CHIPping Away

May 25, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

I wrote previously about CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program) and some of the science behind CHIP. I also wrote a related article on Minimizing Cancer Risk, basically with much the same recommendations.

The first articles were written early on in the course. As the course has progressed, we’ve gone into much more detail on various things, like the value of fibre and micronutrients vs calorie-dense foods. We’ve explored the major effect lifestyle has on issues like heart disease, diabetes and cancer plus cleared up some nutritional myths about protein, calcium, iron and vitamins.

If we look at the bigger picture of our health and well-being, it works out that about 70% of it is determined by our lifestyle choices. In other words, the bulk of our health is in our hands.

Another 10% is influenced by our genetics. But more important than our genes is gene expression. The study of gene expression is known as epigenetics. Just because we have a gene doesn’t mean it will be expressed.

For example, every cell has the entire set of genes. But an ear cell doesn’t need to express any of the genes that create proteins specific to brains, gut or eyes. Those genes are turned off. And the largest influence on gene expression? Nutrition.

Makes sense if you consider that our diet is what gives the body both it’s building blocks and many of the challenges it has to deal with. Change the gene expression and it changes your body. This is why even identical twins get increasingly different over their lives – small differences is choices. They add up. And you have a choice.

Sometimes you see diseases that are “passed down” in families. We may blame genetics but what is something else we pass down? Lifestyles, including diet and activity levels. These typically have a stronger effect on our life than our genes themselves do. In other words, it’s not so much what we have but how we use it.

We also explored how beliefs drive feelings and feelings drive behaviour. Becoming conscious of some of our old beliefs around food and exercise can be very useful. Say for example, “I hate broccoli”. I certainly once felt this way. But finally as an adult I discovered that I don’t actually, especially if it’s served with a squeeze of lemon.

Another common example is around exercise. Many of us have tried exercise routines that became difficult or a chore. We then associate exercise as unpleasant and something to avoid. And yet gyms are full of people who get a high on it.

The key with making changes to diet and exercise is to make the process pleasurable. Otherwise, you’ll develop an aversion to it. The key challenge is moving past the initial inertia in getting your body moving again. Once you do, then it becomes pleasant. When you get into the zone, pleasurable. The it becomes much easier to establish it as a habit.

As most exercise and goal setting programs tell you, take it a step at a time. Grow into it.

I’ve been really enjoying the walking and notice I’ve gradually increased how far I go effortlessly. And the program has now upped the ante. They noted that exercising an hour a day and then sitting 10 hours will not help your health as much. We have to break up all that sitting. Key is adding routines, like a stretching program and a gentle resistance/ strength training routine. In other words, building a more well-rounded exercise routine.

This increases fitness further and helps with weight loss and health maintenance.
We’re in the last 1/3 of the course now…
David

Bladeless Wind Turbine

May 24, 2015 at 12:59 pm | Posted in Economoney, Hardware, Technology | Leave a comment

A wind turbine that has no blades?? One that is much cheaper to make, basically silent, safe even for birds, has no mechanics to maintain, and actually looks like art?

They have a working prototype and are coming up on crowdfunding. Here they present at MIT:

Vortex Bladeless web site

Minimizing Cancer Risk

May 13, 2015 at 10:40 pm | Posted in Health, Science | 1 Comment
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Our bodies are naturally self-healing if we give them the right nutrition, activity, and environment. This doesn’t have to be perfect – just within reasonable ranges.

However, our modern lifestyle has lead to some poor habits that, over time, create imbalances in the body that gradually throw systems out of whack. That leads to a wide range of common illnesses, including Cancer. Yet, cancer itself is not actually an illness – it’s a symptom of an illness or imbalance that leads to an out-of-control healing (cell-replenishment) process, much as chronic inflammation leads to many other troubles.

If your immune system is in good shape, you won’t get cancer. The body will take care of naturally occurring problems, including malignant growth.

What is the largest influence on the risk of cancer? Lifestyle habits. Carcinogens have links to cancer but are a far smaller influence than lifestyle. And lifestyle is something you can control.

