Hospitals – Safe Harbor or Death Trap?

hospital_bedMuch of the annual $2 trillion spent on healthcare costs goes towards hospital care for chronic, degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and lower respiratory disease.

There is no doubt that hospitals are lifesavers when it comes to acute injuries and illnesses — things like gunshot wounds, accidents, burn injuries, poisoning, anaphylactic shock, stroke and heart attacks.  But the benefit curve changes when it comes to extended care of chronic illnesses.  This is where the risk of further injury, and even death increases.

According to a recent study involving 37 million patient records an average of 195,000 Medicare patients in the United States died due to preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002  (Medicare hospital admissions accounted for 45 percent of the national total between the years 2000-2002).

In a previous study, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimated that around 98,000 people died unnecessarily from in-hospital medical errors in 1999.  That study estimated the national accidental, in-hospital death rate based on one years‘ data from just three states.

This latest study based its estimate on three years’ data from all 50 states and Washington DC, making its estimate more accurate.

So, what are the causes and nature of these 195,000 preventable deaths?

They are:

  • complications from anesthesia
  • death during low-risk procedures -DRGs (low mortality Diagnosis Related Groups)
  • decubitus ulcers (bedsores)
  • death during surgery for serious but treatable conditions
  • foreign object left inside body after surgery
  • accidental lung puncturing (pneumothorax)
  • infections related to hospital stay
  • postoperative hip fracture
  • postoperative hemorrhage or hematoma
  • postoperative physiologic and metabolic derangement
  • postoperative respiratory failure
  • postoperative embolism or deep vein thrombosis
  • postoperative sepsis (systemic infection of blood)
  • postoperative wound rupture (after surgical closure)
  • accidental puncture, lacerations
  • adverse blood transfusion reaction

The above are part of the 20 Patient Safety Indicators defined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).  These safety indicators have the notorious distinction of frequently occurring in hospitals.  You can think of them as “grim reapers” lurking around the hospital, waiting for a chance to strike.

The majority of accidental deaths in the study are associated with “low mortality diagnoses,” which are common, low-risk procedures such as a carpal tunnel release surgery or tonsillectomy.   A mistake by the surgeon, infection or unexpected complications often results in accidental death during an otherwise low-risk, relatively safe procedure.

195,000 accidental in-hospital deaths per year are like 390 jumbo jets crashing every day for one whole year.  This qualifies it as an epidemic like heart disease and cancer that warrants public health notices.  But for some reason, accidental in-hospital (nosocomial) deaths don’t get anywhere near the notoriety as heart disease and cancer.  Hospitals are still viewed, psychologically at least, as a place where one’s health is cared for; a place you go to heal and be freed of disease; not get injured or sick.  As previously mentioned, for acute illness it is certainly that place.  But for extended stays, its a different story.

The Dangers That Await You in Hospitals – A True Story

Let me tell you a story.  A relative of mine who we’ll call “Lou” was experiencing early stage dementia and chronic insomnia, but was otherwise in good health (no heart, kidney, liver or GI problems).  He was admitted to the hospital after experiencing sudden onset ataxia (loss of balance) and delirium.   Prior to this incident he was able to walk normally and engage in normal conversation, albeit with episodes of forgetfulness (he is in his early 80s).

Several hours prior to the incident he took four tablets of diphenhydramine, better known as Benadryl.  Benadryl is an over-the-counter anti-histamine commonly used off-label as a sleep aid since a common side effect is drowsiness.  But there are other side effects.   Delirium has been reported in elderly patients with mild dementia following a small oral dose of diphenhydramine (1), as well as abnormal voluntary movements (2).   This perfectly described Lou’s symptoms.  This manageable, adverse drug reaction initiated a cascade of unfortunate events, occurring in the hospital environment, culminating in tragedy.

(1) Tejera CA, Saravay SM, Goldman E, Gluck L “Diphenhydramine-induced delirium in elderly hospitalized patients with mild dementia.” Psychosomatics 35 (1994): 399-402

(2) Brait KA, Zagerman AJ “Dyskinesias after antihistamine use .” N Engl J Med 296 (1977): 111

The doctor ruled out stroke and attributed Lou’s behavior to the accumulation of decades of insomnia, complicated by “white matter disease” shown on MRI, which is associated with early stage dementia.

Lack of sleep in anyone, not just the elderly is known to cause the following:

  • Accidents
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lower cognitive ability
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Impaired judgment
  • Increased risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes
  • Early death, across all causes

I know that if I was deprived of a good night’s sleep for more than ten years, I, too would be experiencing some of what Lou was experiencing.

Falling Deeper Into the Deadly Trap

The fateful day of his hospital admission marked the beginning of a gradual decline in Lou’s health.  He would not return home.

Upon being admitted to the hospital, Lou was given the drug Ativan, a benzodiazapene like the more well-known drug Valium.  This only served to further agitate him.  He became very combative with the nurses and repeatedly attempted to get out of his bed.  After that, his family requested that the doctor discontinue that drug.

Not one to give up, the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) doctor then prescribed the drug Seroquel (quetiapine).  This is a narcotic designed to treat bi-polar disorder, and as we would find out later is not (FDA) approved for elderly patients diagnosed with dementia psychosis due to increased risk of death.

Side effects of Seroquel include:

More common:

  • Chills
  • cold sweats
  • confusion
  • dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
  • sleepiness or unusual drowsiness

Less common:

  • inability to sit still
  • loss of balance control
  • need to keep moving
  • restlessness
  • shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
  • shuffling walk
  • slowed movements
  • slurred speech
  • trembling and shaking of the hands and fingers

After a few days in the hospital, Lou came to and was closer to his pre-incident state.  He was more lucid; conversed with family members and able to walk with assistance.  Lou even cracked some jokes; signs of his old self breaking through the slurry of drugs that were coursing through his system.

Lou was then sent to a skilled nursing facility to help him regain strength in his legs.  However, they continued to prescribe Seroquel, along with melatonin to help him relax and sleep.   His agitation returned and became more regular.

