Archive for August 2012

5 steps to a healthier you

Step 1: Stay well rested!
It is very important to keep regular sleep hours, and to develop good sleeping habits. Sleep issues such as insomnia are on the rise: in the US, approximately 60% of the population suffer from chronic sleep disorders.

This figure has lead to the development of sleep medication, and ever-increasing dependence and reliance on these medications. It is growing at an alarming rate: between 2000-2004, use of sleep aids doubled among 20-44 year old adults, and for children aged 10-19, the use increased 85%.

While seeking medication can be helpful for the short-term, these type of medications can cause more sleep-related and health-related problems over the long term, actually worsening insomnia and having harmful side effects. They are not so much a cure as an aid, and should be used as a help and not a solution. Sleep medication use should be used intermittently and for brief periods of time.

Sleep problems can be addressed through natural means; often the key to better sleep lies in our own hands and not in a drug. Changes to our behavior habits can do wonders for ensuring that we have restful sleep.
Try as much as possible to maintain a regular sleep and wake time schedule. By keeping regular sleep hours, we can strengthen our natural circadian rhythms: our sleep-wake cycle is regulated in the brain as part of this circadian or daily rhythm. These rhythms are regulated by our nervous system, specifically chemicals like melatonin and coritsol. If we keep regular sleep hours, our circadian rhythms grow stronger, helping us fall asleep more easily.
Keeping regular sleep hours applies to weekdays and weekends. If you wake early on the weekdays for work but sleep in on the weekends, your circadian rhythms are altered drastically – making you tired on Monday morning, even if you got lots of sleep the night before.
Try to enforce a habit of going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time (barring special occasions and circumstances). You may need an alarm clock at first, but if you stick with it, you will find yourself naturally tiring at the appropriate hour at night, and rising without an alarm clock in the morning. You will find you have more energy to take on the day.  Get a nightly amount of rest of 7 to 9 hours. Circumstances  will disturb your rhythm, but just try to maintain a consistent  sleep-wake cycle for the long term.

Step 2: Multivitamins
We’ve discussed how having a varied, healthy diet is fundamental to your overall good health – a diet full of essential vitamins and minerals will help keep your health up and protect against risk of disease. While a healthy diet can do wonders,  studies have shown that the taking of high-quality nutritional supplements promotes optimal health.
Multivitamins are relatively expensive yet powerfully effective way to maintain good health, especially as we grow older.  Furthermore, an alarming number of adults (about 50% of the population in the US) have marginal, or subclinical, nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin C deficiency or iron deficiencies. While in theory we could acquire all the necessary vitamins and minerals from our diets, in reality, this is not the case – the diet of the average person does not provide them. Enter high-quality multivitamins, supplements, and mineral formulas, which give you the essentials and help you boost your health to optimal.
High-quality nutritional supplements contain high levels of antioxidcant vitamins and minerals; these vitamins and minerals are in proper ratio for absorption by the body. Choose a nutritional supplement that has little or no additives. If you have sensitivies, consider choosing supplements with hypoallergenic ingredients.
The dosage of high-quality supplements range from four to six capsules per day – or, a couple with breakfast and a couple with dinner! Painless and inexpensive, these small tablets can help you make a huge leap to better health.
High-quality nutritional supplements do not include a RDA, or recommended daily amount, combination of vitamins and minerals. These supplements do not provide the optimal levels for many nutrients such as vitamin C; studies have found that optimal levels of these nutrients are much higher than the provided amounts in RDAs. In  addition, RDAs have been formulated without provisions for how aspects of lifestyle (smoking, drinking) and of environment (exposure to toxins)  affect our intake and absorption of these essential vitamins and minerals.