The World Cancer Research Fund International has been running an ongoing and continually updated meta-analysis of published papers on cancer research. They have reviewed over 9,000 studies of some 17 cancers.

Their recommendations to reduce the largest risk factors:

1) Loose Excess Weight and maintain a healthy weight (a BMI of 21) through a balanced diet and exercise.
2) Be Physically Active at least 30 minutes each day. As fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes. Limit sedentary activity, like being a couch potato.
3) Limit consumption of Energy-Dense Foods – these are foods high in fat and/or sugar and low in fibre. Avoid sugary drinks and limit fruit juices (some have more sugar than pop plus low fibre). Limit fast food and processed food. When foods are low in fibre, we don’t feel full and continue to eat, leading to weight gain. Not to mention that cancer lives solely on sugar. People who die from cancer effectively starve to death as the cancer consumes all the bodies energy. Energy-dense foods feed cancer.
4) Eat mostly foods of plant origin: vegetables, fruits, whole grains and pulses. Favour unprocessed cereals. These foods have lower energy density and higher fibre. They help fill us up and carry away toxins. They reduce cancer growth by reducing fuel.
5) Limit red meats and avoid processed meat.
6) Limit or avoid Alcoholic Drinks. Purple grape juice offers the same health benefits touted for red wine. But moderately as it’s also energy-dense.
7) Limit consumption of Salt (and salty foods and salt preserved foods). Check the labels on packaged and canned goods. Many have high amounts of sugar and/or salt, even “healthy” and organic foods. Also – avoid mouldy grains and legumes.
8) Don’t use dietary supplements to protect against cancer. Aim to meet your nutritional needs through diet.
9) Breastfeed – this protects both mother and child
10) Cancer survivors should also follow these guidelines: before, during and after treatment

Put simply – favour a whole foods, plant-based diet and get active. Again, this is research-based. Alcohol, sugary drinks, fat, and other energy-dense foods all produce sugars that feed cancer, add weight, and increase inflammation.

And of course, quit smoking. Whatever kind of plants you smoke.

This approach will also reduce inflammation, much as I noted prior. This means it will also help avoid high blood pressure, heart disease, and so much more. And it will improve not just your health but overall quality of life. And don’t forget to clean up inflammatory emotions. We have to take care of our emotional and mental health too or that will contribute to physical illness.

To your health and well being.
David

Some CHIP Science

April 13, 2015 at 11:57 am | Posted in Health, Psychology, Science | 3 Comments
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As I discussed prior, CHIP is one of the best researched lifestyle upgrade programs available. They lean on a lot of other research. Let’s see if I can explain the basics of the value proposition for health.

Essentially, the bodies immune system produces inflammation at an injury point while the healing is underway. But lifestyle factors like smoking, high fat or sugar in the diet, inactivity, excess alcohol, salt, obesity, poor sleep, and stress can all lead to chronic low-level inflammation. Similarly, the same lifestyle factors create more “oxidative stress”, an imbalance between damaging free radicals and the antioxidents that manage them. If free radicals get the upper hand, all sorts of problems can arise, including higher cancer risk.

We most notice inflammation in the joints when we have discomfort and pain. But one of the primary sites where chronic low-level inflammation develops is in blood vessels. Over time, this damages the vessel walls protection. LDL (“bad”) cholesterol influenced by free radicals becomes sticky and adheres at these points, causing narrowing of the arteries, atherosclerosis. That impedes the circulatory system and the distribution of oxygen and nutrients required by all areas.

The trick is – where that is occurring more is what leads to a chronic ailment in that area. The best known is of course coronary artery or heart disease. But in the brain, it’s senility or stroke. High blood pressure. Kidney disease. Hearing loss. And macular degeneration in the eyes.

The main point – “most chronic diseases have a common cause in chronic low-level inflammation linked to oxidative stress.” This is backed up by a lot of research.

