consequences of veering off track.

With renewed determination, Lisa refocused her efforts and committed to never missing a workout again. On days when her work hours stretched late into the evening or family commitments monopolized her time, she adapted. She would wake up a few minutes earlier or seize pockets of time during lunch breaks to squeeze in her two minutes of exercise. By adapting to her circumstances and making her reps a non-negotiable part of her routine, Lisa solidified her daily exercise habit.

Over time, Lisa began to witness the incredible benefits of her commitment. Not only did she feel stronger and more energized, but her ability to manage stress improved significantly. She became an inspiration to her family, showing her children the importance of prioritizing self-care and cultivating healthy habits even in the face of a hectic schedule. And, like John, heart heart symptoms also gradually resolved.

Both John and Lisa recognized the importance of having triggers and tracking mechanisms to support their daily exercise habits. By implementing these strategies, they not only established a routine but also held themselves accountable for their commitment to consistent exercise. These triggers and tracking methods provided a sense of structure and served as reminders of their dedication, helping them overcome obstacles and stay on course.

Whether it was the sound of an alarm or the aroma of coffee, these triggers seamlessly integrated their 2-Minute Workout into their daily lives. Additionally, the act of tracking their progress visually reinforced their efforts, celebrating their consistency and motivating them to keep pushing forward.

Everyone Can Do The 2-Minute Workout

Every day as I step into the clinic, I am driven by a deep desire to inspire my patients to embrace the transformative power of daily exercise. It is disheartening to witness the array of excuses that are often presented, as many individuals vehemently argue for their limitations. I understand that health conditions, such as arthritis or knee issues, can pose challenges and create hurdles on the path to physical activity. However, I want to emphasize that regardless of these limitations, everyone has the potential to do something, no matter how small, physically for at least two minutes a day.

Compassion and understanding are at the core of my approach. I recognize the frustration and pain that my patients may experience, but I also firmly believe that dwelling solely on limitations perpetuates a cycle of inactivity. By arguing for these limitations, they inadvertently choose to keep them. Instead, I encourage my patients to shift their mindset, to envision what they can do rather than focus on what they cannot.

It is within these limitations that the true spirit of the 2-Minute Workout shines. Even those with physical constraints can engage in gentle movements, stretches, or seated exercises that are within their capabilities. Two minutes of intentional physical activity, when consistently practiced, can pave the way for progress and foster a sense of empowerment. It is through these small but meaningful actions that they can gradually expand their capabilities, improve their overall health, and reclaim control over their bodies and lives.

I urge my patients to look beyond their limitations and embrace the possibilities. Together, we explore tailored modifications, adaptive strategies, and exercises that align with their abilities. By focusing on what they can do, even in the face of adversity, they create a pathway towards a healthier and more fulfilling life. My role as their healthcare provider is to support, guide, and inspire them, providing a compassionate space where they can conquer their doubts and embark on a journey of self-discovery and growth.

So, to all those who argue for their limitations, I implore you to reconsider. Open your hearts and minds to the possibility of change, no matter how small it may seem. Embrace the two minutes a day, as it has the potential to unlock a world of transformation. Together, let us rise above the excuses and embark on a journey of self-empowerment, reclaiming our health, vitality, and the joy that comes from living an active and purposeful life.

4 Steps for Success

1. Set a 2-Minute Workout Goal: Choose a simple and achievable exercise activity, such as jogging in place. Commit to doing it for just two minutes each day. Focus on the immediate benefits of increased blood flow and a boost in energy.

2. Trigger Your Workout: Associate your 2-Minute Workout with a specific trigger, such as waking up in the morning. As soon as your alarm goes off, begin your two-minute jog in place before proceeding with your morning routine.

3. Commit to Consistency: Make a steadfast commitment to perform your 2-Minute Workout every day. Set a reminder on your phone or use a habit-tracking app to hold yourself accountable. Remember, it’s just two minutes, and consistency is key to long-term success.

4. Track Your Progress: Keep a visual record of your daily workouts to monitor your progress. Create a calendar where you mark each day you complete your 2-Minute Workout. Witnessing the accumulation of successful exercise sessions will motivate you to keep going and build upon your achievement.By implementing these practical examples alongside the four steps, you can effectively incorporate the 2-Minute Rule into your daily routine, prevent Afib, and extend your lifespan. Remember, even the smallest actions, when done consistently, can lead to significant and lasting results.

Conclusion

By embracing the 2-Minute Workout and its potential to prevent Afib and extend your lifespan, you take a crucial step towards a healthier, more vibrant future. As Tony Robbins reminds us, “It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” The 2-Minute Rule empowers you to make that decision, commit to it consistently, and transform your life. Harness the inspiration of individual stories, like those of Sarah and John, as you embark on your own journey. Begin with just a 2-minute commitment and then, with consistency, watch it develop over time.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

About the Photo

The accompanying photo captures a breathtaking moment from the top of the tram at Snowbird ski resort, taken this past Memorial Day weekend. In this picturesque setting, my daughter and I embarked on a memorable skiing adventure that went well beyond the 2-minute workout described in this article.

The slopes of Snowbird this Memorial Day weekend provided us with a thrilling and invigorating experience, as we embraced the beauty of nature while engaging in a physical activity that brought us joy and vitality. This image serves as a reminder that daily exercise can take various forms and be adapted to individual preferences and circumstances. Whether it’s skiing down snowy slopes, exploring hiking trails, or participating in any activity that gets us moving, the key is to find what brings us fulfillment and contributes to our overall well-being.

#341 The 5 Easiest Ways to Effortless Weight Loss: Insights from Over 25 Years of Patient Experiences

May 29th, 2023 by

The 5 Easiest Ways to Effortless Weight Loss: Insights from Over 25 Years of Patient Experiences

Are you tired of the exhausting struggle to lose weight? Countless diets, intense workouts, and endless sacrifices can leave you feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. But what if I told you there’s a better way?

After decades of working closely with my cardiac arrhythmia patients on their weight loss journeys, I’ve uncovered 5 simple strategies that consistently yield remarkable results for my patients. Whether your goal is to prevent atrial fibrillation attacks, live longer, or simply feel better, these five proven strategies from my clinical practice can work for you.

In this article, I’ll share 5 effortless weight loss strategies successfully used by my patients. This is not some fancy new study. These are real world observations from my patients over the last 25 years who have lost the weight and kept it off over the years.

You only need to implement one of the 5 strategies to see results. Just pick the strategy that seems easiest to try for you. Get ready to unleash your full potential and achieve lasting results that will leave you feeling motivated, energized, and ready to conquer any challenge that comes your way!

Unlock Effortless Weight Loss: Choose Your Winning Strategy

In the pursuit of weight loss, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the myriad of advice, diets, and strategies available. But what if I told you that you don’t have to do it all? Based on my experience as a cardiologist and the invaluable insights gained from my patients over the past 25 years, I have discovered a remarkable truth: success lies in choosing just one of these five effortless weight loss strategies.

Imagine the power of selecting a single approach, focusing your energy and intention on mastering it, and witnessing the transformation unfold before your eyes. Whether your goal is to prevent health issues like atrial fibrillation, extend your lifespan, or simply feel better in your own skin, you have the power to make a significant change by implementing just one of these strategies.

Throughout my years of practice, I have made it a point to ask my successful weight loss patients about the secret to their achievement. To my surprise, the majority of them credit their remarkable results to a single strategy. They wholeheartedly committed to one approach and experienced extraordinary outcomes.

So, as you embark on your own weight loss journey, I invite you to choose your winning strategy from the following five options: make your home a junk food free zone, close the kitchen at 6 pm, eliminate all added sugars, embrace zero calorie hydration, or make 90% of your plate vegetables. Each strategy holds immense potential for transformation, and it’s up to you to select the one that resonates with your aspirations and aligns with your lifestyle.

So, which strategy will you choose? The path to effortless weight loss awaits, and it starts with a single decision. Harness your determination, embrace the power within you, and embark on a journey that will shape not only your physical appearance but also your overall well-being and sense of empowerment. Your success story is waiting to be written, and it begins with the transformative power of a single strategy.

1. Make Your Home a Junk Food Free Zone (if you can’t see it you won’t eat it)

“To put it bluntly, I have never seen someone consistently stick to positive habits in a negative environment.” These powerful words from New York Times bestselling author and habit guru, James Clear, perfectly encapsulate the essence of our first strategy for effortless weight loss. As a practicing cardiologist with over 25 years of experience, I can wholeheartedly echo this sentiment.

Almost uniformly, in a moment of weakness, my patients will eat whatever junk food has been dragged into their house. However, by consciously removing these triggers from your home, you empower yourself to make better choices even in moments of vulnerability.

Creating a positive environment is crucial for cultivating lasting habits and achieving your weight loss goals. By removing junk food from your home, you eliminate the constant temptation that can derail your progress. Imagine walking into your kitchen and being greeted by shelves filled with fresh produce, wholesome ingredients, and nourishing snacks. With every glance, you are reminded of your commitment to a healthier lifestyle and the empowering choices that await you.

In our own household, I have discovered a strategy that empowers both me and my children to make healthier choices. I encourage my kids to hide their junk food, and I make it clear that if I find it, it will be thrown in the trash. This approach not only safeguards me from temptation but also fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility in my children. They become active participants in supporting my journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

This solution may seem unconventional, but it embodies the essence of taking charge of our environment and our choices. By implementing this practice in your own home, you create a dynamic where everyone is invested in maintaining a haven of health. Encourage open communication with your loved ones and make them aware of your commitment to effortless weight loss. Together, you can find creative ways to ensure that tempting junk food remains hidden, allowing your entire family to embrace a more nutritious and fulfilling way of life.

Remember, true transformation begins with inspired action. By creating an environment that supports your goals and involving your loved ones in the process, you forge a powerful alliance. Let your home be a sanctuary where healthy choices thrive, where your family rallies around a shared vision of vitality and well-being. As Tony Robbins often says, “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” So, decide today to craft a supportive environment and inspire those around you to join you on this incredible journey towards effortless weight loss.

2. Close the Kitchen at 6 pm (to harness the power of intermittent fasting)

Imagine a transformative strategy that could not only help you shed pounds but also put ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation into remission without relying on drugs or invasive procedures. The remarkable story of Mark, one of my patients, serves as a shining example of the extraordinary results that can be achieved by simply implementing the practice of not eating after 6 PM. Mark had lost 42 pounds over the course of year just by not having a midnight snack before bed. Not only did this make his high blood pressure, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation all go away without drugs or procedures but also allowed him to feel several decades younger.

This strategy, rooted in the principles of intermittent fasting, has been backed by numerous studies showcasing its ability to facilitate remarkable weight loss for many people. Get ready to tap into the power of time-restricted eating and unlock a world of possibilities for your own health and well-being.

Intermittent fasting, by closing the kitchen at 6 PM and abstaining from food until breakfast the next morning, provides your body with an extended period of rest and rejuvenation. During this time, your body can efficiently process and utilize stored energy, promoting fat burning and optimizing metabolic function. It’s a powerful approach that taps into your body’s innate ability to heal and restore itself.

Embrace the opportunity to transform your mealtimes into a structured, empowering practice. By implementing a 6 PM kitchen closure, you create a clear boundary that supports your weight loss goals and promotes vibrant health. The process of intermittent fasting not only aids in shedding excess weight but also offers a range of benefits, from improved digestion and increased energy levels to enhanced mental clarity and focus.

3. Eliminate all Added Sugars (free yourself of this compulsive addiction)

In the pursuit of vibrant health and effortless weight loss, there is a powerful step that can yield remarkable results: eliminating all added sugars from your diet. The truth is, sugar provides no nutritional benefit and can have detrimental effects on our well-being. By breaking free from its grasp, you open the door to a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.

Numerous studies have shed light on the addictive nature of sugar and its impact on our brains. One particularly notable unpublished study conducted by Connecticut College captured attention when it revealed that sugar can be more addicting than cocaine, triggering obsessive-compulsive behaviors within the brain. In this experiment, rats were offered sugar, and the astonishing findings showed that sugar activated the same neuroreceptors as cocaine, with an unexpectedly stronger response.

For my patients who have successfully chosen to eliminate sugar entirely from their lives, the results have been nothing short of extraordinary. They have witnessed dramatic and effortless weight loss, experiencing the transformative power of freeing themselves from the clutches of this addictive substance. By severing ties with sugar, they have taken a crucial step towards reclaiming their vitality and achieving their weight loss goals.

Personally, I have embarked on a journey of eliminating added sugars from my diet for many years. The impact on my health and overall well-being has been nothing short of transformative. While I have now allowed myself the indulgence of very dark chocolate with minimal sugar, the awareness of the detrimental effects of excessive sugar consumption remains ingrained in me.

I invite you to join me on a 30-day challenge, perhaps with a loved one or a friend, where we collectively commit to saying no to added sugars. It’s important to clarify that we are targeting added sugars specifically, as whole fruits, with their natural sugars, are not included in this restriction. Let’s see how this 30-day journey unlocks new levels of vitality and empowers us to make healthier choices that nourish our bodies and minds. Together, we can break free from the grip of this addictive substance and embrace the sweet abundance of a life fueled by wholesome, unprocessed foods.

4. Zero Calorie Hydration (don’t waste your calories on things that won’t fill you up)

One crucial key to effortless weight loss lies in a simple yet profound decision: don’t drink any calories. The science behind this strategy reveals a fundamental truth – liquid calories fail to provide the satiety we need to feel satisfied and full. By eliminating or minimizing beverages like chocolate milk, sugary drinks, and alcohol from your daily intake, you open the door to a world of effortless weight loss and renewed vitality.

Research supports the notion that liquid calories do not satiate us in the same way that solid foods do. Our bodies have evolved to respond differently to the act of eating compared to drinking. When we consume calories in liquid form, our brains may not register them as effectively, leading us to consume more overall. By shifting our focus to zero-calorie hydration from water, we create space for healthy, fulfilling foods that truly nourish us.