Step 3: Take Time for YOU
In the hustle and bustle of life – career, family, world events – it can be difficult to find some time for yourself in which you can just unwind, decompress and find your center. However, taking a few minutes to yourself is incredibly important for your mental and physical health. Taking time for yourself helps you cope with stress – if unchecked, stress can contribute to all sorts of health problems:  ulcers, skin problems, sleep disruptions, moodiness and depression. Set a few minutes aside for yourself every day in which to breathe, and relax. Set aside a larger chunk of time at least once a week. In this time, do something that you enjoy: read, go for a walk, go to a museum, do something creative. This will help you stay motivated, control your stress, and help you listen to your body.

Step 4: Connect with Others
While it is important to take some time for yourself, it is also important to maintain healthy relationships in your life. Humans are social animals: we are family and community-oriented. Countless clubs, organizations and groups exist where like-minded individuals come together over common interests. Social connection allows us to improve communication and intimacy, nourishing our emotional and spiritual health which in turn influences our physical health.
While the digital world allows us to connect with people from all over the globe in ways never dreamed of before, with countless social networks, video conferencing, and  text messaging, face-to-face interaction has declined drastically. While we may connect with people in the comfort from our own homes via the internet, we are also still in isolation, staying indoors and forming connections over computer screen. We need to actively go out and seek connection with others to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness which contribute directly to depression and poor mental and physical health.
We need to balance our time on the internet with interaction in ‘real’ time and with real physical interaction and communication –  real face time, not just Facebook!
Physical touch is very important to good health right from the beginning. Studies show that infants who are touched, picked up, played with and paid attention to thrive, and develop faster than those left alone in their cribs. Touch and interaction in our early lives contributes to healthy brain and nervous system development, as well as social development.
Intimate relationships also have monumental impact on our well-being and health. In one study of married men, those who stated that they were showed affection and love from their partners had significantly less angina or heart pain – even when the same individuals had high risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure.  This demonstrates that perceptions of love, strong connections with others, and community is a risk factor just as other, more tangible factors (such as weight, genetic predisposition, etc.) Yet another study of women with metastatic breast cancer also proves this:  of this group, women who met for 90 minutes weekly for a year in a support group to talk and share their feelings about their illness lived longer (on average, twice as long) as those who did not have this support group.
Our entire well-being – physical, mental, and emotional – is affected by our connections, communications and relationships with others. Maintaining connection with others on a daily basis is increasingly important even as our world becomes increasingly far-flung, overwhelming and disconnected.
Keep in touch with loved ones – even if they are far away. Letters, emails and phone calls are a great way to keep in touch, stay up on what everyone is involved in, and strengthen communication.
Express love and affection to your partner, friends, and family. Not only does this allow you to express your emotions in a healthy way, and not bottle them up, it also promotes intimacy and community for all involved.
Join a neighbourhood organization or various groups and clubs that appeal to you – sharing common interests with others is the basis of community and allows us to meet new people and forge new connections, as well as strengthen and enhance existing ones.
Pets are also have a huge role in helping to foster mental and physical well-being. More and more, pets are brought into nursery homes, hospitals and various places of therapy – their effect on the elderly, terminally ill, and the lonely is dramatic. Pets also help you stay healthy with their maintenance – taking your dog for his daily walk forces you to go on a daily walk. Pets are great for children, encouraging them to play and be active. If you can give it the space, care and attention it needs, consider getting a pet. You’ll bring joy to your life as well as to others.
Finally, try and connect, in person, with others every day – even if it is a short conversation with the barista as you get a coffee, a brief chat with your coworker in the office, or an evening walk with a neighbour.  The relationships we have with others directly contributes to our health. They help us cope with everything from the large issues to the daily frustrations of living; they help us find happiness, to laugh and enjoy life; they can help heal us through tumultuous times.

