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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Older athletes: 10 amazingly athletic women over 60

Elderly women aren’t usually known for feats of physical prowess. They may stay active and carry out remarkable achievements in other areas; famous examples include Dr. Brenda Milner, the neuropsychology pioneer who still conducts research in her nineties, and Grandma Moses, a folk artist who took up painting in her seventies. But when it comes to physical activity, the most strenuous thing we think elderly women can do is knit an afghan. And yet, there are women who keep themselves in remarkable physical shape as older athletes. They set new athletic records and stay fitter than people decades younger.

If the following ten women inspire you to launch into a new fitness regimen, make sure you get medical clearance first.

(No joke. If you’re planning on an exercise routine that’s more strenuous than light walking, you really should see a doctor first; the risk of strokes, fractures, etc. is real, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition such as weakened blood vessels or arthritis. Also, some of these women are truly extreme athletes who put their bodies through punishing physical feats.)

The good thing is, getting fit isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavor; even if you don’t wind up doing triathlons in your eighties, you can still enjoy better health by eating nutritious food and moving more.
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We’ve come a long way: The impact of Luther Terry’s report

This month marks 50 years since Luther Terry, the Surgeon General of the United States back in 1964, presented his report, Smoking and Health, which showed a very strong relationship between smoking and lung cancer. Prior to this, there was evidence that smoking was harmful; however, there wasn’t any widespread knowledge and awareness among the general population about how harmful smoking really was.

Beyond simply presenting a medical argument against smoking, the report led to Congress passing the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertisement Act of 1965. This law, which was finally implemented 6 years later, led to the health warnings that we have on cigarette packs and to a ban on cigarette advertisement on television and radio.

These kinds of ads vanished in part as a result of Luther Terry's report

If you were around in the 1950s, you probably remember all of the outrageous ads plugging the health benefits of different cigarettes. Even physicians were recruited to plug different brands (unfortunately, unlike today, where only 2% or so of physicians smoke, back then upwards of 50% were daily smokers). When I was a child in the 1980s, I remember the ubiquitous Joe Camel. I recall the famous 1991 study showing that by age 6, almost as many children could identify Joe Camel with cigarettes as could the Disney logo with Mickey Mouse. It would be another 6 years before R.J. Reynolds, under increasing public pressure, pulled the Joe Camel campaign which was clearly targeting children. (Eerily, today, we are witness to similar campaigns from e-cigarette manufacturers aimed at our teen population.)

I also remember in my younger years smoking being everywhere. Restaurants, bowling alleys, planes – virtually all public places. Although I myself was a smoker for a few years, as a child I was asthmatic, and being exposed to second hand smoke was probably not a great thing for my health and the health of many others (I’m thankful that at least my parents were non-smokers).

Today, it’s rare in most parts of the U.S. to be in a situation where you have to be exposed to second hand smoke; in most places smokers must step outside to smoke.

Throughout the past five decades, it’s estimated that through tobacco control efforts an estimated 8 million lives have been saved from premature death and that those lives have been prolonged by 20 years. Back in 1964, 42.7% of adults smoked; today the number is down to 18.1%. Back in 1970, the average smoker smoked 20 cigarettes daily; today the number is down to 13. Rates of lung cancer and many other smoking related illnesses are thankfully on the decline. Smoking is for the most part not socially acceptable in many places, and has lost much of its “coolness.”

We still have a ways to go. However, when we look back at where we started, we can be proud at how far we’ve come.

– Tamir

(Image links to source.)

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Missing the Point of Well-Visits: What to Expect from a Check-Up

Check up

When I see a patient during a well-visit, this is how it often goes:

Me: Hi, I’m Dr. Katz, what can I help you with today?

Patient: I haven’t been to a doctor in a while. I’m here for a well check-up. I want you to check everything out. Also, do all the blood tests that you can to make sure everything is okay. I think I had high cholesterol in the past. I also want to make sure I don’t have cancer, and there is diabetes in my family. Also, I noticed that I’ve been putting on weight. I’m not sure why – I eat the same as before.

