Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Lower your Blood Pressure Naturally

In Health on July 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Natural Ways to Reduce Your BP

Lifestyle changes can shrink your risk of high blood pressure by a whopping 78 percent, research shows, even if you have a family history.

– Lose weight: Extra pounds are the top predictor of high blood pressure in women, says a 2009 Harvard study. The more you weigh, the more blood your body needs to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. This increases the volume of blood circulating through your blood vessels, which boosts pressure on your artery walls. Getting to a healthy weight, meaning a BMI under 25, cuts your risk of high blood pressure by 40 percent. (If you’re 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds or less, that puts you in the healthy zone.) Not even medication affects blood pressure as much as losing weight. For every 20 pounds you trim, you can drop blood pressure by up to 20 points.

– Get moving: Doing 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every day can make a big difference. After all, your heart is a muscle. The more you work out, the more efficiently it pumps blood, which keeps vessels flexible.

– Eat smart: The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet can significantly reduce blood pressure in as little as two weeks. This eating plan is low in sodium and rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. It also recommends low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and nutrients that help control blood pressure, like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.

– Help shake your salt habit by cooking more whole foods at home and avoiding the drive-through. Check labels of canned, frozen, and packaged foods and pick ones that are the lowest in sodium. When you cook, use flavorful herbs and spices or a squeeze of lemon or lime instead of reaching for the salt shaker.

– Calm your stress. Juggling your career, your family, and your social life can make you feel frazzled. When you’re stressed your body produces a surge of hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, which helps you conquer deadlines. But this may also cause a temporary spike in blood pressure by making your heart beat faster and your blood vessels narrow. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help reduce the pressure.

– Log enough sleep: Getting less than six hours of sleep a night dramatically increases the risk of high blood pressure, especially in the childbearing years, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Hypertension. Sleep keeps stress hormones in check and helps your nervous system remain healthy by recharging your batteries.

Systolic, the top number, is the pressure in your blood vessels while your heart contracts to pump blood to your body.

Diastolic, the lower number, represents the pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.

If your blood pressure is 90/60 to 119/79, that’s considered normal. If you’re 120/80 to 130/89, that’s called pre-hypertensive and you should be monitored carefully. Once you hit 140/90, you officially have hypertension and need treatment.

You can add years to your life by reducing your blood pressure. Current guidelines say 120/80 is optimal, but many experts believe 115/75 is even better. You should aim for 115/75, says Dr. Roizen. That’s backed up by the results of a landmark study involving more than 20 million people in 52 countries. “The good news is that we can get almost everyone to 115/75 now using a combination of lifestyle changes and medication,” he says.


7 Secrets of High-Energy People

In Health on July 22, 2011 at 3:12 am

Emotional Energy
“The single biggest difference between people who get what they want and people who don’t is energy,” says Mira Kirshenbaum, psychotherapist and clinical director of the Chestnut Hill Institute in Boston. There’s an energy crisis in America, and it has nothing to do with fossil fuels. Millions of us get up each morning already weary over what the day holds. “I just can’t get started,” people say. Or, “I feel drained just thinking about the long hours ahead.” But it’s not physical energy that most of us lack. Sure, we could all use extra sleep and a better diet. But in truth, people are healthier today than at any time in history. I can almost guarantee that if you long for more energy, the problem is not with your body.

What you’re seeking is not the adrenaline-filled, bounce-off-the-walls kind of energy. It’s emotional energy. It’s an aliveness of the mind and spirit that connects you to the vitality and fun of life. Yet, sad to say, life sometimes seems designed to exhaust our supply. We work too hard. We have family obligations. We encounter emergencies and personal crises. No wonder so many of us suffer from emotional fatigue, a kind of utter exhaustion of the spirit, a sense that we’re just going through the motions. And yet we all know people who are filled with exuberance and joy, despite the sometimes grim external circumstances of their lives. Even as a child, I observed people who were dirt-poor or disabled or whose physical energy had been sapped by disease, but who nonetheless faced life with optimism and vigor.

Unlike physical energy, which is finite and diminishes with age, emotional energy is unlimited and has nothing to do with genes or upbringing. So how do you get it? You can’t simply tell yourself to be positive. You must take action.

Check our our blog tomorrow for seven practical strategies that work.

