Category Archives: anxiety

Is eight hours of sleep enough for your health?

sleep, healthWhen you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect your whole day. You may move slower, have less energy, your mind may have a hard time learning or remembering things, and you may be more easily stressed and irritated.  In turn, these factors can affect your productivity during the day and the way you get along with others. Therefore, it is super important to get enough rest at night. And just when you thought that you were reaching your health goals, a new report states that eight hours a night of rest may not be enough.

Why is sleep important?

Besides feeling better and having more energy, getting more rest at night impacts many aspects of your health. Harvard University reports that getting enough Zzz’s helps to regulate many body functions such as:

  • keeping the immune system healthy
  • muscle growth
  • tissue repair
  • protein synthesis
  • growth hormone release

Also, lack of sleep can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.  One cause of such risk is the impact of poor sleep on the circadian rhythm. Furthermore, your risk for such conditions is higher if your circadian rhythm is thrown off.  Late nights, jet lag, shift work, medications, or medical conditions can impact circadian rhythm.

New sleep recommendations

Previous recommendations say that most adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. However, a recent report reveals that eight hours may not be enough for optimal health. Scientists say that while in bed, only about 90-percent of that time is spent actually sleeping. Therefore, if you are in bed for eight hours, you may only be getting less than 7 hours and 12 minutes of rest.  If you go to bed for 8.5 hours, then you will be getting closer to the recommended eight hours each night.

How to get better sleep

If you have trouble even getting your eight hours of rest each night, then use the tips below to help you. If these tips still do not work, then be sure to see a qualified medical provider to help you identify the reason for your sleep troubles.

  • Meditation can help increase theta waves in the brain. These waves are the same kind that the brain produces during a nap.  If you have a hard time falling asleep, then try meditation to let your brain rest.
  • Get blackout curtains for your room to help stimulate rest. This is because the circadian rhythm is controlled largely by environmental cues like sunlight. On the other end of that spectrum, cut screen time and turn lights out by a certain time each night to get your body and brain ready for bedtime. Researchers recommend a cold, quiet environment for optimal sleep quality.
  • Try a supplement such as melatonin to help you fall asleep.  Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the body’s pineal gland. Usually, at sundown the body produces melatonin to prepare the body for rest. The body may not produce enough melatonin due to exposure to artificial light in the evening, or conditions such as mood disorders, insomnia, dementia, or stress-related conditions.  This can lead to problems falling asleep as well as low energy in waking hours. Melatonin supplements have been found to help those who may have trouble falling asleep.  Another supplement option is Somnova by Vita Sciences, which contains melatonin along with L-theanine, which both show promise for providing restful and refreshing sleep.
  • See a specialist. If you snore or have trouble breathing at night, then you may need to see a specialist. A sleeping study could help them see if there is a medical condition that is causing you to wake up tired or have trouble falling asleep at all.  Treatment, such as a CPAP machine, could help improve your breathing, and in turn help improve your sleep.
  • Manage stress: Regardless of your situation, it is important to manage stress during the day so you can rest better at night. If you have a stressful day, then your blood pressure may increase and your mind may be racing. This can make it very hard to rest. Therefore, try relaxation breathing exercises, meditation (as mentioned above), diffuse essential oils like lavender or frankincense in your home, or talk to someone that can help calm your mind.  Acupuncture, massages, or counseling sessions with a therapist are other ways you can help manage stress in your health routine, and in turn improve your sleep patterns.

References:

Hardeland, R. (2012) “Neurobiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment of Melatonin Deficiency and Dysfunction.” Scientific World Journal, 2012: 640389.

Hirshkowitz, Ph.D., M., et al. (March 2015) “National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.” Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, 9(1): 40-43.

King, G.F. (June 10, 2018) “Why eight hours a night isn’t enough, according to a leading sleep scientist.” Quartz. 

National Institute of General Medicine Sciences (May 30, 2018) “Circadian Rhythms.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (May 22, 2017) “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.”

National Sleep Foundation (accessed June 13, 2018) “Melatonin and Sleep.”

Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?”


  • A lonely mood could be worse for your health than obesity

    depression, lonely, mental health, healthSo much focus is placed on diet and exercise to stay healthy, that sometimes mental health care can be forgotten. However, the health of both mind and body is important to be in your best state of health. In fact, a recent report has found that being lonely may be a greater hazard to public health than obesity.

    What is mental health?

    Mental health considers the well-being of the emotional, social, and psychological parts of one’s life.  Although mental health issues can affect the mood of a person, it can also impact important life factors.  The way we feel can affect the way we think, act, make decisions, and how we handle relationships with others, among other things.  Therefore, it mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health.

    How can being lonely affect your health?

    A recent report has found that being lonely is a serious public health issue. The health insurance company Cigna reports that most American adults consider themselves lonely, or feel disconnected from the world and people around them.  Younger American, such as those in Generation Z and millennials, report being the most lonely.

