Posts Tagged my background

I Am Not As Healthy As I Thought

I went to my first naturopath this month. I want to encourage you to consider going too, even though Wikipedia is very skeptical of the benefits.

My father was a chiropractor who was only sick four times in most of his adult life. In those long-ago days, when I was growing up at home, he and his colleagues were called quacks, ridiculed by most medical doctors, and even regarded as fakes. But I often heard at dinner how he was healing people who had come to him as a last resort after nothing else worked. So I have always been open to alternative health practices, including acupuncture and Asian healing methods.

Dad told me that “you are what you eat.” And he taught me to take vitamins every day, avoid excessive alcohol, drugs and cigarettes (although he drank and smoked himself). He also encouraged me to exercise and set a good example here, as he would walk on the golf course, rather than rent an electric cart. By following that advice and being gifted with great genes (parents died at 88 and 94), I have arrived at 75 with good health and the ability to play tennis three or four times a week, while many of my classmates are either dead, using walkers and canes, seeing doctors frequently, recuperating from surgeries and procedures.

So imagine my shock to discover that I have minor problems I never knew about until today. Just heard them after the most thorough analysis of my blood ever. Way beyond what I learn from my annual physical. EVERYONE SHOULD DO THIS!

For example, my lead and mercury levels are so HIGH (95th percentile) that I MUST give up tuna and swordfish for at least a year. Those top of the food chain predator fish are full of the stuff. Drat. I just had delicious tuna sushi last week. Who knew that it was my final morsel. And next I will have my well water tested for lead. Flint, Michigan seemed so far far away…

In spite of taking vitamin B-complex, my B-12 levels are so low that he gave me the first of three injections and then supplements to follow. I should be in the upper areas of a 200-1100 range: but I am only at 283. This huge deficiency might affect memory, balance, energy and make my nervous system so “restless” (rather than calm), that it shakes.

My kidneys need more water, and just like one tennis coach warned me, kidneys are hurt by too much Motrin, which I have been taking for months every time I play tennis to mask the discomfort from my tennis elbow. Now I should only take Motrin AFTER I play if it hurts…not before.

My magnesium level was only 4.5, instead of closer to 6.4. My thyroid is low, which can cause reduced cognition, sluggishness and digestive tract problems.

My Vitamin D level was only 33, instead of 45-plus, which is better for cardiovascular functions and reduced cancer risk. My selenium was also low, only 175, instead of closer to 350.

Now there was lots of good, even great news: no scarring of my liver after the hepatitis and jaundice I contracted in Korea, when I was 22. No Lyme disease, even though I had that in the last 20 years as well. No anti-immune problems, no lupus.

My cholesterol at 172 is ideal (thanks partly to the statin I started seven months ago, and I will begin taking a supplement to eliminate the tightness in my calves and back that is a common side-effect from the statin). I should be eating more plant oils, avocado, coconut, fish oil, shrimp, sardines with oil. These will all stabilize my nervous system.

So a new phase begins. It’s almost a decade since my annual blood test disclosed that my cholesterol at 239 was just touching heart attack range. I had to learn all about cholesterol and what foods cause the high levels. I gave up frequent–sometimes daily–pleasures, like butter and cheeses and ice cream and tasty, crispy, flavored chicken skin. I have survived well. Now it’s time to make some more changes. All a process.

But the results can be worth it…at least they are to me. Now if I can only improve my serve…

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851 Days Of Exercise But No Burpees Yet

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Just did some barbell bent over rows on my 851st day in a row of some kind of exercise…not counting the 2-10 hours of tennis each week. A satisfying disciplinary achievement.

Also read about the benefits of HIIT: high intensity interval training. I was out of breath just yesterday doing some painful push ups—I really resist doing them. Here are some excerpts from this article , which suggests burpees as the best exercise to do.

I don’t do them, but I should start. Here are two burpee videos. The first shows a modified burpee that is less stressful on your back. The second one is amateurish, kind of sexist, but I included it because it was shot at Flamingo Park in Miami Beach, where I played as a kid, won tennis trophies at ages 11 and 12, and was just at the exact spot in the video, before competing on the tennis court last November at my high school reunion. So it’s pretty nostalgic for me.

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The secret to shedding fat fast is exercise intensity, study after study has found, including a recent one from the American Journal of Health Promotion.

