Life Expectancy Dropped for the Third Year in a Row in the U.S. What Are We Doing Wrong

Life Expectancy Dropped for the Third Year in a Row in the U.S. What Are We Doing Wrong

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: July 2, 2019

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With the mind-boggling number of scientific and technological advancements this country has made in the last century, you’d think we’d be living longer than ever. Indeed, life expectancy is steadily increasing across the globe—but not in the United States.
 
Instead of going up, the number of years Americans are expected to live is actually decreasing. According to three reports published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in late 2018, U.S. life expectancy dropped for the third year in a row, continuing an extremely troubling trend. What are we doing wrong?
 
One of the more upsetting aspects of the CDC’s findings has to do with the ways in which people are dying. The nation’s drug epidemic as well as rising suicide rates were major contributing factors to the drop in life expectancy. Drug overdoses and suicides reportedly cost over 70,000 and 47,000 lives, respectively, in 2017. Both of these numbers were up from the previous year. As CDC director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said in a statement, “Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”
 
Considering that so many of these tragic deaths could have been prevented, perhaps we should stop asking what we’re doing wrong and start considering what we can do instead. Here are some ways you can be proactive about your health and potentially lengthen your life.
 

Lower Your Stress Levels

Too many of us are running ourselves ragged, and it’s taking a toll on our health. Between hustling to make ends meet and taking care of family, it can be pretty hard to avoid getting stressed out. But when stress becomes chronic, it becomes a problem. Chronic stress has been linked to conditions like heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, and more.
 
When it comes to reducing stress, it may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. For me, exercise and meditation are my most powerful weapons against chronic stress. I share some of my thoughts about challenging myself to complete an Ironman triathlon here. As for meditation, learning how to practice this science-backed relaxation technique can be as easy as downloading a smartphone app. You can see a list of my favorites here.
 

Focus on Whole Foods

Adjusting your diet to increase longevity isn’t rocket science—it’s simply a matter of cutting down on the amount of processed food you eat and focusing on fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Making these changes can go a long way in reducing your risk of developing health problems like heart disease.
 
In fact, research in the field of epigenetics, which looks at how chemical and environmental factors impact our genetic health, has shown that dietary changes can lower your risk of heart disease even if it runs in your family. One study found people who ate more fruits and vegetables were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease even if they carried copies of the gene that increases the risk of heart problems, effectively “turning off” the gene.
 

Live with Intention

I strongly believe that setting goals and sticking to them can help you live a longer, healthier life. (I even gave a TED Talk about this, which you can watch here). One meta-analysis of ten studies following 136,000 people for around seven years found those who reported a feeling of higher purpose in life lowered their risk of death during the study period by approximately 20 percent, and they also had less chance of developing heart disease.
 
The study shows an association between purpose and increased lifespan rather than a cause and effect relationship, but its implication—that knowing what you want out of life and having a plan to get it can add years to your life—is significant.
 

Consider This Your Wake-up Call

The downward trend in U.S. life expectancy is troubling, but it’s also a wake-up call. To learn more about taking control of your health, sign up for Dr. Spar’s Performance Health Bulletin. You’ll get the best scientifically-validated health tips and articles sent straight to your inbox.
 

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About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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Design a Nutrition & Fitness Program for Your Genes

Design a Nutrition & Fitness Program for Your Genes

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: June 12, 2019

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Nutrition & Fitness Program, Man at tennis court preparing to play. Adjusting arm band

Genetic testing is big business. More than 26 million people have taken an at-home ancestry test, according to a report issued by MIT Technology Review in early 2019. In fact, the industry seems to be accelerating – as many people purchased an ancestry test in 2018 as in all other years combined.
 
But ancestry tests are just the tip of the iceberg. Over 500 laboratories offer genetic testing, and current technology allows us to test for over 2,000 health conditions ranging from common to rare. Some of the types of genetic testing now on offer include:

  • Diagnostic Testing: this involves checking for conditions that could cause a person to get sick in the future so they can figure out in advance how best to treat and/or manage these conditions.
  • Pre-Symptomatic and Predictive Testing: these tests identify genetic variations that increase a person’s risk of developing certain diseases so they can make lifestyle changes that could potentially decrease that risk.
  • Carrier Testing: this tells people if they carry a genetic variation that can be passed onto their children, causing them to develop the disease or become carriers themselves.

While some people find the advances in genetic technology frightening because they worry about the implications of so much personal data floating around, I couldn’t be more thrilled by this progress. Why do I find genetic testing so exciting? Because it arms you with knowledge that, when used correctly, may alter the course of your life—in a good way.
 
