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Four Most Valuable [4MV] Weekly Tips For Living Longer Better | Newsletter

[4MV] Over-the-counter melatonin supplements contain dangerous contaminants ✔ Dr Greger

published2 months ago
9 min read

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I trust you're safe, fit and well.

All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦

Barefoot running in shoes!

A follow-up to the "grounders" article last week: a friend referred me to Xero Shoes which makes high-quality walking, running and leisure shoes that are designed around the principle of grounding. They offer "bare foot running" in shoes - "in an independent study, runners in Xero Shoes were found to be biomechanically identical to when they were barefoot". If you like the idea, take a look.

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Heads-up: if you haven’t yet picked up the user manual for my free online exercise app, pop over to the sign-up page > just scroll down to download.

About 14% of people over 70 suffer from some form of dementia. Here's good news. Researchers think that statins will slow dementia's onset - see item #2.

There has been a dramatic increase in the popularity of melatonin as an everyday supplement for sleep. Over-the-counter melatonin has contaminants that could be dangerous - see item #1.

Here are the topics I have chosen for you to help you live longer better:

⭑ Melatonin supplements for regular sleep come with risks ✔
⭑ Delaying dementia may be as easy as taking generic statins
⭑ Walking with a better posture makes you look slimmer Here's how
⭑ Lower your blood pressure sustainably with this breathing exercise

01 Why I Don’t Recommend Melatonin Supplements, Dr Greger

The use of over-the-counter melatonin supplements for sleep is growing rapidly in the US. An estimated 5m Americans are using melatonin this way, including many children. Dr Greger at Nutritionfacts.org says this is a problem because these supplements "tend not to contain what they say they do, and the contaminants could be dangerous".

Melatonin is secreted at the onset of darkness and is suppressed by light. A tiny gland starts to secrete it as soon as it gets dark and shuts off when the sun comes up in the morning, helping to set our circadian rhythm.

Melatonin supplements are intended to kick-start our natural melatonin production starting about 2 hours before bedtime.

Dr Greger's research found that what the supplements actually contained and what they claimed on the label is often drastically different e.g. a "1.5 mg tablet" which actually contained almost 9 mg of melatonin i.e. 100X the natural level.

⇒ The effects of high levels of melatonin in humans are unresolved, but in lab animals higher doses reduced the size of their sex organs and impaired fertility.

In addition, because melatonin is a generic (non-exclusive) drug its manufacturers keep costs as low as possible and do not do toxicology studies. Yet the typical impurities found in melatonin supplements have structural similarities with tryptophan, which caused dozens of deaths in the 1980s.

What it means for us: Because of the toxicity risks, Dr Greger calls melatonin supplements another accident waiting to happen.

While some commentators recommend "buying it from a large reputable pharmacy chain and hope for the best", Dr Greger does not agree and states that it is simply not worth the risk.

For non-regular use, melatonin still has a place.

For example, if you wish to adjust to local time after travelling across multiple timezones, a melatonin supplement taken at the right time, e.g. at the onset of darkness or 2 hours before bed, will help you adjust.

Even better if you expose your face to sunlight upon arrival, and get up early in the morning and expose your face to natural sunlight again. Go lie by the pool. This will get you in sync. And turn off bright lights in the evening.

**Check with your doctor about all the above before acting.

Related: How To Sleep Better And Recover Like Elite Soccer Players

02 Statins May Prevent Onset of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away (degenerate) and die. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioural and social skills that disrupt our ability to function independently.

Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop the progression of the disease, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms. According to the latest research, statins may help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

This is important because statins are cheap generic drugs. Until Biogen dramatically halved the price of aducanumab - its Alzheimer's drug - in December 2021 it cost US$56,000 a year. Biogen cut the price because the 2006 research claims upon which aducanumab was developed were found to be fraudulent.

⇒ New validated research suggests that statins may help to remove the build-up of plaque in the brain that is associated with Alzheimer's.

What this means for us: If the effectiveness of statins in slowing Alzheimer's continues to be validated then that is good news for us all.

As you know, statins help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and this is a very common condition among people over 50. Statins reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke and are commonly recommended to help prevent heart attacks in people with diabetes.

Several research studies following large groups over many years suggest that adults with Type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and dementia.

Statins are very well studied and have low toxicity and few reports of contamination.

In fact, after 10 years of stabilising and controlling my cholesterol through diet and exercise, I suggested to my GP that I stop taking statin supplements. I was surprised when he responded by saying that he recommended that all of his older patients take a minimum dose statin supplement daily as a general "preventative".

On the other hand, statins are associated with a slightly increased risk of self-reported muscle pain, liver and kidney problems, and certain eye conditions such as cataracts.

On the basis of the potential to delay dementia, you might want to ask your GP if they recommend statins as an insurance policy, as mine did.

Related: Why Walnuts Lower Heart Disease and Help You Sleep Better

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03 Perfecting Your Walking Technique and Posture

Want to look slimmer without losing a pound - try walking with a better posture. Improving your posture will spread your weight up your body and help you look and feel more confident.

