Monday, October 30, 2017

Ways That Your Partner Relationship Can Affect Your Health

Can your romantic relationship make a difference in your overall well-being? Research shows that strong partnerships can help us avoid illness, adopt healthier habits, and even live longer. On the other hand, troubled relationships tend to breed stress and weaken immunity. Today's blog post will share just a few ways that your health is affected by the partner relationship you choose.



First, I must say that I've never been happier in a relationship than I am at this point in my life. For over two years I've been with Kelley (pictured above) and we've been engaged for one year. We've both experienced the stress and turmoil associated with disharmonious relationships and divorce, and we both feel blessed beyond measure to have found one another. We are truly happy to be getting married next year and building our home together! Between us we have eight wonderful children (six of whom are adults) and both of us are committed to a loving, mature and healthy relationship as the years unfold.

When it comes to a person's well being, there are many factors which affect our health, whether it's behaviors we exhibit toward each other or the habits that we pass on to each other. Regardless of the level of your partner relationship, you should keep in mind the ways that your romantic bond may influence both your mind and your body.

According to a 2012 study, people tend to gain weight as they settle into marriage (they "let themselves go"), but lose weight when a marriage ends. However, the opposite has proven to happen quite often. A happy couple can motivate each other to stay healthy -- they'll go to the gym together, set goals, and feel responsible for each other. When couples do put on weight, it may be a symptom of conflict, not necessarily "letting themselves go." It has been shown that dissatisfaction in a relationship can lead to passive-aggressive eating behaviors and sleep problems, which will ultimately lead to weight gain.

Did you know that regular physical intimacy can reduce stress and boost well-being? I know, that's probably not much of a surprise! A 2009 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that people who frequently had sex were healthier mentally and more likely to report greater satisfaction with their relationship and life overall. However, sexual intimacy is just one part of a relationship. Your partner's behavior outside the bedroom can just as easily send stress levels moving in the opposite direction. Parenting disputes, disagreements about money, or even deciding who does which household tasks have been shown to increase stress.

Sex isn't the only type of physical contact that can lower stress and improve health. In a 2004 study of 38 couples, University of North Carolina researchers found that both men and women had higher blood levels of oxytocin (a hormone believed to ease stress and improve mood) after hugging. The women also had lower blood pressure post-hug, and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It has been shown that caring behaviors -- such as a touch on the arm, holding hands, or a rub on the shoulder -- can stimulate those hormones and help to overcome stress and anxiety.

It has also been shown that sleeping next to someone you love and trust can help you fully relax and embrace sleep. However, a big exception is if your partner keeps you up at night -- by snoring or by tossing and turning. Studies show that people are more likely to experience daytime fatigue and fitful sleep themselves if their partner struggles with restless sleep or insomnia. Relationships can affect sleep in less direct ways, too. Research shows that relationship insecurity or conflict is associated with poorer sleep.

In some cases, relationship difficulties may actually contribute to full-blown anxiety. Several studies have found a link between marital problems and an increased risk of generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety. Also, stressful relationships have been shown to dramatically increase the risk of clinical depression.

A person's diet, exercise habits, and stress levels can all have an impact on blood pressure, so it's not surprising that your relationship status (and the strength of your relationship) can, too. In a highly publicized 2008 study, researchers at Brigham Young University found that people in happy marriages tended to have lower blood pressure than those who are single. People who were unhappily married, however, tended to have higher blood pressure than singles.

The link between relationships and cardiovascular health goes well beyond blood pressure. Studies consistently report that being married is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and better outcomes after heart surgery, especially for men. Why is that? Stress and other underlying biological factors (including blood pressure) are thought to be involved, but the emotional and tangible support that partners provide is believed to play a role as well.

Also, a partner's watchful eye and day-to-day care appears to foster a healthier lifestyle and closer attention to health problems. People in healthy relationships take care of each other and may feel more of a desire to take care of themselves.

