Category Archives: Personal Health

15 Cups of Coffee Condensed


Since Red Bull first gave us wings in 1997, the energy drink market has exploded.  Exploded to the tune of $10 billion in annual sales.  No wonder so many variations have overrun the drink case at Quick Trip.

We now have, to name a few: Rooster Booster, Amp, Full Throttle, Monster, Crunk, No Fear, Rock Star, and Vegas Fuel.  There’s even one dubbed Cocaine.  Presumably it can be consumed outside of bathroom stalls.

I’ll admit, I down a Red Bull about 3 times a week.  Usually as an afternoon boost at work.  But if I take in more than one small can a day I get, shall we say, twitchy.  Seems I’m not alone.

A recent report reveals a two-fold increase in emergency room visits related to energy drinks over the past 4 years.  That’s 20,000 people a year going to the ER from too much Monster.  One ER physician offered this anecdote:

I had someone come in recently who had drunk three energy drinks in an hour, which is the equivalent of 15 cups of coffee.

Apparently all the Beastie Boys needed to move the crowd was nine Red Bulls.  Seems much easier than 50  cups of coffee.  Therein lies the problem with energy drinks.

No one would, or likely could, drink that much coffee that quickly without a beer bong.  An energy drink requires no such frat house apparatus.  Just pop the top and chug.

So are energy drinks a “health crisis”?  Not quite.  But if you’re drinking more than 2 a day, you may need to look into something else to help with alertness and energy.  More sleep.



How to Sleep

Unfortunately, many folks struggle with getting a good nights rest.  There are numerous reasons for the lack of shut eye, but a first step to ensuring quality sleep is to follow what docs call good “sleep hygiene”.

Good sleep hygiene means following simple steps to give your body’s natural sleep mechanisms a chance to work.

I’m lucky, I’ve never had issues sleeping.  Here’s the sleep hygiene habits I follow to keep it that way:

I brush my teeth by nightlight. Melatonin is the hormone that induces sleep.  It kicks in as darkness increases.  The sooner I dial up the dimness, the sooner melatonin will bring me to dreamland.

And I keep my room pitch black.  No nightlights, heavy shades.  Any light will keep melatonin from spiking.  Just be careful on the walk from the bathroom to the bed.  Especially if your significant other has a habit of leaving shoes and other surprises in your path.

I sleep in a meat locker.  Your body temp rises when you’re sleeping.  Being hot makes it harder to sleep.  Crank the thermostat down when you go to bed, turn it back up when you rise.

My oscillating fan sounds like the ocean.  The shooshing air mildly resembles the crashing of waves.  But, more importantly, the white noise it provides blocks out the things that go bump in the night.

Nookie and Sleep.  That is ALL I do in bed.  My commitment to this means no TV in the bedroom.  You’ll get used to it.  Or at least used to the regular, satisfying hours of sleep.

If none of my habits help, it may be time to talk to your doctor.  Or buy your wife a new mattress.

5 Healthy Habits to Steal

I have plenty, PLENTY, of bad habits.  Most prominently an affinity for beer and fried food.  But thankfully, I’ve also developed several good habits that keep me, generally speaking, on the healthy side of the leger.

So, no matter your bad habits, work to develop good ones.  For potential inspiration, here’s my top 5 healthy habits that mildly offset my beer and wing urges.

  1. No junk food in the house.  I’ve mentioned the importance of this one before.  Keep it out of your pantry/refrigerator and you won’t mindlessly eat it.
  2. Bringing lunch (and dinner) to work.  If I don’t prepare healthy meals to bring from home I will almost certainly, throw down a few bucks for drive thru fare.  If I bring lunch, I’ll eat it.  No matter how good a chalupa sounds.
  3. Weekly grocery shopping.  This drives the previous two habits.  I hit the local supermarket once a week and stock up on healthy stuff.  And then, you know, eat it.
  4. Sleeping right.  I shoot for, and typically get, 7-7 ½ hrs of sleep a night. I make it happen by practicing good sleep hygiene: Pitch black room, thermostat turned down, similar bed times, and using the bed ONLY for sleep and, I believe the Newlywed game called it making whoopee.
  5. Schedule workouts.  I regularly put workouts in my calendar as though they’re a can’t miss appointment.  Then I don’t miss them.

The Poison on Your Face

If you’re a female, this morning you likely applied makeup.  Probably do it every morning.  Eye shadow, concealer, base, and lots of other stuff that at once mystifies and entices me.

Unfortunately, there’s stuff in makeup that is not terribly enticing.  Namely, chemical poisons.

Indeed, it’s possible the stuff you smear on your face contains formaldehyde.  Yes, the same formaldehyde that preserved your biology class frog for dissection.

