CA Science Center: Body Worlds (Part Six)

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As the above picture comments, these were once living people who gave permission to use them for scientific and educational purposes. I hope you enjoy the pictures and information as much as I enjoyed viewing the exhibit, keeping in mind to respect the bodies and parts involved.

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Shall We Continue with Various Insightful Facts and Information?

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And See if it Influences Us

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From the things we need to the things we want, a seemingly unlimited number of choices are available to us.  From apples to amplifiers, from cars to cleansers; from juice to jeans, and from salad dressings to shampoos, there’s a multitude of choices.  In a world that prizes individualism and freedom this appears to be a positive development.  But too many options rarely lead to increased satisfaction or happiness, and apparently don’t give us the freedom we expect.  Too many choices become overwhelming.  They require us to compare and weigh different factors, making it difficult to reach a fully satisfying decision.  As a result we may become unhappy, choices.jpgfrustrated, and even mentally paralyzed.  Research suggests that the more choice we have the less we are to take action, and the less satisfied we are with our eventual decision.  We tend to blame ourselves if we haven’t met our own standards, and we often feel regret about the roads not taken. (So to put it bluntly, stop having regrets by doing what you want to do within reason, and if you can’t do it, then take steps to get there even if you don’t ultimately land there when all is said and done.)

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(What kind of chocolate is your favorite?  I could go without chocolate, but any kind of licorice or other sugar in a box is another story.  It’s something I have yet to curb 100%, refined sugars, but I’ll get there.)

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Heart Disease

Heart disease is often used interchangeably with the term Cardiovascular Disease or Coronary Heart Disease.  Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women.

Anyone, including children, can develop heart disease.  It occurs when a substance called plague builds up in your arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart.

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Common risk factors for heart disease

  • Stress
  • Poor Diet
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Physical inactivity

About half of all Americans, 47%, have at least one of these risk factors.

Currently, 27 million Americans have chronic heart disease, induced by obesity.

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Every years about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. 

Get active and stay active.  Exercise 30 minutes, 3 times per week.  (As I’m sometimes told, “don’t go for the gold” right away, but some is always better than none.)

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Reduce the risk of heart disease

  • Make healthy food choices
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce blood sugar
  • Know your blood pressure
  • Lower your stress level
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Control cholesterol

Major warning signs and symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea, light-headedness or cold sweats

More information about heart disease

Coronary heart disease is one of the most common causes of death.  In a diseased coronary artery, a plague forms on the arterial walls and gradually obstructs blood flow.  It causes angina with symptoms such as chest pains and shortness of breath or even a heart attack. 

Despite the known risks of coronary heart disease, heart attacks often go undiagnosed.  This is, to some degree, because the obvious attack where someone clutches his or her chest and falls to the floor like in the Hollywood movies is not the norm.  Sometimes the only signs of a heart attack are a sense of fullness in the chest, nausea, and a general sense of not feeling well.

Most heart attacks result from plaque that does not protrude into the artery itself but remains hidden in the artery wall.  During a heart attack, the plaque suddenly ruptures, causing a blood clot to form that blocks the rest of the coronary artery.  In some people, coronary artery disease develops over a lifetime, beginning at an early age and progressing slowly. 

Early diagnosis and treatment of heart disease is vital in preventing serious, even life-threatening complications such as heart attack or death.  Regular cardiovascular workouts including aerobic exercise such as running helps prevent heart disease.

Dementia

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior.  Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80% of dementia causes.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading 6th leading overall cause of death in the U.S.

Alzheimer’s leads to tissue loss throughout the brain.  Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all its functions.  The exact cause is still unknown. 

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Two of these core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia.

  • Memory
  • Visual Perception
  • Communication and language
  • Ability to focus
  • Reasoning and judgement.

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.  200,000 of these affected are under 65.

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Accidents and injuries are caused by symptoms can be avoided through early treatment and better care.  The earlier the diagnosis, the more likely your symptoms will respond to treatment.  Family and professionals can care for the patient more effectively following detection.

There is no way to prevent the condition.  However small steps help to delay the onset of it.  Reduce your risk by being active, following a healthy diet, enjoying social activity, and challenging your brain. 

People in the final stages of the disease are bedridden and require round-the-clock care. Alzheimer’s is ultimately fatal.

Smoking

Nearly 1 in 5 American adults currently smoke cigarettes. 

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.  Smoking kills up to 50% of users.

