Tag Archives: anxiety

Could a pet improve your mental health?

dog, pet, mental health, health, happy, healthyAnxiety and depression can take a huge toll on quality of life. It can affect your work, relationships, and can also make it hard to take care of your yourself. However, recent research shows that having a pet may help reduce anxiety and depression. Therefore, let’s learn more about how a pet could improve mental health status as well as other ways to help yourself feel happier and healthier.

Basics of mental health

By definition, mental health involves your social, emotional, and psychological well-being. And a person may be more prone to such issues through factors like genetics, traumatic life experiences, or a family history of such issues.

There are many types of mental health issues, with the most commonly known being anxiety and depression. Some general signs of such issues include:

  • eating too much or too little
  • mood swings
  • Low energy
  • unexplained aches and pains
  • inability to perform daily tasks
  • feeling confused or on edge

These are just a few early warning signs of mental health issues. And if you notice such signs, it may be time to visit a healthcare professional. Also, you can visit the Mental Health America website for helpful resources.

Pets for better mental health

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that the “pet effect” may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Experts also report that pets and therapy animals can lower feelings of stress, loneliness, and isolation. Not only that, but research also shows that pets can spark biological changes that can help reduce anxiety and depression.

One of these changes is that having a pet encourages physical activity. Exercise can improve not only brain health, but also the health of your body. This in turn can help improve your quality of life.

Pets can also improve your social support networks. For example, when you take your dog to the park or in public, people will likely interact with you and your pet. This in turn could help you feel more connected to your community. Also, this connection could help you feel less lonely and isolated.

Recent pet research 

Also, the presence of a pet in the home could help you feel a sense of security and protection. A 2019 study looked at the impact of pets on physiology of college students. The study divided 249 students into four groups. One group had 10 minutes stroking and playing with cats and dogs. Then, another group observed those people interacting with the animals. Finally, the other two groups either looked at slideshows of animals or simply sat and waited in silence.

All the students had their saliva samples taken in the morning and after their interaction. Study results show that those who interacted with the animals had significantly lower cortisol, or “stress hormone,” levels as compared to baseline than the others. This early study shows promise that having a pet could help reduce mental stress in the body and mind. In turn, having a furry friend could help improve quality of life for their owners.

Other ways to improve mental health 

If you don’t want a pet or don’t have the time or money to care for a pet, there are other ways to improve mental health at home.

Improve your diet: Experts report that eating foods high in refined sugars, like sugary drinks and processed snacks, are harmful to the brain. In turn, they can impair brain function and lead to mental health disorders like depression. Therefore, try to limit such foods in the diet and focus on adding more antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables that can reduce inflammation in the body and mind.

Add a supplement: In addition to eating healthier foods, you can also add a supplement to help improve your mood. An example of such a supplement is Elevia by Vita Sciences. Elevia contains natural ingredients like GABA and 5-HTP that help calm the mind and body while boosting serotonin, or “feel good hormone” levels.

Move more: Exercise helps release endorphins that can reduce stress in the body and mind. Therefore, try to be active each day by walking, jogging, cleaning house, dancing, or swimming, to name a few ideas.

Get involved: Volunteering in your community or joining groups like a walking group or arts and crafts group can help you feel better. This is because it will help yo feel less isolated and will provide you a better sense of purpose in your life.

Find support: Talking to a counselor or joining a support group can help you talk about what is causing stress in your life. And by talking about it, you can obtain resources from others to help reduce stress in your life. However, always be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional first if you feel you may be depressed or anxious.

Take home message

Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. Therefore, whether it be a pet or gaining support from your community, there are plenty of small things you can do to help yourself. However, if you feel like you don’t know where to start, then visit your healthcare provider for resources.

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

References:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed July 22, 2019) “Tips.”

Feldman, S. (November 2018) “Alleviating Anxiety, Stress and Depression with the Pet Effect.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

Mental Health Foundation (accessed July 22, 2019) “Pets and mental health.”

MentalHealth.gov (last updated April 5, 2019) “What Is Mental Health?”

Sandoiu, A. (July 19, 2019) “More evidence that pets benefit mental health.” Medical News Today. 

Selhub, M.D., E. (November 16, 2015) “Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food.” Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. 


