Author Archives: Karen Owoc

How to Ignite Your Metabolic Furnace

Tired employeeYour metabolism is the rate at which all the chemical reactions in your body work as a whole to create the energy you need to thrive. Think of your metabolism as the engine in your car. Sometimes it can be a high performance machine, but without good care, it can run like a slug. Here are some tips to keep your body working at optimum speed.

Signs of a Sluggish Metabolism

The most obvious signs that your metabolism has plummeted are:

  • Weight gain
  • Inability to lose weight despite restricting calories
  • Fatigue
  • Not feeling hungry

Causes of a Deaccelerating Metabolism

The main reasons your metabolism may be slowing down:

  • Age: Your metabolism is thought to slow about one to two percent per decade.
  • Low percentage of muscle mass: When your muscle mass diminishes, your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn while at rest) diminishes as well.
  • Not eating enough food! Insufficient calories can cause you to go into “starvation mode” which can slash broccoli on plateyour metabolic rate. Severely restricting your caloric intake is one of the key reasons that diets don’t work and wind up making you fatter in the end.
  • Lack of exercise and physical activity: In a UC Davis study, they found that the resting metabolic rate in highly trained runners was reduced by 7 to 10 percent when daily exercise training was stopped.
  • Dehydration: Your organs need water to function every day. When you don’t get enough water, your organs will slow down and can eventually shut down.
  • Hypothyroidism: The main purpose of the thyroid hormone is to keep your engine running. When your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, your metabolism will slow down.

How to Preserve Your Metabolism

To ensure a healthy metabolism:    Continue reading

How “Old” Do You Sound?

Woman talking with alphabet letters coming out of her mouthSigns of aging include more than receding hairlines and gums, wrinkles, painful joints, and clogged arteries. As with everything else, your voice ages too, and most people don’t think about taking care of their “voice muscles” like they do their biceps. Have you ever talked to someone on the phone and determined the person is old just by the sound of his/her voice? You’ve likely heard an older person speak with that classic gravely, weak. raspy, wavering, hoarse, and/or breathless voice. With that said, how old do YOU sound?

Why Your Voice Makes You Sound Old

Over 30% of people over age 65 have voice problems. As you age, your larynx (a.k.a. voice box)  changes. The following 12 reasons may be causing your voice to become hoarse and weak and thus, sound old:

  1. Your vocal cords are less elastic (just like aging skin and muscles) and are unable to work in the same way as when you were young. Your vocal cords move and vibrate to make sounds. When the surrounding muscles move, your vocal cords either tighten or loosen. To make higher sounds, your cords tighten.
  2. Your vocal cords and muscles in the larynx wear out and become more thin. As a result, your voice may sound higher.
  3. Thickened mucous increases the amount of mass that needs to vibrate and results in a lower pitched voice. This increase is thought to be due to a decrease in hormones that affect the mucous membranes of your vocal cords.
  4. Acid reflux can cause harshness, sore throat, cough.
  5. Weak abdominals – In order to form a sound, your abs and rib cage squeeze your lungs which make you exhale air.
  6. Decreased lung capacity – By the time you’re 80, you may have 50% less volume compared to when you were 20.Dr and Pt_Dollarphotoclub_59591195
  7. Rheumatoid arthritis – This condition can lead to hoarseness because your vocal cords cannot move well. The inflammation limits the ability of the joint near your windpipe (cricoarytenoid joint) to move.
  8. Messages from your brain to the voice box become inefficient and nerve endings die.
  9. Decrease in blood supply and number of lubricating glands which cause the vocal cords to dry out.
  10. Change in your tongue, lips and teeth making it more difficult to form words. As a result, your voice becomes thinner and wavers.
  11. Parkinson’s disease
  12. Diabetes

How to Keep Your Voice Younger Longer   

Here are some quick fixes to slow and minimize the aging of your voice.    Continue reading

Fit Find | Ground Chia Seeds

Chia seeds? If you’re having sudden flashbacks of your old Chia Pet® from the 1980’s and you’re impulsively singing “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” right now, you’re probably not alone. Believe it or not, we’re talking about the same ‘chia’ but… instead of watching the seeds sprout into “animal fur”, we’re eating them!

