Move That Body!

Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted. - Denis Waitley

Regular exercise can improve heart function, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar control, alleviate depression, decrease the risk of cancer, ensure a good night’s sleep and help manage weight.  I’m not talking about strenuous exercise – studies show that even gentle walking and moderate intensity physical activities have health benefits.

Have you noticed the way you feel after a great walk around the neighborhood? Exercise is endorphin boosting as well and brings out those smiles and positive attitudes.

SO GET MOVING!

Consult your doctor before exercising if you’re seriously overweight, have a personal or family history of heart disease, take medication for a heart condition, have chronic pain due to a structural problem, injury or surgery. Be cautious –  Stop working out if you experience chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, or shortness of breath.  Start out easy and gradually increase your fitness program.

Pick something you enjoy…

Try something new…

Add variety…

Make it fun!

For great tips on getting active, check out the American Heart Association’s TIps here: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/GettingActive/Get-Moving-Easy-Tips-to-Get-Active_UCM_307978_Article.jsp.

 

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Can Having a Life Purpose Really Lead to a Longer Life?

 

 

 

For a tree to become tall…

it must grow tough roots among the rocks.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

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“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” —Robert Bryne

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” —George Bernard Shaw

Philosophers, scholars, progressive thinkers, writers and poets from Socrates onward have written eloquently about the benefits of living a life of purpose. Arecent study from Carlton University in Canada found that people who have a sense of purpose have greater longevity. The findings indicate that creating “a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose.” The study examined data from more than 6,000 people, including their self-reported level of purpose in life, across a 14-year follow-up period.

Not surprisingly, a sense of purpose was found to also bring this benefit regardless of retirement status, a known mortality risk factor. Additionally, the benefits held up even after other indicators of well-being, such as positive relations and positive emotions, were taken into account.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” —Mark Twain

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

I often advise my patients to find something they are passionate about, as the French say, une raison d’être, a reason to get up every day. Some of my patients, especially those whom have experienced serious health challenges may stare back at me lost, confused and simply tired not knowing where to begin. I remind them that purpose is not the same as happiness; whereas happiness fluctuates with daily life events (i.e, sickness, a bad day at work, or car trouble), one’s unique life purpose is more of an underlying sense of soul fulfillment; a calm, often quiet feeling of doing the right thing that transcends life’s disappointments or successes. When we are living in accordance with our life’s purpose, we may encounter the ups and downs of happiness along the way but they don’t permanently distract us from our larger vision.

So how do you discover, if not create, your unique and authentic sense of purpose?

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” —Albert Einstein

  • Time Out – Take some well-deserved “me” time to discover a new hobby or interest you may be keeping on the back-burner. Ask yourself, what makes you feel alive?   Your purpose might be right in front of your eyes but you can’t see it because you aren’t looking inward. Your gut or your instincts might recognize a dormant, unfulfilled passion.

 

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” —Dolly Parton

  • Quiet the mind – In this technology driven and fast moving world, it’s difficult to shut off thoughts about that upcoming meeting, trip, or dinner plans, and focus on you. Write a list of your essential to do tasks then set it safely aside knowing that you can confidently take a temporary break without fear of forgetting something important. Meditation is a great way to tune in to yourself and listen to your inner guide.

 

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” —Rumi

  • Pursue the Pull – If something tugs at your heart or keeps nagging at you until you take the plunge to begin to pursue it, don’t hesitate. Pursue it vigorously, with great intent, whether it’s something material or spiritual. Identify what you can do each day that brings you closer to the target. The feedback your actions give to your sense of well-being is your best guidance.

 

 “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”—Pema Chödrön

  • Make a Mistake, Learn from It – Your “successes” or “failures” over the years tell you where you’ve been in harmony with yourself — or not. Lessons from your good and bad life experiences may reveal: what you have been trying to express throughout your life, directly or indirectly; what longings you may have hidden; your inner vision; and the areas in which you have gone “off-track” from your true purpose.

 

“…don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” —Steve Jobs

  • Create a Tangible Vision – Create a vision of what your emerging sense of purpose looks like. Imagine it’s a powerful magnet that’s pulling you along a path towards it. Trust how you feel not what your mind says.

 

“It is never too late to become what you might have been.” —George Elliot

Feeling that you have a sense of purpose in life may help you live longer, no matter what your age, according to new research. The research has clear implications for promoting positive aging and adult development. From first careers to retirement plans, you have all the time you need. 

For more information on the articles mentioned, please feel free to visit http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/05/06/0956797614531799 and http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27393057.