Naturally found in tobacco, nicotine is a drug as addictive as heroin or cocaine.  Addiction can start quickly, after just a few cigarettes.

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. 

Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of over 4,000 chemicals.

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Nonsmokers in the U.S. are still exposed to secondhand smoke.  More than 1 out of 2 children or 54% aged 3 to 11 years are exposed to secondhand smoke.  The #1 place where children breathe secondhand smoke is in their own homes.

In infants, it causes sudden death.  In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.  Infants exposed to secondhand smoke have twice the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

More than 300,000 children per year get bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections from secondhand smoke.

In adults, secondhand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease as well as stroke, and lung cancer.

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Secondhand smoke may trigger severe asthma attacks.  More than 40% of child emergency room visits for asthma are due to secondhand smoke.  

Nicotine in the tobacco reaches the brain within 10 seconds.

More than 16 million Americans are living with diseases caused by smoking.

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Regularly smoking 20 cigarettes a day can take 10 years off your life expectancy. 

Average age of death is 68.7.

Each cigarette you smoke damages your body, including your heart, blood vessels, hormones, and your brain.  During pregnancy, nicotine crosses the placenta and can be found in the blood of newborn infants.

Quitting at any age has benefits: better breathing, more energy, improved fertility, less stress, longer life, whiter teeth, younger looking skin, improved smell and taste, and healthier loved ones.

Smoker’s Lung

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This cross-section of the lungs shows numerous small tar deposits from smoking.  Nicotine raises the levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in brain areas linked to pleasure and reward.  This effect of nicotine may explain why many people find it so hard to stop smoking.  Smoking accelerates the aging process, weakens our immune system, and increases the risk for diseases, such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, and eye diseases.

Back Pain

1 out of 4 people in the U.S. suffer from some type of backache.

Back pain can have a severe impact on mobility, driving, social life, lifting, and sleeping.

Back pain is one the most common reasons for missed work.

Most cases of back pain are mechanical meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, fracture or cancer.

Reasons for back pain

  • Poor posture
  • Sports injury
  • Carrying or lifting
  • Uncomfortable footwear

Tips to prevent back pain

  1. Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
  2. Remain active.
  3. Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
  4. Maintain proper posture.
  5. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
  6. Ensure that your computer workstation is ergonomically correct.
  7. Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to minimize any curve in your spine.
  8. Lift with your knees, keep the object close to your body, and do not twist when lifting.
  9. Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.

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Back pain often results from improper lifting techniques and poor posture.  When you bend or lean over to pick something up tremendous pressure is placed on your lower back.  In fact, lifting a 10 pound object puts 100 pounds of pressure on your back as the human back operates on a 10:1 ratio. 

By adding in the 105 pound of the average human upper torso, lifting a ten pound object actually results in a 1,150 pounds of pressure on the lower back.  This is why repetitive actions like bending and lifting can quickly overstress your back. Even leaning forward when sitting at a desk or table can eventually cause damage and pain. 

Instead of using your back like a crane, allow your legs to the work.  Bending at the knees allows your spine to maintain better alignment, and your essentially take away the lever principle forces. 

Stroke

1 out of 10 American die of a stroke each year.  That is one American every 4 minutes. 

If you witness any of these three symptoms, react fast and call 911.

  1. Face drooping
  2. Arm weakness
  3. Speech difficulty

31% of stroke victims are less than 65 years old.  Anyone can have a stroke.

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.  Ischemic stroke is a blood vessel blocked by a clot and a hemorrhagic stroke is a blood vessel that ruptures and bleeds.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke.  Talk to your doctor to keep high blood pressure under control.

Reduce your risk

  • Eat a healthy diet that low in sodium
  • Be physically active
  • Check your blood pressure frequently
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Avoid smoking

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force the blood exerts against the blood vessel walls when the heart pumps.  It rises with each heartbeat and falls when the heart relaxes between beats.

Blood pressure is comprised of two values.  The higher, systolic number measures pressure at the peak of each heartbeat.  The lower, diastolic number measures pressure when the heart is resting between beats.  In an adult, normal blood pressure is under 120/80 mmHg when at rest. It changes from minute to minute and is affected by activity and rest, emotions and temperature, diet and posture, and medications.

High blood pressure or hypertension refers to persistent blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher, a condition affecting about one in three U.S. adults.  Untreated hypertension affects all organ systems and can shorten one’s life expectancy by 10 to 20 years, for instance increasing one’s chance of developing heart disease or a stroke. 