For example, several long term studies, like the Adventist study and the China study, have demonstrated that every step closer to being a straight vegetarian you are, the lower your rate of chronic disease: by a 4 and 5 to one ratio to meat eaters. Meat eaters, for example, have a 5 times higher likelihood of developing high cholesterol (somewhat obviously). This means a 5 times higher likelihood of a lower quality of life. Spread that over multiple issues and you get the message.

CHIP feels these chronic diseases can be moderated and potentially corrected with diet, sufficient activity, emotional health and stress management. They hope to wean you off any related medications for symptoms.

I’ve been surprised how thorough they’re being. They want to really drive the points home. It’s completely your choice how far you want to take it on the diet and exercise scale. But they want you to understand the choices you’re making and their benefits.

And we’re not just talking a longer life but one of higher quality too.
David

The CHIP Program

April 13, 2015 at 11:39 am | Posted in Health, Media, Psychology, Science | 4 Comments
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I’ve been blessed with a robust constitution from a “successful” gene pool. But this has meant it was easy to be lazy about taking care of myself. Although I’ve been “reasonable”, my lifestyle choices have slowly caught up with me. I’ve gradually become more sedentary with a little too much fill the bucket eating.

I’ve tried several diets that made a lot of difference. Loved the Reboot program, for example, but didn’t make the long term changes to keep it off. Once I finished the juice fast, things gradually went back to the old habits. And because basic lifestyle patterns were not changing, things just slowly got worse. It finally started to catch up with me.

The basic problem is, our modern western “healthy” diet is very simply not. The major diseases of western countries are diseases of abundance and excess, ironically. But because it’s common, we see it as normal.

The western medical system is allopathic, designed to treat things like infections and broken bones. But MD’s are not typically well-trained in lifestyle and nutrition, nor are they set up to guide a patient through such changes. When people come to them with chronic issues related to lifestyle, they can offer some advice to loose weight or relax, then pills to treat the symptoms. But none of this addresses the cause. As a result, in most cases the patient does nothing or doesn’t find anything effective long term and fails. The chronic conditions get worse, the prescriptions climb, and people keep returning to their doctor for help. Yet they do little to help themselves, often because they don’t know how.

We need to change our thinking and recognize we have to take responsibility for our health. Often, we take better care of our cars than our bodies. It’s estimated that 70% of doctor visits are related to lifestyle issues they’re not set up to address. The major health issues of our time are dominated by lifestyle-related ailments like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, developed over many years of bad habits.

Why is our diet so bad? In the 50’s, researchers determined that our western diet was too high in fat. They introduced lower fat recommendations. Not only did this lead to the low-fat craze but it also lead to far more processing of foods. Taking out the fat also took out the flavour. So they compensated with things like sugar and salt, massively increasing our intake. Food research sought the “bliss point” of sweetness to be appealing, even in baby food. They also discovered that sugar and caffeine could make a food addictive. Many foods became increasingly unnatural designer foods, made to appeal to our base tendencies. The long term result – a massive increase in obesity.

When someone begins to realize how their lifestyle is affecting their health and quality of life, they may look to make changes. Most visible is gyms and diets. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the right resources and motivation to make the changes needed before there’s a health crisis. But often, people end up trying a long list of fad diets and programs that have more of a yo-yo effect than long term benefit.

What many need is some support and filling in some of the gaps in our self-care skills. We need a dose of preventative medicine.

In my own case, I needed lifestyle changes, but an approach that was straightforward and real. This is when I ran into the CHIP program, recommended at the end of a health article.

CHIP stands for Complete Health Improvement Program. It began some years ago as a heart-health program similar to  Healthy Heart. The second is mainly for people already with a serious health issue, often offered at hospitals and the Y. CHIP broadened the approach because the principles are true of many common chronic health issues, not just the heart. While Reboot had paid support programs, this was in-person groups working together.

CHIP is also one of the best researched programs available and arose out of a history of prior research. Large, long term studies have shown that the greater the amount of animal fats in the diet, the higher the risks of developing chronic illness. This science is well understood but not widely known. I’ll write more on this shortly.