In the study, investigators tracked 4,511 adults ages 18 to 64, assigning participants to four workout groups: high-intensity long bouts, high-intensity short bouts, low-intensity long bouts and low-intensity short bouts.

Both groups of high-intensity workouts lowered their body mass indexes, which lowers risk of being overweight or obese. Neither of the low-intensity workout groups showed the same benefits.

Additionally, each extra minute of high-intensity physical activity was linked to a decreased obesity risk of five percent for women and two percent for men.

This means that even if you’re short on time, you can still get a great workout — that may even help maintain your health over your lifetime.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the way to lose body fat, build lean muscle and increase your metabolism.

“HIIT is an all-out effort followed by a short period of rest,” he explained. “It should leave you out of breath and breathless, not like a slow, steady session of cardio.”

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731 Days Of Continuous Exercise

On November 12th, 2011, I started a daily exercise program to see if I could be disciplined enough to stick with it. Just 5-15 minutes of push ups, abs crunches, weights, rowing, anything. EVERY DAY. No matter where I was in the world, no matter how many hours of travel, tennis, business, family. I was not able to exercise often before that time. Now I do it religiously. And as Jerry Seinfeld says, “Don’t break the chain.” Here is what I wrote a year ago.

I still can’t grasp that I do it. Two long years. It has wrecked my dinner-eating schedule, because I often procrastinate doing the daily drill for hours, and don’t want to eat until AFTER I exercise. But I am still willing to pay this price. It is often inconvenient and tiring and a real effort. But I am still sticking to this routine. It is not easy. Other people swim every day, or go to the gym four times a week, or run consistently. However I have no interest or discipline in those sports. I play tennis enthusiastically 2-4 times a week and also do my brief little daily workout. It keeps me toned. No muscles. But satisfied. You just have to find what works for you. And I have been very fortunate to have found something at all.

Some friends and family members have also started counting how long they could stick to an exercise routine. One was up to 50+ days. I don’t ask if that has continued…don’t want to make someone feel badly if they stopped. What’s most interesting is how annoyed people are that I do the drill every day. Maybe they are jealous, envious, pissed that they can’t do it. But I ignore their displeasure. I keep on slugging it out.

You ready to start doing anything? Doesn’t have to be every day…just do some exercise every week…

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How Often Do You Dance?

my dad's dance friends had women dressed like this, but not in competitions

my dad’s dance friends had women dressed like this, but not in competitions

I read an article titled Why Don’t We Dance Anymore? When is the last time you danced in public or a party?

When I was a teenager in high school in Miami Beach, and other kids were watching American Bandstand and dancing to that music after school, I had to work after school and on weekends. So for years I was a cabana boy at the hotels serving the tourists. I picked up towels and cigarette butts and straightened out the lounges people lay on. I did errands. I also ogled the young teenage girls, and after work, would head very often to the Teen Room, where a grown-up played records we could dance to and make sure we acted properly.

Chaperones aside, I met lots of girls and taught them how to watch “submarine races” from the beach. And I did lots of dancing. I had the moves. I could really do fancy cha cha cha steps, the lindy, the twist. You had to stand out to impress the girls, and I was highly motivated. Plus it was good exercise (hahahaha!!!).

dancing is fun for all ages

dancing is fun for all ages

There was lots of dancing at frat parties in college and also after graduation. Every party had music of course. But with aging came less dancing…and less and less. There was that Studio 54 period, but I was already married and raising kids. When I separated and eventually divorced, I studied modern jazz at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center studios. I loved to shake to the music. And it was always helpful for a single guy trying to connect with single women…although most of them weren’t too talented. Some were put off by my unconventional moves. Others were perceptive enough to ask me if I were a professional dancer!

As the decades flew by, my peers danced less and less. A couple took tango lessons and went to Argentina with their instructor and classmates. But most sort of made a few easy steps at weddings and reunions. I remember a friend’s 60th birthday party, when we did line dancing and really went crazy with vigorous music. But for the most part, dinner parties with background music had become the norm. I missed those vibrant rhythms.