Step 5: Express, Don’t Suppress
Healthcare today is recognizing, more and more,  a traditional understanding of medicine which follows that emotional factors have a huge impact on health and illness. For this reason, emotions should be expressed freely and appropriately – one should not suppress anger, for example, but find a healthy outlet to channel it such as therapy, a friend to talk to, or anger management. How we feel emotionally can manifest itself in physical symptoms and problems. Continuing the example, if anger or frustration is not appropriately expressed, i.e. through talking, therapy or making positive change to relieve the source of frustration, it can negatively affect how our physical health. Such problems that might come about include depression, tension headaches, hypertension and inability to sleep.
As suppressing emotions or expressing them inappropriately can cause health imbalances and illness, it follows that cultivating an appropriate expression of our emotions, positive and negative, can be therapeutic, preventative and positive for our health.  No matter if they are positive or negative feelings, we owe it to our emotional and physical health to find proper expression and healthy, authentic articulation of our emotional states and moods.
Finding the right ways to express ourselves strengthens our relationships and emotional bonds with others, helping us to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

The Healthy Benefits of Pineapple

Positively Pineapple: The Healthy Benefits of Pineapple

In general, all fruit is an essential part of our diet, and packed full of vitamins and antioxidants, leading to numerous health benefits. A fruit that is particularly beneficial is the pineapple.
Pineapple is a tropical fruit. Like oranges and other citrus, pineapple is full of vitamin C, which helps boost your immune system and keep sickness at bay. The stems of pineapples also contain bromelain: bromelain is an enzyme that has anti-inflammatory effects, so helps to reduce swelling and bruising caused by injuries. Bromelain also may help in the fight against cancer, as it contains chemicals that may stop or interfere with the growth of cancer tumor cells.
Pineapple is also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight the damage that free radicals cause (including cancer, inflammation, and heart disease).  The vitamins contained in pineapple also help with energy levels, relieve indigestion and nausea, relieve throat pain, and help accelerate the healing process when one suffers from a cold or the flu.
When buying a pineapple, choose ones that are heavier, as this helps indicate the level of freshness. You can also determine ripeness by pulling on the stalks at the top – if one comes out easily, it is ripe. If it’s a struggle, it has a way to go yet! Ripe pineapple will also have a strong smell and be very sweet. For some people, pineapple can irritate the mouth and tongue, causing an itchy feeling. If this is a problem, try soaking pieces of pineapple in a bit of salt water before consumption.


12 Tips on Feeling Younger

Stay Young: 12 Tips on Feeling Younger
Let’s face it: most people dread getting older. We tend to focus on the unpleasant things: new aches and pains, changes in our appearance, loss of energy, lapses in memory. But growing older doesn’t have to be so distasteful:  with attention to your physical and mental health now, you can ensure that you have the energy, good health, and youthfulness to enjoy your retirement, to travel, to keep up with your grandchildren, and to live these years to their fullest.
Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep yourself feeling young, vibrant, and ready for the new adventures that growing older brings! A healthy lifestyle also ensures that you will live a longer, fuller life. Here are 12 ways to help you do just that:

