The Frightening Link Between Chemicals and Male Infertility

Whether you want to be a dad or not, it’s still nice to have the option. Being told kids are off the table for you isn’t the best experience, and it can screw up your current or future life plans in a big way.

And while I hate to be alarmist, the way human fertility is on a downward spiral in general isn’t great news for humanity as a whole. There are a lot of different things causing this trend, but some research I’m going to share with you seems to point toward a more recent love of humanity: the use of chemicals in just about everything.

Male infertility rates soaring

Between 1973 and 2013, male sperm counts declined by over 50 percent, according to an analysis published in the Human Reproduction Update journal (https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article/23/6/646/4035689). In that data, researchers noticed that the largest decline appeared in samples from men in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and North America.

There are a lot of factors that can impact male fertility, but research suggests that chemicals that disrupt endocrines–the messaging system of your body that’s responsible for hormone activity–deserve a large share of the blame for the dramatic decline in male reproductive health. These chemicals are found in many areas of daily life, including herbicides, non-organic foods, plastics and personal care products.

The US currently allows more than 84,000 different chemicals to be used in food, food packaging, household items and cosmetics, and many of these were not thoroughly tested for safety – or even tested at all. In a 2005 study by the Environmental Working Group, researchers actually found that there were around 200 pollutants and industrial chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of US-born babies.

Of course, as noted above, other factors besides chemicals can impact male fertility. Nutritional deficiencies, immune system issues, obesity, stress and a sedentary lifestyle can all wreak havoc on male reproductive health.

Women are also negatively impacted by these chemicals, but male reproductive health is more affected due to how the male reproductive system develops in the womb. At the start, female and male fetuses are pretty identical. Hormones are what drive the differentiation between male and female, so when synthetic chemicals that mimic natural hormones enter the mix, they interfere with biological process that results in a male fetus.

If you’re worried about your reproductive health, speak to your doctor as soon as you can for support and help.

Knock Down Your Resting Heart Rate

I bet you know exactly what your heart rate goes up to at the gym, but do you know what’s like when you’re just sitting there watching Netflix?

It may not seem super important, but your resting heart rate can say a lot about your health and fitness level. A lower heart rate usually means a higher level of fitness, and that’s associated with reduced heart trouble risk. But if your heart rate at rest is higher, it can signal an increased risk of heart problems. That’s why, my friends, it’s time to learn how to get yours down!

A heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minutes while at rest is considered normal, but research has indicated that a rate between 60 to 80 is ideal. A ten-year study published in the The Journal of the American Medical Association (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1104748) found that people who had a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute or less had a lower death risk than those with rates of 70 to 85 beats per minute.

To get your resting heart rate, check in the morning; changes in body position, hydration, and activity levels all affect the measurement. Keep in mind that your age, medications, level of exercise and genetics can also impact your resting heart rate. Once you know what yours is, you can check it several times in a week to see what the trends are, and you can start working on lowering it using the tips below.

Hit the gym

Both strength training and aerobics can help lower your resting heart rate by improving your heart health. If you’ve not yet committed to any sort of regular exercise routine, now’s the time to start!

Reduce anxiety and stress

Of course, this is easier said than done, but anxiety and stress are unnecessary strains on your health. Try walking, reading more–whatever it is that can help you decompress each day. Yoga, meditation and some other activities have also been linked to reduced anxiety and stress.

Get some sleep

Getting the right amount of good, restful sleep improves your heart rate, your health and your performance in general. While recommendations vary, most experts agree that between seven and eight hours of sleep each night is what adults need.

Your resting heart rate is an indication of your heart’s health and performance. Knock that number down to get the most out of your body.

Get More Protein on Your Plant-Based Diet

I’m willing to bet you are on, have tried and are going to try again, or are thinking about trying a plant-based diet. After all, it’s pretty much the thing to do right now, and for good reason. Plant-based diets offer a lot of benefits and can have a great impact on the health of many people.

But, here’s the thing: it can be tough to get all the proteins you need on these types of diets, and you do really need those proteins for your health and your body’s overall performance. Your body uses 20 amino acids, and nine of those are considered vital, the essential amino acids (EAAs).

How much protein do you need?

Your level of activity, age and gender determine what protein level you should aim for. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) in the US is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but that doesn’t account for people who are more active.

If you’re pretty active, you need a bit more than that, but not as much as you may have heard. Studies, including one published in The Journal of Applied Physiology, have put the recommendation for active people at around 0.55 grams per pound of body weight (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2745350).

Once you’ve got your own needs calculated, you can try the methods below to help you meet them.