Me: Ok. Why don’t we start off with a few questions. How is your diet? Do you eat a lot of sugary foods or drinks? Fried foods? Do you eat any fruits and vegetables?

Patient: My diet is ok. Average. I eat regular food. Yes, I’ll have cake, and I do have a thing for fried chicken, but I don’t think my diet is worse than most people’s diet.

Me: How many servings a day of fruits and vegetables do you have?

Patient: I’m not much of a vegetable person. I do like oranges though.

Me: How often do you eat oranges?

Patient: I’ll have an orange here and there – maybe once or twice a week.

Me: Any other fruit?

Patient: In the summer I’ll have some watermelon.

Me: What about exercise? How many minutes a day of physical activity do you do?

Patient: I use to walk to work, but since I started a new job that’s farther away from my house I drive now. I did sign up for the gym.

Me: Have you had a chance to go yet?

Patient: Well, no. It’s been kinda crazy at work. I haven’t had time.

Me: How many cigarettes are you smoking these days?

Patient: Well, I did quit for 2 months, but I recently started again. It was stressful at work, and a coworker offered me one, and now I’m back to smoking about a pack a day…

When some patients come in for a check-up, they aren’t looking to discuss lifestyle habits. They see the well visit as a sort of tune-up at the mechanic. You know, look under the hood, make sure everything is working.

But if that’s what you’re looking for in a check-up, you’re wasting your time. What’s the real point of a check-up?

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The most idiotic fad diets

We live in a quick fix society where we demand quick results. Weight loss is one area that’s especially influenced by this mindset. Although it may have taken a person 30 years to become 50 pounds overweight, there’s somehow the expectation that 3 weeks of dieting and sweating at the gym should be enough to take off the extra weight.

Due to these naïve expectations, many overweight individuals fall prey to charlatans and quacks pushing all sorts of diets and weight loss supplements based on ridiculous claims (lose 20 pounds in the first week!). Although some fads are simply a waste of money, some are outright dangerous. To make things worse, sometimes these diets are plugged by celebrities that people look up to.

The British Dietetic Association recently completed its assessment of the worst celebrity diets. Some of the ones on the list aren’t so radical. However, some are so idiotic that it’s difficult to understand how a person with any common sense would even consider them. In addition, there are some recent headlines about an additional absurd “diet” known as the Cotton Ball Diet that I want to mention as well.

  1. The Breatharian Diet. Proponents of this diet, otherwise known as “starving to death,” claim that the body simply needs air and sunshine to survive. No food or water required. Nuff said.
  2. The Alcorexic Diet. Proponents of this diet recommend drastically cutting calories during the week, and then “banking” those calories for the weekend where they are used to binge drink. So I guess this diet can be referred to as an alcoholic starvation diet. Supposedly some models follow it.
  3. The Cotton Ball Diet. This disturbing diet is supposedly a fad among teenagers. Simply soak a few cotton balls in juice and swallow them to help you feel full. There are a few problems with this diet. First of all, all those cotton balls can become lodged in your intestines, causing an obstruction that requires emergency surgery. In addition, “cotton” balls are often made from artificial chemicals that were not meant to be ingested. Lastly, by filling up on cotton balls, you’ll end up becoming malnourished. This is even worse in teenagers as it can lead to stunted growth and brittle bones.

Of course all of these examples are more extreme than the fads we typically see. However, the mindset is always the same. “I quickly need to lose a lot of weight.” A healthier mindset is, “I’m currently overweight and lead an unhealthy life. Let me improve my diet and start exercising so that I can lead a long, high-quality life.” Obviously, we all have a degree of vanity, and looks are important. However, if your entire focus is quickly losing some weight for some upcoming event or vacation, then more often than not you will choose an extreme approach that isn’t sustainable and often not safe in the long run.

– Tamir

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Workout of the Month: November 2013

This month I’m starting a new type of blog post which will provide 2 sample exercise programs – one that’s more strenuous, and one that’s less strenuous. The workouts can be done as a stand alone program or can be incorporated into an existing workout program. They’re meant to be simple, requiring little to no equipment, but are comprehensive in that they cover most of the muscle groups and provide both strength and aerobic benefits.

