man focused readingNearly half the time you’re awake, your thoughts drift. And how often your mind wanders is a predictor of how happy you are — new research finds that the more often you take yourself out of the present moment, the less happy you are.

So U.S. News & World Report suggests the following five ways to keep yourself in the moment . and ultimately be happier:

  1. Start the day with a focused task. Those who practice a little mindfulness in the morning have a better ability to stay focused throughout the day.
  2. Exercise with mindfulness. You can add mindfulness to your workouts by paying attention to the sensations you are experiencing while you exercise.
  3. Immerse yourself in a good book or movie. Just don’t allow yourself to be distracted by a ringing phone or buzzing Blackberry.
  4. Minimize multi-tasking. Force your attention back to the task at hand.
  5. Practice 5 to 10 minutes of daily meditation. Those who practice regular meditation can stop their minds from wandering much faster than those who don’t.

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man focused readingNearly half the time you’re awake, your thoughts drift. And how often your mind wanders is a predictor of how happy you are — new research finds that the more often you take yourself out of the present moment, the less happy you are.

So U.S. News & World Report suggests the following five ways to keep yourself in the moment . and ultimately be happier:

  1. Start the day with a focused task. Those who practice a little mindfulness in the morning have a better ability to stay focused throughout the day.
  2. Exercise with mindfulness. You can add mindfulness to your workouts by paying attention to the sensations you are experiencing while you exercise.
  3. Immerse yourself in a good book or movie. Just don’t allow yourself to be distracted by a ringing phone or buzzing Blackberry.
  4. Minimize multi-tasking. Force your attention back to the task at hand.
  5. Practice 5 to 10 minutes of daily meditation. Those who practice regular meditation can stop their minds from wandering much faster than those who don’t.

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  20 Ways to Find, Sustain and Share Happiness

  Increase Your Happiness … by Limiting Your Choices

  5 Things That Can Make You Happier

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breast feedingResearchers have discovered that women who breastfeed are half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It may have something to do with the additional weight that expectant mothers gain – breastfeeding helps them lose extra abdominal fat more efficiently.

While abdominal fat is important for a gestating baby’s development, it can be bad for the mother’s health after delivery. It has been linked to a greater risk of heart disease as well as diabetes.

According to Time Magazine:

“Animal studies have helped reveal other reasons … Breastfeeding … can increase a mother’s response to insulin, allowing her to break down glucose more effectively and keep sugar metabolism in check. Lactation also inhibits hormones that promote growth hormone activity, which can also affect insulin levels.”

U.S. News & World Report also offers four reasons you should breastfeed your child for your own sake:

  • Reproductive cancers. Prolonged nursing lowers your risks of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer. This could be because it suppresses the hormones that play a role in these cancers.
  • Heart disease. Women who nurse for at least 24 months during their lives have a 23 percent lower risk of developing heart disease. Nursing may also decrease dangerous visceral fat.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. A number of studies have linked breastfeeding to protection from rheumatoid arthritis. One found that nursing for a total of two years decreased the risk by 50 percent.
  • Diabetes. Nursing protects against type 2 diabetes, possibly because lactation makes cells more sensitive to the hormone insulin.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

That breast milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns is one of the most clear-cut, non-debatable topics in health care. But that there are dramatic health benefits for the mother as well does not always receive as much attention.

But make no mistake about it, the benefits to the new mom are just as important and impressive as the health benefits the baby receives.

Unfortunately, many American mothers are still resistant to the idea of breastfeeding, for a variety of reasons.

According to a recent press release by the Cambridge Health Alliance, about 75 percent of American mothers initiate breastfeeding, but only 32 percent are still breastfeeding exclusively at three months.

Only about one in ten or a mere 12 percent of U.S. infants are breastfeed exclusively for six months.

A study published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics called the current breastfeeding rate in the US “suboptimal” and calculated that health care costs could be reduced by a whopping $13 billion a year if 90 percent of US families would comply with the recommendation to breastfeed exclusively for six months.

It could also eliminate nearly 1,000 infant deaths.

