Standing Lunge with a Chair
Purpose: Stretches the hips, chest, back, strengthens the quadriceps and promotes balance.
Props: A yoga mat and a chair.
Tips: Set the pelvis carefully, squarely facing the back of the chair, and keep it that way as you perform the pose. Do not let the back leg droop. Align the front knee with the second toe.
1. Stand facing the back of your chair.
2. As you step the left foot back, bend the right knee until the right shin is vertical.
3. Lean forward toward the chair and fully stretch your back leg, firming the muscles from foot to hip.
4. Retaining the forward lean, lengthen your tailbone down and draw the lower belly in to stabilize your pelvis.
5. Bring your torso upright and retract shoulders back until they are just above your hips.
6. Let go of the chair when ready, and stretch arms up parallel to ears. Breathe fully and confidently as you maintain this pose.
Leg Stretch with Belt
Purpose: To stretch hamstrings and major muscles of the back and improve spinal and pelvic alignment.
Props: Yoga mat, belt and a blanket.
Tips: Keep the pelvis steady as the leg changes position. Relax your neck, face and shoulders.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat. Arrange the blanket so that the lower edge supports the small of your back, with your buttocks on the floor.
2. As you inhale, move your sitting bones down to the floor and apart, which will arch your lower back.
3. Contract abdomen in and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels without flattening the lower back.
4. Raise your right leg and hook a belt around the foot. Hold one end of the belt with each hand.
5. Gradually straighten the leg, firming the muscles on all sides and elevating your heel.
6. If your right leg stretches to 90°, straighten the left leg till flat on the floor for more challenge.
7. Extend through both legs fully, even if it means backing off with your right leg. (Note: The goal is not to force the right leg or foot toward your head.)
8. Return to lying flat with both legs stretched out, then repeat with the left leg up.
Hot and Cold Therapy for after exercise:
BodySense Knee Wrap
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All the Wraps relieve injury or inflammation from exercise and physical therapy, or to relax ans help reduce swelling and pain in muscles and joints.
What do yoga and osteoarthritis have in common?
Osteoarthritis is an age-old, degenerative joint disease that takes a toll on your physical and emotional health. Yoga is an ancient therapy that can restore both. Recently, science has begun to connect the dots between the two.
A 2008 randomized, controlled study revealed that dozens of women eased their chronic low-back pain by participating in a one-week intensive yoga program to help osteoarthritis.
"By its very nature, yoga is good for arthritis because it relieves the disease's major disability” – reduced range of motion – “without causing further trauma to joints," explains Loren Fishman, M.D., co-author of Yoga for Arthritis (W.W. Norton).
"The key is practicing regularly," says Ellen Saltonstall, a New York City yoga teacher and co-author of Yoga for Arthritis, who also has arthritis in both hands, one foot and lower back.
The best part is you can do yoga on your own whenever you have time. To help osteoarthritis, aim to complete at least one pose each day, she suggests. If that’s too ambitious, make it every other day.
Before starting, consult your doctor and an experienced yoga teacher to learn the right alignment. To find a qualified teacher, ask a chiropractor, acupuncturist or other trusted health-care provider for referrals, or search the website of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
Purpose: To extend the spine and stretch the chest and hamstring muscles.
Tips: Retract shoulder blades firmly into the back. Keep knees bent if you’re stiff.
1. Place your hands on the wall at eye level with your index fingers pointing up, arms shoulder-width apart and elbows straight.
2. Place your feet hip-width apart and parallel.
3. Straighten your arms and move your chest a little toward the wall. Keep your elbows straight and pull your shoulder blades in toward your spine. Your chest will move a little toward the wall and shoulders will move back.
4. Bend forward through your trunk until there is one long diagonal line from hands to hips, stepping back as needed.
5. Raise your sitting bones and separate them, which will make an arch in your lower back. Lift your buttocks toward the ceiling, creating an arch in your lower back.
6. Draw in your belly and lengthen the tailbone.
7. After several breaths, return to standing as you inhale and step toward the wall.
Hot and Cold Therapy options for after exercise;
BodySense Lareg Pack - Stay hot for up to 45 minutes and are weighted to apply gentle pressure while enhancing the deep penetration of moist heat into muscles and joints. Packs stay cold for up to 30 minutes and unlike regular ice packs do not "sweat" and require no towels or covers to prevent injury to the skin.
It was the third day of the United States Open qualifying tournament and Elaine Brady was already sipping an afternoon coffee during a rare break from the training room, where many of the 128 qualifiers had been filing in and out. The Open was just beginning, but Brady’s hectic schedule was already forcing her to rely on a caffeinated boost.
It’s been a long day,” she said.
Brady, a native of Ireland, is one of eight female physical therapists — or, as the Women’s Tennis Association calls them, primary health care providers — at the event. In the men’s training room, there are five male therapists working for the Association of Tennis Professionals. Each staff will dwindle as the tournament fields shrink.
The therapists are responsible for the physical health of every player, even those who travel with their own therapists, because private therapists are not allowed to treat players on the court. Todd Ellenbecker, director of sports medicine for the ATP, estimated that 10 percent of the top 100 men’s players travel with therapists.
The responsibilities of the tours’ therapists lead to a seemingly endless schedule over the event’s two-plus weeks of qualifying and competition. Kathleen Stroia, the WTA vice president for sport sciences and medicine, said some therapists worked tournaments from start to finish, primarily to provide continuity of care.
“You want to see them throughout the event so the players know who their staff is for the week,” Stroia said. “Whether it’s an advancing exercise program or continuing a treatment plan, they are the ones providing that comprehensive care.”
The therapists arrive at least an hour before the day’s first matches and meet to discuss each player’s medical history. They spend the day in the training room treating players and are on call if medical assistance is needed on the court.
At least a couple of staff members — the schedule rotates — remain in the training room until an hour after the day’s final match, which could mean a day that begins at 9 a.m. and ends as late as 3 a.m. But the day is never really complete; therapists usually stay at the same hotels as the players and are on call 24 hours.
“We’ve had calls in the middle of the night when players are sick and needed to go to hospitals,” said Brady, who insisted that player identities remain confidential. “We’ve been in emergency rooms at 3 in the morning in Moscow. As they say, it’s a full-time thing. People can get sick at any time of the day or night.”
WTA therapists typically cover a range of 8 to 16 tournaments in a season that runs from January to November. Of the 10 therapists on the ATP staff, three are full time and work as many as 25 events a year. The seven part-time staff members usually work 8 to 10 events in a season. The ATP also has a four-member medical services committee.
The therapists come from around the world. The ATP staff has three Americans, two from Australia and one each from France, the Netherlands, Germany, Argentina and England. The diversity means versatility in language and specialties.
“Sometimes there are particular physios that work with certain groups of players,” Ellenbecker said, using a term for physical therapists used widely outside the United States. “For example, some of the Spanish-speaking players who aren’t comfortable speaking in English often times will seek out more treatment from one of our therapists that is more proficient in Spanish because they feel they can communicate better. Or they’re more comfortable with their technique.”
The regular interaction can lead to strong relationships between players and therapists.
“It’s a special environment,” said Kerri Whitehead, the WTA director of sports sciences and medicine programs. “We get to see them in a light that the public doesn’t and you see they’re normal and human people like we are. Of course there are professional bounds that you need to maintain. Those boundaries are important, but there’s also a special environment the training room allows to have those friendships that are important to the athlete, just like you have in other sports.”
After the Open, Brady will take a break from the constant travel and head home to St. Petersburg, Fla. It will not last long, though. She will be in Beijing for the WTA’s stop the first week of October.
“It’s definitely a perk of the job: the travel,” she said. “We get to stay in nice hotels and see places that typically wouldn’t be on your to-go list.”
Brady, who will be based out of London beginning next year, acknowledged the travel and being away from home take a toll, but she does not see herself doing anything else in the near future.
“I honestly love the job more and more each year,” she said. “No day is ever the same. It’s always something different.”
For those of us hoping to keep our brains fit and healthy well into middle age and beyond, the latest science offers some reassurance. Activity appears to be critical, though scientists have yet to prove that exercise can ward off serious problems like Alzheimer’s disease. But what about the more mundane, creeping memory loss that begins about the time our 30s recede, when car keys and people’s names evaporate? It’s not Alzheimer’s, but it’s worrying. Can activity ameliorate its slow advance — and maintain vocabulary retrieval skills, so that the word “ameliorate” leaps to mind when needed?
Obligingly, a number of important new studies have just been published that address those very questions. In perhaps the most encouraging of these, Canadian researchers measured the energy expenditure and cognitive functioning of a large group of elderly adults over the course of two to five years. Most of the volunteers did not exercise, per se, and almost none worked out vigorously. Their activities generally consisted of “walking around the block, cooking, gardening, cleaning and that sort of thing,” said Laura Middleton, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and lead author of the study, which was published last week in Archives of Internal Medicine.
But even so, the effects of this modest activity on the brain were remarkable, Dr. Middleton said. While the wholly sedentary volunteers, and there were many of these, scored significantly worse over the years on tests of cognitive function, the most active group showed little decline. About 90 percent of those with the greatest daily energy expenditure could think and remember just about as well, year after year.
“Our results indicate that vigorous exercise isn’t necessary” to protect your mind, Dr. Middleton said. “I think that’s exciting. It might inspire people who would be intimidated about the idea of quote-unquote exercising to just get up and move.”
The same message emerged from another study published last week in the same journal. In it, women, most in their 70s, with vascular disease or multiple risk factors for developing that condition completed cognitive tests and surveys of their activities over a period of five years. Again, they were not spry. There were no marathon runners among them. The most active walked. But there was “a decreasing rate of cognitive decline” among the active group, the authors wrote. Their ability to remember and think did still diminish, but not as rapidly as among the sedentary.
“If an inactive 70-year-old is heading toward dementia at 50 miles per hour, by the time she’s 75 or 76, she’s speeding there at 75 miles per hour,” said Jae H. Kang, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study. “But the active 76-year-olds in our study moved toward dementia at more like 50 miles per hour.” Walking and other light activity had bought them, essentially, five years of better brainpower.
“If we can push out the onset of dementia by 5, 10 or more years, that changes the dynamics of aging,” said Dr. Eric Larson, the vice president of research at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle and author of an editorial accompanying the two studies.
“None of us wants to lose our minds,” he said. So the growing body of science linking activity and improved mental functioning “is a wake-up call. We have to find ways to get everybody moving.”
Which makes one additional new study about exercise and the brain, published this month in Neurobiology of Aging, particularly appealing. For those among us, and they are many, who can’t get excited about going for walks or brisk gardening, scientists from the Aging, Mobility and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of British Columbia and other institutions have shown, for the first time, that light-duty weight training changes how well older women think and how blood flows within their brains. After 12 months of lifting weights twice a week, the women performed significantly better on tests of mental processing ability than a control group of women who completed a balance and toning program, while functional M.R.I. scans showed that portions of the brain that control such thinking were considerably more active in the weight trainers.
“We’re not trying to show that lifting weights is better than aerobic-style activity” for staving off cognitive decline, said Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an assistant professor at the university and study leader. “But it does appear to be a viable option, and if people enjoy it, as our participants did, and stick with it,” then more of us might be able, potentially, to ameliorate mental decline well into late life.
