Health Blog

Fuel for Thought

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My car’s check engine light kept coming on and then turning off on its own. What the heck? Is my oil low? Is the engine going to seize and I break down on the highway? Are parts and pieces going to fail and I end up with a junker? Pretty much everything under the hood is a mystery to me and the check engine light, while yellow as in warning, freaks me out. Rather than experience a breakdown or some other major problem, my husband bought this nifty device you plug into your car in some obscure place under the dash or maybe the hood. It then gives you the code that is generating the check engine light. If you can’t find out what that code means by googling it, you can do what I did, and call a mechanic. Fortunately, the code my husband found is not of the urgent variety. Basically my car’s engine was not running at its optimal power output and likely due to poor gas. I am now filling the tank with premium fuel only. Light off. Problem solved.

Our bodies are kind of like our vehicles. A big mystery under the hood and prone to poor performance if fueled improperly. Lack of routine maintenance and attention to various systems leads to problems. Most of us know the basics of vehicle care…check the oil and fluid levels; keep tires at proper inflation; watch for signs of trouble and address it early. Our bodies, which are much more intricately built and incredibly more adaptable require routine care and maintenance too. If you keep the systems in balance and an eye on possible problems, taking corrective measures before the problem is real, you will get optimal performance from your body. Optimal performance leads to a great quality of life!

Probably the most important care you can give your body revolves around what you put in it – what goes in the fuel tank. Premium fuel is like this: complex carbs, low fat proteins, healthy fats and water. That’s it. Junk fuel is eating mostly simple carbs, high fat proteins, bad fats and living on sugary drinks. Fuel with junk and you will in fact feel terrible and your engine will be sluggish. Your body’s warning light will be glaring red and you will get sick. It doesn’t take any nifty device to tell you this. Bad fuel is bad fuel. No two ways about it.

So take care of your vehicle like you already do. Keep it running smooth and safe. Way more importantly, take care of your body. The best way to do that is to fuel it well. You can always replace your vehicle – plenty of options and new models to choose from. But that body of yours? It’s all you’ve got! Love it, be kind to it and feed it well and it will take you more miles than any vehicle ever could.


Water – The Fountain of Youth?

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Take a guess. What percent of your body is water? Less than 50%? Less than 60%? Maybe 70%? The answer is your body is 65-70% water, but less so if you have more body fat. Water is therefore quite obviously SUPER IMPORTANT. The average adult eliminates about 2.5 liters of water per day. You will get some water replacement from your food intake but the rest needs to come from water. H20. Pure and simple and FREE. Not soda. Please, never drink sugar soda. Ever! Not even diet soda. Not coffee. Especially not sugar and fat loaded coffee. Water – that clear, earth given refreshment.

The majority of water is stored around our cells and in the bloodstream. Our bodies are hard at work 24 hours a day trying to keep a fluid balance. This balance is critical to the proper function of everything – keeping you warm, keeping you cool, keeping you awake, helping you sleep, keeping the silent biological processes working smoothly all day long – from thinking about what to eat, eating it, digesting it and eliminating waste. Think of your plants when you forget to water them. They wilt. Fast. Water has to be a top of the list priority for you every day. The old standby rule of 64 ounces per day will not do you wrong. Give or take a few ounces and you will be fine.

Keep in mind, physical activity will use more water – yeah! Drink more! More flushing of the system so to speak. If you lose more than 1-2% of your body weight during physical activity you can end up decreasing your performance by 15-20%. So in other words, that water is calorie free, but it is nutritionally vital to optimal performance so replenish and replace. And one last thing. You will save a TON of money by drinking your tap water. Fill your water bottle(s) and keep them handy. You save money. You save mother earth from gazillions of plastic bottles. And I don’t know if it’s true or not but I’ve been told that the makers of Evian water named it as such because look what Evian is spelled backwards: Naïve. And they are laughing all the way to the bank.


Be Like Peter Rabbit

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There is a bumper crop of wild rabbits in Anchorage this summer. Not a day goes by where I don’t see at least half a dozen scampering about, chowing down on all the weeds and wild flowers, pulling a frozen position in the middle of the road so as not to be seen. Yeah – I get where the phrase “dumb bunny” came from. Little hopping geniuses these critters. Yet I have to say they aren’t so dumb as to not know how to survive in the wild. Sure, it’s mostly instinct and adaptation, yet I can’t help but wonder if the rabbit diet of lots of greens – dandy lions in particular, is not a fantastic secret that keeps them so healthy and active. And satisfied.