At 80 percent compliance, an estimated $10.5 billion could be saved and nearly 750 infant deaths could be prevented.

Amazing how you never see the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC or the media announcing this from rooftops like they do when they want to vaccinate kids to “save lives,” as the benefits of breastfeeding are clearly superior to those of immunizations.

Health Benefits for Your Baby

Breastfeeding confers a host of health benefits to your baby, such as fewer:

  • Ear infections
  • Gastrointestinal illnesses
  • Respiratory infections

But the health benefits they receive extend well past infancy; breastfed children are also less prone to obesity, type 2 diabetes, eczema, and certain cancers later on in life. And breast milk is a vital component for healthy brain development and function.

It is believed that the exclusive composition of breast milk benefits your child’s immune system and body fat composition, which would account for many of these long-term benefits.

Previous research has also found that infants who are breast-fed for more than 12 months also have a very low incidence of hypertension. Researchers believe this protective effect is due to the polyunsaturated fatty acids contained in breast milk.

As mentioned earlier, breastfeeding can also protect against infant death.

Several studies performed in the United States and other industrialized nations have revealed increased risks of SIDS among babies who receive formula instead of breast milk.

In fact, one U.S. study conducted in 2003 found that infants fed formula has a five times greater risk of dying from SIDS compared to breastfed infants!

And again, in 2009, researchers found that exclusive breastfeeding for just one month cut the risk of SIDS in half.

For even more health benefits to your baby, please review my previous article Seven Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child.

Nursing Mothers Reap Excellent Health Benefits Too!

But now on to the health benefits for the nursing mother, which are just as impressive.

It’s well known that breastfeeding can help you burn calories and get back to your pre-pregnancy weight faster. In fact, lactation will consume about 500 extra calories a day, helping you shed those pregnancy pounds more efficiently.

(However, many nursing women may find their appetite increases as well during this time, so weight loss is in part dependent on maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding unhealthy, processed snacks and foods.)

But the benefits for the mother don’t end there. Many of the other health benefits that breastfed children reap, the nursing mother gets as well.

Nursing Mothers Reduce Their Own Diabetes Risk as Well as Their Baby’s

Research published in The American Journal of Medicine this month shows that women who breastfeed for less than one month (compared to those who breastfeed longer, or have no children) almost double their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on in life – even decades later.

So clearly, your child is not the only one who gets some added protection against diabetes from the simple act of breastfeeding.

The exact mechanism is still unknown, but one theory is that it is related to the weight reduction that nursing brings about. Visceral fat, the fat that clings around your midsection, has been linked to chronic inflammation and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and is therefore considered a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

So although visceral fat is beneficial for your baby during gestation, this excess fat can contribute to health problems for you if you retain it, and it appears that breastfeeding is nature’s way of helping you shed this excess fat once it has served its intended purpose.

Another theory built on animal studies is that breastfeeding may improve your insulin response by promoting efficient glucose metabolism.

Time Magazine reports that:

“Lactation also inhibits hormones that promote growth hormone activity, which can also affect insulin levels.

In addition, studies have shown that when women do develop diabetes during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes, breastfeeding the newborn can improve their glucose metabolism and help stabilize the condition.”

Whatever the mechanisms, the evidence is clear that the longer you breastfeed the better, but at the bare minimum, you’d want to nurse exclusively for at least one month, to reap health benefits for both yourself and your baby.

Ideally, you should strive to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months, and only then begin to supplement with solid foods (while still continuing to breastfeed as well).

If you can continue past those first six months, know that breastfeeding longer is even better.

Breastfeeding for the First Year Imparts Added Long-Term Health Benefits for Mom

A study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2009 found that women who breastfed for a full 7 to 12 months, compared to women who never breastfed, were significantly less likely to develop diabetes or cardiovascular disease in their post-menopausal years.

The authors concluded that:

“Among postmenopausal women, increased duration of lactation was associated with a lower prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and cardiovascular disease.”

