Great Movie Dance Scenes Mash Up

Sometimes I like to post a video just for fun.  This is one of those times.

This video is a mash up of dance scenes from over 60 classic movies timed perfectly to Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. It’s great fun. Click play to see what I mean.

I have a lot of respect for the film buff who had both the knoweledge base and the patience to put this clip together.

Free Yourself from Useless Worry

worried young womanHere’s a skill I suggest you commit to: free yourself from worry.

I define worrying as imagining unpleasant or unwanted outcomes as if they had already happened.

Worry itself serves no useful purpose. It’s a thief.  It robs the present moment of its joy.

And then it gets even worse…

Worry warps a person’s ability to see reality clearly and take effective action.

Over time, worry can become a habit, a habit of thought. Not at all good because we now know that thought habits lead to real, physical changes in the brain.

The more you worry, the more you are wiring your brain to do it in the future.

Fortunately, habits can be changed.

It may not seem like it, but the degree to which we engage in worry is, in fact, under our control. This is despite what many people believe. That’s not surprising since there are many mistaken beliefs about worry.

Here are a few…

Many people believe outside events trigger their worry and therefore they have no control over it.

Others believe that worry is necessary and useful.

Or they believe that worrying somehow protects them from bad events.

Some people think worrying proves that they’re concerned.

The list goes on…

So to begin, look at your assumptions about worry. Do you worry a lot? Why? Do you think it somehow serves you?

As I mentioned, some people think that worry is necessary and useful.

They may even think that worrying is a sign of maturity and being responsible, or that worrying is a way to figure out an answer to a problem.

None of that is true.

Excessive worry is more a sign of inability to gain proper perspective.

Rather than producing a solution, it keeps you stuck in the problem.

This is a good place to apply the Pareto principle, the idea that 20% of activity produces 80% of the results.

Spend 20% of your time or less identifying the problem and 80% working on the solution.

Another reason some people worry is that they feel it somehow protects them from bad things happening.

That feeling borders on superstition. All worry does is keep you from enjoying the present moment.

If your mind is filled with thoughts of terrible things that could possibly happen in the future it’s hard to recognize and enjoy what’s going on at the moment.

As you consider your beliefs about worry and why you may engage in it, you may find you want to stop worrying so much. Here’s how to go about doing that

An important first step for many people is to develop a tolerance for uncertainty.

Many people who worry chronically do so because they have difficulty accepting uncertainty.

Alas, uncertainty in this life is inescapable. The old saying that nothing is certain except death and taxes carries more than a little truth.

Worrying does nothing to change life’s uncertainties.

Here’s a principle of cognitive restructuring that can help you deal with uncertainty: question your thoughts.

Many people go through life never questioning the accuracy or usefulness of their beliefs or automatic thoughts.

Often just taking a step back and asking yourself about the accuracy of a given thought gives you a better perspective. Very often you’ll realize that a thought has little validity. Then you’ll be able to move beyond it.

Is it possible, or even desirable, to be certain about everything in life? Is it possible to accept the inevitable uncertainty and still enjoy life?

Here’s a question for you to consider:

If something is uncertain, do you tend to envision a bad or a good outcome?

It’s equally valid to imagine a positive future as it is a negative one. Which way do you tend to go?

Imagining something bad happening can be about as bad as actually experiencing it.

Mark TwainAs Mark Twain said “I’ve experienced many terrible things in my life, most of which have never happened.”

For many people, worrying becomes a way of life. For these people, worrisome thoughts intrude throughout the day, distracting them from their present moment.

If they could focus on what was going on in their immediate experience, they’d almost always realize that their current situation was actually pretty good.

When most people question their assumptions and beliefs about worry, they realize that it isn’t serving them. Yet they still feel compelled to worry.

It can be a tough habit of thought to break. But it definitely is possible.

Here’s how…

First, what generally doesn’t work is trying to stop “cold turkey.”

