Category Archives: Lifestyle
Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Tied to Lower Drug Costs
People with heart disease spend a lot less on medications when they take steps to lower their risk of complications by doing things like getting enough exercise, avoiding cigarettes and keeping their blood pressure in check, a U.S. study suggests.
For the study, researchers focused on adults diagnosed with the most common type of heart disease, known as atherosclerosis, which happens when fats, cholesterol and other substances build up on artery walls.
When these patients did as much as they could to avoid so-called modifiable risk factors for heart disease – inactivity, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and diabetes – their total average annual pharmaceutical expenditures were $1,400, the study found.
But patients who did little to modify these risk factors had total average annual pharmaceutical expenditures of $4,516, researchers report in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Individuals who are unwilling to modify their lifestyles so as to have a favorable risk factor profile would most likely resort to medications to control the risk factors,” said lead study author Dr. Joseph Salami of the Center for Health Care Advancement and Outcomes at Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables.
“A person getting little or no exercise has a higher risk of obesity,” Salami said by email. “Someone obese is more likely to have diabetes, high blood cholesterol and hypertension.”
For the study, researchers examined 2012 and 2013 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a national snapshot of spending based on surveys of almost 76,000 American patients, families, doctors and employers. The total pharmaceutical costs, reported in 2013 dollars, include patients’ out-of-pocket fees like co-payments and co-insurance as well as the portion of the tab covered by insurance or other sources, Salami said.
Among the survey participants, 4,248 adults aged 40 or older had atherosclerosis, representing about 21.9 million people in the U.S. population. They were 68 years old on average, and 45 percent were women.
Overall, average annual drug costs for each participant were $3,432. About a third of this was for cardiovascular disease drugs and another 14 percent was spent on diabetes medicines.
The remaining expenditures – more than half of the total – were for non-cardiovascular disease and non-diabetes drugs and were significantly associated with the modifiable risk factors, the study team notes.
Nationwide, this adds up to annual drug spending of $71.6 billion for patients with atherosclerosis, researchers estimated.
One limitation of the study is that it might overestimate expenditures because it’s possible some people prescribed medications for heart disease might be taking them for other reasons, the authors note. Researchers also lacked data on the type of insurance patients’ had or for individual characteristics of patients, doctors or pharmacists that might influence drug costs.
Costs should be considered in the context of how well treatments work, and the study doesn’t address this, noted Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston who wasn’t involved in the study.
“In some cases, the benefit that patients get from these non-pharmacologic therapies may be much more substantial than the benefit that drug therapy can offer,” Kesselheim said by email. “In other cases, the drug might be more helpful.”
The study also isn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove that people will spend less on drugs when they make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease, said Julie Schmittdiel of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland.
“It does suggest there is promise that addressing modifiable health behaviors will reduce costs,” Schmittdiel, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.
Knowing this might help motivate some patients to make changes, said Stacie Dusetzina, a pharmacy researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who wasn’t involved in the study.
“I think many of us realize how hard these risk factors are to modify,” Dusetzina said by email. “But having incentives that include feeling better and saving money may help with motivation.”
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived: Jane Blakemore
Dr A Sullivan
Breakthroughs Help Vets Win the PTSD Battle
Thanks to medical miracles, veterans of today’s wars survive battlefield injuries that almost certainly would have been fatal just a generation ago.
But when those wounded warriors return home, they face another monumental challenge: How to mend their broken minds and bodies to resume successful, rewarding lives after they leave the military.
Fortunately, doctors and therapists are studying a number of innovative methods that could help get wounded veterans back on their feet.
Among the promising techniques for veterans currently being explored:
Electric Patch Treatment
Post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD, plagues many soldiers returning home from war. Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles report trigeminal nerve stimulation, or TNS, has shown promise in treating chronic PTSD.
“This could be a breakthrough for patients who have not been helped adequately by existing treatments,” Dr. Andrew Leuchter said.
A second study is now under way.
Seventy-four soldiers seeking treatment for PTSD at the Army Medical Center’s Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Fort Gordon, Ga., recently participated in a study on transcendental medication. Within one month, nearly 84 percent of the meditating soldiers had stabilized, reduced, or eliminated their use of the psychotropic drugs that were helping them to cope with their condition.
Meditating twice a day helped veterans remain calm and avoid the “fight or flight” response associated with PTSD.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Subjecting patients to oxygen at a higher-than-atmospheric pressure infuses the cells of their bodies with oxygen. This has proven especially effective in fighting infections and warding off the effects of concussion, a common injury sustained by soldiers.
But doctors report the Veteran’s Administration and the Pentagon have been slow to fully adopt the use of hyperbaric oxygen by veterans.
President Ronald Reagan famously remarked there is nothing as good for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse. Therapists say as soon as vets get around horses they tend to relax, and their anxieties begin to fade away.
OperationWeAreHere.com offers contact information for over a dozen equine-therapy organizations that work with veterans.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Sensitizing patients to their fears, and the stimuli that tend to trigger panic and anxiety, can help veterans learn to control their reactions. Researchers say those who return from war zones often suffer from “hypervigilance,” an exaggerated readiness to respond to perceived threats in the environment.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients learn to respond productively to stressful situations.
Virtual Reality Therapy
Using computer-generated simulations, veterans under expert medical supervision can get in touch with traumatic events, to better process and understand their own reactions. One small trial suggested it might reduce the effects of PTSD, but more studies are needed.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy
Using a technique called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, PTSD patients learn to process the traumas they experienced thereby reducing anxiety. A patient brings to mind the disturbing images they cannot escape, while practicing deep breathing and focusing on the rapid movements of a therapist’s hand.