A recent article in the US News & World Report also highlighted a number of health benefits that nursing mothers stand to gain, including protection against:

  • Certain cancers, such as breast-, ovarian- and endometrial cancer — This may be due to the fact that lactation suppresses ovulation, which exposes you to lower amounts of ovulatory hormones that contribute to the development of these particular cancers.

    One Chinese study found that breastfeeding for two full years or more can reduce your risk of breast cancer by 50 percent!

  • Rheumatoid arthritis – Similarly, a 2004 article in CBS News reported that breastfeeding for two years or longer also cuts women’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by half.

    The article states:

    “Breastfeeding for between one and two years decreased the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 20 percent, compared with women who did not breastfeed at all. Breastfeeding for at least two years decreased the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 50 percent. This was total time spent breastfeeding all children. Breastfeeding for less than one year total did not decrease rheumatoid arthritis risk.”

    The study, which was published in the November 2004 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism, included nearly 122,000 women.

    It is thought that lactation may permanently alter the levels of female sex hormones, which can contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. This is yet another reason for avoiding birth control pills.

Breastfeeding Myths Debunked

There are certain medical conditions that can prevent a woman from breastfeeding, however the majority of women are able to breastfeed successfully. Often, those who choose not to are doing so because of misinformation, so I want to clear up some of the myths right now.

MYTH 1: “I don’t have enough milk” – This is a common misperception. However, all women have enough milk to breastfeed. The more the baby nurses, the more milk you will produce!

MYTH 2:Infant formula is more nutritious — This is absolutely not true. There are at least 400 nutrients in breast milk that are not found in formula. Of course, the healthier that a new mom eats, the healthier her breast milk will be.

MYTH 3: Breastfeeding is painful — Breastfeeding can be painful for some women, but this is almost always the result of incorrect positioning. Trouble with positioning can be resolved by getting help from a lactation consultant.

Breastfeeding Guidelines

Ideally, you’ll want to strive to breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first 6 months, at which point you can begin to supplement with solid foods. (But remember, even breastfeeding for as little as one month can impart great health benefits for both you and your baby.)

You should begin nursing as soon after birth as possible, as your baby’s sucking instinct will be very strong at that time, giving you the best chance of success.

In the beginning, the milk that is produced is called colostrum – a thick, golden-yellow fluid that is very gentle for your baby’s stomach and chockfull of beneficial antibodies.

As your baby continues to nurse, your milk will gradually change in color and consistency from thick and yellow, to thinner with a bluish-white hue.

Newborns need to nurse at least once every two hours, for about 15 minutes or so on each side, but most do not adhere to any kind of strict schedule and feedings can vary in length.

It is this frequent nursing that stimulates your breasts to produce increasing amounts of milk to keep up with demand.

There’s virtually no need to fret should your baby lose a little weight during the first week or so. This is normal, and she should have regained the weight by about two weeks of age.

Additional Help for Moms Who Can’t Breastfeed

You may want to begin planning for successful breastfeeding before your baby is even born. One consideration to take into account is that epidurals may have a detrimental effect.

One 2007 study discovered that women who receive epidural anesthesia during childbirth with the narcotic fentanyl may have trouble breastfeeding.

Women who got a fentanyl epidural reported more difficulty with breastfeeding in the first week early on, and they were also twice as likely to give up breastfeeding within the first six months. Evidence from other research suggests that fentanyl can interfere with infants’ ability to suckle.

Whether you want to prepare beforehand, or find you’re having trouble breastfeeding once your baby is born, Le Leche League is a terrific resource to contact for help.

You can also call the National Women’s Health Information Center’s (NWHIC) Breastfeeding Helpline at 1-800-994-9662; TDD 1-888-220-5446 (9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, EST). This hotline is staffed with La Leche League-trained breastfeeding information specialists.

The NWHIC also has a helpful guide to breastfeeding, which you can read or print out here.

Another helpful source is the American Academy of Pediatrics Breastfeeding Initiative.

However, if for whatever reason you’re still unable to breastfeed, please steer clear of commercial infant formulas as much as possible and definitely avoid all soy infant formula, as it is loaded with toxic elements like high doses of manganese and aluminum.