I remember so well working up great sweats jumping around, shouting and showing what I got. I remember great fun bringing out my old gestures and patterns. I thought I was cool. I remember trying to imitate new moves that I observed. But as an older guy, dancing is a relatively rare pleasure. It’s always with my wife, who is also a good dancer. In my circles, dancing with another women “just ain’t done.” It’s rarely so vigorous that we end up sweaty. And I’m not as nimble as I used to be. So I do it with wistful memories of former times.

My daughter says she and her friends still dance at parties and clubs. Maybe it’s an activity that most people relegate to their youth.

My father didn’t. He loved to dance and did it his whole life, even into his 80’s. He struggled with my mother their entire time together–he wanted to be first on the floor, before it became crowded…she wanted to be the last on the floor, so no one could see her limited abilities…But dad could do all the dances: the Latin variations, like samba, mambo, cha cha cha, salsa…fox trot, ball room dancing, square dancing…he was even a caller and they wore western costumes and went to other cities to dance with regional enthusiasts. My poor mother suffered.

After dad and mom divorced, he danced at a community center every week, and that’s where he met his next wife of maybe 30 years. They danced at contests, hotel bars on Miami Beach, and at fancy ballrooms. One visit to Florida, I joined him (in his mid-80’s) and my step mom on an evening of dance. He limped by then from a car accident, yet he twirled two women at a time. There was a man in a red suit gliding by, and the women were in all kinds of formal or show businessey gowns. It was hysterical. It was elegant. It was magnificent. And it was a “family” of like-minded dancers, of all ages, and backgrounds. Maybe I could find such a gathering in the rural area where I live.

Dad and his breed aside, most of us seem to do it rarely. Too bad. It was/is great fun. A month ago at a friend’s daughter’s wedding, my wife and I hit the very crowded, portable floor under a tent in a horse pasture and tried not to collide with the bride and groom and their boisterous and very energetic friends. They really let loose. There were even some old people who were flapping their wings and stomping quite admirably. Kind of reminds me what I heard about the great cellist Pablo Casals in his final years (he lived to 96): he was arthritic and could barely move…but when a bow was placed in his hands, he came alive and played his cello like he was decades younger.

One high school reunion, maybe the 40th, there was an Elvis impersonator hired to sing the oldies from our 50’s years (we graduated in 1958). I came in late to the hotel dance room, and there were my classmates, now rotund, gray, wrinkled, dancing like kids. They were teenagers again. Some guests of the hotel were watching from the back and laughing at these old people dancing out of character. They were appalled at the sight and shocked at the spectacle. Grey hairs acting like children…instead of the sedate walking dead acting their age. I should have told them about Casals. I should have told them to never act your age, if you don’t want to. But I didn’t. I knew better. And I loved seeing the class’s best dancers still being the best dancers…

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Sacrifices For Shoveling

just 2 1/2 days back from Florida heat—10/30/11

lift, toss, don't overdo it

The other day I came back from Florida and watched 18-20 inches of snow crash down in a few hours. A freak storm. The historical record here for October is just 1.7 inches! We lost power for five days. Some people lost it for over a week. Even though I have a generator for part of each day, it’s still a more primitive existence.

Afraid that one of our flat roofs might buckle from the weight, I started shoveling off the heavy, wet snow.

Perhaps every time there is a big snow storm, some one over exerts and has a heart attack. Sometimes they die. Too out of shape, too fat, too macho to take it easy or pay a younger, fitter man to do the job. I thought of how with all this snow, I might be that idiot who drops dead. But I also thought that it was unlikely. I am fit, thin, do cardio on the tennis court. The odds were with me. Though I tired, I kept tossing the increasingly heavy shovels full of snow.

As I made progress clearing the roof, working my way through the tedium, relishing my abilities to heave the weight, I thought of all that I had given up over the years to be able to accomplish this task:

I have not enjoyed thousands of memorable and tasty meals with butter and cream sauce.
I have missed out on a million fabulous desserts with whipped cream, syrups, and icings.
I have passed on years of delicious alcohol drinks, like the sambuca and coffee beans that I was given at the hotel in Florida, and I was sipping every night.
I have pushed myself to exercise, when I didn’t want to.

You pay a price for everything, life is always a compromise, and I guess I made the right decision for me, no matter how much liquor and liqueurs I have not savored over the years…Is it really worth it? To have lived such a deprived life? Not totally, of course. I weaken now and then. There is no Big Brother ready to jail me or chain me when have an occasional pie a la mode. But I am constantly denying myself gustatory pleasures. Almost every day, I say no to some taste treat or spend time on a couch, rather than do push ups. And what’s the benefit? To be able to shovel snow? To not die from that effort?

