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Can a DNA test predict the month of your death?

OCT 5, 2022

Minute 1: Predicting lifespan

It’s a dinner party question for the ages: Would you like to know the exact day on which you will die? Until recently, the date of your demise was in the domain of tarot card readers and snake handling pastors. But with advances in medical science, credible doctors can now use bloodwork and biomarkers to predict the month and year of your death. UFC president Dana White gave it a shot, and he didn’t like the results: “‘He gave me 10.4 years to live’ - Dana White says health scare prompted lifestyle change.” Talk about getting scared straight. White says the results motivated him to overhaul his diet and lifestyle, and he noticed huge changes in his wellbeing as a result. His 10-year battle with sleep apnea was finally over, for instance. White relied on a company called 10X Health System for his test, and it is important to note that many doctors remain skeptical about precise mortality projections. Tests like the one White took can be scary, but we can take comfort in the fact that we’re learning more about how to improve our longevity every day: “Longevity: New clues on how gender, age, other genetic factors may impact lifespan.” Biological gender and genetics play a big role, and males typically have lower life expectancy compared to females. That’s because they’ve got a lower likelihood of seeing a doctor, higher instances of excessive alcohol consumption, increased suicide risk, and more. If you’re looking for a rough estimate of life expectancy without the bloodwork, the Life Expectancy Calculator could be the kick in the pants you need to revamp your health habits. A quick tip everyone can try? Drink a bit of coffee. “Coffee lowers risk of heart problems and early death, study says, especially ground and caffeinated.”

Minute 2: Should the food pyramid be flipped on its head?

The 2013 documentary Cereal Killers brought attention to the fact that “the food pyramid” is overdue for a revision. Lots of what we’ve been told about carbs vs. fats came from studies with flawed methodologies, or even agendas driven by corporate interests, not genuine scientific curiosity. Slowly but surely, the record is being set straight, and these committees and agencies are recognizing, for example, that not all fat consumption is bad. Check out “The FDA Finally Has a Definition for 'Healthy' Food.” The FDA’s revision process began with a debate with the makers of KIND bars, which are mostly made of nuts. Nuts are high in fat, but a little bit of common sense will tell you that simple, natural foods like nuts are generally quite safe to eat. It would be weird to label them as unhealthy, but the FDA did so regardless. Originally, the criteria for healthy food had to do with limited amounts of sodium, fat, and cholesterol. Now, healthy foods can’t contain too much sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar. Note that mono and polyunsaturated fats are far more accepted under these new guidelines. The truth is, there’s probably no single regulatory body or diet expert who has all the answers, and it can help to shop around as you figure out what will work for you. It’s worth noting that even as recently as 2020, there remains a strong corporate influence among government advisory committees, according to “Conflicts of interest for members of the U.S. 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.” #RedefineAsYouDine

Minute 3: Yoga poses every runner can try

We hope that everyone has reached Tom Brady levels of pliability after reading Minute 3 of this SMM issue. Say what you want about TB12 as a health evangelist, but it’s hard to argue that greater flexibility is not good for us. For more ideas on staying flexible, check out these “Three yoga poses that runners should try tonight.” Hips, hamstrings, and quads are all common problem areas for runners and cyclists, but these yoga poses are the antidote to your tight tendon and muscle troubles. Consider the half pigeon: Start with your hands and knees on a yoga mat, and kick back one leg. Then, bring the other leg’s shin up, parallel with the top of the mat and sink your hips towards the ground until you feel the stretch working. Pigeon can be a pretty intense stretch, but in contrast, happy baby pose is about as gentle as it sounds. Lie flat on your back and pull your knees up to your armpits by grabbing the feet. Hold it for about 3 minutes if you really want to relax your hips and core. The last one is a classic for a reason: Downward dog. Once again starting on your hands and knees, shift the weight onto your feet and move your heels towards the ground as you raise your tailbone in the air. It’s okay to keep your knees bent if the stretch is too far for you, just focus on elongating your body. Of course we would be remiss not to steer you toward Runner’s Pose, aka Runner’s Lunge, which is demonstrated in this short video. There are a lot of competing theories on when runners should stretch, if at all, and if you’d like to see some interesting research on the topic, check out “Do Runners Really Need To Stretch? The Evidence Might Surprise You!


Minute 4: How do you measure success in training?

If you ask 10 runners for their definition of success, you’ll probably receive 11 or 12 different answers. It’s really on us to define our own goals and benchmarks when it comes to weekly metrics like mileage and speedwork. For a lot of runners, one widely accepted standard is described by iRunFar as: “The 40-Mile Week.” Andy Jones-Wilkins shares his experience reaching the 40-mile mark after recovering from an injury, and along the way, he spoke to some friends and colleagues to find out what they aimed for. Many coaches and athletes agree that capping volume at 40 miles is a good way to get what you need out of running without putting yourself at risk of overtraining. Nevertheless, others are more ambitious, aiming for 60 to 70 miles per week and requiring a certain amount of elevation gain during their weekly trail runs. Then, there’s the soft metric approach: those who like to measure success in terms of happiness and healthiness. There’s no right or wrong answer here, and any standard that keeps you satisfied is good enough. If you’re looking for new ways to define success, you may want to watch “10 Ways to Measure Success in Running (Other than Pace)!” Remember that your success in training often spills over into other areas of your life, and you can see why in “11 Reasons Why Runners Are More Likely To Be Successful.”

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Never underestimate the power of a good hug. That’s what biologists uncovered when researching oxytocin, the “love hormone” that’s released during acts of physical affection. It turns out that the chemical has a measurable effect on damaged heart tissue, and you can read about how it may be used to treat heart attacks and other conditions in: “'Love hormone' oxytocin may help mend broken hearts (literally), lab study suggests.” While we’re on the topic, it's worth noting that hiking is a powerful tool to build human bond: “Looking To Deepen Your Relationship? Go Take a Hike.”

  • To say that Formula 1 drivers live the fast life is of course an understatement. Their lives aren't only in rapid motion on the track, though. The yearly calendar has drivers changing time zones as often as they swap tires in the pit, producing lots of jetlag that comes with it. If you want a peak into the techniques they use to stay alert between flights, read “What Can Formula 1 Teach Us About Avoiding Jetlag?

  • At the risk of nagging our readers, we will once agains say that every runner should include strength training in their workouts. Not only will it limit your risk of injury, but it can also improve running economy and pace as well. It’s a good way to break out of a plateau in your training, and Polar has put together a guide if you need inspiration on how to start: “Strength Training for Runners | 5 Essential Exercises.” In particular, we like the side-stepping lunge with knee lift, because it activates muscles we don’t usually fire up while running in a straight line. This short video shows the basics of the move.

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

We were deeply saddened to learn of Hilaree Nelson’s passing during a recent Himalayan expedition. Hilaree was a champion skier and mountaineer who constantly pushed the boundaries of what female athletes were expected to do. A day after her body was recovered, this moving tribute observed that: “She was a trailblazer as well, balancing a professional ski career with motherhood like perhaps no one before her. It was a tricky balance: she told us she undervalued herself in the beginning and had reservations about having children given her career.” Some questioned why a mom would take the risks inherent in her career while she had two sons at home. We would note that male mountaineers are rarely scrutinized in the same manner. Her bravery and determination inspired many in the mountaineering community, and her presence will be missed. In the clip below she explains part of her motivation: “I’ve always had this crazy fear, my whole life, of having every day be the same.” The in memoriam video below explores what drove Hilaree to the top of her profession and shares some remarkable footage of her adventures.


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