Personally, I have lived by this principle for over a decade, abstaining from drinking any calories. The impact on my well-being has been remarkable. Water has been my drink of choice, refreshing and invigorating me throughout the day. If water alone doesn’t appeal to you, consider adding a twist of lemon, strawberry, or another fruit to infuse natural flavor and enhance your hydration experience.

It is important to note that while I advocate for eliminating liquid calories, I am a strong supporter of smoothies. Smoothies, when prepared with nutritious ingredients like nut butter, spinach, kale, and berries, offer a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. My wife prepares a daily breakfast smoothie for our children, providing them with a delicious and wholesome start to their day.

Embrace the power of zero-calorie hydration and experience the liberating effects it has on your weight loss journey. By choosing water as your primary beverage and exploring the vibrant flavors nature has to offer, you create a foundation of health and vitality. As Tony Robbins often reminds us, “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” Make the consistent choice to prioritize zero-calorie hydration and witness the effortless weight loss and lasting satisfaction it brings to your life.

Raise your glass – filled with refreshing, zero-calorie goodness of water – to a future where nourishing your body is a celebration, and where every sip brings you closer to the vibrant, healthy life you deserve.

5. Make 90% of Your Plate Veggies (fill up on the healthiest foods)

Imagine a simple yet powerful strategy that allows you to fill up on nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods while minimizing those that may contribute to weight gain. Strategy #5 is all about making 90% of your plate a vibrant array of vegetables. By embracing this approach, you tap into the natural wonders of fiber and water content that vegetables offer, filling yourself up with nourishment and vitality.

For over a decade, I have wholeheartedly embraced the power of making 90% of my plate vegetables. This unwavering commitment has been the cornerstone of my success in maintaining a remarkable 30-pound weight loss for more than ten years. The impact has been profound, not just on my physical appearance, but on my overall well-being and vitality.

The magic lies in the incredible benefits that vegetables bring to the table. Packed with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, they offer a spectrum of vibrant flavors and textures that ignite your taste buds and energize your body. The fiber and water content in vegetables work harmoniously to create a sense of satiety and fullness, ensuring that you feel satisfied while consuming fewer calories.

By making vegetables the star of your plate, you create a symphony of health and well-being. Their colorful presence not only delights your senses but also fuels your body with the vital nutrients it craves. Imagine savoring the crispness of fresh greens, the earthy sweetness of roasted root vegetables, or the vibrant crunch of bell peppers. Each bite takes you closer to your weight loss goals, all while reveling in a world of culinary delights.

Embrace this strategy as a transformative journey of exploration and discovery. Allow the allure of vegetables to captivate your imagination and inspire your taste buds. As Tony Robbins famously says, “It’s what you practice in private that you will be rewarded for in public.” Practice the art of making vegetables the heart and soul of your meals, and witness the remarkable changes it brings to your body, mind, and spirit.

Remember, the goal is not about depriving yourself or eliminating entire food groups. It’s about making conscious choices and finding balance. While grains and other foods have their place, the emphasis here is on the overwhelming presence of vegetables, letting their nutritional prowess take center stage. Let them light up your plate and fuel your journey towards effortless weight loss and vibrant health.

So, dive into the world of veggies, explore their incredible variety, and revel in the abundance they offer. Fill your plate with their vibrant colors, and watch as your body transforms, your energy soars, and your well-being flourishes. With each meal, you are nourishing not only your body but also your aspirations and dreams for a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or a substitute for professional medical guidance, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any weight loss program or making significant changes to your diet or exercise routine.

Every individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Your healthcare provider is the best resource to evaluate your specific health conditions, assess any potential risks, and provide personalized recommendations tailored to your needs. They can consider factors such as your medical history, current medications, and individual circumstances to guide you on a weight loss approach that is safe and suitable for you.

The Blog Photo

In closing, I would like to invite you to reflect on the captivating photo attached to this article. Taken by my wife during our recent visit to the French Quarters in New Orleans, it captures the beauty and serenity of the basilica of Saint Louis King of France. As we embarked on evening walks amidst the scientific sessions of the Heart Rhythm Society, this photo serves as a reminder of the importance of balance and harmony in our lives. Just as the basilica stands tall and majestic, so too can we find strength and resilience within ourselves as we embark on our weight loss journey. Let it inspire you to embrace the effortless strategies shared in this article and unlock a world of transformation and well-being. May you find the inner peace and radiance that accompany a healthy body, mind, and spirit as you pursue your path to a vibrant and fulfilling life.

 

#340 What’s Worse for Living a Long Life—Loneliness or Eating a Bad Diet?

September 3rd, 2022 by

What’s Worse for Living a Long Life—Loneliness or Eating a Bad Diet?

If you want to live a longer, healthier, and happier life, it’s every bit as important to be socially connected as it is to what you eat. In fact, it now seems clear from the research that being socially connected is an even more important factor in our current and long-term health than what we eat.

Being socially connected can be with your family. It can be your friends. It can be your neighbors. It can be people with similar interests with whom you maintain a connection. And, especially in the digital age, it doesn’t necessarily have to be geographically located; it can be people you feel connected to, via social media, even if you have never met each other in person.

However, you chose to define it, though, one thing is clear: When we strengthen our social connections, we strengthen ourselves.

Should You Give Your Parents a Coffin at Age 60?

There is a tradition in the Longevity Village, the mountainous area of Southwest China that has the highest percentage of centenarians in the world, that we studied in our bestselling book, The Longevity Plan, in which children build a coffin for their parents when they reach the age of sixty. That might seem morbid, but I’ve come to learn that it is not in any way because the children believe their parents are close to death. Much to the contrary, the practice is intended to let aging parents know that everything has been taken care of, and they do not have to worry that their deaths might be a burden upon their kin.

As Masongmou, age 107 at the time, shared with me, “My son has already prepared three coffins for me,” she said. “The first two became old, molded, and fell apart.”

That, I learned, was quite common. The wooden coffins tended to last ten or twenty years before they began to rot and fall apart.

Masongmou wasn’t eager to die, but when the time came, she said, she would be ready and content. And the way she saw it, death would give her a special opportunity to give back to her community.

Does Worshiping Your Ancestors Promote Longevity?

As is the case throughout most of China, each home in the village has a shrine. Ancestor worship—jìzǔ, in Mandarin—is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and rooted in Confucian philosophy. Many Chinese believe the deceased have a special ability to do favors for the living, and can even shower their living descendants with blessings and fortune. That’s one of the reasons they make offerings to their ancestors, even burning paper money to make sure departed loved ones have plenty of cash to spend in the spirit world.

There’s a powerful social effect to this belief system. For in addition to whatever heartfelt familial obligations children feel they have to their elders, the constant presence of an ancestral shrine in people’s homes is a persistent reminder that the way parents are treated in this life won’t be forgotten when they pass on. This certainly isn’t to say that the Chinese wouldn’t be devoted to their parents anyway; the Chinese take elder care quite seriously.

Indeed, China is the only nation in the world I know of where children can be prosecuted for not visiting their parents often enough. But the spiritual coupling of familial responsibility and self-interest turns out to be a powerful motivator that helps keep the elderly engaged in the lives of their families in ways we sometimes fail at here in the United States.

What results from this belief is an understanding of mutual need that lasts until a person’s very last breath. Nearly every home in Longevity Village is inhabited by three or more generations from the same family. Each generation relies on the others for emotional, educational, social, and economic support. Children are expected to give grandparents and great grandparents love and companionship. Elders, in turn, are expected to help children learn to be good scholars and good people, and to help out with cooking and cleaning as much as they are able. Everyone is important in a meaningful way. That’s what social connection is all about.

How Dangerous is Loneliness?

It would be very hard to overstate the health benefits of feeling capable and connected to others in this way. Regardless of age, people who feel as though their communities don’t need them are at increased risk of depression and high blood pressure, and have been shown to be more susceptible to all sorts of other ailments. Disconnection is the beginning of loneliness, and that is even worse for our long-term health: Research suggests people who feel lonely are more than twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

The indelible feeling of capability and connection I saw in the people of Longevity Village isn’t always present in the lives of my patients. And that’s a real problem, because loneliness and social isolation can actually be more dangerous to your health than smoking or even being an alcoholic, and perhaps twice as dangerous as being obese.

Yet even as our nation spends hundreds of millions of dollars on antismoking campaigns, billions treating alcoholism, and hundreds of billions battling the health consequences of obesity, we haven’t treated social connectedness as the public health priority it should be.

Does Modern Life Make Us Lonely?

Perhaps it’s no wonder that between 1985 and 2004—years that saw an explosion of cable television channels, a proliferation of angry talk radio shows and, of course, the emersion of the Internet from relative academic obscurity to the predominant media force of our time—the number of Americans who don’t have a single person with which to discuss matters that are important in their lives nearly tripled.

The trappings of our modern society can leave us helpless, frustrated, isolated, and sick. But these parts of our lives can also be tools we use to strengthen our connections with friends and families, and build our communities in ways that will help us feel stronger, more important and healthier than we’ve ever been.

Masongmou is the perfect example of this. When I next returned to the village, her wheelchair was nowhere to be seen. “My family and friends told me that I’d been in it long enough,” she explained. “They said, ‘you need to start walking again’ and so I did.”

Rosemary’s Loneliness

Recently, while seeing a patient who was suffering from a heart arrhythmia, I inquired about who she considered to be part of her support network.

“Oh, Rosemary,” she said with a sly smile.

“Is that your daughter?” I asked.

“No, my cat,” she laughed. “The best friend a woman could have!”

We both got a good chuckle out of this, but I did want to know that she also had some human support. Did she have regular visitors? Did she ever feel lonely?

“How could I feel lonely?” she asked. “I have three wonderful kids and seven beautiful grandchildren. Someone is over at my place almost every weekend.”

“And the weekdays?”

“Oh, well,” she said. “Those days can get pretty lonely. But I wouldn’t want to complain.”

I assured her that it was perfectly reasonable to feel lonely after four or five days spent with her cat as her only companion. We discussed the health implications of loneliness, and some strategies for addressing it.

Is Social Isolation More Dangerous than Smoking, Alcoholism, or Obesity?

In one of the biggest studies ever done to explore the role of friends and family on longevity, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad from Brigham Young University (BYU), published a study of 308,849 people.  In this study she found that of all the common longevity factors, such as exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, or not smoking, that being socially connected was the most important.  Indeed, her study showed that people who were socially connected lived 50% longer!

With regards to mortality, here are the 3 key findings of this study:

          1. Social isolation is more dangerous than smoking 15 cigarettes a day

          2. Social isolation is more dangerous than becoming an alcoholic

          3. Social isolation is twice as dangerous as obesity

Do People Hide Their Loneliness?

I’ve definitely noticed in my patients a tendency to downplay or deny feelings of loneliness. The deeper we get in conversation, though, the more it’s clear that this is a problem that impacts a lot of their lives, sometimes without them ever realizing it. And that’s increasingly problematic in a world in which isolation is increasingly the status quo.

Elders are far from the only people who get lonely. Loneliness is actually one of the most common emotions among Americans of every age, so much so that many people don’t even realize that they are, in fact, chronically lonely. That feeling isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s simply our body’s way of telling us that we need to work a bit harder toward the goal of connecting with our community.

How do we do that? I often tell my patients that the best way to cure their loneliness is to cure someone else’s. After all, when two isolated people are together, they’re no longer isolated.

On occasion I’ve asked patients who appear to suffer from loneliness to do a bit of “homework,” using the Internet to research recreational sports teams, interest groups, political organizations, book clubs, volunteer organizations, and lifelong learning classes that they might be interested in joining. All of these avenues are great ways to meet new people, and the mere act of looking into these opportunities is often enough to get people to try them out.

#339 14 Reasons Why You Got AFib

August 27th, 2022 by

14 Reasons Why You Got AFib

So, why did you get atrial fibrillation? There are a lot of possible substrate causes—some of which you can control and some of which you cannot. Below is a list of the 14 most common reasons why our patients have developed AFib.

1. You Inherited the Wrong Gene

Some people inherit a genetic predisposition that makes AFib more likely. Up to a third of all people who have atrial fibrillation without another identified cause have a familial history of the condition.

At least fifteen different “potassium channel” mutations have been linked to AFib and at least seven “sodium channel” mutations are associated with AFib. Potassium and sodium ions are atoms that carry electric charges and thus are essential to the signaling system that tells parts of the heart to contract in rhythm. But a lot of non–ion-channel mutations have been linked to AFib, too. These include mutations in a protein-coding gene called NUP155; a gene linked to many heart disorders known as LMNA; a gene called NPPA that encodes a vital hormone created in the heart; and a set of genes known as GATA4, GATA5, and GATA6 that are key to the development of new heart tissue.

Those aren’t the only genes that have been linked to AFib, though—there are actually more than one hundred. Even if we were to create an exhaustive list, it would soon be outdated. Emerging research is revealing other “candidate genes” that may have links to AFib. For now, however, there isn’t a test that can scan all of the known and potential “AFib genes.”

While over-the-counter commercial DNA tests can scan for some, you’re really just scratching the surface with these products. What’s important to note is that while it can be very helpful to know whether you’ve inherited a genetic predisposition to AFib, there’s nothing we can do about the genes we were dealt.

However, it is equally important to understand that research conducted over the past few decades in the field of epigenetics has conclusively demonstrated that we do have the power to influence which genes are “expressed” and which genes are “silenced” based on the hundreds of little health decisions we make every day. Indeed, health outcomes among the individuals who have inherited any of these genes vary greatly based on factors that extend far beyond that inheritance.

2. You Have Another Heart Problem

If you were to round up all of the people with AFib in the world, you would find that somewhere close to half of them have also been diagnosed with another cardiovascular condition. Of these, the three most common culprits are heart failure, cardiac valve problems, and coronary artery disease.