Ice therapy or cryotherapy is one of the most extensively used therapeutic modalities for treating and rehabilitating acute sport injuries. It is cheap, easy to apply and most importantly, highly effective. Ice therapy can be used in the acute setting making up an integral component of the RICE technique, to help decrease swelling and pain. It can also be used in chronic (long term) injuries such as edema. Below is a description on the benefits and indications for applying ice therapy to an injury.
The R.I.C.E technique is the gold standard treatment of acute sporting injuries.The most important time in the treatment of acute sporting injuries is in the first 24-48 hours. When soft tissue damage occurs, for example, when a muscle tears, blood vessels rupture and the injury site begins to swell. This increase in blood volume in the area can cause cell death by what is known as secondary hypoxic injury. Thus, every effort should be made to control excessive bleeding.
The R.I.C.E technique involves all the components that are needed to prevent further injury to the damaged site immediately after the injury has been sustained. If applied correctly and in time the R.I.C.E technique can greatly reduce the recovery time of the athlete. In order to have a full understanding of the therapeutic mechanisms behind the R.I.C.E method, a knowledge of the body's intrinsic reaction to tissue damage, the inflammatory response, is needed. The letters R.I.C.E are abbreviations for:
Each component functions to help limit swelling and decrease pain of the injury.
Rest is the first line of action for any sporting injury. It does not only refer to a prolonged period of time following the injury but also relates to resting immediately from sporting activities. An athlete must know when to stop training -repetitive minor injuries can commonly result in a large scale injury that could have been prevented by adequate rest and treatment.
If an injury is sustained during sporting activity some athletes have a tendency to 'run it off'. This implies that with increased exercise the pain and injury will simply go away. In a lot of cases, nothing could be further from the truth. It may be possible that by continuing to exercise the athletes pain may seem less intense. This may be due to a number of factors. During exercise, nerve fibres that respond to mechanical signals such as touch can over-ride the impulses from the pain nerve fibres- a phenomenon known as the pain gate theory. In addition other factors such as the player's mentality can all play a part in over-riding the pain- however the tissue itself is still damaged and continued activity could cause serious further injury.
Ice therapy also known as cryotherapy is one of the most widely used treatment modalities used for acute sports injuries. It is cheap, easy to use and requires little time to prepare. The application of ice to an injury,in the acute phase can substantially decrease the extent of the damage. It achieves this in a number of different ways:
Ice is usually applied to the injured site by means of a bag filled with crushed ice which is wrapped in a damp towel. The ice should be left in place for approximately 15-20 minutes. A more detailed overview on the correct use of ice therapy and the indications for its use are available on the application page.
Applying compression to a wound has the effect of preventing excessive swelling occurring and should be applied for about 24-48 hours from the onset of injury. Compression of the limb functions to increase the pressure within the tissue thus narrowing the blood vessels. This slows down the inflammatory process and so prevents excessive edema building up within the joint. This edema, when present, can severely affect the functional ability of the limb. Compression can be applied by a number of means.
Elevation of the injured limb allows gravity to draw the fluid away from the injured site. This aids in decreasing the swelling and so can decrease pain associated with this edema. In lower limb injuries try and keep the ankle above the level of the hip. Upper limb injuries can be elevated by use of pillow or sling. The injured limb should be elevated for as long as possible throughout the day for the first 48 hours.
BodySense products offer a two-sided design that includes a soft, comforting fleece surface for moist heat application and a smooth cordura surface for dry transfer of cold therapy:
An Australian researcher is developing a bandage that could help treatment of chronic wounds by changing colour to reveal the state of the wound beneath.
The invention could improve the quality of life of many, as well as reduce the $500 million cost of chronic wound care in Australia.
"What I've developed is something that changes colour in response to changes in temperature," says van der Werff, who is doing the research as part of a PhD at Monash University in Melbourne.
The research is also supported by a manufacturer of bandages.
Van der Werff's research aims to improve the monitoring and treatment of chronic wounds, such as ulcers, which affect up to 3 per cent of the population, mainly people who are elderly, obese or who have diabetes.
"Some people might have a wound lasting for six months because they get recurring infections that they are not identifying early enough," says van der Werff.
She says infections and inflammation can cause delayed healing, especially when a patient's immune system is compromised.
And because many chronic wound sufferers are at home or in places where their wound may not be constantly monitored, treatment may not come as soon as it should.
Van der Werff's invention is designed to ensure faster diagnosis of wound problems and appropriate treatment to speed up healing.
Her "smart bandage" uses a commercial derivative of cholesterol that changes from red through green to blue as it heats up.
"If you have an infection or inflammation you're likely to get an increase in temperature from a normal state," says van der Werff.
"But a decrease in temperature could be an indication of other problems, for example, compromised blood supply to the wound tissue."
Van der Werff has worked out how to incorporate the colour-changing molecule into a fibrous material.
"I've shown that it can be woven or knitted into a fabric and it retains its colour-changing behaviour," she says.
"I've also done some basic characterisation to show how you can use this to monitor temperature."
Van der Werff says the next step is to make a prototype bandage in which the colours have been calibrated to match a particular temperature range.
"We can tune them so you can see a temperature difference of less than half a degree just by looking at the colour," she says.
Van der Werff says temperature monitoring is not currently standard practice because it relies on infrared equipment and temperature probes.
"They're all electronic based obviously so they're not really accessible to everyone and they're expensive," she says.
Van der Werff says her new bandage would make it easier and cheaper to monitor changes in temperature of wounds.
The bandage would even allow for patients themselves to be involved in monitoring and diagnosing the state of their wounds, she says.
Menopause -- also called "the change of life" -- is the ending of a woman's monthly menstrual periods and ovulation (the production of eggs). It also signals other changes to the body and mind, brought on in part because the body begins producing smaller amounts of the hormones estrogen and progesterone (among others). Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.
Alternative therapists often frown on widespread use of estrogen replacement therapy, citing its potential side effects and emphasizing that menopause is a natural occurrence, not a disease or a state of deficiency that requires aggressive treatment. Alternative treatments offer ways to ease or avoid some of the annoying symptoms of menopause. Additionally, osteoporosis and heart disease, whose risks increase with menopause, may be prevented with alternative methods.
Herbal Medicine for Menopause
Herbs that mimic female hormones or relieve symptoms ranging from fatigue to vaginal dryness offer a lot of promise to women during menopause. Several herbs contain natural plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) that are similar to but weaker than the estrogen hormone found in a woman's body. These herbs, including black cohash, false unicorn root, and licorice, are often prescribed to ease the troublesome symptoms of menopause. Other phytoestrogens include alfalfa, dong quai, and soy.
Mexican wild yam, on the other hand, provides a substance similar to another female hormone, progesterone. A modified extract of the yam is used instead of synthetic progesterone to treat irritability and other menopausal symptoms and even increase bone density, with few if any reported side effects. It's available in capsules, as an oil, and as a cream. Most research now indicates that wild yam does not convert to progesterone in the body as was previously speculated, but the chemically converted extract seems effective.
From another class of herbs is Siberian ginseng (eleuthero) -- a well-known energy tonic that can reduce irritability and fatigue associated with menopause. It's typically used in tincture or capsule form.
Evening primrose oil is often prescribed to lessen fatigue, hot flashes, and indigestion. The oil, made from evening primrose seeds, contains the essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid, which is given credit for reducing those symptoms. It's available in capsule form.
Other helpful herbs include:
An herbalist might prescribe, for example, a combination of Mexican wild yam, dong quai, licorice (in the absence of high blood pressure), alfalfa, and chastetree to reduce irritability triggered by menopause.
Yoga for Menopause
Yoga delivers benefits to both the body and mind, alleviating menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, depression, hot flashes, and mood swings. It encourages deep breathing and relaxation, maintains muscle tone and flexibility, improves blood circulation, and increases the levels of mood-regulating chemicals in the brain, among other advantages.
Because menopausal women are concerned with osteoporosis and heart disease, yoga is doubly valuable. It provides weight-bearing exercise that encourages strong bones. And, as several clinical studies have shown, it can contribute to lower cholesterol and improve the efficiency of the heart. Yoga sessions are most effective when they last from 20 to 60 minutes and are performed three to seven times a week. They include a combination of breathing exercises, warm-ups, poses, and meditation.
The following pose might be part of a complete yoga routine that can help alleviate menopausal symptoms. It emphasizes good posture and breathing:
Nutritional Therapy for Menopause
Nutritional therapists hold that certain foods or nutrient deficiencies can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Still other foods may boost the body's tolerance for fluctuating hormone levels. Soybean products such as tofu contain natural plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) that may reduce menopausal symptoms. Japanese women, whose diet is typically high in soy foods, report few incidents of menopause-induced hot flashes. Phytoestrogens are also found in lima beans, berries, and several other foods.
Another preventive measure is drinking at least eight glasses of purified water per day to ease hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Particular foods may trigger hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal discomforts, and other menopausal symptoms. These culprits include sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined foods, and spicy foods. Keeping a diary that notes symptoms and food intake can be helpful in pinpointing which foods may be provoking which symptoms.
Vitamin E offers several benefits for women with menopause. Oral supplements of the vitamin can ease hot flashes (and perhaps also headaches, insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, and other symptoms), while vitamin E oil applied to the vagina may reduce dryness and relieve painful sexual intercourse. Good food sources of vitamin E include kale, wheat germ, almonds, vegetable oils, and egg yolks.
Another group of vitamins, the B complex, helps relieve hot flashes for some women, and magnesium may help with other menopausal symptoms, such as fatigue, as this may be caused by a magnesium deficiency. Other helpful supplements include:
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Menopause
During menopause, a woman's body adjusts to the changing hormone levels. According to traditional Chinese medicine, a bothersome menopausal symptom will appear only if the body's vital life energy, or qi, (in particular the kidney qi) is out of balance. Treatment to correct this imbalance may involve any combination of herbal therapy, acupuncture, moxibustion, dietary changes, and qigong.
Chinese herbs are often prescribed in combination mixtures that are individualized to the patient's situation. Dong quai, for example, can be used to relieve the hot flashes, anxiety, and constipation that may accompany menopause. Other Chinese herbs commonly included in menopause treatments are:
Acupuncture is particularly effective in easing annoying hot flashes and night sweats. A traditional Chinese physician will tailor a menopause treatment program for the patient after performing an extensive examination, which often includes questioning, an analysis of the diet, feeling the pulse, and examining the tongue. Using powerful herbs such as dong quai and ginseng without a practitioner's supervision is not recommended.
Other Menopause Therapies
Meditation for Menopause -- Regular practice can clear the mind and bring lowered heart rates and blood pressure, thereby eliminating mood swings and other symptoms.
The Flow of the Universe
Many people live their lives struggling against the current while others use the flow like a mighty wind.
The flow of the universe moves through everything. It’s in the rocks that form, get pounded into dust, and are blown away, the sprouting of a summer flower born from a seed planted in the spring, the growth cycle that every human being goes through, and the current that takes us down our life’s paths. When we move with the flow, rather than resisting it, we are riding on the universal current that allows us to flow with life.