There is no question that it is the worst commercial food you could give your baby. It is likely that at some point in the future when all the health complications are fully appreciated, it will be removed from the market and banned.

The next best alternative to breast milk is to make a healthy homemade infant formula. There may be others, but here is one recipe for homemade formula created by the Weston Price Foundation, which I believe is sound.

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a man sleepingPeople who sleep either more or fewer than seven hours a day, including naps, have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.

Sleeping fewer than five hours a day more than doubles your risk of being diagnosed with angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke.  And sleeping more than seven hours also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease; more than nine hours of sleep results in a 50 percent increase in risk.

The Daily Telegraph reports:

“The most at-risk group was adults under 60 years of age who slept five hours or fewer a night. They increased their risk of developing cardiovascular disease more than threefold … Women who skimped on sleep … were more than two-and-a-half times as likely to develop cardiovascular disease.”

In related news, researchers have also found that sleeping in after a few days of missed sleep can help restore you after missed sleep, nearly erasing any lingering sense of fatigue and mental fuzziness.

How much recovery sleep you need to feel recharged depends on how much sleep you’ve lost.

In the study, volunteers deprived of about three hours of sleep a night for five nights felt nearly, but not quite, back to normal after ten hours of sleep.

To help you get the optimal amount of sleep each night, U.S. News & World Report suggests:

“… [T]ry removing all electronic media devices – BlackBerry, TV, computer – from your bedroom. These distractions . are a prime reason many of us turn out the lights an hour or two later than we originally intended.”


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

According to this year’s “Sleep in America Poll” by The National Sleep Foundation, the majority of Americans are not getting enough shut-eye. Only about four in 10 respondents reported getting a good night’s sleep every night, or almost every night, of the week.

Despite it being so common as to be considered “normal” by many, lack of sound sleep extracts a heavy toll on your health, both mentally and physically. 

How Lack of Sleep Impacts Your Health

Your circadian rhythm evolved over hundreds of generations to align your physiology with your environment. Your body clock is “set” to sleep at night and stay awake during daylight hours, just like your ancestors did.

If you deprive yourself of sleep, or switch your waking/sleeping rhythm due to shift work, for example, you send conflicting signals to your body.

Too little sleep impacts your levels of thyroid and stress hormones, which in turn can affect your memory, immune system, heart and metabolism, and much more. Over time, lack of sleep can lead to:

  • High blood sugar levels and an increased risk of diabetes — Sleep-deprived subjects tend to eat more sweet and starchy foods rather than vegetables and dairy products. Researchers suspect these cravings stem from the fact that your brain is fueled by glucose (blood sugar); therefore, when lack of sleep occurs, your brain searches for carbohydrates.

    In short, sleep deprivation puts your body into a pre-diabetic state, and makes you feel hungry, even if you’ve already eaten.

  • Weight gain — When you are sleep deprived, your body decreases production of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain there is no need for more food. At the same time it increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.
  • Accelerated aging
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) Depression  
  • Increased risk of cancer by altering the balance of hormones in your body. (Tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions)

Likewise, working on a non-traditional schedule, which may include staying up all night, throws off your body’s circadian rhythms. Attempts to sleep at inappropriate phases of the circadian cycle will usually result in shorter sleep episodes and more awakenings.

The short-term effects of shift work can be likened to symptoms of jet lag, such as daytime sleepiness, disturbed sleep, gastrointestinal problems and blunted alertness. Long-term, however, this state can take a toll, as shift workers continue live out of synch with their daily surroundings.

A number of studies indicate shift workers face a higher risk of heart disease — possibly due to the metabolic effects of working and sleeping unusual hours.

In the latest study published in the journal Sleep, your risk of heart disease and stroke are also significantly increased if you sleep more, or fewer, than seven hours per day:

  • Less than 5 hrs/night doubles your risk of angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke
  • More than 7 hrs/night increases your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • More than 9 hrs/night increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by 50 percent

Although the researchers were unable to determine the direct causative relationship between certain amounts of sleep and cardiovascular disease, they believe it is related to your endocrine and metabolic functions.

