From the monthly archives: "June 2015"


130620_MEDEX_CIGAR.jpg.CROP.article568-large (Copy)A big fat duuuuuuuhhhhhh in the world of health today, as a new study discloses that half of all cardiovascular deaths are due to preventable factors. Why duh? I have been reporting on this phenomenon since I wrote my quintessential health manual, The Six Keys To Optimal Health, a decade ago. Okay, okay, to be fair, many of you have not read it; and I am certain many of you do not peruse the health news in the same manner I do. However, saying that, we all know the risk factors for cardiac events, so why are people not taking heed?

The study, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine online, looked at data from the BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) 2009–2010 of over 500,000 people, ages 45 to 79, to asses risk factors associated with cardiovascular deaths (heart attacks, heart failure, etc). The five primary risk factors were: smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure—and all are preventable. Complete elimination of each of these risk factors would reduce cardiovascular deaths—the leading cause of death in the U.S.—by 54% in men, and nearly 50% in women.

heart disease risk factorsSmoking and high blood pressure led to the highest proportion of preventable deaths, and nearly 80 percent of people reported exposure to at least one of the five risk factors. Despite these risks being preventable, if every state was brought to the level of the best state, only ten percent of the deaths would be prevented. Get it? What this means is that Americans, in general, practice risky cardiovascular behaviors. Yes, eighty percent of the country either smokes, is obese, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. And many have several, and some have all! Do you get it? That’s freakin’ abysmal. And we wonder why health is so poor in the U.S. Can’t blame healthcare (sickcare) for this one.

Like I said, we all know the risks, so why do we fail to avoid them? Ummmm…I can take a guess…let’s see: because American citizens have become so spoiled by ease and comfort that we believe we are entitled to live as we please, and then be “saved” by medicine. That’s precisely what universal health care was all about – our inalienable right to have our preventable conditions treated – and this study proves it. Preventable! I know it is hard to hear, and it certainly doesn’t endear me to the masses when I say it, but it’s the truth and we both know it.

So let’s go over it again:

I know we are all going to die, but nobody reading this wants it to be them, not prematurely anyway. So do the right stuff and I promise you will get more out of life, and more life to get things out of. I’ll continue to send out tough love via health information, facts, and no nonsense interpretations meant to wake…you…up. Hope you are listening.


The-Bright-Sun-Blue-Sky-Clouds (Copy)I am one lucky mother…I love the sun, and I live in Southern California. But like many people, believe it or not, I sometimes neglect my sun needs. Nothing is crazier, I know, when so many regions are sun-deprived for much of the year. It’s the equivalent of “starving children…” in the guilt-trip-you-for-not-doing-something-you’re-supposed-to-category. But, believe me, we pay the price for our negligence.

I had been feeling not so great recently, and frankly I was perplexed. I had been working out regularly; in fact, it was first time in long time I have been completely injury-free. Shoulders felt good. Low back good…I was eating well. Lots of vegetables; good portions. Juicing. Quit coffee, so sleeping much better than…ugh months. On purpose professionally and within my dharma…but somehow, I was not feeling “myself”. I was starting to wonder if this aging thing really has something to it. I have never been an ageist. I just believe that you can be in the best shape of your life at any age. I really do. But I was tired, a little blue, and skin as white as some new veneers. I said to myself, “This year, I am going to channel Apollo.” I will commit to daily sun for the entire summer—beach, canyons, festivals, everything, bikes, stilts, pogo sticks, you name it. No more Mr. Pasty guy. Not this year.

Before

So I started last week at the local swimming pool with my kids. I actually wore sunscreen, cos my white-a** skin was extremely vulnerable. I felt immediately different. That night I had that good ol’ familiar sun-glow; you know the one, that buzz around your entire sun-exposed body. And I had a sort of refreshing tiredness, if you know what I mean. Then Sunday, Fathers Day, I took my girls to the beach. It was overcast, but hot and humid. I used sunscreen again. We sat in the sun for about two hours, which was perfect. While I got a teeny bit red (I’m not worried about it) that night, I felt really good—that, “I just did something real nice for my body,” good.

Then this week, I hit the hiking trail — evening hikes, diminishing sun, cooler temps — and really got my coconut stick legs some exposure. In exactly one week that saw me in the sun five of seven days, I already notice the difference. My energy levels have been boosted significantly, so both for physical exertion, and for mental work that comprises the bulk of what I do. Both are different in need and stamina; in other words, just because you have energy to go to the gym, doesn’t mean you have it to sit down and do your taxes for five hours, and vice versa, of course. My sleep has been deep and satisfying, which has me the most grateful because that area has been real wacky for some time. My mood is uplifted, light and enthusiastic, and I look ten years younger (no seriously…stop).