Many people live their lives struggling against this current. They try to use force or resistance to will their lives into happening the way they think it should. Others move with this flow like a sailor using the wind, trusting that the universe is taking them exactly where they need to be at all times. This flow is accessible to everyone because it moves through and around us. We are always riding this flow. It’s just a matter of whether we are willing to go with it or resist it. Tapping into the flow is often a matter of letting go of the notion that we need to be in control at all times. The flow is always taking you where you need to go. It’s just a matter of deciding whether you plan on taking the ride or dragging your feet.
Learning to step into the flow can help you feel a connection to a force that is greater than you and is always there to support you. The decision to go with the flow can take courage because you are surrendering the notion that you need to do everything by yourself. Riding the flow of the universe can be effortless, exhilarating, and not like anything that you ever expected. When you are open to being in this flow, you open yourself to possibilities that exist beyond the grasp of your control. As a child, you were naturally swept by the flow. Tears of sadness falling down your face could just as quickly turn to tears of laughter. Just the tiniest wave carrying you forward off the shores of the ocean could carry you into peals of delight. Our souls feel good when we go with the flow of the universe. All we have to do is make the choice to ride its currents.
Healthy sleep habits do more than just keep you alert — they can also keep you healthier. Getting more shut-eye might even make you a better employee or student.
Healthy sleep habits have a pervasive effect and are crucial to health and well-being at any age. These healthy sleep habits generally allow you to wake up feeling refreshed; think quickly; successfully perform potentially dangerous tasks, like driving, which require complete attention; and do your very best at work or school.
“The importance of sleep is so multi-faceted,” says Lisa Shives, MD, a sleep specialist at Northshore Sleep Medicine, in Evanston, Ill., and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “It is essential to health of mind and body in so many ways.”
The Dangers of Ignoring Healthy Sleep Habits
Not practicing healthy sleep habits can lead to all kinds of health problems, says Dr. Shives. “Poor sleep leads to cardiovascular dysfunction, lowered immune system response, glucose and insulin abnormalities, dysregulation of hormones that control appetite, and impaired cognitive function.”
Sleep deprivation can cause everything from mental impairments to accidents. For example, a study of young adults who slept only four to six hours each night for two weeks showed serious signs of impaired alertness and mental function — often without even being aware of their weaknesses. As a result, researchers concluded that the average person needs about eight hours of healthy sleep a night to function properly.
Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, says healthy sleep habits are critical to maintaining a healthy mind and body. And a lack of sleep can cause all sorts of physical and mental problems, from mood changes to overeating.
Specifically, researchers have found that not following healthy sleeping habits can cause:
“Sleep deprivation, as seen in insomnia, or sleep fragmentation, as seen in obstructive sleep apnea, leads to a two- to threefold increase in high blood pressure, heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, diabetes, dementia, weight gain and obesity, and depression,” says Shives. “Most research shows that treating the sleep disorders and improving sleep can lower the risk of all these associated conditions.”
Healthy Sleeping: Why It's Critical for Kids
Children are especially vulnerable to sleep disruptions, says Shives. “It is important to recognize that children’s sleep disorders need to be taken more seriously because they seem especially vulnerable to many of the ill effects of chronic sleep deprivation, e.g., they can have serious neurocognitive and mood-behavior problems.”
If your child wakes up repeatedly during the night, has problems breathing while he sleeps, or his behavior and mood noticeably change, this might be a sign your child hasn't developed healthy sleeping habits.
Don't lose sleep over losing sleep! Take the extra time to follow healthy sleeping habits, and you’ll be more productive, healthier, alert, and functioning at your best.
Fatigue is the main symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome, but it could also be a sign of an entirely different disease. Find out when it's time to see your doctor to find out why you've lost energy.
You might write off a feeling of fatigue to doing too much. You work, run a home, raise kids, volunteer in your community — all of these activities can leave you feeling overtired, you tell yourself as you collapse on the sofa.
But there’s fatigue, and then there’s chronic fatigue, a feeling of exhaustion that probably signals a medical condition and needs a doctor’s evaluation to help you start feeling like your old self again.
Chronic Fatigue: A Better Health Plan
If you experience a level of fatigue that leaves you exhausted at the end of the day, but is not so severe that it’s keeping you from living your normal life, making a few healthy lifestyle changes may help. Try taking these steps:
Chronic Fatigue: What Can Cause Exhaustion
If your fatigue is more than garden-variety tiredness, a visit to your doctor can help pinpoint a cause. About 40 percent of people who have symptoms of chronic fatigue turn out to have a treatable, underlying medical condition, such as:
Chronic Fatigue: When It’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Fatigue means being too beat to go to the movies or shopping, or to engage in any number of the other normal activities you're used to. With chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) you might be struggling to get through each day; for some people it can get bad enough that even holding down a job becomes difficult, forcing them to consider going on disability leave.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that between 1 and 4 million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome. It is four times as common in women as men and usually begins in the childbearing years, although in rare cases it may occur in teenagers.
At this time, there are no tests to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. Your doctor can only diagnose CFS when other medical conditions known to cause fatigue are ruled out. Doctors call this "a diagnosis of exclusion."
The most debilitating symptom of CFS is severe, unexplained, persistent fatigue, lasting six months or more. It’s a fatigue that doesn’t go away after rest or sleep and keeps you from doing at least half the things you would normally do each day. To make the diagnosis, doctors will also look for four or more of the following symptoms:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Possible Causes
Just what causes chronic fatigue syndrome is still unknown. Originally, scientists thought that being infected with certain viruses, especially the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis, might be at the root of CFS, but there have been no conclusive findings. Now researchers are looking at whether inflammation brought on by an abnormal, overactive immune response occurrs in the nervous system of those with chronic fatigue.
Nakazawa believes that shifts in our 21st-century lifestyle, including daily exposure to toxins, pesticides, heavy metals, chemicals in our processed-food diets, and modern stress levels, are partly responsible. "Scientists who study autoimmune disease have called this epidemic 'the global warming of women's health,'" she says.
Advises Nakazawa, "At the same time that you work to lessen exposure to things that might overwhelm your immune system, you also need to relax and find joy in the world every day. How optimistically you perceive the world around you also impacts your stress level and your well-being."
Certain tactics can help keep depression and anxiety at bay when you have fibromyalgia.
Depression and anxiety frequently accompany fibromyalgia. If your day-to-day functioning is impaired by either of these conditions, you may need to talk to your doctor about specific medications or professional psychotherapy. On the other hand, if your symptoms are mild, and you just feel sort of blue or mildly stressed out, taking proactive measures on your own may be all you need to do to feel better. Here are some suggestions for where to start.
Look for Hidden Culprits
The first step, says Pamela W. Smith, M.D., MPH, director of the Center for Healthy Living and Longevity and author of the bestselling book, HRT: The Answers and What You Must Know About Women's Hormones, is to rule out any underlying physiological conditions that might be triggering your depression or anxiety symptoms. These might include such things as an underactive thyroid or hormonal or biochemical imbalances.
Talk to your doctor about getting tested. Often, appropriate medication can improve these conditions, and that in turn will help reduce mild accompanying symptoms of depression and anxiety. In some cases, physicians may also prescribe specific medications (usually antidepressants) to help increase levels of a brain chemical called serotonin. Serotonin, an important neurotransmitter, affects many basic psychological functions that seem to go awry in fibromyalgia, including mood, anxiety, and the sleep/wake cycle.
Make Lifestyle Changes
While any type of illness puts a strain on your body's systems, chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia can drain your body of the energy it needs to function well. A healthy diet, moderate amounts of gentle exercise, and plenty of restorative sleep will not only improve your overall health but also have a corresponding positive impact on your mood and attitude.
Consider De-Stressing Therapies
Practicing classic de-stressing techniques, such as prayer, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, tai chi and qi gong, can help people with fibromyalgia deal with their occasional periods of depression or anxiety. Think about signing up for a class to learn the basics, or check with your doctor about local practitioners.
Talk to a Counselor
Another approach for dealing with depression and anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), CBT can help you redefine your "illness beliefs" and, through learning symptom reduction skills, enable you to change your behavioral response to pain as well as symptoms like depression.You might also want to consult a psychotherapist to determine if there are other causes, unrelated to the fibromyalgia, that may be causing your depression or anxiety.
Perhaps the best ally in fighting depression and anxiety is to have a strong support network: friends and family members with whom you can share your feelings. Joining a fibromyalgia or chronic pain support group is another good option. According to the ACR, associating with others who also have fibromyalgia can be very reassuring. Depression and anxiety are often very isolating, and in a group setting, people with fibromyalgia discover that they are not alone in what they are feeling, both physically and emotionally. Often, participants also hear about new coping strategies and learn the latest research results through contact with such a group.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
don't swim in the same slough.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself
stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
change your tone and shape so often that they can
reinvigorate yourself and
accept what is
but only on the terms that you have invented
and reinvent your life because you must;
it is your life and
and the present
belong only to
~Charles Bukowski, from The Pleasures of the Damned
Generalized anxiety disorder isn't about a specific anxiety, but feeling constant anxiety about everything. Here's how to get the help you need.
Some people are worriers, or are just a little more anxious than others. But when that anxiety starts to take over your life, when you find you can't make it through the day without getting worked up about something, it's more than just anxiety. It might be generalized anxiety disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Endless Worry
Unlike phobias or other more specific anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, isn't a fear or worry about one particular thing or things. Instead, it's constant worry — not about major events, but about the little things that you do every day. This level of anxiety is usually considered a disorder when it continues for more than six months and starts to affect daily life. People with generalized anxiety disorder excessively worry about things like their job, their money situation, their health problems, and their loved ones.
"People who have generalized anxiety feel it in multiple situations. They describe feeling tensions that they cannot first label as tension-producing, that they feel are innocuous situations, and in effect they live a life in which they have a sense of foreboding about everything," says Charles Goodstein, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center. "They cannot localize it."
Other symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
Almost seven million adults in the United States deal with generalized anxiety disorder, a little over 3 percent of the total population. While anyone can get the disorder, twice as many women as men have it. And generalized anxiety disorder can strike as early as childhood, although symptoms may not show up until middle age or later.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Diagnosis and Treatment
A complete physical exam will determine whether these symptoms are caused by any physical illness or condition. If no physical illness can be found, a psychiatric exam and a review of detailed symptoms can diagnose generalized anxiety disorder.
While no one really understands what causes generalized anxiety disorder, there may be something in the brain or body that causes the disorder to develop, such as an abnormality in levels of certain chemicals in the brain. People who have experienced a lot of stress in their lives or who have learned to be worriers may also be prone to generalized anxiety disorder.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and help people manage their anxiety. This therapy helps people think about what's causing their anxiety and realize what is a rational concern and what is irrational. People also learn coping techniques to manage their anxiety and take control of their thoughts again.
Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications may also be used, usually along with cognitive-behavioral therapy, to manage generalized anxiety disorder. In addition to those treatments, people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder may find joining a support group for people with anxiety disorders to be beneficial. While a support group shouldn't be used instead of therapy or medication, it can often help to talk to others with GAD.
Constant worrying can take all the enjoyment out of life. Generalized anxiety disorder isn't something that you have to live with — it can be controlled so that it doesn’t control you any longer.
Reduce the harmful effects of stress on your heart and mind.
