Friday, 31 May 2013

The Nordic Diet

Move over Mediterranean Diet!  It looks like the Nordic diet is the next big thing (sadly I had to read the Daily Mail to get this story):
  • For years, the Mediterranean diet with plenty of olive oil and vegetables has been lauded as the key to health and longevity.

    But it seems that a Scandinavian nation's cuisine could actually be better for you.

    Scientists have found that eating a diet based on that served up traditionally in Denmark could significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

    Nordic cuisine is usually made up of fresh berries, fish and game - foods that thrive in colder northern climates.
While it is saddening to hear of another 'new diet' fad, the fact is that this diet easily falls under the paleo template.  There is no 'best diet', and the diet best for you may well be somewhere between these two diets and may change based on age, gender, activity levels, health and seasonality.

As with all these 'super-diets', they share a commonality in that they involve real foods and are based on traditional nutritional practice. The key to health and longevity is probably to avoid or limit foods that have the same name globally or that you can't make or prepare in your kitchen.  Not hard is it?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Hypertension Fix Pt2

You'll know from part one what (modest) changes I've made to my diet in terms of restrictions.  So what about my wider dietary practise?  First of all let me list my objectives (based upon the key factors that *may* by responsible for my episode of HBP):
  • Alkalize my body.  Cordain suggests elevated acid is one source of hypertension.  As an aside, anyone familiar with Supperversity cannot help but be impressed my the ergogenic benefits of raised alkalinity in the body (primarily via Bicarbonate of Soda). 
  • Lower chronically elevated cortisol levels - through increased sleep, reduced light exposure after sundown and elimination of excessive stressors such as cold water exposure.
  • Increase iodine consumption.  This is crucial for thyroid function and implicated in HBP.  Also, a shredded idiot is still an idiot.
  • Address sodium intake.  High quality sea salt is exceptional in taste.  As with much of this stuff, it is RATIOs that matter - but bear in mind that these ratios will be dynamic and perhaps impossible to manipulate directly save for providing your body with appropriate nutrition and letting it do the rest.

To this end I've made the following changes and amendments:
  1. A large salad for lunch.  I still mainly eat fish or boiled eggs, and some fruit, at lunchtime but this is accompanied now by a large salad.  Pride of place in the salad usually goes to one or more of beetroot, celery, avocado and spinach.
  2. Lunchtime protein will comprise of shellfish once or twice a week (this is a new introduction to my diet).  In an attempt to increase my iodine levels I've taken to eating mussels and alternatively shrimp.  Delicious.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar.  There are LOTS of health claims made for ACV - and if they are to be believed, this stuff is Chuck Norris's Tears.  I use this to dress my salad but will occasionally just squeeze fresh lemon juice over the salad instead as lemon raises your body's alkalinity significantly.
  4. Sea salt (a pinch is added once or twice a week - usually to my bone broth).  I never salt my foods and figured that if I am to address my potassium to sodium ratio, I'd better ensure I have adequate levels of both (and then let my body work out where to go from there).  A small pinch on liver is particularly enjoyable.
  5. Pretty much all my meat now comes from a quality butcher, not from a supermarket.  This is especially important if you make bone broth from the bones.
  6. Beverages are mainly water and camomile or hibiscus tea - the latter is held to lower BP.
My number still spike on occasion, but morning and evening readings give regular sub 140/80.

I need to reiterate that I am not medically trained and am not conferring any advice as such.  I'm simply looking for non-pharmacological interventions that will allow my body to thrive and do what it evolved to do.

Hypertension is a symptom of some other dysfunction.  The bigger picture is a question of whether treating high blood pressure does any good and whether the side effects of medication are worse than the cure.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Stress and Hypertension

 The unambiguously named American Institute of Stress gave me food for thought recently.  Certainly their opening paragraph in this interview with Bjorn Folkow echoed much of my own thoughts on the matter of HT:
  • What we refer to as “essential” or “primary” hypertension is generally viewed and often treated as if it were a distinct disease. However, it is merely the observation of consistent blood pressure measurements that exceed arbitrary values for which there is no obvious explanation. Like fever, hypertension is really a description rather than a diagnosis. As with an elevated temperature, it may have many varied causes that require very different treatments...As a consequence, therapy is often a hit or miss trial and error exercise or a buckshot approach consisting of a combination of drugs designed to lower an elevated blood pressure irrespective of its cause.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Sleep Architecture

We fixate on diet and exercise, but in the West, of at least equal importance is sleep.  I've ruminated on the importance and nature of sleep a few times in the past. Only a day or two ago there was broad media coverage of the health implications of blue light from modern media and its impact on our circadian rhythm.  Sleep and our circadian rhythm are every bit as important as the 'diet and exercise' tenets of health and worthy of greater understanding.