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And none of this is surprising to me. Like everybody, I sometimes forget how vital sufficient sun exposure is to health and well being, and thus how vital to the way I feel. It’s so easy to forget, especially since I take 5000 IU vitamin D every day. Supplementing is not the same as the real thing. Supplementing is only to fill in the gaps—the bulk of any nutrient must come from its source (write that down). Vitamin D, as we have seen over the last decade and more, is involved in so many processes that it truly is the wonder vitamin. Being sufficient in vitamin D is as empowering as being deficient is debilitating. From increased cancer risk, to immune dysfunction, to increased blood pressure, a lack of sufficient quantities of vitamin D3 in your blood leaves you susceptible to disease, while optimal levels can make you feel and operate at you highest.

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Duh to me…but I am happy to remember the basics when I stop feeling quite right (we all oscillate through high and low health constantly, within our own unique yet variable physiological range). That’s all it takes. Nobody has to feel the need for perfection—it’s up-and-down over and over again—just remain mindful. I challenge any fellow well-meaning hermits to get in the sun daily this summer, even if just for a walk on your lunch break. Eat lunch outside, do your paperwork in the park, drop beats in the heat—whatever you have to do to get your sun in this year. Me…I’ll be at the beach.


skinny jeans neuropathyFashion leading to funked-up function strikes again! This time skinny jeans are the culprit, and they are cutting off nerve supply to constricted hipsters. A case study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry tells of a 35-year-old Australian woman presenting to doctors with severe weakness of both ankles, which ultimately led to her being hospitalized for four days with muscle damage, swelling, and nerve blockages in her legs. Doh!

The woman reported helping a family member move, which required hours squatting while emptying cupboards. She stated that her skinny jeans felt tighter and more uncomfortable throughout the day, and when she returned home later that evening, she tripped and fell due to a bilateral foot drop. If you have never heard of foot drop, that is when nerve supply to the limb gets irritated (cut-off) enough to cause temporary paralysis. We see the same thing in long-term sciatica sufferers.

popliteal nerveUpon examination doctors found extreme swelling, to the degree that she could not remove the jeans on her own—they needed to be cut off! She had severe weakness affecting both legs, ankles and toes—she even had diminished ankle reflexes (no bueno). She had lost sensation at the outer (lateral) portions and tops of both her feet (really no bueno). She had classic signs of nerve irritation, which could ultimately lead to long-term damage. Damn those skinny jeans! Because nerve conduction studies showed conduction block in both common peroneal nerves between the popliteal fossa and fibular head, it is safe to say the compression occurred behind the knee.

Hospital staff treated the patient with intravenous hydration (good ol’ fashioned water, the elixir of life), and she was able to walk out of the hospital on her own after four days. Doctors were taken aback by the damage caused by skinny jeans.

“We were surprised that this patient had such severe damage to her nerves and muscles,” Dr. Thomas Kimber of the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia told the Associated Press.

We postulate that, in the present case, the peroneal neuropathies were the result of compression between the biceps femoris tendon and fibular head as a result of squatting. The tibial neuropathies were likely caused by compression of the nerves in the posterior compartment of the calf by oedematous muscles that had undergone ischaemic myonecrosis as a result of squatting. The wearing of ‘skinny’ jeans had likely potentiated the tibial neuropathies by causing a compartment syndrome as the lower legs swelled.

foot dropWhile previous complications with skinny jeans have been primarily nerve compression at the inguinal region or groin, leading to outer thigh numbness (lateral cutaneous nerve) this case was the first reported of its kind. The doctors believe the problem is compounded by the non-stretchy nature of denim.

I almost bought my first pair of skinny jeans last fall, but after trying them on, I just could not get around the fact that they felt…too…damn…tight. Hey, I like a firm grip in the crotch like the next guy, but nah…that was just too much jewel squeezing for my tastes. If you gotta wear the skinny jeans, then don’t don them for the big move, or any other activity that has got you squatting for dollars. Otherwise if you must squat, and you are wearing your jean leotards, better that you strip to the skivvies. Just hope they are not your tighty-whities.