    Since loneliness is not necessarily a condition on your diagnosis sheet, health care providers may overlook it. However, left untreated, loneliness can lead to more serious mental health conditions such as depression. Experts suggest “social cognitive retraining”  to combat loneliness. This is because the brains of lonely people can make the negative feelings worse if left untreated.  A qualified psychologist or psychiatrist can perform this type of brain retraining.

    Ways to help improve your mood

    If you feel that your lonely mood is starting to affect your daily life and relationships, then you should contact a health care provider or counselor to get proper treatment. However, if you feel that your lonely feeling is in its early stages, then you may be able to take steps to improve this feeling on your own.

    • Extend yourself in the community: By volunteering or attending social events, you can feel more engaged in your community. This can help you feel less lonely and perhaps make some new friends and contacts.
    • Find groups to join that involve your hobbies: Whether you like to read, run, or play music, find local groups in your community to join. These groups can help you meet like-minded people that like the same things that you do. This can help you get out of your comfort zone at home a little and find others to talk with that you have something in common with. One app to help with this is Meetup, which provides you access to local clubs and events in your community.
    • Take a mood lifter supplement: Elevia by Vita Sciences is a mood lifting supplement. It contains compounds such as GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) and 5-HTP that research shows to calm the mind and body, while boosting levels of the feel good hormone serotonin.
    • Stay positive: As the saying goes, energy creates energy. If you exude negative energy, then that negative energy will likely remain within you. However, if you go into life and situations with a positive attitude, then it is likely that before long, that positive energy will become a part of you. Certain mental health issues may make staying positive nearly impossible. However, with the help of a mental health professional, counselor, and a network of family and friends to reach out to, you can start to create more positive energy in your life and mind.

    Be sure to call the following hotlines if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or have questions about getting started on treatment for your mental health condition.

    Sources:

    Loria, K. ( June 3, 2018) “Loneliness may be a greater public health hazard than obesity- here are 4 psychology-backed tips to combat it.” Business Insider,  http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-feel-less-lonely-2018-5

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (August 29, 2017) “What is Mental Health?”


  • Could your sleep patterns affect your mental health?

    sleep, mental health, stress, anxiety, depressionSleep. Work. Eat. Repeat. Does that sound like your day, or something like it?  Sleep is often set aside as just something that a person does at the end of the day. It is often overlooked as a very important part of optimal health. A recent study found that it is so important in fact, that not getting enough sleep may increase your risk for mental health disorders.

    The Importance of Sleep

    The average adult needs at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  This may seem like a lot if you live a busy life which many of us do. And you may shrug it off and say, “Who needs sleep. I don’t need sleep.” The fact is that sleep is more important than you think, and without it your health could suffer.

    So many things happen while you sleep. For example, at rest your body conserves energy, regulates blood pressure, and restores tissues and muscles.  Furthermore, your body regulates fluids and controls hormone levels in the body while you sleep.  Without enough sleep, your circadian rhythm can go off course. In turn, this can lead you to eat when you’re not hungry, which can lead to weight gain and increased chronic disease risk over time.

    And if these weren’t enough reasons to hit the snooze button, sleep also has an impact on the immune system.  Lack of sleep can cause yo to get sick more often, which in turn could put more stress on your body and mind.

    Sleep and Mental Health

    A recent study looked at about 90,000 residents from the United Kingdom in regards to sleep patterns.  Study subjects between the age of 37 and 73 years wore accelerometers for 24 hours a day for 7 days.  In other words, these devices measured the rest and activity levels of participants. Those with reduced activity during the day or increased activity at night were described as having a disrupted circadian rhythm, or lower amplitude.  Comparing these patterns with questionnaires filled out by participants found links between lower amplitudes and health measures such as:

    • higher risk of unstable moods
    • lower levels of unhappiness
    • lower health satisfaction
    • greater reported loneliness

    Among other findings, it is clear that this study shows that lack of sleep can greatly impact mental health measures, and in turn quality of life.

    Ways to Help You Get More Sleep

    There may not be enough hours in the day to get everything done.  However, it is really important to make sure sleep gets a priority on your to-do list. Therefore, if you have trouble sleeping, try some of the methods below to help.

    • Stick to a sleep schedule: Just like your other daily tasks, put sleep on your daily planner. Although it can be hard to do sometimes, setting a time to prepare for bed each night can help you develop a new healthy sleeping pattern over time.
    • Start a bedtime ritual: When it is coming close to that time of night, start a bedtime ritual that will help your body prepare for bed. Whether it is drinking a cup of herbal tea after dinner, or diffusing some lavender essential oils to relax your body, this type of ritual can reduce your risk of tossing and turning into the night. It is also helpful to reduce caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake in the latter part of the day as well as turning off any screens during your bedtime ritual to help your eyes and mind rest.
    • Exercise each day: Any type of movement for at least 30 minutes each day can tire your body out a bit, so you can rest better in the evening. Otherwise, your body will have energy to expend with no outlet to provide it with. In turn, you will likely stay up late and have trouble sleeping. Besides that, exercise is good for keeping your body and mind healthy.
    • Take a supplement for sleep like Somnova by Vita Sciences. Somnova contains melatonin and l-theanine to help relax your mind, feel refreshed, and get more peaceful sleep. Add a sleep supplement to your bedtime routine about 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep.
    • Visit your healthcare provider: If you have tried all of the above, or feel particularly tired upon waking, you may need to see your healthcare provider. This is because your sleep problems may be related to other conditions such as pain issues, sleep apnea, or other health conditions and should be treated under medical supervision.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed May 16, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    NIH News in Health (April 2018) “Tick Tock: Your Body Clocks.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (May 16, 2018) “Sleep-wake disruption strongly linked to mood disorders.”