Fortunately, there’s a way to taper off that works for most people.

The better strategy is to accept your tendency to worry, but agree with yourself to confine it to a set period of time once or twice a day.

With this technique, you set some time aside, say fifteen or twenty minutes, a day where you allow yourself to worry to your heart’s content.

Then when you catch yourself with worrisome thoughts at other times of day, remind yourself that you’re going to do your worrying later.

Most people find that this allows them to stop worrying in the immediate moment because they know they can do it a little later.

This frees mental and emotional energy to focus on what’s working and solutions for what isn’t.

Once you’ve delayed the worrying, refocus your attention on your immediate environment. Even better, look for something to appreciate in the present moment.

The next step is to gradually reduce the daily time allotted to worrying.

Actually use a timer and set it for progressively shorter intervals. As an example, if you start at 20 minutes gradually work down to 15, then 10 and then five.

Remember that worrying is not problem solving. It’s more of an emotional drain that actually makes taking effective action less likely.

Freeing yourself from worry spares you emotional turmoil and allows you to focus your energy in more productive ways. You might also want to use some of the time you free up to develop the knack of living in gratitude, but that’s a topic for another day.

Cinnamon and Blood Sugar

Cinnamon sticksCinnamon is one of my favorite spices so you can imagine how glad I was to find increasing evidence of its health benefits.

To cut to the bottom line, relatively small amounts of cinnamon (a half teaspoon or so) lower blood sugar and improve a person’s lipid profile.

The story I heard but haven’t been able to confirm is that a USDA research group got interested in cinnamon when they were testing the effect of various foods on blood sugar levels.

Most cakes and pies sent the blood sugar sky-high but apple pie apple pieseasoned with cinnamon didn’t. That led the researchers to wonder why that was and they considered the possibility that it might be the cinnamon.

Of course cinnamon has been a folk remedy for years. It has a mild ability to suppress bacterial growth, which is probably why it was part of the Egyptian embalming process.

It also soothes an upset stomach. And it just plain smells good.

Aromatherapy enthusiasts know that the scent of cinnamon elevates mood. There is reason Cinnabun franchises are always placed close to the entrance of malls and real estate agents suggest boiling some cinnamon sticks and water prior to showing a home to potential buyers.

But current research suggests that the benefits may go well beyond what was previously suspected.

Initial research was done in the laboratory on fat-forming cells. This work suggested that cinnamon, and in particular a compound in it called methylhydroxychalcone polymer (MHCP), has effects similar to insulin.

Not only that, it improves insulin sensitivity. That is, it makes whatever insulin is around work better.

Those studies were in cells growing in tissue culture. The benefits appear to hold up in real life.

The first clinical trial that I’m aware of was done in Pakistan in cooperation with American researchers on a group of patients with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers gave the diabetic patients either various doses of cinnamon or a placebo for 40 days. They didn’t change any other treatment. They then compared the patients’ fasting glucose taken prior to the study with measurements done at 20 days, 40 days, and 60 days (20 days after the last dose of cinnamon or placebo).

The results were dramatic.

Glucose levels were reduced by 18 to 29%,!  And there was a sustained response even after the cinnamon was stopped.

It is of interest that while the higher doses seem to work more quickly, the lower dose was ultimately as effective and sustained response was even better than the higher doses.

Other studies haven’t been quite as conclusive and, as the saying goes, “more research needs to be done.”

However low doses of cinnamon are very safe as well as tasty so I think is something we should probably all include in our diet regularly.

As with anything else, it’s important not to go overboard with it. Very high doses of cinnamon taken regularly might affect blood clotting.

Other than that I’m not aware of any side effects.

The cinnamon should be as fresh as possible. MHCP is water soluble so you can get its benefits from brewing a cinnamon tea. Other essential oils, including the one that might affect blood clotting, aren’t water soluble so they won’t be extracted in a tea.