A technique just beginning to gain widespread acceptance, it appears to work by mimicking the rapid eye movements people experience during REM sleep.
Magnetic Resonance Therapy
Colloquially known as “brain zapping,” magnetic resonance therapy uses magnetic coils to stimulate the cortex. The FDA approved the procedure in 2008 to combat major bouts of depression.
Published studies suggest it could also help patients suffering from PTSD. The Washington Post reported the procedure is offered as a treatment for depression by the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived: Jane Blakemore
Dr P Carrothers
Yoga as Good for Back Pain as Physical Therapy
Chronic lower back pain is equally likely to improve with yoga classes as with physical therapy, according to a new study.
Twelve weeks of yoga lessened pain and improved function in people with low back pain as much as physical therapy sessions over the same period.
“Both yoga and physical therapy are excellent non-drug approaches for low back pain,” said lead author Dr. Robert Saper, of Boston Medical Center.
About 10 percent of U.S. adults experience low back pain, but not many are happy with the available treatments, Saper and colleagues write in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The American College of Physicians advised in February that most people with low back pain should try non-drug treatments like superficial heat or massage before reaching for medications.
Physical therapy is the most common non-drug treatment for low back pain prescribed by doctors, according to Saper and colleagues. Yoga is also backed by some guidelines and studies as a treatment option, but until now no research has compared the two.
For the new study, the researchers recruited 320 adults with chronic low back pain. The participants were racially diverse and tended to have low incomes.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group took part in a 12-week yoga program designed for people with low back pain. Another took part in a physical therapy program over the same amount of time. People in the third group received a book with comprehensive information about low back pain and follow-up information every few weeks.
At the start of the study, participants reported – on average – moderate to severe functional impairment and pain. More than two-thirds were using pain medications.
To track participants function and pain during the study, the researchers surveyed them at six, 12, 26, 40 and 52 weeks using the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ).
Scores on the RMDQ measure for function declined – meaning function was improving – by 3.8 points over the 12 weeks in the yoga group, compared to 3.5 points in the physical therapy group. Participants who received education had an average RMDQ score decline of 2.5.
Statistically, participants ended up with similar functional improvements whether they underwent yoga, physical therapy or education.
More people in the yoga and physical therapy groups ended up with noticeable improvements in function, however.
People would feel a noticeable improvement with a four to five point drop on the RMDQ, write Dr. Douglas Chang, of the University of California, San Diego and Dr. Stefan Kertesz of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in an accompanying editorial.
They write that 48 percent of yoga participants and 37 percent of physical therapy participants reached that goal, compared to 23 percent of people who were in the education group.
For achieving noticeable differences in pain, physical therapy was again no better or worse than yoga. After 12 weeks, people in the yoga group were 21 percentage points less likely to used pain medications than those in the education group. That difference was 22 percentage points for physical therapy versus education.
The improvements among the people in yoga and physical therapy groups lasted throughout the year, the researchers found.
“If they remain the same after one year, it’s a good bet that their improvement will continue on,” Saper told Reuters Health.
One treatment method won’t help all or even most patients, wrote Chang and Kertesz in their editorial.
“Nevertheless, as Saper and colleagues have shown, yoga offers some persons tangible benefit without much risk,” they write. “In the end, however, it represents one tool among many.”
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Jay J
Sunscreen Mistakes That Pose A Serious Risk To Your Health
The dog days of summer have arrived for most of us and that means lots of time spent out in the sun having fun. It can also mean a painful sunburn if you are not careful. Too much time, unprotected in the sun can lead to premature aging and damage to your skin. While there are a plethora of types of sunscreens to choose from, you must be careful not to make sunscreen mistakes that will end up doing more harm than good.
While it is a good idea to protect the skin from the damaging impact of UV radiation from the sun, you need to know the in’s and outs of sunscreen so as to avoid costly mistakes. Remember, we need the sun to help our bodies make vitamin D3, the nutrient that boosts our immune system, elevates our mood and fights cancer. The key is to stay safe and still get enough sun to keep your vitamin D levels in a healthy range.
Here is a look at the top mistakes you might be making when it comes to sunscreen.
Using chemical sunscreen instead of natural sunscreen
Sunscreen is a huge market and everyone wants to get a share of it. This means that some sunscreens are actually just a toxic cocktail of chemicals that could end up hurting you. The number one mistake you might be making when it comes to your sunscreen is which type of sunscreen you actually purchase and use.
Surprisingly, some studies have indicated that risk of malignant melanoma was highest amongst those who used the most sunscreen. This is undoubtedly due to the chemical makeup of the sunscreen.
According to a 2014 Environmental Working Group guide to sunscreen, over 75% of all sunscreen sold contains toxins capable of increasing the risk of cancer. Here is what they had to say:
“Our review…shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some have toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some act like estrogen and disrupt hormones, and several can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. The FDA has not established rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients.”
Here is a list of just some of the toxic ingredients you might find in conventional sunscreen:
Para amino benzoic acid
Natural sunscreen products or mineral-based sunscreen products generally contain zinc or titanium. They do not break down in the sunlight and are not absorbed by the body. To stay safe, it is best to choose a natural, or mineral-based sunscreen that will not disrupt hormones, are not allergenic and offer effective protection.