  • Is anxiety on the rise in America?

    anxiety, stress, depression, health, mental healthWith ever-increasing demands in our work schedules and family obligations as well as financial stress and personal stresses it is no surprise that anxiety is on the rise. A recent report shows that from last year, more Americans say they are more anxious than ever.

    What is anxiety?

    Stress is a part of daily life. It is by definition the way the body reacts to any demands placed on it. However, anxiety is a whole different beast.  Anxiety is a response to the stress itself and involves tension and fear that can be so severe that it makes a person lose sleep, be afraid to enter social situations, and can affect their daily living.  Everyone encounters stress, but those with anxiety have difficulty managing it.

    Having come from a family of anxious people with confirmed diagnoses, I can tell you that stress from sitting in traffic is much different than the feelings those with anxiety disorder experience. This disorder can take the form of panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, or complete avoidance of social situations, among other things. It can disrupt a person’s daily quality of life and can affect their relationships with others.

    Anxiety on the Rise

    Over 40 million people in America suffer from anxiety, but this number is getting higher. A recent report has found that between 2017 and 2018, about 57-percent of women and 38-percent of men between the ages of 18 and 49 years reported being more anxious.  In older Americans, 39-percent of women 50 years and older and 24-percent of men this age reported being more anxious than the year before. Overall, nearly 4 of 10 people surveyed reported being more anxious in 2018 than in 2017.

    The leading causes of such feelings included paying the bills, health, and safety.  About 3 of 4 women and millennials as well as 4 of 5 Hispanic adults were most anxious about paying bills. Baby boomers had the highest jump in anxiety since last year. It is suggested that this rise is due to people in recent days being more vocal about their complaints, differences in the way we care for others, and perhaps less stress-tolerant behavior, especially of those younger people.

    How to Reduce Anxiety

    There are many effective treatments for anxiety, but not one treatment is effective for everyone. Here are several treatments that you can try if you need help managing this condition.

    • Psychotherapy is a treatment that is getting more and more coverage from insurance carriers everyday and can be the most effective at getting to the core of your disorder.  Talking about past and current traumas, family history, and the way you currently manage stress can take a huge weight off of your shoulders. Not only that, but the therapist can help you learn strategies to deal with your stresses in a more healthful manner.
    • Medication is often paired with psychotherapy since the medication tend to just treat imbalances in the brain, but does not deal with the root causes of certain stresses and behaviors.  Medication is not for everyone since certain anti-anxiety medications can have side effects.  Also, getting off of some medications can be very difficult. It is important to talk with your healthcare provider to see if medication treatment is appropriate for you.
    • Mindfulness can teach you how to live in the present moment so that you do not dwell too much on the past or the future. It can increase quality of life and teach people to worry less about everyday stresses.
    • Sleep Hygiene is important since lack of sleep can actually make stress more difficult to deal with. You should aim for 7 hours of sleep a night. If you have trouble falling asleep, ask your healthcare provider. You may need to visit a sleep center to make sure you do not have any underlying conditions that are affecting your sleep.
    • Improved Diet such as eating less sugar and drinking less caffeine can help reduce your anxious behavior.  These types of foods are stimulants that can make you feel more anxious if you consume them in excess. Also, if you consume these types of foods close to bedtime, it can make it harder to fall asleep.
    • Exercise can help you manage stress better. Not only will working out help you sleep better, but it can get the “feel good” hormones like serotonin flowing in your body. You should aim for some form of movement like walking most days of the week for at least 30 minutes a day.
    • Supplements like Passionflower tincture, kava, and valerian root can be effective for some anxiety symptoms.  Also, it is thought that some symptoms may be the result of a magnesium deficiency. Try a supplement like Sereneo from Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains magnesium, chamomile, and valerian root and can provide a serotonin boost and provide support for daily stress.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed May 9, 2018) “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety.”

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed May 9, 2018) “Stress.”

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed May 9, 2018) “What is Anxiety?”

    Brooks, M. (May 7, 2018) “High Anxiety in America: APA Poll Highlights Nationwide Worries.”

    Calm Clinic (accessed May 9, 2018) “Which Anti-Anxiety Supplements Work?”