Once you learn about your genetic makeup, you can make all sorts of powerful and personalized lifestyle choices, and you can even design a nutrition and fitness program for your genes. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
 

Affecting your genes with epigenetics

You may be genetically predisposed to certain conditions, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to develop them. Far from being at the mercy of your genes, you can affect which ones are turned on and off through lifestyle choices like diet, exercise, and stress management. The rapidly advancing field of epigenetics, the study of how chemical and environmental factors impact our genetic health, has revealed many ways in which we can influence our genes.
 

Change your diet, change your genes

Making dietary changes can have a profound impact on your genetic health. One study found people who ate more fruits and vegetables were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease even if they carried copies of the gene that increases risk of heart problems, effectively “turning off” the gene.
 
More recently, scientists were able to identify an epigenetic marker and two genes that caused heart failure in the children and grandchildren of fruit flies experiencing heart dysfunction caused by a high fat diet. Remarkably, they found that reversing the epigenetic modification or over-expressing the responsible genes protected subsequent generations from the negative heart effects of the high-fat diet consumed by their parents.
 

Exercise your way to better genes

Altering your diet isn’t the only lifestyle change that can positively affect your genes. Exercise also appears to change the shape of our genes, as well as the way they function. In one study, researchers found that exercising led to significant changes in the DNA of subjects’ muscle cells.
 
The takeaway from this study? Your workout program can positively impact not just your physical fitness but your overall genetic health. As the study’s leader, Malene Lindholm, told the New York Times, “Through endurance training—a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn’t cost much money—we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life.”
 

Personalize your nutrition and fitness program

Interested in learning more about how you can design a nutrition and fitness program for you genes? Set up a free Tack180 consultation. We offer a Weight Loss & Fitness program with genetic testing to analyze your unique health risks, then we work with you to build personalized recommendation strategies based on your results. Why guess at the lifestyle changes that will be most beneficial for your body when you can find out for sure? Once you arm yourself with knowledge about your genetic makeup, it can serve you in achieving your goals for the rest of your life.

For the latest on epigenetics and other hot health topics, sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get the best scientifically-validated health tips and articles sent to your inbox.
 

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About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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The Most Effective Fat-Burning Workouts

The Most Effective Fat-Burning Workouts

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: May 28, 2019

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Fat-Burning Workouts for Men, man doing workout routine with shirt off

One of the the things I hear over and over again from my patients is how hard it can be to find time for exercise. Let me tell you, I get it! As a physician with a family who also happens to be an Ironman triathlete—an experience I talk about here—I’m painfully aware of how tough it can be to squeeze in a workout.
 
My strategy? Instead of wasting precious time on inefficient exercise, I focus on moves and fitness routines that I know will help me reach optimal health. Here are three highly effective fat-burning workouts for men.
 

High intensity interval training (HIIT)

Sometimes called speed interval training, HIIT involves alternating between bursts where you go as hard as you can and short periods of rest. This type of intense exercise burns more fat and calories than typical aerobic workouts, and has been shown to boost your metabolism for up to 48 hours afterward. In addition to effectively burning fat, HIIT may help keep you young—a recent study found this type of vigorous exercise may stop or even reverse the age-related decline in the cellular health of your muscles.
 
Because you’re giving 100% during active intervals, you don’t need to spend hours at the gym to see results. Most HIIT workouts can be completed in under 30 minutes! And because HIIT doesn’t require any special equipment, it can be done anywhere, any time—even in a hotel room while traveling.
 

CrossFit

As the official CrossFit website explains, “While CrossFit challenges the world’s fittest, the program is designed for universal scalability, making it the perfect application for any committed individual, regardless of experience. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change the program. The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.”
 
I love this theory, but I do find people get caught up in the competitive nature of Xfit and push themselves harder than they should, risking injury. So be sensible, learn the proper techniques of each exercise before doing it, and only compete against yourself. While you’re at it, see my post here to learn about which supplements you can take to maximize your CrossFit performance.
 

Orangetheory

Orangetheory is a science-backed, technology-tracked, coach-inspired group workout designed to produce results from the inside out (how’s that for a mouthful?). During the one-hour Orangetheory class, professional coaches guide you and tailor the workout to meet your individual needs. The workout changes every day, allowing you to continuously challenge your body (and avoid boredom).
 
Group exercise definitely keeps people motivated. Orangetheory is great for guidance and enforcing accountability; I know it is popular among my patients.
 
Remember, the most effective workout is the one you’ll actually do. Hate running? Don’t try forcing yourself to do it, because you won’t. If you choose something you actually enjoy, you’re much more likely to stick with it. Can’t seem to get yourself to the gym? Make plans to meet a friend there. It’s harder to blow off a workout when it means blowing off a buddy in the process.
 