An eye to the wild kingdom that survives and thrives might give us, the superior human population, some pointers to being healthy and active. I know you can eat dandy lion leaves and they are reportedly loaded with amazing green stuff that beats spinach, kale and the like. Whole Foods sells them in the produce department. I have yet to try them even though my yard is covered in them. Maybe one day. More interesting to me is how these rabbits eat just enough. Only what they need. I mean seriously, these furry hoppers have a non-ending smorgasbord of green meals growing all over the place, yet I have never seen an overweight rabbit. It’s like they have a meal, then hop to the next feeding place (hopping burns a lot of calories – try jump rope), and commence to the next meal. Or maybe a nap. Or maybe well planned raid on someone’s garden. I admit I have not seen all this happen in a sequence but I feel pretty sure that this is how they roll (hop).

What if we only ate what we needed? How would we look and feel if we had to walk, run, hop, skip to every meal? If we ate only good, nutritional food, what would our health status be? Would we ever even need to go to the doctor? I would say rarely. Would we be super healthy people who rarely get sick compared to our junk food, non-active friends? I would say yes. Seems so simple. The cure for chronic disease and a boatload of other ailments is right at our fingertips. Yours and mine. It’s all in what we choose. Because indeed and in fact and in every way, we ARE what we eat. I’ll take being a dandy lion any day over a supersized side of fries.


Fathers’ Day – Gratitude for a Job Well Done

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In 1948, blinded by young love and oblivious to the terror they would cause their parents, two young people, he, a young US Army lieutenant back from the war in Korea, and she, his beautiful college graduate, hometown sweetheart slipped off into the night on a bus headed from Boston to Seattle. Her parents didn’t like him, and his parents didn’t like her parents. Fuel for the fire for two besotted, determined twenty-somethings. Half way to Seattle they each called their respective parents. There was no turning back and the banishment was in force.

Upon arrival in Seattle, they bought a tiny house using the GI bill, in an area of Seattle that was affordable but what most would consider on the “south side of the tracks” – a part of town known locally as Rat City. But that didn’t matter. They were devout, determined and resourceful. They were fearless of what each tomorrow would bring, but that never stopped them from embracing the present and dreaming of the future.

Over the course of the next 24 years, they raised 12 children in that same tiny house. Duty, honor, country. Those were the marching orders he delivered and demanded. Love, God, gentle kindness. That was her aura and hope for her 12 little bandits.

He could never have known he would take his last breath at age 59. He never knew he wouldn’t meet most of his grandchildren, nor see the wild and fantastic achievements of his twelve children. Every family has their story – everyone has a Father. This weekend we remember our Fathers, whether living or passed on. My memories have evolved from rebellion to deep gratitude for the dreams, sacrifices and solid support my Father gave all 12 of us. My hope is that all Fathers know they are vital, that they inspire and pave the way for the future. That their dreams lead to the life their children lead – and as the 8th child of that batch of 12, I say “Thank you Dad. The dream is alive.”


Dog Tired

Alaska Premier Health

For so many years I believed I could survive on very few hours of sleep. Needing sleep was a weakness, and fatigue and tiredness were states of mind. It was like a competition, silent or otherwise, to see how much I could get done on the least amount of sleep possible. Well now I am much older and wiser and let me tell you, sleep is NOT over-rated, and in fact it is critical to well-being. If you don’t get enough sleep, and enough is 7 solid hours of deep sleep each night, you can rapidly become a mess. Making mistakes, making poor decisions, forgetful, stressed out, overweight, edgy, hyper sensitive, and the list goes on, all the way to some serious bad stuff like heart attacks and diabetes. All because you didn’t get enough sleep.

Here in Alaska, we are blessed with wild amounts of extra daylight starting several weeks ago. I don’t know about you but that extra light makes me think: projects! outdoors! long lists of to-dos! parties! camping! food and activity filled events! and this list goes on as well. Top that off with sunlight blaring in the house till almost the wee hours of the morning, how can anyone get any sleep let alone 7 hours of deep sleep?

