Category Archives: stress

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?”


  • Besides tasting good, dark chocolate could help vision and memory health

    chocolate, health, dark chocolate, cocoaYet another reason to eat chocolate, as if you needed one. Besides tasting delicious, chocolate has many health benefits. Recent studies show that eating a bit of dark chocolate each day may help to improve vision, memory, and lower stress.

    About Chocolate

    Chocolate, derived from the Theobroma cacao tree, has been used as a medicinal food for thousands of years.  It can stimulate the nervous system as well as improve digestion and elimination. This is because there are healing properties of chocolate in its rich concentration of antioxidants. The antioxidants in dark chocolate, such as the cocoa polyphenols, provide anti-inflammatory and heart health effects. Therefore, research shows that chocolate, in moderation, can improve health.

    Chocolate Research

    • The Kuna Indians of Panama have been drinking chocolate for many years, around 30 ounces a day.  Likely due to this, they have some of the lowest rates of hypertension, or high blood pressure in the world, at 2.2-percent. A study at Harvard Medical School found that those people who drank two cups of hot chocolate a day may have improved blood flow to the brain. This may help improve brain function, such as memory.
    • A small study of 30 people looked at the health effects of dark versus milk chocolate. The study results show that those who ate dark chocolate versus milk chocolate had improved vision. They had small improvements in visual sharpness and large letter contrast two hours after eating the chocolate.  Researchers suggest these results may be due to improved blood flow to the retina or the brain’s cerebral cortex, or visual pathways. However, more studies should be done to confirm chocolate’s visual health potential.
    • More recent studies looked at the effects of 70-percent cacao dark chocolate on health.  These study results show that gamma frequencies were stimulated after 30 minutes and two hours. Since gamma waves are in charge of learning and memory function, chocolate may help brain health. However, more studies need to be done to confirm the cacao’s potential brain health benefits.

    Besides chocolate, a healthy balanced diet rich in antioxidant fruits and vegetables can help improve health. To further enhance these health effects, you can also take supplements. Examples of a supplement that may improve blood flow include Circova by Vita SciencesCircova contains L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne that support improved blood flow and blood pressure. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before you start any new supplement regimen.

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

    Sources:

    Cone, A. (April 25, 2018) “Studies: Dark chocolate can lower stress and inflammation, improve memory.” UPI

    Katz, D. L., Doughty, K., & Ali, A. (2011). Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling15(10), 2779–2811.

    Mental Health Daily (accessed May 1, 2018) “5 Types of Brain Waves: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta.”

    Mundell, E.J. (April 26, 2018) “A Bit of Dark Chocolate Might Sweeten Your Vision.” HealthDay

    Nordqvist, J. (February 12, 2018) “Health benefits and risks of chocolate.” Medical News Today


  • 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 probiotics improve gut health?

    yogurt, probiotics, fermented, gut health, fruit, fiberDo you get cramps in your side after eating certain foods? Do you feel bloated, gassy, or suffer from constipation?  If so, then you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria.  Probiotics may be able to help you improve your digestive health.

    What are probiotics?

    Probiotics are live bacteria strains found in fermented foods or in supplement form. They help to balance levels of good as well as bad bacteria in the gut.  Examples of fermented foods and drinks include:

    • yogurt (fermented milk)
    • sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
    • kefir (fermented cow’s milk normally consumed as a beverage)
    • kombucha (fermented black or green tea)
    • miso (paste made from fermented soybeans)
    • tempeh (fermented soybeans)

    A diverse ecosystem of bacteria in the gut may reduce inflammation in the body. In fact, animal studies show that probiotics could lower levels of inflammation in the body related to such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.  However, you should take probiotics on a regular basis for the most health benefit.

    If taken in a supplement form, try to get a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria since each strain provides different benefits.  Also, those found in a refrigerated form, such as those found in health food stores, may provide a more potent formula. For example, there is a quality probiotic called Biovia 30X made by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30X  contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFUs) in 10 different strains of probiotics.

    Other ways to improve gut health

    Besides probiotics, there are other ways you can help improve your digestive health with just a few tweaks in your healthy lifestyle.