As mentioned earlier, sleep deprivation can impair your glucose tolerance, reduce your insulin sensitivity and raise your blood pressure, all of which are associated with hardening of your arteries.

Can You Really Repay a Sleep Debt?

The second Sleep study mentioned above found that by sleeping in, say on a Saturday, you can relieve some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

According to David Dinges, head of the sleep and chronobiology unit at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine,

“An additional hour or two of sleep in the morning after a period of chronic partial sleep loss has genuine benefits for continued recovery of behavioral alertness.”

However, for most people who don’t sleep well, it has become a lifestyle pattern, and sleeping in on the weekends is not going to undo the damage being done.

A chronic lack of high-quality sleep simply cannot be recovered. You may feel rested and mentally sharper after sleeping in, but the mental benefit is temporary, while the graver health hazards are compounding.

Remember, your body does most of its repairs during sleep, so not getting enough of it can impair your immune system, leaving you less able to fight off diseases of ALL kinds.

What’s the Ideal Amount of Sleep?

There have been many varied theories on this over the years, but it seems we’re getting closer to answering this question – at least scientifically.

Interestingly, while doing research on behalf of federal agencies “to find ways to reduce sleep need,” Dr. Dinges discovered that many of the published reports on chronic sleep restriction over the past 100 years had failed to adequately control how much sleep was actually obtained by the subjects, and did not take into account caffeine intake and a number of other variables that can influence your sense of alertness and cognitive performance despite lack of sleep.

Many of these previous flawed studies have perpetuated the myth that you can safely make do with less than eight hours of sleep a day.

As it turns out, sleeping less than eight hours a night has significant cumulative consequences.

According to Dr. Dinges,

“Loss of sleep insidiously affects sustained attention, cognitive speed and accuracy, working memory, reaction time, and overall behavioral capability, often without the sleep-deprived person being aware of the deficits.

. These experiments have consistently demonstrated that neurobehavioral deficits develop in proportion to the dosage of sleep that people were allowed each night. When sleep was less than eight hours night after night, subjects showed systematic accumulation of cognitive impairments.

Across 10 days of restricted sleep, participants became progressively worse and eventually entered a zone of impairment comparable to that found after total sleep deprivation. This is a zone of impairment where it would be unsafe to drive or engage in other safety-sensitive tasks.”

Likewise, chronic disease states such as heart disease and diabetes take time to develop, and are therefore also influenced, long-term, by your sleeping habits over time.

That said, what IS the ideal amount of sleep?

Well, despite what you just read above, there’s no one magic number that covers everyone at every age and circumstance.

Your age and activity level will determine your sleep needs to some extent. Children and teens, for instance, need more sleep than adults. However, your sleep needs are individual to you. You may require more or less sleep than someone of the same age, gender and activity level.

Part of the reason for the difference has to do with what the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) calls your basal sleep need and your sleep debt:

  • Basal Sleep Need: The amount of sleep you need on a regular basis for optimal performance
  • Sleep Debt: The accumulated sleep lost due to poor sleep habits, sickness, environmental factors and other causes

Studies suggest that healthy adults have a basal sleep need of seven to eight hours each night, corresponding nicely with the research findings just discussed.

But your individual sleep requirement may be anywhere between six and nine hours of sleep a night.

Your best bet is to listen to your body!

If you still feel tired when the alarm goes off, you probably aren’t getting sufficient sleep.

It’s best to observe how you feel immediately upon awakening rather than after you’re up and moving around. Those first few moments of wakefulness, before your mind fully kicks into gear, are a better measure of how your body is feeling.

How to Improve Your Sleep

First of all, if you’re staying up late watching TV, surfing the Web, or working, it’s time to set some limits. Determine a set bedtime for yourself, just as you do for your children, and avoid watching TV or using electronics for about an hour prior to going to bed. It is too stimulating to your brain, making it more difficult to “shut down” and fall asleep.