With his aggression becoming too difficult to handle for the skilled nursing facility staff, Lou was referred back to the hospital.  The medications continued and were having less of an effect (hospital staff may have even increased his dose).  He was agitated, restless, delirious and was determined to leave his bed.   At this point, the ICU physician ordered the serotonin antagonist re-uptake inhibitor anti-depressant, anti-anxiety drug Trazodone, hoping it would calm him down since sedation is a common side effect.  Like Seroquel, this drug can cause orthostatic hypotension (light headedness/ dizziness after standing from a reclined or sitting position) especially in the elderly.

Side effects of Trazodone include:

More common:

  • blurred vision
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
  • lightheadedness
  • sweating
  • unusual tiredness or weakness

Less common:

  • Burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, “pins and needles”, or tingling feelings
  • confusion about identity, place, and time
  • decreased concentration
  • fainting
  • general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • headache
  • lack of coordination
  • muscle tremors

Believing they did all they could do, the ICU doctor scheduled Lou for discharge on a Friday at noon.  He was to be taken home.  Arrangements were hastily made for home care services and therapy visits.   Preparations were made to remove trip hazards at home.

Freedom Denied

The night before his discharge date Lou became combative again.  He somehow managed to get up from his bed and fell hard, striking his head on the floor.  The fall ruptured a cerebral artery resulting in a sub-dural hematoma, a large piece of coagulated blood inside the cranium.  He received emergency surgery to remove the hematoma, and since then has not regained consciousness.  The prognosis is very grim.

As I write this, poor Lou, who was admitted to the hospital for a manageable, adverse reaction to Benadryl was now fighting for his life.   All he really needed was a period of supervised rest and drug detoxification.  Should he pass away, this would be classified as a death from low mortality diagnosis related  groups (DRGs) since it was a non-life threatening condition that he was being treated for in the hospital.

Falls in hospitals are common, especially in the elderly, and result in significant injury and sometimes death.  It’s estimated that there are between 2-7 falls of patients for every 1,000 hours of hospital time.

I should mention that Lou had also been taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins for many years prior to this.  Statin drugs are perhaps the most over-prescribed and harmful medication in the United States.  There is no convincing, scientific evidence to show that they protect against heart disease, either.  As statin drug prescription dramatically increased over the last twenty years, mortality rates of heart disease haven’t changed accordingly; approximately 610,000 deaths a year according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Incredibly, despite its popularity with doctors there are 900 studies that document adverse effects of statin drugs such as muscle pain and weakness (I strongly believe this contributed to Lou’s weak leg strength, which contributed to his fall), diabetes and increased cancer risk.

Some researchers believe there is a link between statin drugs and Alzheimer’s dementia, since all cells require cholesterol to maintain healthy membranes.  This is particularly important for highly specialized, active cells such as brain cells.   Cell membranes control what can enter a cell (nutrients) and what can exit a cell (waste products, enzymes, proteins).   Cell membranes also ensure proper hydrostatic pressure inside the cell so that internal components work properly.  You definitely don’t want to do anything that even remotely compromises your cell membranes!

Here’s another important reason why you don’t want to prevent your body from making cholesterol:  the sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone); cortisol and Vitamin D are synthesized from cholesterol.  Statin drugs can impair their effects, causing a wide range of problems.   Unless your cholesterol levels are way off the charts, you are better off throwing those drugs in the trash and focus on diet, exercise and stress reduction to keep your cholesterol levels in the healthy range.

UPDATE:  On May 12, 2015 “Lou” passed away in a hospice, 18 days after his fall.  He was kept on life support for two weeks, with no signs of improvement.  He never regained consciousness after his brain surgery.

The Ongoing, Silent Travesty Against Elderly with Dementia

The over-drugging of our vulnerable seniors continues unabated.  Government inspectors say that Medicare officials need to do more to stop doctors from prescribing powerful psychiatric drugs to nursing home patients with dementia, an unapproved practice that has shockingly flourished despite repeated government warnings.

So-called antipsychotic drugs are designed to help control hallucinations, delusions and other abnormal behavior in people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but they’re also prescribed off-label to hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home and hospital patients in the U.S. to pacify aggressive behavior related to dementia.   This hush-hush practice is called “chemical restraint.”  Anti-psychotic drugs like AstraZeneca’s Seroquel and Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa are known for their sedative effect, often putting patients to sleep– convenient for hospital staff; potentially deadly for the patient.

The problem is that atypical and conventional antipsychotic drugs significantly increase the risk of death in elderly patients who have a dementia psychosis.  “Atypical” antipsychotic drugs are the newest generation of mood altering drugs and include  risperidone (Risperda), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), and aripiprazole (Abilify).  Conventional, or first-generation drugs are haloperidol (Haldol) and thioridazine.

At a medical conference in 2002, the FDA reported statistically significant deaths occurring in a sample of 1,452 patients with dementia in placebo-controlled trials of atypical antipsychotic drugs.  The placebo (control) group suffered 164.7 per 1000 patient-years, and the atypical and conventional drug groups had higher rates of 242.5 and 276.3 per 1000 patient-years, respectively.

On April 11, 2005, the FDA issued a health advisory warning of an increased risk for death with atypical antipsychotic drugs in persons with dementia.  These drugs now have this clear and specific warning on their packaging (called the “Boxed Warning”).

However, the message wasn’t loud enough.

Rampant Medical Insolence Unchecked

A 2010 report by the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that 83 percent of 2007 Medicare claims for antipsychotics were for residents with dementia, the condition specifically warned against in the drugs’ labeling!  Fourteen percent of all nursing home residents, nearly 305,000 patients, were prescribed antipsychotics that year, ostensibly for their “safety.”

The problem was so widespread and unchecked that the HHS recommended to the Senate Committee on Aging that nursing homes that continue to prescribe antipsychotic drugs to elderly with dementia be penalized.   But based on Lou’s case, it appears that this recommendation was ignored.  I would not be surprised if aggressive lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry blunted this effort.

As the problem continued to rear its ugly head, victims’ families fought back.  Two, recent civil lawsuits against manufacturers of antipsychotic drugs for false advertising (marketing unapproved uses to doctors; i.e. off-label uses) sent a strong message:

In January 2009, drugmaker Eli Lilly agreed to plead guilty and pay $1.4 billion for illegal promotion of Zyprexa, including marketing to nursing home doctors.  The company told its sales representatives to use the slogan “5 at 5,” to persuade doctors that giving 5 milligrams of the drug at 5 p.m. would make dementia patients sleep through the night.