    • Avoid foods that can cause inflammation. Examples of foods to limit in your diet include red meat, high-fat dairy, fried foods, and foods high in additives.  Also, processed foods such as sausage and candy that contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs should be limited since they can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.
    • Eat more fiber since it helps to feed the healthy bacteria. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, and bran, to name a few.
    • Live a balanced lifestyle.  Getting enough sleep, staying active, and staying hydrated is important to keep your gut happy.  Most adults should get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to help regulate a healthy blood pressure and healthy blood glucose levels.  Also, exercise at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. This is because studies show that exercise can help enrich the growth of a diverse population of bacteria in the gut. Finally, when you add in more fiber to your diet, drinking enough water each day is important to lower risk of constipation. Aim for about half of your body weight in ounces. If you are 200 pounds, then this means you should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of unsweetened fluid each day.
    • Manage stress.  Meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, talking to a counselor, or just finding time each day to relax and do something you enjoy can help lower stress.  It is important to manage stress not just to sleep better, but for gut health as well.  For example, studies have shown a potential link between the brain and gut health. For example, if you get stressed or depressed, studies show that this could trigger gut health issues.

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

    Sources:

    Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (October 2016) “Can gut bacteria improve your health?”

    Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (accessed April 3, 2018) “The gut-brain connection.”

    Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., … Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity2017, 3831972. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972

    Mayo Clinic (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed April 2, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

    Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (accessed April 3, 2018) “Healthy Gut: Prebiotics and Probiotics.”


  • Seven ways to improve long term weight loss and management

    weight loss, weight, health, diet, nutritionWith the summer months approaching and weather warming, weight loss may be on your mind.  With every click of the remote, there are commercials advertising weight loss plans, exercise equipment, and fat burning supplements claiming to help you manage your weight. However, a recent study has shown that regular eating versus dieting may be the answer to long term weight loss and management.

    Dieting Versus Regular Eating

    A study at the University of Helsinki looked at the factors of weight and weight change in 4900 young men and women. The study involved the participants taking surveys at age 24 and 34, and weight measurements at the time the surveys were conducted. Study results show that most people gained weight in the decade in between. The factors that affected such weight gain include:

    • dieting and irregular eating habits
    • giving birth to two or more children
    • regular intake of sweetened beverages
    • poor contentment with life
    • smoking

    The results show that those who were protected from weight gain and had weight maintenance or weight loss had similar characteristics such as:

    • physical activity in women
    • higher level of education in men
    • greater weight at the start of the study in men

    Therefore, the study suggests that eating healthy foods on a regular basis and avoiding dieting is the first step to long term weight management.

    Seven Ways to Manage Your Weight Long Term

    The findings of this recent study show that the following five ways are the cornerstone to managing your weight for the long term.

    • Eating on a regular basis such as every 3 to 4 hours can help prevent overeating. You should consume a balanced diet of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as well as adequate lean proteins each day. Such proteins may include animal products such as eggs, poultry, fish, seafood, and lean beef. However, if you are vegetarian, you can get plenty of protein from low fat dairy, soybeans and soy based products such as tofu, nuts, and seeds. Furthermore, you should limit your intake of processed products to reduce your total daily intake of sodium and sugar.
    • Reducing intake of sugary beverages is the logical next step to help manage your weight.  This means limiting sugary colas, juices, and pretty much any processed foods with added sugars. You can find the amount of added sugar on the nutrition label of most products. Stick to water, unsweetened tea and lemonade, or other low-calories beverages for your fluid intake. You should drink about half of your body weight in pounds in fluid each day. Therefore, if you weigh 200 lbs, then you should drink about 100 ounces of low-to no calorie fluid each day, or about 12.5 cups of fluid each day.
    • Staying active is vital for managing weight. You should engage in at least 30 minutes total of moderate activity daily such as walking, gardening, light biking, or other activities that increase heart rate to a point where you can still hold a conversation, but not sing. This 30 minutes does not have to be all at once, but can be in 5 to 10 minute intervals throughout the day. Exercise is important for providing a calorie deficit to help lose weight and is also important for heart health.
    • Not smoking and limiting other unhealthy lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol is important for managing weight since these factors affect heart health and overall health status. Smoking can narrow blood vessels and increase blood pressure. It can also sap your energy since it makes it harder for your heart to get oxygen to your body’s tissues and affects lung health. Drinking alcohol is full of unnecessary calories and if consumed in excess can affect liver health. Your liver is in charge of breaking down fat and getting toxins out of the body. If your liver will rid of toxins before anything, so if you drink too much, your liver will not have much time for fat metabolism. This can lead to fat storage and weight gain, especially in the abdominal area.
    • Managing stress can help you manage weight and gain a more positive perspective on your life. Relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking with a counselor can help you better manage stress and in turn lower your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

