It seems as though the older I get, the harder it is for me to get a good night’s sleep. The problem for me doesn’t seem to be falling asleep, but getting 7-8 hrs of uninterrupted sleep. In an effort to get a restful night of shut-eye I started doing some research and this is what I found out:
No surprise here, but good habits once again seem to hold the answers. All factors of getting a good night’s sleep might not be in our control, but there are habits that one can adopt to encourage a better night’s sleep.
- Once again physical activity to the rescue. Exercise not only increases the amount of energy you spend but also releases the feel good hormones or endorphins and helps regulate body temperature. Avoid heavy food or alcohol two hours before bed because they can interfere with sleep. If caffeine bothers you, don’t drink any caffeinated beverages after 6 pm.
- Boost your circadian rhythm. Getting plenty of sunlight during the day can help regulate your biological clock so at night your body can downshift into a more relaxed mode in preparation for bedtime. Getting up and going to bed at approximately the same times daily reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle and help promote better sleep.
- Get rid of the day’s worries. If you tend to worry, jot down your concerns and possible solutions and put them aside until tomorrow. Thinking about them once you lay your head on the pillow is not going to get them resolved any faster. Also before bedtime, start practicing a relaxing ritual such as reading, listening to a podcast or writing in your gratitude journal.
- Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Don’t eat, watch TV or browse the internet/ answer emails on your tablet, laptop or phone. Don’t talk on the phone while you are in bed. In fact, the blue light from keeping your electronics close to the bed can affect your ability get a good night’s sleep. Keep those devices away from your bed, and better yet, out of your bedroom all together.
- Last but not least, keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Use room darkening shades, earplugs or a fan to shut out outside light and noises. The cooler the room the better you sleep. This time of year I often crack a window near my bed to let in the cooler night air. In the summer, I use a floor fan. Choose comfortable, clean bedding and make sure you have plenty of room to stretch out.
Finally the cooler weather is upon us, which for me, is “tea time.” But, like most everything I consume, I play a game of sorts with myself to determine what’s healthiest for my body. However, tea is a bit different.
All varieties of tea — whether it is black tea, green, oolong (between green and black) or white —are good for me, and probably you too. The health benefits include keeping your mind sharp and reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Yes, tea is the number two beverage, behind water, as the most sipped beverage worldwide is loaded with disease fighting plant compounds and antioxidants.
True teas are made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis plant. Differences in flavor and color depend on the how the leaves are rolled, crushed and exposed to air before drying. Herbal teas are infused with herbs and spices.
So like anything good for you, how much should you consume? Some experts recommend having 2-3 cups per day. Since tea, like coffee, has caffeine, balance your intake with de-caffeinated varieties or take fewer sips. Black tea has the most caffeine, with 72 mgs in 12 ounces, about half of what a cup of coffee would have in the same size serving. And if your preference is decaf tea, double up on the teas bags to get the same beneficial plant compounds because the de-caf process dilutes some of the healthy compounds.
A few words of warning, though: Don’t load up your tea with sugar and cream. This can add a huge whopping of calories and sugar to your healthy routine. Also if you do not peculiarly like tea, a supplement with the green tea extract powders is not OK. The benefits you might get are overshadowed by the risks of dizziness, ringing in the ears, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, liver damage and possible death. Need I say more!
One of the things I look forward to each morning is a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. In fact, I enjoy it so much I often list it as one of the three things I am grateful for each week. My morning Joe helps me to ease into my routine; it is my time to be quiet and savor the beginning of a new day.
What I have learned is that I am not alone, 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee daily. If you fall into that category, you may be happy to learn that coffee drinking is a healthy habit. Coffee is full of disease-fighting antioxidants, as are many other plants. Yes, we often forget that coffee is actually a plant. The coffee bean contains more than 1,000 naturally occurring substances called “phytochemicals.” They are antioxidants that protect cells from damage by free radicals in your body.
Drinking coffee has also been shown to reduce tooth cavities, boost athletic performance, improve mood, and stop headaches. It also can reduce your chance of getting Type 2 diabetes, lower cancer risk, prevent strokes, and fight off Parkinson disease. Coffee also improves cognitive function as we age.