Aim for complete EAA plants

There are a few plants that have complete EAA profiles–all nine of the essentials in a significant amount–that you can add to your diet. These include buckwheat, quinoa, tofu and hemp seeds.

Combine when necessary

You can combine foods together that don’t have all nine EAAs on their own but do when they are combined. These don’t need to be eaten together, but they should be consumed over the course of an entire day. Some common pairings include nut butter with whole grain bread, rice and beans, and stews or soups that contain both grains and legumes.

Use supplements as needed

Unfortunately, plant proteins are usually more difficult for your body to digest than animal ones, and your body only will absorb and use a fraction of the EAAs in a plant protein. Steps like soaking and sprouting seeds, grains and nuts help, but that’s not always going to be practical.

If you feel you’re not getting enough protein, you can use plant-based protein supplements. This include vegan EAAs and plant-based blends and isolates in powders and other forms.

A plant-based diet can be a game-changer for your health, but you’ve got to always make sure you’re getting enough protein in number and variety!

There is No Age Limit on Strength Training

Do you know that anyone can pump iron, even your grandmother? I’m just going to leave you with that mental image for a while….

Anyway, we are all impressed by those older bodybuilders who look better than we ever did at any age, and while you don’t have to go that far, anyone at any age can engage in strength training for more stable joints and better overall health.

There’s no age limit on training

Just about anyone can do strength training, but shockingly few of us actually do it – even among those of us who exercise regularly. As reported by the Minn Post, close to 60 percent of all adults in the US don’t bother with any form of strength training at all (https://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2018/12/nearly-60-of-u-s-adults-do-no-strength-training-study-suggests/). That’s a lot of people whose sole form of weightlifting is moving a cell phone. While smaller kids, of course, do need to wait until their bones are strong enough, strength training is for people in most age groups, even those in their 90s. It’s one area of exercise that can be tailored to just about any need.

It helps your joints

As Harvard Medical School points out, strength training can help protect and support joints, and it can also ease stiffness, pain and some swelling, even in people with arthritis (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-weight-training-tips-for-people-with-arthritis). Naturally, the thought of starting a strength training program may seem off the wall to someone with arthritis, but when done properly, it can be very beneficial and improve your quality of life.

Choose a trainer who has experience working with people with joint conditions if you have any form of arthritis as they will be able to develop a safe and effective program for you. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, it’s recommended that you do water exercises instead of weights when you are in a period of active inflammation.

The way weights can help boost your joints is surprisingly simple: when you have stronger muscles, they’re better able to support your joints. When you have more muscle and less fat, that’s less strain on your joints, too.

Your joints can cause a lot of problems in your daily life when they develop issues, whether it’s from injury, age or a medical condition. Consider adding strength training to your regular routine to help keep your joints in the best possible shape.

3 Tips for Balancing Your Hormones

Hey readers, guess what? As you’re sitting there right now, the hormones in your body are making everything awesome–or not. These signaling molecules tell your body what work to do, when to do it and for how long. They’re like a bunch of tiny bosses, and how well they run the office has a pretty strong impact on your health and how you feel in general.

Naturally, when your hormones aren’t balanced, it can wreck havoc on your body. For women, for example, it can mean hot flashes, skin breakouts, stomach trouble and more. For men, it can bring weight gain, tiredness, trouble sleeping and other negative effects. To get yourself started on the way to a more level you, here’s what you can try.

Find out what’s lacking

You can have your hormone levels tested by a medical professional to see where you are lacking. Like many other facets of life, too much isn’t good; hormone levels that are too high aren’t any better than those that are too low. When you know what your baseline is, you’ll be able to target the hormones that are out of whack instead of messing up in areas where your body is doing just fine. As you make adjustments, you may want to get more testing done to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Eat more real food

Processed food in general just isn’t good news for your hormones. Dangerous types of fats and refined carbs can cause hormone levels to rise, and this may even be behind menopausal symptom severity for women. Sugar, unhealthy oils, processed salt and other chemical additives can alter critical hormone levels and are to be avoided as much as possible, too.

Try Ashwagandha for your thyroid

Your thyroid hormones are responsible for the all-important speed of your metabolism, and some studies have found that the herb may help normalize thyroid levels. In a study in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that Ashwagandha boosted thyroid levels when compared to a placebo they used (https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2017.0183). The study used 600 mg daily doses of the root extract, but there is not yet a consensus on the ideal dose. Keep in mind that if taken in very large quantities, Ashwagandha can cause stomach upset.

Your hormones, though they’re never seen, have a profound impact on how you feel and your health every single day. Remember the tips above so you can get your hormones back on a level playing field.