Finally, it has been shown that it's not just your current partner relationship that can affect your health, but also your past ones -- especially those that ended in hurt feelings and rejection. In 2011, researchers from Columbia University found that thinking about an ex-lover can have similar effects on the brain as physical pain. It's even possible for a breakup to result in something called broken heart syndrome, a temporary enlargement of the heart (with symptoms mimicking a heart attack) brought on by extreme physical or emotional stress.

These are just a few of the ways that your partner relationship can affect your health. What's most important is to make certain that the relationship you're in is one that is healthy and beneficial for both partners. If it's not, then whether you should continue the relationship must seriously be examined.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Friday, October 27, 2017

E-cigarettes (Vaping) May Contribute to Inflammatory Lung Disease

In September 2016, I wrote a blog post titled "Cigarettes and E-Cigarettes: Inhaling The Dangerous Facts." This week I read that a new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that e-cigarette use can trigger immune responses in the lung that can contribute to inflammatory lung disease. The research was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Globally, e-cigarette use is soaring -- especially with young people. In 2016 the US Surgeon General identified a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use in high school students from 2011 to 2015. While e-cigarette vapor doesn't contain the same kinds of carcinogenic compounds as regular cigarette smoke, there is a growing body of research to suggest "vaping" may have its own set of harmful effects.

The study examined 44 sputum samples from e-cigarette users, current cigarette smokers, and non-smokers. Amongst e-cigarette users, a significant increase in neutrophil granulocyte- and neutrophil-extracellular-trap (NET)-related proteins was identified. The study notes that while neutrophils are useful in combating pathogens they also are known to contribute to lung diseases such as COPD and cystic fibrosis. The study also identified similar increases in specific biomarkers associated with lung disease between e-cigarette and cigarette users. An increase in mucin 5AC, a mucus secretion associated with chronic bronchitis and asthma, was also found in both e-cigarette and cigarette users.

Dr. Mehmet Kesimer, senior author of the study, has said: "Comparing the harm of e-cigarettes with cigarettes is a little like comparing apples to oranges. Our data shows that e-cigarettes have a signature of harm in the lung that is both similar and unique, which challenges the concept that switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes is a healthier alternative."

It's becoming more clear that there are adverse effects of e-cigarettes. While they most likely don't cause the same kind of harm as cigarettes, it may indeed be a misnomer to believe that they are a "healthy" alternative. The only truly healthy alternative to cigarette smoking is to simply not smoke at all.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Funniest Compliment I Ever Received About My Running

On the evening of October 9, 2006, I was in Fellowsville, West Virginia, at the home of Stan Shaver and his wife, Thelma. They were kind enough to provide overnight accommodations as I was nearing the finish of my solo run across America. On that particular day, I had run more than the marathon distance and the next day I was scheduled to run 38 miles to Mount Storm, West Virginia, which included steep and narrow roads going up the Appalachian Mountains.

At the time of my visit, Stan was the Principal of Fellowsville School and was serving in the West Virginia House of Representatives (District 46). After a wonderful dinner, Stan and I were sitting in his living room chatting about the cross-country adventure that I had been doing for over 3 months. He couldn't believe that I had averaged 30 miles per day solo pushing a 65-pound jogging stroller of gear for 2,960 miles to his front doorstep. It was simply amazing to him. He told me that what I was doing surpassed anything in athletics that he had ever seen, including Lance Armstrong's wins in the Tour de France. He then gave me the funniest compliment that I had ever received regarding my ultra-endurance adventures. Stan said, "There are IronMen, and then there's whatever the hell you are!" I laughed, but quickly realized that he didn't mean it as a joke. He was completely serious!

Of course, the "Ironman" title in athletics is for those who complete the Ironman Triathlon challenge in Hawaii -- swimming 2.4 miles; bicycling 112 miles; and, running 26.2 miles (in that order, without breaks). I've never felt compelled to pursue the Ironman (mainly due to my lack of strength in swimming), but I greatly respect those who can complete that race. There's also "Iron Man" -- the fictional superhero by Marvel Comics. However, I don't think that's the "Iron Man" he was referring to!