3. You’ve Got a Few Years Under Your Belt

Margaret had been a picture of health for most of her life. She had followed a mostly plant-based diet free of fried, processed, and fast foods. She didn’t eat sugar. She’d never been overweight. She did aerobics every day at the gym and attended a yoga class three times a week. She practiced deep-breathing exercises whenever stress levels were getting too high. She slept well at night. She even volunteered as a crosswalk guard at the elementary school across the street from her house. And since no one in her family had ever been diagnosed with AFib, she was more than a little irritated when her doctor told her she had that arrhythmia.

But here’s the thing: Margaret was ninety-four years old. And the truth is that even if your genes are perfect and you do just about everything right, you can still get AFib as a result of age. Just as your skin will wrinkle over the years, the simple act of living life will put some wear and tear on your heart cells over time.

But there’s a big difference between being ninety-four and fifty-four—between AFib that results from natural aging and AFib that comes about due to premature aging. Most of the AFib cases we see are due to the latter kind of aging. And while there is nothing we can do to stop how many candles are on our birthday cakes—that’s chronological age—there is plenty we can do to slow the process of biological aging.

4. Your Blood Pressure Is Too High

Hypertension occurs when the force of a person’s blood against the walls of their arteries is high enough that it puts a person at risk of health problems. Within the heart, this means that, with every heartbeat, the organ is working harder to pump blood through more restrictive arteries. And all of this strain on the heart can cause its muscle to thicken and enlarge, disrupting electrical pathways and causing AFib. Indeed, of all of the factors that have been associated with atrial fibrillation, none may be stronger than hypertension. High blood pressure is the most commonly encountered condition in AFib patients, and research has shown that it nearly doubles the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

Studies show that 90 percent of Americans are hypertensive by age fifty-five, so it’s little wonder why AFib is so common. It doesn’t have to be this way. Only 4 percent of the centenarians living in southern China’s famed “Longevity Village” of Bapan, the people we studied in our best-selling book The Longevity Plan, had high blood pressure. That finding is similar to studies of hunter-gatherers living in the Amazon rainforest or elsewhere in the world consistently showing a natural blood pressure of about 110/70 that doesn’t increase much, if any, with age.

Indeed, it appears from many studies that our genes are designed to keep our blood pressure naturally in this 110/70 range without medication as long as we don’t mess things up with our modern lifestyle. Low body weight, a mostly plant-based diet devoid of sugar and processed foods, daily physical exercise, rejuvenating sleep, and low perceived stress levels protected these people from the scourge of hypertension. It might seem like it’s impossible in a modern context to live as these people do, and that’s true. But the lessons we can draw from these elders are virtually endless, and your ability to apply these lessons to your own life are limited only by your imagination.

5. It’s One of these 11 Medications You Are On

Here is a link to an article I wrote: The 11 Worst Medications For Causing Atrial Fibrillation

6. Too Much Exercise

Over the years, we explained, we have noticed a particularly increased risk of atrial fibrillation in patients who regularly compete in ultra-endurance events, including running, biking, and cross-country skiing. Most of our patients are shocked when they learn that people who run marathons, competitively cycle, or do Ironman Triathlons are five times more likely to develop atrial fibrillation.

Also, it bears noting that while aggressively competing in endurance sports might put you at a greater risk of AFib, participation in these activities certainly does not guarantee you’ll get AFib. It is reassuring to note that recreational participation in endurance sports, even if it is a marathon or triathlon, doesn’t seem to increase this risk.

7. You’re Not Getting Enough Exercise

And regular exercise in general isn’t risky at all—in fact, it’s exceptionally protective. To put things into perspective, for every thousand patients we see with atrial fibrillation, perhaps one may be at risk for atrial fibrillation due to overexercising. The biggest problem, by far, is that most patients aren’t exercising enough. There is far greater risk from not exercising enough than from exercising too much. People who live sedentary lifestyles are at significant risk of AFib, not to mention all of the other health consequences of not getting enough exercise.

8. You’re Overweight

Nearly three-quarters of American men and nearly two-thirds of American women are overweight, if not obese. Today more than two billion people worldwide are overweight or obese In fact, the scientific data connecting weight and AFib are so compelling that many electrophysiologists (EPs) specializing in heart rhythm disorders feel that carrying extra weight is a primary cause of AFib.

Our research has shown that even a few extra pounds can make a big difference in a person’s AFib risk and how they respond to treatments. Other studies have shown that carrying too much weight is the main cause of an enlarged left atrium and premature heart aging—two critical components in the development of AFib.

Even if it’s only by a few extra pounds, being overweight can significantly raise your risk of AFib as we showed in one of our studies. And maybe it’s not just a few pounds. Perhaps you are obese. That word has a lot of negative baggage attached to it, which may be one of the reasons why people are reluctant to even step on the scale. Consciously or subconsciously, they simply don’t want to know. But when people do check, many are surprised to learn that they might indeed be obese, which substantially increases the risk of atrial fibrillation.

9. You Have Diabetes or Pre-Diabetes

Just about everyone knows that obesity puts people at risk of lots of other health challenges, especially diabetes. And it stands to reason that diabetes and obesity have been shown to be associated with an elevated risk of AFib, too.

Not only is your risk of AFib substantially increased with diabetes or pre-diabetes but your experience with that disease is likely to be a lot worse, as people with diabetes have worse AFib symptoms, report a lower quality of life, are more likely to spend time in a hospital, and experience higher mortality rates. There is good news in this regard, though: type 2 diabetes (also known as adult-onset diabetes, although children are increasingly affected) is usually reversible through weight control and processed carbohydrate reduction/elimination. That makes it manageable.

Manageable doesn’t mean “easy.” We live in a world that is constantly conspiring against us when it comes to the food choices that drive so many of our metabolic challenges. It’s also a world in which we’re constantly being told there are shortcuts to just about everything. But we’ll go to battle against those forces very soon. And we’ll do it together. It is something that even we, as cardiologists, have to battle every day. But, again, the important thing, at this moment, is to understand if this is one of the challenges you are facing. If so, the first step is to acknowledge that challenge, and accept its connection to AFib.

10. You’re Not Eating the Right Foods

Food is good medicine. A diet that respects what our bodies need to thrive might be the best way to prevent atrial fibrillation, or to beat it back once it starts.

A bad diet does the exact opposite. In fact, there isn’t much that is worse for you, when it comes to AFib, than eating foods loaded with sugar and other simple/processed carbohydrates. The Standard American Diet (the acronym “SAD” is tragically telling) has way more sugar than anyone needs, and it’s a veritable mass-delivery system for other simple carbs, which your body breaks down to create fast energy.

Most people know that if they’re trying to eat healthy, they should avoid sugar-filled foods like pastries, confections, and candies, along with sugary sodas. What many people fail to recognize is that many of the foods we often think of as “healthy” are also packed with sugar. Even “healthy natural sugars,” like honey, still cause our bodies to respond in roughly the same way: a sudden shockwave of sugar courses through our blood, and these bloodsugar fluctuations may cause cardiac scarring, which, over time, can cause atrial fibrillation.

Another bulk supplier of simple carbs in many people’s diets are refined grains like white flour and white rice, which have been stripped of most of their natural nutrients and fibers. The more processed a grain is, the faster it will be digested to sugar. That has the added consequence of making these foods less filling, so when you eat a white rice dish or a piece of white toast, you’re bound to be hungry again very soon. Sadly, even whole wheat bread isn’t much better. A single slice can spike your blood glucose higher than a Snickers bar.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid carbs altogether. Not at all. In fact, some researchers believe that while working to limit carbs in general might be a good idea, exceptionally low-carb diets may actually lead to a greater risk of AFib.

The key is making sure that, to the greatest extent possible, the carbohydrates you’re getting are complex carbs, including fruits and especially vegetables. For now, though, it’s important to do a realistic assessment of your habits related to sugars and processed carbs. Anyone who isn’t actively avoiding foods with any and all types of added sugar, and limiting their processed or simple carbohydrate intake to those foods that are packed with complex carbohydrates (think vegetables and fruit), may be at an increased risk of AFib.

11. Your Thyroid Hormone Levels Are Off

Thyroxine is the main hormone created by the thyroid gland, and people suffering from hyperthyroidism have bodies that make way too much of it. That’s a big problem because thyroxine is a potent cardiac stimulant. In a way, having hyperthyroidism is like having a little energy-drink factory in your neck. So, you can see why people who have hyperthyroidism might experience increased heart rates, palpitations, and arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation.

The scary thing is it doesn’t take full-blown hyperthyroidism to increase the risk of AFib. For example, our research showed that when people had thyroid hormone levels in the higher end of normal, they were 40 percent more likely to develop AFib.

12. Your Sleep is Off 

13. You’re Too Stressed

Psychological stress has long been thought to be a possible trigger of atrial fibrillation, and the association appears to be strong among women. But men aren’t immune. Neither are cardiologists. Indeed, we have treated countless doctors over the years with AFib as well as innumerable CEOs, lawyers, accountants, politicians, athletes, celebrities, and others who have come to see us for treatment largely because of the enormous stresses they are under.

What kinds of challenges can create stress that triggers AFib? A research group in Denmark concluded that the severely stressful experience of losing a partner increased the risk of atrial fibrillation for an entire year.

Another international group of researchers found that divorced men had a higher incidence of death associated with atrial fibrillation. And a group from Sweden revealed a potential dose-response relationship between work-related stress, like getting fired from a job, and atrial fibrillation. In fact, the Swedish researchers found that just the experience of having a job with high psychological demands and with little control over your work situation could increase your AFib risk by 50 percent.

When Yale University researcher and electrophysiologist Dr. Rachel Lampert surveyed the way her patients were feeling emotionally to see if she could predict whether or not they would go into AFib that day, the results were absolutely startling. In a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, she noted that feelings of sadness, anger, stress, impatience, and anxiety increase the risk of an AFib attack up to 500 percent in the same day. Happiness, meanwhile, appears to be protective. If you are feeling happy, you are 85 percent less likely to have your heart go out of rhythm that day, according to Lampert’s research.

Thus, it is no surprise that those who deal with deep and abiding feelings of sadness and disengagement might be even more at risk. Depression is simply not good for the heart, especially when it comes to AFib. One study showed that depression increases the risk of AFib by up to 700 percent. Fortunately, this same study showed that getting your depression treated dramatically reduces your risk. But with more than 16 million Americans, and hundreds of millions of others around the world, dealing with depression, there are a lot of people who have a significant risk factor for AFib and don’t even know it.

But emotional and mental stress aren’t the only things that can send your body into a state of chaos. Researchers have connected AFib episodes to physical stressors caused by events like surgery, bad infections, and car crashes.54 In the case of irregular, singular events like those, there is a chance that after the stressor has passed, the AFib will go away. More likely, though, this is a harbinger of things to come. Our hearts are remarkably resilient, but if an incident of great stress pushed you into AFib, something else has likely been pushing you toward that precipice a long time before that incident occurred.

14. You’re a Smoker or Live in a Polluted City

If you haven’t been to Salt Lake City, it’s worth a trip. Nestled into the foothills of the splendid Wasatch Mountains, there are few cities in the world that boast such immediate access to the outdoors. In the summer, it’s a paradise for hikers and mountain bikers. For skiers and snowboarders, the winters are simply legendary.

Sounds nice, right? Well, before calling the moving company, there’s another thing you should know about Utah’s capital city. Because it rests in a valley, nearly surrounded by mountains, it suffers from lengthy inversions: weather events in which cold, polluted air gets trapped under a blanket of warmer air. During these periods, studies show, the air can get more harmful with each passing hour and can even increase the incidence of deadly diseases.

Among these diseases is atrial fibrillation; researchers have demonstrated a significant association between the development of AFib and the gaseous pollutants most often found in toxic air. Can bad air trigger individual AFib events? That question was at the heart of one of our early studies to assess the risks of short-term elevations in exposure to fine-particulate air pollution. Fortunately, our study failed to identify any measurable risk, so an occasional trip to a place where the air is bad isn’t likely to trigger an AFib episode, particularly if it’s brief.

In the long term, however, bad air can be a very bad thing. While not everyone has a choice about where they live, everyone can choose what they voluntarily put in their bodies. Yet across the globe, more than one billion people smoke or vape tobacco products, according to the World Health Organization. You won’t be surprised to learn that people who smoke have a substantially increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation,  not to mention all of the other health problems smoking causes, from cancer to emphysema. Even living or being around a smoker can increase your AFib risk. Every pack of cigarettes an adult smokes on an average day increases their children’s risk of getting AFib by 18 percent. That’s a legacy no parent wants to leave. Regardless of how toxic air gets into your lungs, if it’s there, there’s a good chance it has increased your risk of AFib.

Are you motivated to beat your AFib? If so, give my office in Salt Lake City, Utah a call to set up a consultation. Sorry, initial consultations all have to be in-person.

If you liked the photo with this article it was a picture I took this past week mountain biking with my teenage son overlooking Jupiter Bowl at the Park City Mountain Resort.

 

#338 Will Smiling Help You to Live to 100?

July 30th, 2022 by

Will Smiling Help You to Live to 100?

Smiles. That is what I came to expect more than anything else when I would visit Mawen in her home in Bapan as we described in our best-selling book, The Longevity Plan. At 107 years old when I first met, she was feisty, funny, and ferociously dedicated to helping others understand that life, while not always easy or fair, is too wonderful a thing to waste with sorrow.

I cannot recall a single moment in our time together that Mawen was not smiling (just like her 2013 photo attached to this article). When our families would sit together for a meal, her laughter carried over the muddled drone of our multilingual dinner conversations. Whenever I would pass her home, she would always wave to me, point to her mouth, and smile.