Thank you to Ladies Home Journal

Memory Lame: Why you keep forgetting things

In Health on July 19, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Having an attack of forgetfulness and wondering whether it’s anxiety…or Alzheimer’s? Don’t worry. You may be losing your keys but you’re probably not losing your mind.
How Memory Works

My friend Patty dubs it a Swiss cheese moment, though mine lasted for a month. I couldn’t find the shopping bag containing two pairs of pants I needed to return. I knew I’d set it aside somewhere but my repeated, frantic searches found nothing. Then, long after I’d given up hope of ever finding the darn thing, I reached into my raincoat pocket and found a receipt from the store — I’d returned both pairs a few weeks earlier. But I had absolutely no recollection of doing it. That’s when mild panic set in: Is something really serious going on?

“Misplace your keys when you’re 30 and it’s no big deal,” says neuroscientist Susan De Santi, PhD, an expert in brain imaging and cognition. “But at 40? People start to get concerned.”

They sure do. My mind went straight to early-onset Alzheimer’s. Once I’d talked myself out of that diagnosis, I settled for garden-variety age-related memory loss. Which still panicked me — if I was this bad now, what were my retirement years going to be like?

If you’ve had that same kind of experience, don’t freak out, says Dr. De Santi. “Everybody has moments when they forget something for a host of reasons that has nothing to do with aging or Alzheimer’s.” Sure, aging is a factor in memory loss, the same way you may not run as fast in your 40s as you did in your 20s. And while you lose neurons as you age, your brain makes new ones. There’s a big difference between normal slowing down and serious cognitive impairment, Dr. De Santi says.

Even if there is something going on with your memory, it’s unlikely to be Alzheimer’s. “Many psychological and physical disorders that have nothing to do with aging can weaken memory,” says psychologist Mark A. McDaniel, PhD, coauthor of Memory Fitness: A Guide for Successful Aging. Common culprits include an over- or underactive thyroid, anxiety, low blood sugar, and medications such as antidepressants and antihistamines. If you’re perimenopausal, fluctuating hormones can also play a role — the same hormones that, years earlier, may have caused “pregnancy fog.”

A visit to your doctor is a good idea if you’re suddenly forgetful. But for most people memory glitches are nothing to worry about. “Such fogginess is most likely caused by treatable, reversible conditions,” Dr. De Santi says.

Every piece of new information (such as, here I am at the store, returning the pants) triggers a complex series of chemical and cellular changes in your brain. To remember something new your brain must encode the information, store it, and later retrieve it. A breakdown in any one of those three steps leads to forgetting.

“Encoding involves all the senses — vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch,” says developmental molecular biologist John J. Medina, PhD, author of Brain Rules. How much you recall is influenced by what’s happening around you at the time you’re encoding as well as by your previous life experiences — including genetics. Your brain takes in the new information and splits it into millions of pieces, sending them off to various parts of the brain: sounds in the area devoted to auditory processing, colors in the visual processing regions, and so on. Then it brings it all back together again (or not) when you try to recall something.

There are two main categories of memory: short-term and long-term. Short-term memory lasts only a few seconds — you call 411 for the phone number of a new restaurant and unless you jot it down or repeat it several times you probably won’t remember it after you make the reservation. Most people can hold only about seven bits of information (digits, letters, words) in their head at a time unless they do something to move that fleeting memory into long-term storage. There’s a reason for that: If your brain held on to every piece of information it would be so cluttered you couldn’t function. On the other hand, the smallest interruption deletes what you want to remember. That’s why you may walk into a room to get a book, be distracted by someone asking when dinner will be ready, then stand there and wonder why you went into that room.

Long-term memory is a bit of a misnomer: It can mean something learned five minutes, or five years, ago. There are several types of long-term memory: Declarative memory is a memory for facts (such as “Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States”). Episodic memory is linked to a particular time and place (last summer’s camping trip; where you went for your first anniversary). And motor memory governs everyday things like remembering how to brush your teeth.

Most of us experience forgetfulness because of memory-sapping behaviors and habits, not illnesses. Check out the top reasons for memory loss — I’ll bet they sound familiar.

Too Much Stress
Just the right amount of stress hormones — cortisol and adrenaline — keeps you sharp by heightening the senses and boosting energy and awareness. But too much can flood the system. “In almost every way that can be measured, chronic stress hurts our ability to think,” says Dr. Medina. “Stressed people can’t concentrate or problem solve well. They have trouble processing language and processing new information.”

Even short bouts of anxiety — worries about your 401(k), anger over an argument with a spouse — can damage the brain’s memory pathways. So you then forget to stop at the bank on the way home from the office or blank on the name of the woman you met at your son’s soccer game last weekend.

