Thursday, August 28, 2014

Walking, aspirin, and vino for cardio health?

If your father had a heart attack before reaching retirement age, and suffered prolonged effects afterward, what would you do to better your chances of living to the current life expectancy? This is something that concerns me. My father is no longer with us. He left us before he could retire based on age.

Going over all kinds of information in medical journals and online resources dedicated to health, three things stand out as making some difference in helping one avoid a nasty turn in cardiovascular health. These relate to activity, taking aspirin every day, and drinking wine daily.

Walking and Activity

Apparently, living a sedentary life is bad for you. Most of what I've read says that you need at least 30 minutes of activity per day. There are also suggestions that 10K steps per day should be your goal. In case you are not sure which to do, or want to do both, it's much easier if you get a +Fitbit. This way you can track your progress wither way.

But, I've also read that High Intensity Interval Training is good for you in that it stimulates muscle growth and does things to keep you young. Think of it this way, like a kid, go out and play. Have moments of easy activity and spurts of ALL OUT effort like somebody is chasing  you in a game of tag. Apparently those moments of heart pounding activity stimulates things that are beneficial. There are also studies that say that too much of that just wears your body out. The intervals are the key, I take it.

I would say, try to do more than 30 minutes. Try a variety of activities. And try to increase flexibility. I throw that in because it's sad to see older people not be able to touch their toes or scratch their own back.

Daily Aspirin

Aspirin has long been known to help with reducing inflammation. It has also show to have benefits with respect to lowering your risk for heart disease and the type of stroke where you have blood vessel blockage. Recently, studies have shown that it also reduces some risks for cancer. However, the science is still kind of iffy. Researchers still don't know how much aspiring in what frequency is best.

Taking aspirin daily has some drawbacks. As I mentioned earlier, it helps with strokes where you have blockage in your blood vessels. This is because aspirin is a blood thinner. So, if you bust a blood vessel for your stroke, aspiring makes things worse. However, you could achieve the blood thinning via regular blood donations to your local blood bank without taking any aspirin.

I have not found any definite research that says that it's definitely the blood thinning that helps you avoid heart attacks. It may very well be aspirin's anti-inflammatory properties that do the trick. Sugars tend to irritate the blood vessels, which make them more susceptible to plaque attaching itself to them. Thus, reducing the inflammation reduces the plaque that chokes your arteries.

You see some corroboration to this theory with heart patients who have their teeth removed. The theory is that bad oral hygiene causes inflammation in the arteries, which leads to what we mentioned earlier. So, as a preventive measure, some patients have their teeth taken out.

Going back to the drawbacks, aspirin can also cause stomach bleeding when taken for prolonged periods. Thus, the recommendation is taking baby aspirin until the correct dosage is figured out by researchers. It's not that baby aspirin is THE recommended daily dose, it's just that they haven't figured out how far up they can push it for the benefits without killing you by bleeding you out.


Wine is supposed to be good for you too. Red wine is supposed to be good for you, more specifically. White wine won't cut it. This is where we know God is a man. Two glasses of red wine per day for men. Only ONE glass of red wine per day for women. Any more than that and you undo any benefit you derived.

Regarding undoing the benefit, being an alcoholic is definitely bad for you. Forget killing your liver, the process of killing your liver is where the action is. Before your liver takes a poop, it starts to build up fat bubbles from metabolizing the alcohol you drank. You end up with what his called, drumroll please, FATTY LIVER.

It turns out that sugar and carbohydrates in general, alcohol is a carbohydrate, are metabolized similarly by your liver. And all this may end up leading to higher cholesterol. There are arguments about all of this, so go do your own research. It couldn't hurt to limit your alcohol to 2 glasses of wine or less, and cutting way the hell back on carbs. It won't help you to be mindful of alcohol if you're going to blow it on other carbs.

I'm going to detour a little here. Carbs in general seem like a bad deal. Think of cattle. Cattle are fattened up with corn. When feed got really expensive, cattle were being fed old candy before being slaughtered. Why? To fatten them up. Corn, candy, flour, and other carbs like rice behave the same way in your body. They stimulate insulin production. The ONLY function insulin has in your body is to turn sugar in to fat. This is how alcohol becomes fat and you end up with an alcoholic's fatty liver. Speaking of fatty liver, how about veal and pate?

Regrouping here. I don't know for certain that the aforementioned amounts of alcohol are beneficial. I haven't run across any articles one way or the other that spell out the pathway in which alcohol is actually healthy. It may simply be that it could be a blood thinner of sorts. This is me speculating, by the way. Blood is an organic fluid, which requires an organic solvent. Or maybe not. I might be thinking of polar an non-polar solvents. Never mind. The point is, I have not found anything that explains to me how alcohol is actually good for you.

Don't take that to mean that being a drinkie isn't beneficial at all. Simply, I don't know HOW alcohol is good for you. Studies have shown that people who drink moderately live longer than people who abstain. They also live longer than people who drink too much; so don't get carried away. Again, I revert to God. He loves us and wants us to mellow out with a glass of wine every day. It's good enough for me.

Tying it all together

So, how do we tie this all together? For me, it takes the form of gulping down an aspirin in the morning. In the evening, I do my walking. If I'm stocked with a bottle of wine, I make it my reward for walking. If I don't have wine, I incorporate the walk to the store towards my 10K step goal, and drink some after.

I have figured out that a 750 mL bottle of wine is the equivalent of 4 glasses of wine. This means that one bottle should last two days. This keeps me walking to the store frequently. I'd go daily if my wife could drink red wine. Unfortunately for her, she gets migraines, which red wine seems to encourage. I try to drink daily if I can; but, some days I do not feel like imbibing. Other days, especially the weekends, I make up for that.

So, to recap, aspirin in the morning, evening walk (includes walking to buy wine), and a glass or two of wine after walking.

Will any of this help? Who knows? But, in the meantime, I'm pain free, get some exercise, and feel great in the evenings. This is a life worth living.

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