    Corliss, J. (January 8, 2014) “Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress.” Harvard Health Publications

    Jovanovic, Ph.D., T., et al. (accessed May 9, 2018) “Anxiety- What is Anxiety?”


  • Drinking more alcohol than suggested could shorten life

    alcohol, health, beer, wine, liquor, unhealthyIt’s Friday night and the weekend is just beginning.  After a long week of work, you may be thinking about that glass of wine or pint of beer to help you relax.  In moderation, there is nothing wrong with a few drinks on the weekend. However, a recent study has found that drinking more than the suggested amount each week can shorten your life.

    What is the recommended alcohol intake for most adults?

    General recommendations in the United States suggest that men consume no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks a day and women consume no more than one daily. A standard drink is equal to:

    • 12 ounces beer (5% alcohol content)
    • 8 ounces malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
    • 5 ounces wine (12% alcohol content)
    • 1.5 ounces liquor (40% alcohol content)

    Any more than this recommendation is heavy drinking and can have negative health effects. More than 4 drinks at one occasion for a woman or 5 drinks for a man is considered binge drinking. Negative health effects of such heavy drinking include:

    • short term effects such as increased risk of falls, injuries, car crashes if driving while intoxicated, and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or violent behavior.
    • if pregnant and drinking, your unborn child could have increased risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
    • increased risk of heart disease, stoke, liver disease, and digestive problems
    • increased risk of anxiety and depression
    • learning and memory problems

    In addition to such health problems, long term drinking could lead to problems with family and friends if you become dependent on alcohol. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for resources on how to get help if you think you may have a drinking problem.

    Alcohol and life span

    A recent study in the medical journal Lancet found that for each alcoholic drink over 6 standard glasses of wine or 7 standard 12 oz beers a week could shorten your life by 30 minutes. This may not seem like a lot, but every minute can add up over time. This recommended amount is equal to about 12.5 units of alcohol.

    You may ask, “How did they come up with this number?”  The answer to this comes in the form of a study of about 600,000 current drinkers included in 83 studies from 19 countries. It was found that a 40-year old drinking just 2-3 standard drinks a week more than the suggested tipping point can lower their life expectancy by about 2 years.  This is likely due to the health effects listed above such as increased risk of heart disease, among other things.  This study helped support the United Kingdom’s proposed reduction in alcoholic drink recommendations. When following these guidelines, people had a 20-percent lower heart disease risk. Also, there was no increase in harm to health seen in terms of death rate in those who were compliant with the guidelines.

    Although some studies show that moderate drinking may help heart health, this study reports different results. Researchers suggest that a glass of red wine now and then may reduce the risk of a non-fatal heart attack. However, this positive health effect is offset against the increased risk of other health issues.

    Other ways to relax

    If drinking alcohol is a method you use to relax, then perhaps it is time to try healthier methods of lowering stress. Try a few of the methods below to replace happy hour, so you can live out the highest quality, and quantity of life possible.

    • Exercise each day with something as simple as a short walk. Just getting fresh air and sunshine on your face can help you feel better and more relaxed. Try to walk at least 3 to 5 times a week.
    • Breathe. Taking five deep breaths when you are stressed and practicing relaxation breathing before bed can help you to reduce stress.
    • Meditate and focus on all of the positive things in your life such as those things you have accomplished, what you are grateful for, to name a few.
    • Take breaks throughout the day. Even just a 5 minute break here and there during your work day can help. Rub some relaxing essential oil scents on your wrist or neck, go to the bathroom stall, sit down, and take several deep breaths. Release the stress from your mind and focus on your breath and the scent. You can also do this at home when you are feeling overwhelmed or just want to decompress after a long day.
    • Detox your life in a variety of ways to lighten your load of stress. You can do this by:
      • giving away clothes you don’t wear anymore.
      • cleaning your house and reorganizing your belongings.
      • self care such as a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender, getting a massage, or getting your hair done.
      • writing in a journal or talking with a trusted friend, family member, or counselor. Talking can help you to unload your brain of any fears, anxieties, or stress that may be bogging you down.
      • taking a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences to relax your mind. Sereneo contains ingredients such as valerian root, magnesium, and chamomile to help increase your levels of feel good serotonin.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Boseley, S. (April 13, 2018) “Extra glass of wine a day ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes.'” 

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (January 3, 2018) “Fact Sheets- Alcohol Use and Your Health.”

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (updated April 18, 2018) “SAMHSA’s National Helpline.”

    Tartakovsky, M.S., M. (May 23, 2013) “20 Ways to Relax & Unwind.” 


  • Exercise to lower high blood pressure is not a popular idea

    blood pressure, heart health, hypertension, doctor, healthNearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Having hypertension can put you at increased risk for heart disease and stroke, which are two of the top five leading causes of death in the United States. Therefore, it is important that if you have high blood pressure that you should work to be more heart healthy to prevent chronic disease. This usually includes eating a heart healthy diet and exercising. However, a recent survey shows that exercise is the last thing people want to do to try and lower their blood pressure.