Too Little Sleep
“Sleep loss cripples your ability to think logically, pay attention, and remember,” Dr. Medina says. While you snooze your brain moves information it takes in during the day from short-term memory to long-term storage. Studies conducted by Mary A. Carskadon, PhD, a veteran sleep researcher at Brown University, revealed that losing just one hour of sleep per night on a regular basis can have a significant negative impact on health, alertness, and memory.

Returning a friend’s e-mail while you’re finishing a report at work and simultaneously fielding a call about your son’s homework assignment may feel super-efficient. But research shows that, in fact, you’re kidding yourself. Your ability to learn and remember is seriously compromised when you divide your focus.

“Think of a book,” says Dr. Medina. “Though many words might exist on a single page, you can only read that page one word at a time. Similarly, the brain can only focus on one thing at a time unless the other skills are so familiar as to be automatic.” That’s why you can speed-walk with a friend and still carry on a conversation. But the details of your son’s homework assignment? You weren’t focusing, so your brain wasn’t able to lay down the memory.

Working on Autopilot
Not paying attention to what you’re doing when you’re doing it could be the cause of absentmindedness, one of the most common memory glitches. When you can’t find your eyeglasses and tear around the house looking for them until someone points out that they’re on top of your head (where you pushed them when opening the mail) you’re struggling with what Harvard University psychologist Daniel L. Schacter, PhD, calls “amnesia for the automatic.” In other words, certain tasks are so routine that you don’t even realize that your mind has started to wander until you try to remember where you put something or what you were doing at the time.

Get Your Brain Back
“There’s no Viagra for memory,” says Dr. McDaniel. But you can make simple lifestyle changes to sharpen your memory and boost overall brain health.

Move It
“Exercise is Miracle-Gro for the brain,” says Dr. Medina. “Some studies suggest that you cut your lifetime risk for dementia in half if you engage in some form of regular aerobic activity.” Aerobic exercise boosts the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, which helps you concentrate and screen out distractions. It also triggers the formation of new neurons and the release of brain chemicals that ramp up your ability to learn and remember. You don’t have to train for a triathlon to get that benefit, either. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic training, such as walking, biking, or swimming, three times a week.

Challenge It
Just doing crossword puzzles won’t cut it, Dr. Medina points out. “What you really need is cross-training for your brain by doing many different activities,” he says. “Think of it this way: Using free weights to pump your biceps tones your arms, but it doesn’t do a thing for your abs.”

Some studies suggest you can preserve memory by doing intellectual activities that are not only demanding but meaningful to you. If you play piano, memorize a Bach concerto. Turn your girls’ night out into a book club that inspires lively debate, plan a family sudoku tournament — whatever makes you work hard and feel a connection.

Feed It
What’s good for the body is good for the brain, so aim for a balanced diet. Research shows a correlation between brain health and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, halibut, soybeans, flaxseed), antioxidants (berries, spinach, broccoli) and adequate levels of folate (orange juice, green leafy vegetables).

De-Stress It
Yoga, meditation, exercise, listening to music, daydreaming, spending time with friends and family: Whatever gives your brain a rest will also sharpen your memory. So will maintaining a positive attitude. “If you think, ‘I’m getting older, my memory is going to deteriorate, so why should I bother doing anything differently?’ memory loss can become a self-fulfilling prophesy,” says Dr. McDaniel.

When to Call the Doctor
We all forget names or misplace wallets. But see your physician if?:

-You have trouble with daily functioning because your brain is foggy
– You start to struggle with simple familiar tasks (preparing meals; using a toothbrush or household appliance)
-You consistently forget common words
-You become disoriented or lost in your home or on your own street
– You experience erratic behavior, mood swings, or personality changes

Jump-Start Your Memory
Memory Glitch: You’re introduced to someone at a party and five minutes later you can’t remember her name.
Brain Booster: Pay attention when someone says her name and immediately repeat it silently to yourself three times. Then find a way to weave it into the conversation, as many times as possible.

Memory Glitch: You can’t remember an address or even a short grocery list unless you write it down.
Brain Booster: You can probably reel off your Social Security number because it’s arranged in groups of three, two, and four digits, right? “Chunking” — breaking up a string of numbers into smaller groups — works well for numbers as well as that grocery list. Or create an acronym: bread, eggs, apples, and tea becomes BEAT.

