Research shows if you don’t take care of the “inner lining” of your blood vessels, you may be setting yourself up for heart disease or a stroke. Here are some important tips to improve how long and how well your arteries function.
The Relevance of “Endothelial Dysfunction”
The inner lining of your blood vessels is called the “endothelium”. Endothelial function declines with age and is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
When the lining fails to function optimally, it’s called “endothelial dysfunction” or ED. Think of a healthy endothelium as being smooth (think Teflon®) where nothing sticks to it.
ED refers to a spectrum of damaging changes that take place in the endothelium, such as the smooth inner lining becomes inflamed and “rough” (think sandpaper) from the constant assaults of substances like sodium, high blood sugar, and cortisol (stress hormone).
When the endothelium becomes rough, arterial plaque* sticks to the artery wall (think spackling paste or putty).
*Plaque is fatty, waxy substance made up of materials, such as fat, cholesterol, calcium, waste products from cells, and fibrin (a clotting agent).
When Plaque Builds Up and Ruptures
As more plaque deposits build up, your artery narrows and reduces blood flow. This is known as “hardening of the arteries” or atherosclerosis.
Plaque not only accumulates in the arteries, it can also rupture and create a blood clot at the ruptured area. Your body sees this rupture as an “injury” and rushes to repair it with platelets (or “thrombocytes”) to rapidly cover up the rupture and form a plug, or clot.
Platelets are very large colorless blood cells (think super glue). They help wounds heal and form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding by clumping and forming plugs in injured blood vessels.
When Plaque Breaks Away
Ruptured plaque can also break away and travel through the blood to other areas in your body and cause a blood clot.
If the clot is big enough, it can block the flow of blood to arteries in various organs — e.g., lungs (pulmonary embolism), heart (heart attack), or brain (stroke).
Nearly sixty percent of men suffer from varicose veins, so it’s not a common problem for just women and grandmas. Young men are afflicted as well. Here’s how to keep your veins healthy, strong, and functional.
What are Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are gnarled, enlarged veins, most commonly appearing in the legs and feet, and they are visible under the surface of the skin. These ballooned veins develop a bluish/brown appearance, but they’re not just a cosmetic concern.
The Cause — It’s All About the Valves!
They occur when the valves in your veins do not work properly. Your blood is supposed to flow in ONE direction thanks to many one-way valves in your veins. Your veins have to return blood to your heart— that is, your blood has to flow “upstream”. Once it reaches the heart, it is routed to your lungs to reoxygenate.
Faulty valves cause blood to flow back into the vein and then enlarge and swell. Due to excess pressure on the valves, they get stretched and less elastic (flexible). Depending on the vein, you have 1-13 valves per vein.
These ballooned, gnarled veins are not just a cosmetic concern. These weak bulging vessels can rupture and bleed as well as cause swelling and throbbing (mild to moderate pain) which can cut into your daily activities. Worse yet, they can cause dangerous blood clots and skin ulcers (sores).
Legs feel heavy (especially after exercise or at night)
Occupational and recreational habits have led to real pains in the neck. Tension and poor posture rank high as the most common pain generators. KRON 4 Morning News anchor, Marty Gonzalez, helps me demonstrate the effects of poor posture and how to fight the aching forces of gravity.
Forward Head Posture (FHP)
One of the most common postural problems is forward head posture — for both young and old. Forward head posture is also known as:
Text neck, computer/notebook neck
Book or reader’s neck
Your head should sit directly on your neck and shoulders. Think of a golf ball on a tee. But the head is more like a bowling ball (weighing about 10 to 11 lbs) than a golf ball. Your neck and shoulders have to carry the burden of this “bowling ball” all day. Supporting and moving the human head is a challenging and tiring task.
Carrying your head is an isometric contraction — you’re actually “strength training”. An isometric exercise is a static hold where the joint angle and muscle length does not change during the muscle contraction.
Correct posture: Your ears line up over your shoulder blades.
Incorrect posture: Along with forward head posture, your shoulders also “round” and roll forward.
Causes of Forward Head Posture
Repetitive use of computers, TV, video games, trauma, and even backpacks/laptop bags have forced the body forward. Also, general muscle weakness from illness or aging can cause FHP — that is, you’re too weak to hold your own head up anymore.