We all make our choices, pick our paths. Some go to the gym and make muscles. I look in the mirror and wish I had the discipline to do that. Could I if I had to? Of course. But I don’t want to badly enough. I guess I was born to shovel snow sometimes. And think about anything but the boring chore of throwing frozen water drops off the roof…yet somehow, I am proud of this silly achievement.

Two great comments from Michael:

2011/11/14 at 10:41 AM

If you had been the village idiot, the rescue people would have had to go up on your slippery roof to get you down…further reducing your chances of getting to a careplex or decent cardiac unit on snowy, icy roads out in the middle of hooterville where you choose to reside. Perhaps after getting their shoes covered in snow, they would have slipped going down the three flights of stairs with you on a backboard or gurney, and dropped you over the railing…OMG, now look at the paperwork we will have to fill out. Or, in the words of my nephew, tripped over that little white ball of fur (sic…useless white dog) that was barking and biting at their heels encouraging them to hurry up and get the alpha dog out of the house so it could be in charge again.

I think we know (and I have proven) that being fit is no guarantee you will conquer the white stuff building up on your roof. While I have made a few less culinary sacrifices than you, I have for years made more fitness sacrifices. Hours lifting and toning in the gym, triathlons, kayaking, hundreds of abs each week, hiking, walking, spinning, aerobics, etc.

So I don’t worry about a little butter in my food…I never have eaten cream sauce [mom gave us margarine and corn oil, worse than butter by far…who knew].

I don’t eat many desserts, just the occasional piece of pie (once a quarter maybe), and perhaps some ice cream every couple of weeks. {Don’t you dare bring up the first cheesecake I made in almost 30 years, yes I know I ate most of it, how was I to know that no one else in the family liked cheesecake, I couldn’t let it go to waste. It took me two weeks to get through it after all.}

My cardiologist says one or two alcoholic drinks helps clean out my arteries but I choose vodka not a sweet syrupy concoction like sambuca (yes I know my liver is paying a price, but we are discussing heart attacks here. What do you mean how often do I have those one or two drinks?…next question!)

I have not been a big beef or pork eater since the mid 80s when our military served my chow, at least I hope it was beef and pork…(now maybe once a month for each), limiting myself to reasonable portions of chicken, fish or other seafood (shrimp, oysters and scallops on occasion…can’t remember the last lobster…sigh!!)

Lastly, most importantly I believe little or no fried foods, no trans fats at home, fresh vegetables and salads at every meal (no, not breakfast, I don’t eat breakfast except on the weekends, so put your egg yoke back in your repertoire and save it for someone else please). I have never had a rise in cholesterol after eating eggs for breakfast the weekend before. Did I mention I can’t remember my last lobster, I think it was responsible for about a 30 point gain one year…sigh!

So in spite of this reasonably healthy lifestyle (exceedingly healthy compared to most of the world, and certainly most Americans) I wind up with an aortic valve replacement and a double bypass at 55. Would I give up shrimp scampi if someone guaranteed me that I would not have needed to have my chest cut open…certainly. But there are no guarantees like that.

Do what you can, find your balance, check your levels annually and make some choices. If you wind up in ICU with a breathing tube and a whole lot of pain killers in you, you will still not know if it was bad choices or bad genes, all you can do is mitigate the chances of getting there.

Great pictures of you shoveling, a much higher chance that you would end up with a pulled back from twisting than a heart attack anyway. Still would have required a paramedic to get you off the roof on a backboard…I’ll stick with my two egg yokes and hire a 20 something to shovel my roof..like the man said it’s all about the choices.

Michael

2011/11/14 at 10:43 AM

Oh and by the way, the cheesecake was post surgery while I was recovering at home. If I survived open heart surgery, I ought to be able to make it through a piece of cheesecake!

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Managing Your Food…If You Can

I have learned that as undisciplined as I am when it comes to exercising, I am very disciplined compared to others when it comes to eating. My father always said that “You are what you eat.” My wife calls me the “food police.” Since high school when I weighed 170, I have reached 185 pounds and dropped to 163 or so. But that drop was during a brief period when I jogged for a couple of months on a dare to run in a seven-mile road race.