So, to hear Stan say what he did was taken as both a compliment and quite humorous. Thanks for encouraging me, Stan!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This is My 200th Blog Post in 16 Months

This is the 200th blog post that I've made in the past 16 months. It was in June 2016 when I decided to start blogging again after a 5-year absence. I had blogged regularly from 2006 through 2011 as I did various mega-mileage running adventures. Writing about running, bicycling and other fitness topics has been something I enjoy, and I'll continue to write as I feel compelled. If you've followed this blog for any amount of time, you've probably seen that I don't post every day, and I don't post at all on weekends. I do try to post something weekly, at minimum.

It always amazes me how many people access my blog from various countries. Just in the past week I've had readers from the USA, Russia, Canada, Poland, Ukraine, France, Portugal, Thailand, and Brazil. My most popular blog post in the past 16 months has been "I'm Officially Retired From Running Across States and Countries."

I apply keyword tags to each blog post so that search engines can catalog my writings. Each day there are readers to my blog who locate it through a search engine when doing a health/fitness query. I also get visitors to my blog who click on a link to it from my paulstaso.com website, or from my YouTube channel. Additionally, I get blog traffic from my Twitter account. I don't earn one penny for writing this blog and I keep it free of advertisements. My blog is a voluntary effort and one that I hope benefits others.

To those who stop by my blog now and then to read, I say thank you!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Earth, and People's Clothes, are Under GREAT Pressure!

Many ancient cultures believed that the earth is flat. Today, cultures know that the earth is not flat... but it is FAT. In fact, the earth has more weight pressure on it than ever before! More than 2 billion adults and children globally are overweight or obese and suffer health problems because of their weight, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This equates to one-third of the world's population carrying excess weight, which is fueled by urbanization, poor diets and reduced physical activity. In fact, obesity levels have risen in all countries, irrespective of their income level. The United States has the greatest percentage of obese children and young adults, and obesity levels are higher among women than men across all age groups. The researchers analyzed data from over 68 million people between 1980 and 2015 to explore trends as well as figures regarding overweight and obesity rates.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Monday, October 23, 2017

What Ever Happened to PaceTrek.com?

Last month, I wrote a blog post titled "What Ever Happened to PaceRun.com?" That was a domain I used for my solo run across America in 2006 in order to post writings, pictures, videos and more. From 2008 through 2011, I used a domain titled "PaceTrek.com" -- and posted other running adventures at that address. If you've visited the PaceTrek.com domain lately (which I no longer own), you've probably seen that it's a website that provides dating and relationship tips. It's actually owned by a guy in Jakarta, Indonesia. I have NOTHING to do with that website!

If you want to access any of my running adventures online, you'll need to go to www.PaulStaso.com. That is the ONLY website online for gaining access to my solo running adventures across America, Germany, Alaska, the Mojave Desert and elsewhere. It also provides you with links to this blog, my YouTube channel, my Twitter account, and my various photo albums through Google Photos.

Again, I have not owned PaceRun.com or PaceTrek.com for many years and anything published at those domain addresses has nothing to do with me or the PACE (Promoting Active Children Everywhere) projects that I've done through The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, which I formed many years ago.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Friday, October 20, 2017

Want a FREE Pair of Socks? Just Run Across America!

It was 11 years ago today that I ran into the Atlantic Ocean to complete my 108-day, 3,260-mile, 15-state solo running adventure across America. I was 41 years old back then and my four children ranged in age from 6 to 13. Today, three of my children are adults and my youngest will be 18 in just a couple of months. Occasionally, there will be mention of my 'crazy' run across the country, but for the most part it is now just a part of my life's path that is farther behind me with each passing day.

