Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged health

What do 50 year-olds know that 20 year-olds often don’t?

creative commons

creative commons

Craig Weiler has the answer:

You have one set of teeth, one set of knees, one set of lungs and one back. If you don’t take care of them, you can’t re-boot. You can get knee replacement surgery and you can get your teeth capped and wear dentures, or get new lungs, but it’s not the same as your originals. The back is much more tricky and if you damage it enough you’re never coming back from it.

You have one set of hands and feet. They are irreplaceable as is your brain. So if you damage them you’re never coming back from it.

Your body, in other words, is a one-off. You will never have another one as long as you live. If you start taking good care of it and you’re mindful in your 20’s, you’ll be far healthier and happier in your 50’s and beyond.”

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More than just a buzzword: Top 10 superfoods backed by science

Courtesy Highbrow

Courtesy Highbrow

In the early 1900s, bananas may have been named the world’s first superfood. At the time, even The American Medical Association praised them for being “sealed by nature in practically germ-proof packages.”*

Although still one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, bananas are no longer consider a superfood. (I eat one every morning, however, as they’re always in season). Trendy things like acai berries, green tea, quinoa, kale and other manufactured foods are. It’s gotten so out of hand, that the FDA issued a warning letter recently about falsely advertised “superfoods.” As of 2007, the European Union has prohibited food makers from using the term “superfood.”

So how can we distinguish marketing hype from science when seeking out nutrient-rich foods? Highbrow did just that recently. This is what they came up with—the top 10 superfoods backed by science.  Continue reading…

8 hygiene habits that changed my life

blakeroundI’m grateful to my parents for teaching me basic personal hygiene. Things like regular bathing, brushing teeth, grooming, laundry, and hand-washing.

But in recent years, I’ve picked up new habits that have improved my life. My parents probably tried to teach me some of them. Others I discovered on my own or with the help of my wife.

Whatever the catalyst, all of the below have greatly improved my life:

  1. Relentless sun-screening. Several summers ago, I had an epiphany. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “I wish I hadn’t used so much sun screen.” Upon realizing this, I challenged myself to not get burned that summer, despite getting burned every prior summer through negligence (I’m a pasty caucasian). To beat the sun’s harmful rays, I applied sunscreen whenever I knew I would be exposed to direct sunlight for longer than 30-60 minutes. When swimming, for example, I reapplied often, several times an afternoon. Three months later, I conquered without getting burned once. And to my vain surprise, I was tanner than I’d ever been. Since that successful experiment, I haven’t been burned again, at least my skin hasn’t turned lobster, itched, or peeled. So remember: sunscreen only filters the sun’s harmful rays. It doesn’t block the good stuff like vitamin D and sun kissed skin. Continue reading…

No pain, no gain: Short-term discomfort is the price of long-term health

Why do some people willingly participate in unpleasant things like regular exercise, cold  showers, bland but healthy food, sacrificial restraint, and drinking lots of water, which cause a lot of annoying bathroom runs?

The short answer: Everything has a price. Good health is no exception. In exchange for long-term health, humans must endure short-term discomfort associated with the above.

In more succinct terms, “no pain, no gain.” That’s the catchphrase Jane Fonda popularized in ’80s workout videos to express that rewards are worth the work. Or as David Morris wrote in The Scientist, “The road to achievement runs only through hardship.”

In my experience, that’s the case for good health as much as anything in life. Of course, knowing that won’t make difficult things easy. But it does give them meaning, which I believe lessens suffering.

How to get through the rest of winter

credit: lindsey snow

credit: lindsey snow

Thanks to my wife, I’ve grown to appreciate winter instead of loathing it. Still, the persistent cold, dormant life, and extended darkness can take its toll on our mood, especially near the tail end of the season.

That said, here are four things everyone can do to beat the winter blues, according to USA Today:

  1. Volunteer, it will warm your heart. To get inspired, visit United Way.
  2. Eat healthy, from scratch foods; mostly plants, no seconds, but don’t vilify entire food groups (including sugar). The right nutrition can improve your mood.
  3. Schedule leisure. Lunch with friends, night out with a loved one, or your next vacation. Anticipating events does wonders for your mood. Planning yearly vacations in late January (after the tax man takes his cut) has served my family well.
  4. Get moving. Exercise is a dead horse. But I’ll kick it again, because it works. Don’t know where to start? Try a 20 minute outdoor walk everyday or the scientifically proven 7 minute workout.

See you in spring.