People with heart health concerns should be especially careful about managing the different sources of stress in their lives. The body's natural response to stress can increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, and release stress hormones, according to experts at the Journal of American Medicine Association. Stress also forces the heart muscle to work harder.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that acute and chronic stress may also affect other risk factors and behaviors, such as high cholesterol levels, a person's inclination toward smoking, the urge to overeat, and lack of interest in physical activity. Robert Ostfeld, MD, M.Sc., an associate professor of clinical medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, adds that stress can put a strain on blood vessels and predispose a person to heart disease. "It's not healthy for you heart," says Dr. Ostfeld, "but there are a variety of techniques that can help you reduce the stress in your life."
Getting Run Down
Our natural state of being is vibrant, happy to be alive. Yet, there can be times when we feel run down and worn out. This does not mean that we are lazy or unfit for the tasks in our lives; it means that we need to recharge our batteries and find a way of keeping them charged. Vitamins and extra rest can be very helpful in restoring our physical bodies. And if we are willing to delve deeper, we may discover that there is an underlying cause for our exhaustion.
Whenever you are feeling run down, take an honest look at how you have been thinking, feeling and acting. You will likely find a belief, behavior pattern or even a relationship that is out of alignment with who you really are. Perhaps you believe you have to be perfect at everything or you have been bending over backwards to get people to like you. Maybe you are dealing with mild depression or simply have too much on your plate right now. There may also be people or situations in your life which are draining your energy. Once you get clear on the root cause, you can weed it out and better direct your flow of energy in the future.
In time, you might notice that the reasons you feel run down have less to do with how much you are doing and more to do with the fact that in your heart, you would rather be doing something else entirely. From now on, try and listen to what your heart really wants. It may take meditation, or just a moment of silent tuning in to gain the clarity you need, but it is well worth the effort. When you know what you truly want to do, and honor that in all situations, you will find that getting run down is a thing of the past.
Anxiety about Change
Change will occur in almost every aspect of our lives, we can learn to embrace it while releasing the past with grace.
When we find ourselves going through any kind of change in our lives, our natural response may be to tense up on the physical, mental, or emotional level. We may not even notice that we have braced ourselves against a shift until we recognize the anxiety, mood swings, or general worried feeling toward the unknown that usually results. There are positive ways to move through change without pushing it away, however, or attempting to deny that it is happening. Since change will occur in almost every aspect of our lives, we can learn to make our response to it an affirmative one of anticipation, welcoming the new while releasing the past with grace.
One thing we can do is change our perspective by changing the labels we use to identify our feelings. We can reinterpret feelings of anxiety as the anxious butterflies that come with eager expectation. With this shift, we begin to look for the good that is on its way to us. Though we may only be able to imagine the possibilities, when we acknowledge that good is there for us to find, we focus our energy on joyful anticipation and bring it into our experience while allowing the feelings to carry us forward.
We can also choose to do a ceremony to allow our emotions to process. Every culture has created ceremonies to help people make the transition from one phase of life to the next. We can always create a ceremony too, perhaps by burning written thoughts to watch the smoke carry them away, thereby releasing them, or we can welcome new endeavors by planting flowers or trees. Some ceremonial activities such as a farewell send-off or housewarming party, we may do automatically. Society also has built-in ceremonies, like graduation and weddings, which may satisfy the need we feel. Sometimes the shift from denial to acceptance is all that is needed to ease our anxiety, allowing us to bring our memories with us as we move through nervousness to joyful excitement about the good to come.
What is National Women's Health Week?
National Women's Health Week is a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health. It brings together communities, businesses, government, health organizations, and other groups in an effort to promote women's health. The theme for 2011 is "It's Your Time." National Women's Health Week empowers women to make their health a top priority. It also encourages them to take steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases. Those steps include:
We all have a role to play in women's health. Women often serve as caregivers for their families, putting the needs of their spouses, children, and parents before their own. As a result, women's health and wellbeing becomes secondary. As a community, it is our responsibility to support the important women we know and do everything we can to help them take steps for longer, healthier, and happier lives.
It is also now easier than ever before for women to take charge of their health, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a landmark health care reform law enacted last year. This law gives Americans greater choice and better control over their own health care and includes changes that are especially meaningful to women. For instance, new plans must cover recommended preventive services, including mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations, and well-baby and well-child screenings without charging deductibles, co-payments, or co-insurance. It also assures women the right to see an OB/GYN without having to obtain a referral first. To learn more about the new benefits and cost savings available, please visit http://www.HealthCare.gov.
The 12th annual National Women's Health Week kicks off on Mother's Day, May 8, 2011 and is celebrated until May 14, 2011. National Women's Checkup Day is Monday, May 9, 2011.
The nationwide observance is celebrated across America in communities, neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, hospitals, health centers, businesses, schools, places of worship, recreation centers, and online. Anyone who wants to help make women's health a top priority can celebrate, including local and national health organizations, local, state, and federal governments, women's groups, local and national businesses, social service agencies, media organizations, libraries, and schools. Organizations large and small hold events, such as free screenings and health fairs, give out educational materials, issue proclamations, conduct media outreach, spread the word through social media, and more.
In fact, some experts now think that staying positive can help you live longer. In an intriguing study done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, researchers followed a group of people for 30 years. They found that those who were originally classified as "optimistic" on a standard personality test turned out to be 20 percent less likely to suffer an early death than those classified as "pessimistic."
Opt for a Good Mood, Opt to Live Longer
Happiness plays a pretty important role in keeping your brain healthy and vital, too. Staying positive, say experts, helps fight the "blues." This is good news in terms of longevity since, among other factors, depression has been shown to increase a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
According to Marion Somers, PhD, a geriatric-care manager in Brooklyn, New York, an optimistic outlook isn't hard to achieve, and doing a few simple "optimism exercises" can yield a big reward. "Optimism exercises don't have to be formal," she says. "You can [improve] your attitude just by taking a brisk walk, petting your dog, or playing with your grandchildren outside." Anything that lets you release pent-up negativity and experience calm, peaceful thoughts can go a long way toward helping you become — and stay — more positive.
Training Your Brain to Stay Positive
There are also some specific activities you can undertake to boost your brain's vitality. The ancient practice of yoga, research has found, can improve your cognitive function, including your memory. Registered yoga instructor Jennifer Edwards in New York City says, "Practicing yoga trains your brain to stay focused." It requires you to concentrate on your body's movement in space and the actual mechanics of your breathing, while tuning out distractions. "That focusing," says Edwards, "can improve your brain's ability to function during the day."
Yoga also promotes relaxation and eases stress, something David Eagleman, PhD, neuroscientist and assistant professor in the department of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, says is very good for your brain's overall health and vitality. "Stress can wear down your brain's cognitive abilities. So anything you can do to eliminate stress will help keep your brain sharp."
"Another powerful tool to rev up your brain's vitality is meditation. This technique clears your mind and lets you concentrate on being peaceful," says Dr. Somers. Scientists agree. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, found regular meditation sessions slowed the normal age-related decline of brain cells. And according to Harvard researchers, daily meditation also reduced normal age-related thinning in regions of the brain thought to be involved in integrating emotional and cognitive processes.
Somers says activities like yoga and meditation, which require concentration and focus, are good for your brain in indirect ways, too. "We breathe every day, but, consciously and deliberately thinking about breathing while meditating or doing yoga increases lung function," she says. That increased lung function boosts oxygen levels in blood that circulates through your body, including to your brain. Says Somers, "Oxygen-rich blood keeps the brain healthy and increases alertness."
A Vital Spirit, a Lengthy Life
Participating in religious or spiritual activities can also keep your brain humming along more smoothly. "The rituals of religious services and the social elements of being part of a congregation stimulate your brain," says Somers. "The sense of belonging and being able to connect with others who share your beliefs heightens alertness, which keeps your brain engaged in daily activities."
Being spiritual or religious can also perk up your mental outlook. British researchers found seniors with chronic diseases who attend religious services or who pray on their own showed a greater level of optimism about their overall health than those who did not.
You don't necessarily have to leave your house or attend formal religious services for your brain to soak up the benefits of spirituality, however. Somers says the concentration and focus required to pray anywhere — in your home, your car, or your shower — and to live a life that's in line with your spiritual beliefs, is really what has the most positive influence on your brain over the long term.
You can reduce your risk of osteoporosis by making several changes in your lifestyle. Osteoporosis prevention relies primarily on a healthy, calcium-rich diet, adequate vitamin D intake, weight-bearing exercise, and other healthy habits. Making the right choices now can significantly impact your level of osteoporosis risk later in life.
“Prevention is the key word that we don’t say enough. We talk about what needs to be done once someone has been identified to be in an early stage of the disease. Folks need to be very conscious of their own behaviors,” advises Lenard Kaye, PhD, director of the University of Maine Center on Aging. Kaye and his colleagues recently completed a series of national focus groups with women and health professionals to assess priorities and awareness surrounding osteoporosis prevention and management. He highlights several lifestyle choices that have been shown to help reduce the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis:
“Some folks have a rather pessimistic view of osteoporosis and other conditions. They either have the fatalistic view that it’s unavoidable or they continue to delude themselves into thinking they are invincible. Either perspective is flawed. What you want is for people to take on a realistic view of themselves and their capacity to prevent a wide range of chronic illnesses,” says Kaye, and osteoporosis is no exception.
How stress hormones can promote wrinkles and other signs of aging — and what to do about it.
When we sleep, we may be mentally at rest (if we’re lucky). But our bodies—complexions included—use snooze time to repair, process and recover from the day that came before.
To understand why sleep loss has such an impact on how we look, it’s important to understand the benefits of a good night’s rest. “As people sleep, skin rejuvenation takes place and the cells undergo a process of repair,” Litt says. Levels of the hormone cortisol are at their lowest at night, which means sleep acts as a natural anti-inflammatory for the skin. Our circulation, on the other hand, increases, so more nutrients and oxygen—which are needed in order for the skin to repair itself—are reaching the skin while we sleep.
Of course, getting enough beauty rest isn’t always easy. Thankfully, there are certain steps you can take to ensure whatever sleep you do get will give you the biggest beauty-boosting benefits:
by Megan O'Neill
Five drug-free ways to get relief.
Got low back pain? Welcome to the club. Some 80 percent of Americans will experience it at some point, reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For up to 8 percent, the problem will be chronic, lasting three months or longer. Medicine, muscle relaxants, physical therapy and chiropractic care are mainstays in the quest for back pain relief. But there’s evidence natural remedies may help, too. One caveat: No one can say for sure how they help, and not everyone will benefit. But they’re worth a try. Here’s a look at the most promising.
Yoga. In a Boston University pilot study, back pain patients were given tips for spine-friendly moves (like the right way to lift or sit at a computer), and therapies like ice and heat. But some also attended hatha yoga classes weekly for 12 weeks and were encouraged to do a daily half-hour of yoga. At the end of the study, 67 percent of the yoga students enjoyed a major reduction in pain, use of medicine and disability. By contrast, just 40 percent of the non-yogis improved their ability to function and a scant 13 percent got pain relief or cut back on medicine. What’s more, while yoga practitioners no longer needed hard-core prescription painkillers, the non-yogis upped their usage from 10 to 33 percent. How does yoga help? It may condition muscles in the abs and buttocks—which support the spine—as well as the lower back, speculates researcher Dr. Robert B. Saper, director of integrative medicine at Boston Medical Center. Plus, yoga’s calming effects may ease pain.