    About High Blood Pressure

    High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood through your blood vessels is too high.  When you go to the doctor to get your blood pressure checked, they look at two different numbers:

    • Systolic blood pressure, which is the top number of your blood pressure reading. This number is the force of the blood at each heart beat, or contraction.
    • Diastolic blood pressure, which is the bottom number of your blood pressure reading. This number is the force of blood through your vessels in between contractions.

    High blood pressure reading is 130 over 80 mmHg.  It used to be 140 over 90 mmHg, but was changed last year since it was found that those people who were at the time considered borderline hypertensive would be more likely to start helpful treatment for their blood pressure if diagnosed at this stage of hypertension.

    Blood Pressure Survey

    Researchers at Yale University performed a survey to find out what lifestyle interventions people were most likely to engage in to lower their blood pressure. Those people taking the survey had to choose from four options: taking a pill, drinking one cup of tea each day, exercising or getting a monthly or semi-annual injection. It was found that most people, about 79-percent would be willing to take a pill to get one extra month of life, while 78-percent would be willing to drink a cup of tea daily.  Furthermore, about 96-percent of people were willing to do either of these activities to gain five years of life. Exercising was one of the least popular interventions, slightly above taking a monthly injection, to lower blood pressure.

    Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

    Although exercise is a great way to gain and maintain heart health, there are other lifestyle factors you can tweak to improve your blood pressure.

    • Lose weight: Losing weight is not an easy thing to do. However, just a small amount of weight loss, like 10 pounds, could help lower your blood pressure.
    • Eat a heart healthy diet full of fiber-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lean proteins. Also, lower your intake of processed, salty and sugary foods to help improve your heart health.
    • Lowering alcohol intake to no more than one standard drink a day for women or two standard drinks a day for men can help your blood pressure. One standard drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start since smoking can narrow blood vessels. In turn, this can make it harder for the heart to get the oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the rest of the body. Therefore, smoking not only puts your heart at risk, but the health of your entire body.
    • Reduce stress to help lower your blood pressure. Relaxation breathing, yoga, meditation, or simply talking to a counselor or trusted friend or colleague can help. In turn, this can help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
    • Take a heart healthy supplement each day such as Presura by Vita Sciences. Presura contains natural ingredients such as hawthorn berry, niacin, and garlic extract that have been found to promote healthy blood pressure levels. However, it is important to always talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement to make sure it is safe to take with any other medications you may take.

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (November 2017) “The Facts About High Blood Pressure.”

    American Heart Association News (November 13, 2017) “Nearly half of U.S. adults could now be classified with high blood pressure, under new definitions.”

    Centers for Disease Control (March 17, 2017) “Fast Stats: Leading Causes of Death.”

    HealthDay (April 7, 2018) “Exercise for High Blood Pressure? Most Not Keen on Idea.”

    Mayo Clinic (May 30, 2015) “10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication.”

     


  • Could Having a Pet Improve Your Anxiety?

    dog, cat, pet, mental health, anxiety, depression, ptsd, bipolar, healthThere’s nothing better than coming home after a long and stressful day of work or school, and having a happy wagging tail waiting at the door for you.  Owning a pet involves a lot of work and cost. However, studies show that a pet may be worth the time and money for the good of your health. A recent study review has shown that having a pet can decrease anxiety and provide overall benefits to anyone suffering from mental health issues.

    About Mental Health and Anxiety

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is a “state of well being” in which a person can lead a productive life while being able to deal with the normal daily stresses of life.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that mental illnesses are not just the result of one event. However, such a state of being  involves multiple factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle.

    Examples of mental health conditions include:

    • Anxiety Disorders
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Depression
    • Eating Disorders
    • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Schizoaffective Disorder
    • Schizophrenia

    According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders. In particular, about 30-percent of adults deal with such a disorder at some point in their life.  Anxiety disorders are not just everyday stress or worry. On the contrary, those with such disorders worry or fear that may be seen as “abnormal” in certain situations. This fear or worry can result in disruption of their daily life.

    For example, it may be “normal” to worry about taking a test. However, someone with anxiety disorder may have a similar level of worry and stress when having to talk with someone at the store.  On the other hand, a person with the disorder may lose sleep because they worry that if they leave the house tomorrow that something bad may happen to them. These are just some examples of how anxiety disorder can manifest. However, this condition can come in many forms such as:

    • generalized anxiety disorder
    • panic disorder
    • phobias, or fears, such as agoraphobia (fear of public places)
    • social anxiety disorder
    • separation anxiety disorder

    Pets and Mental Health Benefits

    An analysis of 17 studies reported in BMC Psychiatry found that having a pet may help those with mental health disorders. Results of this study review found that pets had the following positive impacts on mental health:

    • One study interviewed some people who had depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.  Subjects reported feeling more secure and stable with a pet in their lives.
    • Another study reported that those with a pet had lower levels of anxiety and a lower average body mass index.
    • Pets can provide unconditional love as well as support without judgment. In turn, this can help those with mental health issues cope if they are not getting such support from their family and friends.
    • Pets forced their owners to stay connected with the outside world and be more active.  Besides helping those with mental health issues to connect with others, the act of going outside is also very helpful to overall health.  For one thing, getting outside can help people get sunlight that helps make sure they get enough vitamin D, which can affect mental health. Also, mental health may benefit from the act of exercise.