Easy peasy: 5 ways to rewire your brain for happiness

Grant Wood/Wikimedia Commons

Grant Wood/Wikimedia Commons

As a leading psychologist, Shawn Achor has spent two decades studying happiness. His bona fides include award-winning researcher and teacher at Harvard, best-selling author on positivity, and popular TED lecturer.

So when he speaks you should listen. For instance, Achor asserts our circumstances — including age, race, gender, social status, and wealth — only account for 10% of our happiness. The rest is determined by our genetic baseline for happiness (i.e. optimist vs pessimist) and our individual intentions, including the way we spend our time and the things we ponder.

Obviously, happiness means different things to different people. But there are plenty of standardized things we can do to boost our chances of finding it. Somethings such as knowing oneself, learning how to forgive, and balancing the personal, professional, and social demands on our time can be life-long pursuits.

But other happiness-building attributes are quite easy, Achor argues. In order from least difficult to most difficult, they are as follows:  Continue reading…

Homemade polar bear club: Why I started taking cold showers

Cold showers went viral this year. I jumped on the bandwagon this summer and haven’t gone back, not even in winter. Here’s why:

  1. Indisputable health benefits. Cold showers and winter swimming aren’t fun. Neither is exercise. Humans do all three primarily for the health benefits, which include more vigor, less stress, higher immunity, improved complexion and skin, better circulation, and elevated alertness. Since switching to cold showers, I feel more alive not only in the act, but after the fact.  Continue reading…

Eat at your own risk: Soda, red meat, hot dogs, and alcohol may shorten life

courtesy coke.com

courtesy coke.com

After deciding to attempt centenarian status, I’ve become hyper-aware of my health.

I won’t touch fad diets with a 10 foot pole. But I exercise regularly, I’m cognizant about the things I put into my body, and I think about how I consume food.

So health.com caught my eye last month after crunching the numbers on foods that may shorten life, specifically those that harm our DNA’s ability to protect itself from disease. The four that made their list: Continue reading…

Can’t hold me down: I make a living sitting down and can no longer sit down

My deffective lower lumbar

My defective lower lumbar

Thanks to genetics, I inherited two bad discs in my back, the neurologist told me. (Sorry kids, you’re next.)

For no particular reason, the first one broke six years ago. It laid me up for six straight weeks, forcing me to work lying down for a month and a half. After surgery, I could thankfully sit, run, and walk again with a normal gait.

I was also given a clean bill of health. “Blake, I’ve had patients scale Mount Everest and play two hours of basketball every morning for the rest of their lives after similar surgery,” the doctor told me. “Except for moving refrigerators and pianos, you have my blessing to do whatever physically adventurous things you want.”

I took his counsel to heart, got fit, ate more plants, and experienced a renaissance of outdoor exploits and saw a lot of wonderful things since then. In a way, breaking my back was the best thing to happen to me since marrying Lindsey, fathering children, and being awesome.

Now I get to do it all over. Last week, I broke my back again. Continue reading…

Before you exercise: 7 side effects of fitness

U.S. Army

U.S. Army

Beyond the obvious weight loss and cardiovascular benefits of regular fitness, here are a few bonus consequences of working on your body:

  1. Your skin improves. If vanity is your top goal for getting in shape, I’ve got good news: Regular exercise, particularly when coupled with a healthy diet, does wonders to your hue. If you’re white and pasty like me, your skin starts glowing the longer you work out. It looks healthy, full of color, slightly tan. The reason: “Exercise enhances blood flow to skin,” says Dr. David Katz. Plus, sweating works as a natural cleaning agent, unclogging pores and removing oil and dirt for fewer zits. My skin has never looked healthier. What a pleasant surprise.  Continue reading…

How long will the latest food fad last?

fad_diets_dont_workIf there’s one certainty I’ve observed in life, it is this: Rather than just eating more produce, less meat, and smaller portions of food, humans will vilify something in an effort to simplify complex food choices. Instead of accepting a “moderation in all things” approach to life — which limits superiority complexes and indulgence — they insist on inventing artificial food guidelines to live by.

For example: In the ’80s, butter and natual sugar was bad, so Americans (at least) ate lots of margarine and artificial sweeteners. But those turned out to be worse, so now butter and sugar are back on the menu. In the ’90s, it was the low-fat diet, which in many ways still influences our culture, although not to the extent the diet did in its hey day. In the 2000s, it was low-carbs: Atkin’s diet, South Beach, and other variations. Nowadays, popular grains like wheat bread, oats, and barley are suddenly the enemy. Even though we’ve been eating gluten for thousands of years, it’s just as bad for us as other fad diets. Which is to say it’s not.