In the past few decades, the risk of high blood pressure has increased because of a decline in healthy lifestyles.  In fact, nine out of ten people are at risk for developing hypertension after age 50.

Life Expectancy

Ever increasing life expectancy is a phenomenon of the modern era.  For the first time in U.S. history, there are more people over age 60 than under age 5. 

Advances in science, technology, and medicine have led to reductions in infant and maternal mortality, fewer infectious and parasitic diseases, better occupational safety measure, and improvements in nutrition and education, resulting in longevity and larger senior populations. 

If we want to live healthy and vital lives tomorrow, we must assume personal responsibility today.  Fortifying our bodies with healthy practices will allow us to postpone the inevitable–the gradual decline in mental and physical abilities, and the loss of functional independence. 

But why do we age at all?  Simply put, our cells lose their resilience, causing organ functions to weaken.  This results in increased susceptibility to infections, lower hormone production, weakened connective tissue, and poorer memory retention.  The causes of aging are complex and are yet to be fully investigated.

One reason is the fact that our cells can only divide and renew themselves a limited number of times.  The chromosomes shorten with each cell division until the death of the cell in inevitable.  The body’s self-repairing processes also decline with advancing age.  So-called free radicals play a special part in the aging process.  These extremely aggressive molecules develop in the body as metabolic by-products and cause the body to “rust” from the inside out. 

Stress

Stress can kill.  It may send out minds spinning, rob us of sleep, throw us off-balance (been here and done it too many times)–without us ever being aware of its effects.  Originally, however, our body’s stress response evolved to help us survive.

Our acute stress response is the primitive human reaction to perceived threats that prepares the body for fight or flight.  When running for your life, basics are all that matter.  Lungs work overtime to get high amounts of oxygen into the bloodstream.  The heart races to pump this oxygen throughout the body so muscles respond instantly. 

This works well when stress was caused mainly by wild animals or enemies physically attacking us.  Today, however, a very similar response is triggered by the pressures of the 21st century living.

Work, complicated relationships, financial worries, and traffic have taken the place of wild beasts.  Their attacks are not few and far between. For many of us, they come in constant succession.  The demands of modern life are leaving one in four of us permanently stressed.  Over time the powerful stress hormones coursing through our bodies cripple our immune system and compromise our health.

Coordination

A dense network of nerve fibers, which monitors and fine-tunes our bodily functions, stretches from our head to our toes. 

The brain is the body’s command center.  It is the source of our consciousness, intelligence, and creativity, and allows us to communicate and experience emotions. 

Most brain functions are automatic and unconscious, but when disease or damage occurs the resulting loss of function can be a devastating thing for the individual.

Locomotion

Our body is designed to move.  A complex scaffolding of muscles, bones, and joints allows us to achieve remarkable feats of coordination and balance. 

Our sedentary lifestyles have made modern life much more comfortable and our bodies have become sluggish and lazy.

Physical inactivity is the primary cause of many chronic diseases.

Circulation

Life requires a continuous supply with oxygen, nutrients and hormones.  The cardiovascular system distributes these elements to individual regions of the body, and it also collects metabolic by-products that are then eliminated. 

The heart is the engine of this system, and a dense network of blood vessels forms the transportation routes. 

Because of its vastness and critical nature, the cardiovascular system is most prone to disease.  Our modern lifestyle places enormous pressure on the system, threatening our health.

Digestion

All of our bodily processes require a supply of energy that we obtain from our food.  This process of transforming nutrients into energy is called metabolism. 

The organs of the digestive tract break down food in a way that allows the nutrients to pass into the blood and then throughout the body. 

Often, there is a strong contrast between our body’s needs and what we actually eat and drink.

Muscles

There are more than 620 muscles in our body that we can move voluntarily.  Each of them has a specific function, its own nerve supply, and a particular point of origin and insertion on the skeleton. Consequently, muscles differ considerably in size and complexity.  Notice the large muscles which stabilize and move the hip joint.  In living bodies, only a small portion of the load on a joint is caused by body weight {about 15%}.  The rest stems from muscle action.

A muscle can only shorten and relax.  When we move, different muscles act on opposite sides of the joint, pulling it in the different directions in which it can move.  For example, the biceps flexes the elbow, while the triceps at the back of our arm does the opposite and extends the elbow.  When the bicep contracts, balancing activity in the triceps inhibits excessive movement.  This makes our movements fluid and controlled.

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Brain

Our brains are genetically programmed to be sprouting nerve cell branches that create connections with one another.  These connections form pathways.  If we have the same experience several times, our behavior begins to form permanent patterns.  Unused pathways are gradually pruned away. 