WashingtonMtRushmoreAnybody who knows me is aware of my voracious appetite for reading biographies. I especially love learning about the difficulties great people have faced, and overcome, on their journeys. Whether talking Confucius, Sir Issac Newton or Jesus Christ, I relish the fact that every life, big or small, has obstacles to surmount. Why do I appreciate a good tale of conquered summits? Because it helps me walk through my own cross-bearing; it reminds me that every challenge I face is a part of my history. What will become of my legacy as it reveals itself from the fog of the great unknown? That’s the most exciting thing about life as we live it—we just have no freakin’ idea.

When it comes to conquering the chaos of  uncertainty with poise, honor and nobility, I find no story more uplifting than General George Washington’s experience commanding the Continental Army during the American Revolution. If you do not know this story more than your faded recollections of high school history, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Joseph J. Ellis, His Excellency, George Washington. I read this book the year of its publication, 2004, on a whim, simply because I saw it in a bookstore and it spoke to me energetically, or called me over, so to speak.

This book could not have been more appropriately titled because excellence is the only word that truly does Washington justice. He was excellence incarnate. But more important is his story, his role in the American War of Independence, which is the perfect metaphor for what we all face at one time or another in our lives: Dire circumstances, on the verge of catastrophe, up against forces well beyond our capacity to handle, totally unprepared, ill-equipped, and without resources, yet through a sense of purpose, tenacity, grit, and some unexpected good luck, we can make it through, forging a whole new entity, nation or paradigm along the way. George Washington’s story is every person’s story who has ever tried to build, lead or change something in their lives. And like the General, if you can survive, you will probably succeed and thrive.

The GeneralHow did he do it? How did George Washington manage to keep afloat during such dismal and uncertain conditions? I will present to you here what I believe were Washington’s key characteristics, ones I think we can all benefit from when putting them into action during our own turmoil. The thing you must understand about what we discuss here is the general air of the time in 1775, when Washington had been appointed commander of the Continental Army. The British were the greatest Colonial power in the world, with a devastating navy. They were mega-wealthy—their colonies brought in vast sums of money, of which they used to finance their war machine. They had spent an entire century fighting (and beating) their neighbors and colonial rivals of Western Europe; they were experienced, tough and disciplined.

BattleOfVirginiaCapesWashington’s military, on the other hand, was comprised of amateurs—”the middling  sort”—as Ellis describes them. They were at  times undisciplined, unpaid and without supplies or clothing. Congress at times meddled where it shouldn’t have, and was often powerless to help—money, supplies and food were in severe shortage. Despite some early successes, the Continental Army had suffered severe setbacks in New York and New Jersey. To say the colonies, public and  military were riding low would be an understatement. To say General George Washington was in a bleak situation, a state of darkness, in which he could not be entirely certain of how events would unfold, would still only be touching the tip of the iceberg  as to what he must have been experiencing. But it all came to a head during the winter of 1777-1778, at Valley Forge, in Pennsylvania—where the Continental Army was holed-up, riding out the severe cold. The men were wracked by starvation, disease and malnutrition.

“To see Men without Cloathes to cover their nakedness, without Blankets to lay on, without Shoes…is a mark of Patience and obedience can scarce be paralel’d.” ~ General George Washington

As Ellis describes it: “Most of the horses died from starvation or exposure, and their decaying carcasses filled the air with a stench that joined with the blood in the snow to create sensory scenes that Washington never forgot.”

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Keeping this dreadful scenario in mind, and perhaps even relating to your own personal Valley Forges, let’s now take a look at what made Washington the avatar of excellence:

  • He had colossal staying power — this is the hardest thing for people to keep in mind. Just stick it out—time really is on the side of those who can tough out the storm. Washington rode out six long years of war—that’s no home, no family, no rest, no peace, no quiet, no partying for 72 months! Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Some people get thrown if they have a few bad weeks. If you want to succeed at any life change or endeavor, sticking out the tough (and sometimes all-out-freakin’-abysmal) times is tantamount to victory. Tides turn over time, and you can be assured that your down-slide will turn to an upswing sooner or later. Amazing things happen to those patient enough to wait; loss is only guaranteed if you throw in the towel. Stick it out like a Continental.