Our recent round-up of the best natural sunscreens led to the conclusion that these were the best:
Badger All Natural Sunscreen
Tropical Sands Natural Sunscreen
Beauty By Earth Facial Cream
Kiss My Face Mineral Sunscreen
Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Sunscreen
Using spray-on sunscreen
Although they go on easy, spray sunscreens have hidden dangers. According to safety experts at Consumer Reports, spray on products contain some potentially dangerous ingredients that could be damaging if inhaled, especially to children.
According to Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at Environmental Working Group, “These high-alcohol formulas could irritate the lungs, and their ingredients could be absorbed into the bloodstream.”
You wait to apply sunscreen until you arrive at the beach or the pool
Take the time to apply sunscreen before you head outside. This will allow you to be sure that you are well-covered. Too many people wait to get to the pool or the beach to apply their sunscreen and end up missing spots because they are in a hurry to get in the water or engage in other activities.
You only use sunscreen when you are headed outdoors
It is a good idea to use some form of natural sunscreen year-round, not just when you are headed to the beach or out on a boating trip. According to Cheryl Gustafson, MD, a chief dermatology resident at Emory University,”The sun’s rays can still reach your skin, for example, while you drive or sit by a window.” There are a number of natural moisturizers that contain some sort of sunscreen. It is a good idea to get into the habit of using these daily, no matter what you are doing.
You apply sunscreen with your clothes on
It is always best to apply sunscreen to your entire body when you are naked. According to Noelle Sherber, MD, a consulting dermatologist for the Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center it is best to apply sunscreen naked in front of a full-length mirror because this “helps ensure you entirely cover tricky spots like the mid-back and backs of the legs.”
You pass over your lips
Many people do a good job of protecting their body and face from the sun but neglect their lips. Lips are highly sensitive to the sun and require special TLC from the sun. However, don’t use the same stuff you put on your body. It is best to purchase an organic lip balm with SPF protection (such as these Organic Lip Balms from Sky Organics) and apply it frequently when exposed to the sun.
You rely too much on sunscreen
Too many people rely on sunscreen for complete protection from the sun. There are a number of things that you can do to enhance your protection including:
Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and a hat when participating in outdoor activities. There are many options available for lightweight clothing that offers protection. In addition, always wear a hat when outdoors in the sun.
Stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest time of the day. The sun is hottest during the hours of noon and 3 pm.
Eating foods that offer sun protection and build UV resistance can also help protect you from the sun. These foods include green and white tea, blueberries, red grapes or wine, salmon and fish oil, almonds, asparagus and pumpkin seeds, bell peppers and carrots.
Yes, the sun is fun, yes, we need the sun for vitamin D production,to build up an immune system in y our children, but we have to be very careful during the hot days of summer not to overextend our time in the sun. Chemincals in most commercially marketed sunscreens, are absorded in your skin and the liver tries to filter them out, and cant. You only have one liver
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived Sierra Bright
Dr Jay Jaranson
Does Alcohol Raise the Risk for Breast Cancer?
It’s no secret that genetic, hormonal and environmental factors all seem to play a role in breast cancer. (1) When it comes to alcohol and breast cancer risk specifically, a May 2016 study provides even more insight suggesting that lifestyle factors — including how much alcohol a woman drinks — really matters.
Danish researchers published a study in the British Journal of Medicine providing even more detail of the alcohol and breast cancer risk connection. Analyzing women’s change in alcohol consumption over a five-year period, Danish researchers found that women who increased the amount of alcohol they drank over a five-year period faced a higher risk of breast cancer.
For instance, women who drank two more alcohol drinks a day over five years saw a 30 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to women with stable alcohol intake. That same study found a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease in woman who drank more. However, the study authors noted there are other ways to lower heart disease risk without increasing your breast cancer risk from drinking alcohol. (2, 3)
Alcohol and Breast Cancer Risk Findings
Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol not only damages DNA in cells, but it also triggers higher levels of estrogen and other hormones linked to hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15 percent higher risk of breast cancer. The estimated alcohol and breast cancer risk increases another 10 percent for each additional drink women regularly have each day, according to breastcancer.org.
Here are more important alcohol and breast cancer risk findings:
A large meta-analysis looking at the relationship between alcohol and breast cancer risk in women also found that women who drank about three alcoholic drinks a week experienced a moderate increase in breast cancer risk. (4)
A 2009 study found that drinking just three to four alcoholic beverages a week increases a women’s risk of breast cancer recurrence in women who’d been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. (5)
In March 2016, University of Houston researchers found that alcohol not only fuels estrogen that drives the growth of breast cancer cells, but it also diminishes the effects of popular cancer drug Tamoxifen, a widely-used estrogen-blocking drug used to treat many breast cancers. (6)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises women to drink no more than one drink a day. (7) If you drink less than this, don’t increase the amount of alcohol you drink.
Defining a “Drink”
When considering all of this research investigating alcohol and breast cancer risk, it’s important to understand what a “drink” actually means. For instance, drinking one dirty martini is very different than drinking a glass of beer or wine. Each may seem like a single drink, but a dirty martini typically contains about 6 ounces of vodka. That means your single martini, for instance, would actually be considered four drinks.
Researchers often use the following National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism guidelines to define what constitutes as one drink, which is about 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol:
- 12 ounces of beer or hard cider (3 to 7 percent alcohol)
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof liquor
Keep in mind that a craft beer with a high alcohol percentage served in a common 16-ounce pint glass could actually be more on par with drinking two 12-ounce bottles of beer with a more standard alcohol percentage of 3 to 7 percent alcohol. (8) And when you’re sipping on something like red wine, be aware of how many ounces the glass is really holding.
