No one today would argue with me that most Americans are overly stressed. Technology, feeling the need to immediately return text and emails, and the pace at which we live today has created an epidemic of chronic stress and mental fatigue. In fact, between 60 percent and 80 percent of doctor visits today are a result of this chronic stress. And of course, when we are stressed we make poor lifestyle choices. Which means we eat on the run, make unhealthy food choices, and take too little, if any, time to exercise, rest and do the things that bring us joy. The cumulative effect of all this stress? Burnout and chronic disease.
Last week, I attended the 15th annual Chronic Disease Prevention Symposium for one of my clients — the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. It was two days of up-to-date research and information on how to prevent a variety of health problems. These include hypertension control, brain health to include Alzheimer’s and dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation control, and obesity’s link to cancer.
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!
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.
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.
Have you ever asked yourself why some people live longer? Are they born lucky? Do they have good genes? Ever thought about what you are doing to improve the quality of your own life and those of others? These questions were among the primary reasons I studied at Duke University to become a certified integrative health coach. Advances in modern medicine will help us live longer lives than our parents and grandparents, but what about the quality of increased longevity? Research continues to show that the better the quality of your life the longer you will likely be around. So how do you improve your quality today so you can live longer and enjoy life to the fullest?
Consider the following:
— We all know about cleaning our teeth. But did you know doing so lessens the
chance of having inflammation in your body? A recent study at Emory University notes
that periodontal disease constricts blood flow and can lead to heart disease and stroke. It
can also jack up your white blood cell count making it harder for your immune system to
fight off infections. So floss daily, writes Michael F. Roizen, M.D. in his book “Real
Age.” It adds an average of 6.3 years to a person’s lifespan.
— Socialize! People with poor social connections are twice as likely to die young,
according to research conducted by Brigham Young University and the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But those with strong social ties are usually more active,
more likely to seek medical care, have lower stress, improved quality and live longer.
— Fall birthdays are a plus. Who knew? Researchers at the University of Chicago
found that people born during September, October and November are much more likely
to live to be 100 than people born at any other time of year. One reason is seasonal
vitamin deficiency during critical periods of fetal and infant development may affect a
child’s later health and longevity. Also, fall babies are less likely to be exposed to
infectious diseases, which were more common during summer, early winter and spring
— Get spiritual. Practicing your faith, whether it’s a mantra or a prayer, helps you
find inner peace. It also encourages a desire to be of service to others. Studies show that
spiritual people who have altruistic leanings are happier than those who don’t. This is
especially true for women.
—Yes, your friends matter. The fatter your friends, the fatter you are likely to be, for
instance. Same goes for overindulging in alcohol, mindless eating, and other unhealthy
habits. Doing unhealthy things just because your friends do them interferes with your
perception of what is healthy. When friends are indulging in bad habits, the more likely
they seem normal for the rest of the group. So strive to set good examples for your
friends and you might find that they will improve their lives as well.
— Clean house your house. The less dirt and clutter you surround yourself in, the less
chance you a likely to get sick. Besides, the more you dust shelves, mop floors and push a
vacuum, the more exercise you get. Staying active throughout the day is the key.
— Get outside and enjoy nature. You have a 12 percent chance of living longer if you
stay close to nature. This is especially true for women. Green spaces have less air
pollution, and there are so many interesting things to see. This also encourages you to
exercise your physical body as well as bringing you peace of mind.
It’s never too late to start improving your quality of life. I offer a free, 30-minute Optimal Health Breakthrough Session. Let’s find out what’s holding you back from having the life you want.
I’m a high-energy person, and I plan to stay that way. But a lot of folks over age 50 have trouble getting motivated, and I’m not talking only about exercise. This also applies to dieting, social matters, school, finance, career and, well, you name it. Are you one of them? If so, here’s what you can do to get going and stay that way:
— Get organized, especially in your surroundings. Clutter in your home leads to clutter in your brain, which causes inertia, and is exactly opposite of what you need to reach your goals.
— Set simple goals that you know you can achieve.
— Develop a plan. You’ll never get there if you don’t have a simple plan — one that you can build on.
— Make time for yourself. If it’s 30 minutes of daily exercise that you want to achieve, block out enough time on your calendar to get it done, and the earlier in the day the better.
— Talk with others about your goals and how you intend to reach them. You’ll be surprised at how much this helps. It’s like thinking out loud, and if you have the right listener, one that doesn’t mind being a sounding board, you will become motivated.
— Think positive. Once you achieve your first goal, take note of how good you feel, expand your reach and keep on going. It’s OK to take a little time off, but primarily to rejuvenate your enthusiasm. The word “enthusiasm” makes a good mantra. It means “the spirit within.” I like to think of it as “good energy,” which is the fuel to power your success.