Cinnamon supplements are available and are probably fine as long as you don’t go overboard with. My usual approach is to use supplements as just that: supplements. I find it easy to add cinnamon to my diet by sprinkling it on my breakfast cereal or add it to a smoothie so I don’t supplement with it.

Many of my diabetic patients report an easier time controlling their blood sugar once they add cinnamon to their diet.

And just as an antidotal report, one my patients swears that her diabetic neuropathy improved greatly after she started supplementing with cinnamon.

The benefits of supplementing cinnamon go beyond improved insulin function and glucose control. It also lowers total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Not a bad combination at all, so consider adding cinnamon regularly to your diet.

But, as I tell my patients, just don’t take it in the form of a cinnamon bun.

1. Broadhurst CL, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Insulin-like biological activity of culinary and medicinal plant aqueous extracts in vitro. J Agric Food Chem 2000 Mar;48(3):849-52.
2. Jarvill-Taylor KJ, Anderson RA, Graves DJ. A hydroxychalcone derived from cinnamon functions as a mimetic for insulin in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. J Am Coll Nutr 2001 Aug;20(4):327-36.
3. Khan A, Safdar M, Khan MMA, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8.
4. Qin B, Nagasaki M, Ren M, Bajotto G, Oshida Y, Sato Y. Cinnamon extract (traditional herb) potentiates in vivo insulin-regulated glucose utilization via enhancing insulin signaling in rats. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2003;62:139-48.

Fish Oil and Telomeres

salmon is a good source of omega 3 fatCould fish oil really be the fountain of youth?

While it certainly isn’t the whole answer, a recent study strongly suggests that fish oil supplementation may well be able to help us live longer as well as better.

It all has to do with telomeres.

Telomeres are part of the DNA molecule. The telomere is a stretch of DNA at the very end of a chromosome. The telomeres protect the chromosome ends. They keep the genetic information from getting scrambled.

Some metaphors used to describe a telomere compare it to the whipping at the end of a braided rope or the plastic end on a shoelace.

But there’s a big difference.

Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When the telomeres get too short, the cell can no longer divide. It dies.

Because of this, telomeres have been implicated in the aging process.

At birth, most chromosomes have about 8000 telomeres. By age 65, that number is down to about 1500!

Although we by no means know the exact relationship between telomeres and aging, it is true that shorter telomeres are associated with a shorter life span.

For this reason, the results of a recent study on fish oil are very interesting.

The study in question began in 2002 and continued until early 2009. Researchers measured the length of telomeres in all participants at the beginning and end of the study.

Then they compared the rate of telomere shortening to the person’s level of omega-3 fatty acids.

There was a clear relationship between a person’s omega-3 fatty acid level and their rate of telomere shortening.

Those with the highest levels of omega-3 fats had the slowest rate of shortening, while those with the lowest levels had the most rapid rate.

While this study doesn’t absolutely prove that supplementing with omega-3 fats maintains telomere length, it certainly is suggestive.

There’s already a long list of other benefits associated with a healthy amount of omega-3 fat in your diet so I take this as simply one more reason to be sure I get adequate amounts of omega-3 fats.  

My recommendation? As always, the starting point is a healthy diet. Fatty fish such as salmon are the best dietary sources.

In addition, I believe virtually everyone should supplement with marine sources of omega-3 fats. I suggest you take 1 or 2 g of fish oil twice a day with meals.

Plant sources of omega-3s have a different fatty acid profile so they don’t have all the same effects. Even so, they’re worth including in your diet.

Flax seed is the best plant omega-3 fats.  However, I don’t recommend taking the oil itself. Once the oil is extracted, it easily goes rancid. Plus, you miss all the other nutritional benefits of flaxseed.

Instead, grind up whole seed fresh and take it that way (sprinkle it on cereal, use it in a smoothie, mix it with yogurt or just stirred in water and drink it as a slurry).

Two tablespoons of flaxseed per day is a good amount.

