Cholesterol – The Unseen Enemy

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Diet, Fitness, Recipes and Health Facts,Tags: , , ,
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High Cholesterol runs in my family so I am always (read: try to) watching what I eat.  I also get tested every year or so, to see how I am doing.  The last test I had showed a 8 point increase over 2 years, still in the healthy range, however, near the top of where my levels should be for my age/gender.  Basically I take it seriously but not so seriously that I don’t enjoy what I eat.  I’ve been cut open enough times to understand that if it can be avoided it should!  If you don’t believe me, please take my word for it.  With that in mind you can imagine my surprise when my brother-in-law (visiting from out of state) announced that his Cholesterol level was around …700!  What can I say, it surprised me he had a pulse!!

That is when I decided to write this article, not as an expert (I am not), but from my practical experience.  I do not take medication and will resist taking any for as long as possible.  I am not adverse to medication but do believe less is better.  So I focus on natural ways to lower cholesterol, my doctor may not agree with me and wish he could get the commission from the prescription, but I have at the least maintained my levels through personal effort.  I also realize every one’s body chemistry if different and you should listen to your doctor and yourself, not me.  You need to understand the differences between the good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol, I leave that up to you.  But if you find a few useful tips here, my effort is not wasted.

It is important to note that cholesterol is actually necessary for several very critical functions in the body.  However, excess cholesterol in the blood stream can be deposited in arteries and can cause plaque formation as well as harden arteries. Heart disease, heart attack and stroke may then result.

How do you reduce your Cholesterol naturally?  Basically you have to alter your lifestyle and diet.

Is it easy? Not always.

First of all, you need to maintain a healthy body weight.  While thin people can have unhealthy levels of cholesterol being overweight usually indicates an unhealthy lifestyle (to much food not enough activity).  Being overweight raises your LDL (bad) levels and lowers your HDL (good) levels.  That is why the first step to lowering your cholesterol is to loose weight.  Often this only requires a change in the foods you ingest.  The side benefit of this is you will feel better and have more energy!

There it is, Step One: Get to and Maintain a Healthy Weight.

Weight loss in general requires one thing, burning more calories then you consume.  The fastest way to lose weight is to reduce your calories and increase your level of exercise.  What is interesting about this process is the more you exercise the less hungry you will be…sound ridiculous but unless you are starving yourself it’s true!  Junk food can be quiet addictive (and bad for your cholesterol levels) so you may not feel this is true immediately, but stick with it and you will.

We need exercise for a lot of reasons, mostly we humans were not meant to be sedentary.  Like it or not you need to move around and get some exercise!  Exercise expends energy and pushes toxins out of your body, but it also forces your body to create more HDL (good) and convert/burn some of that bad cholesterol (LDL) into energy.  Imagine that.  As a Martial Artist, exercise also lubricates your joints, improves your flexibility and  heightens your awareness…sparring anyone?

The rule of thumb is a minimum of moderate exercise of about 30 minutes three to five times per week.  This will improve not only your cholesterol levels but will improve your heart health.  So many benefits!

Here is a no-brainer, stop smoking.  Smoking is stupid so you should stop.  Smoking is bad for you, and stupid, so you should stop.  Smoking increases LDL (bad) cholesterol, and it is stupid, so you should stop.  If you are still smoking, you are stupid…and, why are your reading this?!?

You are now exercising (or thinking about it) so how should you change your diet?

Obviously our diet is important to any aspect of our health.  To coin an old programming saying: Garbage In, Garbage Out.  However that doesn’t accurately depict the human body, probably more accurate would be: Garbage In, Garbage Stays…  If we consume a lot of cholesterol then our bodies are going to retain a lot of cholesterol.  Therefore it is critical to couple diet management with exercise.

There are different dietary factors affecting your body’s cholesterol stores:

Soluble Fiber binds to cholesterol and removes it from your body, making it a great way to naturally lower your cholesterol.  Soluble fiber is found in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.  Basically eating natural foods is better…duh!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids can also lower cholesterol levels, these can be found in flax seeds and flax seed oil as well as cold fish such as tuna, sardines, salmon, herring, and mackerel.  An interesting note about flax seed oil, it is one of the few oils that does not change it’s molecular make up when heated!  Many oils change when heated thereby reducing or eliminating their beneficial properties.  Olive Oil is another great oil which not only is thought to reduce cholesterol but has antioxidant properties as well.

In case you didn’t get the memo:  Saturated and trans fats are bad for you, as they can raise your total cholesterol.  You can determine if a product has trans fats by reading the label.  Most will identify trans fat in the percentage area, however, even if they say 0%, if they contain partially hydrogenated anything, they contain trans fat!  Basically most processed food contains trans fat, store bought cookies/cakes/etc.  Again natural and home made is better!  Saturated fats are found in meats and some oils, such as red meats, processed meats and poultry skin.

If you have a cholesterol problem you should also avoid dairy products, fried foods and surprising to most, some seafood, especially shell fish.