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  • He did not let his inexperience or “not knowingness” distort his mission — Up to the time of his appointment, George Washington never commanded a large conventional army. He only knew what he had learned from military books, and by observing British commanders under whom he had served as a young man, but he did not let this cloud his sense of purpose (dharma), or keep him from going full force into the unknown. Too many of us cower under the nightmares we create in our minds over not being experienced, talented, smart, young, blessed or lucky enough to make the grade. You are never going to be one hundred percent ready to take any leap—heck, you might just find yourself in utter chaos brought about by nature itself: sink or swim time. While being prepared for what you can anticipate is one of my mantras, carrying on, despite your greenness, will take you to heights unanticipated. So fight through fear, and focus forward—it’s the only way to fly, anyhow.
  • Battle_of_PrincetonHe held steadfast through several demoralizing defeats — With his troops battered and beaten, without clothes or shoes, their Marches of Patience “traced by the Blood from their feet,” the General pushed onward, with a certainty that is needed to overcome any monumental obstacle. Certainty in this case is not of how things will unfold, but of the laser-focus discipline necessary to complete one’s destiny. We have all had to withstand demoralizing times, but when these come one after another, it takes real strength of will to maintain one’s sense of purpose. That is why I say it is important to be in-tune with one’s dharma or life’s purpose, because this is what drives us through the blizzard, battered and bloodied, with or without shoes. When our strength of purpose is greater than outward conditions, we conquer.
  • He was bold, creative and unorthodox — Washington did what was needed at all times of dismal uncertainty, and he did things differently. His bold moves completely perplexed the British army who thought they had the “old fox” trapped. He made the most of what he had, which was very little by way of supplies, artillery and even food. And while most armies would rest after battle, Washington had his moving, bringing them to safety, while their opponents slept. When we are in our own turmoil, nothing is more powerful than movement, action, and novelty. The harshest of times are what lead to innovation and new ways of doing things. If necessity is the mother of invention, then chaos is the father of efficiency. We so often learn to do things in a better way when we have just got to do something, anything, fast. Take your own dire circumstances as an opportunity to try new things, especially if you have lost money, resources or people, and you have got nothing much else left to lose. Get crazy; get creative—you will be surprised at what you come up with.

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  • He dealt with the worst conditions, and learned from them — Nobody has had worse conditions than the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Shortages of men, shoes, shirts, blankets, and gunpowder would have crippled most men into impotency, but not Washington who powered on. As Ellis put it, “The lesson Washington drew from that experience, learned not from books but from struggling on a day-to-day basis, was that the meaning of the Revolution…had been transformed during the course of the war.” Persistence, certainty, and tenacity are crucial elements during the toughest of times, but most important is what you learn from moment-to-moment. Too many of us keep our blinders on during tough times, when in fact our eyes should be the most open. What did you learn from each of your experiences? What was the upside to the downside, and vice versa? What can you be grateful for each day? Write it down, don’t mind-eff it—every day, write down and meditate on what you are grateful for. Focus on that.
  • WashingtonHe stayed true to his principles — Washington was no pushover. He loved and respected his men, for sure, as his many letters advocating on their behalf showed how deep his admiration. But make no mistake about it, the General stayed true to his position as leader and commander; he demanded discipline. He relieved officers of their duty if they showed dullness, cowardice or insubordination of any sort; he would string up deserters, and order “one hundred lashes to their bare backs for minor infractions.” Washington was driven by a profound purpose, and he knew his role within the dynamic. Know your role, and play it out to the fullest, to the best of your abilities, and without looking for reward or recognition. Doing things in this way will allow you to complete your mission without getting side-tracked by low-priority distractions or irrational emotions.
  • He did not attach to his perspective — Perspectives are relative, and attaching too firmly to any one closes you off to greater possibilities. Washington was generally firm in his convictions, but he was also able to let go, and in so doing, allowed his cause to unfold into its ultimate victory. Despite his stubbornness in wishing to attack the British again in New York, he relinquished to the French plan to attack in Virginia, where the French fleet was prepared to drive the British out of Chesapeake Bay. Washington’s giving in to a different perspective and path led to the decisive victory in the war. We simply cannot know everything, and more often than not, it is the unknown that holds the final solution, not the known, so let go when time calls for it (you will feel it intuitively). The exciting mysteries of life unfold in the space of the unknown. Trust in the process. Trust in the universal forces of destiny, and watch your cause manifest even better than how you envisioned it. This is a universal truth illustrated beautifully by Washington’s history in the war.

cornwallisAs I said, we can look to General George Washington not only as the father of America, but as an avatar on how to handle our own internal wars, and our external Valley Forges. By practicing discipline, confidence, tenacity, persistence, certainty, creativity and flexibility, we too can overcome the most dismal of circumstances, and create the change we have been working toward. Whether we are talking financial struggles, relationship struggles, challenges with children, or complete life-makeovers, just remain mindful of the traits Washington (and the entire Continental Army) exhibited during the Revolutionary War. We all must enter battles, survive wars, and carry crosses. How we come out on the other side depends directly on how we commit to walking through them. Be like the General and do it with purpose and conviction, and watch your destiny evolve in excellence.

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