Consuming the ideal foods and fluids after your workouts is vital for optimal fitness. But figuring out what you should eat and drink can be confusing. I talked with KRON 4 Morning News anchor, Marty Gonzalez, and deciphered what to eat — and when.
Recover nutrition has two primary goals:
To replace what’s lost during exercise, such as fluid and fuel
To promote muscle building and repair
General Post-Exercise Guidelines
Consume 1.0 to 1.5 grams carbohydrate (CHO) per kg body weight during the first 30 minutes after exercise and again every 2 hours for 4 to 6 hours.
Consume 15 to 25 grams protein during recovery.
Drink 16 to 24 oz. of fluid for every pound of weight lost during exercise
The Window of Metabolic Opportunity
After exercise, your body is starved for nutrients and quickest at absorbing them during the first 30 minutes after exerciseand at two-hour intervals for 4 to 6 hours.
The earlier you eat carbohydrates within this window, the faster you’ll replenish your glycogen (energy) stores. Once depleted, it generally takes 24 hours to fully replenish these reserves. Waiting too long to eat can impair your performance and function.
Eating Carbs Immediately After Exercise is NOT for Everyone
Carb consumption right after exercise is important if you:
Work out daily.
Train or compete multiple times a day.
Participate in high intensity or prolonged exercise.
Have defined fitness, muscle mass, and performance goals.
If you’re an occasional exerciser or rest one or more days between intense workouts, nutrient timing isn’t critical, but the nutritional components of recovery are still required.
Be sure your intake of CHO is adequate and consumed within a reasonable time after training.
NOTE: In general, consuming a high CHO snack with some protein during recovery is a good practice for athletes and avid exercisers.
Planning post-exercise and post-competition snacks/meals to fit within the recovery window will take some time at first. You’ll need to figure out what, how much, and when to eat as well as how to make the food available after your workout.
Your doctor told you to get some exercise, so you go to the gym, but you end up with more than you bargained for. Fitness facilities can be icky germ factories. I’m armed with tips on how to get fit without getting sick.
Breeding Grounds for a Wide Variety of Germs
Fitness studios or gyms may be places to get healthy, but they’re also breeding grounds for a host of germs — particularly Staphylococcus bacteria or “staph”.
A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found 25 different categories of bacteria lurking in fitness centers.
Why Germs Thrive
Cold and flu season will be creeping up on us again soon, so beware of those coughers and sneezers who can quickly spread viruses from one treadmill to the next.
But… the majority of germs that people pick up at their favorite fitness studio are those that affect the skin.
Bacteria, fungi, and viruses that cause skin infections thrive in SWEAT. Warm, moist areas are particularly problematic.
Sweat gets left behind on:
Exercise equipment (from rowers to reformers, weights, and boxing gloves to basketballs), mats, and machines
Saunas, showers, swimming pool decks
Locker room benches, toilet/door handles
The Most Common Germs
The following skin problems are the most common ones you can pick up at a fitness facility:
Fungi (pronounced “fun-guy”) reproduce through tiny spores in the air. That means, you can inhale the spores or they can land on you! As a result, fungal infections often begin in your lungs or on your skin. That means they’re easy to get and PASS AROUND.
Fungi, the plural for fungus, live and reproduce in the air, in soil and water, on plants… and on YOU. Those embarrassing health conditions mentioned above are caused by an excessive amount of fungus growing on the surface of your skin. Think of that fuzzy green mold that grows on decaying old fruit hiding in the back of your frig or the mildew that grows on shower walls. Same idea.
Only half of them are harmful, but they can be annoying, ITCHY and difficult to kill. If you have a circulation problem, weakened immune system, diabetes, or take antibiotics, you may be more likely to get a fungal infection. (Antibiotics may disrupt the balance of natural microflora in your system which causes fungi to overpopulate.) It’s important to get treatment at the first sign of a problem.
2. Hot-Tub Rash
When levels of disinfectants (like chlorine) are too low in swimming pools and hot tubs, you can get an itchy red rash from the bacteria that you pick up.
3. Plantar Warts
This virus infects feet, so don’t go barefoot in the locker room, gym showers, or exercise studios.
4. Impetigo (im-pe-TEE-go)
This HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS infection is caused by a staph or strep bacteria.
It gets into your body through broken skin (a cut, scrape or insect bite).
Transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, contaminated towels, and sports equipment.