You don't need to look like military personnel at a parade. Just walk naturally, with a little more focus on your form.

Developing this focus and a better form will also allow you to more smoothly increase and decrease your pace and effort, which will translate into pounds lost.

⇒ Better form will also help alleviate aches and pains and allow you to take deep breaths for more energy.

What this means for us: Here's how to improve your posture and set yourself up to flow into a faster walk which will burn more energy:

1. Stand tall: A hunched-over posture makes it harder for you to breathe and may contribute to backaches. Instead, feel your backbone stretch as if you were being lifted from the top of your skull. Put your thumbs on your lower ribcage and your fingers on your hip bones. When standing upright, notice how the distance increases. Remain conscious of maintaining this distance as you walk.

2. Eyes up: Look about 3 metres in front; looking down tires your neck and shoulder muscles and results in unnecessary stress and strain.

3. Shoulders back, down, relaxed: Feel how your arms swing more freely when your shoulders are relaxed. Relax your shoulders by rolling them up, back, and then down - not pulled towards your ears. This will make your walking flow better.

4. Swing from your shoulders. Swing your arms forward and back freely, like a pendulum, pivoting from your shoulders, not your elbows. Enjoy the flow.

5. Step lightly. Aim to roll from heel to toe as you stride - not to land flat-footed with a thud. And don't overreach as it increases impact on your joints and actually slows you down. You want a smooth, rolling, natural stride that flows.

Related: How To Keep Your Weight Off With Daily Walks — 5 Fun Level-ups That Everyone Can Do

04 Lower Blood Pressure With Inspiratory Muscle Training

Our exercise of the week is... Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training; this is respiratory muscle or breath training and is also known as Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).

IMT usually uses a mask or a breathing machine. It requires slowly inhaling through a resistance device, such as a mouthpiece or nose clip, and then exhaling normally. This resistance training helps to improve the strength and endurance of the muscles used for breathing, which can lead to better overall health and fitness.

Our method does not require a mask nor a machine.

IMT is most often used by people who have respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema - and endurance athletes! That's quite a contrast.

Those with respiratory conditions use it because it results in them getting more air into their lungs.

Athletes use it because IMT increases the strength and endurance of our inspiratory (e.g. our diaphragm) and expiratory muscles.

About 16% of our oxygen consumption is used to power breathing. If our breathing muscles become fatigued then our body restricts blood flow to our limbs. This is a natural protective mechanism that serves to ensure that our lungs can continue to meet the oxygen demands of our body.

But this restrictive blood flow is not great for athletic performance, and is part of what happens when we say a runner or cyclist has "hit the wall". Their legs don’t work.

By strengthening and improving the endurance of their respiratory muscles athletes have more oxygen available to power athletic exertion and endurance.

For we mere mortals, IMT has been shown to decrease the amount of work the heart has to do. Less blood needs to be pumped around our body and our blood pressure falls, especially the systolic pressure when our heart contracts.

⇒ Lower blood pressure is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

What this means for us: The goal of this exercise is to strengthen our respiratory muscles with the ultimate outcome of more oxygen being absorbed into our blood from every breath.

Surprisingly I could not find a single video on Youtube which did not use a medical device for IMT, so I'm unable to illustrate the method below.

1. Start by sitting in a comfortable position with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.

2. Close your mouth and keep your tongue against the roof of your mouth immediately behind your upper teeth.

3. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, pushing the air down to a position two finger-widths below your navel until you feel your belly rise slightly.

4. With your lungs now filled as much as possible - until the volume feels uncomfortable - hold your breath for 10 seconds. Resist the urge to exhale.

5. Now, exhale slowly and completely through your mouth "pushing" on the pressure caused by your tongue being pressed against the roof of your mouth, until you cannot squeeze any more air out of your lungs. Create as much resistance as you can.

6. Hold this fully depleted condition for 10 seconds. Resist the urge to breathe again.

Repeat this pattern (from #3 to #6) for 10 breaths. If you feel dizzy, stop.

Pro tip 1: You can prepare for this by taking deep breaths through your nose, holding for 4 seconds, and exhaling slowly, for 10 repetitions. This will make it easier to hold at the top and bottom of the breathing sequence above.

Pro tip 2: If 10-second holds are too hard then reduce the time and gradually build up. It may take several weeks. The holds are the most important part of this training, so the more you can concentrate on holding them the better.

Pro tip 3: Gently squeeze your nose a little when breathing in to restrict the airflow and cause your diaphragm to work harder.

Or, you can buy a respiratory muscle trainer device on Amazon or Ebay for between $25 and $50 (based on my search just now).

If you are subscribed to my free exercise plans you can view the above on your mobile or web browser (simply by pasting the personalised link which I sent you upon registration). If not, try now. Free forever. Opt-out any time. Opt-in by CLICKING HERE PLEASE SEND ME THE EXERCISES. NOTE: YOU ONLY NEED TO SUBSCRIBE ONE TIME.

Good luck.

In case you missed it...

Related: Rebuilding Your Fast-twitch Muscles Doesn’t Require Fast Movements

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