It took me years to realize that when my clothes became tight, it was NOT because they were shrinking in the wash—I was gaining fat. So I would then give up the desserts I love and bread and muffins and lose the weight. I was that disciplined. Once the pounds were gone, I was back to ice cream every night, and sometimes three desserts a day between Thanksgiving and New Years. Predictably I regained 10 pounds each December…that I would then lose over the next few months.

About two years ago, my cholesterol rocketed up to 239, which is almost heart attack range I read—so I instantly changed my diet and my life. I began exercising daily on a rowing machine that had been gathering dust, gave up ice cream, chicken skin, sea urchin and many other high cholesterol foods. Within three months I was down to a cholesterol number of 178. Amazed everyone. I stopped the rowing. Now the number is 204. Not bad. Much safer.

But I asked my doctor at this year’s physical why people who say they want to lose weight continue to eat foods that are clearly fattening. “I can’t lose weight,” they whine, and then they drink almost a whole bottle of wine, snort that blue cheese down or have just a “tiny” spoonful or two of cake or ice cream at most meals. “Not everyone is as disciplined as you,” doc pointed out. “They don’t want to give up those good tasting foods that you can avoid.” Even though some of them go to the gym more than I do, spend an hour on a machine to lose 300 calories and then have one drink or dessert that in five minutes puts all those calories right back on them. Not logical…but people aren’t logical. Read the rest of this entry »

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My Gym and Athletic History

Back to the gym–it’s 40 minutes away, so the round trip visit for a one-hour workout is a 2 ½ to 3-hour commitment. I was told that going once a week just keeps me somewhat toned. Going twice a week starts to build muscle. I have made it to the gym eight times in one month only twice since I joined. Four to six times a month is my normal pattern. I wear tank tops and admire the cuts when I puff out. I have been told that I am “ripped.” But you can see that I find it hard to get there. And I almost never lift weights or do anything at home. Maybe that will change now that I am blogging…I hope so.

My life has not been the usual active, sports-filled one my friends can look back upon. There were two physical years in my 20’s in the army that included jumping out of planes five times after three weeks of heavy conditioning. But then I worked long long hours in offices for most of three decades. So I never felt I had time to exercise. I occasionally did push-ups. I skied downhill now and then. There were three years in my early 40’s (maybe 1983 to 1985) when I played with martial arts almost once a week after work—first aikido and then capoeira from Brazil. The aikido philosophy made me successful in business—if you like, I’ll tell you about it later. The capoeira demanded cartwheels and squats—I was really fit then. However I stopped, fell apart and did nothing much that was physical. That’s the history.

Things changed a little after 1991, because I moved full-time to a rural farm, discovered I liked the outdoors and began walking in the woods. I also went cross-country skiing five to ten times each winter. Then I took up tennis two years ago—playing once a week, sometimes twice. It’s usually doubles, and the other guys are over 70—one is 93. They don’t run very much—many have had hip transplants or other surgeries—but they can really place the ball perfectly after 60 years of practice. I love that I have to run around, and also the challenge of hitting a sweet shot. And within the last two months, I started playing squash. So I am now becoming physical in my late 60’s the way most males are in their teens and 20’s. Oh well, later beats never…

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How I Learned About Good Health

When it comes to good health, I know more about that than most. My father was a chiropractor in the days when his profession was regarded as laughable. I even fought in elementary school to defend Dad’s honor when classmates called him a quack. But I heard every night at dinner about new patients who had tried everything else, and they were finally stooping to going to a chiropractor as a last resort. And then Dad healed them or made them much better.

My father taught me a lot about what causes many illnesses and how to prevent becoming sick. My dad was unwell enough to be in bed just twice while I lived with him (my first 17 years) and twice after that. He lived to 88, and only needed surgery after being hit by a car.

I inherited his genes and am never sick–one day in bed in the last 25 years or so. I did have childhood things like chicken pox (when I was 21), and hepatitis that I contracted eating native food in Korea. But aside from some occasional colds and pollen and ragweed sniffling that now evaporates with anti-histamines, I am very very healthy. Much of that may be genetic or dumb luck. But some of that healthiness has to do with how I live and think. I will tell you about it as I describe my progress in sculpting IRA’S ABS…

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