AstraZeneca PLC paid nearly $529 million in two separate settlements with federal and state prosecutors over alleged off-label promotion of its drug Seroquel.  “AstraZeneca targeted its illegal marketing of Seroquel towards doctors who do not typically treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, such as physicians who treat the elderly, primary care physicians, pediatric and adolescent physicians, and in long-term care facilities and prisons.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/01/elderly-dementia-antipsychotic-drugs_n_1123195.html

Sadly and tragically, despite these lawsuits and warnings it is evident that the practice of prescribing antipsychotic drugs to elderly with dementia psychoses is still going strong in 2015, ten years after that FDA warning.  My relative Lou is just another casualty of this ongoing, epic failure.   Thousands more will follow.

Lesson Learned

I’ve understood for some time that extended hospital stays and drug management of disease, which go hand-in-hand have dubious benefit and cause more harm than good.  The vast majority of drugs don’t cure; they suppress symptoms or unnaturally change your body chemistry/physiology in a way that temporarily and artificially arrests the advance of a disease process while creating a new set of health problems; oftentimes more serious than the original disease.

With Lou’s experience, it strikes close to home.

If you are faced with having to be admitted to a hospital for an illness, make it clear to your doctor that you wish to spend only the necessary time there and be discharged at once, after the danger has passed.  Tell your next of kin of this directive as well, in case you are incapacitated and can’t speak for yourself.   The numbers show that one’s home is safer than a hospital room where the chance of something wrong happening to you is much greater.

If you have a loved one, especially an elderly loved one get admitted to the hospital, the same rules apply.   Danger lurks in the form of adverse drug reactions, misdiagnoses, accidental falls, incompetent staff, botched procedures and nosocomial infections.  You do not want to be part of the 195,000 people who die accidentally each year in hospitals.  You don’t want to end up like poor Lou.

The Basic Keys to Good Health and a Long, Thriving Life

germsDisease is a word that conjures up images of germs, discolored skin, clogged arteries, sickness, tumors, pain, weakness, coughing, being bed-ridden and similar unappealing states.   Unfortunately for millions of people, disease, particularly chronic, degenerative disease is a part of everyday living.

B.J. Palmer, the developer of chiropractic put a different spin on the definition of disease.  He actually wrote the word as dis-ease and pronounced it with emphasis on the dis.  Dis before a word means “dysfunctional,” so dis-ease to Palmer describes a body that is not at ease; i.e. is not experiencing good health.   What this does is focus the attention on why the body is not at ease and away from the disease process itself; hence, treating the cause and not the symptoms.

For example, let’s take Type 2 diabetes.  This is a terrible chronic degenerative dis-ease that plagues millions of people, with thousands of new cases being diagnosed each day.  Instead of focusing on medications to lower blood sugar, the focus would be on why the body is not utilizing glucose properly and how it got to be that way.  For most cases of chronic disease, the origin can be traced to lifestyle choices.  Correct the lifestyle choices that set the stage for the dis-ease to develop, and the body can recover on its own.

If you are currently healthy, consider yourself many steps ahead of those who are battling chronic disease.  All you need to do is sharpen your “health hygiene” starting NOW and you may not need to visit a hospital until your last days of life on Earth.  Sound crazy?  Realize that there are already millions of healthy people all over the world who are doing it, and have been for decades; especially in those populations having limited access to hospitals such as in some parts of Africa, the Arctic and sub-tropical islands.

The human body, when functioning at an optimal level is highly effective in managing and maintaining itself– repairing tissue, fighting germs and getting rid of toxins.  Only when we subject it to things for which it wasn’t designed do problems manifest prematurely.  Those things include high-calorie, unnatural, low nutrition junk and processed food; frequent stress, pollution, voluntary toxin ingestion (alcohol, nicotine) and excess sitting/ inactivity– the bane of living in an industrialized, advanced and “wireless” society.

It is interesting to contemplate how long the human lifespan would be, on average, if everyone engaged in health-promoting activities and minimized health-destroying activities.  This would reveal the true lifespan of the human body as it is designed.  Many researchers believe this number to exceed 100 years, and I personally believe this to be true.  Misawa Osaka was the oldest person on record when she died this month at age 117; Jeanne Louise Calment was the oldest living person when she died at age 122 in 1997.   And mind you, I’m not talking of being old, sick and bed-ridden for decades; a misplaced fear that wrongly convinces many people that it’s best to not live too long.   This is about living longer and thriving up until the end comes.   It can be done, as Misawa and Jeanne proved with their lives.

Of course, there is the ideal world and the real world.  It’s not easy; I understand especially in the area of stress and diet.  That is why the average human lifespan is around 77 years and not 100.  Stress affects everyone– financial stress, relationship stress, work stress and a ton of others, and it is not easy to escape.  But, stress is also is not unconquerable or inescapable; the mind only makes it appear so.   If stress is a big part of your life, it may take a transformational event to free you from it.  The key is to do what you can with what you have, be consistent as best you can and stay focused on those sometimes elusive keys to health.

So what are the basic keys to good health and a long, thriving life?

They are eat well, stress less, move more, and love more.  That’s the secret prescription that packs more health and longevity power than any drug that was ever created.  And they are all under your control, not your doctor’s.

Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute offers the following counsel:

You have a spectrum of choices.  What matters most is your overall way of eating and living.  If you indulge yourself one day, eat healthier the next.  If you don’t have time to exercise one day, do a little more the next.  If you don’t have time to meditate for 30 minutes, do it for one minute.  The more you change your lifestyle, the more you improve– at any age.  And the only side effects are good ones. 

Remember, don’t be too hard on yourself.  Staying healthy in a life full of hundreds of things competing for your attention, and having only a fixed amount of hours in a day to do them is a challenge indeed.  Instead of bemoaning no time in your schedule for an hour of exercise after work, try injecting exercise/movement during small pockets of time throughout your day (like those transitions between errands/ tasks); this can make it more manageable.   The same thing goes for meditation.  Once you develop this habit, you’ll notice some great side effects — more energy, better sleep, leaner body and more!

Here are four more simple tweaks to your daily routine that will go a long way to improving your health.

You’ve got only one body with a set of permanent, original parts.  Make sure you do things to keep those parts healthy and running– it’s not like a car where you can swap out parts that wear out.