What has really impressed me about such a mainstream program is that none of the advice I’ve objected to. I’ve studied traditional health systems like Ayurveda and the advice aligns very well with it. It is really good advice: whole, plant-based, unprocessed foods, variety, and plenty of exercise.

The principles are very straightforward but do ask for real change. And not temporary change either. This is not a diet to try but a change in lifestyle. Not a temporary fix but a long-term shift.

There is no calorie counting and no starving. You can eat lots and loose weight, if you choose the right whole foods. Without the addictive foods in your diet like sugar and caffeine, you won’t get the cravings that ruin many a diet.

But also, diets without exercise are not a solution. Your body is not designed to be a slug. We’re built to be active. Yet lots of exercise without changing what you put in your mouth isn’t a solution either. This is about improving your whole quality of life long term. When you get into the swing of exercise you like, it feels really good. And this doesn’t take long.

If you’d like a metric, under 5,000 steps a day is sedentary. That includes most of us. 10,000 steps brings you an “Active” status. Unforced, it also brings the yummy experience of stepping into “the zone”. The program comes with a pedometer. Worn throughout the day, it will easily track how you’re doing.

CHIP is 18 classes, packed with tips and research to back up the recommendations. A cookbook too. For me, I’ve lost weight, waist size, and feel quite a lot healthier than I have in awhile. And we’re only at class 4. Fun stuff like dancing isn’t exhausting now. I use the car much less. My food bill has dropped markedly. And many are telling me how great I look. While I’m still in the keener phase, I can heartily recommend the program. It’s taught all over North America.
David

Our Meaningful Universe

March 27, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | 1 Comment

Modern evidence of natural “coincidences” that the Universe was designed for complex, intelligent life. The key mechanisms and properties that allow life as we know it.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoI2ms5UHWg

Of course having a privilege doesn’t make you special, it gives you a responsibility to do something useful with the gifts you’ve been given. And to have fun.
David

DNA Testing – Part 2

March 1, 2015 at 11:46 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the first part of this series, I talked about personal DNA testing and the available options. I ended up choosing 23andMe to include the health markers.

It’s worth noting that humans are 99% the same genetically. What the tests look at is parts of the 1% of genes that vary person-to-person. The different organizations vary on the focus of the genes they read. 23andMe looks more at health while FTDNA more at the family tree, as per their name.

The process is straightforward. As noted, you buy a test kit and they mail it to you. You take the simple sample and register the kit to yourself on their web site. And you mail it back in, prepaid. They let me know when it is received by the actual lab. (from Canada, they appear to gather the samples and batch ship them across the border) 4-6 weeks later, you get notified of the results on-line. And there is quite a bit of info.

This includes detail on quite a few areas. There’s your Maternal and Paternal (if you’re a male) lines (Haplotypes), genetic risk factors, drug response, inherited conditions, and traits. There is general ancestry info and and some ancestry composition. I was amused to see a connection with Doggerland, a now-submerged area that once connected France and England.

They accurately named eye colour, hair colour, blood type, and more. Birth weight range was wrong. I saved over 2 dozen reports. Even got to download the “music” of my DNA. Keep in mind that much of this is still quite early on but is growing rapidly.

They also have some experimental tools for exploring health and ancestry in various ways, like comparing your DNA to someone you’ve agreed to connect with. Once you’re in the system, information will be updated as new studies are integrated.

There are also various quizzes to help add support the research. And permission requests to share your DNA anonymously with researchers. You have control how much sharing is done at all points and can change your mind. And you choose if you want to even see some of the heath reports.

Because close relatives had already done the test, I didn’t expect surprises and there were none. Pretty generic average health stuff which I realized was a very good thing. Hardy stock, as they say, that was “successful”.

In my case, I elected to connect with genetic relatives, which includes the ones I know who have tested. And they show up in the system so you can invite them, connection by connection, to compare where you’re in common. This is quite distinct even from sibling to sibling. There was a small number of close relatives, some I don’t know, then hundreds of 4th and further cousins.