Acupuncture. According to a 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 60 percent of back pain sufferers who had 10 acupuncture treatments over seven weeks were better able to do everyday activities; just 30 percent of those who got usual care could. One year later, up to 65 percent of acupuncture recipients were still doing well compared to half of those who didn’t get acupuncture. But even sham acupuncture, delivered by a toothpick, helped. It’s unclear whether the treatment, actual or sham, has a placebo effect, or whether sham therapy affects the same neurotransmitters as the real deal, notes study co-author Dr. Richard Deyo, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
Heat therapy. An over-the-counter wrap—which delivers continuous low-level heat—slashed the intensity of garden-variety back pain by 52 percent, reported researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. All 43 people in the study took pain medicine as needed but 25 also wore heat wraps eight hours a day for three consecutive days. Two weeks after the study ended, “the benefit persisted,” says Dr. Edward J. Bernacki, study leader and director of occupational medicine.
Posture work. The Alexander Technique (AT), which releases tension and improves posture, balance and movement, has short- and long-term back benefits, according to a British study. Compared with a group who received usual care, patients who had 24 lessons in the Alexander Technique had 16 fewer days of pain after three months and 18 fewer days of pain after one year. A group receiving massages experienced 13 fewer days of pain after three months and only seven days after one year. Even a mere six lessons in AT resulted in 11 and 10 fewer painful days at the three month and one-year marks.
by Ashley Haugen
A healthy diet can help the body in its efforts to heal itself, and in some cases, particular foods can lessen the symptoms of disease. To help reduce the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome (such as debilitating fatigue, impaired memory, sore throat, muscle or joint pain, headaches and other maladies), try the following:
Since its start in 1974, National Volunteer Week has been a time to recognize the work that volunteers do to make their communities better places to live. Whether it’s cleaning up a local park, working with students to improve their grades, or helping neighborhoods to prepare for disasters, volunteers are an important part of their communities.
National Volunteer Week is a time for thanking the volunteers that support nonprofits by devoting their time to them, and the volunteers that see a need in their community and mobilize themselves and others to address the need.
Thanks comes in many ways – celebratory meals, recognition events, thank you cards, the list goes on and on. It’s important to directly thank volunteers for the work that they do, this week and throughout the year.
What if we were to not only thank our volunteers directly, but take the time to share their hard work and dedication with anyone who would listen? What would it look like?
What if we wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper talking about the important work that volunteers do to support our community?
What if we wrote our mayors or governors and told the story about how volunteers are improving the lives of their neighbors?
What if we took the time to write our members of Congress to share the work that volunteers are doing to make our neighborhoods better places to live?
What if we let the donors and funders that support our nonprofits know how vital volunteers’ work is to our nonprofits?
What if we wrote thank you notes to our volunteers’ families for the time that volunteers spend with us?
When you write these letters, be sure to include an inspiring or emotional story about the work that volunteers do for your organization. Talk about how your volunteers made it possible for a family to move into their first home together. Tell the story about how a volunteer helped a little girl open up and learn to love reading. Share how volunteers are helping to reclaim an overgrown and abandoned park and are turning it into a space the community can use.
Be sure to take some time this week, whether you’re a volunteer manager, a volunteer, or just know someone who volunteers, and thank a volunteer for the work they do.
I’m a fan of high-fives.
by Michael Nealis
Guest blogger Michael Nealis is Interactive Strategy Coordinator for Points of Light Institute. Most Saturdays he can be found building homes with Atlanta Habitat for Humanity or playing in the dirt with Crop Mob Atlanta
We are slowly beginning to unravel the complex interactions between mental and physical health. Researchers have found a wealth of evidence that positive emotions can enhance the immune system, while negative emotions can suppress it. For example, individuals can take up to a year to recover a healthy immune system following the death of their spouse, and long-term caregivers have suppressed immune systems compared with persons in the general population.
Studies on survivors of sexual abuse and those with post-traumatic stress disorder suggest they have elevated levels of stress hormones, as do students at exam time. In these groups of people and others experiencing loneliness, anger, trauma and relationship problems, infections last longer and wounds take longer to heal. However, having fun with friends and family seems to have the opposite effect on our immune systems. Social contact and laughter have a measurable effect for several hours. Relaxation through massage or listening to music also reduces stress hormones.
The reasons for this link remain unclear, but the brain appears to have a direct effect on stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which have wide-ranging effects on the nervous and immune systems. In the short term, they benefit us with heightened awareness and increased energy, but when prolonged, the effects are less helpful. They lead to a profound change in the immune system, making us more likely to pick up a bug.
Stress also can overactivate the immune system, resulting in an increased risk of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, hives and acne also may worsen, and stress can trigger asthma attacks.
The mechanisms behind this are complex and still only partially understood, but what we do know is that our reactions to life events can have far-reaching effects on our health. This can work to our advantage — feelings of relaxation reduce cortisol, together with other beneficial bodily responses. In turn, these changes feed into the immune system, making it function well. This happens spontaneously in our daily lives, but we also can encourage it by choosing to look after ourselves.
Insights From the 'Placebo Effect'
A mind-body link also is found in experiments where people with infections are given placebo (inactive) treatments, which they think are the real thing. Even though the treatment has no medicinal effect, these volunteers report milder symptoms than those given no treatment.
The link also can work the other way once we have developed an infection. Volunteers who are given a symptomless infection feel more anxious and depressed for the next few hours than healthy volunteers. The infection also has a detrimental effect on their memory, lasting several hours.
It's also been found that happier people may be less likely to come down with colds.
Dr. Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, suggests in his research that our susceptibility to infection can easily be altered by our lifestyle choices.
"Don't smoke, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, try to reduce the stress in your life, and strengthen your interpersonal relationships," he advises.
Being depressed or anxious is linked to catching more infections and experiencing the symptoms more strongly. Of course, it's possible that happier people might have a tendency to play down how bad they are actually feeling.
While no one knows for sure how our feelings can affect the immune system, most doctors agree that reducing stress is a good idea. Many stresses cannot be avoided altogether, but we can minimize our 'background' stress and our reactions to stressful events.
This is easier said than done. The modern world almost is set up to produce anxiety and frustration. But we can manage stress by reducing the demands upon us, increasing our ability to cope with them, or both.
Creative thinking may lead you to ways — such as delegating work or deleting less important items from your to-do lists — to help reduce stress. Then you can look for ways to improve your coping ability, such as learning a new, useful skill or spending more time unwinding each day. If you are anxiety-prone, consider meditation, yoga, or tai chi classes.
Can multiple sclerosis be prevented? Based upon what experts know about MS, evidence seems to indicate that the answer is no — or at least not yet. One reason why effective prevention measures have yet to be developed is that the cause of multiple sclerosis is still not fully understood. Scientists believe that a combination of factors, both genetic and environmental, contribute to the development of multiple sclerosis. Unfortunately, because not enough is known about the specifics of these factors, it is difficult to give concrete advice about how to prevent MS.
There are a number of key factors that seem to be related to developing multiple sclerosis. They include:
Hereditary propensities that come from your family appear to be a factor in multiple sclerosis risk. Tanuja Chitnis, MD, assistant professor of neurology and director of the Partners Pediatric MS Center at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, says that in studies of identical twins, about 25 percent of people who have an identical twin with multiple sclerosis end up developing MS themselves. Dr. Chitnis also says that the incidence of MS in the general population is 1 in 100,000 people, compared with a 3 to 5 percent incidence in people with a first-degree relative with MS (a sibling, parent, or child). Although you can't change the family you're born into, eventually experts hope to learn enough about what causes MS to be able to tell people with a family history of MS what they can do to decrease their risk of developing the condition.
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a member of the herpes family of viruses, has been linked to MS, but has not conclusively been identified as a cause of multiple sclerosis. EBV is extremely common; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 95 percent of people in the United States between the ages of 35 and 40 have had this virus at some point in their lives. In children, it looks just like the common cold; in adolescents, it can develop into mononucleosis.
It is impossible to entirely avoid exposure to a virus this widespread without completely withdrawing from society. However, avoiding contact with people who are sick and washing your hands frequently during cold and flu season and after time spent on planes and other forms of public transportation are general illness prevention techniques that help. And while avoiding viral infections now may or may not protect you against developing multiple sclerosis in the future, staying healthy can certainly contribute to your quality of life in the short term.
According to the Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center, multiple sclerosis has a higher incidence in North America, southern parts of Australia, and northern Europe, suggesting that the farther you live from the equator, the greater your risk for developing multiple sclerosis.
Does that mean you should pack up and move to a warmer climate? Not necessarily. The link between vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, and MS could explain why areas closest to the equator typically have the lowest rates of multiple sclerosis. Research indicates that vitamin D, which the human body generates in response to sunlight, may play some role in protecting against MS. It has yet to be determined whether taking a vitamin D supplement might carry the same benefit as exposure to sunlight appears to do. If you already take vitamin D supplements, you can be confident in the benefits that experts do know about; Vitamin D helps boost immune system function and may aide the body in absorbing calcium.
According to Chitnis, the biggest diet-related factor in the possible prevention of multiple sclerosis is vitamin D. Higher levels of vitamin D, which is added to milk and some cereal products, have been linked to a lower risk of MS in several studies.
Still, other dietary factors have also been linked to a lower risk. Caffeine, green tea, and tart cherries may all help ward off multiple sclerosis, research presented at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting suggests. And resveratrol, the compound in red wine that has already received great health press, has shown promise in another multiple sclerosis-related study.
Research on multiple sclerosis is ongoing, but until we know more about the cause of MS, we can't know how to prevent it. Doing your best to be mindful of things you can control (such as making modifications toward a more healthful diet) is certainly worth pursuing, in any case.
Chickenpox, that itchy, spotty rash, is a rite of passage for many children. While you can’t contract chickenpox again, it’s possible you may develop a case of shingles, a painful rash caused by the same virus.
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful rash that typically affects people older than 50. The varicella virus that causes shingles is related to but not the same as the virus that causes genital or oral herpes. Twenty percent of people who have had chickenpox will have an outbreak of shingles in their lifetime, and an estimated 500,000 people will develop shingles this year.
In the early 1900s, researchers began to realize that varicella zoster was responsible for both chickenpox and shingles. In fact, a study conducted in the 1920s and 1930s found that about half of children who had not previously had chickenpox would develop it within two weeks of being exposed to fluid from shingles blisters. In 1958, studies that analyzed the viruses from people with shingles and people with chickenpox confirmed that the virus that causes shingles and the virus that causes chickenpox are identical.
Who Gets Shingles?
Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles later in life. Once you have had chickenpox, the varicella virus remains dormant in your body's nerve cells. Although the virus is in your body, your immune system usually keeps the virus inactive, and it will not cause any symptoms.
The virus can sometimes become reactivated, however, especially in those whose immune systems have been weakened. In the presence of a weak immune system, the varicella virus can escape from the nerve cells, reactivate, and lead to a shingles outbreak on the skin.
Those at higher risk are people who:
Children whose mothers had chickenpox during late pregnancy also are at increased risk of getting shingles. These children may be born with chickenpox and may develop shingles before age 5, because their immune systems have not developed fully enough to keep the virus inactivated.
The good news is that once you have had shingles, chances are you will never develop it again.