So how much coffee do we need to drink each day to reap these wonderful benefits?
Researchers have found that for those who drink four to six cups per day, versus only two or fewer, their risk for Type 2 diabetes decreased by almost 30 percent. The number decreases by 35 percent for people who drink more than six cups per day. Of course, my first thought when I read this was four to six cups a day is too much. I’d be bouncing off the walls. The good news is the benefits are the same if you drink decaffeinated coffee.
Regular black coffee only has two calories so it’s a great alternative beverage to soft drinks or energy drinks. The federal dietary guidelines state that up to five cups of coffee a day are in line with a healthy diet. But make sure you go easy on the cream, sugar and other additives… We don’t want to turn a healthy habit into something that negates the good!
My Great Aunt, 108 years old.
I have a great aunt that is 108 years old. She is still mobile, lives at home and is mentally sharp. She is one of the oldest citizens of North Carolina and often interviewed by the media on secrets to longevity and quality of life. Although her sister (my grandmother) lived to be 97, her health and quality of life declined in her late 80s.
What’s the difference between these two sisters even though both had longevity?
Researchers agree that a person’s genes account for only 20 percent of human longevity. The balance depends on how you live life in your younger years. Both ladies owned their own businesses. My grandmother worked until her late 70s, my great aunt until her early 90s. Neither had regular exercise routines, but both were always very busy with their businesses. My aunt walked, climbed stairs and did a bit of lifting in her younger years because she owned an interior design business. She never seemed to sit down. My grandmother was a little overweight most of her life, and my great aunt was always thin and still remains a snappy dresser. Neither of them watched very much television.
My grandmother smoked occasionally earlier on. My great aunt never did. They both enjoyed a little wine with their food, and my grandmother would have a beer occasionally. They both ate a predominantly Mediterranean diet — especially lots of olive oil and fish. I’m convinced that their diet is the second key contributor to their longevity.
The four basics to a Mediterranean diet:
1. Eat more plants — Plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains are critical to good health, yet most of us come up short on these.
2. Choose healthier fats — The Mediterranean diet is not low in fats. But olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and fish are extremely good for you, so eat as much of them as you can.
3. Lean protein — While plant-based foods make up the majority of a Mediterranean diet, lean meats can also play a key role. Protein consumption via seafood, poultry, eggs and lean meats in moderation are important.
4. Beverages — A little wine may be included in a Mediterranean diet, but moderation is extremely important. Water is by far the critical staple. So drink lots of it throughout your waking hours.
Do you want to make changes in you lifestyle and look and feel better? Is the quality of your life important now as well as in the future? I can help you make the necessary changes and help you stick with the program. Consider taking advantage of my free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session. It is designed to improve your eating and other health habits critical for enjoying a long and quality way of life.
Last week, we talked about the immediate benefits of exercising and how exercise is the new miracle drug. But, even better news is that so much of what we already do counts as exercise. Heavy gardening, like digging and raking, mowing the grass and washing the car all count as vigorous exercise. Physical activity and exercise include all types of movement not just playing an athletic sport.
In fact, emerging research is showing that it doesn’t take much movement to get benefits. Research is showing that an intensive work out for as little as 10 minutes has benefits, and doing it at high intensity has the same benefits of a standard 50-minute workout. Still, not everyone wants to do high intensity or interval training that is required in a shorter workout. However, if you are short on time, the #1 reason people say that don’t exercise, this type of exercising might be for you.
Interval workouts are also proving effective for people who already have a chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes or heart failure. Any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up is the answer to seeing dramatic improvements in all chronic diseases. Getting your heart rate up through exercise is also known to improve depression, anxiety, and energy levels.
So since exercise can benefit nearly everyone, what are some of the types of workouts that don’t necessarily require a gym membership? The best type of workout is one that is a mix of cardio and strength training. Cardio will prevent you from being winded after climbing the stairs. Strength training will build muscle and bone, which protects against injury as we age.