 

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Can I have this dance?

Dancing can be a hobby, an interest, or simply just the urge to move when that certain song comes on. Yet, what most people are unaware of is that it also has a large number of health benefits!

It can be a great workout for both the body and the mind. In addition, it can help with weight control, strengthening your body, increasing endurance and flexibility, and even improving balance!

From children to seniors, according to AARP, dancing can breathe new life into a tired soul; make a spirit soar; unleash locked-away creativity; unite generations and cultures; inspire new romances or rekindle old ones; trigger long-forgotten memories; and even turn sadness into joy.

WebMD agrees that whether it’s techno, salsa, ballroom, or Jazzercise, dance is great exercise for everyone. The beauty is that, for many people, dancing just doesn’t feel like exercise. It’s all about the joy of movement.

So the next time you are out for a night on the town, hanging out with friends, or even alone cooking dinner in the kitchen, turn up the volume and dance your way to a healthier heart and soul!

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The Many Faces of Stroke

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May is #NationalStrokeMonth, and the National Stroke Association’s Faces of Stroke public awareness campaign is in full swing! Aiming to change the perceptions we have of stroke, education combined with personal stories are being shared across the nation. Friends, mothers, sons, uncles – stroke and diseases associated with it affect loved ones every day. This May, however, we’d like to join the #NationalStrokeAssociation in shining the spotlights on minorities.

Did you know that women, Hispanics and African-Americans have higher stroke risks? Check out these fast facts from the National Stroke Association:

Women

  • Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer does every year.
  • Seven out of ten women are not aware they are more likely than men to have a stroke.
  • Women suffer greater disability after stroke than men.
  • 425,000 women suffer from a stroke each year—55,000 more than men.

African-Americans

  • African-Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as their Caucasian counterparts are.
  • They are 40 percent more likely to have hypertension and 10 percent less likely to have it under control than their non-Hispanic Caucasian counterparts.
  • African-American stroke survivors are more likely to become disabled and have difficulty with activities of daily living

Hispanic Americans

  • Hispanics in the U.S. are more likely to suffer a stroke at a younger age than Caucasians are.
  • Stroke and heart disease account for one in four deaths among Hispanic men and one in three deaths among Hispanic women.
  • Hispanics are more likely to have a recurrent stroke than African-Americans or non-Hispanic Caucasians.

In addition to the National Stroke Association’s Faces of Stroke program, the American Heart Association’s #WorkingTogetherToEndStroke initiative seeks to educate the public that stroke, the number 3 killer of women and number 4 killer of men, is largely PREVENTABLE, TREATABLE AND BEATABLE.

Stroke is preventable – There are many guidelines and helpful information for preventing stroke in general, but for the first time guidelines have been developed for preventing stroke specifically in women. According to the AHA, “If you are a woman, you share many of the same risk factors for stroke with men, but your risk is also influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth and other sex-related factors.”

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Stroke is treatable–Act FAST. When you recognize a stroke and act fast by calling 9-1-1, you have a greater chance of survival and recovery. Remember the acronym F.A.S.T. (Face drooping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty, Time to Call 911) to help you recognize symptoms and what to do. 

Stroke is beatable – ABC World News recently discussed a new study proving consuming fruit each day can decrease your risk for stroke. In a study of more than 760,000 participants, eating “200 grams of fruit a day”, which can equal out to two small apples, reduced the participant’s risk by almost a third! In addition, for every 200 grams of vegetables eaten each day, the risk of stroke can drop by 11%!  

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Want to know what fruits and vegetables are in season now? Check out ErrolMd’s last post for great websites and recipe suggestions, and check out Simple Cooking With Heart, an AHA sponsored site that with simple, nutritious recipes and preparation videos so you won’t miss a step.

 

There are many ways we can fight back, from changes you can make to your lifestyle today to habits you adopt over time.

 “Together, we can end stroke.”

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Spring Into Color, On a Budget!

Ahhh.. warmer weather. The little joys we find from packing away winter layers to opening windows and breathing in spring’s aromas are especially appreciated after a long winter.  Weather changes come hand in hand with changes in seasonal produce, and it’s now time to take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables available in grocery markets and from local growers. Have you noticed the produce section of your own supermarket springing to life with new shades of color, from powerful reds to fluorescent yellows and greens? Springtime and summer produce add unbeatable flavors to dishes and often natural sugar-sweetness to recipes. As an added bonus, these new arrivals pack strong immunity boosters helping to prevent everything from heart disease and strokes to regular digestion.