    Two other important factors that can affect weight management are:

    • Sleep. Most adults are recommended to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Lack of sleep can increase risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Also,  lack of sleep can make it difficult to manage stress and stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan.
    • Nutrient status.  Vitamin deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin D, or B12, can impact health by reducing energy. In fact, obese patients commonly have these vitamin deficiencies before weight loss intervention.  You should get a lab test for these vitamins and nutrients at your annual doctor visit. Also, if you are low in such nutrients, you should start on a regular vitamin regimen. One supplement that may be helpful in getting your weight back on track is Kolonex by Vita Sciences. Kolonex is an advanced colon cleanser and detox supplement that contains psyllium husk and probiotics to help promote weight loss, less bloating, and more energy.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control (September 8, 2016) “Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight.”

    Johns Hopkins Medicine (September 14, 2015) “Nutritional Deficiencies Common Before Weight Loss Surgery.”

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed March 26, 2018) “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.” 

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (accessed by March 26, 2018) “Some Myths about Nutrition and Physical Activity.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed March 26, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    Science Daily (March 23, 2018) “Searching for long-term success in weight management? Forget dieting and eat regularly.”


  • Could a walk in the park lower stress levels?

    walk, park, exercise, stress, relaxStaying active has many benefits. In particular, you may have been told by a healthcare provider to move more to help manage weight or improve heart health. However, a recent study has found that a walk in the park may also reduce stress levels in the body.

    How Much Exercise Do I Need?

    The Department of Helath and Human Services recommends that most adults exercise 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. In particular, it is suggested that most adults should engage in:

    • 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, or a combination of both levels of activity.
    • 2 days each week of resistance or strength training that involves a single set of exercises that includes 12 to 15 repetitions at a weight that will tire the muscles by the end of the set.

    This thirty minutes does not have to be all at once. Five minutes here and ten minutes there is enough as long as it adds up to 30 minutes by the end of the day. Also, you may be wondering what moderate activity is. Moderate activity is any exercise that allows you to hold a conversation, but does not allow you enough breath to sing. In addition, you should break a light sweat within 10 minutes of a moderate activity, while vigorous activity will have you breaking a sweat in a few minutes or less. Moderate activities include:

    • walking
    • water aerobics
    • gardening
    • light dancing
    • slow bicycling

    Walking to Lower Stress

    A study by researchers at the Center for Nature and Health at the University of California San Francisco looked at the effects of exercise on a group of 78 parents and children.  This group of parents and children were encouraged to visit local parks as often as possible over the course of the study period. They were either provided maps to local parks and bus schedules or invited to group outings at local parks.

    Follow-ups were done at one month and three months after the start of the study. During these follow-ups, self reports, journalling, and salivary cortisol levels were used to measure stress levels.  It was found that every increase in park visits each week was linked to decreases in stress.  In addition, it was found that those who visited the parks often saw:

    • increased physical activity
    • decreased loneliness
    • increased interest in nature

    Other Ways to Lower Stress

    Besides getting fresh air and exercising, there are many ways you can try to lower your stress levels.

    • Deep breathing can help relax the mind during stressful times and can also help improve sleep. This type of breathing involves breathing from the diaphragm, which means your stomach should inflate as you inhale and deflate as you exhale. Inhale for several seconds, hold your breath for several seconds, and exhale for several seconds. You may feel a bit lightheaded when starting this practice, so do not perform deep breathing when driving a car or operating machinery.
    • Simplifying your life by donating items in your home that you do not use such as clothes, excess furniture, or decorative items. Also, delegate tasks when possible at both home and work if possible to lighten your load. Finally, write upcoming events on a calendar and keep a running shopping list so you can lighten the burden on your mind.
    • Getting enough sleep is important not only for lowering stress, but for overall health. The average adult should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
    • Eating a balanced diet that is low in sugar, high in fiber, and high in other nutrients such as iron, B12, and vitamin C will help your body perform better in many ways. Some benefits of a healthy, balanced diet include improved cognitive function, better heart health, and an enhanced ability to handle stress. This balanced diet also includes lowering caffeine, increasing water intake, and reducing alcohol intake as well as eating a minimally processed diet. 
    • Spending more time with others in your family, circle of friends, and/or community since social engagement can help boost “feel good” serotonin levels in the body.
    • Taking mood-boosting supplements like Elevia by Vita Sciences. Elevia contains GABA, chamomile, and 5-HTP. These compounds can calm the mind and boost serotonin levels.