Will smiling help you to live to 100? Read on to learn more from our 5-year research project in China’s longevity belt that culminated in our best-selling book, The Longevity Plan

The Longevity Benefits of Smiling

No one lives to be so old without experiencing some tragedy, and given the ups and downs of all of our lives, it’s common for centenarians to have experienced devastating periods of misfortune. Yet researchers studying the personality characteristics of people whose lives reach one hundred years and beyond have found these individuals are almost always happy, optimistic, and resilient.

I’ve become convinced the mere act of smiling might help us live longer. One clever study showed that baseball players who smiled on their playing card photographs lived seven years longer, on average, than those who looked stern. Happiness has also been shown to be a key factor in martial stability, which in turn has been shown to be a key factor in long-term health, and another study demonstrated that a person’s propensity to smile in childhood and yearbook photographs seemed to correlate with their likelihood of staying married.

Mawen

I knew Mawen wouldn’t have any photos of herself from when she was a teenager, but after hearing about the connection between getting “caught smiling” and long-term health, I was eager to ask her about that period in her life. Did she remember it as a happy time?

It was still quite early in the morning when I arrived for that visit. Mawen was already up, eating soup at her family’s low-slung dining table in a crisp blue shirt and sparkling rhinestone headband. As usual, she was smiling ear-to-ear.

“Doctor!” she exclaimed as I walked into the room, and before I could offer so much as a greeting, she began to list the various ways in which she was, as she put it, “in perfect health.” “I wake up every morning with energy,” she beamed. “I am completely pain-free. My toes and fingers all work as they should! I can’t walk as far as I once did, because I do get tired, but I can still get around.”

“And you’re still smiling!” I observed.

“Always,” she said.

“Even when you were very young?”

“Always!” she repeated.

“Even when things were very hard?”

“Always,” she said once more. “And those are the times in which smiling is most important, don’t you agree?

I very much agree. The conscientious decision to flex the muscles of your face into a smile releases neuropeptides (which work to fight off stress) along with dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin (“feel good” transmitters which are also released when we eat tasty food or engage in sex). Just seeing Mawen smile always made me smile, no matter how I might have been feeling at that moment. We have that effect on one another. Smiling is contagious, after all.

We can even have that effect on ourselves. One of the foremost advocates for mindfulness in the modern world, the poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, has spoken extensively about the power of a smile. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,” he has observed, “but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Smile as Part of Your Morning Routine

Almost everyone I know has some sort of morning routine. And almost everyone’s routine includes standing in front of a mirror for at least a few moments to brush their teeth, comb their hair, or look over their outfit. Next time you’re standing in front of a mirror, smile at yourself. Make it as sincere a smile as you can muster. Then make that a habit.

That’s how habits start: one simple action. When we feel success, we’re far more likely to repeat the action leading to that success, and we’re also more likely to try to take another small action that might, eventually, lead to another healthy habit. If you make a habit of starting each day with a smile for yourself, I can assure you, the difference you will feel will be incredible.

Let it go…

There is an old parable, variously attributed to several Asian cultures, about two monks, a master and his apprentice, who come upon a river. When they arrive, they find a rich woman who demands they carry her across the water. The older monk takes the woman on his back and, even as she moans and complains, he ensures not a single drop of water touches her. For miles thereafter on their journey, the younger monk stews and sighs. Finally he cannot take it any longer. “Master,” he asks, “how could you let that woman treat you in that way?” The older monk replies: “Why should I care now? I stopped carrying her miles ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

Mawen’s Hardships

Mawen had always adhered to the philosophy espoused in this story. She was certainly not free of the sorts of pain, suffering, trials, and tribulations that mark so many of our lives. But when it came time to deal with these misfortunes, she let go of her previous hardships and was more able to deal with whatever came her way.

I wondered for a long time how that could be. After all, when Mawen lost her family, she literally had nothing at all. She returned to Bapan in her mid-seventies without a single Chinese yuan and had to begin rebuilding her life from the ground up. In those days there was nothing like social security in China. The economy was in shambles.

But Mawen told me she simply had a choice to make, and it was a simple one: Survive or perish. And when you consider that our evolutionary compulsion is to survive, it makes it simpler still. The way Mawen saw it, her needs came down to the basics: food and water, shelter and security, love and belonging. Once she’d returned to the village and taken up residence with another child, she had everything she needed. Content in that way, she was able to go on.

None of this should imply that Mawen wasn’t interested in striving for more, or that we shouldn’t do the same. Mawen most certainly did continue to work to better her family’s fortunes. In those years, she accomplished a great deal, but she didn’t need to do that in order to put a smile on her face. It was already there. That’s why today, when she speaks of her husband, her son and even the daughter-in-law who ultimately cast her out of her home,

Mawen likes to focus on the times in which her life experiences exceeded her expectations. And because her expectations were always quite simple, it’s not very hard for her to embrace those memories. When we strip away the inessential elements of our lives and focus on what really matters most, it’s a lot easier to feel content. And while it’s certainly not easy to switch our perspective from “I want more” to “I have what I need,” it can have a drastic impact on our health.

Sadly, Mawen passed away shortly after The Longevity Plan was published. However, her smiles will be something I forever carry with me. No matter how difficult life can be, a simple smile can make things a little better…

#337 Should You Weigh Yourself Daily to Beat AFib?

July 17th, 2022 by

Should You Weigh Yourself Daily?

Should you weigh yourself daily? The simple answer is it depends on what you are optimizing for. If your goal is normal sinus rhythm and longevity then for most of my patients the answer is a resounding “yes.”

However, for my rare patient that has achieved a very high level of mindfulness, a daily weight check could be counterproductive. So, unless you have years of optimal weight management under your belt using a mindfulness approach, you’re probably better off doing the same thing I do every morning which is checking the scale.

Why should you weigh yourself daily?

Although the benefits of daily weight monitoring are backed by research, it doesn’t take a scientific study to understand why this habit tends to work. People who weigh themselves on a daily basis are getting a steady stream of data—and a reminder to take manageable corrective action when the numbers aren’t moving in the right direction. Indeed, I’ve rarely seen an AFib patient in my 30-year career who hasn’t successfully lost or maintained their weight loss by simply weighing themselves regularly.

Why do daily weight checks work?

Why does this work so well? After seeing a bit of weight gain, “maybe they exercise a little bit more the next day, or they watch what they are eating more carefully,” explained University of Georgia exercise and nutrition researcher Jamie Cooper, who led a study showing that people who weigh themselves every day during the holidays either maintain or drop weight during a time that most people pack on a few extra pounds. “The subjects self-select how they are going to modify their behavior, which can be effective because we know that  interventions are not one-size-fits-all.” Just the simple act of weighing yourself daily almost subconsciously sets off a chain reaction of behaviors that makes maintaining a healthy weight a lot easier.

What should you do if you hate the scale?

For some, the thought of stepping on the scale each day is nauseating. There are other options. For example, we have many AFib patients who have successfully maintained their weight loss through the use of a food journal, often in the form of a notebook or an app on their smartphone. Still others have achieved desired results from commercial weight loss programs or fitness coaches. Whatever you do, the key is daily accountability—a regular time in which you must reckon with the choices you’ve made and those you intend to make moving forward. For most, stepping on a scale is the easiest way to do that.

How much do you need to lose for normal sinus rhythm?

So, how much do you need to lose? Well, everyone’s healthy body weight is different. But let’s not sugarcoat this: the vast majority of people we see with atrial fibrillation are significantly above the recommended body mass index. And while BMI isn’t a perfect indicator of what a healthy body weight looks like for everyone, it’s generally a good target. What’s more, most of these individuals have been overweight for many years, and quite often many decades. As such, the amount of weight most people need to lose is usually quite a bit more than most people think they can lose.

Can even a 5-pound weight loss help AFib?

Rather than be discouraged about how much you need to lose, know this: anything helps. For example, in one study we showed that even patients who lose just 3 percent of their body weight, which could be as little as five pounds, increased their long-term chances of putting AFib into remission. If you are going to take the necessary steps to get your weight in check, however, you have to be 100 percent committed. “Yo-yo dieting,” in which your weight constantly goes up and down, is really bad for AFib, with our research and that of other physicians showing that back-and-forth weight changes could be an additional AFib risk factor. You cannot let that keep you from trying, though, because the data is very clear on this point: if you want to end your affair with AFib, losing weight isn’t optional.

Eileen’s Experience

Knowing that even a few pounds could help improve her life, when Eileen was diagnosed with AFib, she set a goal of losing one pound every month. That’s a very conservative and reasonable goal, and one that we suggest for many of our AFib patients. Even that, however, can be hard, especially since weight gain is a side effect of some medications and because AFib can make it hard to exercise, which is why it is okay to celebrate an initial month in which you simply don’t gain any weight.

If your scale currently tells you that you are 220 pounds, for instance, then that is the number you need to maintain for this month. Do everything possible to keep things from tipping over that point. Next month your goal is 219. After that, it’s 218. Is that slow? Sure it is. Will some people need to lose more, and more quickly? Absolutely. But slow and constant progress in one direction is far preferable to erratic shifts this way and that. Moving in the right direction is key to a life without AFib.

Eileen didn’t meet her one-pound-less-per-month goal within the time frame she was planning, but her weight loss was nonetheless commendable. On average, she shed a little more than half a pound each month. And while a half a pound might not seem like a lot, over time it adds up. In the first three and a half years after she began her journey toward putting AFib into remission, she dropped twenty-four pounds—mostly by making the sorts of day-to-day adjustments that come with increased daily awareness of “the biggest biomarker of them all.” That resulted in some very big improvements to her condition, “but I didn’t want to settle for ‘less bad,’” she said.

Take-Home Message

Optimizing your body weight may be the key to optimizing for normal sinus rhythm. And to achieve this goal, daily weight checks can be very beneficial. If your goal is to beat AFib and you would like to meet with me, or one of my colleagues, in Salt Lake City please call my team at 801-266-3418 to set up an in-person appointment (sorry, telemedicine visits are not available for initial consultations).

Did you like the photo attached to this article? It is a photo of my favorite place in the world to run, Desolation Lake. Desolation Lake can be reached from trails originating in Park City, Millcreek Canyon, or Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah.

#336 5 Scientifically Proven Reasons Why AFib Ablations Are Better than Drugs

June 11th, 2022 by

5 Scientifically Proven Reasons Why AFib Ablations Are Better than Drugs

The primary goal of anyone who has just experienced their first atrial fibrillation attack is to do everything possible to reverse this condition so that you don’t ever get another attack. Ideally, you can make the key lifestyle changes after the first AFib event to maximize the chances of this approach being successful. And of all the healthy lifestyle changes you could make, the most effective is to get down to a healthy weight.

How much weight do you have to lose? A good rule of thumb is to get your BMI (body mass index) below 25. If you’re not sure if your weight is in the healthy zone, follow this link to a BMI calculator.

I’ve also seen patients put their AFib into remission by other means such as getting out of a toxic job, getting their sleep apnea treated, or avoiding AFib triggers like alcohol. But if lifestyle therapy isn’t enough for your AFib should you opt for drugs or an ablation?

When is it time for an ablation?

Accepting ablation is not accepting that you weren’t “good enough” to cure your AFib in other ways. After all, many of our patients are endurance athletes, often in their thirties or forties, who are a picture of health. As most of these athletes can’t compete on medications, and have already optimized many aspects of their lives, many end up getting their AFib ablated. And, with that, because so many aspects of their health have already been optimized, almost all are able to return to full physical activity, including competitions, without any medications and without any further AFib episodes.

I cannot emphasize this enough: Ablation isn’t what you do when all other options fail, anymore than a cast is something you put on a broken arm when all other options fail. Ablation is a procedure that can in some cases be avoided—and it’s nothing to rush into lightly—but for many people, it’s an absolutely necessary treatment that should be discussed with an expert EP (a cardiologist specializing in AFib) sooner than later.

What is an ablation?

In a catheter ablation, an electrophysiologist controls the movement of several catheters—specialized tools designed to work in the heart which are gently inserted into a patient’s body through a large inner thigh vein. A lot of people are surprised to learn that doctors can reach the heart in this way, but cardiac catheterization is nearly a century old, having been first completed by the German physician Werner Forssmann, who slid a 24-inch catheter from his own arm to his right ventricular cavity in 1929.

In the decades that have passed, doctors have learned to guide catheters toward malfunctioning heart cells in the atria. And those malfunctioning cells are destroyed with either radiofrequency or cryo energy creating a barrier of scar tissue to prevent abnormal electrical signals from triggering AFib (like with electrically isolating heart tissue near the pulmonary veins) or directly eliminating misfiring cells in the heart. Either way, the end goal it to stop AFib from happening again. As no cutting or stitches are needed, 99% of my patients are able to go home the same day after a few hours of monitoring.

How does an ablation get rid of AFib?

Now, it might seem counterintuitive that purposefully creating more scar tissue in an ablation procedure is one of the ways to fight a condition that is usually caused in part by scar tissue that has built up in your heart over the decade. But when you consider what the newly scarred tissue does—or rather, what it doesn’t do—it makes a lot of sense.

The process creates an electrical bypass, of sorts, that takes malfunctioning heart cells out of the equation. Once that happens the electrical currents that run through a patient’s body, controlling the action of their heart, have no choice but to move through the remaining healthy tissue. Or, in another way of thinking, the currents can no longer get “lost” in a jumbled maze of bad cells. What’s more, studies show that when these “bad cells” are eliminated, it can strengthen the rest of the heart so much that both the atria and ventricles are stronger after the procedure, since they are now working in harmony with one another.

What happens after an AFib ablation?

The result can seem miraculous. Patients who felt doomed to a life of atrial fibrillation with all of the accompanying medications, cardioversions, and hospitalizations are suddenly free from this affliction. As you know, AFib begets AFib. This condition tends to get worse with time. And for this reason, our research shows that the earlier we can treat your AFib the more likely we’ll be able to put it into remission.