Women who drink up to one drink a day and men who drink up to two drinks a day are considered moderate drinkers. Women having four or more drinks on any day or a total of eight or more drinks a week are considered high-risk, excessive drinkers. (For men, drinking more than five drinks on any day or 15 or more drinks a week is considered high-risk, excessive drinking.) (9)
Other Ways to Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer
With breast cancer cases expected to increase 50 percent by 2030, it’s important to not only consider alcohol and breast cancer risk, but take steps to lower your risk through other lifestyle improvements. (10) The important takeaway is that there are many things you can do lower your breast cancer risk in a meaningful way. Aside from lowering the levels of alcohol you drink, here are other ways to get started:
Fruits and veggies are loaded with cancer-fighting compounds — Interesting, a 2016 study found that when girls eat more fruit during adolescence (at least 2.9 servings a day), they enjoy a 25 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer later in life compared to girls who eat the lowest levels of fruit during adolescence (less than a serving a day). (11, 12) Just be sure to choose organic when possible, since some fruits and veggies on the dirty dozen list harbor pesticides linked to cancer.
Eat organic, fresh foods as much as possible — Avoid canned foods and drinks. Most contain toxic BPA, also known as bisphenol A, a harmful chemical linked to hormone disruption and breast cancer. (13)
Avoid the heavy metal cadmium — It’s found in cigarettes smoke and linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. (14, 15) Cadmium is a common food contaminant most often found in shellfish, liver and kidney meats.
Exercise — Strenuous exercise for 4+ hours a week can help lower your risk of breast cancer. Exercises can also help keep you out of the overweight/obese category, which is another risk factor for breast cancer in woman who have reached menopause. (16)
Final Thoughts on Alcohol and Breast Cancer Risk
It’s clear that alcohol and breast cancer risk are related, but it may be unrealistic for some women to completely give up all alcoholic drinks for the rest of their lives. The science suggests that increasing the amount of alcohol you drink in midlife increases your risk. Other large research studies found that drinking three drinks or more a week moderately increases risk. In other words, you don’t have to be a binge drinker to experience a significant increase in risk.
Having a glass of red wine now and then can provide you with a healthy dose of resveratrol, a potent antioxidant shown to expand your lifespan and aid in weight loss. However, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a neurotoxin that also puts unnecessary stress on your liver. You can easily get those same benefits from blueberries and supplements, so don’t rely on even occasional red wine as your sole source of resveratrol.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr P. Carrothers – JA
What Happens When You Sit Too Long
In recent centuries, advances in industry and technology have fundamentally changed the way many humans spend their waking hours. Where it was once commonplace to spend virtually all of those hours on your feet – walking, twisting, bending, and moving – it is now the norm to spend those hours sitting.
The modern-day office is built around sitting, such that you can conduct business – make phone calls, send e-mails and faxes, and even participate in video conferences – without ever leaving your chair.
But there’s an inherent problem with this lifestyle. Your body was designed for near perpetual movement. It thrives when given opportunity to move in its fully intended range of motion and, as we’re now increasingly seeing, struggles when forced to stay in one place for long periods.
What Happens When You Sit for Too Long?
Studies looking at life in natural agriculture environments show that people in agrarian villages sit for about three hours a day. The average American office worker can sit for 13 to 15 hours a day.
The difference between a “natural” amount of sitting and modern, inappropriate amounts of sitting is huge, and accounts for negative changes at the molecular level.
According to Dr. James Levine, co-director of the Mayo Clinic and the Arizona State University Obesity Initiative, there are at least 24 different chronic diseases and conditions associated with excessive sitting.
As he wrote in Scientific American:1
“Sitting for long periods is bad because the human body was not designed to be idle. I have worked in obesity research for several decades, and my laboratory has studied the effect of sedentary lifestyles at the molecular level all the way up to office design.
Lack of movement slows metabolism, reducing the amount of food that is converted to energy and thus promoting fat accumulation, obesity, and the litany of ills—heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more—that come with being overweight. Sitting is bad for lean people, too.
For instance, sitting in your chair after a meal leads to high blood sugar spikes, whereas getting up after you eat can cut those spikes in half.”
Not surprisingly, sitting for extended periods of time increases your risk for premature death. This is especially concerning given the fact that you may be vulnerable to these risks even if you are a fit athlete who exercises regularly.
It takes a toll on your mental health, too. Women who sit more than seven hours per day were found to have a 47 percent higher risk of depression than women who sit four hours or less.2
There’s really no question anymore that if you want to lower your risk of chronic disease, you’ve got to get up out of your chair. This is at least as important as regular exercise… and quite possibly even more so.
Practically Speaking: 5 Tips for Better Health if You Work at a Computer
You might be thinking this sounds good in theory… but how do you translate your seated computer job into a standing one? It’s easier than you might think. For starters, check out these essential tips for computer workers:3
- Stand Up
If you’re lucky, your office may be one that has already implemented sit-stand workstations or even treadmill desks. Those who used such workstations easily replaced 25 percent of their sitting time with standing and boosted their well-being (while decreasing fatigue and appetite).4
But if you don’t have a specially designed desk, don’t let that stop you. Prop your computer up on a stack of books, a printer, or even an overturned trash can and get on your feet.
When I travel in hotels, I frequently use the mini fridge or simply turn the wastebasket upside down and put it on top of the desk, and it works just fine.