Well that pretty much seems to rule out most available foods that we tend to enjoy…!  Not true, unless you exist on Devil Dogs and Yoohoo!

Basically I go back to my earlier comment, eat (and cook with) more natural foods.  Don’t buy a box of cookies, make them from scratch.  I actually think it is cheaper to do that now given rising costs.  Cut the recipe’s sugar in half, don’t use margarine, substitute apple sauce for butter/margarine.  I am sure you can find many more tips via google.

To summarize the basics:

  • Get up and moving…exercise!
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Avoid junk foods
  • Avoid/reduce dairy products
  • Avoid all trans fats
  • Eat more natural foods

Easy right?  It actually is, the hard part is the change in behavior and mind-set that it requires.  Like all change it takes some work and effort.  However, I have never heard of denial lowering any one’s cholesterol…

Some people will go to extremes and become vegetarians (not that there is anything wrong with that!) personally I like meat to much for that and it really isn’t necessary.  There are also some herbs (garlic, green tea, psyllium, red yeast rice) that can also help in lowering your cholesterol, but there is no magic potion or secret trick regardless of what you may read online.  Beware of snake oil salesmen/women .

Any gains you will make in lowering your cholesterol by changing your diet are normally made within 3-6 months.  Aside from that you need to listen to your doctor and if necessary take a prescription drug to aid in your fight to lower your cholesterol.  Regardless there is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle and it is never to late to change your ways and start living a healthy life style.

Good luck.

Goals & Resolutions

ktadmin Posted in Awareness, Diet, Events & Holidays, Fitness, Recipes and Health Facts, State of Mind, Training notes,Tags: , , , ,
0

A few days ago most of us made some type of resolution for the new year.  You may not admit it to anyone but it is there in the back of your mind, something you’d like to change or do different this year.  Call them Goals or Resolutions they equate to the same thing, a struggle with yourself, often a battle of endurance which requires willpower!  The most common resolutions focus on our personal selves, weight loss, getting into shape, attaining our next belt, other involve our careers or station in life, we will focus on the former here but what we will look at applies to both.  The problem with the resolutions most of us make is, they require hard work and effort.  Let’s face it if they didn’t we wouldn’t need things called resolutions or goals!

I don’t normally go in for a bunch of motivational gimmicks but I found this one that actually makes sense, SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely
    (Get more in-depth details about Smart Goals here)

Basically this boils down a combination of “keep it simple stupid” and “being realistic and truthful”.  You can’t change if you set unrealistic goals, like I am going to loose 50 lbs next week, that is setting yourself up for failure, which if simply an excuse not to try.  I have known so many people who take this path, actually everyone takes this path eventually if they are not truthful with themselves.  We can learn a lot from addicts in this regard since it is easier to deny the problem then to deal with the problem.

So how do we get on track with our diet and fitness resolutions?  First keep reading this blog!  Secondly take the baby step method, I remember watching this in the old movie “What About Bob”.  You know what, it makes sense.  Break your bigger goal into achievable smaller goals, take small steps.  It may take longer to achieve your goal but the results will be lasting.  Nothing leads to short gains and long term losses then fad diets and an excessive ‘must have it now’ mentality.  The catch here is to make the goals achievable but useful, don’t be so easy on yourself that you aren’t moving towards your goal!  If you are trying to lose weight and you didn’t lose any last week, don’t have the attitude, “well at least I didn’t gain any!”  If you do, you will be saying “well at least I only gained a pound this week” before you know it.  Be honest with yourself but not easy!  This is training, no wimps allowed!!

I will leave you with this interesting study at the University of Hertfordshire which showed that the people most successful at keeping their New Year’s Resolutions did at least three of the following things:

  • broke their goal into smaller steps
  • rewarded themselves when they achieved one of these
  • told their friends about their goals
  • focused on the benefits of success
  • kept a diary of their progress.

There you have it, simple advice that will hopefully help you achieve your goals, regardless of when you set them…unless…

but you’re not that deluded…are you?

100 Push-ups

ktadmin Posted in Fitness, Training notes,Tags: , ,
2

Can you drop and give me 100 Push-ups?

I use to be able to, now I am slightly embarrassed by how many I can do.  Part of the problem is a shoulder injury but that sounds a lot like an excuse even to me!  Since I have increased my training this year when I saw this, like the 200 sit-ups, I knew I had to add it to my training regiment.  This program will be added to my current training regiment.  I’ll post updates here and ask you to do the same in the comments section so we can see how we are doing.

100pushups

200 Sit-ups

ktadmin Posted in Fitness, Training notes,Tags: , ,
2

Can you do it?

Can you drop and give me 200 sit-ups?

Neither can I, though I’m almost a quarter of the way there.  This year I have stepped up my training substantially and when I recently found this program I knew I had to try it!  So from time to time I will update my progress (over the next 6 weeks).  I challenge you to do the same, post your progress in the comments section.  Here’s to firming up my stomach so it can take more punishment from my students!