How Nutrition Influences Pain


IMG_20141212_130455250

Nutrition has a profound effect on chronic pain.  If you experience unchanging chronic pain or notice that injuries and run-of-the-mill muscle aches take longer to heal than before, chances are you have a nutrient deficiency of some sort.

One example is that if you don’t get enough vitamins and phytonutrients in your diet, which all have anti-oxidant functions your tissues will be more susceptible to free radical damage, where unstable molecules generated from normal cell metabolism overwhelm your body’s anti-oxidant defenses and damage cell membranes and DNA (oxidative stress).  This can certainly play a role in chronic pain, especially if it involves nerve, cartilage, bone, ligament or muscle tissues.

But nutrient deficiencies are not necessarily caused by failure to include them in your diet.  You may be getting enough nutrients from your diet but your body is unable to use them for some reason.   It may be a case of malabsorption due to an underlying health condition such as celiac disease, or problems with stomach or pancreatic digestive juices; sub-optimal intestinal bacteria, which play a role in digestion; or you could be taking a drug that inhibits the nutrient’s action.

For example, if you take cholesterol lowering drugs called statins they may be depleting your vitamin D levels which can lead to bone and muscle pain.  They also deplete an important enzyme called Coenzyme Q10 which plays a role in cellular energy especially in the heart, liver and kidneys.

Proton-pump inhibitors – the stomach acid blocker medications– are known to inhibit the action of trace minerals such as manganese.  Trace minerals are used for many things in your body such as amino acid, bone and red blood cell formation.  Deficiencies can lead to a wide variety of problems including tics, muscle spasms and cramps; seizures, anxiety, headaches, insomnia and irregular heartbeat.

Alcohol consumption can interfere with folate absorption, which can cause anemia and nerve problems, and smoking can interfere with vitamin C absorption.  Vitamin C is needed for collagen production, repair of tissues and strong bones — factors that can definitely affect level of pain.

So, if you suffer from chronic pain, it is imperative that you focus on eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet comprised of a variety of green leafy and color-rich plants, healthy oils, fiber and protein and avoid foods known to wreak havoc with your body such as white flour, sugar, corn syrup and food additives.

Chronic pain sufferers should also get checked for thyroid deficiency.   Besides low energy, fatigue and weight gain, hypothyroidism can cause a host of other symptoms, including:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory

Thyroid hormone supplementation and selenium, zinc, and iodine supplements may be enough to clear your symptoms.

Lastly, focus on your gut health.  Your gut is where food is broken down into a form small enough to enter your cells.   If there is a problem with pH, bacterial flora, or lining of your GI tract, you will have sub-optimal nutrient absorption—you can be eating healthy but still be nutritionally starved, and your body pays the price.

As a side note, did you know that your gut contains more neurons than your spinal cord and produces more serotonin than your brain?  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter known to affect mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and function.   All these factors can influence one’s perception to pain.

In summary, nutrient deficiencies, whether from an unhealthy diet or inhibited absorption can make pain worse as they inhibit proper healing and cell maintenance.  Nutrient deficiencies can also negatively impact one’s mood and energy, which may increase perception to pain.

If you suffer from long-standing chronic pain, check out the Optimal Body System™ Reverse Chronic Pain Program.  It is based on a five-pronged approach to dealing with chronic pain – Mindset Transformation, Stress Reduction, De-Toxification, Nutrient Infusion and Movement Strategies.  The course will teach you, step-by-step, key lifestyle modification strategies that will re-ignite your body’s healing potential and reduce or possibly eliminate your chronic pain!

 

Better Than Joint Supplements, But Underutilized – The Resurgence of Bone Broth Soup

IMG_20150219_183407966_HDRThere’s been more talk lately about the benefits of bone broth soup for health.  Although it’s been around for centuries, perhaps even during prehistoric times (mammoth soup, anyone?) the competition with many other main courses drove it to the back of our consciousness for the past couple of decades.

In 2015, bone broth soup is making a comeback.

There is something to be said about eating the whole animal, or sections of it as opposed to one type of  tissue (meat, steak, ground turkey, etc.) separated from the rest.  First of all, it is less processed.  It is in its original form, intact.  Ground beef, on the other hand is more processed and oftentimes the lean meat is mixed with animal fat imported from another animal from another country, while an animal long bone with marrow, cartilage, tendons, fat and muscle has not been processed as much and is rich with nutrients just waiting to be used by your body.

IMG_20150207_202313168When you boil bones on low heat for hours, it breaks down the cartilage and other soft tissue constituents and puts them into solution– the broth (the picture to the right shows their gel like consistency after being cooled).  This makes it easier for your body to assimilate and use for rebuilding its own bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.

If you’re interested in the names of these constituents, they include proteoglycans (chondroitin sulfate being a well-known one), hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin.  If you use cosmetics for your skin, you may have recognized the last three, as they are common ingredients in high-end skin cosmetics.

Calcium, phosphorus and sulphur, trace elements your body uses for many biological functions are also drawn out of the bone into the broth.

bone_marrowBone marrow is another nutritious component of long bones (beef, pork).  It is actually made up of special cells called stem cells that produce red blood cells and white blood cells.  There is also quite a bit of saturated fat, which makes a great, slow-burning energy source that doesn’t wreak havoc with your blood sugar and insulin.  Remember, skeletal muscles prefer fat for fuel for your basic day to day movement.

In nature, predatory animals instinctively go for the bone marrow of their prey after the kill.   Flying vultures have been observed dropping long bones of dead animals onto rocks and swooping down to eat the marrow.  This says a lot about bone marrow’s nutritional and energy content.  You can learn a lot about your own health by observing what happens in nature.

Any animal bones can be used to make bone broth soup– chicken and turkey carcasses, beef bones, pork bones, lamb bones and fish skeletons, but the most popular is cow bones.   They are usually packed in a plastic bag in the meat section, sawed into 4-5″ frozen sections with all the good stuff attached to the bones.  And, they are pretty cheap; about $2.00/pound in my area.   If you don’t see any, ask the butcher if he can cut you some.

You’ll need a large pot, preferably a tall one.  Add about three liters of water for a 4 lb bag of bones.  As an option, add a half cup of vinegar and pre-soak the cold bones for an hour before turning on the heat.  This softens the bones and allows the minerals to exit into the broth faster.