Symptoms of Shingles
Some common symptoms of shingles include:
In some cases, shingles on the face can affect the eyes, resulting in swelling, redness, pain, and possibly vision problems, which can become permanent. If shingles has reached your eyes, you should see an eye doctor immediately.
The blistering rash associated with shingles will eventually crust over and dry up, usually within 7 to 10 days. The pain associated with the rash, however, sometimes lasts a few weeks to a few months after the rash disappears, a condition called postherpetic neuralgia. Postherpetic neuralgia pain can sometimes be severe and disabling.
If you think you might have shingles, make an appointment with your doctor. You should be seen within a few days of the onset of symptoms, and the earlier the better. Your doctor can examine your rash, evaluate your symptoms, and determine if you have shingles.
If you do have shingles, there are antiviral medications that can reduce the severity and duration, and pain medications that can make you more comfortable while you heal. The sooner the antiviral medications are started, the less severe the shingles outbreak will be.
Are there ADD natural remedies that can actually help? If you're trying to avoid using medication, there are alternative methods you can use. Just try a natural treatment for ADD, such as dietary changes, vitamins and supplements, herbs, or aromatherapy.
Natural treatment for ADD comes in many forms. One of the most basic ADD natural remedies requires a change in diet. According to Dr. William Sears, many people diagnosed with ADD should actually be diagnosed with NDD, an acronym he coined that stands for "Nutritional Deficit Disorder." Therefore, he maintains that people with ADD symptoms should try to avoid refined sugar, refined grains, artificial colors and flavors, monosodium glutamate, and preservatives. Instead, they should focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy proteins like beans, cheese, lean meat, nuts and eggs. In particular, they should try to get plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids through eating tuna, salmon, olive oil, canola oil, and walnuts. In addition, they should try to keep their phosphate levels low, since high levels of phosphorus may lead to hyperkinesis (exaggerated muscle activity), a prime symptom of ADD. Fatty meats and other types of fat are particularly high in phosphates, as are carbonated drinks. Therefore, people with ADD on the NDD Diet should try to avoid them as well.
The Feingold Diet is a second dietary plan meant for people who have ADD. It also advocates eliminating artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives from the diet. In addition, parents following the Feingold Diet eliminate various foods from their child's diet that they think might be causing the ADD symptoms. They then monitor the child's behavior to see if the ADD symptoms improve.
Some vitamins and supplements have been shown to improve ADD symptoms as well. For example, a 2005 study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology showed a correlation between the levels of zinc and inattention in children. The study looked at the zinc levels of close to fifty subjects and compared them to how the subject's parent or teacher rated his or her attention span. Those with higher levels of zinc had a higher-rated attention span. Therefore, one natural treatment for ADD involves eating plenty of zinc-containing foods, such as seafood, red meat, poultry, dairy, nuts and legumes, whole grains and zinc-fortified cereals.
In addition, some people treat ADD by taking fish oil pills. These pills include plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids and may improve ADD symptoms, such as the ability to think more clearly, attention span and behavior management.
Another natural treatment for ADD is aromatherapy, which is based on the belief that smelling the chemicals in essential oils can help to treat various disorders. Essential oils recommended for ADD include lavendar (to relax and calm), cedarwood (to stimulate brain function), vetiver (to balance the nervous system and give stimulation to the circulatory system), and cloves (to stimulate the mind but relax the emotions).
These ADD natural remedies can be effective in taming ADD symptoms. Speak to a holistic practitioner or dietition before trying out any of these treatment techniques.
Over one-third of U.S. adults — that's more than 72 million people — are now considered obese. What we eat certainly contributes to America's obesity epidemic, but how much we eat and our lack of portion control may be even more important factors. The bottom line: We are eating too much!
With free soda refills and supersized French fries lurking around every corner, it's no wonder we have trouble controlling how much we eat. But if you want to control your weight, you must exhibit portion control.
What Is Portion Control?
A portion is just another word for the serving or amount of a food. The actual serving size of any given food you eat, whether you make it at home or order it in a restaurant, may be many times the portion amount suggested by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines. That means you may easily be eating more calories than you think and more than you need to maintain a healthy weight. Too much of any food, even if you're eating a diet of only healthy food, can cause weight gain.
Portion control means knowing the size of an average portion of common foods and, to avoid gaining weight, making sure that your portions don't add up to more food than you need to eat every day. "Portion sizes will determine the calorie content of a meal. The more you eat, the more calories you consume," says Joan Salge Blake, RD, clinical associate professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Boston University in Boston, Mass. "When trying to maintain a healthy weight, you need to make sure that you don't consume more calories daily than you need."
Portion Control: Sizing Up Total Daily Portions
According to the USDA, current daily recommendations for a 2,000-calorie diet include:
Keep in mind these are the total amounts of food from the major food groups eaten per day, not per meal, and plan accordingly. If you eat a small steak or a large chicken breast at a meal, you may have all the meat you need for the entire day. Also, a 2,000-calorie diet isn't appropriate for everyone; that may be too much for you. How many calories you need to consume per day depends on your existing weight, height, and how active you are. To find out how many calories per day you need, visit the USDA's food pyramid Web site to get a more personalized breakdown of portion sizes right for you.
Portion Control: Recognizing Portion Sizes
It's not practical to think that you can weigh every food you put on your plate. What you can do, however, is learn to recognize what key portion sizes look like, so help you know the right amount to serve yourself or eat at a restaurant.
Portion Control When Eating Out
Controlling portion size when eating out can be a challenge because, in general, restaurant servings are considerably bigger than recommended portion sizes.
"Depending on the fat and water content of different foods, you could eat twice as much as you think or half as much [when eating out]. Also, it depends on the size of the plate, how much cheese is hidden inside the dish and so on," says Susan B. Roberts, PhD, professor in the nutrition and psychiatry departments at Tufts University in Boston and author of The Instinct Diet (Workman). "Even people with a PhD in nutrition like me can't really guess from looking at a plate of food we didn't cook how many calories it has in it!"
However, there are ways to manage portion size when eating out. Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas offers these tips:
With careful portion control you can have your cake and eat it, too. Just be sure to do it in moderation!
When We Don’t Take Action
Every action taken affects the whole as greatly as every action NOT taken.
Life is sculpted on a moment-to-moment basis. Every one of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take contributes to the complex quality and character of the universe’s unfolding. It simply is not possible to be alive without making an impact on the world that surrounds us. Every action taken affects the whole as greatly as every action not taken. And when it comes to making the world a better place, what we choose not to do can be just as important as what we choose to do.
For example, when we neglect to recycle, speak up, vote, or help somebody in immediate need, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to be an agent for positive change. Instead, we are enabling a particular course to continue unchallenged, picking up speed even as it goes along. By holding the belief that our actions don’t make much of a difference, we may find that we often tend to forego opportunities for involvement. Alternatively, if we see ourselves as important participants in an ever-evolving world, we may feel more inspired to contribute our unique perspective and gifts to a situation.
It is wise to be somewhat selective about how and where we are using our energy in order to keep ourselves from becoming scattered. Not every cause or action is appropriate for every person. When a situation catches our attention, however, and speaks to our heart, it is important that we honor our impulse to help and take the action that feels right for us. It may be offering a kind word to a friend, giving resources to people in need, or just taking responsibility for our own behavior. By doing what we can, when we can, we add positive energy to our world. And sometimes, it may be our one contribution that makes all the difference.
We’ve all been there: If you have to sit through one more meeting, skip one more lunch break to meet a deadline, or kiss your boss’ butt one more time, you may scream!
According to a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, job burnout “comes when an individual faces prolonged exposure to stressors, leading to a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion.” And all that stress certainly can’t be good for you. In fact, too much tension has been shown to lead to depression and a slew of other health problems.
To help you recognize job burnout — so you can make a positive change for your emotional health, even if it's just taking a mental vacation — know these seven warning signs: Procrastination or loss of motivation (striving for perfection is a thing of the past); absenteeism or lateness (you’re calling in sick when you’re not really sick … again); every work day seems like a bad day (you can’t help but speak negatively about your job to others); isolating yourself from others (you avoid the water cooler at all costs); cynicism (you feel bitterness and resentment about your 9-to-5); overreacting (you get ticked off instead of brushing it off); depression (you’ve got the Monday blues, and the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday blues).
Managing major depression usually includes a few different approaches, such as medications to correct chemical imbalances and talk therapy to provide an outlet for your feelings. One of the most important elements in any depression treatment plan is self-management — such as healthy eating — to help you deal with everyday stressors and keep your mood on an even keel. Here are 10 tips to keep your depression treatment plan on track.
1. Be a joiner. Become part of a support group for people who are dealing with major depression. This will help you to feel less isolated, says Jeffrey Borenstein, MD, CEO and medical director of Holliswood Hospital in Queens, N.Y., and host of the PBS series Healthy Minds. You will also be able to share experiences and advice on how to cope with depression. Ask your therapist for a support group in your area or use one of the support-group locators available online through the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
2. Phone a friend. When you’re depressed, you may feel isolated and lonely. “You need to develop a support system of close friends and family members you can turn to when you’re down,” Dr. Borenstein says. Those you love and trust will be glad to help.
3. Be kind to yourself. “It’s important for people with depression to do something pleasant for themselves every day, whatever that may be,” Borenstein says. It could be going for a walk, reading a book, watching a baseball game, or having coffee with friends. You need to take time every day to relax and refresh yourself in order to stay balanced.
4. Sleep well. If you have major depression, you may be sleeping too much — or not enough. Either way, erratic sleep patterns can cause mood swings. Aim for eight hours of sound sleep each night, Borenstein says. Quality sleep requires sleeping on a regular schedule and avoiding naps.
5. Exercise regularly. Depression symptoms often improve when you exercise. Exercise can be as simple as going for a walk around the block or something more intense, such as bicycling or swimming. Exercise is an important part of maintaining both your physical and mental health.
6. Eat right. When you deal with depression and mood swings, you need to take care of yourself, and that includes eating a healthy diet. Aim for a diet heavy in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and include some low-fat proteins and dairy products. Go easy on fats and oils.
7. Know yourself. “Know the signs that you may be slipping back toward major depression — whether it’s feeling low or difficulty sleeping or concentrating — and take action before full-blown depression occurs,” Borenstein says. “That action may include work done in therapy sessions, talking to your doctor about making adjustments to your medications, or taking steps to minimize any stressors that are going on in your life.”
8. Manage stress. Stress can cause, or exacerbate, depression in some people. Practice these tips for better stress management:
9. Try positive thinking. You can’t just snap out of a depression, but you can change your thoughts so that you’re not always focusing on the downside. Find the positive in situations that upset you. For example, rather than thinking your boss is out to get you because she gave you a major project with a tight deadline, say to yourself, “She has a lot of confidence in me to ask me to do this.”
10. Follow the sun. Like exercise, sunshine is an antidepressant. Schedule a daily walk in the morning or while you’re on your lunch break. Try to get out for 10 to 15 minutes a day, and be sure to wear sunscreen if you’ll be outside for any length of time. Other ways to get a dose of sunshine include choosing the outdoor seating at your favorite restaurant on a nice day or picnicking in a park.
In addition to depression treatment options your doctor recommends, such as psychotherapy and medication, using these tips can help you take care of yourself and keep depression in check.