— Have fun. Whatever it is that you’ve set out to do, make it enjoyable. Celebrate life!
Charleston, S.C. — one of the world’s most popular cities — is a nice place to live, especially if you have good physical health. A morning stroll along The Battery overlooking Charleston Harbor is delightful, especially during the spring and fall. You are certain to see ships entering and exiting past Fort Sumter to and from the Atlantic Ocean. The sky is typically clear with white clouds billowing in calm winds mostly from the south. The old city sparkles today — generally fit and healthy, always alive and largely well.
It’s a thriving, livable city for good reason. Its people are generally happy and healthy and work hard to keep their historic port city ship-shape, so to speak. But it could be so much better. We have too many cars and trucks constantly breaking the silence and fouling the air. We have few bicycle riders risking life and limb to share the streets, and it doesn’t have to be this way. More bike lanes and a modern, reliable system of public transportation would do wonders.
Cities — like people — must stay active to remain healthy. And fiscally speaking, Charleston appears to be doing just fine. But it’s way past time to make it easier for folks to check their cars at the door. The walking and bike lane on the “new” Ravenel Bridge on the peninsula’s east side is an obvious success, and its use is growing day after day. Having a bike lane from the West Ashley Greenway across the Ashley River is a no-brainer as well. Closing one lane of the Legare Bridge into the city makes a lot of sense to me, but even if the traffic studies prove it will do more harm than good, then why not widen the span instead? If city, state and federal government would provide the seed money, there is no doubt in my mind that the balance could be raised by walkers, bicycle riders and others in very little time. Every one of the 40,000 or more Cooper River Bridge runners would happily contribute at five dollars per year, and friends and advertisers could surely cover the balance.
Each of us needs regular physical activity to help protect ourselves from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis. Riding your bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Cycling is a low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s also fun, cheap and good for the environment. Riding to work or to the shops will become routine with convenient bike lanes and parking areas. An estimated one billion Americans already ride bicycles every day — for transportation, recreation and sport.
All is takes is between two and four hours of cycling per week to achieve marked improvement in one’s general health. It’s low impact and less dangerous for strains and muscle injuries that most others forms of exercise. Cycling uses all of the major muscle groups, and it does not require a whole lot of physical skill. Once you learn, you seldom forget. And you control the intensity.
These are the benefits, according to health experts:
— Increased cardiovascular fitness.
— Increased muscle strength and flexibility.
— Improved joint mobility.
— Decreased stress levels.
— Improved posture and coordination.
— Strengthened bones.
— Decreased body fat levels.
— Prevention or management of disease, including cancer and diabetes.
— Reduced anxiety and depression.
— Weight control.
You get none of these benefits by sitting in traffic waiting for the light to change, a broken down car to be removed from the roadway or the police, ambulance and wrecker to clear a wreck. And the cost and convenience of building bike lanes on roads and bridges are minimal compared to building superhighways to accommodate all of the cars and will only make matters worse in time.
Charleston has some excellent bicycle-advocacy organizations whose members would be happy to join forces with you to achieve the necessary goals. Go on line. Check them out. And get busy. We all could use some help.
You have your blood tested, your “bad” cholesterol is high and your doctor prescribes a statin to cut plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries, thus reducing the risk of angina, heart attack and stroke. Which, of course, is good. But should you worry about side effects of this potent drug?
Although proper diet and exercise is critical in the fight against heart disease — the nation’s leading cause of death — most health experts agree that the benefits of statins largely outweigh the risks associated with this prescription medication. That’s why more than one in four residents of the United States have increasingly been using statin drugs since it was introduced in 1987. It’s also interesting to note that about twice as many men than women 65 and older are currently prescribed this medicine.
Statin drugs block the action of a chemical in the liver that is necessary for making both high-and low-density cholesterol. Even though cholesterol is necessary for normal cell and body function, very high levels of it can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where cholesterol-containing plaques build up in arteries and block blood flow. A high-density cholesterol level is the most common reason that a person is prescribed a statin.
Most people who take this drug do not experience side effects. Those who do have a reaction report headaches, a feeling of pins and needles in their arms and legs, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or a rash. Only a few experience memory loss, cataracts, liver failure and skeletal muscle damage, so it is very important for users to report ill effects to their doctors.
Meanwhile, studies indicate that statins may play a role in slowing the aging process. As we get older, our cells do not divide and multiply as quickly as they used to. Statins delay cell deterioration, a recent study in Naples, Italy, has found.