Instead, try spending this wind-down time doing something that soothes and relaxes your mind. You may want to spend time journaling, meditating, sipping herbal tea, washing your face, or reading a calming or spiritual book.

I also recommend getting to bed as early as possible. Your bodily systems, particularly your adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., so you should definitely try to be asleep during those hours.

If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep because your mind is still racing or you’re emotionally overwhelmed, I recommend you use Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) for insomnia.

Other tips for getting good quality sleep include:

  • Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly grains and sugars. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
  • Eat a high-protein snack several hours before bed. This can provide the L-tryptophan need to produce melatonin and serotonin.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes and particularly the upstairs bedrooms too hot.

For a comprehensive list of practical solutions for sleep problems, be sure to read my 33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep.

If you’re even slightly sleep deprived I encourage you to implement some of these tips tonight, as high-quality sleep is one of the most important factors in your health and quality of life.

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You can slow down your aging process and help stave off heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. U.S. News & World Report offers some tips on how to do it:

matured couple smiling

  1. Free radicals. Free radicals are chemically unstable molecules that attack your cells and damage your DNA. You can limit your exposure to them by avoiding cigarettes, trans fats, charred meats, and other sources.

    Organic fruits and vegetables will also limit your exposure to pesticides and herbicides, which contain the harmful molecules.

  2. Inflammation. Inflammation is a major player in many diseases of aging, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. One way to avoid it is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet.

    Other great anti-inflammatory foods include turmeric, dark chocolate, and the anti-aging chemical resveratrol. Exercise is another great way to lower inflammation.

  3. Glycation. Glycation is what happens when sugar mixes with proteins and fats to form molecules that promote aging. Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are thought to accelerate your aging process by churning out free radicals and promoting inflammation. One way to avoid ingesting AGEs is to turn down the heat when you cook. The browning effect of high-heat cooking causes these molecules to form. Limiting your intake of sugar-filled foods in general will also help.
  4. Stress. Stress initiates the release of a variety of hormones that make your pulse race and cause your blood pressure to rise. The hormone cortisol, released to lessen these effects, also creates problems when it remains chronically elevated. Try practicing relaxation techniques to help manage stress, and get enough sleep every night.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Death is surely inevitable, but I do believe you can live far longer than the average life expectancy, which, in the US, is around 78. Genetics may play a role, but is NOT the final determining factor for whether you’ll live a long healthy life.

Barring an accident, your lifestyle has everything to do with your longevity. It’s already been established that diet can override genetic predispositions for disease, for example, so don’t fall into the trap of believing your health and longevity is somehow the inevitable result of what’s in your gene pool.

Please understand that the list in the summary above is from US News and World Report and it is THEIR concept of what contributes to aging. Of course you don’t get the newsletter for their views so I am going to use their list as a springboard to provide you with my thoughts on the topic.

The Leading Cause of Premature Aging and Premature Death

Increased insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity has clearly become the leading candidate for premature death. This results from two primary conditions: too much sugar and processed foods, combined with insufficient exercise.

Interestingly, controlling these two factors could likely eliminate more than 90 percent of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol

Of all the molecules capable of inflicting damage in your body, probably the most damaging of all are sugar molecules. Fructose in particular is an extremely potent pro-inflammatory agent that speeds up the aging process.

This is mostly an artifact of the postindustrial agricultural revolution that we live in as over thirty years ago scientists learned how to cheaply produce sugar from corn and now it is loaded in nearly all processed foods and has become the number one source of calories in most developed countries.

Fructose is a major contributor to:

  • Insulin resistance and obesity
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL
  • Cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout

How does it do all this?

Fructose adversely affects your body in a number of ways, but one of the mechanisms that causes significant damage is glycation; a process in which the sugar bonds with proteins and form so-called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. It’s a fitting acronym because – along with oxidation – it’s one of the major molecular mechanisms whereby damage accrues in your body, which leads to disease, aging, and eventually, death.

