Archive for the ‘Men’ Category

Benefits of Exercise

Posted on: December 1st, 2014 by Richard Malik No Comments

It is common wisdom that exercise is healthy. A few of the benefits of exercise include: reduced cardiovascular risk, reduced diabetes risk, prevention of several types of cancer, improved mood, and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

But, how much exercise at what intensity is most helpful? Simple, clear guidance on the benefits of exercise is difficult to find.

Fitness sport couple running jogging outside on trail

When assessing a patient’s cardiovascular risk, I like to use a global risk assessment calculator that factors in age, gender, cholesterol ratio, blood pressure, smoking status, and diabetes status. My favorite cardiovascular global risk assessment tool can determine the benefits of various treatments (including exercise, Mediterranean diet, or statin therapy) on cardiovascular risk. Unfortunately, in this calculator (which is better than any other I have seen) the effect of physical activity is absolute – “physical activity” reduces cardiovascular by about the same amount as statin therapy. But it can’t be this simplistic; physical activity once a week must be less effective than daily physical activity; running for an hour must have a different benefit than walking for an hour.

To help clarify the benefit of exercise on physical health, I asked my research assistant, Dakota, to summarize a recent systematic review on physical activity and mortality. He summarized the research like this:

  • People of all ages who are able to be physically active will have a reduced mortality rate of 14 to 26% by doing 150 to 300 min of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week, respectively.
  • Doing a certain amount of physical activity a week does not guarantee a longer life and does not reduce the negative affects of smoking or an unhealthy diet.
  • Studies show that the more vigorous the activity the more beneficial it is to the body.
  • Studies also show the more time spent doing physical activity per week the better as long as a healthy diet is maintained and nutrients are not depleted.
  • Physical activity is shown to reduce mortality substantially more in women than men.
  • As a strict relation of risk reduction per calories burned the results were greater than or equal to 10% risk reduction for 1500kcal/week in men and 650kcal/week in women.  Studies support the message that ‘some is good, more is better.’

So, to reduce mortality by about 26%, exercise for 300 minutes per week. Men should burn about 3,750 calories per week and women about 1,600 calories per week. My favorite way to assess calories burned is to use the Runmeter app on my iPhone – it can be used for walking, biking, hiking, or running. Just enter your weight into the app and it will calculate calories burned and help you keep track of your own benefits of exercise!

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Be well,

Richard Malik, ND

Naturopathic Medicine in Connecticut, Naturopathic Medicine in Vermont, Naturopathic Oncology in Vermont, Naturopathic Oncology in Connecticut

 

Staying Healthy This Winter

Posted on: November 20th, 2011 by doctor No Comments

Between colds, flus and the winter blahs, winter can be a tough season.  Here are some  natural steps to ensure a healthy winter season for you and your family.

  • Get your rest – sleep is a nutrient that is important for health and happiness.
  • Use a humidifier – dry winter air contributes to the increased rate of respiratory tract infections.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables, including fruits (yes, fruits are vegetables).  Vegetable soups,  roasted vegetables, and bean dishes are very warming in winter months.  Fruits always make a healthy snack or dessert.
  • Make sure you are getting enough vitamin D – up to 2,500 IU daily for children 1 year or older and up to 4,000 IU daily for anyone 9 years or older.  This almost always requires supplementation since we get no vitamin D from sunlight in winter months and a glass of milk has only 100 IU.
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids are so important for healthy immune function and mood – they also help prevent cracked lips and dry hands.  If you like fish, great sources that are low in mercury and other environmental toxins include sardines, Alaskan salmon, herring, cod, and mackerel.  If you don’t like fish, taking fish oil capsules will do the trick – just make sure your brand is tested for rancidity, heavy metals, and environmental toxins.
  • Stay active – getting outside when the sun is out can have a remarkable affect on our health in the winter months.
  • I know, I know it is not fair to bring up during the holidays, but sugary sweets slow down the function of white blood cells that devour bacteria and can have negative affects on mood.  Refined carbohydrates like sugar (white, brown, sugar cane crystals, dehydrated cane juice, etc.) corn syrup, honey, and maple syrup are all culprits.  For homemade sweets, stevia extract is a wonderful, healthy, natural sugar substitute.  Apple pie, anyone?