200situps

How to use martial arts for fitness:

ktadmin Posted in Fitness, Training notes
6

So you want to get in shape?  The Martial Arts are perhaps one of the best forms of exercise for a fitness program.  If done correctly a typical workout incorporates every muscle group in your body.   But the most important reason the Martial Arts is one of the best forms of exercise is because it is FUN!!  Enjoying your exercise routine helps you stick with it and attain your personal goals.  Additionally practicing the Martial Arts increases your self-confidence and improves your self-confidence.  You feel better physically and mentally.

Regardless of your age a Martial Arts will benefit your overall fitness.  A complete Martial Arts training program includes:

  • Cardiovascular Training
    • with sparring, and repetitive drills;
  • Resistance and Strength Training
    • with weights, dynamic tension, and partner drills
  • Flexibility Training
    • with breathing and stretching practices.
  • Balance/Stability Training
    • with all elements

All of these factors coupled with a balanced diet provides a well rounded fitness program.

Now that you understand better why the Martial Arts make for a great fitness program, what should you look for in your Martial Arts program?  Every Martial Arts program should include some fitness and conditioning exercises and drills.  If your focus is using the Martial Arts to get in shape then there are some things you want to specifically look for:

  • Beginning Warm-up and Stretching (Cardio/Dynamic tension/flexibility/balance)
  • Repetitive Form or Fighting Drills (Dynamic tension/Cardio)
  • Partner and Bag Work (Strength/Cardio/Balance)
  • Sparring (Serious Cardio)
  • Cool-down and stretching exercises (flexibility)

Remember that this list is a guide as every program can approach training differently.  The one challenge in Martial Arts training is typically the Cardiovascular training component.  Your Martial Arts training will give you a total body workout but will it provide an adequate Cardiovascular workout?  There are thee basic types of Cardiovascular workouts:

  • Long and Easy;
    • 30-60 min
  • Moderate
    • 30-45 min
  • Short and Hard
    • 10-30 min

Most drills and exercises in Martial Arts training are a great source of Short and Hard Cardio workouts.  Short and Hard Cardio workouts offer the largest increase in metabolism, increased Cardio health and respiratory output (the ability to not get winded!).   When looking at your Martial Arts program you do need to make sure that it includes at least one set of 10-30 minutes of sustained activity to achieve the benefits of a short and hard Cardio workout.   Sparring, kick drills, combination drills and bag work are all great Short and Hard Cardio activities to look for in your program.

Unlike many exercise programs the majority of your Martial Arts training requires little more then a few feet of space.  If you do have the room and the money, having your own heavy bag is a nice training tool to have.

You are now well on your way to getting into shape, all you have to do now is start training!  Like everything in life things go better if you plan ahead and take it slow.  A serious fitness program requires you to workout at least 3-5 days a week, but never more then 6 days a week.  If you are just starting out or haven’t workout in a while ease into your workout to avoid discouraging yourself and injury.  Here is a suggested workout schedule* to guide your progress towards a complete Martial Arts fitness program:

Starting Month 1-3:
– Martial Arts class 1-2 days a week: [1 hour]
– Additional Strength Training (warm-up exercises) 1-2 days a week: [10 min – 20 min]
– Additional Cardio Training (bag work, jump rope, etc.) 1 day a week: [10 min – 20 min]
– [Total Weekly Time Commitment: 1 hr 20 min to 3 hrs]

Starting Month 4-5:
– Martial Arts class 1-3 days a week: [1-2 hours]
– Additional Strength Training (warm-up exercises) 1-2 days a week: [20 min – 45 min]
– Additional Cardio Training (bag work, jump rope, etc.) 1 day a week: [20 min – 30 min]
– [Total Weekly Time Commitment: 1 hr 40 min to 8 hrs]

Starting between Months 6+:
– Martial Arts class 2-3 days a week: [1-3 hours]
– Additional Strength Training (warm-up exercises) 1-2 days a week: [30 min – 1 hour]
– Additional Cardio Training (bag work, jump rope, etc.) 1 day a week: [30 min – 1 hour]
– [Total Weekly Time Commitment: 3 hr to 12 hrs]

Even just working out 2 days a week will greatly improve your fitness level.  The best part about all of this, ITS FUN!

*Remember to always consult your Doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

A Fitness Perspective…

Sensei Posted in Fitness, For Kids, Fun Stuff, Training notes,Tags: , , ,
0

Unfit - An American Problem!
Reprinted here with the permission of our friend Mike Belkin.

This cartoon does a great job of pointing out the perspective of many people today. They lack the long term vision of their health and the impacts their decisions today will have on their health tomorrow. As human beings we tend to have a lack of perspective about ourselves which gives an illusion of our world instead of the reality. Illusions are attractive but dangerous if you loose site of reality. Illusions allow us to ignore dangerous situations (overeating, drugs, laziness, etc) and fall into a cycle of self abuse. Find your reality today and To thy own self be true!