Ground Chia SeedChia seeds, like flax seeds, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (2.3 grams ALA per two tablespoons). They’re also a good source of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. Chia seeds are small (little ovals) and typically black in color. To receive the benefits of the fatty acids, they need to be hydrated before eating them. These seeds can soak up to 12 times their weight in liquid and when soaked, they form a gelatinous texture which make them an excellent binding agent in baking.

These nutritious seeds now come finely ground to a powder which make them easy to blend in your yogurt, cereal, smoothies, salads, and soups. And like ground flaxseeds, they’re great in baked goods too. Spectrum® Ground Chia Seeds have been cold milled. Since Omega-3 fats are sensitive to heat, the cold milling process is a plus. On that note, be sure to store your seeds in the freezer to extend their shelf life because these seeds are also sensitive to oxygen (air) and light. Oxidation will affect the nutritional value of the healthy fats as well as cause them to go rancid.

*I especially like the Spectrum brand for chia and flaxseeds. They are packed in a light protective pouch and sealed airtight which is probably why they contain more omega-3’s than other brands. NEVER buy your seeds from self-serve bins or barrels in the grocery store!

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: You can substitute ground chia seeds (or ground flaxseeds) for eggs in recipes if you’re a vegan — or like me, you’re just out of eggs! Simply mix 3 tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of ground chia seeds (3:1 ratio) for every large egg. After stirring together, let the mixture sit for five minutes, then add it to your recipe.

Why Vitamin D is Measured in “IU”

Vitamin DYou see it on your bottle of vitamin D… 2,000 IU. You see IU on food labels too. What’s an IU anyway? And why IU instead of mg like vitamin C and calcium supplements?

What’s the Difference?

Gram (gm), milligrams (mg), and micrograms (mcg) are units of weight. To visually represent the relationship between the three units, think of a microgram as a miniscule grain of rice, a milligram as a small bite of rice, and a gram as the whole bowl of rice.

  • 1 gm  = 1,000 mg
  • 1,000 mg = 1,000,000 mcg (µg is the short unit symbol for microgram)

International Unit (IU) is a unit of measurement but NOT a measure of weight. It’s the quantity of a specific biologically active substance that produces a particular biological effect. IU is most commonly used for medications, vaccines and some vitamins. However, converting an IU to a unit of weight isn’t a simple equation. That’s because an International Unit is based on the potency or concentration of the substance which varies from substance to substance.

Vitamin D: Converting Biological Activity to Weight

Vitamin D exists in a couple of different forms — cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). There are common vitamin mass equivalents for vitamin A, C, D, and E with each vitamin having a different biological equivalent. See Vitamin Conversion Chart. To get the equivalents of other substances, you would need to ask a pharmacist.

One IU of vitamin D* is the biological equivalent of 0.025 mcg cholecalciferol or ergocalciferol.

How Many IU of Vitamin D Do You Need?   

supplement capsule

Continue reading

Why You Should Check the Color of Your Pee

Color of Pee_cropped

See the complete list of 11 colors here:  https://www.pinterest.com/karenowoc/fit-tips-quick-health-bites/

Urine comes in a variety of colors (and smells) which can say a lot about you. Check out this infographic from the Cleveland Clinic. Your pee color is a good barometer for your level of hydration. Be sure to drink enough water — especially if you exercise, the weather is warm or you’re sweating a lot from dreadful hot flashes!

Dehydration is a risk factor for painful kidney stones and low blood pressure (your blood loses volume) whereby your brain and muscles can’t get enough oxygen. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 75 ounces of water per day which is a little more than 9 cups. Add exercise and you’ll need to drink even more.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: If you’re not a water drinker,  “eat” your fluids by consuming a lot of ‘water-rich’ foods like fruits and vegetables.  Lettuce is 95% water, watermelon 92%, oranges 88%, and apples are 84% water. Also, soups made with lots of broth and veggies are an excellent way to get hydrated.

Fit Minute | Are You Likely to Live Long?


motion blurred business people walking on the streetThe number of steps you log in each day reveals a lot about how you live. As explained in The Definition of Being Fit, being fit is no longer about how much time you spend exercising, but how much time your spend sitting as well. Sitting is now the new smoking and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.

What Is Your Lifestyle?

