1/14/08- 1/18/08


Friday, January 18, 2008

And the Beat Goes On

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I opened the Times-Picayune this morning and saw an article written by Chris Bynum about exercise done with a beat. The article contains an interesting perspective and set the stage for my thoughts on music as a part of an exercise program. Since I’ve discussed my age, trying to avoid dating myself is impossible. I recall the early days of my running phase in which I spent more hours than I wish to discuss with a set of head phones and my $19 dollar walkman hitched on my running shorts, tuned into a local rock-and-roll station. This was way before CDs. I pounded the pavement for years listening to what is now referred to as “geezer” rock. It sure made the miles go by faster and perhaps made the steps easier to make. 

As I started the 4-4-4 program, I found again that my trusty head phones, which – thanks to inflation – cost a lot more than the $19 walkman, have become a new friend. Where I work out I have options: TV and a stereo/CD system that allows me to listen to TV, listen to the radio or play my own CDs. All three help! I find that something interesting on TV, which is often a challenge, and some upbeat music help the minutes pass by quickly and beat the boredom. My wife is a music junkie aided by her addiction to the Internet. She has downloaded (legally) some of the best high-energy music that I have ever listened to. Some have lyrics (if you want to call some of the words lyrics) and some have just a lot of musical energy. I am now beginning to feel lonely when I show up at my favorite treadmill (more on that later) and don’t have the music.    

I have developed a special relationship with one particular treadmill and find that when I arrive and someone has already taken my place on that particular treadmill, the feeling of a rejected suitor comes over me. What games we humans play with ourselves! I also find that if I vary my speeds and manipulate the settings on the treadmill, it also helps with the boredom. For example, I walk for a few minutes at level 4, walk a few minutes at level 4.1 and then a few at 3.9. Variety just helps me enjoy the experience more.

Today is a treadmill day, so it’s off to the gym with my headphones and my CD. I have some new stuff to listen to and plan to bump up the treadmill to keep up with the rhythm and beat of the music. Exercise with a beat! I hope to get there early and get my favorite treadmill. I wouldn’t want to start the weekend with feelings of rejection!

I have another guest blogger for Monday. You will not want to miss this one. Get out and exercise this weekend!

Read “In rhythm & in shape” in the Times-Picayune

Bill Richardson


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Vitamin D for Good Health

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I have been reading about the need to supplement your diet with vitamin D. I thought that vitamin D was the sunshine vitamin, and as long as I got some sunshine, things were okay. In my reading, I found that vitamin D is found in foods including fortified milk, orange juice, salmon, egg yolks and fortified breakfast cereals. As with a lot of things nowadays, can vitamin D play a role in cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention? I found one study that said vitamin D may reduce tumor growth in some cancers. My question is: Do I get enough by sunlight exposure? Or, do I need to supplement my diet?

Please consult your doctor before taking supplements because vitamin D is fat-soluble and can be toxic if taken in excess. As you will note in the specialist’s analysis below, there are some things to consider about vitamin D for individuals who may be household-bound. The recommendations for vitamin D are as follows: 200 IU for people 50 and younger, 400 IU for people over 50, and 600 IU for those over 70.

I’ve looked at my nutrition plan and feel that I’m getting enough vitamin D, but I will ask the specialists to confirm. I encourage you to look over the foods that you are consuming and make your own decision regarding vitamin D. 

Tomorrow I will share some thoughts about treadmill boredom for those of you having to be indoors because of the winter weather.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Vitamin D helps the body use calcium to build strong bones and teeth and maintain muscle strength. Recent research suggests that vitamin D, which is a hormone, may reduce tumor growth in some cancers and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, can be found in foods and also is made in our bodies when skin is exposed to sunlight's UV rays. Ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure on the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen at least twice a week is recommended to meet vitamin D needs of most people. Dark-skinned people may need more than this amount.

As we grow older, our bodies' ability to make vitamin D from sun exposure declines. At age 70, vitamin D production is only 30 percent of what it was at age 25. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D increases as we age: ages 50 and younger need 200 IU (international units); ages 50 to 70 need 400 IU; and those over 70 need at least 600 IU.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend 1,000 IU for certain people, such as housebound individuals. Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in the body, it can potentially become toxic at high levels – 2,000 IU or greater.

Good food sources of vitamin D include vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice, fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, egg yolks, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Beth Reames

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Monitor Your Numbers

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For years I have had my annual physical exams. One item monitored closely was cholesterol. I watched to see what the total cholesterol (TC), LDL, HDL and triglycerides (Trig) numbers were, noting if they were in the normal range. According to the fact sheet given to me when taking the blood test, the normal ranges are as follows: For a male, TC should be 100-200 mG/dl, triglycerides 0-149 mG/dl, LDL less than 130, and HDL greater than 60 mG/dl. Additionally, on the lab report it is noted that for the LDL/HDL ratio, a level of less than 3 is desirable, and a ratio greater than 3 is high. My readings on the most recent blood test were as follows: TC 173, Trig 104, LDL 108 and HDL 44 and an LDL/HDL ratio of 2. Given all this information, what does it all mean? 

