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.
We all have stress, but one of the best ways to manage it is to first become aware of it. To help build your awareness of stress and its impact on your life, try the practice of “mindfulness.”
Have a healthy Valentine’s Day!
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the day that most of us pause to think about who we love and who loves us. It’s a day to reach out to others to let them know we care. Expressing your love is also good for your health.
Each time you give of yourself to those you love, you grow and flourish. But even though we grow when we give love, we must also be able to receive love. I’m not talking about Valentine’s candy here. It’s about your ability to give love and receive it — unconditionally.
That loving relationship may be with your spouse, significant other, close friend or family member. Someone who you give love to by telling them often how much you appreciate them for solely for who they are, not what they give or do for you.
So, starting today, let’s take some time from our very busy days and listen to others who are close to us. No need to give advice, just listen without judgment. Allowing others to know that you are listening and that you care is healthy for all involved.
Once we learn how to nurture those close to us in a loving way, then we can go out and make a difference in the world through our children, our communities and nation. The price of giving unconditional love to others nurtures us and fulfills our purpose in life. Supportive relationships with your family, friends, co-workers and colleagues that are based on open, respectful communication can have a dramatically beneficial effect on your health.
If you want to live at your optimal health level, pay attention to the health of your social relationships. An important factor of keeping a relationship operating at its highest levels is effective communication. As a health coach, I ask my clients to think about their relationships and assess their communication style, patterns and skills. We talk and brainstorm ideas on how you can improve communications.
So what better day than Valentine’s Day to nurture others, improve your health and make a difference toward making today’s world a kinder and more loving place.
With all the talk about the importance of getting the day started on the right note, it’s no wonder that getting a good night’s sleep has become more important than ever. If you have ever tried to have a productive day after only 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night, you know what I am talking about.
If you are like most folks, you may feel as if there is not enough time to do all the things you want to do. Yes, most of a productive day is often work related but fun relaxing things are important too. So how do you have a productive day; do everything you want to do and get a good night sleep of 7 to 8 hours?
The answer appears to be a better bedtime routine. You might be asking how does having a bedtime routine have anything to do with a more productive next day? Isn’t a good night’s sleep all you need to pave the way for a productive day? What does a nightly routine of washing your face, brushing teeth or limiting caffeine after 6 p.m. have anything to do with the next day?
Now that we are in the holiday season, many of us resign ourselves to the weight gain that typically follows. Indeed, it is very hard to pass up holiday sweets that seem to be everywhere as well as extra servings of a traditional family dish. That’s why so many weight loss books are published at this time promising a “New Year, New You.”
So it’s no surprise that the No. 1 New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. But this year consider a broader approach to resolving the problem for more lasting success. Here are 10 points that my health-coaching clients have incorporated into their weight-management programs that you may want to consider:
Coloring books for adults are popping up in stores just about everywhere these days. I’ve seen these books in Barnes and Noble, Sam’s, Costco and some of the dollar stores, and wondered why they all the rage. Especially regarding the mental health benefits associated with an activity once considered for children only.
It doesn’t require expensive paints, brushes, stretched canvasses, or special lighting to use these books… No art lessons are required either. Simply select an appropriate color and stay within the lines — initially at least.
I know what I’m talking about here. I purchased two adult coloring books the other day along with a box of color pencils, and got busy with some personalized, adult research on the matter. I had read that yogis recommend coloring books for relaxation and associated meditation, and decided that I wanted to know more about this creative alternative to meditating. It didn’t take long to get involved in what is known as “art therapy.”
I also learned about the American Art Therapy Association of mental health professionals, who help people create art as a way of improving their lives. This association helps people “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.”
What a thrill is was for me to realize that special coloring books are key tools in the practice of art therapy! And it becomes especially helpful when an individual teams up with a therapist trained in this process to examine expressed goals, including reduction of anxiety and stress, learning how to focus, being more mindful of what’s around you, and staying present in the moment.
While many of us discovered years ago that colorful doodling can be relaxing, working with geometric or pictorial designs called mandalas take it to a whole new level. A good adult coloring book offers intricate mandalas designed to switch off the individual’s brain from other thoughts thus encouraging the special energy that results from intense focus. Also note that color pencils are far better that crayons when “tuning in” to your newly emerging art gene. Pencils allow you to be more precise because you can blend, shade and add highlights and lowlights to your geometric designs.
This can be most effective for people who seldom participate in drawing, painting, decorating, cooking or even gardening. The act of adding color to an image on paper feels safe for most people who normally are not comfortable participating in a creative process and enjoying the tranquility that most artists enjoy.
So, if you or someone you know is struggling with nagging mental or emotional issues consider talking to a certified art therapist to help work things out. But if you just need to relax or get more focused, pick up an adult coloring book, some colorful pencils and get busy in a good kind of way.
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.
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.
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.