I’ve also uploaded my DNA to another system and will have those results in a couple of weeks. FTDNA can’t take the new V4 chip version of 23andMe but can accept older V3 results. I plan to research several other sites mentioned in the first article and may do a follow-up article here after more of this is digested.

It’s a fascinating exploration. And the more people that test, the more results they’ll have and the more research is supported.

Meanwhile here’s an interesting story where DNA results revealed that siblings were not related to the rest of their family. Turns out, their father had been switched at birth.
David

The Gut Brain

February 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Posted in Health, Nature, Science | 2 Comments

Scientists have come to view the Enteric nervous system (ENS) of the gastrointestinal tract as something of a second brain, the “gut brain”. Unlike other arms of the nervous system, it is capable of local autonomous function, and thus it’s own decision-making ability. It is however much more limited in scope than our actual brain.

However, it can have a profound effect on our cognitive functions – something we have all experienced if we get over-hungry or indigestion.

More fascinating still though is that the gut system is not a simple chemical digestion factory but “more like a super-complex ecosystem containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms.” “such microbiota, specifically within the gut, can greatly influence many physiological parameters, including cognitive functions, such as learning, memory and decision making processes.

Here we review evidence on the ability of the gut microbiota to communicate with the brain and thus modulate behavior, and also elaborate on the ethological and cultural strategies of human and non-human primates to select, transfer and eliminate microorganisms…

While some bacteria we work to control, there are a number of kinds we live with which are vital to our well-being and ability to digest some foods. We have trillions of cells in the body but actually carry a lot more bacteria. Though invisible to the eye, there are so many that it’s suggested they add between 2 and 9 lb to our body weight.

On the cellular level, we are not “a person”, we are a vast community. Add in the microbes and we are an entire ecosystem of life, broadly working for mutual enrichment. Take a city the size of London. Now add in 500,000 more of them. The population under your skin is much larger.
David

Windows 8 Revisited

February 8, 2015 at 12:16 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments

Back in the day, I wrote an article on Windows 8 and decided to avoid this Windows version. Many others did the same. It was designed for touch devices and I’m still very much a desktop keyboard & mouse power user. I’m used to multitasking various system intensive programs like PhotoShop, optical disc burning, and so forth. My tablet (Android) mostly gathers dust, though would see more use for reading had I the time. It’s also great for photo albums and other causal uses.

Recently however, the laptop I got for grad school has been running hot, a little burdened by years of long days. Windows 7 is now being phased out and is just getting security fixes. Windows 10 is yet to come (later this year). Other OS’s would require a major investment in time and money to shift to. And in the meantime, some of the tech authors who balked at Windows 8 originally have gradually shifted to it themselves. Especially with some of the fixes of v8.1.

Key to a reasonably happy transition is a few key changes. On a non-touch device you want to default to the desktop. And you want a Start menu to get at stuff in familiar ways.

There are several Start menu replacement programs out there that shift the startup to the desktop. Well recommended is the $5 Stardock Start8. I decided on the free Classic Shell as it has a few specific features I like, like a File Explorer toolbar. Both allow lots of customization to taste with several style options. For really simple, you can just r-click the Taskbar/ Properties/ Navigation tab and select to default to the Desktop. But I think you’ll find the Start menu useful unless you use very few programs.

Then there’s just a few small adaptations, like finding “Charms” where a lot of settings are found – the top right corner of the screen or by pressing Win-C. Win-X brings up a power users menu, with access to many back end settings. Win-F brings up Search.

Windows 8 starts Much faster than Win7. Add in an SSD (solid state) for a boot drive (recommended) and the difference is astonishing. Install your programs on the boot drive and keep all your bulky data on a second traditional hard drive. This is how I’ve organized things for years anyway – separating programs from data. As I’ve discussed prior, it makes backup much simpler – image the boot drive, file copy the data for easy access if the system ever goes down. This is backup that works in real world scenarios.