    Researchers suggest that mental health care plans should include asking patients with mental health issues to get a pet. However, more studies need to be done to figure out how pets could play in the lives of patients and in treatment plans.

    Other ways to help improve your mental health

    Besides having a pet, there are some other things you can do to help your mental health.

    • Be mindful by living in the present moment. Talk with a counselor if you have troubles in your past that are stopping you from living in the moment. Also, take a yoga class, learn relaxing breathing techniques, or get a wellness app to help you find ways to stay calm each day and night.
    • Eat balanced meals since sometimes low levels of certain vitamins or nutrients can make you feel more tired or nervous. Eat plenty of fiber-rich fruits and veggies to help keep your gut healthy. Also, make sure to eat enough protein each day such as meats, beans, low fat dairy products, nuts, and seeds. Low protein intake can cause you to feel tired. This is because protein-rich foods contain dopamine and tyrosine which keep you alert. Finally, make sure to eat some carbohydrate foods such as whole grains and cereals. This is because such foods increase “feel-good” serotonin in the body.
    • Volunteer or help out a friend or loved one since such acts can help you feel better about yourself. Also, such acts can help you connect with others and perhaps help you to see how much you have to be grateful for.
    • Get plenty of sleep since lack of sleep can greatly impact your mood. Set a bed time each night, avoid caffeine in the latter half of the day, and limit screen time at night to help you get more sleep. 
    • Visit your doctor to make sure your vitals are healthy and to get help for any symptoms that may be bothering you or affecting your daily life.
    • Take a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains ingredients such as magnesium, chamomile, and valerian that promotes a boost in serotonin and supports stress and anxiety relief.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    American Psychiatric Association (January 2017) “What are anxiety disorders?”

    Greenblatt, M.D., J.M. (November 14, 2011) “Psychological Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency.”  

    Medical News Today (February 19, 2018) “It’s official: Pets benefit our mental health.”

    National Alliance on Mental Illness (accessed February 20, 2018) ” Mental Health Conditions.”

    Psychology Today (October 27, 2015) “9 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health Today.”  

    Weir, K. (December 2011) “The exercise effect.”

    World Health Organization (August 2014) “Mental health: a state of well-being.”


  • Could a To-Do List Help You Get More Sleep?

    sleep, anxiety, stress, list, to-do, alarmSleep is a precious commodity in your busy life. Between work, taking care of loved ones, and running errands, it is a wonder you find time to sleep at all. However, it is important to make time for sleep because of all of the health benefits adequate sleep can provide. A recent study suggests that making a to-do list may help ease your mind so you can capture more sleep.

    Why Is Sleep Important?

    When you sleep, your body helps to regulate many processes in the body. Blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and bodily fluids are just a few of the processes regulated during sleep. When you do not get enough sleep, you can increase your risk of high blood pressure and elevated blood glucose levels. In addition, research has found that those who consistently received less than six hours of sleep each night were more likely to have a higher body mass index than those who received at least eight hours of sleep each night. Therefore, long term lack of sleep can not only increase risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, but also increased obesity risk.

    How Much Sleep Is Enough?

    The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least seven hours of sleep each night for most adults.  Children two years of age or less require around 14 hours of sleep each day, including naps. Those between the ages of three and eighteen require around 10 hours of sleep each night. Children require more sleep to support their body’s growth and development.

    Quality of sleep is just as important as quantity of sleep. Sleep quality may be low if you do not feel rested upon waking, wake up during the night, snore, or gasp for air during sleep. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea may affect your body’s ability to get oxygen during sleep. This can impact safety during sleep and can make you feel fatigued upon waking.  If you experience interrupted sleep or wake up tired, you should see your healthcare provider for further assessment.  Pain, frequent urination, or breathing problems could prevent you from getting more sleep.

    To-Do List and Sleep Research

    A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology looked at 57 Baylor University students and the effects of writing down unfinished tasks on sleep.  One group of students wrote down unfinished tasks, while the other group wrote down tasks previously completed.  All students were in a controlled environment and told to go to sleep at a set time. They were prohibited from staying up to look at phones or complete any other tasks.  Those who wrote down unfinished tasks were found to have improved sleep by use of an overnight polysomnography test.  Larger studies and observation of other age groups and individuals with sleep disorders such as insomnia will need to be done to confirm the effectiveness of such strategies.

    Other Ways to Help Improve Sleep

    Besides making to-do lists, here are some other ways to help you get more sleep and improve quality of sleep each night.