- Get Moving
Why simply stand up when you can move too? The treadmill desk, which was invented by Dr. Levine, is ideal for this, but again it’s not the only option. You can walk while you’re on the phone, walk to communicate with others in your office (instead of e-mailing), and even conduct walking meetings.
- Monitor Your Screen Height
Whether you’re sitting or standing, the top of your computer screen should be level with your eyes, so you’re only looking down about 10 degrees to view the screen. If it’s lower, you’ll move your head downward, which can lead to back and neck pain. If it’s higher, it can cause dry eye syndrome.
- Imagine Your Head as a Bowling Ball
Your head must be properly aligned to avoid undue stress on your neck and spine. Avoid craning your head forward, holding it upright instead. And while you’re at it, practice chin retractions, or making a double chin, to help line up your head, neck, and spine.
- Try the “Pomodoro Technique”
You know those little tomato-shaped (pomodoro is Italian for tomato) timers? Wind one up to 25 minutes (or set an online calculator). During this time, focus on your work intensely. When it goes off, take 5 minutes to walk, do jumping jacks, or otherwise take a break from your work. This helps you to stay productive while avoiding burnout.
What’s It Really Like to Work While Standing?
If you’re curious… just try it. Reactions tend to be mixed, at least initially, but if you stick with it you will be virtually guaranteed to experience benefits. The Guardian, for instance, recently featured an article with a first-hand account of working while standing, and the author wasn’t impressed.
He said “standing up to work felt like a horrible punishment” and lead to aches and decreased productivity.5 I couldn’t disagree more, but I will say that standing all day takes some adjustment. However, many people feel better almost immediately. As one worker who uses an adjustable-height work desk told TIME:6
“I definitely feel healthier standing while working as it causes me to be more focused on my posture and ‘hold’ myself better in terms of my stomach and shoulders especially.”
Personally, standing more has worked wonders for me. I used to recommend intermittent movement, or standing up about once every 15 minutes, as a way to counteract the ill effects of sitting. Now, I’ve found an even better strategy, which is simply not sitting. I used to sit for 12 to 14 hours a day. Now, I strive to sit for less than one hour a day.
After I made this change, the back pain that I have struggled with for decades (and tried many different methods to relieve without lasting success) has disappeared. In addition to not sitting, I typically walk about 15,000 steps a day, in addition to, not in place of, my regular exercise program. I believe this combination of exercise, non-exercise activities like walking 10,000 steps a day, along with avoiding sitting whenever possible is the key to being really fit and enjoying a pain-free and joyful life.
You’re Not a Prisoner to Your Chair
If you’re still sitting down while reading this… now’s your chance – stand up! As Dr. Levine said: “We live amid a sea of killer chairs: adjustable, swivel, recliner, wing, club, chaise longue, sofa, arm, four-legged, three-legged, wood, leather, plastic, car, plane, train, dining and bar. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you do not have to use them.”
Many progressive workplaces are helping employees to stand and move more during the day. For instance, some corporations encourage “walk-and-talk” meetings and e-mail-free work zones, and offer standing workstations and treadmill desks. But if yours isn’t among them, take matters into your own hands. You may be used to sitting down when you get to work, but try, for a day, standing up instead.
One day can turn into the next and the next, but please be patient and stick with it. Research shows that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to build a new habit and have it feel automatic.7 Once you get to this point, you’ll likely already be reaping the many rewards of not sitting, things like improved blood sugar and blood pressure levels, less body fat and a lower risk of chronic disease.
Health and Wellness Associates
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Are You in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?
Signs of Abuse
Do you feel like you have to “walk on eggshells” around your partner? Are you afraid a lot of the time in your relationship? Is your self esteem being slowly eroded? It’s possible you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Emotional abuse can sometimes be a tricky thing to identify for those in the situation because often the abuser employs tactics that make the other person feel like they’re going crazy. Abusive people will dominate conversations so that the other has little time to decide if the behavior is harmful. There’s often a pervasive sense of being off balance for the person being emotionally abused. They start to question their own thinking and eventually believe that they must have it wrong and in fact, they’re the bad ones for daring to believe such a thing about the abuser! We call this “crazy-making” because that’s precisely the impact it has on the receiver.
In my own practice I’ve seen couples come in where it’s pretty obvious this is going on. I’ve seen men and women in emotionally abusive dynamics with their partners. I’ve witnessed people literally verbally “shut down” their partner – and the other one shrink away right before my eyes. Part of the problem for people who are being emotionally abused is they often don’t realize it. They’re self confidence has been whittled down to a nub.
Could you be in an emotionally abusive relationship? Ask yourself the following five questions – which are also signs you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship:
1) Does your partner frequently criticize or humiliate you?
2) Does your partner isolate you from your family and friends?
3) Has your partner ever limited or controlled your access to money?
4) Do you feel trapped in your relationship?
5) Are you afraid of your partner?
The Cycle of Abuse
Another important aspect of this dynamic is what Dr. Lenore Walker originally coined as the “cycle of abuse.” Essentially, there’s usually a kind of repetitive looping that goes on that consists of four phases:
1) Tension Building: The receiver gets the sense that the abuser is upset and takes active steps to placate him/her.
2) Incident: Verbal or emotional abuse occurs – consisting of threats, humiliation, blaming, intimidation, etc.
3) Reconciliation: Abuser apologizes, minimizes the abuse, blames the receiver, denies it occurred, etc.
4) Calm: No abuse taking place, often called the “honeymoon phase.”
This cycle has the effect of eventually breaking the person down emotionally. It can happen quickly for some – and take years for others.