If you’re interested in reading the study I mention here, it was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association January 2010. Here’s the reference:

Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels With Telomeric Aging in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease
Ramin Farzaneh-Far, MD; Jue Lin, PhD; Elissa S. Epel, PhD; William S. Harris, PhD; Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD; Mary A. Whooley, MD
JAMA. Jan 3 2010;303(3):250-257.

A Nobel Man Reflects

It’s no secret that has become hyper partisan. It appears that the public at large has lost faith in the institutions of government.

Unfortunately, politicians’ actions justify that loss of faith.

How many former governors are in prison now? Here in New York state we’ve had a disgraced governor as well as a steady stream of government officials convicted of corruption.

I won’t agitate by going into details about recent controversies at the national level. We are all to painfully aware of just what they are.

Given all this, it’s good to remind ourselves that many, and I like to think the majority of, politicians truly work as public servants. They want to do the right thing, govern wisely and help society.

I suggest to you that one such politician is Vice President Joe Biden.

Mr. Biden attended Syracuse University. The town I live in is about 30 miles away. A lot of people in this area knew him when he was a student and after he gradualted. Everyone I’ve talked to that had any interaction with him has only good things to say. By all accounts, he’s a genuinely good guy.

His Note to Myself video below outlines the trajectory of his life. Regardless of your politics, you can’t help but admire his persistence in the face of adversity, his resilience after tragedy,  and the power of his spiritual faith and love of family.

I consider myself an independent and don’t agree with a lot of Mr. Biden’s positions. Even so, I still consider him an honorable man and a worthy politician. He’s restored at least a little of my respect for the system.

Watch the video and judge for yourself.


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In the interest of full disclosure, part of the reason I relate to Vice President may be because I’m also named Joe and I had a speech impediment when I was younger.

How I got over that speech impediment is a story for another day, a story of human kindness and how small acts can profoundly affect a person’s life.

Any Workout Is a Good Workout

wisdom vs perfectionPerfection is the enemy of good. In fact, demanding perfection often destroys good.

The concept that you have to be perfect certainly keeps a lot of folks from succeeding with an exercise program.

Somehow, most people have gotten the idea that to do any good a workout needs to be to be at least 20 – 30 minutes long, preferably 45 – 90 minutes.

If they can’t get that much time in, they don’t bother at all.

That’s a big mistake. Instead of a perfect workout, the result is no workout.

Actually, short intense workouts are more effective that longer, slower ones in reaching most fitness goals. That’s an important subject for another article.

Leaving that point aside, lots of studies show that 10 or even 5 minutes of any exercise do a lot of good.

Moreover, the effects are cumulative. Several five or 10 minute periods of activity throughout the day can be as least as beneficial as one long workout.

Here are some ways you can include exercise in your day.

You might do a few calisthenics first thing in the morning. That’s the old “daily dozen” – classics are classics because they work.

man doing mountain climbers

If calisthenics are too jarring first thing (they are for me), very gentle movements and stretching are a good alternative.

stretching frogs

In fact, Ayurveda recommends beginning and ending your day with periods of yoga and meditation.

When you drive somewhere, you can park farther away from your destination than you have to and enjoy the walk. Or take the stairs instead of an elevator. 

That last idea worked well for me. For years I worked at a hospital with 4 floors and almost never took the elevator. The operating rooms were on the first floor and the surgical ward and the ICU were on the fourth floor.

I was doing a stair climber routine every day without ever making a trip to the gym. 

It also served as a fitness monitor. If I was slacking off on my overall exercise routine, I’d find myself huffing and puffing more than usual after I did 4 flights of stairs 2 steps at a time.

I remember times when I had to wait a minute or two before opening the door from the stairwell to walk out onto the surgical floor so I wouldn’t be gasping for breath as I made my entrance onto the ward.

That was motivation enough to pay more attention to my exercise habits.

Another time I fit in a little exercise in was when I came home from work. I often did my full workouts then, but even if I was late or pressed for time, I could quickly do a little warm up and some form of exercise.