    • Stay on a sleep schedule each night to help your body’s clock regulate itself. It may take some time to adjust to an earlier bedtime or earlier wake time. However, over time your sleep patterns will enhance quality and quantity of sleep.
    • Exercise each day to help your body exert some energy.  Not only will exercise help improve your sleep, but it can also help manage your weight, which can in turn help you reduce risk of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
    • Take time to relax before sleep by engaging in meditation, relaxation breathing, and reducing screen time. The light from the screens on phones, computers, and television can interrupt the sleep-wake cycle. Adding in essential oil diffusion such as with lavender can help induce relaxation. In addition, drinking herbal teas with chamomile can help induce sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, or heavy meals before bedtime since such things can cause interrupted sleep. Caffeine and alcohol can act as a diuretic, which may cause frequent urination that can interrupt sleep. On the other hand, the nicotine from cigarettes act as a stimulant and can in turn disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.  Finally, heavy meals less than two hours before bedtime can cause indigestion and increase risk of heartburn, which can interrupt sleep.
    • Ensure your sleep environment is conducive to sleep. Every ten years, you should replace your mattresses. Every few years or so, you should also replace your pillows  to prevent exposure to allergens such as dust mites. In addition, reduced exposure to light sources in the evening can help keep your body’s rhythms in check.  You can use blackout curtains to help reduce the amount of natural light in your bedroom.
    • Add a supplement to your bedtime regimen to help you get more sleep.  Somnova by Vita Sciences contains ingredients such as melatonin and L-theanine to help promote restful sleep.

    If none of these strategies are helping, then be sure to visit your healthcare provider for more sleep guidance.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 2, 2017) “How Much Sleep Do I Need?”

    Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Sleep and Disease Risk”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed January 15, 2018) “Healthy Sleep Tips.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed January 15, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need?”

    Science Daily (January 11, 2018) “Can Writing Your To-Do’s Help You To Doze? Study Suggests Jotting Down Tasks Can”


  • Could Women’s Hearts be More Sensitive to Stress?

    heart, mind, health, stress

    Stress of the mind can hurt your heart.

    Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweaty. Sometimes you may feel dizzy, disoriented, or nauseous. These are all potential symptoms when you are faced with a stressful situation. However, one of the most dangerous symptoms of stress is constriction of blood vessels. A recent study has found that women may be more at risk for heart-related health problems in response to stress.

    What is stress?

    Stress is a normal reaction to the demands of life that can affect both the body and mind. A little bit can be healthy to remind you to be more alert or more motivated. However, too much can contribute to a variety of health conditions such as:

    • ulcers
    • digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome
    • asthma
    • headaches
    • back pain

    In addition to such conditions, stress can also increase blood pressure, which can in turn increase risk of heart disease. This is due to the body’s response to a perceived threat. The body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode in which the body constricts blood vessels to provide more blood flow to the major organs. Also, digestion slows to keep the body focused on providing blood to the brain and the heart.  However, if anxiety or chronic exposure to the perceived threat(s) occurs, then this response can negatively impact health.

    Women, Stress, and the Heart

    A recent study in the journal Arteriosclerosis looked at 678 people with coronary artery disease, or plaques in the major arteries that affects blood flow. Each person was asked to engage in public speaking, a commonly known fear of many, to see if it triggered myocardial ischemia, or a reduction of blood flow in the heart.

    About 15-percent of study subjects triggered myocardial ischemia. Men and women were affected by this condition at a similar rate, but the cause was different.  In men, blood flow was mostly affected by high blood pressure and increased heart rate. On the other hand, in women it was caused by a constriction of blood vessels, also known as microvascular dysfunction. The difference between the two reactions is that in men, the perceived fear increased workload on the heart. However, in women, the dysfunction of vessels impaired blood flow.  It is not known whether this increased incidence of myocardial ischemia can increase risk of heart disease, but such studies are being planned.

    Healthy Ways to Deal With Stress

    You can help decrease stress, and in turn, lower risk of heart disease in a variety of ways.  The following list includes way you can lower stress on both your body and mind.