  • Ramp up your exercise routine to reduce anxiety

    walk, walking, health, exercise, fitnessAlthough many of us may feel anxious from time to time, this anxiety may resolve after a hot bath or cup of tea. However, for a portion of the population, this feeling continues to affect them daily. It can impact daily life in a way that interrupts daily living such as work, sleep, and relationships. Therefore, for those with anxiety disorder, treatment options are necessary. Besides prescription medications, recent research shows that increasing intensity of exercise may help reduce symptoms of anxiety disorder.

    What is anxiety?

    About one out of every five people in the United States suffer from anxiety disorder. Those with this disorder are not just feeling anxious before a big event, but feel anxious most of their life. For example, these people feel an excessive amount of dread that is persistent and uncontrollable.

    Anxiety disorder can come in many forms such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Those with OCD may feel like if they do not perform certain, often repetitive tasks that something bad will happen. Other forms of anxiety disorder include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attack disorder, and phobias.

    General symptoms

    If you experience the following symptoms as well as excessive worry for at least six months, then you may have GAD. If you feel this may be you, be sure to see a qualified healthcare provider for treatment options.

    • feeling nervous or on edge
    • having a sense of impending danger
    • increased heart rate
    • rapid breathing rate
    • difficulty concentrating
    • trouble sleeping
    • digestive issues
    • weakness or fatigue

    How is anxiety treated?

    Anxiety treatment usually involves prescription medicines, especially for those with moderate to severe forms. Also, therapy can help with symptoms, whether you take medicine or not, to help teach you ways to manage symptoms. A common form of therapy used is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches people how to think, behave, and react differently to those situations in life that produce the most anxiety for them.

    How can exercise help anxiety?

    Research shows that exercise can be a great supplemental treatment for anxiety. This is because studies show that exercise can, in the long-term, reduce inflammation in the body. In turn, a person can not only lower risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease and diabetes, but also anxiety and depression.

    In fact, research shows that exercise, especially moderate to high intensity exercise, can lower pro-inflammatory markers in the body. Another 2018 study looked at exercise impact in those with panic disorder. Study results show that although exercise increased stress right after performing it, it lowers depression and anxiety scores over the long-term.

    About exercise intensity

    To reap the mental health rewards of exercise, intensity matters. Studies show that moderate to high intensity is best for reducing mental health symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate intensity exercise occurs when:

    • your breath quickens, but you’re not out of breath
    • a light sweat develops after about 10 minutes
    • you can talk while moving, but cannot sing

    On the other hand, high intensity exercise will produce deeper and more rapid breaths and you will start sweating in a few minutes. For optimal health of mind and body, most adults should move at a moderate intensity at least 150 minutes a week, or at least 30 minutes for 5 days a week. Or, if you prefer higher intensity exercise, move at this intensity at least 75 minutes a week, or at least 15 minutes a day for 5 days a week.

    Other natural treatments

    Besides exercise, there are other natural treatments that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Eating more fruits and vegetables each day can provide anti-inflammatory antioxidants that can help. Also, you could take a natural supplement daily such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains ingredients like magnesium, chamomile, and valerian to help promote higher levels of the “feel good hormone” serotonin in the body. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

    Take home message

    If you suffer from anxiety, then you may be desperate for treatment that will improve your quality of life. Along with medicines and therapy, exercise can be an effective adjunct treatment. Not only that, but exercise can also improve your physical health as well. So, start moving a little more each day to help both your body and mind be in its best health.

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

    References

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed July 8, 2019) “Understand the Facts.”

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed July 8, 2019) “Symptoms.”

    Aylett, E., Small, N., and Bower, P. (July 2018) “Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC Health Serv Res., 18(1):559.

    Lattari, E., et al. (February 2018) “Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Anxiety Symptoms and Cortical Activity in Patients with Panic Disorder: A Pilot Study.” Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health,14:11-25.

    Mayo Clinic (May 15, 2019) “Exercise intensity: how to measure it.”

    National Institute of Mental Health (July 2018) “Anxiety Disorders.”

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (last reviewed on February 1, 2019) “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.”


  • Lower your stress to lower diabetes risk

    Stress is an inevitable part of life. Whether you’re stuck in traffic, running late for work, juggling a heavy workload, or dealing with family issues, everyone deals with stress in some way on a daily basis. However, since it can be hard to avoid stress, how you deal with it can impact the way it affects your health. A recent study has found that those with more reported stress had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who had less reported stress.

    What is stress? 

