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Highway to Health

August Newsletter

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This week in the New England Journal of Medicine, JoAnn E. Manson, MD finally called it by it's rightful name..."The Magic Bullet." If there were a pill that lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, increased clarity of thinking, elevated your mood, made you more attractive, decreased your risk of heart attack and stroke, increased your bone density and your muscle tone, elevated the good cholesterol (HDL), and lowered your appetite so that you craved sweets less, normalized your more... IF THERE WERE A PILL THAT DID ALL OF THIS IT WOULD SELL FOR 10 DOLLARS A PILL.

But you can have all of this for free...but you have to walk to get it--or run. In the August 26th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Manson showed that women who walked 3 hours per week (at 3 miles per hour) or who did vigorous exercise (jogging) for 1.5 hours per week decreased their risk of hear attack by 30 to 40%!!! There is no reason to believe that the same would not work for men as well as for women.

This means that at least one out of every three heart attacks in women could be prevented by exercise!!! Medicine has come far since I interviewed for medical school and was told that I was just wearing out my knees and using up my allotted number of heart beats by jogging.

****Here's One Important Note from the study. I have noticed that to really start to notice a change in weight and in attitude from running or walking, you have to cover at least 3 miles per day 3 days per week...that's the magic minimum. This study confirms that observation. They don't list the distance, but of course if you walk 3 hours per week at 3 miles per hour you will walk 9 miles (or 3miles, 3 times per week). What about the joggers? If you jog 1.5 hours (90 minutes) per week that's 30 minutes 3 times per week... 30 minutes at 10 minute miles (pace most joggers do) is 3 miles. So, even in the joggers, the magic distance was 3 miles 3 times per week!!! The joggers just took less time to cover the distance.

This is the take home message from this study, Leave your watch at home. Drive 1.5 miles from your house and paint a line on the road or make a notch on a pole or something. Then drive home. Then vow to travel from your home to that spot by foot at least 3 times per week. I don't care if you walk or run. I don't care if you hop on one foot. Just do the distance.

Dr. Manson said, "physical activity is a close to a magic bullet as we get." Finally!! It's been said. We are starting to see the day that Edison predicted when he said the Dr. of the future would spend much time in giving advice and less in prescribing medication.  (If you want more information about how to start a jogging or walking program...see Galloway's book on running)

Unfortunately, most research is funded by drug companies...who really are the good guys and save many lives with their products. Less research is necessarily done on the things that are free (like walking... RiteAide and Roche don't make a dime) So, if you wait for proof of the effectiveness of lifestyle changes before you adopt them, then you miss the benefits.

Two other quickies from the British Medical Journal:

1. Social activity in the elderly is as effective as exercise in prolonging life. No matter what your fitness level and your genetics, you live less if you have less to live for; make connections. Love really is the key to life. BMJ 1999: 319:490-494

2. Adding a weight reduction program simultaneously to a smoking sensation program greatly improved the effectiveness of the program in adult women. This confirms my suspicion that many women resume smoking in order to avoid weight gain. I frequently prescribe Prozac (as weight loss agent) to women when I give them nicotine patches/gum. One benefit I think was overlooked in this program...the ladies were put on very low calorie weight loss programs. Fasting gives a calmness of mind that will help with many stressors whether they be quitting smoking or whatever your latest challenge.

LINK OF THE MONTH excellent resource concerning anything medical or health related. Tailored for the person who is not a physician but detailed enough to satisfy anyone.


Miracle of Fasting, you'll find it at Don't wait for them to prove the benefits of fasting. I predict another 10 to 15 years will pass before established medicine comes to realize the benefits. It took the accepted literature until the 1980's to prove what Hitler knew in the 1940's (that anabolic steroids do increase strength). I don't recommend anabolics for recreational athletes...but the point is that when it comes to some areas of medicine, research moves painfully slow.  Who will finance research on fasting?  No one makes any money when you're therapy is simply to skip a few meals per week.  Miracle of Fasting is the best book I have seen on the next best "magic bullet" second only to love and running.


Charles E. runels Jr., MD