Thursday, April 30, 2009

H1N1 (Swine Flu) Update and What We Should Do

Before I let you know what I think about the current H1N1 problem (Swine Flu) from not only a scientific point of view but also from a spiritual point of view and the point of view of a pragmatic problem solver, I will first update you on the current status of the situation, as reported by the WHO (World Health Organization):

• The WHO (World Health Organization) has raised the alert level to Phase 5 (as of today, 4/30/2009). For the latest alert phase by the WHO, go to
• There has been 109 laboratory confirmed cases in the U.S. including one death (of an infant) (as of April 30, 2009 according to the WHO and CDC (Center for Disease Control)
• Just to put things in perspective, in the 2007 – 2008 flu season, there were 39,287 lab confirmed cases of the seasonal flu in the U.S. with 83 deaths (from CDC data)

Here’s what I think about the current H1N1 outbreak. First of all, I do not fear it. With that said, I think that it is necessary to inform the public on the part of the WHO, CDC, and the media. Although there has been a lot of criticism of the media from bloggers and others, I believe the media does play an important role. However, I understand where the critics are coming from. I myself expressed frustration of the discrepancies reported by most of the corporate controlled mass media when they reported 149 deaths from this H1N1 flu in Mexico early this week (when there have still only been 7 confirmed deaths attributable to H1N1 in Mexico according to the WHO).

The fact that the WHO has raised the alert level of this virus to Phase 5 might be alarming to people. Phase 5 means that there is human-to-human spread of the virus in at least 2 countries in one WHO region while most countries are not affected at this stage. However, “phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short”.

I can already hear the critics complaining about this high level of alert. However, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the officials and experts at the WHO and CDC, I think it’s absolutely necessary to plan and prepare to fight this creature as a tiger, even though it may seem like a kitten right now (as the Chinese maxim goes).

In comparison with how many people are infected with the seasonal flu and killed by the seasonal flu every year, the current H1N1 outbreak does seem like a kitten at this point. Just knowing of all the people in the U.S. who’ve contracted this H1N1 virus (or swine flu) and recovered really tells me that there’s no cause for fear, yet. I also believe that the recovery of most of the H1N1 cases in the U.S. might be due to prompt medical treatment, with available antiviral drugs (Tamiflu and Relenza). If you've read the first-hand witness comments from Mexico, they have a problem of lack of medicines, as even the doctors there mentioned to BBC.

The caution, preparation, and expressed alert from the government and WHO officials and experts are still necessary because of the unpredictability of these viruses to change (as the experts know). It is possible for this virus to change or mutate to a form that can kill a lot more people. Although this is possible, I don’t think even the experts know if this is probable, which is why they have to make preparations to fight this like a tiger although it may look like a kitten to some right now.

With all that said, my advice from a scientific, as well as a spiritual and pragmatic problem solver’s point of view is as follows:

1. Pray. We need to recruit the power of collective prayer to ask God to not allow this H1N1 outbreak get worst.

2. If you have symptoms of influenza, go see a doctor and stay away from everyone else. (Stay home other than visiting a doctor, and wear a surgical mask – so that you don’t infect your loved ones. Be sure to wash the dishes and utensils you use thoroughly with dishwashing soap and water). If the doctor determines that you have H1N1 (swine flu) or the seasonal flu, they should prescribe either Tamiflu or Relenza. Symptoms of influenza include:
- Sneezing , coughing, and/or sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Fever
- Backaches and other body aches
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Headache

3. We need to practice prevention – which includes habits that we should have anyway to be healthy and fit:
- Eat healthy and get enough sleep.
- Exercise and stay fit. (Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you use a public gym.)
- Wash your hands with soap and water whenever you have a chance (especially before you eat, before and after you use the bathroom, and after you’ve used any public facilities where you’ve come in contact with surfaces that are touched by many (such as poles in a public bus).
- Do not touch your ears, nose, or mouth.

Although the message is serious and should be taken seriously in this video, I just couldn't help but laugh hysterically.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First-hand Reports From People In Mexico Including Doctors

The following BBC site offers first-hand comments from people who flew out of Mexico or is in Mexico (including doctors):

I thought I should post this to get information from all sides - official reports (such as from WHO) and now from first-hand witnesses.

My message remains the same. Be alert and vigilant about this (not too alarmed but not disregarding it altogether). See my previous blog entries on how to be vigilant about this.

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Swine Flu Update - Inaccuracies in Mass Media

We need to have a balanced reaction to the current swine flu concern. President Obama got it right in saying that we must be "alert" but not "alarmed" at this point. However, the mass media seems to be trying to exaggerate or over-inflate the numbers. This is the case with their reporting of the number of deaths from the swine flu in Mexico, which many news outlets including the New York Times report to be 152. However, if you get the information from the people who really know, the WHO (World Health Organization), the actual confirmed cases of swine flu infection is actually 26 in Mexico. Out of those 26 confirmed cases of infection, there are only 7 deaths according to the WHO. 7 (confirmed) is a huge difference from 152 deaths reported by the mass media. There's a difference between "suspected" cases and "confirmed" cases.