But something remarkable happens when the heart can maintain normal sinus rhythm for prolonged periods of time. Rhythm begets rhythm. The heart can heal itself! In a fascinating study, Australian researchers using MRI and high-tech 3D mapping technologies of the heart were able to show that by eliminating AFib with an ablation, non-ablated diseased areas of the heart were able to heal themselves over the following two years. Remarkably, inflamed and fibrotic areas of both the atria and the ventricles resolved. It was as if the heart repaired what could be repaired and replaced that which needed to go—structurally the cells were healthy again and electrically most of the “electrical shorts” went away.

What do AFib ablation studies tell us?

A lot of other problems can be reduced by ablation. In our study of nearly 38,000 patients, for instance, we showed that ablation didn’t just reduce AFib, but also reduced the risk of premature death, stroke, and dementia. Further research has demonstrated that patients getting an ablation also enjoy much better kidney function which makes sense because AFib may compromise blood flow to vital organs. Perhaps the greatest benefits seem to come for the sickest patients—those who are fighting both AFib and heart failure. After ablation, research shows, their risk of death, stroke, bleeding, or cardiac arrest plummeted by half.

The CABANA AFib Ablation Study Results

Of course, results like the ones we just covered in the paragraph above are always met with skepticism. And they should be. That’s why dozens of researchers from around the world aided in the nearly decade-long Catheter Ablation vs Antiarrhythmic Drug Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation trial, also known as the CABANA study, the biggest ablation study ever done, which enrolled more than 2,200 mostly older AFib patients from around the world and randomized them to either medications or an ablation. These patients were then followed for about four years to see what happened next.

The only problem to this simple study design is that more than a quarter of patients assigned to drugs required an ablation before the four years were up, while 9 percent of the patients randomized to an ablation decided not to have the procedure done. This muddied the statistical waters, because some statisticians will argue that the “pure” way to conduct a study is to count the results based on how patients were assigned rather than what therapy they ultimately received.

Under this way of analyzing the data, patients who were assigned to medications, but who really had an ablation, would be counted as “medication patients.” Likewise, those patients assigned to ablation, but who never had the procedure, would be counted as if they really did have a procedure. It should come as no surprise that if you analyze the results based on how patients were assigned, rather than the therapy they actually received, that the primary end points of the study—strokes, bleeding, cardiac arrest or death—were similar between the groups.

5 Scientifically Proven Reasons Why AFib Ablations Are Better than Drugs

And yet, even when looked at in this way, the advantages of an ablation are clear, with the CABANA study showing that:

1. If your goal is normal sinus rhythm, then ablation is significantly better than drugs at keeping your heart in rhythm.

2. If your goal is a better quality of life, then ablation is also your answer.

3. If your goal is to stay out of the hospital, then once again ablation is your best bet.

4. If you have heart failure, ablation is also much better, a finding that has been backed by other trials.

5. While the complication risks of an ablation or drugs were different, overall the risks were no higher with ablation when done at the experienced hospitals participating in this study.

Take-Home Message

For those suffering from atrial fibrillation that doesn’t quickly go away with weight loss and other lifestyle changes, it is time to see a cardiac electrophysiologist (cardiologist specializing in AFib) to discuss the role of medications or catheter ablation. If you would like to meet with me, or one of my colleagues, in Salt Lake City please call my team at 801-266-3418 to set up an in-person appointment (sorry, telemedicine visits are not available for initial consultations).

Did you like the photo attached to this article? I took it yesterday on my run over a mountain range to Desolation Lake which is located between Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah.

#335 The Top 3 Drugs Your Cardiologist Wants to Put You on to Slow Your Heart Rate

May 21st, 2022 by

The Top 3 Drugs Your Cardiologist Wants to Put You on to Slow Your AFib Heart Rate

Of all the drugs that doctors prescribe for AFib, rate controllers are probably the most popular. And yet, in most of the cases we see, these drugs usually don’t reduce AFib attacks and seldom do they prevent them all together. They also don’t always prevent heart failure—because, when it comes to heart failure, rate control alone may not be enough. Many doctors don’t even know this yet, but research suggests that just the irregularity alone from AFib is enough to put some hearts into heart failure.

What do rate controllers do, then? They slow your heart down. And for this reason alone, the rate controlling drugs are frequently prescribed to AFib patients. In this article, we’ll discuss the top 3 drugs your cardiologist will probably want to use to slow your AFib heart rate.

Why do you need to slow the AFib heart rate?

When your heart is beating away at 150 beats per minute, slowing things down is a good thing. But rate controllers slow your heart no matter if its in an active state of AFib or not. And that can result in bradycardia, a condition in which the heart is beating too slow and thus the heart isn’t pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.

Can these AFib rate controlling drugs slow your heart too much?

We’ve seen countless patients—usually older ones—admitted to the emergency rooms of the hospitals where we work with heart rates of under 45 beats per minute and are either fainting or coming close to fainting from such a slow heart rate. That’s why, if you are on a rate controller, it’s vital to invest in a smartwatch or other device with which you can monitor your heart rate.

What is the purpose of these AFib heart rate slowing drugs?

The rate controlling drugs do serve a purpose. In addition to making AFib feel “less bad,” they also help to prevent your heart from beating so fast with AFib that it could put you into heart failure. Our hearts simply cannot keep racing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and keep functioning properly.

How much AFib rate controlling do you need?

As long as you aren’t having any symptoms, studies suggest an AFib resting heart rate below 110 beats per minute is best.129 Under the right conditions, rate controllers can help with that and, fortunately, these drugs tend to be available as generics, and are quite inexpensive. But they’re not all the same, so let’s look at the top 3 drugs your cardiologist will probably want to use to slow your AFib heart rate.

#1 Most Popular AFib Rate Controller: Beta-blockers (especially metoprolol)

Beta Blockers are the most commonly prescribed rate controllers. They are also the only rate controllers that might actually help to prevent AFib episodes, particularly in situations in which your body releases a lot of adrenalin, such as when you are stressed out, exercising or angry. That’s because these drugs—which include metoprolol, carvedilol, atenolol, and basically any medication whose generic name ends in “olol”— shield the heart from adrenalin.

And when you look at all the drugs in the beta-blocker family, the very most popular beta-blocker in the US is metoprolol (also known as Toprol or Lopressor). In fact, none of the other beta-blockers even comes close to metoprolol…

When are adrenalin blocking effects of beta-blockers a good thing?

An adrenalin blocking medication is good when your heart is in AFib and beating at 150 beats per minute, but, if you are in normal rhythm, the adrenalin-shielding property of these drugs can literally put you to sleep. That’s why fatigue is one of the top complaints among users of these drugs. In women beta blockers are often additionally associated with weight gain. In men, one of the big problems is erectile dysfunction.

One of the most beneficial effects of beta blockers is that they often have a calming effect on users, which is good for people with AFib that is triggered by stress or anxiety. These drugs also tend to lower blood pressure, and since most people with AFib have high blood pressure that’s a good thing, too. Beta-blockers also often improve sleep, and since a lack of sleep can be a trigger for AFib, that’s also a significant benefit.

Which AFib patients should use beta-blockers?

The main group of patients who can most benefit are those whose AFib is induced by exercise, anger, stress, or heart failure. On the other hand, taking beta blockers for exercise-induced AFib can also be counterproductive since they can make it hard to get your heart rate up sufficiently to engage in vigorous exercise a vital component of the interventions nearly everyone needs if they want to put their AFib into remission.

Are beta-blockers safe to take for AFib?

Unlike antiarrhythmics, beta blockers are quite safe to take for almost everyone. Indeed, our sickest cardiac patients, those with a history of a major heart attack or heart failure from a low ejection fraction, generally live longer on beta blockers. If there’s a single type of drug that has the highest ratio of benefits-to-drawbacks, it’s beta blockers. But, of course, that doesn’t make these drugs right for everyone. That’s why there are two other classes of rate controllers.

#2 Most Popular AFib Rate Controller: Calcium Channel Blockers (especially diltiazem)

Calcium channel blockers that are used for rate control work by blocking calcium electrical connections between heart cells. Some patients get nervous when they first learn about these drugs. Calcium is vital, after all, for strong bones, among other important functions. But these drugs don’t significantly block calcium absorption in your gut, calcium metabolism in general, or your overall bone health.

While calcium channel blockers aren’t used as frequently as beta blockers, they can be a good second-line rate controlling strategy in the event there are intolerable side effects with beta blockers. Yet these drugs, often known by generic names including diltiazem and verapamil, can have many of the same effects on the body as beta blockers. Calcium channel blockers may also cause swelling of the legs, and you should be sure to tell your doctor if you notice your legs getting a little “puffy” with diltiazem or verapamil. Additionally, calcium channel blockers aren’t safe for people with heart failure from a low ejection fraction.

#3 Most Popular AFib Rate Controller: Digoxin (rarely used now days)

Digoxin, often known by the brand name Lanoxin, is the least prescribed rate controller. This is the drug that was derived from the foxglove plant and, as the very first AFib medication, doctors have been using it to treat arrhythmias for a very long time. However, digoxin, is rapidly falling out of favor among doctors.

That’s because research has indicated that it might increase users’ risk of premature death. Even before this startling concern was revealed, however, this nearly century-old medication was losing market share due to its myriad negative side effects, including loss of appetite, vision problems, fatigue, and confusion. It also has a very narrow margin between a dose that is strong enough to be effective and a dose that is strong enough to be toxic, making precise dosing a precarious endeavor.

And, compared to other rate controllers, it is relatively weak in its rate-slowing effects. Despite all of this, however, digoxin is quite inexpensive and can be helpful in a small subset of patients. One possible advantage of this drug, which comes from a class of heart-slowing medications known as cardiac glycosides, is that it doesn’t lower blood pressure like beta blockers or calcium channel blockers. That can be good for people who struggle with low blood pressure. Beta Blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin all have an appropriate place in the pharmaceutical quiver that doctors use to treat their patients.

Do you also need an AFib rate controller if you are also on an antiarrhythmic?

Given the side effects and other concerns of the AFib rate controlling drugs, people often wonder if they really need these drugs, especially if they are also on an antiarrhythmic. If the antiarrhythmic your doctor has prescribed is flecainide or propafenone, the answer is “yes.” This is because the atrial flutter proarrhythmic effects of flecainide and propafenone are serious enough that you need a rate controller around to make sure the heart never beats too fast.

However, some antiarrhythmics do have some rate controlling effects. This is especially the case with amiodarone, sotalol, and Multaq (dronedarone). As a result, if you are combining antiarrhythmics with rate controlling medications—and especially if your are elderly—you will need to monitor your heart rate very closely, lest you find yourself with a heart rate that is so low that you pass out from lack of oxygen to your brain or or develop severe low blood pressure.

What should you do if you don’t want to take any of these drugs?

Most of our patients, especially the younger and more active AFib patients, don’t want to take any medications. Is there a way to get off the rate controlling and antiarrhythmic drugs?
Fortunately, catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation just keeps getting better and better. Ablations are a relatively simple 2-hour procedure now and our patients can go home 2-3 hours after their procedure with just a bandaid.
There is no cutting and no stitches with these procedures. Everything is done through a special IV in the leg. Patients are fully asleep and don’t feel a thing during the procedure. Recovery is quick and our patients are back to the gym exercising within 5 days. Ablations are also covered by Medicare as well as all insurance plans in the US.
Of course, not everyone can be helped with a catheter ablation but for our younger and healthier patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation it is very rare that we can’t put their AFib into remission with this procedure. Sometimes a touch up ablation is needed for complete resolution of the AFib.
If you live in Utah, or are willing to travel to Utah for care, feel free to call my team at 801-266-3418 to schedule an AFib consultation with me or one of my colleagues.
Also, if you liked the photo with this article, I took it yesterday while hiking with my wife and daughter. It is a majestic view from the Grandeur Peak Trail overlooking Salt Lake City, Utah.

#334 Could the News and Social Media be Causing Your Heart Problem?

April 9th, 2022 by

Could the News and Social Media be Causing Your Heart Problem?

Good, bad, or otherwise, the news used to come to us in far more manageable doses—a bit in the morning when the newspaper hit the doorstep and a bit in the evening when Walter Cronkite, or another seemingly trustworthy person, sat behind the desk of the evening news. Nowadays, news is a 24-hour affair. And what often passes for news—angry people screaming over one another, blowhard commentators spewing politically predictable talking points, and celebrity news aimed at exposing the embarrassing secrets of the not-so-rich and only-so-famous—is so ubiquitous via the internet and social media that it can take a pretty heroic effort to stay informed (as all citizens of a democracy should be) without going mad. But could this non-stop news and social media be the cause of your heart problem?

Negative News and Heart Problems

We’ve known for decades that a constant flow of negative news can cause people to feel sadness and anxiety, exasperating worries that news consumers already have about their own lives. Research is now showing that unremitting psychosocial stressors can have physiological repercussions, too, with copious studies showing a link between stress and heart problems, and “profound effects on the cardiac rhythm.”

What’s the most common emotion you associate with consuming news content? If you said “anger,” you should know that researchers have found that the likelihood of an atrial fibrillation episode goes up nearly six times following an experience with anger. By contrast, according to the same study, atrial fibrillation episodes are decreased 85 percent when you are feeling “happy.”
It’s not just “hard news” that can start a chemical chain reaction that can push our hearts out of rhythm. We’ve grown increasingly tribal when it comes to our sports allegiances, too. (If you’ve ever yelled at a referee through your television, this applies to you.)
And while social media can be a way to spread all kinds of emotions—from joy and humor to sadness and empathy—nothing goes viral like anger. “Anger is a high-arousal emotion, which drives people to take action,” Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, told Smithsonian Magazine in 2014. “It makes you feel fired up, which makes you more likely to pass things on.” In a world in which clicks equal cash for savvy social media marketers, what emotion do you think is most likely to be pushed in your direction when you open that app?

