Kids And Martial Arts

Do you worry about your kids?  Do you worry that they will grow up overweight and/or obese?  Are you concerned they will be the target of bullies?  Worse, will they BECOME bullies?  Are you seeing a tendency for them to boss their friends and classmates around?  Are they clumsy and prone to injury?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, martial arts training would help.  There is lots of evidence that martial arts training helps children grow up healthy and happy, able to interact comfortably in groups and one-on-one.

My family has participated in martial arts for my children’s whole lives, and over half of my life.  I have seen with my own eyes remarkable results in behavior, self-esteem and self-confidence both in children and adults.

Children with autism-spectrum disorders who have shown improvement in their ability to tolerate touch.  Children with ADHD who are able to meditate quietly for short periods.  Children with little or no self esteem or self confidence who gradually bloom into skilled teachers and leaders on (and off) the mat.

What does the science say?  There are LOTS of scientific studies published on martial arts training in kids.  Kids who study martial arts tend to enjoy physical activity more than those who don’t.  Martial arts is effective for prevention of fall-related injuries.  Martial arts training improves creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline.

Martial arts training benefits adults too.  I’ve seen adults with asthma develop vastly better lung function.  Core strength and stamina are particular targets of martial arts training.  Mindfulness, meditation, and stress relief are core principles.

If you choose to enroll your child in a martial arts program, how should you go about it?  Look for a school that particularly emphasizes teaching children (not as an afterthought).

Go to your prospective school(s) and observe classes.  See if the children have plenty of time to ask questions and understand the exercises and techniques.  See if the master or sensei of the school teaches the children him- or herself, or if classes are taught primarily by junior instructors.  Talk to the other parents and get an idea of what improvements they have seen in their children, as a result of the training.

Two other concerns to make sure you address before enrolling your child:

  • What is the teacher’s attitude towards bullying?  Does he or she specifically address measures to prevent and handle bullying in and outside of school?
  • What are the safety measures taken?  Injury prevention is a huge issue in martial arts, especially with developing children’s growing bones and flexible joints.  Make sure safety equipment such as mouthguards and groin protection are worn whenever contact is expected.

If you choose to enroll your child in a martial arts class, you should consider taking classes yourself.  Spending time on the mat is a great way to relieve stress and build strength, endurance and confidence that you can handle challenges that come your way.  If you’re not interested in external, combat-style arts you can consider Tai Chi, which is gentle and meditative but still has great health benefits.

martial arts

Credit: thesilentmind.com

Martial arts training is of benefit to the whole family.  Give it a try!  Your results should speak for themselves.

QUESTION:  Have you tried martial arts?  What was your experience?

Share

Gout Risk And Lifestyle Factors

Do you know anyone with gout? I do, unfortunately, quite a few people. It is one of the few illnesses I am willing to treat sight-unseen. It is on my top-five list of illnesses I NEVER want to have, right up there with kidney stones and cluster headaches.

We’ve known for a long time that gout risk is tied to lifestyle factors. It used to be known as the “disease of kings” and was associated with a rich diet, obesity, and alcohol intake. Recent research suggests that a huge percentage of gout risk is related to four risk factors: overweight and obesity, not eating a heart-healthy diet, alcohol intake and taking a diuretic medication.

First of all, what is gout? Gout is the most common inflammatory joint disease in the US. It is related to high blood levels of a substance called uric acid. When levels of this substance get high, it creates crystals in the joints that look like tiny needles under the microscope. Just looking at the crystals hurts! No wonder this illness is so painful!

A patient’s gout risk is directly related to serum uric acid levels. What makes uric acid go up? You got it – overweight or obesity, alcohol, a diet rich in meat, saturated fat and sugar, and diuretic medications.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School analyzed NHANES survey data and found that the most important risk factor for high uric acid levels was weight. People with a body mass index (BMI) over 35 were 3.5 times more likely to have high uric acid levels (and therefore increased gout risk) compared to people with a BMI less than 25. The higher the BMI, the higher the risk.

The closer people stuck to the DASH diet (the standard heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sodium, sugar and saturated fat) the better, too. Alcohol use increased the risk, and so did taking diuretics (water pills) for blood pressure and water retention.

If you or someone you love has gout, there are real things you can start to do TODAY to lower your uric acid levels and reduce your risk of gout attacks. You DO NOT want gout attacks. Trust me, I’ve seen them, it’s not pretty, and it is VERY painful. It will destroy your joints.