The diagram above was appropriated from a site which has a good breakdown of the sleep and shows that idea of a 'solid eight hours' is indicative of sleep debt.

The Corporate Playbook, BDA and DUK

The BMJ has launched a stinging attack on the relationship between Diabetes UK and their corporate sponsors.  The British Dietetic Association also come in for criticism.

The game really is up for these organisations. Charities such as DUK and BDA have similarly been exposed for their lack of integrity.:
  • Despite the American Heart Association’s statement and the supportive scientific evidence, the food industry continues to adopt strategies to deny sugar’s role as a major causative factor in what now represents the greatest threat to our health worldwide: diet related disease. It took 50 years from the first publication (in the BMJ) linking smoking to lung cancer before the introduction of any effective legislation because Big Tobacco successfully adopted a strategy of denial, planting doubt, confusing the public, and even buying the loyalty of scientists, all at the cost of millions of lives. The same “corporate playbook” has been adopted by Big Food.
It is good to see such high profile discussion of these issues.

Follow the money!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Hypertension Fix Pt1

My numbers are getting pretty good - down to 'high normal' (or 'normal' as it used to be called), and often at least one of my readings qualifies as 'athletic'/'low normal'.  I am not sure if these lowered numbers are due to the changes I've implemeted or whether the high readings were episodic and have simply passed.  I believe the former is the case.

Potentially Useful?

Some supplements that might actually be useful in lowering blood pressure. Googling turns up these time and again for HBP (yes, I self-medicate via Google!)

Iodine in the News

A timely story in the mainstream media.  Pregnant women should up iodine intake to increase child’s IQ.  I've mentioned iodine before quoting Bertrand Russell who noted that,
  • "...a deficiency in iodine will turn a clever man into an idiot."
I've recently upped my intake of iodine in my quest to lower blood pressure.  I guess I must be a ripped-idiot.

Lights Out Goes Mainstream

Mainstream are playing catch up!  Peering at bright screens after dark could harm health, doctor claims. None of this is news to those of us who have looked at our health and fitness from an evolutionary perspective for any lingth of time.

UPDATE: Nature has more detailed coverage of Charles Czeisler's work - including a couple of pithy observations:
  • Paradoxically, the daily peak of waking energy driven by the brain's master circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus occurs not at the start but near the end of our usual waking day, providing us with a 'second wind' that keeps us going as the day wears on. Before the widespread use of electric light, people probably experienced that second wind in the mid-afternoon, keeping them going until night fell. But light exposure after sunset signals 'daytime' to the SCN, shifting the clock later, postponing the second wind and delaying the onset of melatonin secretion. As a result, many people are still checking e-mail, doing homework or watching TV at midnight, with hardly a clue that it is the middle of the solar night. Technology has effectively decoupled us from the natural 24-hour day to which our bodies evolved, driving us to go to bed later. And we use caffeine in the morning to rise as early as we ever did, putting the squeeze on sleep.
This brings to mind Wiley and Formby's observation that our bodies are stuck in a perpetual summer, preparing for a winter that never comes.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Blood Pressure Ranges

Well, I finally managed to find some graphic which illustrates BP ranges.  I can't remember the address of the website I nicked them from so apologies (and if you find your corporate image on this site, let me know and I will give due credit).

I definitely fall on occasion in to 'borderline' but also tick 'normal' (usually during the morning and evening).  My BP is DYNAMIC - which at 189cm and with an active lifestyle, I would expect to some extent.  Could I my 'borderline' readings be latency in BP adapting to changes in things like stance/posture, hormonal (cortisol) and activity level?