Another excellent way to meet your fitness goals is to set and declare a clear intention. In one study that measured how often people exercised over two weeks, researchers randomly divided 248 people into three groups. In the control group, participants were asked to keep track of how often they exercised and instructed to read a few paragraphs of a novel. In addition to being asked to track exercise, the second group read a pamphlet on the benefits of exercise for reducing heart disease and heard a motivational speech. The third group did everything that the second group did, but were also asked to come up with a plan explicitly stating where and when they intended to exercise.
 
At the end of the two-week study period, only 38% of people in the control group and 35% of the second group exercised at least once a week. What happened to the third group, where participants wrote down exactly what they planned to do? A whopping 91% of this group exercised at least once a week (more than doubling their odds)! See my post here for more on the importance of purpose.
 
Interested in personalized advice on the best workout for your body type? Contact Tack180 for a free consultation. Not only will we devise a customized plan of attack, we’ll help you stick to it. And to have the best scientifically-validated health tips and articles sent to your inbox, sign up for Dr. Spar’s Performance Health Bulletin:
 

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About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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Top 3 Supplements for Hair Growth

Top 3 Supplements for Hair Growth

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: May 15, 2019

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Supplements for Hair Growth, balding man staring back at you through a mirror...

Hair loss can be tough to handle. You have so much power when it comes to optimizing your physical and mental health, but when your hair starts thinning, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
 
Or is there?
 
As I explain here, hereditary hair loss (androgenic alopecia) is typically caused by a combination of genetics, male hormones, and advancing age—although it can happen at any time.
 
So far, scientists haven’t been able to find a “cure” for hair loss, but there are steps you can take to keep your hair and scalp healthy. Here are my top three supplements for hair growth.
 

Omega 3 fatty acids for strong, thick hair

I’ve already touted the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from sources like fish oil for heart and brain health, but it turns out they’re also important for strong, thick hair. Numerous studies have shown that omega-3s nourish the hair and support its growth, and they also reduce the inflammation sometimes associated with hair loss. In addition to making your hair look healthy and shiny, omega-3 acids can give your skin a more hydrated and youthful appearance.
 
Not interested in getting your omega-3s from fish? Flaxseed oil is a good vegetarian source of omega-3s and is one of the ingredients in the popular hair growth supplement Viviscal Man. If you have a problem finding flax oil, you can buy whole flaxseeds, grind them up with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, and add them to smoothies or oatmeal.
 

Biotin to promote hair growth

Biotin is a B vitamin that has long been recommended by dermatologists and other experts to prevent hair loss. Biotin supports your scalp and hair follicles, promoting healthy hair growth. Like fish oil, it can also reduce inflammation that may lead to hair loss.
 
Taking a B complex supplement is a great way to ensure that you’re getting enough biotin, as well as other B vitamins like folate and panthenol (Vitamin B5) that may help with hair growth. I always tell my patients to choose a B complex that contains methylated forms of B vitamins. Why does methylation matter? Up to 30 percent of the population has an MTHFR genetic abnormality that prevents their bodies from metabolizing unmethylated B vitamins like folate and B12. If you’re in this 30 percent and you’re taking an unmethylated B complex, you’re throwing your money away—and possibly hurting your health in the process. You can also get these vitamins in foods like avocado, beans, nuts and eggs.
 

Zinc

Zinc is one of the most consistently deficient micronutrients when we test nutrient levels as part of our Tack180 optimal health program. Not only is zinc important for sexual health (for sperm production and prostate health), it’s also key in maintaining healthy hair follicles. Zinc is even an effective treatment for a disease of hair loss called alopecia areata. I recommend 15- 30mg of Zinc along with around 1.5-3 mg of copper, because the body likes to keep around a 10:1 ratio of zinc to copper.
 
If you notice hair loss, have your zinc level checked. And if you’d prefer food sources over-supplementation (nature is always better than any manufacturer of supplements), rich sources of zinc are legumes, seeds, nuts, shellfish, and eggs.
 

Protein to prevent hair thinning

Lastly, I just want to add that since your hair is made almost entirely of protein, it makes sense that not getting enough of it can inhibit hair growth. In one animal study, a reduction in dietary protein led to thinner hair, and it appeared to negatively affect hair growth as well.
 
I don’t think protein deficiency is much of an issue among the readers of this blog, but if you want to check how much protein you need vs how much you are eating, check out this other blog post. All it takes is some simple math to approximate the optimal amount of protein for your body. The general method for calculating your recommended daily allowance (RDA) is to multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36 grams of protein. If math isn’t your strong suit, you can use an online calculator like this one. Just remember that other factors (like how much you exercise) will affect your protein needs.
 