Just as our bodies need regular exercise, our brains require challenges.  Learning new or difficult skills such as studying a language or playing a musical instrument, stimulates new brain areas and strengthens existing neural networks. 

The brain thrives on learning and loses its agility when performing only habitual and easy tasks.  Use it or lose it! 

Human brains have been changing, adapting, and developing in response to outside stimuli for thousands of generations, shaping and changing their own self-conception and the spirit of their times. 

Today, our brains are being confronted with an ever-expanding world of new technology; internet, wireless networks, Bluetooth links, smart phones, multi-channel television, video games, MP3 players–the list goes on and on.

These technologies increasingly allow us to create our own world around us–putting us in distinct danger of detaching ourselves from what others would consider the real world.

Increasing scientific research shows that technology is re-wiring the human brain, particularly young people’s brains.

Hand

The human hand has 27 bones, controlled by 37 skeletal muscles.  They allow for a wide variety of movement with exceptionally fine motor functions and a powerful gripping action.  In particular, it is the ability to bring the tips of the thumb and the fingers together that gives human hands their unique dexterity.  (Don’t think we are too special with opposable thumbs.  Besides humans, Old World monkeys and great apes have them.  Those with really long thumbs are gibbons.  Other primates have pseudo-opposable thumbs and non-opposable thumbs).

(I saved the biggest problem many Americans and other countries face for last.  This is the rise of overweight and obese people.  If it seems Americans have many health issues, they certainly do, and mainly due to obesity.  It’s no surprise some American children will not outlive their parents for the first time, as some studies indicate.)

Weight

The body slice shows a regular pattern of fat distribution in a normal weight person (left side).  A certain amount of body fat is necessary for storing energy, heat insulation, shock absorption, and other functions.  But just as excess body fat can impact your health, so can not having enough of it.  Women and teens in particular are the two main groups at risk of being underweight.  While underweight women will struggle with fertility issues, underweight teens are at a critical stage of growth and development, increasing the chances of future health problems.

This longitudinal body slice shows a severe degree of obesity (right side).  Obesity means having too much body fat.  Here, the subcutaneous fatty tissue is notably thickened.  But also the fat inside the abdominal cavity is considerably increased.  This person’s weight was about 300 lbs.  Obesity occurs over time when we consume more calories than we need.  The balance between calories-in and calories-out differs for each person.  Factors that might tip the balance include genetic makeup, overeating and drinking, eating high-fat foods and not being physically active.  

Being obese increases the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, stroke, and some forms of cancer.  It especially puts a strain on the heart.  This obese man’s heart is enlarged.  He died from a heart malfunction when he was only about 50 years old.

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Obesity

1 in 3 children and teens ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese.

Health risks are severe for kids, resulting in

  • Diabetes
  • Joint problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • Low self-esteem

80% of children and teens diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight

Although there are some genetic or hormonal causes of childhood obesity, in most cases excess weight is due to overeating and under-exercising.  (Yes, any fast food chain is not a friend to your body, but it sure does taste good at times.)

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The daily amount of sugar children should be consuming is 3 teaspoons.  The average child now consumes nearly 6 to 20 times the recommended amount.  (I’m positive I only had 3 teaspoons as a child thanks to my upbringing, but now that I’m a full-grown adult, I’ve been known to go crazy with the sugar at times.)

Kids in the U.S. spend an average of 7 hours daily in front of a TV or computer screen. 

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High-calorie foods like fast food, cookies, and other baked goods, soda, candy, chips, and vending machine snacks contribute to weight gain.

On a given day, 30 to 40% of children and adolescents eat fast food.

American children are snacking more than ever before–accounting for up to 25% of their daily caloric intake.

2 out of 3 kids don’t get any daily physical activity.

(Adults equally have a problem with obesity, and here are some facts.)

2 in 3 adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Obese people spend 42% more on healthcare cost than healthy weight people.

112,000 deaths are associated with obesity in the U.S. every year.

20% of weight increase in the U.S. between 1977 and 2007 attributed to sugar-sweetened beverages.

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Obesity kills slowly, causing damage from head to toe, with painful lasting effects.

Obesity related conditions include heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  They are the leading causes of preventable death! 

Sitting makes us fat.  Obese people sit 2.5 more hours per day than thin people.