Bring the water to a boil.  Cover and turn down heat to low and boil for at least two hours.  You may need to add a cup or two of water later, as much of the water will be boiled away as steam.  Optionally, steep out the blood foam that forms using a strainer (this is only for aesthetic purposes; eating it is fine).  Add salt, but not too much.  For taste, you can add onions, shallots and/or garlic, and spices like thyme, oregano, curcumin or basil to flavor the stock.

After two hours, turn off the heat and throw in some vegetables like bok choy or cabbage; cover.

I personally recommend eating everything except the bones (only because they are too hard on your teeth), including the tendons, cartilage (they will be softer but still a bit firm, like chewing thin plastic) and bone marrow.  The tendons and cartilage will give your jaw muscles a workout, but go for it; it will be well worth the effort especially if you have knee or hip pain from osteoarthritis.

You can also choose to separate the bones/ vegetables and eat them separately, and pour the broth through a cheesecloth into a large container for later use (freeze if you won’t be eating it the next day).  Drink directly or use as stock for other dishes.  Enjoy!

Can This Be the Healthiest Food From the Ocean?

sardinesSardines just might be the all-around healthiest food from the ocean.  They are low on the food chain so you don’t have to worry about mercury or PCB contamination, which unfortunately is something you can’t say for most other popular fish.

While there are many species (about 20) that are broadly called “sardines,” the term refers to small, silvery and oily fish that live in great numbers throughout the world’s oceans.  They serve as a food source for many types of larger, predatory fish such as tuna, mackerel and sail fish, and even whales.  Portugal, Spain and Norway are the world’s biggest producers.  They are also caught in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the United States (Monterey, California, scene of the famous novel Cannery Row by John Steinbeck used to be a major producer of sardines for the entire U.S.).

Sardines are an excellent source of protein, omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, calcium, and phosphorus and are one of the few food sources that contain an appreciable amount of Vitamin D.   Omega-3 oils help counter inflammation and are good for your brain and nerves while calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D are essential for strong bones.

Sardines are also an excellent source of Vitamin B-12, choline and the trace minerals selenium, iodine, copper, manganese and iron.

Heck, with all these nutrients packed in one little fish, what more do you need?

Most of the sardines available are either canned or jarred because they spoil rather quickly if they are not immediately frozen.  The canned versions are usually packed in olive oil, soybean oil or water.   Some brands pack them in tomato sauce and mustard.   If you go for the canned version, be mindful that they are higher in sodium and fat (for the oil-packed ones).

If you live in a place where you can regularly purchase fresh, whole sardines (almost exclusively coastal cities), consider yourself lucky because sardines are one “super food” that will give you a lot of bang for your buck.  Besides being cheap compared to other fish, whole sardines taste fabulous.    They go great with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc, too.

When it comes to getting your daily vitamins and minerals, I always recommend that you do your best to get them from whole, naturally occurring food sources when you can (as opposed to a pills, gel caps, and bottled liquids).  They are likely to assimilate into your tissues in greater concentration, enabling your body to derive maximum benefit.

Here is how to cook fresh sardines.   Make sure to eat as much of the bones as you can (try to eat the entire fish, head included) as they contain most of the calcium and phosphorus content.   It will feel like you are chewing on thin fishing line, but keep grinding them with your molars and they will become soft enough to swallow.

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It’s best to eat fresh sardines the same day you buy them, as they spoil rather quickly. Wash out excess blood around gills and pat dry the whole fish with a paper napkin. Using a very sharp fillet knife, scale and butterfly split as shown. The flesh is very fragile, so handle gently. Do not remove loose bones, they will be soft enough to eat (good calcium and phosphorus source).

 

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Place on aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Brush on a coat of extra virgin olive oil. Lightly salt. Broil in oven on high for 8-12 minutes (check each minute after 8).

 

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Sardines cook fast, so be careful not to over cook. The tail fins should look a bit charred and the flesh should look browned, crispy and firm. Add chopped tomatoes and onions; squeeze fresh lemon and serve with Greek salad or steamed vegetables.

 

Can Abnormal Breathing be Sapping Your Health?

iStock_000022500528SmallBreathing is essential to life, but the way one breathes has a profound effect on the quality of his or her life.   Let’s look deeper into how breathing impacts how you feel and then we’ll discuss popular techniques used to improve breathing.

When you breathe in, you take in oxygen; when you breathe out, you breathe out carbon dioxide.  You also exhale some unused oxygen (which is one reason why CPR involves exhaling into the victim).

Respiratory rate is the number of breaths  a person takes per minute.  The normal rate for an adult at rest is 12 to 20 breaths per minute.  A respiration rate under 12 or over 25 breaths per minute while resting is considered abnormal.

High respiratory rate (besides from exercise/physical exertion) can be caused by a psychological state of panic and anxiety.  When especially high, it is considered hyperventilating.   Pathological causes include:

  • congestive heart failure
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • drug use
  • lung disease such as asthma and emphysema

Low respiratory rate (called hypopnea) can be a problem as well.  Some causes include:

  • anatomical defects (narrowing, obstruction) in the sinuses
  • acute tonsillitis and/or adenoiditis
  • obesity or being overweight
  • neuromuscular disease or any condition that involves weakened respiratory muscles
  • hypoventilation syndromes involving compromised or failed respiratory drive
  • use of sedatives (sleeping pills, etc.)
  • alcohol abuse
  • smoking
  • aging

If your breathing falls out of the normal range, consult your doctor and get a full work up including blood tests to rule out pathology.  Hopefully it is a case that can be corrected using any one of the several breathing techniques that are available, as well as healthy lifestyle modification including weight loss, stress reduction, exercise, getting eight hours of sleep a night and eating a nutrient dense diet low in added sugar and refined carbohydrates.

How Sub-Optimal Breathing Affects Your Health and Quality of Life

Oxygen (O2) is a highly reactive element that the body uses to metabolize food, repair and regenerate tissues, kill germs and carry out many other critical biological functions.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the by product of oxygen metabolism.  As cells aspirate, they deposit CO2 molecules into the bloodstream which are sent to the lungs for removal via exhalation.