Let’s take a closer look at the spring colors emerging around us.

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Know what’s in season-

Even if you are on a strict budget, which can often make eating healthy a challenge, you can find good deals on fresh produce by knowing what is in season to get the best price. Keep in mind we should be consuming 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily, so check out what you can find in your local grocery store. Be creative!

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Visit a local Farmer’s Market-

This option is abundant with fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices, and they are often organically grown. To help ensure you are making good choices, check out the following tips:

  • Research what is currently in season, which often can be available in abundance and thus as a bargain price.
  • Go early – not only should there be fewer crowds, but keep in mind the best produce often goes first.
  • Buy in bulk – sometimes the larger quantity you buy, the better deal you get. Research freezing and storing methods, or share with friends and family.
  • Become a regular. – Making a trip to the market a regular thing allows you to build relationships with the farmers. This can result in advice, cooking recipes, and even deals!

Not sure where the closest market is to you? – Search your town’s website or search on localharvest.org.

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Plant your own herbs and vegetables

Farmer’s markets not your thing? If you enjoy gardening, try planting a few vegetable seeds and see what happens. If you lack the space for a garden, try patio planters or local community gardens. These offer space to plant what you want, protection from nibbling wildlife, and the chance to meet some fellow gardeners in your local area.

There is an overwhelming amount of recipes and ideas for garden fresh fruits and veggies – so where do you start? You want to eat healthy; you want to buy in season; but WHAT IS IN SEASON? Check out our list of month by month fresh produce that should be hitting local markets near you. We’ve provided a favorite recipe or two for each!

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APRIL

  • Vegetables: zucchini, rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus, spring peas, broccoli, lettuce
  • Fruits: pineapples, mango
  • Recipe Ideas:
  1. 10 Ways to Use Up Your Zucchini Bounty
  2. Fresh Mango Salsa

MAY

  • Vegetables: okra, zucchini, rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus, spring peas, broccoli, lettuce
  • Fruits: cherries, apricots, pineapples
  • Recipe Ideas:
  1. 7 Gorgeous Spring Pea Recipes
  2. Save up Those Cherries for the Winter!  

 

JUNE

  • Vegetables: corn, lettuce
  • Fruits: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, cherries, blueberries, peaches, apricots
  • Recipe Ideas:
  1. Corn Corn Corn!
  2. You Can Grill Cantaloupe?
  3. 50 Things to do With Peaches

 

JULY

  • Vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash, corn, green beans, lettuce
  • Fruits: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, blueberries, peaches, apricots, kiwi, raspberries, plums
  • Recipe Ideas:
  1. Awesome Things You Can Cook With Fresh Tomatoes
  2. How to Dry Fruits
  3. Jazz Up Your Summer BBQ

 

AUGUST

  • Vegetables: cucumbers, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, green beans. lettuce
  • Fruits: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, blueberries, peaches, apricots, kiwi, raspberries, plums
  • Recipe Ideas:
  1. How to Find the Best Watermelon
  2. Kiwi Omelet?!

 

SEPTEMBER

  • Vegetables:eggplants, pumpkins, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce
  • Fruits: grapes, pomegranates
  • Recipe Ideas:
  1. Everything Pumpkin
  2. POM Recipes

Enjoy the variety and colors that spring and summer bring! Got a great recipe using a fresh veggie or fruit? We’d love to hear about it!

 

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Healthy Tips to Deal With Stress

 

From car trouble to financial problems, from being late for work to having a sick child: Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. Stress, defined as the non-specific response of the body to any demand or change, is an unavoidable element in all of our lives. (http://www.stress.org/what-is-stress/). As April is #StressAwarenessMonth, take a moment to learn a little more about stress, the varying effects it can have, and how you reduce the amount in your own life.

It can be argued that some stress is normal and even useful, providing you with a quick reaction time to do what it is you need to do. A sprint to the finish line or a last minute project completed on time, sometimes we are not even aware when stressful moments hit. The onset of stress kicks your body into #fightorflight mode, coming hand in hand with an accelerated heart rate, quickened breath, and a sudden but short-termed burst of energy, all coordinating together to prepare yourself for what may come next.

But stress that happens too often or that lasts too long can have varying effects, from headaches, intestinal distress, back pain, sleep problems. Stress can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.