Before you undergo any new exercise program (with the exception of light walking), get clearance from your physician. This is especially true if you’re over 35, have a family history of heart disease or sudden death at a young age, smoke, or have other medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, etc.

If you aren’t sure about how to do a certain exercise, seek guidance from an experienced person or trainer. You can also look up any exercise on Youtube or other places on the web, provided the person giving the demonstration has expertise. If any exercise feels wrong to you or is causing a sharp pain, then don’t do it. If I don’t mention a specific number of repetitions, then do as many as you can, comfortably, without excessive strain. Try to increase the number of repetitions every week by 2. If lifting weights, increase the weight by 2-10 pounds depending on the exercise and your level of fitness.

Program #1 – More strenuous

Days 1,3,5:

1) Wind Sprints (either outside or on a treadmill) – walk fast for a couple of minutes to warm up. Proceed to run as fast as you can for 30-60 seconds. Walk again for 1-2 minutes, then proceed to sprint again. Perform 5-7 sprints.
2) Push-ups and Sit-ups – do 8-10 alternate sets of as many as you can do. Towards the last couple of sets, you may only be able to do a few push-ups or sit-ups. If possible, try not to rest between sets.

Days 2,4,6:

1) Overhead Dumbbell Press alternated with Dumbbell Deadlift – Do 2 warm-up sets, followed by 3 sets of 8 repetitions for each exercise. Rest for one minute between sets.
2) 15 minutes of jump rope in 3 minute sets with 1 minute rest in between sets.

Day 7:

Rest or light walk

Program #2 – Less strenuous

Days 1,3,5:

1) 30 minutes of power walking, swinging arms holding 1-2 pound hand weights.
2) 3 sets of push-ups against a heavy table or chest with 1 minute of rest in between. If you can do more than 30, do regular push-ups.
3) 3 sets of bodyweight squats with 1 minute rest in between.

Days 2,4,6:

1) 3 sets of jumping jacks with one minute of rest in between.
2) Shadow kickboxing for 3 sets of 3 minutes each with one minute of rest in between. Throw different punches and kicks to the best of your ability as if fighting an opponent. If you have a heavy bag, use it.
3) Biking (outside or on exercise bike) or swimming for 20 minutes.

Day 7:

Rest or light walk

Enjoy!

– Tamir

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Do smokers have a harder time selling their homes?

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal brings up a frequently overlooked financial cost of smoking: the decreased value of a smoker’s home.

Prospective buyers may be turned off by the odor of smoke that clings to curtains, carpets, and furnishings in the home, not to mention any stains or burn marks they see. Homeowners who smoke may face the prospect of their home dropping in value by thousands of dollars.

Smoking at home

Does this mean that it’s impossible to sell your home if you’re a smoker? Of course not. But it may be more difficult, and you may get significantly less money for your home.

When deciding whether or not to continue smoking, consider first and foremost the health risks. But also keep in mind some of the secondary costs, which may be substantial.

(Image links to source: NY Daily News.)

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Smoking quotes

Below are a set of darkly amusing smoking-related quotes from various websites sent to me by my father, as well as a few I’ve gathered on my own. Enjoy!

Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.

– Mark Twain

One thousand Americans stop smoking every day – by dying.
– Author Unknown

The believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nicotine patches are great. Stick one over each eye and you can’t find your cigarettes.
– Author Unknown

A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide.
– Kurt Vonnegut

Smoking helps you lose weight – one lung at a time!
– “Alfred E. Neuman” (Mad Magazine)

The cigarette does the smoking – you’re just the sucker.
– Author Unknown

Smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.
– Fletcher Knebel

Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.
– Brooke Shields

Cigarette: A fire at one end, a fool at the other, and a bit of tobacco in between.
– Anonymous

And finally, even a nursery rhyme:

There was a young lady named Mae

Who smoked without stopping all day;

As pack followed pack,

Her lungs first turned black,

And eventually rotted away.

– Edward Gorey, Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey & Peter F. Neumeyer

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