Breathing exercises are the mainstay of relaxation exercises that you can do anywhere, at any time. And they can make a world of difference in how you feel.
Try it: Take a deep, slow breath and exhale — and repeat the process one more time. Do you feel better?
Relaxation Exercises: Why They Work
When we are stressed, our muscles tighten up and our breathing changes and becomes shallow. As you breathe more lightly, you are participating in a vicious circle, because your body responds to your change in breathing with a fight-or-flight response, adding to your tension and stress.
So the most basic thing you can do when you start to feel stressed out is to stop and take some deep, even, slow breaths.
“If you sit and even just take five or 10 deep breaths and really try to just relax your breathing, that can be tremendously helpful,” says Mary Coussons-Read, PhD, professor of psychology and health and behavioral sciences and associate dean of the University of Colorado in Denver.
Here are some options that can enhance the relaxing effect of breathing exercises:
As hard as everyone works these days, we all deserve a time out now and then to calm our nerves and decompress. Relaxation exercises can help us stay productive and happy.
Full-body scanners that use X-ray technology are under fire this week after articles published in the journal Radiology debated their safety. In one article, the author estimated that there could be 100 extra cancers per year in a population exposed to a billion airport security scans.
But the individual cancer risk to any one person is so small that the scans can be considered safe, author David Brenner, PhD, of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City said in the article.
So should you opt out of these scans next time you fly? Here’s what you need to know:
How Do Full-Body Airport Scanners Work?
Since 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has rolled out two types of full-body scanners — backscatter X-ray and millimeter-wave devices – at airports in the United States (both types are also used in Canada, England, France, and the Netherlands). There are currently 486 of these devices in use at 78 airports across the United States; about half are backscatter X-ray and half are millimeter wave. (See a list of all the airports that use them here.)
The millimeter wave full-body device relies on radiofrequency waves to scan the body, while backscatter technology uses very low-energy X-rays, which bounce off the body to form an image. X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation, which can increase cancer risk when delivered in high-enough doses.
To determine which full-body scanner your airport uses, look at the color and shape of the device. Backscatter scanners (made by Rapiscan) are bluish boxes, while millimeter wave scanners are grey cylinders.
How Much Radiation Do Backscatter Scanners Give Off?
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, one scan emits about 0.0001 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation. To put that number in perspective, that’s about the amount of radiation found naturally in a banana. And you’re exposed to far more radiation from cosmic rays in the atmosphere during a flight than you will get during a scan before you board a plane. The radiation from a backscatter device is equivalent to the amount you’re exposed to in two minutes of flight time, according to the TSA.
Also, keep in mind that all types of radiation are not created equally. “The radiation from these scanners is different from the kind in medical X-rays,” says James Thrall, MD, president of the American College of Radiology. “It doesn’t penetrate as deeply into your body tissues, so you don’t absorb as much.”
Can Backscatter Airport Scanners Cause Cancer?
There is a risk, but it’s highly unlikely. There’s about a one in 10 million chance any single person would die from cancer as a result of the radiation they’re exposed to from a single trip involving two scans, Dr. Brenner wrote in the paper in Radiology.
Because the dose of radiation from backscatter full-body scanners is so low, the FDA does not recommend limiting the number of scans a person should receive each year.
What About Frequent Fliers, Pregnant Women, or Children?
Traveling frequently does potentially expose you to more radiation from scanners, but the total amount is still extremely low. A pilot or a flight attendant who gets 240 to 380 scans a year will receive about 0.3 mSV of radiation, Brenner estimated, equivalent to the amount in a mammogram. A frequent flier could receive about 0.2 mSv, or about the amount you’re exposed to annually simply from living at sea level.
For pregnant women and children, it’s natural to be more concerned, because fetuses and children are more vulnerable to health issues from radiation than adults. But experts say the risk is still negligible. “If you’re comfortable with the amount of radiation you’re exposed to while flying, then the tiny additional amount you receive during the scan shouldn’t be a concern,” says Dr. Thrall.
If you’re still nervous about radiation exposure from airport scanners, then you can always opt out of the backscatter scan and ask instead for a pat-down, in which a TSA officer performs a manual check of your body for unsafe items.
"As someone who travels just occasionally, I would have no hesitation in going through the X-ray backscatter scanner," Brenner said in a press release. "Super frequent fliers or airline personnel, who might go through the machine several hundred times each year, might wish to opt for pat-downs. The more scans you have, the more your risks may go up — but the individual risks are always going to be very, very small."
The numbers are astounding: Back pain will affect 80 percent of us at some point in our lives.
Whether it's a dull ache or a sharp stabbing sensation, back pain comes in all shapes and sizes. If you don't yet have back pain, you might be surprised to learn that an obvious injury isn't the only cause. Often it can result from repeated bad habits that stress your body.
If you're battling back pain now and need better pain management or want to take steps for back pain prevention, make the effort to undo these bad habits:
Good exercises for back pain prevention include Pilates or other trunk or "core" strengthening activities that can increase stability in the back muscles. Cardiovascular exercises such as swimming, walking, and bicycling are also advised along with improving flexibility.
To avoid back injuries, try to stand with your knees slightly bent and one foot forward to take pressure off the lower back and reduce back strain. When sitting, Dr. Shin advises sitting with your hips slightly higher than your knees.
When you're in the throes of back pain or simply want to ward it off, avoiding these habits will help protect and strengthen your back and your entire body.
With more and more of us getting less and less sleep, it’s tempting to reach for a Red Bull or an espresso when we feel sleepy at work. But consuming caffeine to combat sleepiness can lead to a vicious cycle.
The java jolt that helps you stay awake can take up to eight hours to wear off. Caffeine can also reduce your sleep time, alter the normal stages of sleep, and decrease the quality of your sleep.
How can you stay awake naturally? Try some of these 12 jitter-free tips to take the edge off sleepiness.
In one well-known study, Robert Thayer, PhD, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, studied whether people were more energized by eating a candy bar or taking a brisk 10-minute walk. Though the candy bar provided a quick energy boost, participants were actually more tired and had less energy an hour later. The 10-minute walk increased energy for two hours. That’s because walking pumps oxygen through your veins, brain, and muscles.
If you work at a desk, get up frequently for short walks. At meal breaks, walk to a restaurant or, if you bring your lunch, head for a nice spot to eat it. Whether you take a walk outside or just in the building where you work, it will make you feel more alert and refreshed.
There are two things to remember about naps: Don’t take more than one and don’t take it too close to your bedtime. “Nap between five and 25 minutes,” says Barry Krakow, MD, author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: Seven Keys to Sleeping Through the Night. It’s best to nap about six or seven hours before you would normally go to bed. If you must take a late nap close to bedtime, make it a short one.
Napping on the job can be touchy. If you need to nap at work, do it during your break and use a vibrating alarm clock, if necessary, to make sure it doesn’t spill over into your work time. Sleeping at your desk is usually not a good idea, but many companies now provide nap rooms for employees.
“If you can’t nap, even resting quietly with your eyes closed for 10 minutes or so will help,” says Allison T. Siebern, PhD, a fellow at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center in Redwood City, Calif.
Continuous fixation on a computer screen can cause eyestrain and worsen sleepiness and fatigue. Look away from the screen for a few minutes periodically to relax your eyes.
Sugary snacks give you a quick energy boost followed by the sugar “lows,” when low blood sugar produces mental fogginess and lethargy. Snacks such as these will provide better overall energy in the long run:
If you’re fading fast, engaging in conversation can get your mind moving again. “Talk to a colleague about a business idea, politics, or religion,” says Krakow, medical director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences, Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M. “It’s a very strong behavioral stimulator -- especially when it’s a conversation about politics.”
Environments with dim lighting aggravate fatigue. Studies have shown that exposure to bright light can reduce sleepiness and increase alertness. Try increasing the intensity of your light source at work.
Deep breathing raises blood oxygen levels in the body. This slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and improves circulation, ultimately aiding mental performance and energy.
The idea of deep-breathing exercises is to inhale to the abdomen, not the chest. You can do them at your desk. Sitting up straight, try this exercise up to 10 times:
Another technique, called stimulating breath, is used in yoga for a quick energy boost and increased alertness: Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Make your in-and-out breaths short -- do about three of each cycle in a second. Then breathe normally. You can do this for up to 15 seconds the first time and then add on five seconds each time after until you reach a minute.
“Driving while sleepy is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol,” says Siebern. Common tricks such as opening the windows and turning on loud music won’t keep you awake for very long behind the wheel. “Have someone else drive or pull off the road and take a nap until you’re no longer sleepy,” Siebern says.
If you’re on an extended trip, change drivers often. Stop at least every two hours to take a walk and get some fresh air.
In 2004 Finnish researchers who studied people working 12-hour night shifts found that monotonous work is as harmful as sleep loss for alertness. At work or home, try to reserve more stimulating tasks for your sleepy times. Or switch to more engaging work responsibilities when you feel yourself nodding off.
Dehydration can cause fatigue. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables.
Our circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep-wake cycle, are influenced by daylight. Try to spend at least 30 minutes a day outside in natural sunlight. (Sleep experts recommend an hour of morning sunlight a day if you have insomnia.) Even a step outside for a breath of fresh air will revive your senses.
In a 2006 analysis of 70 studies involving more than 6,800 people, University of Georgia researchers found that exercise was more effective in increasing energy and reducing daytime fatigue than some medications used to treat sleep problems. Regular exercise also improves quality of sleep.
Try to exercise 30 minutes a day. If you decide to exercise hard some days, your energy level may drop for a bit and then surge for a few hours. Eating a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within two hours after a heavy workout will lessen the initial energy loss. Be sure to finish your workout a few hours before bedtime so you are not energized when you try to sleep.
If you find that you can’t stop nodding off when you need to be alert, consult a doctor or sleep specialist. You may have an underlying sleep disorder such as excessive sleepiness or narcolepsy, which can be treated. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help you with a sleep disorder. If you have trouble falling asleep because of stress or other reasons, cognitive behavioral therapy can help you develop good sleep habits and relieve sleep anxieties.
You may hear of Diva, a German shepherd, who sought out an elderly, non-communicative man sitting alone and let him wind his fingers in her fur and hug her. Then there is the resident golden retriever-lab mix in an Alzheimer’s care unit who found his favorite patient agitated in a hallway — and gently took him by the sleeve to lead him back to his room. Or you’ll hear about Leonardo, a cat who curls up on the bed next to end-stage Alzheimer’s patients in hospice units.
But behind every successful animal-assisted therapy visit, there is also a lot of planning, training, and work to be done so that animal therapy is safe for people living in elder care settings.
The Benefits of Animal Therapy
“Even people with Alzheimer’s recognize a dog and they see that the dog is someone new in their environment. I think they see it as someone with whom they can interact without any worry,” explains Mara M. Baun, DNSc, a coordinator of the PhD in nursing program at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at the Houston School of Nursing in Houston.
Baun has been researching the benefits of therapy animals for over a decade. In one of her studies, she and her team compared degrees of social interaction of adults in an Alzheimer’s unit with and without the presence of a dog.
“When they had the pet with them, they had more interactive behaviors, although some of them were aimed at the dog, not at the person,” she says. Her work has shown this effect is consistent whether the dog and dementia patients interact one-on-one or in a group setting.
