Friday, May 11, 2007
Fit Buddies update
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The CNN Fit Buddies have made it through Week 4 of our weight-loss and fitness challenge. Here's an update on their efforts to eat better and exercise more. Read about their successes and frustrations every Friday here on the Paging Dr. Gupta blog.

CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera
As I look at the next year of trying to lose a lot of weight and get healthy, I worry most about staying motivated and positive. It's so easy to get down on yourself if you have a bad week or you don't seem to lose weight fast enough. I won't claim to have the answer to overcoming this psychological hurdle, but I think you need short-term and long-term rewards to celebrate your successes.

I keep the big-picture goal in the back of my mind but I've attached a prize to it. I've always dreamed of seeing U2 perform in Ireland. So when I reach my goal, I hope to celebrate with a special trip.

But what I think about most often are short-term goals. In a month, my sister is getting married and she's asked me to walk her down the aisle. So now when I don't want to lift weights or go on a bike ride or eat the right food, I remind myself that a tuxedo is waiting for me and I want to look the best I can for her special day. After the wedding, I'll be looking for my next short-term reward.

CNN Domestic director of coverage Stacia Deshishku
I never saw the film "Super Size Me" - but I think I "get it" now. This past week I have had to eat out every night and I have been stunned by the portions. Even a lunch portion is too much for someone trying to eat sensibly! (Of course these are the same portions I had no problem consuming a mere six weeks ago!!!)

But now that I have become acutely aware of my food intake, I feel like I've had an epiphany. Stop the madness - reduce the portions. Now! In self-defense, I've begun ordering my food and a to-go box - simultaneously. I immediately pack up half of the meal. No more lingering dinners that end in a clean plate with very little memory of what all I ate. I am now going to make two or three meals out of one! I'll save money AND unnecessary calories.

CNN Medical News producer Matt Sloane
It feels so good to be back on the wagon. Rewind... when I say it "feels good," I mean figuratively. Physically, I'm not feeling so good. I had a workout last night that I thought would paralyze me for life, but after I walked out the door, I had a great sense of accomplishment!

Now comes another big test: my girlfriend's graduation. Family is coming into town, parties are planned, and then we're heading out on a family vacation, so these are certainly going to be challenges to my new-found glory. But after working as hard as I have this week at my own personal Fit Nation challenge, I see no reason to mess it up now.

One other thing has really helped me this week: The Nintendo Wii! What I love about this system is it's not your typical "sit on the couch and play" device. I was up, moving around, swinging the remote as if I were playing baseball - not as good for me as playing these sports in real life, but I definitely broke a sweat!

Fitness trainer Robert Dothard
I think the training relationship is like many other relationships, professional and personal. We started with "excitement." The Fit Nation was going to be looking on during the process and it was a challenge.

It did not take long for "life" to happen with missed workouts and food logs better suited for a Jay Leno monologue. Can you say "New Orleans?"

Now, we have hit our stride, and the workouts and the nutrition are in a "zone."

Matt is back in town and kicking some butt! Sure, he is using terms like "holy hell" to describe his workouts, but I can already see a change in his physique!

Ed continues to be the "absolute STUD" when it comes to consistency. He has been doing live shots in knee-deep water for CNN all week, but much to everyone's surprise, he found a way to get his workouts in, and to eat healthily on the road.

Last but certainly not least, Stacia AND her husband have become regulars at my training studio. Stacia has also done a computerized nutritional program to turn up the "heat" on Matt and Ed. If you want to give yourself winning odds in a fitness program, bring your family along!

But as all of us who are married know, even when things are going well in a relationship, it still requires work - so until next week, best of luck, and best of health.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
For Mother's Day, focus on the heart
The best gift you can give to your mother this Mother's Day is a heart-to-heart, about well... her heart. It's a fact. Heart disease is the biggest killer of men, and women. Heart disease kills far more women than breast cancer, and yet few people, even doctors, know that. This month, take time to make sure your mom is getting her heart checked out. Today is my mom's birthday and I called her first thing to remind her.

Here are some things to specifically look for: Besides an accurate blood pressure reading, which she should remember for future comparisons, she should get blood tests, including cholesterol and triglycerides. An EKG, or electrocardiogram, which checks the heart's electrical activity, is also a good start. If she has ever had any symptoms, she may need a stress test or another heart study to determine whether she has any calcifications or blockages.

Speaking of symptoms, women don't always have the classic Hollywood heart attack, where one hand comes up to the chest - think Fred Sanford in "Sanford and Son" (Yes, I am dating myself.) Instead, a heart problem may just first look like unusual tiredness, pain in the stomach, arms and neck or just shortness of breath. The biggest defense it to make sure you are thinking about it, along with Mom. I have heard countless stories where a woman, thinking it was indigestion or fatigue, ignored symptoms that turned into a devastating heart attack.

Next Monday, Laura Bush is giving me an exclusive interview about issues related to women's health. She has made this part of her wide platform as first lady, including the national "Red Dress" campaign, which serves as a visual reminder that this disease robs us of half a million sisters, daughters and yes, mothers - every single year.

After six years in my job, I am always surprised that we are still telling people about this relationship between heart disease and women. Is it not as sexy to talk about as other health care conditions? Does women's heart disease need stronger and louder advocates? There are doctors who believe we can eliminate heart disease in women with what we already know, but the first step is getting women checked out. How do we get there? Also, any questions you would like me to ask Laura Bush next week?
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Clinton gets people to care about AIDS
Over the past several years, Bill Clinton has been crafting his post-presidency initiatives. I always thought that would be an amazing thing to think about. After retiring as "leader of the free world," you get to set your sights on just about anything, presumably things that fascinated you most as president, and areas where you feel you can make a difference. He chose two health-care related areas for much of his focus - AIDS and childhood obesity. He told me he chose obesity because of his own struggles with weight, especially as a child. Also, because the obesity epidemic threatens, for the first time ever, to turn back our steadily progressing life span. Stunning.