Regarding my numbers, don't take my word for it. See for yourself. I got them from the latest WHO update at

I actually posted a comment correcting the New York Times on one of their articles, but they censored me despite my provision of my sources from the WHO and CDC. It seems like they are bent on misleadingly exaggerating the numbers (as other corporate controlled news media are also doing).

Do I think the number of deaths is actually higher than the confirmed deaths of 7 (in Mexico)? Yes. I think that is a realistic guess. However, I also think that the actual number of swine flu cases is probably less than 150 as people (including health professionals) are quick to jump to conclusions that their ailments are caused by the swine.

Whatever the actual number is, the message remains the same - be vigilant by washing hands with soap and water before eating, before and after going to the bathroom, and whenever you can. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or ear with your hands. Avoid contact with sick people and avoid mass public gatherings. If you cough or sneeze, cover with a tissue and discard the tissue in the trash immediately. For more information, go to

There's no need to worry or no need to be "alarmed" as Obama stated, but be alert. If you have flu symptoms, see a doctor immediately. If it does end up to be the swine flu, there are two antiviral drugs (Relenza and Tamiflu) that are shown to fight this swine flu. Both require prescriptions.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Current Swine Flu - Will It Be a Pandemic?

There is a swine influenza (flu) outbreak presumably originating from Mexico. The expert agencies such as the WHO (World Health Organization) and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) are still uncertain about many things with this virus. So far, it is known to be H1N1 and it is known to be spreading from person to person (which raises concern). Another raise for concern is that many of the infected are young healthy people. Although these are some alarming factors raising concerns among experts, only 3 people have died (out of 23 reported cases) in Mexico. There have been no deaths in the U.S. from this virus so far. Right now, this is not a pandemic but it is uncertain if it will become one. There are a lot of unknowns even among experts and they are keeping a close watch.

As a non-expert (I am not an epidemiologist or virologist), I was alarmed to find out that this virus is H1N1 (similar to the virus from the 1918 pandemic), it includes swine, avian, and human strains, it spreads from person to person, and it has infected an unusual group - the young and healthy. However, I feel better after hearing one expert say that it could very well turn out to be not too virulent. There have been other swine flu outbreaks and flu outbreaks within the last hundred years that did not become as serious as the 1918 pandemic, but nobody knows at this point how this outbreak would pan out.

We should take extra precautions while we wait and see. Precautions include:
• Wash hands with soap and water frequently (especially after coming in contact with public surfaces).
• Although I generally think that alcohol-based hand sanitizers, such as Purell, are over-used, it may be a good idea to use them now (with an uncertain strain of virus out there)
• Do not touch your eyes, nose, ears, mouth, or other cavities with your hands.
• Do not let others cough or sneeze on you. If you cough or sneeze, please cover your mouth with tissue and discard the tissue in the garbage immediately.
• Avoid public gatherings such as concerts, bike tours, and other gatherings of the masses.
• If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.

For more information, go to:

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't Focus Only On Weight and Don't Be Chicken Little

Money and finance guru, Robert Kiyosaki, wrote about how most people are "chicken littles" and how their panic and fear keep them from obtaining wealth. In the same way, chicken littles in fitness have trouble attaining their desired fitness levels. In investment as taught by Kiyosaki, the chicken littles would sell their stocks out of panic and fear when the market is gloomy (when the stock prices are low). These same people would do a lot of buying when the market is up and the mood is positive, and the stock prices are high. They therefore lose money (in buying high and selling low) because their chicken-little emotions play a bigger role in their decision-making than their rational understanding.

In fitness, the chicken littles sabotage their chances of getting a slim figure, because of fear and panic due to subscribing to the common belief of focusing only on weight. They would get off a good program out of unwarranted disappointment, fear, and panic just because they haven't lost weight during the first month of the program but may even have initially gained good weight from increasing lean muscle mass and bone density while losing the lighter fat weight. (When you lose fat but replace them with increasing lean muscle mass and increasing bone density, you may weigh more overall but you are actually making progress. You could tell by your waist size and body fat % measurements and calculation). The chicken littles panic despite an apparent decrease in their waist size. Because they are only focused on weight, they are the majority that always struggle with weight (in the long-term) and never make sustainable progress in their fitness levels.

Many of the chicken littles have a tendency of buying into fad diets and harmful programs that provide them with quick initial weight loss, despite losing the wrong type of weight (such as muscle, water, and bone weight). Eventually, they gain back all the weight and probably more (as their short-term programs have decreased their metabolic rate.) In female cases, they lose bone density. Regardless of these subtle but detrimental effects of fad programs, they are emotionally gratified by the short term weight loss just like how the chicken-little investors felt good about buying high in a bubbled up market.

Although I've mentioned this in a past blog, I want to remind my readers and clients - you shouldn't focus only on weight. That wrong paradigm will throw you off-track. You should focus first on increasing your RMR (such as by increasing lean muscles), secondly your waist size, then your body fat percentage, and lastly your overall weight. It's like what Sharon Stone told a talk show host when asked how she kept her phenomenal figure. She responded, "I never weigh myself but I gauge where I am from the waist-band of my jeans." Sharon Stone got it right. However, I would probably use a waist measure tape to quantify the waist size (and calculate the waist-to-hip ratio).