I had to change out the clothes I wore to work anyway, so it was easy to put on some shorts and go the few steps to my home gym. Even without the gym, I could do some sets of calisthenics – say, squats, push-ups and sit ups – right in my bedroom.

In many ways, it’s actually better to engage in frequent small movement activities throughout the day rather than confining your exercise to defined workout periods three or four or five days a week.

You may have heard that “sitting is the new smoking”. This refers to studies that show prolonged periods of sitting increase all-cause mortality almost as much as smoking.

What I find most disturbing about the studies is that the usual recommendations for exercise, say 30 minute workouts several days a week, don’t reduce the risk caused by sitting most of the day every day.

This has led to a lot of people using standup desks. That’s fine, but I think it misses the point. Standing in one place all day likely isn’t much better than sitting all day.

I think the better approach is to move around, change position and engage in little periods of activity as often as you can throughout the day. It may take a little creativity, but it’s well worth it.

Right now, imagine one simple, easy way to be a little bit more active every day. Then make it a practice.

After that becomes comfortable, think of another way and add that in.

As I often say, small changes over time are incredibly powerful. This is one example.

There’s a lot more to be said about the length of workouts and their effectiveness, but that’s not the point here. The point here is that any exercise is better than no exercise.

Just because you can’t do (or just don’t feel like doing) your full routine, don’t let that keep you from doing something.  

An Easy Healthy Way to Eat Less

Want an easy way to reduce your appetite, eat less and at the same time improve your skin and reduce your risk of cancer?

Of course you do. Here’s how:

==>  Add flaxseed to your diet

Flaxseed in a bowlFlaxseed has always been high on my list of good foods for number of reasons. It’s a good plant source of omega-3 fats it’s high in fiber and, very significantly it contains lignans.

Lignans are important because multiple studies suggest they suppress many forms of cancer.

Now a  study suggests that flax fiber helps with weight loss.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen enrolled 24 men and woman in a study of the effects of flax fiber on appetite and food intake.

Here’s how it worked.

The participants fasted overnight. When they woke up in the morning they were given either drink containing 2.5 g of soluble or a similar drink without the fiber. Then they were asked to rate their degree of hunger every 30 minutes for two hours.

After the two hours they could eat. How much they ate was up to them.

The researchers kept track of this voluntary calorie intake over the day and then compared the difference between the two groups. The results were impressive.

The participants who had a drink with the flax fiber reported significantly less hunger than the people who got the placebo drink.

More importantly, the flax people also consumed 9% fewer calories than the placebo even though both groups were free to eat as much as they like.

These findings are consistent with other studies showing that eating something high in fiber or taking a fiber supplement 15 minutes to half an hour or so before a meal decreases hunger when you sit down to eat.

Given the number of us that have weight issues, increasing our fiber intake in this way may be a good idea

And really, most Americans get entirely too little fiber of any form in their diet. The standard recommendation is 25 g of fiber per day. I believe that 40 g per day or even more may be better. The average American intake is 4 – 8 g. Clearly there is room for improvement.

Remember that a high fiber diet has a lot of other benefits aside from reducing appetite.

It improves bowel function and can prevent intestinal problems such as diverticulosis. A high fiber diet improves a person’s lipid profile. It also evens out out swings in blood sugar and can help improve metabolic syndrome.

When you use flaxseed to help you increase the amount of fiber in your diet you also get all the benefits of increased omega-3 fats in along with the benefits of those lignans that I mentioned. Win-win-win.

I generally recommend 2 tablespoons of flax seeds ground freshly each day. This contains about 75 total calories, 3 g omega-3 fat and roughly 4 g of fiber.

Whole flaxseeds need to be ground before using in order for the nutrients to be absorbed. I recommend grinding them in a coffee mill type grinder just before use. Once ground, flaxseeds have a relatively short shelf life before they start to go rancid.