Yesterday, the former president gave me an exclusive interview to talk about AIDS and a sprinkle of current presidential politics. The success of the foundation has been pretty concrete, by just about anyone's standards. In a day where AIDS achievements are measured by advocacy groups with the loudest voice, the Clinton Foundation has been instead busy negotiating lower drug prices. Thanks in large part to its efforts, those prices are now less than a dollar a day, admittedly still expensive in an area of the world where the per capita income on averages around $800 a year, but still cheaper than ever. Also, the pills are a once daily, very effective medication that offers the real possibility of a normal length of life. President Clinton seemed genuinely pleased with the achievement and was already planning trips back to Africa this summer.

As far as presidential politics go though, the success of Hillary Clinton could truly be a case of good news/bad news for the Clinton foundation. Certainly, as "first gentleman," the former president would be in a position to do many of the things Mrs. Clinton worked on as first lady. Still, it would to some extent take him away from what he has called his life's work, AIDS.

One thing former President Clinton has done is he has kept AIDS squarely in the public eye. Even at a time when our attention has been focused on a million other things, his steady voice still reminds us that HIV/AIDS remains one of the biggest killers in the world. Still, even he has a hard time getting people in the United States to care.

If you had a few minutes with Bill Clinton, what strategies would you offer him to get and keep people engaged on the issue of AIDS?
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
TV time hurting your kids?
As a television news correspondent, I am always struck by how many stories I report about people watching too much television. No, I am not trying to put myself out of a job, but now that I have children, these stories do always catch my attention. The age old question, "How much is too much?" will probably not be answered anytime soon, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has just put out one of the largest and longest term studies on the subject.

I will just go ahead and put it out there - I am guilty. My 22-month-old has been known to sit down and watch an entire episode of "Dora the Explorer." I swear it doesn't happen often, but it is the only time I have seen the little girl sit still for more than a few minutes. It is a blissful reprieve for us, even for just a few minutes. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it's a mistake to let children under 2 watch any television. Uh oh. For children older than 2, the recommendation is no more than 1-2 hours a day.

Their recommendations come from a study that followed almost 700 children (and their mothers) for 20 years. On average, it was from age 13 to 33. They found that adolescents who watched more than an hour of television were at elevated risk for poor homework completion, negative attitudes toward school, poor grades and long-term academic failure. They added that those who watched three or more hours were at elevated risk for subsequent attention problems. The problem seems to lie in something known as the orienting reflex. In a nutshell, because TV offers so many different stimuli in a short period, individuals are more likely to maintain focus only for very short periods.

Of course, not everyone is buying all of this. We checked with the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. They reminded us that this study still does not show a conclusive link between television and ADHD, and that around 50 percent of ADHD cases are genetic.

So, what do you think? Do you limit the number of hours of television your child watches? What are those limits? I am off to do another television segment, but looking forward to your reponse.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Riding scared
"Hey,are you ready for your 42-mile bike ride?" asked my friend.
"Oh yeah sure. Bring it on. When is it again?" said my inner bravado.
"This weekend," replied my buddy.
"Oh really. I must have forgotten," is all I could say. My inner bravado quickly shut up and the wheels of excuses started to churn in my head. As my colleagues talked about their training rides, I began to scheme on how I could get out of riding. Maybe I started to feel a tickle in my throat. I could tell them that I was getting sick. Or perhaps I had to work on Sunday. Alas, I couldn't bring myself to outright lie. It was too late. I had to ride. I had to ready my inner bravado for being embarrassed and bruised.

On Sunday, I got up at 6 a.m. to join 30,000 other people for the Five Boro Bike Tour of New York. For 30 years, they've closed down streets and major highways for one day. Bicycles run the course through Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Of the thousands of people who ride, 13 percent have not trained and do not ride bikes regularly, race organizers say. I guess I was one of them.

As we lined up, I looked at my friend the marathon runner and my other friend who had done a 30-mile training ride last weekend. Would I hold them back? Would I be the weakest link?

As we rode through the city, I began to see it in a way I've never seen before. I grew up in New York, but riding my bicycle on the highway was an entirely new experience. It was amazing. I distracted myself with the scenery.

Every once in a while, we'd see a wiped out biker surrounded by EMTs on the side of the road. An ambulance would come racing by. It reminded me of the CDC statistics: 700 people die every year in cycling accidents, and half a million Americans are treated for bicycle injuries.

Before I knew it, the ride marshals told us we only had eight miles left. What?!? Really. My backside wasn't hurting. I wasn't out of breath. I was feeling good.

In the end, I made it without embarrassing myself. In fact, I did pretty well. It took us about five hours to finish, but the delays were mainly due to rider congestion.

As a reward, my friends and I treated ourselves to pizza, beer and ribs. I began to calculate as I stuffed my belly. I burned approximately 3,000 calories on the five-hour bike ride including breaks. According to, it ranged from 858 to 390 calories an hour, depending on intensity. I drank two beers, ate two slices of pizza and some baby back ribs for dinner. My reward cost me at least 2,500 calories. It turns out the bike ride was nothing to stress over, but maybe I should spend more time training... and thinking about my diet.

From half-marathons to long bike races, are big exercise events intimidating? What's your favorite form of exercise or training? Do you think group physical events inspire better health? Do you think biking is as good a workout as other forms of exercise? Do you have stories of overextending yourself physically?
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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