Although it’s good to have an idea of how much protein you need, quality is actually more important than quantity. Healthy protein sourced from fish and plants isn’t just good for promoting hair growth—it can also lower your risk of developing conditions like heart disease. When shopping for plant-based protein supplements, look for powders made from ingredients like pumpkin seeds and peas. I like the vegan protein powders by Vega.
 
One thing to keep in mind when you take supplements for hair growth is that these things don’t work overnight. They’re not a quick fix, but when you take them consistently over time, you’ll likely start to see benefits.
 
To learn more about how supplements can optimize your health, sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get the best scientifically-validated health tips and articles sent to your inbox, and we’ll also send you a free copy of my “Top 10 Supplements for Men” guide.
 

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About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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Best Ways to Diagnose and Treat ED Part II

Best Ways to Diagnose and Treat ED Part II

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: May 7, 2019

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Erectile dysfunction, Best Ways to Diagnose and Treat ED Part II, Man staring out the window thinking, wearing dress shirt and tie

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is treated pretty casually, but many people don’t realize how incredibly common this condition is. In fact, millions of Americans are affected by ED—including 1 in 2 men over the age of 40. I’ve written about ED before, but I’d like to take another opportunity to pull back the curtain on this needlessly taboo topic. Let’s take another look at the best ways to diagnose and treat ED.
 

What is erectile dysfunction?

Also known as impotence, erectile dysfunction is defined as an inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sex. Men with ED may also experience symptoms of sexual dysfunction like low libido or difficulty orgasming.
 

What causes erectile dysfunction?

There are a number of physical conditions associated with ED, including:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Atherosclerosis (clogged blood vessels)
  • Alcoholism/other substance abuse
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep disorders

 
ED is also a potential side effect of many prescription and over-the-counter medications. These include blood pressure drugs like hydrochlorothiazide (abbreviated as HCTZ) and atenolol, antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), anti-anxiety medications like diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan), muscle relaxants like cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), and even over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl and Dramamine.
 
These are only partial lists, so one of the first steps in treating ED would be to look at what medical conditions you might have that aren’t optimally under control or what meds and supplements you are taking.
 
Just as common, if not more, but often harder to recognize are psychological causes of ED. Both depression and anxiety can interfere with a man’s ability to have and enjoy sex. Stress is another big contributor to ED—whether it’s relationship problems, preoccupation with work, or general distress about the state of the world.
 

How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?

Although it may not seem like the kind of thing you need (or want) to see a doctor about, those who suspect they have ED should always be evaluated by a medical professional. This is especially important because ED is associated with so many health conditions—you may have something going on with your health that’s causing ED and not know it (like plaque in your arteries which can be a big risk for having a heart attack – so ED could be an early warning sign of heart problems).
 
An ED evaluation typically includes a detailed medical history (including information about your sex life), followed by a thorough physical examination. Your doctor may also want to order lab work like a urine test, morning serum testosterone test, and/or a lipid profile.
 

What are the best ways to treat erectile dysfunction?

Although they tend to be the punchline to jokes, prescription drugs like Viagra and Cialis really can work well to treat ED by improving blood flow to the penis. If you receive an ED diagnosis, you and your doctor can discuss medication options.
 
Pills (and jokes) aside, lifestyle changes can be an excellent way to manage ED symptoms. For men whose weight may be causing ED, something as simple as getting more exercise may help. As I explain here, a study of obese men with ED who restricted calories for two years and were advised to be more active found that participants not only lost weight but also experienced decreased severity of their ED. Aerobic exercise provides the added benefit of improving blood flow throughout the body.
 
Finding ways to get your stress levels under control can also be incredibly helpful for treating ED. If you’re struggling with relationship problems or mental health issues like anxiety and depression that might be causing ED, talking to a professional who can help you work things through is a good idea.
 
Another great way to lower your stress is through meditation. Although it may seem a little out there, mindfulness meditation is scientifically proven to effectively relieve stress. In one study, people with generalized anxiety who followed a stress-reduction program based on mindfulness were considerably less anxious than those in a control group who were taught other stress management techniques. Meditation is often recommended for people in high-pressure fields like medicine, and it may even be useful for veterans and others dealing with PTSD.
 
Supplements can relieve symptoms of sexual dysfunction, but it can be difficult to separate legitimate products from scams. I suggest working with an expert and sticking to supplements with efficacy backed by solid science. My list of top five supplements to increase sex drive is a good place to start.
 
If there’s one thing I hope you’ll take away from this post, it’s that ED is a common—and treatable—problem. Don’t let shame hold you back from seeking help and taking control of your health. Sign up for my newsletter for more information:
 

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About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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What’s the Best Anti-Aging Skincare for Men?