Both of these gases are dissolved in your blood and can be measured via an arterial blood gas test, which is part of a standard blood test.  These are the normal ranges:

  • Partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2): 75 – 100 mmHg
  • Partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PaCO2): 38 – 42 mmHg
  • Arterial blood pH: 7.38 – 7.42
  • Oxygen saturation (SaO2): 94 – 100%
  • Bicarbonate – (HCO3): 22 – 28 mEq/L

If blood gas levels are out of range, you run into health problems — some obvious, and some not so obvious.

Excess CO2 in your blood (CO2 retention, medically called hypercapnia) causes the blood pH to drop and become acidic.  This can come about by lung diseases and the factors previously mentioned that cause low respiratory rate where CO2 is not being removed fast enough.

Symptoms of excess CO2 in the blood include:

  • fatigue
  • becoming tired easily
  • confusion
  • shortness of breath
  • sleepiness

Severe cases can result in tachycardia (rapid heart rate) seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, and death.

Low CO2 levels in your blood can lead to varying levels of alkalosis, the opposite of acidosis, where the blood pH rises abnormally high.   Hyperventilating is a common cause of low CO2 levels (besides lung, liver and other diseases).  In fact, the drop in CO2 from hyperventilating perpetuates hyperventilation by causing capillaries and bronchial tissue to constrict, creating an urge to breathe faster.

Symptoms of low CO2 may include:

  • nausea
  • numbness
  • prolonged muscle spasms
  • muscle twitching
  • hand tremors

Chronic, advanced cases of excess CO2 can lead to confusion, stupor, breathing difficulty and even coma.

Although low carbon dioxide levels in the blood is not considered as common nor as bad of a problem as high CO2 levels, it might be more common and significant than it appears.   Stress, panic attacks and anxiety affect many people, and hyperventilation and subconscious over breathing (the high end of normal and a few breaths beyond) is often associated with it.

Hyperventilation and over breathing can cause subtle problems that while clinically not significant (not requiring medical care) can significantly impact quality of life by promoting fatigue, headaches, muscle pain and difficulty concentrating among other things.

So, aside from pathological states that affect respiratory rate it is important to be aware of the manner in which one breathes, which is not easy because in most cases the individual is oblivious to the way he or she breathes.

If you experience any of the symptoms associated with hyperventilation and hypopnia, then you can at least suspect that your breathing may be an issue.   Sometimes you can catch yourself when you’re doing it, especially in the case of hyperventilating; other times you might need the help of someone who can discreetly observe you daily, particularly while you sleep.  This can be a spouse, co-worker or anyone who is in proximity to you who can observe your breathing patterns without you knowing.

If you enlist the help of someone to monitor your breathing, here the the things to look for:

  • respiratory rate (should be between 12-20/min; preferably in the low to middle range)
  • how often you breathe through your mouth (preferably rarely to none)
  • any long pauses between breaths (breaths should be equal distance apart, ideally)
  • degree to which your chest/ ribs expand during breathing (preferably shallow; no major movement)
  • signs of difficulty/ labored breathing
  • signs of wheezing

If you have any abnormalities, you likely have sub-optimal breathing that can stand some improvement.  It may be disturbing blood O2/CO2 balance and sapping your energy, strength, mood and mental acuity.

The good news is that there are breathing techniques you can try to correct, or compensate for this problem.  They are as follows:

1.  Buteyko Breathing Technique:  This technique was developed in the 1950s to reverse health problems associated with improper breathing; specifically over breathing and mouth breathing.  Conditions targeted by this technique include sleep apnea, poor sleep, asthma, diabetes and others.

Its inventor, Ukrainian physician Konstantin Buteyko theorized that too heavy or frequent breathing results in excessive CO2 loss and causes blood vessels and bronchial passages to constrict, reducing oxygenation of tissues and leading to sickness.  It involves concentrating on taking normal breaths (not too shallow, not deep), then holding your breath until you feel the first “urge” to breathe (twitching in diaphragm, throat or other contraction in the respiratory structures), and then returning to breathing without taking deep breaths but rather maintaining normal breathing as though you did not hold your breath.

Below is a video of the technique.  The Buteyko method can train mouth breathers to return to nasal breathing, which is preferred  because it warms and filters the air prior to entering the lungs (and oxygenates small capillaries close to the brain cavity); can decongest nasal passageways, and reduce hyperventilation.

2.  The Relaxing Breath Exercise (4-7-8 Exercise):  This technique is designed to reduce stress or calm you when you are emotionally disturbed.  First, force all the air out of your lungs through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.  Then, close your mouth and breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds.  Stop, then hold your breath for seven seconds.  Next, exhale your air over eight seconds through your mouth; repeat three more times for a total of four breaths/cycles.  Do several times throughout the day.

3.  The Stimulating Breath (Bellows Breath):  Popularized by Andrew Weill, MD, this breathing technique is designed to invigorate and energize you, similar to the feeling you have right after a good run.   You breathe rapidly and short, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.   It requires some effort:  do three cycles (inhalations and exhalations) per second.  This produces a quick movement of your diaphragm, like using a bellows to fan a fire.  Do for 15 seconds the first time, then breathe normally for a few minutes.  Add five seconds each successive session until you can do it for one full minute.  If you get too dizzy, stop.

Bottom Line:  if you suspect you may be over breathing, under breathing, mouth breathing or hyperventilating and/or experience inexplicable fatigue, chronic sinus congestion, problems sleeping, chronic muscle pain, headaches or similar symptoms, try any of these focused breathing techniques for at least a week and take note of any noticeable changes in these symptoms.  If you notice improvement, then it is likely that you have been breathing abnormally for quite some time and not getting optimal tissue oxygenation.  If the problem is hyperventilation, over breathing or mouth breathing, the Buteyko exercises may even correct this problem over time.

 

Re-Thinking Breakfast: Do You Really Need That Toast?

For some reason, breakfast meals have the long reputation of being very high in carbohydrates, including refined, “concentrated” carbohydrates (added sugar, grains, juices):

  • Toast
  • Bagels
  • Jam
  • Cereal
  • Potatoes
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Oatmeal
  • Syrup, honey
  • Orange Juice
  • Fruits

How this came to be would make a very interesting research project.

My theory is related to the word breakfast itself.  Did you know that it means “a break from the fast?