I can’t tell you how to get enough sleep. I have yet to figure that out (don’t get a puppy though – wait! I can’t believe I said don’t get a puppy but if you do you will know why I said that.) What I can tell you is that your brain needs to be washed. Nightly. We aren’t talking a good scalp scrub either. Every night, when you are fast asleep (getting that required 7 hours) your brain releases chemicals that flush toxins that have built up during your waking hours. This brain washing (flushing) is critical to your ability to function well when awake. When you function well, you perform better, make better decisions and in fact will not be driven to overeating or lousy food choices.

The experts say that eating healthy, being active, limiting caffeine, and keeping your room cool with help you sleep. They also say you need to keep your room dark. Yeah – that’s a tough one here in Alaska. Blackout blinds can help. Eye masks work if you can keep them on without them being annoying. I’ve even seen people foil cover their windows to block the light. Maybe melatonin will help. And when all else fails, cuddle up with that puppy that you just had to get and chances are exhaustion will overtake all the stuff that keeps your brain awake – until about 2 a.m. and then again 4 a.m. Then take heart, because even dogs need their brains washed.


Just do it

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The phrase is so simple. So easy to remember. A tag line that flattens excuses. It just so happens there is a story behind it. A rather creepy story. I was less than pleasantly surprised because I love this slogan. So I started to tell you what the story was, but then decided if you really want to know you can google it. At this point I think you shouldn’t! Why let the inspiration for a great tagline wreck a perfectly good, super powerful message?

“Just Do It” is for all of us – for anyone who is at the very beginning of anything, be it exercise, weight loss, a new career, house or yard work….anything! The phrase embodies the motion of doing without thinking. Or overthinking. Or rationalizing. Or being immobile. The minute the brain engages and says non useful things like, “I’m too tired” or “I can’t do that” or “I’ll start tomorrow”, that testy old behavior of procrastination wins. By blanking the mind and Just Doing It, you are filling your Just Do It bank with priceless progress and feedback. Every Just Do It done counts!

Today, after saying for weeks I need to get my living room carpet cleaned (thank you break up and thank you pups), I didn’t even think about the project. Not for a second. I just grabbed the old Bissell, fired it up and got the job done. I would have been done in half the time had I remembered how to work the darned thing. But done is done and it’s in the bank. And the carpet is clean and that makes me happy.

So Just Do It! And please, tell me what YOU did. I really want to know if you blanked your mind and got something done – any little thing that says, Yeah – I DID IT!


Fighting Through Plateaus

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Simple, Effective, Strength Training

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Accountability

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Just when you thought it was safe to go to the doctor

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Less is more.

Would you be willing to strip down to your skivvies and have your photo taken at your doctor’s office so that a more accurate measurement of your weight related risks could be measured? Yeah , me neither. But if Select Research of the United Kingdom, and the Mayo Clinic have their way, BVI (Body Volume Indicator) will be the new measure to determine health status in relation to weight. BVI would replace BMI (Body Mass Index) as the gold star measurement of health related risks due to a person’s weight. While BMI certainly has its flaws, it’s a heck of a lot easier to measure and then there is that thing about getting photos take in your underwear.

BVI focuses on the volume of fat in the abdominal area. After the photos are taken (did I mention in your underwear), you end up with 3D measurements that reveal body composition in specific parts of your body. It is commonly known that fat in the abdominal area constitutes a higher health risk. Currently we use a tape measure (clothes on) to get a waist measurement which is also a measure of health risk in the abdominal area. Any measurement of over 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men indicates increased risk. In other words, if your waist is inching up to or past 3 feet in circumference, you’re setting up for health problems, often of the cardiovascular kind. Not a happy path to be traveling.

If there is one thing you can do to avoid an unhealthy waist measurement (and stripping for a BVI test), it is to eat less. I didn’t say fast or starve. Just eat less…of everything. One less serving. One less handful of whatever. It all matters. When you make a conscious decision to stop finishing or better yet stop buying the bag/box/can/container of food void of nutrition (chips/cookies/refined carbs…), you immediately begin to reduce your health risks and very likely, reduce your waist measurement. Every inch matters. You can do this, we can help.