What’s the Best Anti-Aging Skincare for Men?

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: May 1, 2019

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Best Anti-aging Skincare for Men, beautiful man with great skin holding face

We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but your appearance is generally the first thing people notice about you—and they tend to judge you for it. The way your face looks is particularly key to how others see you. Research suggests that the condition of your skin influences perceptions about your age, attractiveness, and overall health. You may have the body of a Greek god and the brain of a genius, but science tells us it’s ultimately your skin condition that makes the biggest impression (for better or worse).
 
Worried that your skin might be giving people the wrong idea? The good news is that there’s a multi-million dollar industry devoted to skincare. Although many products that claim to reverse aging are nothing more than clever marketing campaigns, there are a number of effective, scientifically-backed ingredients that can improve the condition of your skin. Here’s some of the best anti-aging skincare for men.
 

Collagen

A protein found throughout your body, collagen plays many important roles, including helping your skin maintain elasticity. But collagen production declines as you get older, which can lead to wrinkles, sagging, dryness, and other skin issues associated with aging.
 
Although you can’t stop collagen loss, you can work to replace it. Studies show collagen supplements can improve the appearance of your skin. In one study, oral collagen peptide supplementation significantly increased skin hydration and collagen density, among other anti-aging effects.
 
In another study where subjects were randomly given either a collagen supplement or a placebo, those who took collagen experienced a significant improvement in skin elasticity within just four weeks.
 
The market for collagen supplements has really exploded recently. With so many choices on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? Many experts like collagen powders because they seem to be the most easily absorbed by the body. I’m a fan of the Vital Proteins brand, especially the Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides powder. It dissolves quickly and completely and is unflavored, meaning you can add it to any liquid—even your morning cup of coffee.
 

Retinoids

Derived from vitamin A, retinoids are one of the very few wrinkle treatments approved by the FDA. Why? Because they work, according to research. Several studies have shown that retinoids can reduce signs of aging as well as sun damage. With so much evidence supporting their efficacy, it’s not surprising that using retinoids is dermatologists’ second-favorite piece of advice behind wearing sunscreen.
 
There are a number of potent prescription retinoids available, but they may cause side effects like dryness and peeling. If you prefer something milder, look for an over-the-counter cream that contains retinol. Whatever type of retinoid you choose, be sure to wear sunscreen while using it. These products cause photosensitivity, meaning they make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
 

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

When your skin cells are damaged by free radicals, they’re more vulnerable to signs of aging like wrinkles and dark spots. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a powerful antioxidant that works to protect your cells from the attacks of free radicals and the oxidative havoc they wreak. As a side benefit, ALA also improves insulin sensitivity.
 
Both internal and topical use of alpha-lipoic acid have been shown to possess anti-aging properties. In one study, subjects who applied a cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid experienced a reduction in facial lines and pore size, as well as overall improvement in skin texture and color. No negative side effects like skin irritation were reported.
 
In addition to face creams, topical alpha-lipoic acid is frequently featured in lip care products, since it seems to be uniquely effective at diminishing those pesky lines that develop in the mouth area as we age.
 
While they’re not necessarily associated with skincare, anti-aging supplements can be useful for restoring youthful vitality to your entire body (including your skin). You can see a list of my top 10 anti-aging supplements for men here. And for all the latest, cutting-edge information on anti-aging products and technology, sign up for Dr. Spar’s Performance Health Bulletin. You’ll get the best scientifically-validated health tips and articles sent to your inbox, and we will send you a free copy of my “Top 10 Supplements for Men” guide.

 

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About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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Feeling Foggy? Try These Tricks to Boost Your Cognitive Performance

Feeling Foggy? Try These Tricks to Boost Your Cognitive Performance

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: April 9, 2019

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There are lots of reasons a person may wake up fuzzy-headed—one too many drinks the night before, not enough sleep, or maybe a combination of both. But for many men, this lack of cognitive clarity is a perpetual problem that goes beyond the occasional morning hangover.
 
In addition to the aforementioned triggers like overindulgence in alcohol or lack of rest, cloudy thinking can be attributed to a number of different causes. These include:
 

  • Food sensitivities/allergies
  • Stress
  • Medication side effects
  • Dehydration

 
No matter what’s behind it, feeling foggy doesn’t have to be your fate. Here are some tricks to help you boost your cognitive performance.
 

Nootropics

Also known as “smart drugs,” nootropics are getting a lot of attention for their potential ability to boost brain function. Popular in Silicon Valley with entrepreneurs hoping to edge out the competition as well as on college campuses across the country, nootropics purportedly help you stay sharp and focused, but the data on some of them (like piracetam) is far from conclusive. They also have side effects, which is why I’d recommend doing some trial and error to see what works for you.
 