I don’t recommend it, but for convenience you can buy flaxseeds pre-ground or grind a few day’s worth yourself. If you go this route be sure to keep the ground flaxseed in an airtight container and store it in your refrigerator.

You can have the flaxseed on top of cereal, mix it in with yogurt or blend it in a smoothie.

I often just mix the ground flaxseed with a glass of water and drink it as a slurry. (I realize that won’t appeal to most people.)

At first, it may seem cumbersome and time-consuming to add flaxseed to your diet. For one thing, you have to remember to do it and then you have to find ways that work for you.

Stay with it though and it will very quickly become an automatic routine. And you be better off for it.

If you’re interested, the study I just described was published in the January 11, 2012 issue of the journal Appetite

Portland Has a Dark Side

Portland at nightJackie and I recently visited Portland, OR. We had a great time. “Portlandia” definitely lived up to its reputation as a vibrant, lively city. If you get the chance to go, definitely check it out (especially Powell’s bookstore and the Japanese gardens, and of course the food scene).

However, as we walked around I couldn’t help but notice a dark side.

Portland residents are known for being physically active and it showed. I didn’t see nearly as many severely obese people as in other cities.

On the other hand, the denizens of Portland also known for being tech savvy and wired in. This showed as well.

Walking down the street in the commercial district I estimate that at least half the people were staring at their smart phone or tablet as they walked.

Not good. That’s potentially dangerous when you’re walking, as a lot of YouTube videos show. But that’s only the beginning. There’s an even worse aspect.

All these healthy young people had the slouched, slumped, forward-head posture that we used to associate only with old age.

Of course it’s not just mobile phones that are to blame. A lot of us spend most of our time sitting at a desk. If we don’t pay active attention to it, our shoulders tend to slump forward and down as the day goes on.

Adding to the problem, we rarely have any reason to move our shoulders outside of a very narrow range right in front of us.

The result isn’t only unattractive. Uncorrected, this forward-head, slumped posture leads to degeneration of the spine and eventually stiff, painful neck and shoulders with very limited mobility.

Gradually, people become less and less capable and more and more injury prone.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not pointing any fingers. My posture is far from perfect. However, since I’ve started using a program I came across, it is better than it used to be and continuing to get better.

Of course I have my excuses for why my posture got so bad in the first place.

I spent years in college and medical school sitting in lecture halls and studying at desks. As a surgeon I spent hours at a time leaning over an operating room table, too often with head bent and shoulders slumped.

Years ago I realized I had an issue when I saw pictures of myself from the side. Sometimes you don’t realize how bad things have gotten until you see a picture.

Around the same time, I also had a shoulder injury (I was doing incline bench presses without a spotter and missed getting the bar back on the rack. The torque as the bar fell partially dislocated my left shoulder).

That injury and the pictures led me to pay more attention to my shoulder movement.

Classic static stretching didn’t work at all for me. I guess it’s an okay thing to do after a workout but it’s never helped me gain mobility.
I did some physical therapy and that helped strengthen my rotator cuff but didn’t improve my posture or range of motion very much.

Fortunately, I did find a program that helped me. It uses a series of light exercises and active stretches to not only improve mobility but to integrate it into functional movement. This translates well into everyday life.

I was particularly impressed that it applies sound principles of physiology to get results.

For example, if you contract one muscle the opposing muscle automatically relaxes. If you have the right technique, you can take advantage of this to improve your range of motion around any joint.

This is only one of the ways in which this program is very different from the static stretching most people do.

Even if you don’t have any shoulder issues now, this is a good way to maintain and protect your shoulders.

However, chances are pretty good that your posture could use some improving. The sooner you pay attention to it the better. Still, it’s never too late – things can get better with proper training.

I keep thinking about all the people I saw in Portland with that slumped, forward head position. It’s not just in Portland. Look around and you see it everywhere. This shoulder program really helps. Check it out.