Normal Blood Pressure Range

Borderline Hypertensive

As my numbers are seldom sustained in the borderline state, I do wonder at my diagnosis.  Needless to say I don't get too stressed by a single 'dimension' on my health.  I've focused on controlling inputs rather than the more elusive 'outputs', and continue to subscribe to Devany's Fifth Law:
  • We should recognize the limits of knowledge and just get on the path that favours better outcomes.
In summary, there are a few things I've done which I believe have influenced my much-improved numbers but lower BP has not been an objective in itself.  I will try to pull a post together giving more detail.

Reversing T2 Diabetes

An interesting piece from The Guardian today about a guy who reversed his T2:
  • At 59 I was 10st 7lb, 5ft 7in, and had never been overweight. I ran and played cricket regularly and didn't drink alcohol excessively. Yet at a routine check-up I was told that I had type 2 diabetes. In 10 years I could be dependent on insulin, it could affect my sight, feet, ears, heart and I had a 36% greater chance of dying early.
    In type 1 diabetes, the body produces none of the insulin that regulates our blood sugar levels. Very high glucose levels can damage the body's organs. Patients with type 2 diabetes, however, do produce insulin - just not enough to keep their glucose levels normal. Because I was fit and not overweight (obesity is a major risk factor in type 2 diabetes; however, a number of non-obese people, particularly members of south Asian communities, are also prone to it), my doctor told me I could control my condition with diet alone.

    Desperate for information, I headed to the web, where I found a report about a research trial at Newcastle University led by Professor Roy Taylor. His research suggested type 2 diabetes could be reversed by following a daily 800-calorie diet for eight weeks.
As with all such stories the comments give a tantalising insight in to the potential of eating real food (you know it when you see it), and engaging in some occasional, vigorous, strength-demanding exercise. (Of course none of this will be new to those who have been around the paleosphere for the last 5 years.)

On the study, I think an 8-week diet of 800 calories a day is rather restrictive and, given some of the research from Martin at Leangains, I wonder if the same outcome could be achieved with an IF approach.  Perhaps the timescales would be longer, but compliance may well be higher.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Of Nature and Numbers

I completed yet another orbit of the sun yesterday and had the day off work (soldering some new Bare Knuckle pups in to my Gordon Smith if you must know).  It was a fantastic blue-sky day and I worked outdoors in the back garden.  My BP lunchtime reading was 131/78 which might just be due to the sunshine - as reported on the BBC website:
  • "The health benefits of exposing skin to sunlight may far outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer, according to scientists.

    Edinburgh University research suggests sunlight helps reduce blood pressure, cutting heart attack and stroke risks and even prolonging life.

    UV rays were found to release a compound that lowers blood pressure.

    Researchers said more studies would be carried out to determine if it is time to reconsider advice on skin exposure.

    Heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure are estimated to lead to about 80 times more deaths than those from skin cancer in the UK.

    Dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight” [said] Dr Richard Weller [of] Edinburgh University

    Production of the pressure-reducing compound, nitric oxide, is separate from the body's manufacture of vitamin D, which rises after exposure to sunshine."
This is a good example where simply thinking about how early man *might* have lived can give you a good handle on the context of scientific advice of the last 30 years!  Blanket advice to avoid the sun wouldn't match with our ancestral past.  Such an approach might draw criticism of 're-enactment', but only in so far as re-enactment helps us formulate a framework in which to experiment (re-enactment is never the objective here).

Thursday, 2 May 2013

One Hundred and Ninety Four Days

Some curious facts have come to light since my being classified hypertensive. After a brief chat with Methuselah who asked "Had you any benchmarks against which to compare these recent readings?", I was scratching around trying to think of when it would have been recorded in the recent past.

I recalled an annual health check offered by my employer and after a bit of searching, BINGO!  I found notes from these health checks extending back several years:
  • 'xx/xx/2006' 155/83
  • 'xx/xx/2006' 136/85 (retest)
  • '30/09/2010' 131/97
  • '30/09/2010' 132/94 (retest)
  • '27/07/2011' 140/82
  • '09/09/2013' 122/75
I remember the early ones - in both cases I was late for the appointment and walked up a flight of stairs to get to the appointment.  My BP was taken almost immediately - hence the retakes.  It should also be noted that these reading would have been taken around midday on a busy work environment - not conducive to relaxation!