While I have seen a marked improvement in the TC, I have gained an appreciation for the ratio in LDL/HDL. Looking over the past few blood tests, the ratio has dropped from 3 to 2. You might recall that HDL is the good cholesterol, and LDL is the bad stuff. From a practical standpoint, you would want more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff, which then would give you a good ratio. With my nutrition plan and consistent exercise program, I have noticed a lowering of the LDL and, therefore, a lowering of the ratio. The HDL, while in the acceptable range, needs to be larger. I strongly suggest that you have a physical and consult with your doctor, as we have suggested numerous times in this blog. Pay close attention to the levels of cholesterol reported in your blood test and equal importance to the ratios. 

I have my monthly blood test at the LSU Health Clinic on campus. The cost is $20, which I pay for personally. I get the results back the next morning. The receptionists and technician are two of the friendliest people I’ve met, and they make the monthly “stick” enjoyable.

Over the next few days, I will give our specialists a food log and see if they recommend any changes in the nutrition plan. I want to ensure that I continue to make smart choices.  In like manner, the exercise log for January will be examined. 

I want to thank Joan Almond for her insightful guest blog on Monday. I will have another guest blog next Monday.

Are you getting a little bored on the treadmill? I’ll give you a few clues tomorrow of how I beat the boredom. 

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

It is important to know your absolute values for cholesterol and triglycerides. There are desirable ranges where the values should fall. And if the values are above the desirable ranges, dietary changes can potentially bring the values within normal changes. At times individuals may need medication if the cholesterol values are high because of familial conditions where diet intervention alone does not work. What should the absolute ranges be for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides?

Total cholesterol should fall between 75-169 mg/dL for those who are age 20 and younger and 100-199 mg/dL for those who over age 21.

The goal values for LDL (the bad cholesterol) should be less than 70 mg/dL for those with heart or blood vessel disease and for other patients at very high risk of heart disease (those with metabolic syndrome). It should be less than 100 mg/dL for high risk patients – for example, some patients who have diabetes or multiple heart disease risk factors – and less than 130 mg/dL in individuals who do not have risk factors for heart disease. LDL is bad because it deposits lipids in the arteries and tissues, and the higher the level, the more lipid deposited. LDL is reduced by restricting animal fats and trans fats and consuming more foods with soluble fiber such as oatmeal, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

The goal value for HDL (the good cholesterol) is greater than 45 mg/dl (the higher the better). Triglyceride (TG) goal value is less than 150 mg/dl. HDL is the good cholesterol because it picks up lipid from arteries and brings it to the liver for disposal. HDL helps keep the blood vessels clean. HDL is increased with exercise, a diet high in fiber and by consuming heart-healthy fats such as olive oil in place of saturated and trans fats.

What about ratios? The total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio is a number helpful in predicting an individual's risk of developing atherosclerosis. You divide the total cholesterol value by the HDL value. High ratios indicate higher risks of heart attacks; low ratios indicate lower risk.

Example from the chancellor:
173/44 = 3.93

An average ratio would be about 4.5. But the best ratio would be 2 or 3, or less than 4. The ratio increases with increasing cholesterol and decreasing HDL and decreases with decreased cholesterol and increased HDL.

Another ratio is LDL/HDL. This measures the effect of bad cholesterol to good cholesterol.

Example from the chancellor:
108/44 = 2.45

Ideally, we want this ratio to be as low as possible. That would indicate that we have a high HDL level, the protective cholesterol, and a low LDL level, the bad cholesterol.

If you wanted to concentrate just on one number, LDL is likely the one to keep an eye on. Since LDL deposits lipid in the arteries and tissues, we would want as low an LDL as possible so less fat is deposited in the arteries.

Heli Roy

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Overweight or Just Underheight?

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Back in October, I indicated we were going to establish some baseline data for comparison purposes as I began this nutrition and exercise program. Three of those indicators were the body mass index (BMI), percentage body fat and waist measurement. You might also recall a BMI above 30 and a waist measurement for a man about 40 met the criteria for obese. I reported later that my BMI and waist measurement had both fallen from the obese range and into the overweight division. Good news but nothing to become comfortable with. But what does this really mean?

I looked over the BMI charts and found a solution. I need to grow 4 inches in height! That would place my BMI in the good range. Realizing that might not be a reasonable solution, I noted that I would have to lose a lot more weight if I were to ever get my BMI below 25. After talking to some people, it appears that the BMI – while an important indicator – might not be a complete guide to obesity. I noted on the DEXA readings a better indicator might be percentage body fat. Logically, if there is some semblance of an exercise program in place and weight is lost, then percentage of body fat should decrease. 