Here are a couple of my favorite natural nootropics. See my post here for the complete list.

  • Phosphatidylserine (PS) – Research indicates supplementing with PS derived from cows may help reduce the cognitive decline that often accompanies aging.
  • L-theanine – Unlike stimulants such as Adderall that may cause jittery (and potentially serious) side effects, L-theanine can help you relax and focus at the same time.

 

Meditation

For me, nothing clears away the fog like a few minutes of mindfulness. When talking to patients who think this useful and accessible tool might be a little too “out there” for them, I like to let the science speak for itself. Do you find it hard to focus at work because you’re so stressed out and wound up? Meditation has been proven to relieve anxiety, and research indicates meditation can help lower stress and prevent burnout for people in high-pressure and fast-paced fields like health care.
 
Meditation may also improve your memory and decision-making abilities by increasing the amount of grey matter in the frontal cortex of your brain. Studies involving brain scans and meditation found that meditators in their fifties had the same amount of grey matter in one part of the prefrontal cortex as people in their twenties in spite of the fact that the cortex is known to shrink as we age.
 
Intrigued by the science-backed benefits of meditation but unsure where to start? It’s as simple as downloading an app to your smartphone. You can see a list of my favorites here.
 

Micronutrient Testing

For some people, feeling foggy may be a side effect of nutrient deficiency. For example, insufficient B12 has been associated with problems with thinking and reasoning as well as memory loss. In one study involving 121 adults aged 65 and older, researchers found that participants who had the markers linked to vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to have the lowest scores on tests that measured memory and concentration—as well as the smallest brains.
 
Nutrient deficiency is one of the more insidious causes of brain fog because you don’t know that you’re missing something, much less what you’re missing. That’s why I’m a big proponent of micronutrient testing. Knowing your body’s deficiencies can change your brain health because a few simple tweaks can fix problems you didn’t even know you had. It can also help you stop wasting money on pricey supplements you don’t need. Check out Tack180’s micronutrient testing below, or for more details on common nutrient deficiencies among men, see my post here.

 

Get Micronutrient Testing

 

As I said at the beginning of this post, feeling foggy doesn’t have to be your fate. When you take charge of your own health, you realize that implementing a few simple lifestyle changes (like these tricks to boost your cognitive performance) are sometimes all it takes to elevate your game from average to exceptional.
 
To get the best scientifically-validated health tips and articles sent to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter, Dr. Spar’s Performance Health Bulletin. To start you off, we’ll send you a FREE copy of my “Top 10 Supplements for Men” guide.

 

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About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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Reverse the Signs of Aging: How Anti-Aging Supplements Work to Keep You Feeling Young

Reverse the Signs of Aging: How Anti-Aging Supplements Work to Keep You Feeling Young

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: March 26, 2019

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One of the most valuable lessons we learn in our lives is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This concept definitely holds true when it comes to supplements, particularly those purported to reverse aging. Who really believes they can pop a pill at bedtime and wake up looking 10 years younger?
 
While it’s true that many of the claims made about anti-aging supplements are wildly exaggerated, some of these products are actually worth the money. The key is to choose ones backed by solid science that provide legitimate results. Here are some of my favorite anti-aging supplements that can help to reverse the signs of aging and work to keep you feeling young.
 

Nicotinamide Riboside

Nicotinamide riboside has been getting a ton of buzz in the supplement world, and with good reason. A form of vitamin B, nicotinamide supports your cells’ mitochondria, which are responsible for energy production. How does nicotinamide work? It’s converted by the body into a coenzyme called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) that powers many key biological processes. These include:
 

  • Conversion of food into energy
  • DNA repair
  • Fortification of cell defenses
  • The setting of circadian rhythm/internal clock

 
Talk about critical functions! But the amount of NAD+ within your body gradually decreases as you get older, and low levels of it have been linked to a number of chronic, age-associated diseases.
 
Enter nicotinamide riboside supplements, which have been shown to elevate levels of NAD+ in the body. And they appear to be safe as well as effective. In a small, open-label study looking at the effects of oral nicotinamide riboside supplementation, the supplement was well tolerated and no adverse events were reported. Based on their findings, the researchers behind this study concluded that nicotinamide riboside “may have potential as a therapy in patients with mitochondrial dysfunction due to genetic and/or acquired diseases.”
 

Sea Buckthorn Oil

Extracted from the fruits and seeds of the sea buckthorn plant, sea buckthorn oil is packed with potent active ingredients known for their ability to regenerate, repair, and protect. One of these is palmitoleic acid (omega-7), a fatty acid that has been shown to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, regulate metabolism, and more. In one study of middle-aged, overweight individuals, supplementing with 220 mg of omega-7 fatty acid for one month significantly reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP).
 