If cold or flu symptoms start, liquid extracts of echinacea root and elderberry taken by mouth help symptoms while reducing the duration of illness.  Goldenseal (warning – a very bitter herb) works great in a neti pot for reducing nasal congestion or by mouth for sore throats.

Be Well,

Richard Malik, ND

Top 5 Recommendations for your Family Doctor

Posted on: May 31st, 2011 by doctor No Comments

According to the National Physicians Alliance, the 5 steps your family doctor can take to most likely improve the quality of care you and your family receive are:

  1. DON”T do x-ray, MRI, or CT imaging for low back pain within the first 6 weeks unless red flags exist for other serious conditions that present with low back pain.  Low back pain in the 5th most common reason for a visit to the doctor.
  2. DON’T prescribe antibiotics for most cases of sinusitis unless severe, and symptoms of colored nasal discharge, facial pain, or dental pain last 7 or more days.  Most cases of sinusitis seen in clinics are due to viral infections that will resolve on their own.  Still, antibiotics are prescribed for 80% of these patients.
  3. DON’T order electrocardiogram (also known as EKG or ECG) for patients without cardiac problems or at high risk of cardiac problems.  Without symptoms or being at high-risk, EKG testing is likely to cause more problems than it is likely to help.
  4. DON’T perform Pap tests for patients younger than 21 years (most abnormal results resolve on their own) or women with a hysterectomy without a medical history of cancer of the reproductive organs.
  5. DON’T use bone mineral density testing to screen for osteoporosis in women younger than 65 year or men younger than 70 years unless there is another medical condition that increases the risk of osteoporosis.  Bone mineral density results have surprisingly little ability to identify a patient’s risk of fractures if the patient does not have a history of fragility fracture.
Being an educated patient and discussing your concerns with your doctor is the best way to ensure you get the best quality care possible.  By avoiding unnecessary procedures and treatments you are less likely to experience adverse effects and help to keep health care costs down for everyone.
Be well,
Richard Malik, ND

Does Vitamin D Improve Depression?

Posted on: May 14th, 2011 by doctor No Comments

A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry finds that vitamin D supplementation does not improve symptoms of in women older than 70.  The researches identified women who had vitamin D deficiency and gave them 500,000 IU of vitamin D one time each year for three to five years.  Hmmm.  This is an unusual vitamin D dosing regimen.

In my experience, providing 5,000 IU vitamin per day, every day, for adult patients is a safe way of maintaining optimal vitamin D status – using less than 4,000 IU does not usually work.  In my clinic, this approach has been a part of a successful program for improving depression in patients with vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency.  This means taking almost 1,800,000 IU of vitamin D per year – much more than what was provided in this study.

According to the Institute of Medicine, 4,000 IU of vitamin D is the upper intake limit for universal safety in people older than 9 years old.  At this level of intake, the annual dosage of vitamin D is 1,460,000 IU – again, much more than the 500,000 IU used in this study.

Honestly, I don’t know if randomized control trials will end up showing that vitamin D supplementation prevents or treats depression.  However, providing one third of the usual annual dose to maintain vitamin D sufficiency is not a very good way to assess the effectiveness of vitamin D for depression.  Providing that dosage all at once makes even less sense.

This is an example of how the results of research and the headlines may not provide an accurate assessment of the question that is trying to be answered.

Be Well,

Richard Malik, ND

Proton Pump Inhibitors and Fracture Risk

Posted on: May 14th, 2011 by doctor No Comments

A recent article in the New York Times reports on research that links long-term Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) with a 30% increased risk of bone fractures.  According to the article, the long-term use of PPIs may decrease absorption of calcium in the intestines.

PPIs reduce the acidity in the stomach in order to reduce symptoms of heartburn.  While this is an effective approach for reducing the burning pain caused by the regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus, lowered acidity in the stomach decreases the absorption of some nutrients – including calcium – and increases the chances of getting several types of infection including infections of the digestive tract and lung.

Some forms of calcium do not require stomach acid in order to be absorbed.  These forms include calcium citrate and calcium citrate/malate.  When taking PPIs or other antacid medicines, it is a good idea to supplement calcium intake with these forms of calcium especially if you are at increased risk of osteoporosis or of fracture.

The only drawback of calcium citrate and calcium citrate/malate is that these forms of calcium are very bulky – capsules usually contain only 150mg of calcium.  This means that the usually recommended dosage is 5 to 10 capsules per day.