Obesity may be prevented by

  • Physical activity
  • Good nutrition
  • Less screen time
  • More sleep

(And yet, many find it hard to lose weight and keep it off.  It seems such a simple concept, but so many people struggle with it, including myself.)

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Average calories consumed per day by adults in 1971 to 1974 was 1,996.

Average calories consumed per day by adults in 2005 to 2008 was 2,234.

More information about obesity

Obesity and overweight are a serious public health concern in the developed world.  36% of U.S. adults and 17% of U.S. children and adolescents are obese.  {Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010}. 

The consequences of overweight and obesity range from depleted energy and restricted movement to a host of diseases affecting all the major systems of the body.

Excessive food consumption and a lack of physical activity, as well as unbalanced, unhealthy diets help explain why the obesity epidemic is spreading.  Societal factors play a prominent role too. 

Studies have found that family members, friends, and mutual friends have a significant influence on each other’s eating habits.  They hold similar attitudes towards exercise and fitness and adopt the same perceptions about weight.  

A child is more likely to become overweight or obese when a parent is overweight or obese.  Groups of close friends can gain or lose weight as a result of their shared views of acceptable body weight and eating habits.

Stress can also contribute to obesity.  In a study, obesity was associated with psychological tension and anxiety, much of which resulted from demanding and intolerable work environments.  The authors also found that higher degrees of stress negatively affected subjects’ diets, which contributed to higher rates of obesity.

(I will end on a positive note because there is still time.  It is never too late to turn the tide.  The human body is a great thing.  Do with it as you will, but hope this was insightful in some way, especially if it encourages you to make changes necessary for a better life.)

Human Body

The human body is a marvel of contradictions.  It is simple yet complex, vulnerable yet resilient.  From the time we are born, our bodies help us affirm our selves, and define our boundaries and the world around us. They reveal our limitations, yet harbor our boundless potential.  The intricate feat of our bodies is influenced by personal and external factors, by both nature and nurture.  While we cannot change the essential structure of our bodies, we can strive for vitality and wellness by making lifestyle choices that are good for our bodies and our selves. It is our responsibility to take good care of what nature has given us if we want to live up to our fullest potential.

Our body is designed to move.  A complex scaffolding of muscles and bones, it allows us to achieve remarkable feats of coordination and balance.  But the sedentary practices of modern living have led to bodies that are less physically active, more sluggish and lazy.  Regular exercise has multiple benefits.  It strengthens muscles and bones, keeps the joints flexible, reduces fat deposits, stimulates the brain, and reinforces the immune system to protect the entire body against diseases and the effects of aging on a long-term basis.  Due to its many positive effects, regular exercise is the true fountain of youth. Studies show that middle-aged people who have never exercised on a regular basis appear to be up to 20 years older, physiologically, than their active peers.  Tune your body as you would a fine instrument and see how far it takes you.  (I end with the Tai Chi Man because relaxation is just as important as vigorous exercise.)

Tai Chi Man

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This posed plastinate shows various orthopedic and surgical operations.  Bone is a very dynamic tissue that constantly degrades and rebuilds itself.  Therefore, a bone can repair itself when it is broken.  In order for this healing to proceed smoothly, sufficiently large areas of the broken bone pieces need to be touching each other in a slip-proof manner.  Therefore, broken bones are often surgically set with the help of stainless steel screws, wires, or plates.  This procedure is called osteosynthesis.  Even without external splints or plaster casts, a patient may put weight on an internally stabilized fracture at an early point in recovery.  Osteosynthesis has been performed on the humerus, the radius, and the tibia as well on the lower jawbone, cheekbone, and cranium.  The body has also been implanted with artificial joints at the knee, hip, elbow and upper ankle.

This officially concludes the six parts of Body Worlds.  I hope you found it fascinating and interesting.  I’m still committed to eating healthier as much as possible and exercising regularly.  It doesn’t always happen each week, but at least, I’m trying.  I think most of us are on this trajectory, even athletes that have very little fat content.  It’s hard to make “being healthy” a part of your life with all the expectations of today, but as you can see it often serves as prevention to many bodily ailments and diseases.  Someone once said to me, “weight gain only makes things worse.”  This is right in the deepest sense.  The bottom line is more action and less talk.  Or put another way, more nutritious foods and less sugar and fat.  And of course, more sweating and less being a permanent fixture on the couch.  If only it were that easy, but it goes to show the brain is convincing when it comes to laziness.  This is when you sometimes have to put your pride aside and like the Nike saying goes, “Just Do It.”

You are what you eat. 

You move when you want.

End of story.

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