  1. Exercise!
    Staying strong is extremely important as we age – our bodies weaken over time.  Doing a little bit of exercise each day will help keep you in shape, and help protect you against various health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and arthritis. Exercise is also important for the health of your heart. Try incorporating 20-30 minutes of exercise into your day: brisk walks; bike rides; weight-lifting, etc. Choose activities that will make you sweat, but that don’t overexert or put too much strain on your body. These days, exercise can come through many different mediums: the Wii Fit for example, can function as a highly productive addition to your workout plan.
  2. Eat Right!
    Maintain a healthy diet, eating foods that have high nutritional value, such as leafy greens (spinach, kale); fruits (blueberries are high in antioxidants); lean proteins (choose fish and chicken over red meat); and whole grains (such as oats and brown rice.) Avoid fatty foods as they contribute to heart disease. Try and control your calorie intake as well – obesity causes a range of health issues and puts more strain on your body. You don’t need to follow a strict, no-fun diet, but be conscious of what you eat, making sure your body gets the nutrients it needs.
  3. Get outside!
    This goes along with staying active and fit – when you are outdoors, you are naturally active, both physically and mentally. Your body, senses, and mind are stimulated by what you see and interact with. Walking around in nature, in sunshine and fresh air, will physically and mentally rejuvenate you. Nature hikes and bike rides are fantastic ways to interact with nature and keep up your energy levels. Staying indoors on the couch will only contribute to feeling old. We are meant to be active beings, and our minds and bodies suffer when idle.
  4. Read!
    It’s not just your body that needs exercise: your mind needs to engage in mental activities to stay keen and sharp. Reading is the best exercise for this, particularly if you have a diverse reading list, with books on a variety of topics. Reading keeps your mind sharp, and up on the latest thoughts and ideas – not to mention improving your vocabulary, teaching you new things, improve your writing, and help you express yourself more eloquently and clearly. So make a trip to your local library or bookstore and start reading!
  5. Try New Things!
    Incorporating new things to do or try is an important way to keep your mind keen and eager. you have hobbies? If you do, why not add a new one? If not, look around – what interests you? Hobbies give us focus and enjoyment,  contributing to our physical and mental health by keeping us active and engaged. Take a pottery course, join a book club, break out the canvas and try painting – the choices are endless. You might find you have a knack for a new activity, and might even be able to sell what you make at local craft and art fairs, stores, or online.
  6. Take Risks!
    Just as you try out new hobbies, you should also try out new activities. As we age, we tend to limit ourselves, becoming more conservative in what we do and try out, less willing to take on new things. But pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will keep you alert and engaged wih the world, helping to keep you from slipping into an uninspiring routine. Fear only holds us back, and you are never too old to try new things. Travel! Look into starting your own business! Try out a new activity! If you’ve always wanted to do something and haven’t yet, there’s no day like today. Life is all about change.
  7. Engage with Young People!
    Want to feel young? Surround yourself with young, energetic people. Their enthusiasm, liveliness, and zest for life is contagious – it’s a shot of energy to the heart! Go out with your family and other young families – you’ll get exercise and feel young. Play with children, talk to young adults – you’ll soon be feeling lively!
  8. Be Positive!
    No one wants to become a bitter, cynical old person. Don’t allow yourself to slip too deeply into past regrets, disappointments or depression. How you perceive yourself and what you think has tremendous impact on how you live your life. Stay positive and enthusiastic in attitude, and you will see positive things in your life.
  9. Laugh!
    Just as you need to stay positive, you need to keep a sense of humour. Laughter  doesn’t just make us feel good:  laugh more and you will experience other health benefits, such as protection against heart disease, boosts to your immune system, a more balanced blood pressure, and decreases in your stress levels. It also helps keep you looking young:  what would you prefer: wrinkles or laugh lines? Maintaining a lively wit and charm draws people to you and helps you build lasting relationships, and lasting relationships, with a healthy dose of laughter and good humour, help us cope with stress that otherwise ages us.
  10. Teach and Encourage Others!
    This goes hand in hand with having strong relationships. Your experiences and wisdom can be of great help to others, and sharing it will help you feel significant and valuable. Nothing keeps us young like knowing you are making a meaningful contribution to the life of another. As we get older, it’s easy to lose self-worth: if you teach others – whether practical skills, mental concepts or sharing personal philosophies – you’ll feel useful, young and still valued.
  11. Be Grateful!
    Remind yourself that you have much to be thankful for: it will help you stay positive and happy. It is important to cultivate and practice gratitude at any age, but as we grow older it becomes even more important that we look back on our lives and appreciate just how fulfilling they have been. This practice is important to our mental health, which in turn affects our physical help.
  12. Get the most out of life!
    Each day presents a new opportunity and challenge to live life to its fullest, to wring out more joy and experience from this world.  Keeping yourself focused on having a fulfilling life will help keep you young at heart – be curious, be interested, be spontaneous! Life doesn’t have to end or become a boring chore as you age – you can keep accomplishing things whether you’re 40, 60, or even in your 90s! The years will go on, but you’re only as young as you feel – live for the good times, and keep your spirits up!