How to Fix Heart Problems from Negative News

What should you do if your media habits are adding stress to your life? Well, you don’t need to completely tune out, although that might not be a bad idea for a while. There isn’t a lot of hard research, yet, on what is often called “social media fasting,” but it’s not hard to find plenty of personal anecdotes about how it made people feel more productive, more clear-headed, and less stressed. I know this is what I have had to do from time to time when negative news gets me all fired up.
By contrast, it’s not nearly so easy to find people who took a break from social media and didn’t feel like it was a worthwhile break, even if they ultimately returned to their old ways. While you’re considering a social media fast, you might as well consider a more general media fast as well.
Indeed, I’ve seen many people decrease their atrial fibrillation or chest pain episodes just by getting rid of social media and the news. Or you might simply consider consuming your media the way people did a few decades ago. That doesn’t necessarily mean subscribing to a morning newspaper and only watching one network news show, but spending a little time each morning and evening checking the latest state of the world, sports updates, and celebrity gossip—and keeping away from that content throughout the rest of the day—can do wonders for your psychological and physical health.

#333 Can High Blood Pressure Cause Atrial Fibrillation?

March 26th, 2022 by

Can High Blood Pressure Cause Atrial Fibrillation?

Whenever I meet with newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation patients they always want to know why they got Afib. Sadly, one of reasons is usually something they haven’t given much thought to…their high blood pressure. Indeed, high blood pressure or hypertension is one of the main causes of atrial fibrillation.

How Does High Blood Pressure Cause Atrial Fibrillation?

Hypertension occurs when the force of a person’s blood against the walls of their arteries is high enough that it puts a person at risk of health problems. Within the heart, this means that, with every heartbeat, the heart is working harder to pump blood against a more forceful wall. And all of this strain on the heart can cause the heart muscle to thicken and enlarge, disrupting electrical pathways and causing AFib.

Indeed, of all of the factors that have been associated with atrial fibrillation, there may be none that is stronger than hypertension. High blood pressure is the most commonly encountered condition in AFib patients, and research has shown that it nearly doubles the risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Studies show that 90 percent of Americans are hypertensive by age 50 so it is little wonder why AFib is so common.

Does High Blood Pressure Have to be Part of the Aging Process?

Everyone goes on high blood pressure medications as they get older, right? It really doesn’t have to be this way. There is no rule that your blood pressure has to go up as you get older. In fact, among the those groups of people in the world still living an ancestral lifestyle, hypertension is very uncommon.

For example, among the centenarians living in southern China’s famed “Longevity Village,” that we described in our best-selling book The Longevity Plan, only 4% had high blood pressure. That’s a finding that is similar to studies of hunter-gatherers living in the Amazon rainforest or elsewhere in the world consistently show a natural blood pressure of about 110/70 that doesn’t increase much, if any, from age. Indeed, it appears from many studies that our genes are designed to keep our blood pressure naturally without the need for medication, in this 110/70 range as long as we don’t mess things up with our modern lifestyle.

A lean body weight, a mostly plant-based diet devoid of sugar and processed foods, daily physical exercise, rejuvenating sleep, and low perceived stress levels protected these people from the scourge of hypertension. It might seem like it’s impossible in a modern context to live as these people do, and that’s true, but the lessons that can be drawn from these elders are virtually endless, and your ability to apply these lessons to your own life are limited only by your imagination.

How Do You Keep Your Blood Pressure in the Normal Range without Medications?

If your goal is to keep your blood pressure as close to 110/70 without medications then it is very possible provided lifestyle changes are made before your blood pressure stays permanently high. In this article below, I describe 8 scientifically proven ways to lower your blood pressure naturally. Of course, never stop your blood pressure lowering medications without first speaking with your healthcare provider.

Dr. Day’s 8 Scientifically Proven Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

If you would like to see me or one of the other cardiologists in my practice in Salt Lake City, Utah specializing in AFib, please give my team a call at 801-266-3418.

Did you like the photo attached to this article? It was taken while running along the Jordan River in Salt Lake City, Utah in early March.

#332 Can You Only Take AFib Blood Thinners When Needed?

March 19th, 2022 by

Can You Only Take AFib Blood Thinners When Needed?

The vast majority of my AFib patients hate their blood thinners. In fact, most would be willing to do just about anything to get off them. While the official AFib treatment guidelines don’t yet recognize only taking AFib blood thinners when needed, for some patients this can be a reasonable approach to balancing the risk of stroke versus life-threatening bleeding from blood thinners. Is there a way to only take blood thinners when you have an AFib attack? Read on to learn more…

Pill-in-the-Pocket Approach to AFib Blood Thinners

A pill-the-pocket approach is similar to what some patients use with antiarrhythmics like flecainide. Just like they only take flecainide to stop that rarely occurring AFib attack, they take an AFib blood thinner the same way. While they stop their flecainide once the heart is back in normal sinus rhythm they still continue their AFib blood thinner for a month after the AFib episode ended.

This “on-demand” approach to blood thinners is truly only for highly motivated AFib patients who are at low to intermediate risk of stroke, and even then, your doctor may not approve, because it is not part of the official guidelines for treating AFib. But in the era of AFib detecting smartwatches, lifestyle and biomarker optimization, newer blood thinners, and ablations, I believe there is a role for the pill-in-the-pocket approach to protect patients from a “once in a blue moon” AFib attack.

Most AFib Patients Quit Their Blood Thinners

Just like pill-in-the-pocket antiarrhythmics, this “on-demand” approach means you would only take a blood thinner when you need it—like when you’re having an AFib attack—and not when your heart is in a perfectly normal rhythm. Dr. Rod Passman, a cardiologist from Northwestern University in Chicago, has been a champion of this approach, and he hasn’t been shy about sharing his opinion on its merits, going so far as to say the way we typically administer blood thinners “is stupid.”

“We know that only about half the patients who should be receiving an anticoagulant are actually prescribed one and when we do prescribe it, probably only half are still taking it after a year or two,” he told TCTMD, a comprehensive online resource focused on interventional cardiology. “People simply do not want to be on these drugs long-term and if they can minimize their exposure to it without compromising stroke risk, well that’s a win-win.” (article here)

Passman not only has a good point, he might in fact have understated patient detest for these drugs. Studies show that as many as two in three patients have quit the drug on their own within a year. But, unfortunately, the vast majority of these patients are stopping their blood thinners the wrong way—going against the wishes of their doctors, instead of working with those doctors to come to consensus about what is prudent.

Do Studies Support the Use of On-Demand Blood Thinners for AFib?

As of the writing of this article, there have been four major studies published on pill-in-the-pocket blood thinners in patients with lower CHADS-VASc scores, (here, here, here, and here) and the results were very promising. All of these studies showed that it may be a reasonable alternative to the daily blood thinner, protecting patients from side effects and saving them money without increasing risk.

But, to put things into perspective, altogether these four studies involved fewer than 3,000 patients. By way of contrast, the study that resulted in FDA approval for Eliquis included more than 18,000 patients. A lot is at risk here—especially considering that an AFib stroke could put you in a nursing home for the rest of your life.

3 Key Points About Only Taking AFib Blood Thinners When Needed

There are a few other things that need to be said about this approach:

First, all of the studies that have been completed so far have used one of the newer blood thinners. Warfarin cannot be used “on-demand,” as it takes a few days before it has an effect; by then a stroke could have already happened.

Second, there is no consensus how long an AFib episode should be before it triggers the use of a pill, or how long you should continue taking the pill after the episode ends. Intuitively though, most EPs who are open to this pill-in-the-pocket approach would probably recommend a month of blood thinners after an AFib attack

Third, studies show that there is no direct temporal relationship between when the AFib attack starts and when the AFib stroke occurs. Strokes don’t always happen around the time of an AFib attack. This is because, as you know, AFib sufferers are almost always dealing with other medical conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, heart failure and coronary artery disease, that also raise the risk of stroke. It would be delusional to think that a blood thinner, taken only in the aftermath of an AFib episode, could work for anyone except those people who are completely healthy other than their AFib.

Is Only Taking AFib Blood Thinners When Needed Right for You?

As only taking AFib blood thinners when needed is not part of the official AFib treatment guidelines it can’t be recommended. Also, it goes without saying, that you should never stop your AFib blood thinner without first discussing it with your healthcare provider.

Don’t be discouraged. This approach might not be right for you just yet, but there are studies ongoing that are evaluating whether implanted or wearable heart monitors can make the pill-in-the-pocket blood thinner approach work even better for even more people. For those who are highly motivated, though, it can be a viable option right now, provided a patient has had their AFib eliminated with an ablation, they are 100% committed to optimizing their lifestyle to make sure the AFib doesn’t come back, and they have totally mastered the use of the latest AFib monitoring technology to guide their use of blood thinners.

If you would like to see me or one of the other cardiologists in my practice in Salt Lake City, Utah specializing in AFib, please give my team a call at 801-266-3418. Also, if you like the photo attached to this article it was recently taken on a run while on the Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon (Salt Lake City, Utah area).

#331 How to Reprogram Your Genes to Live to 100

March 11th, 2022 by

How to Reprogram Your Genes to Live to 100

Just prior to giving the keynote lecture at a large medical conference organized by Northwestern University in Chicago on the subject of “How to Thrive to 100,” a surprising number of conference attendees I met said something to the effect of, “who in their right mind would want to live to be 100?” That sort of response completely ignores the fact that a person who arrives at 100 still skiing and in good health most likely also enjoyed great health when they were sixty, seventy, eighty, and ninety, too. And these were other doctors!

If you are the type that still wants to be skiing, running, or cycling at age 100 then this article is for you. But to achieve this goal will require you to reprogram your genes to still be thriving at 100. Read on to learn more…

Do Your Genes Determine your Lifespan?

Are some of us genetically destined to live long lives and others not? Not at all. Today we’re learning the impact we can have on our genes is profound. Rather than being stuck with what we’ve inherited from past generations, our research that we shared in our best-selling book, The Longevity Plan, shows the expression of our genes can change significantly, and positively, as a result of the decisions we make every day.

Indeed, the genetic work done by my team with the centenarians living in China’s centenarian belt in the Bama County of the Guangxi Province has shown that the majority have genes that should predispose them to hypertension, atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction, hypertriglyceridemia, and hypercholesterolemia. In fact, one of the centenarians we studied had gene markers for an increased risk of all five of these conditions!

Our findings are not the exception. Other studies of people in Bama County have revealed genes that, based on everything we know about genetics, should actually predispose these folks to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. In one study, researchers found that 516 people from Bama County, all over the age of 90, carried a gene that often results in elevated homocysteine and cholesterol levels leading to heart attacks and dementia.

Despite being genetically “programmed” for early heart disease and memory impairment, though, these people showed almost no signs of these diseases. In fact, studies of Bama centenarians have shown that even in those over the age of 100, heart disease is only seen in 4 percent. Another study looking at 267 long-lived Bama residents at an average age of 88 could only find one case of dementia. To put these numbers in context, about 85 percent of people over the age of 85 in the U.S. have already developed heart disease, and roughly half of all people in the U.S. age 85 or older have developed dementia.

Your Lifestyle is Far More Important than Your Genes

As it turns out, the only measurable genetic difference between the people in this region who live a long time and those who don’t is something called methylation, a mechanism our cells use to change the way our genes are expressed in response to how we live. And we know from studies of people from gene pools all across the world that everyone has the ability to positively impact their genomic expression, for good and for ill.

We’ve all known someone, for example, who was gifted in some way but didn’t work to hone that gift, with rather predictable consequences. We’ve also all heard the inspiring stories of people who are naturally disadvantaged in some way, but are able to overcome that disadvantage through hard work and dedication.

Approximately 80% of Your Lifespan is Determined by Lifestyle Choices

In a ground-breaking study, a group of researchers considered the genetic and environmental factors impacting the lives of nearly 3,000 identical and fraternal twins from Denmark, they concluded that “longevity seems to be only moderately heritable.”

For women, the researchers concluded, only about 26 percent of longevity was the result of heredity. For men it was about 23 percent. The rest, the scientists concluded, is up to us. When I came to recognize this, it was exceptionally freeing. For years I’d blamed my health problems on a rather poor draw in the genetic lottery, and in some ways it was true. When I had my DNA analyzed, the lab report was downright depressing. I carry variations of genes associated with obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and inflammatory arthritis. But what the people of Longevity Village have taught me is that our genes aren’t a prison sentence.

Rather than being genetically destined to live long and healthy lives, it’s quite clear that the people of Bapan have benefitted from lifestyle choices and attitudes that have actuated their genes in ways that have allowed them to thrive to one hundred years of age and longer without medications, surgeries, or doctor visits. We know this, too, from looking at what happens when people leave the village and significantly alter their lifestyle. When one young man I met left the village to seek work in the city of Guangzhou,
for instance, his job in a factory sweatshop and changes in eating habits took an almost immediate toll on his health. After suffering from the effects of stress, a lack of healthful physical activity, a poor diet, air pollution, and weight gain, he decided to return to the village and re-integrate, best he could, with the traditions of his ancestors. His health was remarkably restored within months of his return.

How to Reprogram Your Genes

While you are “stuck” with the genes you were born with, you can determine which genes get turned on and which genes get turned off. And, as it turns out, we’ve got a lot of control over our genetic destiny. And the really simple formula to reprogram your genes for health and longevity is as follows:

1. Optimize nutritional intake while maintaining a healthy body weight.

Only eat real foods. Avoid anything processed or prepared whenever possible. Stay away from added sugars and grain flours as much as possible. Consider supplements to correct nutritional deficiencies. Stay lean.

2. Physical activity every day.

Ideally, you are getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and recording at least 10,000 steps daily. Shorter periods of daily exercise are also good if you are doing high-intensity work-outs. Strength training is also important to optimize for longevity.