Ensuring healthy vitamin D status is also very important for calcium absorption.

For more information on addressing osteoporosis, read my previous blog post on osteoporosis.

Other nutrients whose absorption can be decreased by acid lowering medications include magnesium and vitamin B-12.

Be well,

Richard Malik, ND

Simple Steps for Staying Sharp, Stopping Senility

Posted on: December 27th, 2010 by doctor No Comments

Preventing cognitive decline as we age may require only simple measures, according to several recent research articles out of Oxford University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the National Institute of Aging.  Scientists have been looking into the association between preventive lifestyle measures and the size of our brains as we age.

As we age, our brains atrophy; they get smaller over time.  This is a normal process, just like graying hair or skin wrinkling.  However, according to MRI scans, people with senility tend to have more brain atrophy than similarly aged individuals with good cognitive function.  Alzheimer’s Disease produces even faster rates of brain atrophy.

Oxford University researchers recently published study findings indicating that in patients with mild cognitive decline older than 70 years old, daily supplementation for two years with folic acid (800mg), vitamin B-12 (500 micrograms), and vitamin B-6 (20mg) decreases the rate of brain atrophy compared to similar patients taking a placebo.

Research by scientists at the National Institute of Aging found that low folate levels may increase the likelihood of symptoms of depression – especially in women between the ages of 20 and 85 years old.

Folic acid, vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6 status can be measured with a single simple blood test: homocysteine.  There is an inverse relationship between intake of these vitamins and homocysteine levels –  homocysteine goes down with supplementation of these nutrients.  Optimal homocysteine levels are less than 12 nm/L.

In another study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that women and men in their 70’s who walk more than 9 miles per week have better cognitive function than their less active peers.  These patients were monitored for 9 years and their preservation of cognitive function was correlated with slower rates of brain atrophy.

The amounts of folic acid, vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6 suggested above are non-toxic – adverse effects at these dosages does not commonly occur.  Physical activity, such as walking, not only improves cognitive function but also prevents cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and enhances mood.  These natural approaches to mental health are affordable and powerful medicine you can use without a prescription.

Back to School, Back to Wellness

Posted on: August 24th, 2010 by doctor No Comments

It is a great time of year to improve the health of your family.  While preparing for the coming school year, it can take only a few moments to identify simple steps that will substantially improve your family’s wellness and make your life simpler.

Sleep is important – I consider it an essential nutrient.  Some medical studies show that decreased sleep can increase your chances of getting a cold.  Healthy amounts of sleep also improve mood and support weight loss.  Keeping regular bed times and avoiding stimulating activities (i.e. movies, wild play, caffeine, and sugar) before bed can go a long way to getting your family to bed at a reasonable hour and waking refreshed.

Vitamin D is important for both neurological and immune function.  Vitamin D is produced in the skin when exposed to direct sunlight – something that does not occur in cooler months of the year.  2,000 IU of vitamin D per day is safe for adults and children older than 12 months.

Healthy food is the cornerstone of good health.  Most people know that vegetables, fruits and whole grains are health foods, but many don’t realize the many negative effects of refined carbohydrates.  Beyond encouraging obesity, refined sugars cause emotional agitation and reduce immune function; some studies show that sugar, honey, and maple syrup reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria by as much as 50%!  Simply reducing – it is not necessary to eliminate – intake of refined carbohydrates can have many positive health effects for your family.

Imagine what your family’s school year could be like with less illness and irritability.  Imagine how this can improve your stress level and support the time and energy required for raising a family and having fulfilling relationships.  Sometimes, great changes can result from the simplest of interventions.

Be Well,

Richard

Simple Solutions for Seasonal Allergies

Posted on: August 24th, 2010 by doctor No Comments

As many as 25% of Americans experience a runny nose, itchy eyes, or asthma due to seasonal allergies.  There are some simple mainstream and alternative approaches that can alleviate symptoms in allergy sufferers.

An allergy is a type of response that occurs when the immune system is reacting to things in the environment that are not in and of themselves a threat.  For example, the danger in a person with a severe allergy to peanuts does not come from the peanut itself, but instead solely from the immune system’s extreme response.  Similarly, pollens, dander, dust mites, and other common allergens do not actually cause the symptoms of seasonal allergies, but trigger immune reactions that cause common symptoms.