Not exactly the what you’d put on your money-maker “because your worth it.”

And it’s not just makeup.  Personal care products like lotions, soaps, deodorants, and moisturizers also contain chemical poisons.  Sorry guys, it’s not just a woman’s problem.

How Harmful?

Last week I introduced the concept of hormesis.  The idea that little doses of bad stuff can actually be good for us.  Or, at least, not that harmful.  So are the chemicals in the makeup making us sick?

The Environmental Working Group thinks so.  And although some will disagree, the real answer is no one knows for sure.  It’s difficult to prove exposure to a chemical over time causes disease.  There are just too many other variables.

Still, to me it seems logical that chemical exposure over any length of time is not a good thing.  It’s one reason I stopped wearing eye-liner.

The Best Protection

Avoidance.  Several companies offer chemical free makeup and skin care products.  Checking those out would be option one.  If you’re committed to your brand (as most of us are), push them to cut out the harmful stuff.

And take a multivitamin.  Vitamin’s antioxidant activity is our body’s natural defense against harmful chemicals.  While a healthy diet will fill your body with vitamins, a multivitamin can boost protection from sinister things like lip gloss.

Healthful Priorities: Sleep

Where do your priorities lie?  It’s a tough question to ask ourselves.  It’s difficult to be that honest about what we choose to do with our time.  But we need to ask it.  Often.

I’m going to start asking it of myself.  Since this is a health and wellness blog, I’ll center my questions on healthful priorities.  Perhaps my reflections can help you realize your priorities.

First up, one of the most common misplaced priorities throughout our society, Sleep.

Lately, I’ve de-prioritized sleep.  Not much.  A half and hour or so a night.  Thus far I’m not really feeling the effects.  But I will.  And soon.

What has taken its place?  Honestly? Um, football.  Admittedly, a silly reason.  See, I usually go to bed around 11pm.  Weeknight football games kickoff at 8:30 and last 3 hours.  Sleep suffers for my football fix.

Along with diet and exercise, sleep is one of the 3 pillars of healthy living.   Yet we don’t pay nearly as much attention to it as we should.  Oftentimes, sleep is the first thing to go when our lives get hectic.

So, this month, join me in putting sleep back in its rightful place on our to-do list.  A notch above football.

What silly things have crept into your sleeping hours lately?

Nap Length: Helpful and Hurtful

Proper sleep habits are such an important part of being healthy.  Not enough sleep undermines our attempts at staying healthy.  Lots of folks compensate from missed sleep by taking an afternoon nap.  But how helpful is napping?

While reading my new issue of Men’s Health recently I happened across an article on healthful sleep.  A sidebar on nap length caught my eye.  I found it so informative, and know some regular nappers, ( cough, my wife), I had to pass it along.  I’ve directly copied it below.

10 Minutes: A Quick Fix.  Napping for 10 minutes immediately wards off fatigue and boosts brainpower for at least 2 ½ hours, and Australian study found.  A 5-minute nap? No help.

20 Minutes: Delayed Benefits.  Doubling down will improve your reaction time and performance on alphanumeric tasks.  But not right away-it takes at least 35 minutes to shake off the post-nap mental fog from “taking 20”.

30 Minutes: A Healthy Boost.  You’ll feel drowsy for about 5 minutes afterward, but then more alert and mentally fit for 90 minutes. Still, a 10-minute nap is better; you avoid the hangover effect of a deeper sleep.

45-90 Minutes: No Help.  During a 45-90 minute nap, you drift into deep sleep without completing a full sleep cycle.  “You’ll often feel worse after you wake up than before,” says sleep expert Christopher Winter, M.D.

90-110 Minutes: Signs of Trouble.  The average person’s sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes, the ideal duration for a longer snooze.  But habitual long napping may be a sign of a sleep disorder, Dr Winter says.

-Laura Roberson

Source: Men’s Health Magazine. May 2011. p 100.  

Rule #6: Laugh at everything. Especially yourself.

The final rule is more a rule for life than a rule for health.  Although, I’d argue it’s vital for mental health and possibly the most important of all the rules.  This rule speaks for itself.  Find joy  and humor in everything.    Learn to love the failures and the struggles, the silliness of life, and the humor in all things human.

Laugh when you burn dinner.  Laugh when you trip on a crack in the sidewalk.  Laugh when you get rained on.  Laugh when your team wins.  Laugh when your team loses.  Laughter cures all ills.  Laughter is the best medicine.

Remember  to not take yourself too seriously.  Learn to laugh at yourself.  Especially when your waxing poetic about laughter on a nutrition blog.  Always remember Rule #6: Laugh at everything. Especially yourself.