Continue reading…

This advice doesn’t apply to you

Hey, you. Yeah, you—the one reading this. The one that says ignorant things like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” “I’m busier than you,” or “I only require 3-4 hours of sleep.”

This research by Harvard obviously doesn’t apply to you, because you’re the exception in life. You’re superhuman.

For the rest of us, the study is a convincing reminder of mortality. Not only convincing, but alarming.

Continue reading…

13 food strategies to combat gluttony

gluttony

Eating well is hard to do. Here are a 13 lucky food strategies I follow to keep extravagance at bay.

  1. Never order a cheeseburger. I said never. “But, Blake,” you ask, “Don’t you like cheese and beef?” Yes. Both are bursting with flavor. But there’s no sense overdoing it when each are good on their own. “I really wish this delicious burger had cheese on it,” said no one ever. “I really wish this grill cheese had meat on it,” also said no one ever. Pick one and enjoy.
  2. Hold the mayo and sour cream. Speaking of burgers, my wife and I made homemade ones over the weekend. Mine was topped with red onion, lettuce, tomato, Dijon mustard, and ketchup on a Texas toasted bun. It was a taste explosion, even without the mayo. Same goes for the tacos we had tonight. Beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, on a freshly cooked tortilla. No sour cream required. Again, sour cream and mayo are delicious, but there’s no sense in adding them to an already heavily-flavored meal. Continue reading…

Weight is a lousy motivator for long-term health. Find a real cause today.

blake-first-marathonIf you’re happy with your health, nutrition and self-image, skip to the next post. If not, read on.

In nine years of marriage, Lindsey and I have never owned a weight scale. Not one.

Why? Because they’re superficial, largely meaningless, and a lousy motivator of long-term health. Continue reading…

Want to live to 100? Do these nine things

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

One of my goals in life is to become a centenarian, someone over 100 years of age. A few years ago, a team of researchers identified four areas that had the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world. They studied these people, wrote a book about them, then distilled their similar lifestyles down to a set of consistent life-giving habits.

And by life giving, I really mean death halting. Since there’s no brake on death, the best you can do is ease off the accelerator. With my added commentary, here are nine ways to do just that, as compiled by author Dan Buettner:

  1. Find a physical activity you enjoy and keep doing it. Do it for as long as you enjoy it. If and when you tire of that activity, find something else that pleases you. For example, you could start jogging, and if that becomes a bore, move to biking. Then swimming. Then Pilates. Then kickboxing. Then underwater basket weaving. Whatever it is, be sure to do it at least three times a week, moreso for idle or cubicle people. (In my case, since I sit at a desk and work from home, I have to move a lot more than most people to achieve the optimal amount of fitness.)
  2. Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, as opposed to being full. There’s a difference. About 20% less food per meal, in fact. In short, this is the best known way to eat less. Stop when satisfied instead of stuffing yourself. Continue reading…

How to eat well: 12 simple rules for healthy, happy eating

junkfood

Healthy food prolongs life. Junk food taketh away.

Here are 12 simple rules for healthy, happy eating, taken from Karen Le Billon’s French Kids Eat Everything, my own experience with food, and the good old Word of Wisdom (as validated by nearly 200 years of good health and a recent UCLA study).

  1. Always read the label. You are in charge of educating yourself on what you digest. When in doubt, pick food with the fewest included ingredients and artificial-sounding names (like xanthum gum)
  2. Avoid emotional eating. No food rewards, bribes for kids, or eating out of boredom or depression. Hard to do. Brushing your teeth can help. So can striking up a conversation with someone to take your mind off food.
  3. Avoid short-order or otherwise “fast” food. With exception to simple meals like bread and cheese, food that is fast (snacks, microwavable, drive-though etc) is usually filled with unnatural preservatives and additives that dilute the nutritional value of the food you consume. Continue reading…

Why college football coaches stuggle with health

Because they’re constantly chaperoning 120 players, “most of them 18-22 years of age,” reports the Associated Press:

Joker Phillips is 47 and in his first season as Kentucky’s head coach after 20 years as an assistant. He said he has made sure to keep good habits despite the demands of the job. “I still work out every day. I still get the same amount of sleep. I just think this game is important to me, but my family and personal health is more important,” he said. “I am a competitor and I do want to win, but I’m not going to let this game ruin my life.”