October 20 is a day when I pause in the busyness of my life to recall that day in 2006 when I finally ran into the salt water on the Delaware shore. I've never been able to fully put into words all that it took to accomplish that solo coast-to-coast run. Suffice it to say... it took everything I had.

Just to get to the starting line in June 2006 was a challenge. Finding sponsors for the run was an uphill battle, and I never reached the top. For instance, I had run for many years in ASICS running shoes and approached the company about the possibility of sponsoring my coast-to-coast run with a donation of 6 pairs of running shoes and some clothing. I explained that I was doing the run to fulfill a promise I had made to 97 elementary children -- those children having become the first in the United States to complete a virtual run across America within a 9-month school year. It didn't take long to receive a response from ASICS.

The company's communication informed me that they would not be involved with the run via a sponsorship of clothes/shoes, but that they wished me "luck." So, I spent over $1,000 to buy ASICS gear to wear across the country. Some of my running friends said I should boycott ASICS for its unwillingness to support the endeavor. However, I liked ASICS gear and chose to purchase what I would need. After successfully completing the run from Oregon to Delaware, I received a message from ASICS' marketing department. I was congratulated and told that even though they chose not to sponsor me with ASICS shoes and clothes, I still purchased and wore their gear -- and that they were impressed.

The communication concluded with an offer of a free pair of socks to show appreciation for my purchasing their gear and ultimately wearing ASICS shoes and clothes all across America. Yes, a free pair of socks!

So, if you want a free pair of socks... just approach a large company for an apparel sponsorship; get rejected; spend a lot of money to purchase the apparel yourself; and then, run your body into the ground by logging 30 miles per day for 108 days. You too could get a free pair of socks!

By the way, the pair that ASICS sent to me ended up being too small.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Has My Mega-Mileage Running Caused Artery Plaque Buildup?

All runners have heard about the tragedies. The world-class marathoner Alberto Salazar, at the age of 48, suffered a heart attack and lay dead for 14 minutes before a stent opened up a blocked artery and saved his life. Micah True, the ultra-marathoner at the center of the best-selling book “Born to Run,” went for a 12-mile run in the New Mexico wilderness and was later found dead. Ryan Shay died in the middle of the 2008 United States Olympic marathon trials. There is also the story of the first marathon itself, run by Pheidippides, who collapsed and died after completing the 26.2 miles.

These deaths are all the more shocking because the peak physical condition of the deceased would seem to protect them from heart disease. Well, now it appears that the medical world is learning more about the impact of intense levels of working out.

According to a new study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, those who exercise around 8 hours a week or more may want to rethink how much they workout.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Kaiser Permanente, the study found that those who workout more than three times the recommended amount a week are much more likely to develop heart disease than those who workout a moderate amount.

But there’s only one group primarily affected by over-exercising: White men, who are 86 percent more likely to develop a buildup of plaque in their arteries by the time they become middle-aged, according to the study.

In other words, the findings suggested that white men who work out around 8 hours a week or more have nearly double the chance of suffering from heart disease than those who exercised less than 2 1/2 hours a week.

While there’s some understanding of why over-exercising can cause health issues, no one is really sure why white men are disproportionately affected. According to the study, among all people who worked out over 7 1/2 hours a week, there was just a 27 percent increase in developing plaque buildup — much less than the 86 percent chance for white men.

This week marks 11 years since I completed my 3,260-mile run across America, and since then I've run solo across Montana, Alaska, Germany, and the Mojave Desert. In fact, in my 52 years I've logged enough miles to lap planet earth a couple of times! Has all of my running created plaque buildup in my arteries? As a runner for over 40 years of my life, I can only pray that the countless and challenging mileposts that I've reached for over the past four decades have not actually shortened my life!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ride The Divide: Canada to Mexico by Bicycle

Several years ago, I watched a well-made 2008 documentary titled "Ride the Divide." It's about the world’s toughest mountain bike race, which traverses over 2,700 miles along the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains -- from Banff, Canada to the Mexican border (click here to watch the trailer). If you're a bike enthusiast, I strongly recommend that you buy a DVD of this documentary, directed by Hunter Weeks (who also directed another awesome documentary titled 10MPH). In "Ride the Divide," Matthew Lee -- five time winner of the race -- is one tough cyclist and I relate with his appreciation of enjoying solo endurance pursuits.