Final Thoughts on Emotional Abuse
There are many reasons why abusers and their victims get caught up in this damaging dance. The issues can almost always be traced back to the family of origin for both people. Abusers often had chaotic childhoods with a perception of little control – and deep down they fear abandonment. Sometimes they witnessed their parents engaged in it. The same applies to victims – part of their life story can be around “learned helplessness” for a variety of reasons. They may have a history of being in abusive relationships – or they might have witnessed their parents caught up in the same cycle. Regardless of how people get there – they can get out – and learn how to have healthy, loving relationships.
If you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, make sure to take steps to protect yourself if you have the intention to leave. Have a safety plan intact and increase your support network. If you suspect your partner has the capability to become physically violent and you fear for your safety call 911.
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived : Jay Jaranson
Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT
Aspartame linked to vision loss, cancer and other illnesses
Aspartame – sold under the brand names NutraSweet, Sugar Twin and Equal – is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners available on the market. It is used as a low-calorie sugar substitute in more than 6,000 processed products worldwide, especially in diet or sugar-free foods and beverages.
While it remains the most used artificial sweetener, it has also faced controversy in recent years. As more and more research links aspartame to severe health effects, increasing numbers of people are becoming aware of this hidden poison and are trying to avoid it at all costs. That’s why Pepsi proactively removed it from their diet soda last year.
Complaints of various health issues have been filed since aspartame first appeared on the market in the 1980s. As reported by The Nutritional Source, aspartame is one of the most exhaustively studied chemicals in the human food supply, with more than 200 studies completed.
Dr. Betty Martini, the founder of the worldwide volunteer force Mission Possible World Health International, which is committed to removing aspartame from our food, notes that aspartame has brought more complaints to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) than any other additive; it is responsible for 75 percent of such complaints.
Over the years, more than 90 side effects – including vision loss, seizures, brain tumors, cancer and mild rashes – have been associated with regular consumption of aspartame. Furthermore, it can mimic the symptoms of diseases such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lupus, ADD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue and depression.
When aspartame is processed by the body it breaks down into phenylalanine (50 percent), aspartic acid (40 percent) and methanol (or wood alcohol, 10 percent).
Aspartame can make you blind
We have all heard the stories about alcoholics ending up blind or dead after drinking methanol during Prohibition. Aspartame consists of 10 percent methanol which our body further breaks down into formaldehyde and formic acid. These compounds accumulate in the retina of the eye and destroy the optic nerve, causing vision loss and blindness.
Furthermore, methanol poisoning may cause central nervous system depression, and can lead to metabolic acidosis and coma.
As reported by Dr. Martini, in 1986 the Community Nutrition Institute petitioned the FDA to ban aspartame because so many people had gone blind and had seizures. Despite the apparent link, the FDA, backed up by the drug and chemical industry, refused to take aspartame out of production.
It messes with your brain
Excessive amounts of phenylalanine block the transport of essential amino acids to the brain, which contributes to reduced levels of dopamine and serotonin. While our brains need this amino acid, too much of it has been linked to emotional and behavioral disorders and brain damage.
Furthermore, too much aspartic acid, another amino acid present in aspartame, can cause over-stimulation and death of brain cells. It leaks too much calcium into the cells and triggers excessive amounts of free radicals, which may damage and kill neurons.
G.D. Searle, the company behind the discovery of aspartame, was warned as early as 1971 that excess amounts of aspartic acid caused holes in the brain of mice and posed a serious threat to human health, yet nobody found it necessary to remove aspartame from the shelves.
Induces brain tumors
Before its approval, aspartame had been rejected multiple times over fears of brain tumors and cancer, the Huffington Post reported. In 1996, Dr. John Olney, who founded the field of neuroscience called excitotoxicity, and attorney James Turner, attempted to stop the approval of aspartame.
Even the FDA’s own toxicologist, Dr. Adrian Gross, told Congress that aspartame could cause brain tumors and brain cancer, and that approving it would violate the Delaney Amendment, which forbids putting anything in food known to cause cancer.
Sadly enough, Donald Rumsfeld – who was CEO of G.D. Searle and part of Reagan’s transition team – and Monsanto joined forces. In 1985, Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle, the company that held the patent to aspartame. They managed to pull a few strings and played a substantial role in the approval of aspartame by the FDA.
If you need assistance in managing your aspartame intake, especially if you have diabetes, please give us a call and we can help y ou, in the comforts of your home, with all your healthcare concerns.
Health and Wellness Associates
Lack of Sleep and Diabetes Linked
New research links lack of sleep with heightened risk for type 2 diabetes in youth
A new review of scientific literature on the importance of sleep in youth suggests that a lack of sleep can lead to decreased appetite control and body weight regulation, all of which can raise risks for the development of type 2 diabetes.
The largest decline in sleep duration and poor sleep quality over the past decades has been seen in children and adolescents, a trend that earlier studies say may contribute to weight gain, increased risks for cardiovascular disease and poor mental health.
This new review of evidence, published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes, has looked at 23 studies on the topic of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and sleep variables to try and elucidate the mechanisms that may explain the association between the two.
Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, in Canada, reviewed studies that not only assessed risks from inadequate sleep, described as sleeping less than six hours per night – a two-hour or so sleep deficit compared to standard advice for children – but also sleep architecture.
A healthy sleep architecture refers to having the right number of restorative sleep cycles and rapid eye movement phases to feel sufficiently well-rested. An out of whack sleep architecture has been associated in past studies with insulin resistance.