The Modern/Metro Apps will also tend to drive power users crazy, again partly because they’re touch-designed. For example, there’s no close button – you have to click and hold the top edge and drag it to the bottom. On a large screen this is excessive compared to a click. And who needs a calculator that fills a large screen? What if you want to see the spreadsheet at the same time, without splitting the screen? You can also click in the top left corner to switch back to the desktop but this leaves the app running – handy only if you want to go back and forth. Back to the top left and right click to close it. Clicking a program on the taskbar is easier.

In many cases you’ll want full versions of desktop software, not MS apps. So you’ll want a PDF viewer, an image viewer, a calculator, and so on. Lame when these have been built into Windows for many years but MS apps are not built for mousing and big screens.

Win8 requires you use a Microsoft Account for initial login. Because it uses this for on-line services like Skydrive and app purchases, it should have a long, complex password. But for routine login people will tend to use something easier to remember, sacrificing their on-line security. There is however alternatives, like using a Local Account (scroll down to the Local Account section). You’ll still need to occasionally connect on-line but can then use a password manager to handle the complex password for you. This does mean creating a new User and making all the settings, etc. so you want to do this sooner rather than later.

Another privacy issue is internal computer searches going on-line. In Charms/ Settings/ Change PC Settings/ Search and Apps/ Search: Turn the “Get search suggestions and Web results from Bing” off.

Another gotcha is the Skype app – it wants to convert your Skype account to your system Microsoft account. They offer no choice. Annoying if you use Skype on multiple systems and don’t want it tied to one. Like Local Account above, this is a privacy issue. This is a widespread industry trend of account merging. It makes it simpler for end users but vastly increases user tracking and personal security & privacy vulnerabilities.

I later installed Skype for Desktop and it worked with my old account just fine. And all the features I’m used to were back, unlike the dumbed-down app.

I also found I needed to change the Theme colour as the windows all seemed to merge together and it wasn’t clear what to select. The 3D edges are gone. After years using Win7, there’s a lot of tweaks and settings in a lot of software to migrate. I didn’t find the “Easy Transfer” software very useful.

I am finding it much faster than Windows 7, partly due to a faster system and partly Windows 8. There’s lots of small things I quite like and other things that are annoying or dumbed down. But at least I have a current OS, for now.
David

Wrist Phone or A Misleading Example?

February 7, 2015 at 1:55 am | Posted in Computers, Design, Hardware, Technology | Leave a comment

Here’s an interesting video made for a product in development. I’ll let you watch it first.

Certainly intriguing. The video has had over 10 million hits. But it’s also creating some controversy as they illustrate some features without explanation. Features only possible with another device, making it a bit misleading. It’s a very bad sign to mislead possible investors up front.

Part of the issue may be that many are viewing the video out of context of their web site. On the site, they talk about it as a wrist screen but seen as above, the video doesn’t stand alone.

Everything in the video is simulated. The video shows a smart phone screen but the device has WiFi and Bluetooth only. Any cell abilities require a separate cell phone. In fact, you’ll note the screen content and functionality is all from the smart phone. So this is more like a variation of a smart watch but without a glass screen. This offers a larger non-fragile view but remains more dependent on a cell phone for the displayed functionality.

When they answer the phone in the clip, it’s the cell phone that answers as the device has no speaker nor mic – just a vibrator. Again, illustrated in a way that could be taken wrong.

They show someone playing a game – their own illustrations suggest the sensors would be good for button pressing but I’d be dubious it would be high enough resolution for game play.

They illustrate it as being waterproof – certainly an interesting detail for an active person. But it has a USB port, probably for backup and charging. So that may be a little fraught.

This video shows their first working prototype.

Note the focus issues.

This certainly could be a viable alternative to a smart watch for active people. But the illustrated functionality means you can’t leave the cell in your backpack and answer the phone but could check a map as illustrated. They have a lot of problems to solve.

The company is French. I was amused to see they have a muse portrayed along with the founders.
David

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