3. Prioritize sleep.

Restorative sleep is priceless. Whether you think you need it or not, target for at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Going to bed and waking at the same time every day is also associated with better health and longevity.

4. Minimize your stress response.

There will always be stress in your life. The key is to proactively do something every day to allow you to process the stress. For me, nothing puts stress in its place like a daily epic workout in the mountains.

5. Nurture relationships.

At the end of the day, it’s our relationships that count the most in this life. And studies show that relationships may better predict health and longevity than smoking or obesity. Prioritize time each day with the most important people in your family.
Did you like the photo attached to this article? It is our front walkway light after an unexpected big snowstorm this past week.

#330 The 12 Most Common Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms

February 12th, 2022 by

The 12 Most Common Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms

Most of our patients mistakenly believe they don’t have any AFib symptoms because they can’t feel the palpitations that are commonly associated with this arrhythmia. While many patients do indeed experience palpitations, in my experience most do not. In this article we’ll cover the 12 most common AFib symptoms and how to get rid of them once and for all. Read on to learn more…

The Top 3 AFib Symptoms

Sadly, most AFib patients don’t experience palpitations. If you’re not sure what “palpitations” are, many of my patients describe it as if there is a fish flopping around in their heart.

In fact, I put palpitations as the third most common symptom associated with AFib. If everyone felt palpitations with AFib, patients would be alerted to the second AFib started which would lead to a much earlier diagnosis, quicker treatment, and a much better chance of avoiding the long-term complications from AFib.

With palpitations solidly in the number 3 position, the very most common AFib symptom I see is fatigue followed by shortness of breath or getting winded easily with exertion.

It can, of course, be hard to pin feelings of being fatigued and breathless to one specific problem. Fatigue and shortness of breath can be side-effects of many medications. They can also result from not exercising regularly, being overweight or not sleeping well.

But if you’re feeling tired and breathless, and you can’t figure out why, you need to find out why. Lara, one of my patients we discussed in our best-selling book, The AFib Cure, didn’t do that, at first. “I’ve skied my whole life,” she recalled. “Suddenly I couldn’t anymore. I was always so tired—the way I used to feel after a race, except I wasn’t racing.”

That is likely because Lara’s heart was beating much faster than normal and her body was struggling to keep up. It takes a lot of energy to keep a heart on overdrive, the same sort of energy it takes to engage in a heavy workout. But, like many people, Lara at first chalked up these symptoms as the consequences of “getting too old.” (Which is why, when we help our patients get their hearts back into normal rhythm again, they often remark how much younger they feel.)

The 4th, 5th, and 6th Most Common AFib Symptoms

Lightheadedness, dizziness and confusion are also very common symptoms of atrial fibrillation. “Brain fog,” the feeling of not being able to think clearly, is another common symptom. And, again, once you understand what AFib does inside the body, these symptoms make perfect sense. Our brains are ravenous for oxygen, after all, and oxygen moves through our bodies via our circulatory system. In a healthy human body, this system is perfectly designed to deliver oxygen exactly where it is needed, when it is needed. But when the organ at the center of this closed system is malfunctioning, the entire system begins to falter. The oxygen molecules being transported by hemoglobin, a protein carried throughout our bodies by our red blood cells, may still arrive, but not at the same, steady rate our brains are used to.

All of this helps explain why we, as well as other researchers, are coming to discover a long-term consequence of atrial fibrillation that is terrifying to a lot of people: brain damage. Our research team has discovered that many of the chemical signs of brain injury that are elevated after a concussion—like glial fibrillary acidic protein, stress response marker growth/differentiation factor 15, and tau protein—are chronically high in atrial fibrillation patients. These proteins, which typically are elevated in response to an injury to the brain and its barrier from the rest of the body, are released very early in people who have atrial fibrillation, a reflection of the chronic insult of the abnormal heart rhythm on the brain.

It’s not just molecules swimming around in our body that testify to the damage being done to our brains. When you use an MRI to look at the brains of people with AFib, nearly half have visible signs of brain damage in the form of brain lesions, even if they’ve never suffered from a stroke. Those who do not have brain lesions consistent with stroke often have volume loss, also known as “brain shrinkage,” and small patterns of brain injury called “white matter disease.” These changes reflect damage done to the brain both from atrial fibrillation and other medical problems, like hypertension and diabetes, that may have caused the AFib.

This might help explain why the rate of dementia is so much higher among people with atrial fibrillation. We’ve known for nearly half a century that lesions are more common in the autopsied brains of people who suffered from dementia at the end of their lives, but it hasn’t always been clear where these lesions came from. More recently, our research has shown that atrial fibrillation is independently associated with all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Not surprisingly, our ground-breaking research showed that the presence of AFib was a strong predictor of which dementia patients are at highest risk of death. Also, and quite disconcertingly, these findings suggested that the risk of Alzheimer’s, in particular, was increased even among younger AFib patients.

Other AFib Symptoms (Top AFib Symptoms 7-12)

7. Chest pain

Chest discomfort is always a scary symptom for AFib patients. How do you know if it is a life-threatening heart attack or just your AFib acting up again? While this may require a trip or two to the emergency room and a few visits with your cardiac electrophysiologist to figure out, in general, if the chest discomfort starts the exact second you go into AFib and then stops the very same second your AFib stops then there is a pretty good chance it is just the AFib.

8. Fainting

Fainting from AFib happens from a lack of blood flow to the brain. This can be from either the heart beating so fast in AFib or from the heart stopping for a few seconds when the AFib stops.

9. Anxiety

There is something very unsettling about AFib. And even for patients who don’t feel palpitations, there is a sense of generalized anxiety that happens when their hearts are out of rhythm and then goes away when normal sinus rhythm returns.

10. Sweaty

Over the years many of my patients have reported feeling sweaty, excessive sweating, or feeling “clammy” when their heart is doing its AFib thing.

11. Weakness

For many of my older patients, the only AFib symptom they experience is just generalized weakness while they are in AFib. Some older patients even report they have trouble getting out of bed or out of a chair when they are in AFib.

12. Urination

Surprisingly, many of my patients know they are in AFib because in the early stages of an AFib attack they have to keep running to the bathroom to urinate. What causes frequent urination in the early part of an AFib attack? A fibrillating atrium releases the hormone atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) which causes the kidneys to quickly dump urine.

How to Make AFIb Symptoms Go Away

Based on my experience of having treated tens of thousands of AFib patients over the last 30+ years, most of my patients are suffering from at least one of the 12 symptoms covered in this article. And if you are like most of my patients, you probably want to get rid of these symptoms. The key to beating AFib, as we described in our book The AFib Cure, is as follows:

1. Get your AFib diagnosed and treated as fast as possible.

2. If you have AFib triggers, such as alcohol, stress, sleep deprivation, etc. avoid these triggers.

3. Live as healthy as you possibly can by optimizing your nutrition to maintain a healthy body weight, exercise every day, get enough rejuvenating sleep every night, and keep stress levels down.

4. If avoiding triggers and living as healthy as you possibly can doesn’t put your AFib into remission, consider an ablation.

5. Always track your health and maintain a lifelong commitment to healthy living.

If you would like to see me or one of the other cardiologists in my practice in Salt Lake City, Utah, please give my team a call at 801-266-3418. Also, if you like the photo attached to this article it was taken from my favorite chairlift, the 9990 chairlift at Park City Mountain Resort.

 

#329 Are Grains Bad for Your Heart?

January 30th, 2022 by

Are Grains Bad for Your Heart?

While there has been a recent flurry of books and websites demonizing grains in every form, the scientific literature does not support this belief. Indeed, in major study after study, real whole or intact grains have consistently been associated with decreased cardiovascular mortality, cancer and premature death.

Processed grains, on the other hand, behave just like sugar in the body. And it’s clear that these products are responsible for much of the obesity crisis, as well as the epidemic of atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and diabetes that I see in my cardiology practice every day.

The key then is determining whether or not grains are bad for your heart lies in the distinction between whole or intact grains and processed grains. And an intact grain is one that hasn’t been turned into flour. For example, Quinoa and brown rice are intact grains unless they are pulverized into flour.

Can you eat grains if you’re trying to lose weight?

For those seeking to lose weight, even the healthiest of whole or intact grains should be eaten in moderation. In China’s Longevity Village that we described in our best-selling book The Longevity Plan, villagers ate 3 or 4 servings of grain per day at most, far less than what the typical American eats in a day, let alone the 11 daily servings that the U.S. government once recommended in its food pyramid. 

If bread is your thing, then ideally look for one of the flourless forms with no added sugar, industrial oils, or other preservatives; these often come frozen at health food stores. Sprouted multigrain and legume-based bread, often sold as Ezekiel bread, is a good choice for people who are not gluten sensitive.

Paleo bread is an option for people wishing to enjoy bread without the grains or gluten. Alternatively, you can make your own healthy bread with almond flour which doesn’t have the same gluceric effects as grains or by grinding your grain with the coarsest setting rather than pulverizing it into flour.

Why is grain flour such a problem for the heart?

What most people don’t realize is that finely ground flour from grains is really nothing more than instant sugar for your body. Is it any wonder that even whole wheat bread is converted to sugar by the body faster than a Snickers bar? Thus, is it any surprise obesity and diabetes rates are reaching epidemic proportions. Sugar is a powerfully addictive drug whether it comes in the form of a Snicker’s bar or wheat flour.

For me, once I was able to free myself of the addictive qualities of traditional flour-based whole wheat breads, I actually came to prefer the flourless varieties because they are more satisfying and don’t leave me craving more.

Like bread, pasta is another grain-based product that a lot of people can’t resist. It’s also typically made of heavily processed wheat. For people who enjoy spaghetti, lasagna, or baked ziti, I recommend substituting in spaghetti squash or quinoa. You can even find great tasting pastas made from mung beans, black beans, or edamame these days. Our current favorite is edamame spaghetti.

The bottom line on grains is pretty simple: Seek to eat grains in moderation and as close to their natural state as possible which means intact grains that haven’t been pulverized into flour.

Should heart patients avoid carbs?

That doesn’t mean you should avoid carbs altogether. Not at all. In fact, some researchers believe that while working to limit carbs in general might be a good idea, exceptionally low-carb diets may actually lead to a greater risk of AFib.

The key is making sure that, to the greatest extent possible, the carbohydrates you’re getting are complex carbs, including fruits and especially vegetables. 

For now, though, it’s important to do a realistic assessment of your habits related to sugars and processed carbs. Anyone who isn’t actively avoiding foods with any and all types of added sugar, and limiting their carbohydrate intake to those foods that are packed with complex carbohydrates, think vegetables and fruit, may be at an increased risk of AFib.

Grains are problematic for most of our heart patients because of the strong role that refined grains plays in diabetes and weight gain, but this doesn’t mean you need to avoid grains. If you do choose to eat grains, stick with intact grains whenever possible—foods like quinoa and brown rice, which haven’t been pulverized into flour as anything that has flour or added sugar—are a sure-fire way to send your blood sugar through the roof.

Many people believe that whole wheat or gluten-free flour are healthy, but these flours can also spike your blood glucose very quickly. If you can’t live without bread, keep an eye open for flourless breads, which have long been available at health food stores and are increasingly stocked at mainstream supermarkets.

4 Things to Consider If You Choose to Eat Grains

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, my friend and former classmate at Stanford University, is one of the world’s leading cardiologists in nutrition. When it comes to grains, he says, there are four things to consider:

1. The fiber content of grains (more is better)

2. The impact on blood sugar (the lower the better)

3. The whole-grain content (the more whole or intact the better)

4. The structure of grains (the less pulverized into fine flour or liquefied the better). 

I’ve found, though, that there’s a simple way to summarize all of these factors: As much as possible, the grains we eat should look pretty much the way they do when they come off the plant. 

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Did you like the photo with this article? It was taken on a backcountry ski adventure with my young son.

#328 Is AFib Caused by Premature Aging? 6 Ways to Reverse Aging

January 30th, 2022 by

Does Atrial Fibrillation Have to Get Worse with Age?

AFib is a heart condition that, for many people, is little more than another inevitable consequence of aging, many doctors still tell their patients that there is nothing they could have done about it—and that there’s not much they can do now but make it “less bad.” They prescribe some drugs, or order up a procedure, and that is that. While AFib may be a warning sign that you are aging too fast, does atrial fibrillation have to get worse with age? And, is it possible to reverse aging to stop AFib?

Mary’s Experience with AFib

Mary had been a picture of health for most of her life. She had followed a mostly plant-based diet free of fried, processed, and fast foods. She didn’t eat sugar. She’d never been overweight. She did aerobics every day at the gym and attended a yoga class three times a week. She practiced deep-breathing exercises whenever stress levels were getting too high. She slept well at night. She even volunteered as a crosswalk guard at the elementary school across the street from her house.

And since no one in her family had ever been diagnosed with AFib, she was more than a little irritated when her doctor told her she had that arrhythmia. But here’s the thing: Mary was 94 years old. And the truth is that even if your genes are perfect and you do just about everything right, you can still get AFib as a result of age. Because just as your skin will wrinkle over the years, the simple act of living life will put some wear and tear on your heart cells over time.

But there’s a big difference between being 94 and 54—between AFib that results from natural aging and AFib that comes about due to premature aging. Most of the AFib cases we see are due to the latter kind of aging. And while there is nothing we can do to stop how many candles are on our birthday cakes—that’s chronological age—there is plenty we can do to slow the process of biological aging.

Stop Age Related Fibrosis of Your Heart

Fibrosis is a fancy term for scar tissue, which is made up of dead heart cells. If there is no fibrosis in your atria then a premature atrial contraction (PAC) spark from the pulmonary veins probably won’t trigger an AFib episode.