The “fast” in this sense is the duration one goes without eating from bed time to rising the next day; about 9-10 hours.   When the fast is over, the urge is to indulge in sweet, rich and savory food; in this case, sugars/ carbohydrates.  It’s a subconscious move to reward ourselves for going without a meal for those 9-10 hours of sleep.

The other possibility is that there is this erroneous conventional wisdom that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day” and that you need to load up on carbohydrates (sugar) “to get your brain and muscles going and maintain your energy levels for the day.”

Well, this simply isn’t true.   For many people, skipping breakfast entirely can have significant health benefits, as long as you are eating healthy (whole foods, mostly plants; good fats and protein).  It improves insulin sensitivity, burns body fat, reduces inflammation and improves mental clarity.

Your brain and skeletal muscles work just fine off of dietary fats.  Fats are long-chain molecules that pack a lot of calories and “burn slow,” much like hot coals.  If you are an athlete or work in a job that requires significant physical activity, carbohydrates are more appropriate as you need more “immediate,”  quicker burning calories (like gasoline), which is what carbs offer.

If you are overweight, I especially encourage you to minimize or avoid concentrated carbohydrates in your diet, including breakfast.  Your main goal should be to lower insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity of your cells so that your cells can burn more sugar instead of converting it to fat and storing it in your body.  You cannot do this if you eat carbs all day and keep your pancreas busy producing insulin to deal with this continuous sugar influx.   Frequently high levels of glucose trigger insulin secretion; insulin converts excess sugar to fat, stores it in fat cells and shuts down fat metabolism.   Sugar/carbs are also addictive, causing one to eat more than his body needs.

If you are going to eat breakfast, stick to protein, fats, and plants.  You will still get carbohydrates, but they will come from plants like kale or spinach.  This is the best form of carbohydrates to eat, as they come with the whole food source including fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Here is a short video where I explain how to make a healthy, nutritious breakfast that will give you sufficient calories to start your day, along with a host of nutrients, without  spiking your insulin levels.

If you are looking to lose weight, check out the Optimal Body System Weight Loss and Health Transformation video presentation.

If You Have a Chronic Inflammatory Illness, Pay Attention to This Recent Finding

New research supports dieting, fasting, high intensity exercise and a ketogenic diet as effective means to reduce inflammation.  Here’s how.

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine discovered that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.  This discovery shows great promise in managing these and similar disorders, which have dominated the mortality statistics in the U.S. for the past several decades now.

When you subject your body to a low calorie diet or practice fasting, it forces your body to burn its body fat stores.   When  your body metabolizes fat for its energy needs more than it does carbohydrates, ketone bodies are generated as a by-product.  In high amounts, ketones are dangerous, but as long as your blood glucose levels are normal and you are losing fat weight, it is not a problem.   A ketogenic diet, which is sometimes prescribed for diabetics and those with epilepsy can also generate ketones in your body.

The ketone compound identified in the study is called β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).  It suppresses activation of a special protein called the NLRP3 inflammasome.   NLRP3 is what drives inflammation in many types of chronic, inflammatory disease.

BHB is produced by the body in response to fasting, high-intensity exercise, caloric restriction, or consumption of the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet.   According to Vishwa Deep Dixit, professor in the Section of Comparative Medicine at Yale School of Medicine it is well known that fasting and calorie restriction reduce inflammation in the body, but it was unclear how immune cells adapt to reduced availability of glucose and how they respond to metabolites produced from fat oxidation.  This was the impetus of the study.

The research team introduced BHB to mice populations with inflammatory diseases caused by NLP3.  They found that this reduced inflammation, and that inflammation was also reduced when the mice were given a ketogenic diet, which elevates the levels of BHB in the bloodstream.

The study’s findings suggest that endogenous metabolites like BHB that are produced during low-carb dieting, fasting, or high-intensity exercise can lower the NLRP3 inflammasome, and therefore have an inhibitory effect on the inflammatory response.

So if you suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis, Chron’s, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, atherosclerosis, Alzheimers and perhaps fibromyalgia, it is definitely worth trying to increase your BHB levels by fasting, eating a low-calorie diet, doing high intensity exercises (if that’s an option to you) and adding more fat to your diet like cream, butter, nuts, animal fat from pastured animals and raw egg yolks (but don’t forget your vegetables).

For details on this important study, visit Nature Medicine.

The Staggering Dollar Amount of Prescription Drugs Marketing

Prescription drugs have dominated health care in the U.S. for as long as anyone can remember.  Whenever there is health care policy discussion, whether it be Medicare coverage or the Affordable Care Act, prescription drug coverage is central to the discussion.  Things like wellness, preventive care and complementary medicine are scantly mentioned.

It’s no wonder then that heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, lung disease and a host of other degenerative diseases claim so many lives each year and ravage the quality of life of many millions more; most of whom are on the fast track to becoming one of these disease mortality statistics.

How did we get so accustomed to relying on Rx meds for our health?   Things have gotten better, with the growing popularity of wellness evangelists such as Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Andrew Weill, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Mark Hyman, Mark Sisson and David Wolfe; not to mention the hundreds of health bloggers (like me) and indie film producers.

But despite this growing awareness of the need for wellness care and natural healing, the vast majority of the population is still stuck in the mindset of “I have to get my meds!”

While some medications can suppress symptoms and make living more manageable, they should be considered the negative alternative to acquiring health.  Medications are meant to disrupt physiological processes that are involved in symptoms and disease processes, but in doing so, other non-affected systems pay the price.  This of course is called side effects of the drugs (when actually, they should be called the effects of the drugs).

Check your drug’s side effects on the online Physician’s Desk Reference

For example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxen) fight pain by inhibiting the production of a substance called prostaglandin, which is associated with pain generation.  Well, prostaglandins are also needed by the cells lining the stomach and gut, so taking drugs like Motrin and Alleve are known to cause nausea, and who knows what else.  They may even have the potential to cause leaky gut syndrome.   Another side effect of these drugs is that blood flow to the kidneys is reduced, which can lead to renal failure.

Or the case of statin drugs – those that block cholesterol production.  Statin drugs like Lipitor and Crestor lower cholesterol production alright, but guess what important structures depend on cholesterol in order to function properly?  Nerves, including the spinal cord and brain.