Recently, I watched 44 videos on YouTube from a 2017 "Ride The Divide Challenge" taken on by three guys. I really enjoyed seeing the emotions, the scenery, and the insights from the riders. It took 43 days for the ride to wrap up at the Mexico border. I encourage you to visit their YouTube channel and watch the videos. Here's how they describe their fundraising ride: "This 6-week event is not just a physical challenge, but one in which we are challenging ourselves to see what kind of difference ordinary people like us can make when we come together to accomplish an extraordinary goal. Our hope is to build MANNA Worldwide’s first orphanage in the Philippines, fund family homes in Ukraine, and support feeding children right here in America through MANNA’s backpack program." Their ride raised $270,000 and far surpassed what they expected.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fatter Not Fitter -- The Decline of Today's Youth

I read a news story yesterday that made my heart sink. CNN reports that ten times more children and teens globally are obese today than 40 years ago. The number of obese children and adolescents rose to 124 million in 2016 -- more than 10 times higher than the 11 million classified as obese 40 years ago, in 1975 (when I was 10 years old). This equates to nearly 6% of girls and nearly 8% of boys being obese.

CNN reported on the largest study ever done in obesity, with more than 1,000 researchers collaborating to analyze weight and height data for almost 130 million people (including more than 31 million people 5 to 19 years old) in order to identify obesity trends from 1975 to 2016.

From 2005 through 2011 I ran thousands of miles across states and countries -- speaking to countless numbers of school children -- in an effort to combat the development of the statistics that CNN reported yesterday. Obesity in our world is going to have to be fought by more than just a handful of people. It truly is going to take more than a 'village' to turn things around. It's going to take the whole world. Sadly, it seems that too many people are not only thick in the waist when it comes to this issue, but thick in the head as well.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Monday, October 9, 2017

The "Water Bicycle" is Nearly 150 Years Old

In 1891, the Pinkert Navigating Tricycle (a water velocipede) certainly turned heads. Essentially, it was a bicycle crossed with a boat and used balloon-like tires to stay afloat. The invention was featured in Scientific American when George Pinkert tried to cross the English Channel on it. According to the magazine, Pinkert was about halfway across the channel when the tide turned. He realized he would be carried out to sea, so he hailed a passing vessel and was taken on board.

The first water-bicycle design actually dates back to 1869 (by D.J. Farmer), although Pinkert was the first to actually develop the concept and implement it. So, are these water bikes still around? Yes! It's possible to ride modern descendants of the Pinkert Navigating Tricycle at beach resorts, lake getaways, and other vacation spots. However, water bicycles never gained the popularity and practicality of land bicycles.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Is Loneliness a Part of Being Alone?

If there's one thing that I've learned well in my life, it's how to be alone. I've endured endless times of being alone. I'm 52 years of age and much of my intense alone time has been spent on the back roads, highways, and paths across various states and countries -- running. You see, I don't equate being alone to being "lonely." You wouldn't believe how many times I was asked my technique for dealing with loneliness as I ran solo across America. Everyone on the outside looking in simply believed that my 108 days on the road to conquer 3,260 miles had to be excruciatingly lonely. Well, they weren't. I'm a Christian, a Baptist in fact, and I always have God by my side. Always.

Sure, it hasn't been easy being away from my children and other loved ones as I've taken on extreme solo adventures across huge land masses that take weeks or months to conquer. However, I learned decades ago how to cope with being alone. There are times in life when being alone is quite beneficial. To be able to only hear the sound of a clock tick or your own breathing is a chance to contemplate life -- our purpose, our direction, our dreams, and our heart. Certainly, in today's busy world it's challenging to find time to be alone in the quietness of our own thoughts.