When sugar glycates it creates inflammation, which activates your immune system in a defensive maneuver. Macrophages are scavenger cells that are part of your immune defense system, and as such they have special receptors for AGEs, aptly called RAGEs (think: raging inflammation). These RAGEs bind to the AGEs and get rid of them.

Unfortunately, this process can leave its fair share of battle scars. Inside your arteries, for example, the scar tissue created from this process is called plaque. This also explains why there’s such a strong connection between diabetes and heart disease.

As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day.

However, most people would be wise to limit their fructose to 15 grams or less, particularly if you have elevated uric acid levels, which can be used as a predictor for fructose toxicity. (For more information on this, please see this recent article.)

This includes keeping track of your fructose intake from whole fruits. For a helpful chart showing the fructose content of many common fruits, please see this link.

I recommend this lower level simply because if you consume processed foods or sweet beverages at all, you’re virtually guaranteed to consume “hidden” sources of fructose.

How to Prevent Free-Radical Damage

The most widely accepted idea for life extension is the free-radical theory, which says that as you age, you begin to “self destruct,” courtesy of free radicals – aggressive chemical compounds created as a byproduct of your natural metabolism that damage your DNA.

Lifestyle choices such as smoking, consuming processed foods laden with trans fats and other harmful chemical additives, along with pesticide- and other chemical exposures further add to your body’s free radical burden.

With time, your DNA eventually becomes damaged beyond your body’s ability to repair, and once your biological processed fail, you die.

Antioxidants continually combat these free radicals – which is why a diet high in natural antioxidants is so important for your health and longevity. Antioxidants are abundant in a number of foods, and your BEST bet to get high quality antioxidants is to consume raw fresh organic vegetables and fruits.

Supplementation can also be useful and resveratrol appears to be particularly potent and is often referred to as a “fountain of youth” that can extend lifespan. It is unique among antioxidants because it can cross the blood-brain barrier to help protect your brain and nervous system.

Another important but often overlooked antioxidant is coenzyme Q-10, but more specifically the reduced version, called ubiquinol..

Your liver produces CoQ10 and it is actually an essential nutrient for health and longevity because it provides energy to every single cell in your body. Unfortunately, after age 25, your natural levels of this critical compound begin to decline, which is why I personally take the reduced form, ubiquinol, every day.

CoQ10 is also an absolute necessity if you’re on statin drugs as they can quickly deplete your body of coQ10. This is in part why statins are so harmful to your heart.

Glutathione (GSH) is another important and underutilized antioxidant. This is one antioxidant though I believe you can optimize with proper diet and if you are leading a healthy lifestyle it is probably unnecessary to supplement. However if you are sick and disabled and recovering, you certainly could consider supplementation.

Interestingly, increased glutathione levels may actually play a role in stopping telomere shortening, which is one of the most exciting anti-aging discoveries in recent years. If you missed my article on this fascinating new theory, you can read it here.

Now, I’m not a fan of taking fistfuls of supplements in lieu of altering your diet to get the nutrients you need, and I have reservations against using glutathione supplements in particular. When it comes to glutathione, one of your best sources is high quality whey protein. Other food sources include free range animal foods and eggs.

Just remember that there are vast differences between whey products. You’ll want to make sure your whey protein is derived from grass-fed cows and very carefully processed to preserve the fragile amino acid precursors. Many whey proteins on the market are highly processed and may also contain undesirable additives.

I am so convinced by the research on telomeres and glutathione that I take our Miracle Whey protein every morning, and a second dose before my twice weekly strength training days.

Additionally, I use Peak 8 — specific “anti-aging” exercises that boost human growth hormone production.

Learning from Those Who’ve Lived the Longest

Longevity researchers have long searched for the magic common denominators that might explain the extended life spans of centenarians. What they found is that the people who’ve lived the longest tend to eat a natural, plant-based diet and live in areas that promote regular physical activity, such as daily walking.

They also tend to have effective strategies for coping with the inevitable stresses of life, such as prayer, meditation, and having strong social networks. In fact, being able to effectively cope with stress, it turns out, is one of the MAJOR common denominators for those who live long, healthy lives.