As I explain here, CRP is a protein that plays a role in your body’s inflammatory response, and research suggests a link between high CRP levels and heart attack risk. Researchers found that omega-7 supplementation also helped maintain triglycerides as well as HDL and LDL cholesterol. More and more research indicates that inflammation is at the root of nearly every health problem that affects us as we age, making sea buckthorn a good addition to your supplement regimen.
 

Pyrroloquinoline Quinone (PQQ)

I’ve already touched on the crucial role cell mitochondria play in keeping your body humming, and PQQ is another supplement that can help protect your mitochondria. This compound found in plants has strong antioxidant properties that enable it to prevent oxidative damage to cells while promoting the spontaneous regeneration of new mitochondria in aging cells.
 
Much of the research around PQQ has focused on its ability to protect against memory loss and cognitive decline. In one study looking at the effects of PQQ and CoQ10 (either alone or together), rats fed PQQ showed improved memory function and learning ability, leading researchers to conclude that “PQQ is potentially effective for preventing neurodegeneration caused by oxidative stress.” Preliminary studies in humans have also shown PQQ to be beneficial for brain function, particularly when used in combination with CoQ10.
 
There is no fountain of youth in pill form, but the right supplements can maximize your potential, helping you maintain your natural vitality. I’ll continue to keep you posted on the latest developments in anti-aging supplements, but in the meantime, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter, Dr. Spar’s Performance Health Bulletin. You’ll get the best scientifically-validated health tips and articles sent to your inbox, and we’ll send you a free copy of my “Top 10 Supplements for Men” guide to get you started.
 
To order these or other supplements that Dr Spar recommends for brain health, go to his online store that is part of the Fullscript online dispensary.
 

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Once you create an account you go to the box that says “shop by dispensary categories” on the left. The “Brain” dropdown from that box will pull up his recommended supplements including those mentioned here.

 

About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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Cognitive Testing: Worth a Try?

Cognitive Testing: Worth a Try?

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: March 18, 2019

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Last week you were late to work because you couldn’t find your keys, and yesterday you forgot the name of a guy you’ve known for years. Is your memory getting worse, or are you just paranoid? Are these kinds of “brain farts” normal, or are they a sign of something serious?
 
If you’re worried that you’re not as sharp as you used to be, or if you simply want to measure your mental prowess, you may want to give cognitive testing a try. These tests are designed to measure intelligence, memory, problem solving skills, and more, and they can be useful for determining where you stand in terms of brain health.

 

What is cognitive testing?

The term “cognitive testing” may bring to mind IQ tests, but cognition actually encompasses much more than just intelligence. It’s a combination of many different brain processes, including:
 
• Thinking
• Memory
• Language
• Ability to learn new things
• Judgment
 
Cognitive tests are meant to measure these various brain processes in order to check for impairment. They can also be used to determine a mental baseline, an overview of your cognitive health that may help detect decline.
 
While there are a ton of different cognitive tests out there, most of them involve answering questions and/or performing tasks. Cognitive tests don’t typically require any advanced preparation, and they don’t pose any health risks.

 

What causes cognitive impairment?

Our brains age along with our bodies, so a certain amount of decline is to be expected. And we all know that conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia negatively affect cognition. But there are actually a number of other, less obvious causes of cognitive impairment, including:
 
• Thyroid disease
• Nutrient deficiencies (something I write about here)
• Medication side effects
 
Not only can cognitive testing help you spot signs of decline, it may also lead to the discovery of an underlying (and potentially treatable) health condition that’s contributing to the decline.

 

Who should try it?

It’s probably not surprising that the Alzheimer’s Association recommends routine cognitive assessment for people having memory problems, but other “cognitive complaints” can also be red flags that merit a closer look. These include:
 
• Change in personality
• Depression
• Inexplicable worsening of chronic disease
• Balance issues/falls
 
Early detection of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive conditions is key to effectively treating them, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms.
 
Even if you’re not concerned about mental decline, cognitive testing can be an excellent way to gain insight into your own mind. There are several free online tests that are designed to measure various aspects of how your brain works and your character in general.
 
One of these, the Wonderlic Test, consists of 50 questions devised to measure overall intelligence and is approved by the American Psychological Association for employee testing. It’s also used by the National Football League as part of the player evaluation process. Click here to take the Wonderlic Test and see how your scores measure up to those of NFL players like Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Tom Brady.
 