In terms of sleep duration, researchers have found that the lowest risk for type 2 diabetes is observed, similar to the figure given for adults, at a minimum sleep duration of seven to eight hours per day.
Drawing from the findings of the different studies evaluated, they have identified a number of mechanisms by which the lack of sleep can elevate risks for type 2 diabetes among children.
One of them, perhaps the most prominent one, is the increased exposure to the stress hormone cortisol due to short sleep duration. This may contribute to the accumulation of visceral fat and subsequent increased insulin resistance.
The reason for this is that the authors also noted that the association between sleep quality and insulin resistance was not independent of the level of adiposity – the increase in the number of fat cells.
There may also be another phenomenon implicated that has to do with the nervous system which, in response to the stress of not sleeping, negatively influences the hormone leptin.
While we sleep, leptin usually rise to control appetite. However, when sleep is restricted, leptin gets inhibited. The inhibition of leptin leads to an increase in hunger and a decrease in satiety. These effects can translate into progressive weight gain.
Sleep is a modifiable lifestyle habit associated with the prevention of type 2 diabetes. One randomised trial that was part of the review conducted among children aged 8 to 11 years showed that increasing sleep duration by just 1.5 hour per night over a week resulted in lower food intake and lower body weight.
Although more studies are needed to shed light on the mechanisms linking insufficient sleep with type 2 diabetes risk, there’s no possible risk in children and teens improving their sleep and getting enough of it on a regular schedule each night.
If you need help, have concerns or just want a healthcare plan for YOU, then contact us and we will help you.
Health and Wellness Associates
Fun and Fitness
Incorporating play can make your workout more effective, inspiring, and fun – just like when you were a kid.
I’m standing in a circle with 10 fitness enthusiasts in an open field, the brilliant Pacific Northwest sunshine taking the edge off the chill in the air. Clapping his hands, Frank Forencich, a 61-year-old with the muscularity of a college fullback, gives the group a simple directive: “OK, let’s play!”
With that, he charges a petite, vital woman named Dawni Rae at full speed, arms outstretched as if to throw her to the ground. In one fluid move, Rae sidesteps the attack, grabs a shoulder, and sends him sprawling to the ground in a harmless forward roll. Everyone — Forencich, Rae, and the assembled, multinational group of participants — bursts into laughter.
We take turns attacking and defending, then move on to other activities: keep-away with medicine balls, spinning Hula-Hoops, and walking around in a half-squat, back to back with a partner, like twins joined at the shoulder blades.
Forty-five minutes later, we’re covered in sweat, breath condensing in the air, hearts beating rapidly, muscles aching. No one has been counting reps or working to failure or feeling the burn. Instead, we’ve been having high-spirited, good-natured fun — not unlike the improvised play that school kids enjoy at recess. And the result is an invigorating, effective full-body workout.
For more than a decade, Forencich — author of Beautiful Practice: A Whole-Life Approach to Health, Performance and the Human Predicament and founder of Exuberant Animal, a wellness program based near Seattle — has been making a similar point: Our stressed-out, teched-up, sedentary lives have led us to forget about our bodies. Exercise has become an obligation that we perform by rote, rather than a vital, engaging activity that stimulates learning, facilitates vitality, and fosters social connection.
Supported by the growing scientific field of “play studies,” Forencich believes that physical playfulness — vigorous, lighthearted, exploratory movement — is an essential, but oft-forgotten, key to physical and mental health. He holds regular workshops and retreats to allow participants to experience this firsthand.
“Play gives you all the physical benefits of moving while also connecting your sensory systems to the world around you,” he explains as we wrap up our day. “It’s the bridge between your body and the environment.”
It may also be the very thing that makes the ways you move more interesting, efficient, and fun again. Just like when you were a kid.
So what exactly is play? One dictionary defines it as “occupying oneself in an activity for amusement or recreation.” Another describes it by what it’s not: serious.
In the animal world, play is usually easy to identify. Dogs chase each other and mock-fight, pretending to growl, their claws harmlessly retracted and backing off before truly biting. Lions, tigers, and bears play in a similar fashion.
Among humans, play is a broader concept, encompassing activities like games, sports, gambling, and even painting. There’s a reason a theatrical performance is called a play.
Defining play is also subjective: Skydiving may be a blast for you but terrifying for your aunt — or vice versa. Bridge may be a hoot for your brother, stultifying to you. One person’s play can be another person’s poison.
Stuart Brown, MD, founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, Calif., a nonprofit committed to “bringing the unrealized knowledge, practices, and benefits of play into public life,” defines it both objectively and subjectively.
First and foremost, he says, play is “apparently purposeless.” In his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Brown writes, “Play activities don’t seem to have any survival value. They don’t help in getting money or food. However, the brain circuits that prompt play are housed in the survival centers of the brain.”
There are long-term, extrinsic benefits to playing: Sport and art, for example, may eventually bring wealth and fame to athletes and artists. But for an activity to qualify as play, that’s not the immediate focus.
“Play is done for its own sake,” continues Brown. “The cultural commonly held misconception about play is that it is trivial, or just for kids. That’s why some people think of it as a waste of time.”
Brown also defines play as having these characteristics:
It’s voluntary: No one who is forced onto the baseball field and hates every minute of it is really playing.
It has inherent attraction: It’s naturally fun and exciting to the player.
It has improvisational potential: It’s structured — but with room for spontaneity.
It instills a sense of freedom from time: When you’re fully engaged in play, you lose track of the minutes ticking by.