As I grow older, I grow more aware of time. Once you're in your 50's you begin to realize that you have more years behind you than you have in front of you. Time becomes more precious, and you don't necessarily want to spend all of your non-working time alone. Sure, there are those who do it and actually have more of a 'virtual' social group via the Internet as they sit alone staring into glowing screens. I'm not that type of man. I'm the type of man that wants to grab the brass ring of life, and do it with that special someone by my side -- and for me that "special someone" is my fiancé, Kelley. I want to spend my final hours on this earth looking back over a life that was well lived... thinking, "That was a hell of a run!" I want to make a difference in the lives of others, no matter how small that difference may be. I want to live, laugh and love with all of my heart and not feel like I have to watch my every step. If I had watched my every step running across places like the USA, Germany and the Mojave Desert, I would have exhausted myself mentally and the bi-product would have been emotional collapse leading to a complete halt.

My mother is nearly 81 years young, and my Dad is a little ahead of her at 84. In fact, he just celebrated his birthday this week. I spoke to him and asked what he would be doing on his special day. He said, "It doesn't matter what I do, as long as I'm with your mother!" They've been married for 63 years and are still head-over-heels in love. They hold hands, flirt with each other, and couldn't imagine life without one another. I want that, and Kelley has told me that she wants that too. Sure, divorce dealt me a tough blow and there's no way I'll be able to celebrate 63 years of marriage to one person. That's just how life dealt my cards. However, as I go through moments of being alone I realize that no matter how good I am at dealing with consistent times alone, I don't want that for the rest of my life.

I've already logged 19,205 days on this earth. If I'm lucky, I've got another 13,870 to go (that is, if I live to 90). So, barring a life-ending heart attack, being struck by a bus, or some other tragedy, I should have about 42% of my life left -- but of course, many of those years will be in retirement and taking advantage of senior discounts. In retrospect, I spent much of my 22 to 50-year-old range alone. Yes, I had my four children around me as they were being raised, but from the perspective of non-children relationships, I was alone for much of that season of life. Now, my children are adults and my fiancé and I are looking toward our future together.

Is there an art to being alone? I believe that people who can cope well with being alone are, by nature, patient people. I believe I'm a rather patient person, and that has worked to my advantage in running across states and countries. Philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said, "Endurance is patience concentrated." I understand that so well, and by understanding that I believe I can endure times of being alone quite well.

When have I felt the most alone? The answer may not surprise you, but the reason for the answer may. When I was in the middle of the Mojave Desert in April 2011 during my solo 506-mile run from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to Badwater Basin, Death Valley -- I felt the most alone I ever have in my life. There was a four-day stretch of nothing but uninhabited paths, blowing sand, and heat. I was physically exhausted from pushing all of my gear, food and water in a cart and was laying in a one-man tent -- looking through the mesh-net ceiling and seeing nothing but the most intense sea of stars and satellites. It was completely silent, except for the distant sound of an occasional coyote howl. My marriage was crumbling, the business I owned was crumbling, and I was once again away from my four children... who gave me more strength than they even know. My only companion in the desert was God. He was there. I laid there rather dehydrated... hungry... hurting... exhausted... and feeling as though if I closed my eyes and didn't wake up, that it wouldn't matter much. There are certainly times when being alone can feel like a coffin. My choice then was to not let the desert be my final resting place. I ran out and became the first to successfully complete that running adventure. Life is truly worth living, and "living" is what I want to do with the time I have left.

If you're in a season of being alone, do some looking back, but not as much as looking forward. History is behind you, life is in you now, and the future is stretched out before you. In time, you'll rise up out of the desert and run for the horizon. Make sure it's one hell of a run!



Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com