Several examples would be:
1. Walking: It has the lowest “quit” rate of any exercise, improves your memory, well-being, heart health and creativity. In fact, today, after Hurricane Matthew had come and gone, I took a brisk walk with a friend. Not only did my energy increase, but the walk helped me focus so I could write this blog.
2. Cycling: Whether you do it indoors or out, cycling has been shown to increase brain connectivity. And doing it at high intensity improves a depressed mood.
3. Running: My personal favorite is running. Going for a run improves sleep and makes your bones stronger. Even doing it for 5-10 minutes a day, at a jogging pace, is linked to a longer life.
4. Yoga: Lifting your own body weight and flowing through intense poses will give you the strength training you need. Not to mention a bit of mindfulness and stress relief.
5. Weight training: I used to think weight training meant lifting dumbbells at a gym with a bunch of other sweating people. I now know that an inexpensive pair of light weights will build muscle and strengthen bone just by increasing the number of repetitions. Something else to try as an alternative to weights are resistance bands.
6. Tai Chi: These slow gentle movements might not look like you are doing much of anything. But, in fact, Tai Chi strengthens the back, abs, upper and lower body. It also relieves pain and improves posture. This is one workout I have never tried but am thinking it might be good one. Especially since my “frozen” shoulder is improving and I am working to regain strength in that area of my body.
As you can see, one exercise does “not fit all.” It’s extremely important to find one you like and will do on a regular basis. Why? So you can reap the immediate benefits today and create a lasting habit that will help you live a longer and healthier life.
Everyone knows they should exercise. Doctors, scientists and even ancient philosophers have long advised that exercise is good for you and warn that the more the better if done properly. Now we are getting more and more proof that exercise is critical.
Researchers have found that during and immediately after exercising, positive changes occur in our bodies. A steady run, jog or walk not only gets blood flowing and hearts pumping but also helps improve skin and eye health. If someone created a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever.
So why do only 20 percent of Americans get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week? Why is it that more than half of all baby boomers do no exercise whatsoever? Surely by now everyone knows the consequences of leading sedentary life.
People with low levels of physical activity are at a higher risk of developing cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and early death by many other preventable causes. Yet generally speaking, humans are not good at assessing long-term risks as well as benefits, of our lifestyle choices. Promises that exercise is “good for you” aren’t motivating enough for most people to take action — especially if they consider exercise as just another chore. However, most people are motivated by rewards. Here are only a few of them regarding proper exercise:
— Slower aging.
— Better mood.
— Less stress and anxiety.
— Less chronic pain.
— Improved eyesight.
— Lower medical bills.
Where’s the proof? Beginning in 2017, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) will launch a six-year $170 million study with a group of 3,000 sedentary people of all ages. They will start an exercise program and then donate their blood, muscle and fat before and after exercise. Another group that doesn’t exercise will also be tracked.
This study is the first of it’s kind in terms of size, rigor and aims. Experts are hoping it will give doctors evidence they need to start treating exercise like the miracle drug they’ve long thought it to be. Instead of your doctors saying, “You need to exercise more,” they will actually give exercise as a prescription!
It’s becoming evident too that nearly everyone — young, old, pregnant and those that are ill —benefit from exercise. As scientists learn more about why this it is, they are hoping that the messaging about exercise gets simpler too. No fancy gym membership required, just get out and move. I’ll have on this important subject next week. So please stay tuned!
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, especially after 50 years of age, you know it’s an extremely difficult challenge. You should also know that keeping off those extra pounds is even harder.
According to the International of Journal of Obesity, among overweight and obese adults, only 17 percent who lost at least 10 percent of what they started with were able to keep it off long term. And those who lost more are less likely to keep it off. So why is this?
The key to lasting change in any area of your life is developing healthy habits and sticking with them. So start now to develop good dietary choices. This makes managing the weight loss far easier. It’s also important to establish reasonable goals ahead of time. You can’t reach a goal if you don’t have one. When it comes to maintaining your body weight, keep that goal in mind and hold yourself accountable.
But don’t beat yourself up if you get off track occasionally. As I often tell my health-coaching clients, change is not linear. It’s OK to slip occasionally. Just get back on track as soon as you can and continue working toward becoming the best that you can be.