Memory Glitch: Your daughter calls at 4 p.m. to ask you to pick up milk on the way home from work. Two hours later you walk in the door — without the milk.
Brain Booster: Next time take 30 seconds to imagine where you’ll be when you need to remember the errand, then create a cue to prompt you: A Post-it note on the outside of your tote bag may remind you about the milk as you pack up and head for home.

Memory Glitch: You had your keys when you unlocked the front door but now you can’t remember where you put them.
Brain Booster: You didn’t exactly forget where you put your keys but you were probably preoccupied with other thoughts when you opened the door and didn’t capture that specific memory. In the future, pay attention when you put something somewhere — even say out loud, “I’m putting my keys on the kitchen table.”

Don’t Quit

In This & That on July 17, 2011 at 2:36 am

When things go wrong, as they aften will, when the road you’re trudging seems all uphill. When the funds are low and the debts are high, and you want to smile but you have to sigh. When care is pressing you down a bit – rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is odd with its twists and turns, as everyone sometimes learns. And many a person turns about when an individual might have won had he/she stuck it out. Don’t give up though the pace seems slow – you may succeed with yet another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than it seems to a faint and faltering woman or man; often the struggler has given up when he/she might have captured the victor’s cup. And one learned too late when the night came down, how close he/she was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out – the silver tint of the clouds of doubt. And when you never can tell how close you are, it may be near when it seems so far. So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit – it’s when things seem worst, you must not quit!

Acting FAST for a Stroke

In Health on July 9, 2011 at 2:23 am

Use F.A.S.T to determine if you or someone you love is having a stroke. Acting FAST is the key to recovery for a stroke.

F – Face: Ask the person to smile. If one side of the face appears to be crooked of drooping – CALL 911

A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms in the air. If there is a difficulty with one arm – CALL 911

S – Speech: Ask the person to speak. If the words are slurred or he/she can’t speak – CALL 911

T – Time: Time is of the essence. Call 911 if any of the above symptoms exist.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and food. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. A stroke is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications.

The good news is that strokes can be treated and prevented, and many fewer Americans now die of stroke than was the case even 15 years ago. Better control of major stroke risk factors — high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol — is likely responsible for the decline.

Just remember, time is of the essence!

The Real Social Network -Part II

In community on July 7, 2011 at 2:30 am

A light bulb burns out in that hard-to-reach spot at the top of the stairs and that’s when you realize you’re dependent on others for the simplest of household chores. I’ve heard so many stories from people who say they have to move to a nursing home. A lightbulb is a disaster. It is especially difficult when the home owner will not ask for help. Family members need to be aware of the needs of their loved ones. When you see simple household chores being left undone it’s time to have the home care discussion. Your loved one does not necessarily need to leave their home, they just might need a helping hand. Let us show you how we can safely keep your loved one in the comfort of their own home.

Our thanks to AARP

Tomatoes and Osteoporosis

In Health on July 4, 2011 at 2:24 am

A four-month study at the University of Toronto found women who increased their intake of lycopene, the plant pigment that gives tomatoes their red color, experienced a significant decline in N-telopeptide, a marker of bone breakdown. It is likely that lycopene’s antioxidant properties, which may counteract the metabolic by-products that would otherwise weaken bones. The study-backed dose: 30-70 mg of lycopene daily (approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup of tomato sauce – cooked tomatoes are significantly higher in lycopene than raw tomatoes). So eat up those tomatoes, they could help keep your skeleton strong.

Our thanks goes to BH&G April 2011.

The Real Social Network

In community on July 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Referencing an article in AARP, we just might give you the chance to stay in your own home. “On a bitterly cold morning a few years ago, Mrs. McQueen awoke to what sounded like artillery fire: the ice-covered branches of trees cracking in the wind. A winter storm knocked out the power in the home she shared with her husband Jim. No heat or water, Mrs. McQueen recalls. The outage lasted nine days; the couple both 82 at the time weathered the ordeal in isolation with the help of a camp stove. Their three grown kids were spread out in three different states. The McQueens were alone and it scared them. Maybe it was time to think about leaving their home of 40 years. Luckily the McQueens found a way to stay.” Programs offered by You’re First allow older persons the opportunity to stay in the comfort of their own homes without being alone. Our reassurance program costs less than $1 a day and gives families peace of mind knowing their loved ones are being looked after on a daily basis especially when disasters strike. “To dump 40 years of building a home to move into an apartment and/or condominium doesn’t appeal to me at all,” Jim says. The idea of You’re First reassurance program means he won’t have to.