  • “Sedentary”: Less than 5,000 steps/day
  • “Low Active”:  5,000 – 7,499 steps/day (daily activity WITHOUT exercise
  • “Somewhat Active”: 7,500 – 9,999 steps/day (some physical activity)
  • “Active”: 10,000 – 12,999 steps/day (engaged in physical activity producing health benefits)
  • “Highly Active”: 12,500  or more

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: When setting out to rack up some steps, be sure to wear the right walking gear:

  • Comfortable walking shoes that fit properly and have a flexible sole and plenty of toe room.
  • Walking socksSweat-wicking walking socks (NOT cotton).
  • UV protection, especially for your head, shoulders, neck, back, cleavage, AND eyes.
  • Sunscreen. Don’t underestimate your exposure to UV rays over the course of a day, i.e., walking outside between department buildings or classes on campus, on your lunch hour, and to/from your car or public transit.

Fit Minute | The New Definition of Being Fit

Group running on treadmills

Being “fit” is no longer about how much time you spend working out, but how much time you spend sitting as well. A study by the American Cancer Society compared people who sat less than three hours per day with those that sat more than six hours per day. The results were quite dramatic.

If you’re physically active and sit more than 6 hours per day, you are:

  • 18% more likely to die if you’re a man.
  • 37% more likely to die if you’re a woman.

If you’re NOT physically active and sit more than 6 hours per day, you are:

  • 48% more likely to die if you’re a man.
  • 94% more likely to die if you’re a woman.

Over 123,000 individuals (53,440 men and 69,776 women) were studied and none had a history of cancer, heart attack, stroke, or emphysema or other lung disease at the start of the study.  Here are the results after 14 years:    Continue reading

Fit TV | Healthy Aging

Find out what you need to know for healthy aging, that is, how to sidestep “getting old”…. from low testosterone (and its effects on sex drive and belly fat) to prostate cancer, robotic surgery, and osteopenia. Emmy Award-winning news anchor John Kessler, and Karen Owoc address a range of medical symptoms and treatments with Dr. Neil Okamura and Dr. Mark Lollar of San Ramon Regional Medical Center/John Muir Health.

Is Your Pet Allergy Linked to Heart Disease?

Pet allergiesYou finally give in to a family pet, but ever since you brought home Mr. Whiskers, your eyes are red and itchy, you’re sneezing and have a constant runny nose. You feel like you have a perpetual cold. Is being allergic to your pet a minor inconvenience or can it lead to something more serious?

How Prevalent Are Pet Allergies?

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), almost 62% of U.S. households have pets and more than 161 million of these pets are cats and dogs. Ten percent of pet owners are allergic to their pets and 25% of them decide to keep their pets.

Are You Allergic to Your Pet?

Some of the signs and symptoms of pet allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion (stuffy nose)
  • Itchy skin
  • Hives (hives on your face and chest are symptoms of a more severe allergy)
  • Skin reaction where your pet licks you
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

Be aware that if you have asthma as well as a pet allergy, your symptoms could be especially serious.

What’s the Allergen?

If your pet causes any of the above allergic reactions or aggravates your asthma symptoms, your pet’s hair or fur is not to blame as many people seem to think. But keep in mind that pollen, mold spores and other outdoor allergens can collect in your pet’s hair and fur. The real culprits behind these allergic effects are the proteins found in your pet’s saliva, urine and dander (flakes of dead skin).

Dander, Dander Everywhere   

Continue reading

When a Lower Blood Pressure is NOT Better

Blood Pressure Monitor_If you’ve been managing your blood pressure, you’re probably well aware of its high’s and low’s. You delight in a low blood pressure, but when your diastolic pressure (represented by the bottom number in your blood pressure reading) is low, you may be at risk for the following:

  • New-onset heart failure
  • Brain atrophy
  • Increased mortality if you have chronic kidney disease

Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure within your arteries as it flows through them. It’s the pressure between heartbeats, that is, when your heart is at rest. Your systolic blood pressure (represented by the top number in your blood pressure reading) measures the amount of pressure that your blood exerts on vessels when your heart contracts or ‘beats’.

Isolated Diastolic Hypotension

“Isolated diastolic hypotension” (IDH) is a condition that occurs when your diastolic blood pressure is low (less than 60 mm Hg), but your systolic blood pressure is 100 mm Hg and above.

If you’ve been congratulated for having a good systolic blood pressure (less than 120 mm Hg — or even less than 130 mm Hg), don’t be so quick to start your celebratory dance. What’s your diastolic blood pressure? Many clinicians don’t consider a low diastolic blood pressure reading as problematic.  Continue reading