It is hard not to notice the numbers as the tape measure goes around the waist. I was at 39 inches in early January (42.5 inches in October) and hope to get another inch or so off the waist over the next couple of months. Therefore, I plan to concentrate on the percentage body fat and my waist measurement and make adjustments to the nutrition and exercise program. The specialists will analyze this and see if I’m making sense or just rationalizing. 

I have plans for my first yoga class tonight. I wonder if I should find a designated driver or a taxi to take me home after my muscles have been rendered into jelly from the strain – sort of analogous to being tipsy after a New Year’s Eve celebration. I’ll let you know tomorrow if I survive!

Tomorrow we will talk about those cholesterol numbers and ratios.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference are recommended as initial screening tools because weight, height and waist circumference are simple and practical measures to obtain at the population level. BMI is the favored measure of excess weight to estimate relative risk of disease because it correlates both with morbidity and mortality. The relative risk for cardiovascular disease risk factors and type 2 diabetes increases in a graded fashion with increasing BMI values in all population groups. Research also suggests that the distribution of fat is important. It appears that excess fat in the abdominal region is an independent predictor of risk factors and morbidity. Therefore, when considered together, BMI and waist size provide the necessary information for monitoring the efficacy of a weight-loss treatment. However, it is important to note that your risk of disease does not start or stop at specific cut-off values.

Based on current guidelines, a 10 percent reduction in weight can be achieved in six months in overweight and obese individuals participating in well-designed programs. The chancellor has lost more than 21 pounds in only three months; that’s only 3.5 pounds away from a 10 percent reduction in body weight! I would say he’s gotten himself on one heck of a plan, wouldn’t you?

True, there are more sophisticated methods of assessing body fat, such as DXA, but this type of equipment is not available to the general public. Plus, as if having to think about what’s a desirable range for BMI and waist circumference wasn’t enough, adding percent body fat would only confuse matters. It is true that two individuals can have the same height and weight, and therefore have the same BMI, but one may have more fat and the other may have more muscle. However, overall, BMI and waist size are good predictors of overall health. It’s better to focus on maintaining a healthy weight throughout life by staying physically active everyday and eating lots of fruit, veggies and whole-grain foods, and staying away from saturated and trans fats. As long as you do that, the numbers won’t matter.

Michael Zanovec


Monday, January 14, 2008

Mind Over Matter - Guest Blog

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When your secretary announces that the chancellor’s office is on the line, somehow your world temporarily stops. I did surmise, however, that if I were in trouble, his office wouldn’t be calling me. Instead, I would probably be making the four-hour drive to Baton Rouge!

When the chancellor’s request was passed along to me, asking me to be a guest on his daily blog, I was truly surprised. The request came about as a result of the Shreveport Times article that appeared the first week of January, where the writer asked me a ton of questions about the Smart Portions program I am conducting in Minden for the Wal-Mart employees. I gave her the information about the eight-week course, sponsored by the AgCenter, and told her how they had requested that I return after Christmas to repeat the sessions. When she asked me if I had adopted any of the recommendations I was teaching, I simply told her, “Yes.” She asked if I had lost any weight. I admitted that, actually, I had lost 52 pounds since last January. That sounded really good in the newspaper: 52 pounds in 52 weeks. But that wasn’t exactly how it went. 

All of us who tackle weight and exercise issues know that it is a constant struggle of mind over matter. I actually did lose 20 pounds the first of last year, but it was because of surgery and subsequent weeks of being ill. I wish I could take credit for doing something right during that time, but the truth is I was sick as a dog and didn’t want to eat. But all good things come to an end, and when I began feeling well again, I began eating again. I soon found myself only 10 pounds lighter. It’s amazing how quickly you can gain as opposed to how slowly those same pounds leave you. Anyway, I rocked on for a few months with no exercise, no drinking lots of water and no counting calories. And guess what? I found myself struggling to keep up with my family and friends who were frequent exercisers and miserable because I couldn’t wear half the clothes in my closet. This, in addition to the reality that my aging mother was constantly going to the doctor for heart problems, made me wake up and smell the coffee. If I didn’t make some lifestyle changes, I would be cutting my time short and spending way too much time taking medicine and going to doctors.

I began to take the advice I had been teaching for the past 20 something years. I made it a point to drink lots of water, developed a simple exercise plan to walk every day, and counted my food intake by writing down every bite that went into my mouth. All the other requirements such as low-fat and high-fiber foods and lots of fruits and vegetables were included too.

Perhaps the biggest struggle has been the commitment to drink water. I was a diet Dr Pepper addict who refused to drink water. I also struggled with daily exercise. And I’m still struggling with both of those things. That’s why I said it is a constant struggle. I believe it will always be.  When I open my closet, however, and realize I can actually wear everything in there, it’s a wonderful payback for the commitment to eat right and exercise. It also is nice when my friends and co-workers notice and compliment me. All of us appreciate it when someone notices a positive change in us. That’s one of the reasons I love working for the AgCenter. We really are like a big family, and we really do care about people.

Joan Almond, guest columnist

2/10/2009 1:16:35 AM
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