One is a Dangerous Number for Your Heart, As It Turns Out

So, my friends, it just so happens that one isn’t just the loneliest number; it can also mean some disastrous things for your heath health. When you feel alone, isolated and just disconnected from others, it not only impacts your mental state but your heart health.

Loneliness is a terrible thing to experience on its own, and the findings of a study on how it impacts your health are pretty alarming.

The recent study, which was carried out by scientists from the University of Copenhagen and reported on by the Telegraph, included 13,443 people who had had a heart attack. After taking a look at the health outcomes for each person, the researchers found that men who reported being lonely were twice as likely to die a year after their heart attack compared to men who didn’t report loneliness, and women fared even worse at three times as likely (https://www.msn.com/en-ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/loneliness-is-a-killer-the-health-problems-associated-with-an-isolated-life/ar-AAJWosz?li=BBqrVLO).

Other studies have been carried out on the impact of being alone on your health, and none of them have had good results. Researchers have found that lonely people sleep more poorly, have reduced function and are more likely to have inflammation than people who have a network of family or friends.

While social media may seem like the answer to loneliness, it really isn’t. It’s not been found to be a proper replacement for a community simply because we weren’t made to relate to each other without face-to-face contact. That’s why talking to loved ones over the phone, especially ones who are far away, doesn’t feel the same as seeing them in person.

What you can do

If you feel disconnected from others, you may feel depressed and anxious, and you’re certainly not alone when struggling with loneliness. You can start taking some steps to get yourself back out there and avoid experiencing the negative consequences loneliness can bring, such as:

•       Getting a new job or making some life change
•       Adopting a furry or reptilian friend
•       Joining a volunteer group
•       Working out with other people
•       Using digital media to connect with people when necessary
•       Taking a social media break if it’s making you feel more lonely
•       Learning a new skill

It’s never easy to get back into the community, but trust me: you can do it. Start off easy with one of the steps above to get yourself back out there!

Move Over, 10,000 Steps!

I bet you’ve heard that 10,000 steps is the magic number for good health, the future and that winning lottery ticket… it’s been advertised everywhere so much that I started counting my steps in my head when I forgot my handy counter!

I’m going to take a wild guess and say you, like me, had no idea that the 10,000-steps figure had no basis in science but actually came from an old ad campaign for a pedometer.

We do need to keep moving, don’t get me wrong. As the Washington Post reports, the average US adult spends more than six hours a day sitting, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/the-big-numberthe-average-us-adult-sits-65-hours-a-day-for-teens-its-even-more/2019/04/26/7c29e4c2-676a-11e9-a1b6-b29b90efa879_story.html), and working out later isn’t enough to counteract the negative effects. Nevertheless, taking 10,000 steps doesn’t appear to be necessary to ward off the effects of not moving for hours everyday, and that lengthy recommendation can be a dissuading roadblock for some people.

Where the magic number came from

The idea behind walking for 10,000 steps per day comes from an 1965 ad campaign by the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company to promote their new pedometer at the time. Companies in the US later adopted the same figure, which is why you see it everywhere now.

What you do need

Researchers don’t yet have a firmly established number of steps that you should aim for, but studies have been carried out exploring the matter. A recent study in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal shed some light on this area when it comes to women (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2734709). In the study, researchers found that women aged between 62 and 101–the average age was 72–who took 4,363 steps per day were less 41 percent likely to die over the next four years than women who only took around 2,718 steps. This percentage climbed to 46 percent for those who took 5,905 steps and to 58 percent for those stepping 8,442 times each day.

Researchers did find, however, that there was a “Goldilocks zone,” or an area where benefits leveled off. When the results were examined further, researchers realized that the benefits tended to max out at around 7,500 steps each day.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with aiming for 10,000 steps each day; in general, the more you move, the better off you are. But if you find yourself discouraged because you can’t reach that “magic” number, research is indicating you should still aim for the stars!

It’s Time to Put that Energy Drink Down

I want more energy, you want more energy–I get it. Nothing is worse than having a terrible–or amazing–day ahead of you but feeling like there’s no place you’d rather be than in your bed. I’ve been there, wandering the aisles of the first gas station for that magic of energy in a bottle.

Unfortunately, my friends, I’m here to tell you the jig is up as new research is showing that energy drinks can cause more harm than just that initial crash.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that energy drink consumption may damage your heart (https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/JAHA.118.011318). In this study, 34 participants around 22 years old drank 32 ounces of one of the two energy drinks used in the study or a placebo over a period of 60 minutes for three study days. In between each study day was a six-day washout period during which they did not drink any energy drinks.