In addition to stimulating a social response, dementia patients may benefit from the presence of therapy animals because of:
Making Animal Therapy Work in Elder Care Settings
If the idea of animal therapy is appealing, it’s worth knowing that there is a lot of work that goes into matching the right animal and human handler team with the right patients. Here are some of the issues involved:
Baun adds that some facilities try to have a resident animal. This can work, she says, but the animal must have off-time — just like every other worker — as well as a place of its own to rest and a clear understanding at the staff-level about who is responsible for the animal’s well-being. The best situations occur when a staff member brings a suitable animal in with him during the day and then they go home together at night.
Properly trained and prepared therapy animals can be a real blessing to dementia patients in elder care settings — it’s a great option to look into for your loved one. Start with the national organizations recommended by Swenson to learn about local options.
Many children with attention deficit disorder (ADD)/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also struggle with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. These troubles often stem from the lack of control they feel over what they experience, says Dr. Steven Kurtz, director of clinical services for the ADHD Institute at the New York University Trial Study Center, NYU Medical School.
"These kids have the sense that they're putting a lot of effort into something and they're not getting enough in return compared to their peers," Dr. Kurtz says. "When you don't have successful experiences, you can't build self-esteem."
According to Dr. Kurtz, boosting self-esteem in kids with ADD/ADHD boils down to one simple principle: "It's really about building skills and reinforcing those skills."
To lay the foundation for social and scholastic success for a child with ADD/ADHD, here are some guidelines to help build his or her skills and self-esteem:
Sunglasses make more than a fashion statement — they also keep your eyes safe from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. That’s why choosing the right sunglasses is an essential part of keeping your eyes healthy.
UV rays can raise your risk of developing eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and even cancer of the eye and eyelids, says Richard Shugarman, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and an ophthalmologist in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“Ultraviolet light is a form of radiation and alters cells,” says Dr. Shugarman. “UV damage is cumulative, so protection must begin early in life, even though the damage may not be apparent until many years later.”
Children in particular may be at risk. “Older people have smaller pupils than young ones, so the younger eye admits more light,” says Shugarman. When you go outside and put on your sunglasses, make sure that your child is wearing his as well.
A Few Ways to Block UV Rays
Sunglasses can block harmful UV radiation and reduce your risk for potentially blinding eye diseases and tumors, but they’re also great at preventing dust, sand, and other airborne particles from getting into your eyes.
Prescription sunglasses offer the same protection as non-prescription glasses, provided that they have equal UV protection and lens size, says Shugarman. Lenses that darken when exposed to light are a good option. “Transitions and other lenses change the degree of color, but not the actual color itself,” says Shugarman. “In the past, they were heavy, slow-acting, and only changed slightly. The newest ones have solved these problems and are very useful in environments and situations where the sunlight and glare change often, such as the golf course, on the water, and getting in and out of the car often.”
Considering contacts that offer UV protection? Doctors say they offer incomplete coverage. “UV protecting contact lenses protect the interior of the eye and are a good idea, but offer no protection to the eyelids, which are common sites for skin cancer,” says Shugarman. So be sure to wear non-corrective sunglasses when your contacts are in.
Tips for Choosing Effective Sunglasses
More Simple Steps for Keeping Your Eyes Safe
By wearing sunglasses that offer effective protection against harmful UV rays, you can enjoy the outdoors while protecting your eyesight.
Bipolar disorder has been all over the headlines recently, with Charlie Sheen’s highly publicized rants leading many to suspect that the star is exhibiting “mania” — a telltale sign of bipolar disorder's emotional highs. If Sheen is indeed bipolar and going without treatment, he’s far from alone, according to new research.
Fewer than half of people in the United States who show classic signs of bipolar disorder actually get diagnosed and treated, according to a new Archives of General Psychiatry report on a survey of more than 61,000 adults in 11 countries — the United States, Mexico, China, Japan, Brazil, Colombia, India, Lebanon, Bulgaria, Romania, and New Zealand. Bipolar patients in lower-income nations get even less treatment — in some cases, as few as 25 percent receive help.
Compared to the other 10 countries studied, the United States had the highest rate of bipolar disorder (4.4 percent of those surveyed fell somewhere on the bipolar spectrum). India had the lowest (0.1 percent). Overall, about 2.4 percent of those interviewed in the face-to-face survey could be classified as having bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder’s Most Surprising Symptoms
It may be buzz-worthy these days, but many people don’t fully understand bipolar disorder and the symptoms that can lead to proper diagnosis and treatment. Bipolar, also sometimes called manic-depressive disorder, is characterized by shifts from extreme highs (known as mania) to emotional lows (depression), with “normal” moods in between.
It’s bipolar disorder’s manic phase that most sets it apart from other common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. While many people associate mania with high energy and exaggeratedly good moods, these other key symptoms are more subtle:
Read about other common bipolar symptoms, including those related to depressive episodes.
Keep in mind that bipolar disorder can vary greatly in severity, and not everyone experiences every symptom. In fact, some patients experience hypomania, a less mild form of mania. But even hypomania, if left untreated, could spin into depression or develop into full-blown mania.
One important takeaway from the Archives study is that across all countries, patients with bipolar disorder faced challenges in their daily lives and were at increased risk of such health problems as panic attacks, substance abuse, and suicide. Untreated bipolar disorder can also lead to troubled relationships with friends and family and problems at work. If you’re concerned about yourself or a friend or loved one, get more information here on the best treatments for bipolar disorder.
But this study is hardly the first one touting good news for java junkies. "Coffee is incredibly rich in antioxidants, which are responsible for many of its health benefits," says Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition and health expert for Everyday Health and The Today Show. Its caffeine content may also play a protective role in some health conditions, but many of coffee's health perks hold up whether you go for decaf or regular.
Beyond lowering stroke risk, you may be surprised to learn that coffee can also decrease your odds of developing the following health issues:
One coffee caveat: Most health experts agree it's wise to limit your intake to a few cups a day — that's a standard 8-ounce mug, not the super-sized beverages many coffee shops offer. Overdoing it can lead to interrupted sleep or even insomnia, stomachaches, a racing heart, nervousness, irritability, and nausea. Remember, we're talking coffee with a splash of milk or a packet or two of sugar — not loaded with whipped cream and sugary syrups. "Adding a lot of calories to your coffee can actually raise your risk for diseases like stroke and diabetes," says Gans.
Also, doctors recommend that pregnant women or people with certain health issues, such as high blood pressure or high blood sugar, limit their caffeine intake. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about how much coffee is safe for you.
Can the foods you eat help you look younger? Absolutely! Here's what you need to include in your diet to ensure that your skin keeps glowing.
Most of my patients over the age of 20 eventually ask me what anti-aging products they should use. It’s no wonder: Cosmetics companies tap into our insecurities about getting older, encouraging the fear that we’ll turn into wrinkled prunes without the latest (and often very expensive) miracle cream. While certain products can help your skin look healthier and more vibrant, skin care products alone aren’t enough to preserve or improve your looks over time. It’s just as important to feed your skin what it needs to build healthy collagen and elastic tissue.
While eating for younger, smoother skin won’t lift a sagging neck or tighten loose jowls, feeding your body the right components will help it build strong collagen (for thicker skin) and healthy elastic tissue (to keep skin more resilient). Plus, your skin will have a youthful glow. Because collagen and elastic tissue are made of protein, it’s important to get plenty of protein in your diet by including chicken, fish, and lean meats. The major components of collagen are the amino acids glycine and proline, which are found in high concentrations in beef, lamb, and chicken breast. You can also find glycine in pork, quail, bison, and seafood like shrimp, crab, and lobster. Cottage cheese and cabbage are additional good sources of proline.
Persistent mild fatigue or a chronic lack of energy due to day-to-day stressors or hectic schedules can affect your productivity. Help address fatigue or lack of energy by keeping your blood sugar levels stable and getting enough rest and exercise. Also, consider using one of these supplements or herbs:
Who hasn't wished for a miracle product to hit the market that can help you get fit, slim, and toned without putting in any extra effort? Researchers, or at least marketing departments, were listening. About 10 years ago, a company called Masai Barefoot Technology, or MBT, launched their toning shoes. Now all types of unusual-looking fitness shoes are on the shelves, promising to firm up your thighs and butt as you walk. Choices include the Reebok EasyTone, Skechers Shape-Ups, and New Balance True Balance toning shoes. For toning up in warm weather, there are Reebok EasyTone Flip Flops, FitFlop toning sandals, and Skechers Tone-ups. Some companies, including FitFlop, also make toning boots as well as shoes and clogs.
Toning shoes are designed with a base that’s different from traditional shoes. Rather than being flat and stable, they’re rounded at the bottom, which forces you — and your muscles — to work harder to maintain balance. Toning shoes are also said to improve your posture, help you to burn more calories, and build and tone muscle.
You can expect to pay around $40 for a pair of toning sandals and up to $250 for toning sneakers.
Do Toning Shoes Work?
Before you plunk down your plastic for some shoes that claim to work your muscles without your having to break a sweat, you need to know whether they actually work.
"The marketing for toning shoes is a bit over the top," says William Sukala, a clinical exercise physiologist and consumer health advocated with Pinnacle Medical Exercise in Auckland, New Zealand. Of particular concern, says Sukala, is the fact that there isn't a lot of independent research to back up the claims of the shoe companies.
Toning shoe companies say that they work by supposedly activating more muscle fibers than standard running shoes, says Sukala. That means they should be more effective at toning your thighs and hips.
The American Council on Exercise conducted a study to see whether the claims of these toning shoes live up to the hype. In the study, two groups of women went toe-to-toe on exercise with one group wearing standard athletic shoes while the other sported toning shoes. Researchers measured and compared the activity of the muscles during exercise for the women in both groups.
The results? Turns out, toning shoes really are too good to be true. The women who worked out in the toning shoes didn't appear to get any more benefit or work their muscles any harder than those who wore standard athletic shoes.
Based on the study results, "I'm inclined to believe the shoes will only slim your wallet," says Sukala. And if you have balance problems, it's possible that you could be more likely to trip and fall because of the unstable base of the shoe.
Taking Toning Shoes for a Spin
Erin Taylor, 32, of Tampa Bay, Fla., is a stay-at-home mom of two boys and a busy blogger — she's the editor of theMomBuzz.com. She's also into health and fitness, so toning shoes sounded like a good idea.
"Like most women, being able to tone and burn calories just by doing what you normally would do — run errands, go shopping, pick up kids — was very inviting, especially since ‘being too busy’ is one reason many women skip the gym or working out," says Taylor. She's tried a number of brands and styles of toning sneakers and sandals — and she feels that they have helped tone her muscles. "Whether it's a frame of mind or actuality, it's hard to say," she admits.
While toning shoes can't take the place of hitting the gym and sticking to a healthy diet, Taylor stands by using them. "Every little bit helps,” says Taylor.
Even if toning shoes can't give you the killer legs you crave just by walking around, that doesn't mean that they're a total wash. If lacing up those sneakers gets you off the couch and moving around, then it's money well spent.
"I think the shoes themselves offer up more hype than help, but on a positive note, if it gets people excited to go out and exercise more regularly, then I suppose that's an added benefit," says Sukala.