However, I must say that you do need to track your weight in the long term, but it should be your last focus and I emphasize long term. It's similar to the long-term investment strategies. You will mess yourself up if you are a long-term investor but you let the day-to-day fluctuation of your stocks get to you. Although most long-term investors understand this, most people get it wrong when it comes to fitness. It is so topsy-turvy that they focus first on weight (or only on weight) when they should focus first on waist (and fat percentage). For more about this, go to

Chicken littles are not just a certain group of people. There's a chicken little in every one of us. However, if you are consciously aware of the chicken-little part of you, you can eliminate it or keep it in check. This is crucial for success in personal finance, at your job, in other parts of life, and it's definitely true for fitness.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

If You Think of Exercise This Way, Your Figure Will Change

Are you someone who has struggled with your figure or weight? You've tried many different programs and diets. Some worked in the short term and you've lost weight. However, you ended up gaining the weight back (and in many cases, you gained more weight than you started with). If this is you, what you need is a paradigm shift (as Steven Covey teaches) - a shift in approach, or a change in how you think about it. It doesn't matter how good the program or diet you are on, if you have the wrong way of thinking about exercise. If you want to stop the frustration and start the long-term results of attaining your desired figure or physique, you must change the way you think about exercise.

Many people out there think of exercise as an optional activity only when you have time for it. Others think of working out as an occasional social activity. They'll do it every once in awhile when they have time or can get someone to go with them. (Now, I am for having exercise partners, but you have to be careful about choosing your workout partners as I will explain in another blog.) This prevalent way of thinking about exercise leads to so many failing to achieve their fitness goals.

You must think about exercise as a necessary activity, like eating a meal or brushing your teeth. Do you only brush your teeth whenever you feel like it? Do you only brush your teeth whenever you have time? You would never say, "I'm too busy. I don't have time to brush my teeth." Would you? If you do, your teeth and gums will eventually develop painful problems requiring expensive and painful treatments like root canals.

Most of you understand this about maintaining your oral hygiene. Oral maintainence such as brushing and flossing is touted by all dentists and backed up by scientific literature. Therefore, most of you are rational enough to understand how foolish and ridiculous it is for someone to say, "I'm too busy to brush my teeth everyday."

If you get this, then you should also understand how ridiculous and foolish it is to say, "I'm too busy. I don't have time to exercise." Exercise is just like brushing in that there's plenty of scientific evidence showing that routine exercise decreases your chances of deadly, painful, and/or costly conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, stroke, and many others. Ask any good doctor and they will tell you the same. Exercise (if done properly) may also prevent and/or alleviate back pains, neck pains, arthritis, and other joint pains. Ask any good physical therapist and physiatrist and they will tell you the same.

Exercise is also similar to brushing in that it makes you look better. Wouldn't it be good to have a better figure to go with those pearly white teeth!

However, there is a slight difference between exercise and brushing your teeth. If you exercise 6 times per week, you will make a huge difference in your physique and health. In contrast, you have to brush at least twice a day (morning and night). In fact, you would even reap benefits if you exercise just 4 times per week.

Routine exercise may also prevent and/or alleviate depression and improve brain functions. This is backed up by many studies.

Wherever you are, whether you are exercising twice a week or six times a week, the main take away message is - you must think of exercise as a routine activity, not an occasional activity only when you "have time" or only when you can find someone to accompany you. If you manage to make time for routine activities like brushing your teeth and eating, you should be able to make time for working out. As the cliche goes, "where there's a will, there's a way."

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Valerian is a herb found in Europe and Asia that has been used for more than 2000 years for a variety of conditions such as digestive problems, flatulence, congestive heart failure, urinary tract disorder, chest pain, anxiety, headaches, depression, irregular heartbeat, and trembling. However, there is no scientific support for Valerian’s effect on these conditions. On the other hand, there are some evidence that Valerian may help with insomnia, but more studies must be done to ascertain this.

Safety of the long term use of Valerian is unknown, but usage for 4 to 6 weeks has been shown to be safe.

Some potential problems that may be caused by usage of Valerian include eye problems, muscle problems, headache, dizziness, upset stomach, and tiredness the morning after use.

Personally, I would not use Valerian unless I have insomnia AND the condition has gotten to the point that I am seeking a doctor for prescription medication. In that case, I may want to try Valerian first, before I resort to medication.

Generally, it may be a good idea to try an herb before resorting to pharmaceuticals, as pharmaceuticals usually have more severe side effects. However, there are a lot more unknowns with herbs and other CAM (complementary alternative medicine). So, you should know that you are taking a risk whenever you use CAM. The problem with most people taking herbs or supplements is that they do not know that they are taking a risk.

It really comes down to the individual and how much risk he or she is willing to take for the potential benefits (and how critical or desperate his or her condition is). I would of course first consult my doctor.

Again, I am not saying yes or no to Valerian. It should be determined on a case by case basis. Consult your doctor. If your doctor is not familiar with CAM, switch to a doctor who is.

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