All of the participants were healthy, and researchers took their baseline central blood and brachial pressures prior to the start of the energy-drinking portion of the study, in addition to once every half-hour for four hours on study days after they had consumed the drinks.

The results from this study showed that the participants had a longer Qtc interval after drinking the energy beverages, and this lasted for more than the four hours during which the researchers took data. A Qtc interval is a “corrected”–the average over a series of measurements–time from when your cardiac ventricles begin contraction to when they finish relaxing. A long or prolonged Qtc interval, as seen in this study, is a risk factor for heart arrhythmia and has been associated with faster, more chaotic heartbeats that can lead to fainting, a seizure or even sudden death.

Based on the blood pressure readings, researchers also recommended people with high blood pressure avoid energy drinks as they can make this condition worse. It’s worth noting that both energy drinks used in this study had less than 350 milligrams of caffeine, since doses under 400 mg are not believed to influence the results you get from an EKG.

One noted limitation of this study was that it only examined the effects of short-term energy drink consumption and not that of people who drink them all the time. Either way, the message is clear: it’s time to toss those drinks!

Biohacking Tools to Boost Your Brain

Hey, fellow geniuses!

Just kidding, sadly–“genius” is not something I’m often described as, and I’m willing to bet the same applies to you. But just because we’re not on the level of Einstein doesn’t mean we can’t work at boosting our brain power every chance we get, and these tools can help you get there.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

Used by the Golden State Warriors when they head to NBA Championship games, tDCS devices send a low direct current to different areas of the brain, directed by the spots where electrodes are placed. This current impacts the excitability of neutrons, with a positive current used to stimulate brain activity and a negative current used to decease it. Results vary, depending on what brain area is being targeted, what type of current is used and the duration of a session.

This area of treatment is still expanding, but there is already research that shows its potential. In a study published in the Neuroscience Letters journal, sports scientists in Brazil used tDCS on cyclists (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21527314). Some cyclists received real stimulation to the cortex, while others received a placebo. Afterward, all the cyclists rode to the point of exhaustion. The cyclists who receive tDCS had lower heart rates, a higher power output and reported less exertion than those who did not receive stimulation.

Neurofeedback training

Sometimes referred to as “meditation on steroids,” the aim of neurofeedback is to train your brain into functioning more efficiently via stronger self-regulation and to boost brainwave patterns that are desired. People undergoing this type of training have a brain scan and a quantified electroencephalography–a “brain mapping” system–beforehand to determine whether brain function is optimal. After these exams, the training is then tailored to boost and decrease brainwaves based on the results. While there are some home training products available, it’s usually recommended that this type of training be done with a professional practitioner, at least in the beginning.

Brain-train games

There are many brain games out there available for you to sharpen your mind, including Sudoku and crosswords. The best games for brain training will include variety, challenge and novelty.

We only get one brain, and it’s one of the most important organs in the body – it’s the home of your mind and the seat of the controls, so to speak. Tap into the tools above to take your brain to the next level!

There’s Actually An “Exercise” Hormone

Sadly, we all know that what you eat has the most significant impact on your weight, which I am reminded of every time I sigh and pass on that great-looking sugar bomb of a dessert.

Nevertheless, exercise is pretty important too, with so many impacts on your body that I can’t even pin the benefits to just one thing. Now, research has indicated a hormone your body releases when you work out plays a role in fat burning.

The “fat burning” hormone

When you work out, a hormone known as irisin is released in your body, and researchers think it may help you burn fat and keep you from forming body fat to begin with. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Physiology, theorized that irisin boosts the activity of a protein and genes that play a crucial role in the process that turns white fat cells into brown ones, and it also boosts the amount of energy used by those cells. Your body normally produces a little of this hormone, but exercise appears to increase the production.

Wait, what is brown fat?

Brown fat is a type of fat that actually burns energy instead of storing it, which is what white fat cells do. Using animal models, researcher have estimated that just 50 grams of brown fat can burn off around 20 percent of a person’s typical caloric intake in a day. They’ve also found that some groups of people tend to have more brown fat than others, and the findings appear to support the role brown fat plays in a healthy metabolism. More brown fat is found in slender people, younger people and people with normal blood sugar levels than older people, overweight people and people with high blood sugar levels. Essentially, some experts believe that brown fat acts more like muscles do.

It’s time to get moving

Needless to say, exercise has more benefits than just boosting your exercise hormone levels, helping you feel better and reducing your risk of a whole host of diseases and conditions. As reported by the American Psychology Association, working out regularly can even instantly enhance your mood and may help alleviate depression over time (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise).

With all those benefits just a workout away, it’s time to work some exercise into your weekly routine if you haven’t do so already.