However, the more fibrosis you develop, the more likely it is that one randomly occurring premature beat from the pulmonary veins, or elsewhere in the atria, is all that is needed for a full-blown AFib attack, and a resulting visit to the emergency room. That’s why, if your goal is to stop AFib from getting worse, you absolutely have to stop the ongoing process of age related scarring or fibrosis. And if your goal is to make things better, you have to stop age related fibrosis of your heart.

What causes heart scarring (fibrosis)?

Before you can fight fibrosis, though, you’ve got to understand what it is. Fibrosis occurs naturally with aging—particularly after the age of 60. But natural scarring usually isn’t enough to sustain an AFib episode from a pulmonary vein- initiated premature contraction.

Excessive fibrosis, on the other hand, may disrupt how normal heart cells, called cardiomyocytes, look and move, just like how the kind of scarring we’re most familiar with—called dermal fibrosis—can make our scarred skin look and move differently than the rest of our skin. When we remember that every part of our heart is in constant movement, and all of those parts have been designed to work in harmony with the others, it becomes clear how this can become problematic.

Imagine, for instance, what would happen if you were to replace a valve in your home plumbing with one that was ever-so-slightly different in shape, or which moved a little differently than the valve that came before. Everything downstream of that valve would be impacted, right? The same thing is happening in the hearts of people with atrial fibrillation when cardiomyocytes are transformed from their ever-supple natural state to the tough and inflexible nature of scar tissue. Because in heart tissue, fibrosis causes another problem; it changes the ways in which electrical impulses move through our hearts.

Is AFib caused by premature aging?

The risk of AFib increases with age or premature aging, as we showed in our telomere study of AFib patients from my former hospital. But there’s an important difference between age and aging; the first term can be marked in months and years while the second term can only be seen in our biology. And, in fact, you may be wearing down everything, right down to your chromosomes. For example, our study of more than 3,500 patients demonstrated that people with atrial fibrillation tend to have shorter telomeres—the deterioration-protective caps at the ends of each chromosome—which is a sign of premature aging. So, if you have been diagnosed with AFib, it’s not just your heart that is at risk; your whole body may be aging faster.

6 Scientifically Proven Ways to Reverse Aging

As the work from my former hospital clearly showed that aging and premature aging may be a significant cause of AFib, can this aging process be stopped? While we’ll never be able to completely stop the aging process, we can slow aging to a crawl so that the AFib can be stopped. Below are the 6 best scientifically proven ways to “reverse” aging (click on each to see the study).

1. Optimize Stress Levels to Become 10 Years Younger
2. Faithfully Exercise To Take 10 Years of Your Telomeres
3. Optimize Your Diet to Reverse Telomere Aging By 5 Years
4. Maintain an Ideal Weight To Lengthen Telomeres By 9 Years
5. Sleep At Least 7 Hours To Reverse Telomere Old Age
6. Avoid Loneliness for Optimal Telomere Health

Did you like the photo attached to this article? I took this picture on a recent run with my teenage daughter. It was taken with an iPhone using the night photo feature on a full moon as we were running on a ski trail in Park City, Utah. You can see the lights of Park City below.

If you are looking for drug-free options to treat atrial fibrillation and would like to be treated in our AFib Clinic, please give my team a call at 801-266-3418 for an in-person consultation (sorry–telemedicine visits outside of Utah are not possible).

#327 Does Stress Cause Atrial Fibrillation?

January 8th, 2022 by

Does Stress Cause Atrial Fibrillation?

How dangerous is stress for people suffering from atrial fibrillation? Will keeping stress levels in check help with your AFib? In this article, I’ll do my best to answer the question, does stress cause atrial fibrillation.

Evangelina’s Experience with Stress and AFib

Evangelina was 57 years old when she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. It had been two years since her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack and, while she missed him desperately, life was finally starting to feel as though it was getting to a state of normalcy again. At the time, Evangelina had been working for nearly 20 years as a manager at a grocery store that had recently been taken over by a new corporate owner. With one child in college and another about to start, she was hopeful the new owner might be able to give her a raise—but that didn’t happen.

Evangelina began driving for Uber at nights and on the weekends to make some extra money. “I actually enjoyed getting to meet so many new people all the time,” she said, “but the traffic gets worse every day, and there is construction everywhere, and even though people are very nice, they’re also very concerned about getting where they need to be as fast as possible.”

Meanwhile, her youngest child had just started middle school and, like many children in that part of life, he was having a rough time navigating the complexities of social groups and avoiding bullies. His anxiety about school got so bad that, for a few weeks, he refused to go at all, and it took an all-hands-on-deck meeting involving Evangelina, the school counselor, the principal, and a private therapist to create the conditions that made the boy feel comfortable going back to school again. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, Evangelina had recently been told by her regular doctor that she was prediabetic and had hypertension.

“I guess it goes without saying that things were really stressful for me at that time,” Evangelina said. When Evangelina experienced her first episode of AFib, she panicked, thinking she was having a heart attack, just like her husband. Her thoughts immediately turned to her three children. When she learned at the hospital that what she actually had experienced was an arrhythmia, it came as a relief, at least at first. “Pretty soon, though, AFib just felt like one more stress in my life,” she said. But this wasn’t just another stressor. It was a stressor that was likely caused, at least in part, by the other stressors in her life—a real “double whammy.”

Are women more likely to have stress trigger an AFib attack?

Psychological stress has long been thought to be a possible trigger of atrial fibrillation and the association appears to be especially strong among women. But men aren’t immune. Neither are cardiologists—who it can be said to have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. That’s what Dr. Damien Legallois learned when he was just 28 years old.

Dr. Legallois’ Experience with Stress and AFib

“I was on call when a cardiac arrest call came from our cardiac intensive care unit, pulling me from my sleep,” he wrote of his experience in a letter to the International Journal of Cardiology. “It was a false alert and I went back to bed when I noticed some palpitations. My pulse was rapid and seemed irregular.” An electrocardiogram of Legallois’ heart showed atrial fibrillation with a ventricular rate of more than 180 beats per minute. And Legallois isn’t alone.

We have treated countless doctors over the years with AFib as well as innumerable CEOs, lawyers, accountants, politicians, athletes, celebrities and others who have come to see us for atrial fibrillation treatment due in large part to the enormous stresses they are under. If a stressful incident can push a young cardiologist with no history of heart problems—or any major medical issues for that matter—into atrial fibrillation, imagine what it can do to someone like Evangelina, who was already facing some health challenges and many other life stressors.

What do studies say about stress and AFib?

What kinds of challenges can create stress that triggers AFib?

1. A research group in Denmark concluded that the severely stressful experience of losing a partner increased the risk of atrial fibrillation for an entire year.

2. Another international group of researchers found that divorced men had a higher incidence of death associated with atrial fibrillation. And a group from Sweden revealed a potential dose-response relationship between work-related stress, like getting fired from a job, and atrial fibrillation. In fact, the Swedish researchers found, just the experience of having a job with high psychological demands and with little control over your work situation could increase your AFib risk by 50 percent.

3. When Yale University researcher and electrophysiologist Dr. Rachel Lampert correlated the way her patients were feeling emotionally to see if she could predict whether or not they would go into AFib that day, the results were absolutely startling. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2014, she noted that feelings of sadness, anger, stress, impatience, and anxiety increase the risk of an AFib attack up to 500 percent in the same day. Happiness, meanwhile, appears to be protective. If you are feeling happy you are 85 percent less likely to have your heart go out of rhythm today, according to Lampert’s research.

Physical Stress also Triggers AFib

But emotional stress isn’t the only thing that can send your body into a state of chaos. Researchers have connected AFib episodes to physical stressors caused by events like surgery, bad infections, and car crashes. In the case of irregular, singular events like those, there is a chance that after the stressor has passed, the AFib will go away. More likely, though, this is a harbinger of things to come. Our hearts are remarkably resilient, but if an incident of great stress pushed you into AFib, something else has likely been pushing you toward that precipice a long time before that incident occurred.

How I Manage Wintertime Stress

We all need a way to decompress from stress, especially those suffering from AFib. And this photo shows my favorite way to keep stress levels down. Every weekend in the winter our family goes skiing. No matter how stressful the workweek gets, I know there is always a mountain waiting for me just 30 minutes from our house in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I took this photo is from the 9990 chairlift at the Park City Mountain Resort this past week. The skiing has been amazing this year with recent snow levels well above average. If you’re planning a trip to Utah this year, and you suffer from AFib, come see me at St. Mark’s Hospital! Call my team at 801-266-3418 when you schedule your trip!

#326 How To Lose 100 Pounds

January 1st, 2022 by

How to lose 100 pounds

Have you ever wondered what happens to the “biggest losers” on reality TV shows? When the cameras stop rolling, do their incredible transformations stick? Not usually.

Researchers have found, in fact, that these contestants’ crash diets send their metabolism into a tailspin, making long-term weight maintenance nearly impossible. In most cases, the weight comes right back and, even six years later, their metabolism is slower than it was before they started filming.

This is what scientists call “metabolic adaptation” and is something you definitely want to avoid. That’s why, no matter how much weight you have to lose, and especially if it’s a lot, you need to take drastic actions that won’t crash your metabolism but will result in long-term sustainable loss, even if that loss amounts to just one pound a month.

In my case, I had 30 pounds to lose to get down to a healthy weight. Ten years later, I have still maintained this weight loss but it hasn’t been without effort. Every day, without ever a miss, I faithfully follow the 4-steps below.

You can do this as well by taking four big-but-doable actions—steps that will re-engineer your environment to make it far more conducive to weight loss. So, here is how to lose 100 pounds in 4-simple steps.

1. Eliminate All Temptations

First, you need to clean the cupboards and the refrigerator. Throw out the sugar and anything with added sugar. Then throw out the flour and anything made with flour. Finally, throw out anything that is processed—that’s basically anything in a can, box or bag that doesn’t still look like the ingredients from which it came. If it’s made by a company, rather than grown by a farmer, it needs to go—even if it “seems” healthy.

Like the famed organizing consultant Marie Kondo going through a cluttered home, you need to go through your kitchen with ruthlessness. As Kondo does to sentimental items, you may choose to thank those foods for their service or, if it pleases you, curse them instead. Either way, these foods need to be gone from your home. Once that is done, it’s off to the store to shop for veggies, fruits, intact whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds. Your cupboards and refrigerator should now look like a miniature farmer’s market, stocked not with cans, boxes and frozen meals, but with single ingredients that can be eaten separately or mixed together for meals.

Maintaining a healthy weight loss is effortless if you can eliminate all temptations. But, depending on your family situation, this may not be possible. As I have 3 teenagers and a 5-year old, junk food always seems to enter our house. While I encourage the children to keep their junk food out of my sight, this rarely happens. Thus, maintaining my 30-pound weight loss becomes much more challenging as I have to battle temptations daily and rely heavily on steps 2 through 4 below.

The important thing here is to take action and eliminate temptations. In the process of eliminating temptations, you are banking willpower. You are creating a system in which you don’t have to go to war with yourself in your own home. Now, junk food binge eating is a lot harder. To do that, you’d have to leave your home—giving you precious time to let cooler heads prevail.

2. Eat As Many Non-Starchy Vegetables As You Can

Second, now that your kitchen is stocked with healthy foods, it’s time to eat. You can eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you want, as much as you possibly can. It’s almost impossible to eat too many vegetables. Whenever a vegetable runs out, replace it as soon as you can; in your home, eating something healthy should always be easier than eating something unhealthy.

Personally, I shoot for at least 10 servings of vegetables daily. And every day I fill up on at least one massive salad, one massive serving of broccoli, and one massive serving of cauliflower to go along with my other food choices for the day. If I can pack my stomach full of vegetables then it helps me from getting hungry and making poor food choices.

3. Track Your Food and Weight Daily

Third, you need to start tracking your food and weight and face some consequences for bad decisions. There are more things you’ll need to learn to track in the future—but these two things are vitally important. If you aren’t keeping track, you won’t make progress.

Since losing 30 pounds 10 years ago, on three separate occasions I thought I was strong enough to stop recording every bite of food I take every day. And on each of these three occasions, I quickly gained 10+ pounds within a month.

I learned the hard way that no tracking means no awareness. And this is why it’s also important to be accountable to someone, like a trainer or an accountability partner, or something, like an app. In my case, I use the free version of the Lose It app on my iPhone to record every late bite of food I take.

Tracking, or accountability to someone or something, is the “face the consequences” part of this program. For me, I’ll do almost anything to prevent a daily “bad score” on my Lose It app. For others, you may not want to let down your trainer or accountability partner.

There’s no reason for self-flagellation, but putting something on the line can offer a huge boost in willpower. An AFib patient named Heather, for instance, gave her trainer a crisp Benjamin Franklin and instructions to donate it to the election campaign of a politician she abhorred if she failed to make her goals twice in a row. One year down the road, the trainer put the $100 in a card and told Heather to buy herself something nice.

4. Exercise 1 Hour Every Day

Fourth, exercise. An hour a day. And this recommendation for an hour a day is based on research from the National Weight Control Registry. An hour of daily exercise helps to keep your metabolism running at a high level.

It seems that when I encourage my patients to work toward an hour daily of exercise, I usually get at least three excuses as to why they can’t exercise. Everyone can do something. Even my patients who are wheelchair-bound can still do daily arm exercises.

Remember, this is the step that helps you keep weight off. You cannot expect to see changes to your weight from exercise if you’re not also making changes to your diet. And yes, an hour each day is a big commitment—one that can be especially difficult for people who are taking drugs that sap them of their strength or for whom exercise is an AFib trigger. But it’s also a commitment that will help save your life. And it is for this reason that I never miss a daily workout.

If you already have a heart condition and would like to see one of the great cardiologists I work with every day, please call my team at 801-266-3418. My personal practice is 100% limited to patients suffering from documented arrhythmias. Sadly, telemedicine visits outside of the state of Utah are no longer possible due to government regulations following COVID. Also, if you liked the photo attached to this article, it is a painting my son created.