Tag Archives: medicine

January Was Not A Fun Month!

I had  to deal with two illnesses in January, first a severe sinus infection and then a case of near-pneumonia.  (I’m convinced the one led to the other.)  All in all it was not a very fun month for me.  I was out of commission for a total of 19 days.  Needless to say, I wasn’t working out a lot during that period.  In fact, “not at all” is an apt description.

Adding insult to injury, I was on a fairly high dose of Prednisone for a while.   Prednisone belongs to a class of drugs known as corticosteroids. It decreases your immune system’s response to various diseases to reduce symptoms such as inflammation, swelling and allergic-type reactions.  One of the things about this drug is that you can’t just stop taking it, at least, not without unpleasant consequences.  Another is that it supercharges your appetite.

So, between being inactive and hungry all the time, I put on 11 pounds while I was sick.  Fortunately, I’m nearly done tapering off the Prednisone, and tonight I start my workouts again in earnest.  I hope the weight comes off as easily as it went on, but I’m not counting on it.  Tally ho!

Qsymia: Miracle Drug or Enabling Mechanism?

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new diet pill on the market. Qsymia, made by Vivus Inc., recently received approval from the FDA. It’s a combination of two existing drugs: phentermine, an appetite-suppressing stimulant used for short-term weight loss, and topiramate, an anti-seizure medication that makes people feel fuller after eating. For the minority of people with genuine medical issues that lead to obesity, this is probably a good thing.

For the vast majority of people who are obese because of poor eating habits and lack of exercise, it looks to me like another excuse to avoid changing their habits. While the company president states that Qsymia is not intended for people who want to “…lose a few pounds…” there is nothing to stop doctors from prescribing it to anyone. Then are side effects to consider, including cardiac stress and fetal cleft palate syndrome.

The last thing this country needs is another enabling mechanism when obesity rates are at an all time high.

Am I biased? Absolutely and unapologetically, yes!

Unexpected Setbacks

Well, really is there any other kind of setback? If we knew beforehand, we’d be able to plan around potential setbacks. A recent, first time gout attack set me back for about three weeks in my workouts. I went to bed on a Sunday feeling fine and woke up Monday morning with excruciating pain in my right big toe. It was about double its normal size and as red as a ripe tomato. To say that this took me by surprise is a bit of an understatement!

I was about 2/3 of the way through a round of P90X when it hit. The problem, aside from the pain, was that so many of the moves rely upon balance. Try balancing without putting weight on one your big toes, and you will see the challenge I faced. Some moves were more difficult than others since they were predicated upon raising or landing on the toes. Even simple moves like pushups became problematic.

So I adapted. I did my pushups on my knees. I concentrated on landing and balancing on the ball of my foot. These helped, but several of the days before I sought treatment were washouts-no workout at all. (Yes, my manly man-plan of ignoring the problem did not work.) With the help of tart cherry juice and super anti-inflammatory medication, my toe is pretty much back to normal now. So are my workouts, which is a tremendous relief to me since I really missed them.

My point is that unexpected setbacks are bound to occur now and then. We can just accept them, or we can work past them. The choice and the consequences are ours.

Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead. Les Brown

It’s all about how we handle adversity.

Profit Trumps Safety and Common Sense

The Associated Press recently reported that a Food and Drug Administration review panel has recommended approval for Qnexa, a weight loss pill which FDA previously rejected for safety concerns.  So what has changed?  Americans have gotten fatter as a group, and big pharma ain’t going to make any money off healthy people!

A recent article in the Bangor (Maine) Daily News states: “Experts agree new weight loss drugs are needed to treat an estimated 75 million obese adults in the U.S.”  Really?  What experts?  My bet would be that these so-called experts are representatives of the pharmaceutical industry.

Actual health experts such as personal trainers, nutritionists, and the like would recommend something entirely different and totally unprofitable to the pharmaceutical industry:  good eating habits and regular exercise!  True, this requires commitment and the ability to put aside instant gratification, but the side effects are much less nightmarish:  For example:

  • Side effects of diet pills: raised heart rate and palpitations, heart valve damage, heart attack and stroke, birth defects, impaired lung function, depression, suicidal thoughts, extreme flatulence, and/or chronic diarrhea.
  • Side effects of good nutrition and regular exercise: reduced cholesterol, lowered blood pressure, fewer medications, smaller waist, increased compliments, improved health, sense of well-being, and pants that won’t stay up by themselves any more.

Can you guess which path I would prefer?

Two hands holding a pile of pills and capsules.

Easier than eating right and exercising, but not remotely better.

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Preventable?

My stepfather has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease.  I know I can’t inherit it from him, but I have become much more aware the past few years.    Before he came down with it, Alzheimer’s was something that happened to other people, but not to anyone I knew.  It wasn’t really something that I thought about a great deal.   Bill Cosby said that old age is always 15 years away, but I don’t intend to wait that long to take action.  Having it strike so close to home and seeing the effect it has had on him and my mother, I’m determined to take what steps I can to reduce my chances of getting it as I age.

From what I have read, diet can play a significant role in Alzheimer’s.  First, I’m going to eat more fish-not exactly a hardship for me!  Our brains are about 70 percent fat so the kinds of fats we eat do have an impact on our brain health.  Fish is well known as a great source of omega-3 fats.  People who consume high levels of these anti-inflammatory fatty acids have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, protects brain neurons against the toxic events associated with amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which accumulate from Alzheimer’s disease.

Next, I’m making sure to get a lot more antioxidants in my diet.  Eating fruits and vegetables with high antioxidant levels will lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by protecting the brains from oxidative (think, “corrosive”) free radicals that cause wear and tear on the DNA in our cells. Most colorful red and blue berries, like strawberries, blackberries and blueberries contain polyphenols that fight free radicals. Other antioxidant foods containing polyphenols include grapes, pears, plums and cherries, as well as vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, celery, onions and parsley.  The easiest way for me to take in antioxidants is to continue to have Shakeology for breakfast each day, as well as eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Between these two factors, along with exercising regularly to reduce the potential for plaque building up in my arteries, I hope to reduce (if not eliminate) the potential of contracting Alzheimer’s Disease.  By staying fit, my serum cholesterol level will be good, and I won’t need to resume taking statins to reduce it.  This is important because there are some medical professionals who are persuaded that statins interfere with the glial cells of the brain, leading to Alzheimer’s.   In fairness, there are conflicting opinions on this issue.  However, I prefer to take a conservative stand.  Besides, eating well and exercising have many benefits beyond those I’ve mentioned, so why not pursue diet and fitness on general terms?