One of the proposed reasons for this strong link is that stress, just like fructose, promotes inflammation in your body.

Indeed, most of the research indicates that longevity hinges on preventing chronic inflammation, and avoiding sugar/fructose while consuming an antioxidant-rich diet of whole, fresh foods, along with physical exercise and effective stress reduction methods work hand-in-hand to do just that.

The Anti-Aging Lifestyle

Going back to where I started, of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your longevity, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important.

There is no question that optimizing your insulin levels is an absolute necessity if you want to slow down your aging process, and that means modifying your diet to avoid excessive amounts of fructose, grains, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients like trans fats.

Here are the rest of my top “anti-aging” recommendations:

  • Learn how to effectively cope with stress – As discussed earlier, stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day, so developing effective coping mechanisms is a major longevity-promoting factor.

    Meditation, prayer, physical activity and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden emotional problems.

  • Eat a healthy diet based on your nutritional type – My nutrition plan, based on natural whole foods, is your first step toward increasing your chances of living a longer, healthier life. This is so important, I now offer the full nutritional typing program for FREE.
  • Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels. This is another very powerful and inexpensive intervention that can have profound benefits on your health. In the summer you can do this for free by careful and safe sun exposure but even in the winter a therapeutic level of oral vitamin D (typically 5-10,000 units of vitamin D3 for most adults)
  • Animal based omega-3 fats – Correcting the ratio of omega-3 to healthful omega-6 fats is a strong factor in helping people live longer. This typically means increasing your intake of animal based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, while decreasing your intake of damaged omega-6 fats (think trans fats).

    I do not, however, recommend the new prescription strength fish oil medication, sold under the name Lovaza. Don’t be fooled by their “all-natural” PR campaign. This is actually a drug to treat very high triglyceride levels.

    However, as with most other drugs, Lovaza comes with potentially dangerous side effects that you would not experience with a natural fish oil or krill oil supplement. Side effects include flu-like symptoms, infections, back pain, skin rashes, upset stomach, taste changes, digestive issues, chest pain, migraines and respiratory problems!

    Additionally, new research strongly suggests that 500 mg of krill oil is more potent and far less expensive.

  • Get your antioxidants from foods -Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
  • Use coconut oil – Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil, known to reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your cholesterol, among other things. In fact, it’s doubly beneficial because it can be both eaten and applied directly to your skin. Coconut oil can be used in place of other oils, margarine, butter, or shortening, and can be used for all your cooking needs.
  • Get your resveratrol naturally – Resveratrol is one of the forerunners in the anti-aging pill race, but more than likely, by the time they’ve manipulated it into a synthetic pill (like the fish oil discussed above), it won’t be healthy for you.

    Although resveratrol is the antioxidant found in red wine, I can’t recommend drinking wine in the hopes of extending your life because alcohol is a neurotoxin that can poison your brain and harm your body’s delicate hormonal balance. Instead, get your resveratrol from natural sources, such as whole grape skins and seeds, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts.

  • Exercise regularly, and correctly— Studies repeatedly show that regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can help prevent or delay your onset of hypertension, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and the falls that lead to hip fracture. Although a lifetime of regular exercise is ideal, it’s never too late to start. It’s been shown that even individuals in their 70’s can substantially increase both strength and endurance with exercise.

    I’m also excited about the research showing how high-intensity, interval training can increase longevity as this specific style of training promotes human growth hormone production – yet another aspect of the longevity puzzle.

  • Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible – This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
  • Avoid pharmaceutical drugs – Pharmaceutical drugs kill thousands of people prematurely every year – as an expected side effect of the action of the drug. And, if you adhere to a healthy lifestyle, you most likely will never need any of them in the first place.

Incorporating these healthy lifestyle guidelines will help set you squarely on the path to optimal health and give you the best shot at living a much longer life. For even more anti-aging information, please review the related articles listed below.

Related Articles:

  Science Finally Reveals How You Can Actually REVERSE Aging

  Calorie Restriction NOT Key to Increasing Life, Lowering Insulin Level Is

  Bad Habits Can Age You 12 Years

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