    • Limit coffee and caffeine since such constrict blood vessels, thus impacting blood flow. Two to three cups a day is suggested for adequate health benefit.
    • Quit or don’t smoke since smoking can also constrict blood vessels, and in turn blood flow, this increasing heart disease risk.
    • Live a balanced life. It is important to make sure that as hard as you work in your job and in exercising, you should also rest your body just as readily. A good balance of rest and activity is around 30 minutes a day of moderate activity such as walking combined with about 7 hours of sleep each night.  Being both active and resting well each night are important for the regulation of body fluids, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels in the body, among other things.
    • Be mindful in everything you do. When you are more mindful and aware of the choices you make each day, it can eliminate a lot of stress on the body.  The following are a list of small things you can do each day to be more mindful and in turn reduce stress on your body inside and out.
      • Plan and prep meals and snacks ahead of time.
      • Make healthy choices at meal and snack time such as less processed food and more fresh foods.
      • Portion out food choices to prevent excess intake.
      • Set a designated bedtime to help your body get more rest.
      • Make a to-do list to keep track of your weekly tasks and delegate any tasks that you can to others.
      • When you get stressed, give yourself a time-out with relaxation breathing to help you better face the situation at hand.
      • Make time for yourself in your schedule by setting aside 15 minutes a day to meditate, read, or do something your enjoy to give your body and mind a break.
    • Take supplements to help with sleep and managing stress. There are many herbal supplements on the market that claim to help with sleep and stress. However, it is important to do your research. Perhaps the supplement most well-known for its sleep-inducing properties is melatonin. It is actually a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland that affects the sleep/wake cycle and produces drowsiness. Those that may be deficient in this hormone may experience trouble sleeping or insomnia. However, it is important to remember that since it is a hormone, it may not be suitable for everyone, so be sure to check with your doctor first before starting a melatonin regimen.

    Another supplement to try is Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains a combination of magnesium, chamomile, and valerian to help promote a feeling of calm by working to help reduce stress and anxiety. Valerian and chamomile have been found to be safe, natural herbal remedies to help induce sleep, while magnesium has been found to help promote reduced anxiety and irritability. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know before starting any new supplement regimen to be sure it does not interact with any of your currently prescribed medications.

    -written  by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (June 2014) “Fight Stress with Healthy Habits”

    American Heart Association (June 2014) “Stress and Heart Health”

    Berkeley Wellness (October 1, 2013) “Can Supplements Help You Sleep?”

    Centers for Disease Control (March 2, 2017) “How Much Sleep Do I Need?”

    Deans, M.D., E. (June 12, 2011) “Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill.” Psychology Today.

    Harvard Medical School: Division of Sleep Medicine (December 18, 2007) “The Characteristics of Sleep”

    Mayo Clinic (March 31, 2017) “Stress Management”

    Medline Plus (December 21, 2017) “Are Women’s Hearts More Vulnerable to Stress?”

    Rodale Wellness (August 25, 2017) “4 Sleep Supplements That Actually Work”

     


  • Could No Sick Leave Cause Poor Health?

    work, sick, paid leave, sick leave, health, wellnessIt’s about that time of year. Cold and flu season is greatly approaching.  Although some employees may have paid sick leave, they may be afraid to use it for risk of ruining their reputation. On the other hand, maybe there is no one to cover their shift. Employees do not have a choice in workplaces where there is no paid sick leave.  If these employees stayed home, they would risk losing pay, or in some cases, their job. A recent study has shown that workplaces without paid sick leave are at risk for harming the health of their employees.

    Paid Sick Leave and Health Statistics

    A 2013 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families looked at the effect of paid sick leave on health outcomes.  They found that four of ten private sector workers and eight of ten low-income workers do not have access to paid sick leave. Also, these workers were 1.5 times more likely to go to work with the flu or a viral infection.  In the fall of 2009, nearly eight million workers went to work with H1N1.  In turn, these people are thought to have infected seven million of their co-workers. This string of events was likely the cause of the peak of the pandemic.

    Furthermore, parents who do not have paid sick leave are more likely to send their sick kids to school or daycare. This is because the parents have no other form of childcare and cannot afford to stay home unpaid. This situation puts care givers, teachers, and classmates of the child at risk. Therefore, paid sick leave is important for the health of not only the worker, but many others as well.

    Recent Research

    A study of nearly 18000 workers between the ages of 18 and 64 years of age looked at the effects of paid sick leave on overall health.  Those without paid sick leave were more likely to have mental distress than those who did. In fact, those without sick leave had nearly 150-percent more mental distress. This distress can disrupt the daily life and activities of those with no paid leave. Young, Hispanic, low-income, and poorly educated groups were at greatest risk. These results suggest that lack of paid sick leave is a social justice and health disparity issue.

    Protect Yourself Against Cold and Flu Season

    Access to paid sick leave may not be under your control. However,  you can take steps to prevent sickness.

    • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of immune-friendly fruits and vegetables.
    • Stay active each day since exercising can boost heart health, keep weight at a healthy level, and in turn protect overall health.
    • Practice good hygiene by washing your hands regularly, especially if you have contact with others in your daily life. Caregivers, healthcare workers, and teachers are just some examples of workers who may be at most risk for exposure to germs. Therefore, these workers will need to be even more diligent about washing hands often and perhaps keeping sanitizer close at hand.
    • Take immune-friendly supplements such as Biovia30 by Vita Sciences. Biovia30 is full of 30 million colony-producing units of probiotic strains to promote health digestive and immune health.

    -written  by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Harvard Health Publishing (September 2014) “How to Boost Your Immune System” 

    National Partnership for Women and Families (April 2013) “Paid Sick Days Improve Our Public Health” 

    Preidt, R. (September 22, 2017) “Workers Without Paid Sick Leave Suffer Ill Effects”