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Friday, November 15, 2013

These 10 Factors Can Help You Become Leaner, Stronger, and Younger - Part 2

You can't change your genetics but you can control how they're expressed.
Last week I discussed five determinants within your control to stay leaner, stronger, and healthier. You can’t turn back the clock, you can’t control your genetics, but you can make the best daily decisions to become your very best self.
While Biomarkers: 10 Determinants of Aging You Can Control is nearly 23 years old, its wisdom transcends time even if some of the research proves outdated today. While out of print, I couldn’t put down the copy my friend loaned me and had to share the book’s insights with you.
Last week I discussed muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate (BMR), body fat, and aerobic capacity: concepts you’re probably already familiar with as an athlete or lifter.
Exercise is crucial, but as you’ll see with these five determinants, eating the right foods and getting optimal nourishment also significantly contributes to vitality and optimal health.
Blood sugar tolerance. Your hormone insulin clears sugar from your blood. Insulin is a storage hormone: it stores that sugar as glucose in your cells (which use it for energy), as glycogen, or as fat. A high-sugar diet knocks your thermostat out of balance, and insulin becomes less efficient in doing its job. Insulin resistance occurs when your cells stop “hearing” insulin’s call. Almost everyone becomes more insulin resistant as they age, but if you’ve received anything from my blogs, you know you needn’t succumb simply because something becomes “normal” as you age. A study in Sports Medicine found the right diet coupled with exercise could increase insulin sensitivity (the opposite of insulin resistance) and prevent diabetes in older adults. With a low-sugar, higher-protein diet coupled with burst training and weight resistance, I’ve seen numerous clients reverse insulin resistance.
Cholesterol. Back in 1991, cholesterol was the devil. (Of course, men also wore pleated pants back then, so we’ve evolved!) The idea was that saturated fat raised cholesterol, which in turn increased your risk for heart disease. Today we’re light years ahead about understanding cholesterol. According to Drs. Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra in their fabulous book The Great Cholesterol Myth, sugar and inflammation – not saturated fat – are the culprits for heart disease. They contend total cholesterol is meaningless, but so are HDL and LDL, the molecules that carry cholesterol. Instead, you want to determine what type of HDL and LDL you’re making to determine your risk for heart disease, and a particle size test is the way to do that. If you’re concerned about high cholesterol or your doc wants to put you on a statin, I strongly suggest you read The Great Cholesterol Myth to get the full story.
Blood pressure. Blood pressure refers to the amount of pressure blood creates circulating on your vessel walls. Your doctor will give you two numbers for blood pressure: systolic is maximum pressure, whereas diastolic indicates minimum pressure, of the blood pushing against your vessel walls. High blood pressure, or hypertension, becomes a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. According to a study in JAMA, “The residual lifetime risk for hypertension for middle-aged and elderly individuals is 90%, indicating a huge public health burden.”  Countless studies show exercise helps normalize blood pressure in hypertensive folks, especially combined with a low-sugar, high-fiber and protein diet with potassium-rich foods like avocado.
Bone density. Age decreases the mineral content of bones, leaving weaker, less dense, more brittle bones that can contribute to osteoporosis and its serious complications, including fractures and falls. Contrary to what the dairy industry wants you to believe, you do not need milk for strong, supple bones. Leafy greens and nuts and seeds provide plenty of highly absorbable calcium. Cheap calcium supplements won’t help much either, since numerous nutrients besides calcium contribute to strong bones. Look instead for a high-quality bone support formula. Weight resistance also contributes to healthy bones: the 50- and 60-somethings at my gym have far stronger bones than even younger folks who don’t lift heavy. 
Temperature Regulation. Thermoregulation, or temperature regulation, describes your body’s ability to keep its temperature within a normal range. Your hypothalamus helps regulate thermoregulation based on signals from your body’s thermal receptors. You’ve likely experienced this when you step outside to walk your dog in 30-degree weather. (Okay, fine: we don’t have many of those days in Los Angeles!) Receptors signal your posterior hypothalamus and you shiver to warm up. As you get older, your hypothalamus doesn’t always get the message to regulate body temperature, which can result in hypothermia (lowered body temperature) or hyperthermia (elevated body temperature). Elderly people can require nearly twice as long to return to normal core body temperature after exposure to temperature extremes, which explains why your grandma always had the heat cranked up in September.  Biomarkers argues that exercise can help repair your body’s internal temperature control mechanism. For instance, during vigorous exercise, peripheral blood flow can increase up to 10 times to eliminate increased metabolic heat produced in working muscles, helping your body better adjust to temperature extremes even when you’re not exercising.
After reading these determinants, I hope you better understand that even though genetics contributes to many detrimental aspects of aging, how you age is largely within your control.
My friend Dr. Jonny Bowden talks about the Four Horsemen of Aging: inflammation, glycation, oxidative damage, and stress. Employing these determinants can reduce your risk for all four horsemen.
Better glucose clearance, for instance, reduces inflammation as well as the glycation that “gums up” your proteins, making them sticky and less effective to work efficiently. Lifting heavy can reduce psychological stress, and an antioxidant-rich diet can help fight oxidative stress.
Never accept that genetics control your destiny or that physically declining is “normal” as you age. It’s never too late to change. I’ve seen 40-something folks who were overweight, weak, and lethargic become vibrant, strong, lean 50-somethings. Determination and mindset make all the difference, and even putting a few of these 10 determinants into action can yield impressive results.
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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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