  • Stop drinking alcohol
  • Download a guide to the DASH diet and start following it. Reduce your intake of soda, sugar, processed foods, meat, dairy, eggs and shellfish. Add more fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fatty fish.
  • Over time, work on bringing your weight down. It won’t happen overnight but you CAN do it!
  • Talk to your doctor if you take water pills. The risk of causing gout isn’t huge, but it is there.

QUESTION: Do you know someone who has gout?

Share

Vape Lung And E-Cigarette Use

It always sucks to see a young, healthy person die. Car accidents, homicide, suicide, overdose. There are so many dangers out there! What we don’t expect a young healthy person to die from is a sudden, severe lung illness that strikes out of the blue.

Well, six people in the US have died of this sudden severe lung illness over the last few months. The CDC has received 380 reports of so-called “vape lung” over the last several months. All the patients had a history of using e-cigarettes, most had used e-cigarettes that deliver THC, many used products that deliver both THC and nicotine, and some had used only nicotine products.

There is no evidence of infection in these patients. Right now researchers believe it is a direct toxic effect of inhaling the vape liquid on the lung tissue. Many theories are being discussed about which chemicals might be responsible, but the answers aren’t clear yet.

vaping, e-cigarette
Credit: theverge.com

What symptoms should people watch out for? If you use e-cigarettes or other vape products and get sick, these symptoms mean you should see the doctor to make sure you don’t have Vape Lung:

  • Respiratory symptoms like cough, chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Systemic (whole-body) symptoms like fever, chills, fatigue and a high heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Abnormal findings on chest Xray and chest CT scan.

Please consider stopping using e-cigarettes if you already use them. Ask your doctor for help, the same treatments that help with cigarette smoking cessation help with giving up e-cigarettes. They have NOT been proven safer than cigarettes.

The most important measure, though, is not to start using e-cigarettes in the first place. It is scary to realize how many tweens and teens use e-cigarettes: over 5700 kids start vaping every day! You have to talk to your kids about this. If you need help starting the conversation, the American Lung Association has resources to help.

Vape lung is real. Vaping is not safe. It is not a good way to try to stop smoking cigarettes. Vape products are marketed to children, easy to get, and easy to hide. It is important to protect yourself and your family from these dangerous products.

QUESTION: Have you heard of vape lung? Have you tried vaping?

Share

Measuring Biological Age In Humans

Have you ever heard the phrase “Age is just a number”? I have patients who are young at 80 years of age, and patients who are old at 59 years of age. What’s the difference? BIOLOGICAL age.

Diet, lifestyle, inflammation, disease and many other factors combine to influence someone’s biological age. Many of these factors actually influence the way our genes are expressed – the field of epigenetics studies this phenomenon.

There is a large group of researchers studying ways to measure biological age. One way is to study DNA methylation. Aging produces predictable changes in DNA structure. Measuring these changes can give ideas about an individual’s risk of developing age-related diseases like heart attacks, dementia.

Researchers at UCLA have found that there are a number of diet and lifestyle factors that influence biological age. A lot of it makes intuitive sense. Things like abdominal obesity, smoking, high rates of inflammation (measured by blood levels of C-Reactive Protein or CRP), high blood pressure, diabetes and prediabetes are associated with accelerated aging and a higher biological age than chronological age. High triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol, part of the metabolic syndrome (along with abdominal obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol) also are associated with more rapid aging.

Conversely, there are a number of factors that slow down biological aging. Exercise and eating fresh fruits and vegetables are protective. Fatty fish and light to moderate (NOT excessive) alcohol intake also seem to slow the aging process. Interestingly, higher levels of education and higher income also are associated with lower biological aging. I’m not sure why this is so, but it may be that more well-educated and well-off people choose healthier diets and lifestyle habits than those who are poorer and less educated.

So what conclusions can we draw from this research?

  • Exercise regularly! Choose something you enjoy and JUST DO IT!
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables!
  • Maintain (or get to) a healthy weight. Your waist circumference should be less than 35 inches for women, and less than 40 inches for men. If you are very tall or very short, your waist should be less than half your height.
  • Stop smoking! See your doctor, there are treatments that will significantly increase your chances of success.
  • Choose fatty fish or take a fish oil supplement to increase your EPA and DHA intake.

If you have children, it is important to set up good habits now. Some interesting research has shown that in many respects health is more related to a person’s socioeconomic status and lifestyle in childhood than to what they achieve in adulthood. Setting a strong foundation of good lifestyle and diet habits now will help them be healthier their whole lives!

I think we all want to be the 85 year old with the health of an active 60 year old! I know I do 🙂 Epigenetic research is helping us understand how what we do today influences our biological age and how long we are able to maintain our good health.

QUESTION: Have you heard of epigenetics? Did you know your lifestyle choices influence your genes?

Share