Nerve coverings depend on cholesterol for their structure.  If there is not enough available, nerves can malfunction, which can appear as involuntary twitches/shaking, muscle weakness and pain.   It’s like a power cord losing its rubber insulation allowing the electricity to go in an undesirable path.

The human body has a powerful ability to heal and regenerate on its own, so efforts to heal from a diseased state should center on optimizing this innate power.  This means reducing stress, moving one’s body frequently, emphasizing nutrient-dense, naturally occurring food in one’s diet, getting eight hours of restful sleep each day, getting social fulfillment, and avoid ingesting environmental toxins as best as one can.

I understand that for some unfortunate people, the disease process has reached a state where it overcomes the body’s ability to repair itself.  This is the circumstance where prescription medications become an option, a personal choice.  But it doesn’t mean one cannot engage in the above healthy lifestyle practices at the same time.  If you are on medications, then do your best to do the things within your power and ability that will give your body the best chance of repairing itself.

Back to prescription drug use:

Did you know that pharmaceutical companies spend about $4 billion marketing to consumers like me and you, but spend a staggering $24 billion marketing to doctors?  They know that doctors decide what medications to prescribe to their patients.  They are the pushers of drug companies’ products (I don’t mean to offend, but I could not think of a better word to describe this function than “pusher”).   Drug companies have even been caught bribing doctors with gifts if they agreed to prescribe their drugs – how’s that for health care?

So, whenever you are advised by your doctor to take a certain prescription medication, use your judgment.  Be aware that there is some marketing at work here.  I am not saying not to take your medications; only to be aware of this when you make your decision.

Here is a light-hearted video that explains this very serious issue that impacts the health of millions of people, and therefore the economy and our national well-being:

Four Simple & Powerful New Years Resolutions Everyone Should Try

Another year is over, and we’re on to the next as life marches forward.

Perhaps like many people, you have a list of things you want to do in 2015 that will make you a better person or make your life better in some way.

Personal improvement is always a worthy goal as it inevitably leads to good things directly and indirectly.  When you better yourself, the benefits often affect those you interact with in life, and often their circle as well.

For example, a mother of three children who is clinically obese decides to once and for all get down to a healthy weight, and with grit and determination accomplishes it with flying colors by the end of the year.  Now she has the energy, mobility and vitality that will enable her to actively participate in her childrens’ lives, strengthening her relationship with them.   She also set a powerful example of what will and determination can achieve, and the importance of living healthy.  This will have a lasting impression on her children and will motivate them to achieve success in their own lives.

Or, consider the boss who decides to change his ways and manage his employees with more compassion rather than by being authoritative and abusive.   Those moms and dads, who used to vent their stress to their kids, will be in a better mood and the whole family benefits.

So remember, when you set personal improvement goals for yourself and achieve them, you are doing something good not only for yourself, but those whose lives you impact.

With that, here are four New Years Resolutions that can have a profound, positive effect on your life:

1. Early to bed, early to rise.  If you are a night owl, change your routine: go to bed at 10:30 pm and get up at 6:00 am.  Early morning is the time of the day when the brain is most coherent.   This, combined with the peace and solitude makes early morning a great time to focus on life’s priorities and the day’s agenda.

Those who sleep in as late as they can with no room to spare take about 30 minutes just to get going before they actually start working, which is wasteful and inefficient.  Imagine the hundreds of lost hours of productivity a whole year of this routine causes!  There is also that morning stress of rushing breakfast (bad for digestion), frantically getting your things together (which often results in forgetting something) as you rush out the door, and stressing over being late to work while stuck in traffic.

When you get up early, you can get a workout in and organize your day ahead of time so you can be more productive.   Over time this habit can really be life-changing– you’ll accomplish more things and will free up more time for yourself by getting things done early and spending less time fixing emergencies caused by poor planning and mental errors.

2. Treat exercising like an ordinary activity instead of an event.  Get in the habit of doing “mini-exercise” sessions in your office or home throughout the day.  Oftentimes life gets too busy and we forget to exercise or it gets pushed aside as other demands take precedence.  Well, instead of waiting till lunch or after work to exercise, why not spread it out in short increments throughout your day?

You don’t have to do 90 minute exercise sessions or intensive cardio classes to benefit from exercise.  Doing 5-10 minute sessions every hour or two, in your regular work clothes if possible, can be beneficial as well.  Squats, lunges, planks, light barbells, isometrics and calisthenics are exercises that don’t need much space or preparation.  If you miss your main exercise session, at least you got some exercise in at work.

Here is a video of some of these exercises.  Just go for it without thinking too much about it.

3. Reduce your e-time/ get unplugged more often. You see it everywhere in public — people fixated on their smart phones checking email, texting, checking their Facebook account, watching videos or playing games; people typing away on their laptops at Starbucks…kids playing on their mom’s ipad.   It’s scary to think what all this increased exposure to electromagnetic radiation might be having on our health.

This year, make it a point to reduce your smartphone usage.  After all, when was the last time you missed something absolutely critical because you did not check your email?  If someone has something truly important to tell you, he/she should call and not be upset if a text or email doesn’t get an immediate response from you.   People these days are spending too much time on their electronic gadgets and aren’t aware of it.

As an alternative, set times in the day where you will give yourself some e-time to check email and Facebook such as after lunch and after dinner, for 30 minutes. That’s one hour a day of e-time, which is a lot.  You’ll have less eye strain, less anxiety and  will have more time to experience and enjoy the real world with all its sights, sounds and smells.

4.  Spend more time with the people in your life you care about the most; tell them how much you appreciate them.  Now that you are spending less of your time on your smartphone, connect with the people closest to you more often — your spouse, children, siblings, parents, uncles and aunts and good friends.  Tell them how much you appreciate them; even if it’s just a quick five minute call.

Think, right this moment, how you would feel if you received a phone call that ___ had died suddenly.  You realize you will never have the chance to say all those things you wanted to say to that person.   Don’t set yourself up for a lifetime of regret.  Take the small emotional risk, and the return will be ten-fold.

That’s it! I know there are many other good New Year resolutions out there; these are ones that I personally believe get a lot of “bang for the buck” and that apply to a lot of people these days.

Do you agree that these four simple things can make life a lot better?  Let me know in the comments!

Dr. Perez