It’s also important to customize your diet to fit your lifestyle once you are in maintenance mode. The key is to find what works for you personally. One diet does not fit all, and neither does one diet-maintenance plan.
Fun times, vacations, dinners out, etc. are important. It’s fine to enjoy these times. They are a part of enjoying life. So plan accordingly. Keep your overall diet healthy and practical for your lifestyle. Here’s a time-tested rule of thumb: If you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, you can splurge for the other 20 percent.
Of course, no article on maintaining weight loss would be complete without reference to exercise. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Exercise is a great way to break through weight loss plateaus and help you manage your weight once you have reached your goals. Whether you prefer a leisurely walk around the block, an intense 10k race, or anything in between, exercise is great for maintaining your weight, your energy and a critical can-do attitude.
Once you have hit your weight-loss goal, it’s wise to continue to build muscle mass with exercise such as resistance training. As we age, we lose muscle mass. But many women don’t want to build muscle, only lose fat. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other. Muscle burns fat and it important for maintaining your weight and keeping your metabolism revved up. The best way to lose fat is to build lean muscle with exercise and the right amount of protein, plant based protein counts too.
If you find you are struggling with losing weight, or keeping it off, accountability may be the missing piece for you. Give me a call for a free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session to see how I might be able to help.
How do you prevent diabetes? What does it mean when your doctor tells says, “You are pre-diabetic?” Is the cure to stop eating foods with sugar and start exercising almost every day?
But as I re-read my prediabetes materials in preparation for a 16-week class I am
facilitating for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), I am reminded that it is so much more than that.
People who are pre-diabetic have a blood sugar level higher than normal, but not high
enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. They are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease, and stroke.
A person with certain risk factors is more likely to develop prediabetes and type 2
diabetes. These factors include:
— Age, especially after 45 years old.
— Being overweight, especially if you carry a lot of extra weight in your abdomen.
— A family history of diabetes.
— Having an African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or
Pacific Islander racial or ethnic background.
— A history of diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes) or having given birth to a baby weighing nine pounds or more.
— Not being physically active three or more times a week.
So if you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or you think you have some of the warning signs listed above, what can you do?
— Research shows that doing just two things can help you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes: Lose 5 to 7 percent of your body weight, which would be 10 to 14 pounds for a 200- pound person. And get at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity, such as brisk walking.
Another way is to take a class along with others who are concerned about their health. Consider joining one of my Wellness Beyond Fifty lifestyle change programs, which can help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58 percent.
If you do, you will discover what foods to eat and how much physical activity is required each day to achieve the results you desire. Once you have lost the weight, you will learn specific coping skills to maintain it so you can have the best health of your life.
An apple a day really is a great way to stay healthy, but don’t forget pears! The nutrition benefits of the lowly pear rank right up there with the best of fruits. Pears are juicy, sweet, crunchy and full of juice. They also contain dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins — especially when the skins are left on the fruit.
Pears are easy to digest, low in calories, full of vitamin C, anti-inflammatory and non-allergenic for most people. They are especially promising in the treatment of type-2 diabetes in women as well as beneficial in fighting heart disease and treating colon problems.
There are basically two kinds of pears: European (which include Bartlett’s) and Asian. The best way to determine if a pear ready to eat is to gently press the flesh near the stem. If it is spongy, it’s ready. If your pears are still hard, put them in the refrigerator and wait until they soften. Some people also put them in paper bags to hasten ripeness.
When ready to eat, some cooks dice pears and add them to salads which can include mustard greens, kale, watercress, walnuts, and raisins. Chopped pears also go well with grated ginger, honey, and cereals. One of my favorite ways to prepare pears is to make a cobbler or what is known as “pear crisp.” (Recipes for Pear Crisp can be found online or in cookbooks.) An excellent site to visit is http://usapears.org.
So, the next time you head out looking for a healthy fruit to eat, don’t forget the pears. They’re plentiful this time of year and should cost between $1.50 to $4 per pound, depending on freshness and where you find them.
Do you have a good pear recipe to share with me? If so, let me know and I’ll include it here in my blog. Thanks!