It brings a diminished conscious–ness of self: “We stop worrying about whether we look good or awkward, smart or stupid,” writes Brown.
It inspires a desire to continue the activity: You feel an urge to do it again and again.
It flows from deeply embedded intrinsic motivation: Its rewards, in addition to being fun, sustain increased mastery and lifelong motivation. “It is how children — and most adults — fully engage in the world,” Brown says.
Risk and novelty are fundamental to human play. Somersaults are fun — and a little risky — when you first learn them. Once you master them, you might need to learn other moves so playfulness doesn’t become drudgery.
Though it’s not required, partnership is another beneficial component. Working together toward a common goal or going head to head in a friendly competitive spar adds an element of fun that’s difficult (or impossible) to experience on your own. A sense of camaraderie can infuse even menial tasks with an undeniable sense of fun.
“Play is an antidote to fear,” says Forencich at the end of our long but exhilarating play-filled day. “It’s a way of saying, You’re safe to risk a little: Have fun, and you won’t get hurt.”
OUR INNATE NEED TO PLAY
Every creature — animal and human, young and old, male and female — engages in “apparently purposeless” play, but why?
One answer is practice. Lion cubs, for example, tussle playfully with their siblings to learn skills they’ll later apply to hunting antelope. Our ancestors were responding to a similar evolutionary impulse when they invented games and organized sports to prepare themselves for hunting and battle. Amidst all the frivolity, the argument goes, vigorous physical play builds coordination and strengthens muscles to sharpen us for the dangerous business of survival.
This Darwinian explanation has merit, but it’s not the whole story. The benefits of play appear to run deeper.
Based on his long-term studies of rats and play, Sergio M. Pellis, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, explains that exposing young rats to an “unpredictable loss of control” in play fighting “produces adults who are more able to deal with the vicissitudes of life.”
This appears to be true for humans as well, and it applies to both sedentary and active forms of play.
Playing a musical instrument as a child not only improves the ability to discern pitch and rhythm but also staves off memory loss, cognitive decline, and poor hearing later in life. One Harvard study found motor and auditory improvements after just 15 months of musical training in early childhood.
Two recent studies found that young girls who play sports are fitter as adults and also have better education, career, and health prospects. And a 2010 study discovered that practicing visual arts fostered more than an appreciation of Van Gogh: Among patients with chronic illness, art classes resulted in improved well-being, reduced stress, and measurably better medical outcomes.
Play may also help us learn more effectively. A study of rats found that those raised in a “social, playful, and otherwise stimulating environment” were faster learners than those raised in less-stimulating environments. Rats that were moved into these enhanced environments showed increased neuron production in the hippocampus, an area of the brain vital to memory and learning.
A 2013 study of Emory University students found that reading novels — a form of cognitive play — has lasting beneficial effects on our brain connectivity.
So play’s benefits are neurological as well as physiological. The urge to play resides in areas of the brain less sophisticated and more impulsive than the areas that drive most of our daily actions, says Forencich. And that’s a huge plus: It means that play has the capacity to nudge us away from overintellectualizing and into a more creative, improvisational, intuitive state of being.
Play, it appears, helps our minds — and at the same time, helps us get out of our heads.
A WORLD WITHOUT PLAY
Sadly, though, our jam-packed schedules leave us with little time or patience for the open-endedness of play. “There’s this huge misconception in modern society that play is a waste of time, that it’s a distraction from the real work of being alive,” says Forencich. “In fact, it’s integral to life. It’s a big part of what keeps us productive and healthy.”
It’s all too common for this innate urge to be stifled — even in our children. Many grade schools no longer allow recess time; and at home, kids flock to digital screens to “play” games.
This “play deprivation” — when it’s a substitute for face-to-face play or immersion in nature — has measurable, detrimental effects, says Brown. Based on the detailed play histories of more than 6,000 people, he concluded in a 2014 Scholarpedia report that healthy play patterns are “linked to personal vitality, resilience, optimism, and well-being.” A lack of play, especially in the first 10 years of life, is connected to depression, aggression, addiction, inflexibility, diminished impulse control, and poor interpersonal relationships.
Our bodies and minds are hungry for play. And when it comes to movement, specifically, Forencich argues that the conventional mindset in response to this need — thinking we need to grind away on machines that typically lend themselves to repetitive motions — is incomplete and imbalanced. Many forms of exercise burn calories and tone muscles, he says, but controlled and convenient forms of movement lack novelty, risk, and many of the other qualities that make play appealing and effective.
“As soon as you take risk away, movement becomes less playful and more like work,” he explains. “It’s right there in our word for movement: workout.”
After three days together, the 10 members of the Exuberant Animal retreat pack up to go our separate ways. As is customary following gatherings like this, there are hugs, phone numbers exchanged, plans laid for next steps. But this feels different.
Asked at the end of the retreat what the most powerful part of the weekend was, all of us reply, “The tribe.” This comes after three days of fresh new games, beautiful vistas, and home-cooked meals. Still, of all that was offered, what we liked best was each other.
And that may be the ideal testament to the magic of play. A weekend of playful activity in which we’d risked embarrassment, bruises, and good-natured ribbing had forced all of us to show up fully, fostering a sense of mutual trust while considerably compressing the usual getting-to-know-you time.
As we discovered, and as science is demonstrating more clearly, play isn’t just good for us as individuals. It’s good for a group as a whole — the special something that draws us, and keeps us, together.
Health and Wellness Associates
Photography by Terry Brennan