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

    Sources:

    Burton, M.D., N. (February 11, 2017) “How to Reduce Stress.” 

    Healthline (accessed March 5, 2018) “Parl Prescriptions Can Help Lower Stress Levels.”

    Laskowski, M.D., E.R. (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?” Mayo Clinic.com 

    Mayo Clinic (May 19, 2017) “Exercise intensity: how to measure it.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed March 5, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    Razani, N., et al (2018) “Effect of park prescriptions with and without group visits to parks on stress reduction in low-income parents: SHINE randomized trial.”

    Watson, S. (June 18, 2014) “Caffiene and a healthy diet may boost memory, thinking skills; alcohol’s effect uncertain.”


  • Could an earlier diabetes diagnosis lower your heart disease risk?

    heart disease, heart health, heart, cardiovascularHeart disease is the number one cause of death for both mean and women in the United States. Therefore, it is no surprise that researchers are looking endlessly for ways to reduce risk of this condition. A recent study has found that for those with diabetes, the earlier diagnosis, the lower the heart disease risk later on in life.

    Heart disease risk factors

    Heart disease involves conditions such as coronary heart disease (CHD), which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Those with the following risk factors have a higher chance of developing heart disease:

    • high blood pressure
    • high cholesterol
    • smoking
    • overweight and obesity
    • being inactive
    • excessive alcohol intake
    • diabetes

    Diabetes and heart disease risk 

    A 2017 report from the New England Journal of Medicine states that around 208,000 people under the age of 20 years old has a diabetes diagnosis. Furthermore, a recent study in Diabetologia looked at the age of diabetes diagnosis and risk of chronic disease conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

    The study looked at data on over 700,000 people from Australia with a diabetes diagnosis between 1997 and 2011. The average age of diagnosis was 59 years old. However, researchers state that the earlier the diagnosis, the higher the risk of all-cause mortality. In particular, being a diagnosis 10 years earlier tha average showed a 20-30 percent increase in all-cause mortality, with a 60-percent higher risk of developing heart disease.

    Researchers suggest living with the disease longer increases complication risk. In turn, people with diabetes have a greater chance of diabetes-related health issues. Therefore, it is important to educate those with diabetes on healthy lifestyle practices. Teaching those with diabetes how to control their condition will help lower risk of complications. In addition, it is important to help prevent new cases of diabetes in younger adults.

    How to reduce your risk of heart disease 

    From this study it is clear that the following steps should be followed to reduce your risk of developing not just heart disease, but diabetes as well.

    • Eat a heart healthy diet full of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Also, be sure to limit your intake of fatty meats and stick to lean proteins. Examples of lean proteins include skinless chicken and turkey, lean beef, fish and other seafood, eggs, and low-fat dairy products. If you are vegetarian, some heart healthy plant-based proteins include nuts, nut butters, seeds, legumes, and soy-based products.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start since smoking constricts blood vessels and increases risk of high blood pressure.
    • Stay active at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. No boot camp exercise is required. However, just be sure to engage in moderate  exercise such as walking, swimming, light aerobics, gardening, dancing, or biking.
    • Manage your weight by engaging in healthy eating and exercising as well as getting plenty of sleep and staying hydrated with at least half of your body weight in ounces of water or unsweetened beverages each day.
    •  Visit your doctor and track your numbers on a regular basis. See your doctor at least once a year if you have no heart disease or diabetes diagnosis. However, if you have a family history of either condition or have a diagnosis of diabetes or heart disease, then you should visit more often. It is important to know your numbers such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes or are at risk, then you will want to keep track of your A1C, which is a number that tells the 3-month average of your blood glucose level health. An A1C of less than 7-percent is healthy for those with diabetes, while an A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 indicates prediabetes, and an A1C below 5.7% is healthy.
    • Take a heart healthy supplement such as Alestra by Vita SciencesAlestra contains niacin and plant sterols which provide advanced cholesterol support. Please contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement and do not use this supplement as a replacement to your prescribed medications.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (November 28, 2017) “Heart Disease Facts.”

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (February 2017) “Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke.”

    Sandoiu, A. (February 26, 2018) “Earlier diabetes diagnosis linked to heart disease, stroke.”


  • 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”