How do we lessen the impact of stress on our lives? We need to figure out where it is coming from. Sometimes it is clear where it originates from; a major life change such as a new job, marriage, loss of a loved one, etc. However, sometimes the answer is not as clearContinue reading below…. Everyone is unique, and thus responds differently to stress. For some people it may be helpful to track stress by writing down when something makes you feel stressed and how you reacted to it. This method can be followed up by taking proper steps to reduce the stress or handle it better. To find out how stressed you are right now, #WebMD has a great interactive tool for determining your stress level by visiting http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/tc/interactive-tool-what-is-your-stress-level-what-does-this-tool-measure.

More often than not, stress is not temporary. Thankfully, there are ways to help lower stress:

  • Determine the stressor and take a break from it. Walk around the office. Put away the computer and go for a drive. Give the matter momentary distance.
  • Exercise. Break a sweat and let the stressor fall from your mindset during your work out.
  • Smile and laugh. It’s not a joke: laughter is contagious. Smiling at others and receiving smiles in return can brighten a day.
  • Get social support. Sometimes stress is just too much to handle alone. Talking to a friend or family member may help, but you may also want to see a counselor
  • Meditate. Bring your mind and body to peace, re-center, and take some “me” time. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies and their findings (http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?article) suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.

Meditating briefly (or for some mindful prayer), similar to exercising for short intervals, can reap immediate benefits helping the mind and body to relax, focus, and see new perspectives. Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, are now widely available throughout the United States. Mindfulness meditations are available for free at www.mindfulness-solution.com and http://www.freemindfulness.org/download.

Stress is not completely avoidable, but it can be treatable.

Running, dancing, listening to music, reading, laughing, cooking and eating delicious foods, and spending as much time as possible outdoors with family, friends or solo are some of the ways I cope with stress.  I also begin each day meditating remembering Thich Nhat Hahn’s words from his book Being Peace, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”  

Take action to control your stress! Visit http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/TakeActiontoControlStress/Take-Action-To-Control-Stress_UCM_001402_Article.jsp to select the actions YOU will take, starting today. Will you practice using positive self-talk? Or use emergency stress stoppers? Are you a fan of breathing techniques or looking to learn more daily relaxation methods?

How do you deal with stress? What better time to share with us than during National Stress Awareness Month?

 

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Spring into Spring with a Healthy Body!

Those flowers are starting to sprout all around us, with the threat of snow slowly fading away. Spring into Spring with us by understanding what your body actually needs to feel energized and rejuvenated. This is a great time to become well informed about how nutrition decisions impact health and wellness. What are we really putting into our bodies? What do specific vitamins and foods actually do for us? Finishing up with National Nutrition Month, we have welcomed April with open arms and look forward to a more active and healthier season ahead. Please keep in mind that this complex subject is being made simple, however what we eat can be basically broken down into four major components: carbohydrates, protein, fats and alcohol.

Carbohydrates provide us with energy and serve as our body’s main source of fuel, however, not all carbs are made equal! Whole grain carbs take a longer time to be digested and released into the bloodstream, while products like white bread and rice are easy to digest, they are easily stored as fat. Flash dieting by dropping carbohydrates is both unhealthy and unnecessary. Simple substitutions and portion control can create healthy results, and the USDA’s Food-A-Pedia Super-Tracker is a wonderful tool to get you started! At https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodapedia.aspx, health professionals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest you search for any food item to see nutrition facts, vitamins and minerals, and if possible, healthier substitutions without losing flavor or taste.

Next on our plate are fats, which although associated with negative connotations, are simply a high calorie source of energy with valuable characteristics when consumed in regulated amounts. Eating fat can actually help our body maintain proper hormonal balance, which ironically helps us build muscle while losing fat! So why do fats have such a bad name? It’s actually because of that energy denseness, which packs in a high number of calories per serving. The trick?  Again all fats are not made equal! Healthier fats, like avocados, nuts and olive oil served in small portions should be substituted for trans-fats and processed foods.

Proteins pack energy as well, and serve as the building block for our bodies to help repair damage. Their slow absorption in the body is the reason behind that longer-lasting fullness we feel after eating lean meats, dairy and leafy greens like spinach.

And last is alcohol, which actually causes body cells to break down. Although certain types of alcohol like red wines can have beneficial effects, discussing a healthy option for you with your personal doctor is a smart choice.

Having a basic understanding of what you put into your body is a great way to know why you get certain cravings and what your individual body needs. Fats, carbs, and proteins all play a key role in understanding how to use food to achieve your goals, be it lose fat, gain muscle, feel good, or gain balance in your life.

We invite any thoughts and comments! Feel free to visit the #USDA at https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/ for tasty recipes, nutrition advice, and more!

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