Another test called the cognitive reflection test was created to measure people’s ability to consider their own cognition. In this test, questions are weighted to suggest easy but incorrect answers to determine whether you’re able to put in the mental work necessary to make the right choice. Interestingly, scientists have found a link between low scores on the cognitive reflection test and an inability to identify “fake news” as fake.
 
Whether you’re experiencing troubling symptoms or simply want a better understanding of how your mind works, cognitive testing can be a useful tool for taking control of your own health. Many people say they’d have an easier time accepting physical deterioration than mental decline, so having an idea of where you stand, cognitively speaking, may help you detect potential problems before they become serious.
 
The free tests are a fun place to start, but if you want a legitimate professional assessment, I’ve partnered with the leading cognitive testing company, Cambridge Brain Sciences whose comprehensive testing platform is backed by 25+ years of neurological research. Give the demo a try by clicking the button below. If you’d like me to send you the full assessment for $25, simply click here.

 

TRY DEMO

 

About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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4 Habits That Help You Prevent Memory Loss

4 Habits That Help You Prevent Memory Loss

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: March 5, 2019

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Do you find yourself losing your keys on a too-regular basis? Are you struggling to keep track of details at the office? Many of us work hard to keep our bodies fit as we age, but we don’t always do the same for our brains. Here are four habits that help you prevent memory loss.
 

Eat Smart
Adding the right nutrients to your diet can seriously boost your brain power. Here are some of my favorite foods for improving cognition and preventing memory loss.

  • Walnuts
    A 2015 study found eating just a few walnuts a day may improve memory and concentration as well as increase the speed at which you process information. Walnuts are high in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to be good for your brain.
  • Salmon
    Salmon and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA that are critical for neurological development and function. Research suggests omega-3s may be able to mitigate age-related deterioration of the brain. One study found older adults who took a DHA supplement for six months showed improvements in learning and memory, indicating “a potentially beneficial role for DHA in preventing or ameliorating cognitive decline” related to aging. Just make sure it is wild because farmed salmon are fed poor quality food and have lower amounts of DHA.
  • Dark chocolate
    The cocoa in chocolate is a nutritional powerhouse packed with bioactive substances like flavonoids that may improve memory and cognition. Look for 70% dark or higher to avoid too much sugar.

 

Supplement Wisely
If you struggle to get enough brain-boosting nutrients from your diet, supplements can be a good option. Here are a few favorites from my list of top supplements for brain health.

  • Resveratrol
    A compound found in red wine and dark chocolate, resveratrol is sometimes called “the longevity molecule” because it has been shown to lengthen the lifespan of many different animal species. Research suggests resveratrol may enhance plasticity of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory.
  • Acetyl-l-carnitine
    Preliminary research suggests supplementing with acetyl-L-carnitine may help slow down cognitive decline associated with aging. A meta-analysis of studies looking at supplementation with acetyl-L-carnitine for periods ranging from 3 to 12 months showed beneficial effects for people with mild cognitive impairment as well as those with early Alzheimer’s disease. Make sure to get the “acetyl-” form when taking this for brain health.
  • Ginkgo biloba
    An herbal supplement with a long history of use, ginkgo biloba is believed to enhance cognitive function. While results have sometimes been mixed, research indicates ginkgo can improve your memory. In one study, middle-aged volunteers were given either ginkgo biloba extract or a placebo every day for six weeks. At the end of the study period, those who took ginkgo were better able to perform the demanding recall task of remembering a list of appointments.

 

Train Your Brain
Have you seen ads for brain-training games and wondered if they were worth your time (and money)? Science suggests the answer is yes. A new study found cognitive training increased the energy efficiency of participants’ brains. In the randomized clinical trial, adults aged 56 to 71 were either given twelve weeks of cognitive training or assigned to one of two control groups. Measuring brain activity, researchers found those in the cognitive training group showed a significant increase in the association between reaction time and frontal lobe activity compared to the control groups, meaning their brains didn’t have to work as hard to perform tasks. I’ve partnered with the leading Boston-based cognition lab, Cambridge Brain Sciences, to provide high-quality cognitive training to my patients. Check out a sample game here and then send us a message if interested in signing up for your own program.
 

Check Your Vitamin Levels
While memory loss is common as we age, it can also be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. To make sure your levels of B12 (and everything else) are where they should be, consider micronutrient testing like the kind offered by Tack180. Knowing your body’s deficiencies can change your health because a few simple tweaks can fix problems you didn’t even know you had. Micronutrient testing can also help you avoid throwing away money on unnecessary supplements by pinpointing exactly what you’re lacking.

It’s never too late to take control of your brain health. For more advice on how to prevent memory loss and reach your mental peak, sign up for Dr. Spar’s Performance Health Bulletin:

 

Sign Up Now

 

About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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