The mainstream medical approach to seasonal allergies includes anti-histamines and other drugs that block the immune system’s ability to release natural chemicals that cause allergic symptoms.  These work for many, but not all allergy sufferers.  Another mainstream medical approach is immunotherapy – injections of small amounts of allergens that are designed to decrease your body’s sensitivity to identified allergens.

Another approach that helps many allergy sufferers reduce their symptoms and need for medication is identification and avoidance of non-seasonal allergens that a person’s immune system is reacting to.  This approach reduces a person’s total allergy burden and frequently reduces seasonal allergy symptoms.

Common non-seasonal allergens include dust mites and dander.  Simple steps that can have dramatic effects include: have pets sleep in another room, use dust mite covers on bedding, frequently vacuum with an effective HEPA vacuum, and use indoor HEPA air-purifiers.

Another common non-seasonal allergen is mold.  While HEPA vacuums and air filters can be helpful, the most effective approach is addressing the cause; identify damp places in the home and remedy them with a dehumidifier and, when necessary, minor renovations.

Another common non-seasonal allergen is mold.  While HEPA vacuums and air filters can be helpful, the most effective approach is addressing the cause; identify damp places in the home and remedy them with a dehumidifier and, when necessary, minor renovations.

Lastly, many chronic seasonal allergy sufferers see marked improvement when they identify foods they regularly consume that contribute to their reactions.  Offending foods can be identified through strict dietary avoidance (usually for several weeks) with controlled reintroduction to monitor changes in symptoms.  The hard part is knowing which foods to avoid.  Some specialty lab tests can be very helpful in this process, but many people end up reacting to one or more of the following foods: dairy, eggs, gluten containing grains, soy, or yeasts.

Lastly, many chronic seasonal allergy sufferers see marked improvement when they identify foods they regularly consume that contribute to their reactions.  Offending foods can be identified through strict dietary avoidance (usually for several weeks) with controlled reintroduction to monitor changes in symptoms.  The hard part is knowing which foods to avoid.  Some specialty lab tests can be very helpful in this process, but many people end up reacting to one or more of the following foods: dairy, eggs, gluten containing grains, soy, or yeasts.

There are a couple important things to remember:

  • if you have a serious anaphylactic allergy, always avoid that allergen, and
  • if experimenting with dietary avoidance, make sure the diet still has adequate options, calories, and nutrients – especially for children – because eating should always be fun and healthy.
Be Well,
Richard

How Much Exercise for Weight Loss

Posted on: September 7th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

Weight loss is acheived increasing the calories burned in relation to calories consumed. But after your doctor suggest it, how much and how hard should you exercise? There is any easy way to determine appropriate exercise intensity regardless of your age or physical condition.

To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. I am 37, so my maximum heart rate is 183.

Exercise should NOT be done at your maximum heart rate, but at 70 to 85% of it. So, my optimum exercise level is at 128 to 155 beats per minute.

To encourage good health, this intensity of exercise should be performed for 20 or 30 minutes 3 to 5 days per week. For weight loss, exercise at your target heart rate for 30 to 60 minutes, 5 days a week.

Remember to get your physicians approval prior to starting an aggressive exercise program.

Be Well,
Richard

Stomach Acid is Important

Posted on: September 7th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

The acid that is secreted by the parietal cells in the human stomach play a couple of very important roles.  First off, it helps to break down proteins so that nutrients are more available in the intestines and easily absorbed.  Stomach acid is important for calcium absorption, among other nutrients.

Stomach acid is also an important part of the immune system of the digestive tract.  Acid kills many of the organisms that we are commonly exposed to and helps to prevent infection.

Over the counter and prescription medications used to treat heartburn or GERD focus on reducing stomach acid production.  As I mentioned in the previous post, stomach acid is not the cause of heartburn – it is caused by a loose lower esophageal sphincter.

Consistent with the physiological importance of stomach acid, recent medical research indicates that medications that lower stomach acidity are associated with an increased risk of infection (gastrointestinal and pneumonia!) and osteoporosis.  Another of the known adverse effects of these medications is hair loss – treated naturopathically with specific nutrients.

The natural treatment of GERD involves identification and avoidance of aggravating foods and herbal and nutritional recommendations that soothe and protect the esophagus while improving gastrointestinal function.  Discontinuance of acid lowering medication and WITHOUT GERD symptoms is a real possibility for many patients.

Be Well,

Richard

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