    You may know what stress feels like, but do you actually know what it is? By definition, stress is the body’s natural defense against danger. Stress often occurs when a person is overwhelmed by the demands they face at any given time. In times of stress, the body releases certain hormones that prepare the body to deal with stress. Also, in times of stress, digestion slows, breathing quickens, and heart rate increases. This fight or flight response provides the body with the resources it needs to face any dangers.

    Stress and diabetes

    During the fight or flight response, the hormones released create a lot of energy that the cells can use. This energy comes in the form of glucose and fat. In those with diabetes, this fight or flight response may not always work so well.  This is because insulin may not always be working well or be present at all to help the cells use energy. In turn, the glucose can build up in the blood.

    Not to mention that stress can also increase blood glucose levels directly. Research shows that those with type 2 diabetes often have higher blood glucose levels when they experience stress. Also, those who experience stress may not deal with it in a healthy way. For example, some people may drink alcohol, smoke, or eat unhealthy foods when they feel stress. This in turn can increase blood glucose levels and negatively impact health.

    Stress and diabetes research

    A recent study by Chinese researchers looked at data from around 500,000 adults. This data included blood glucose levels, reported stress, and other related health data. Study results show that those who reported one stressful event had a 10-percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who reported none.

    This risk went up to 33-percent when a person reported two or more stressful events. Personal stress seemed to produce the highest levels of diabetes risk. This type of stress especially affected diabetes risk when it involved losing a job, retiring, or death of a loved one.

    How to manage stress and diabetes

    From these study results, it’s clear to see that stress has a direct link with diabetes risk. Now since you can’t control the stress that enters your life, but you control how you deal with it. Experts suggest that by better managing stress, you can lessen the impact it has on your health. Some examples of ways to cope with stress include:

    • deep breathing
    • gardening
    • walking
    • yoga
    • meditating
    • listening to your favorite music
    • talking with a counselor or trusted friend or loved one

    When you are better able to handle stress, you will be better able to handle your health. In other words, when you can manage stress better, you will likely be better able to take care of your health in other ways. You will likely move more, make healthier food choices, sleep better, and keep better track of your blood glucose levels.  In turn, these healthy habits will help you better deal with your diabetes.

    If you still feel like stress is keeping you up at night though, then try Somnova by Vita Sciences. Using natural ingredients like L-theanine and melatonin, Somnova works to relax your mind, produce peaceful sleep, and in turn help you feel refreshed. This improved sleep can help you to better manage stress in your life, and in turn lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

    References:

    American Diabetes Association (last reviewed June 7, 2013) “Stress.” http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/mental-health/stress.html

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (November 2016) “Managing Diabetes.”

    Nordqvist, C. (last updated November 28, 2017 by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP) “Why stress happens and how to manage it.” Medical News Today

    Wang, M., et al. (February 2019) “Associations between stressful life events and diabetes: Findings from the China Kadoorie Biobank study of 500,000 adults.” Journal of Diabetes Investigation, https://doi.org/10.1111/jdi.13028

     


  • Could weight loss help lower risk of migraine?

    anxiety, stress, depression, health, mental health, headache, migraineWith summer on the horizon, weight loss efforts are in full bloom. However, weight loss can provide more than just body confidence. The Centers for Disease Control report that just losing 5-percent of your body weight, which is equal to about 10 pounds for a 200 lb. person, can lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Not to mention that a recent study shows that losing weight can also lower risk of migraines.

    What is a migraine?

    A migraine is a recurring type of headache that causes a throbbing or pulsing pain along with other uncomfortable symptoms. Other symptoms of a migraine may include:

    • nausea
    • weakness
    • sensitivity to light and sound

    Migraines can be triggered by a variety of different things such as:

    • stress
    • anxiety
    • hormonal changes in women
    • loud noises
    • bright or flashing lights
    • lack of sleep
    • tobacco
    • skipped meals
    • certain medicines
    • caffeine
    • too much activity (overexertion)

    Women and those with a family history of migraines are at greater risk of developing migraines. Treatment usually includes certain pain relievers, resting with your eyes closed in a quiet, dark room, as well as placing an eye pack on your forehead and drinking plenty of fluids.

    Migraines and weight loss

    A recent study analyzed data from 10 different studies regarding migraine occurrence. Study results show that those who lost weight had a reduction in the days per month they had migraines. Also, pain severity and duration of the headache was reduced with weight loss. The results seemed to be the same in adults and kids. Also, results were similar for anyone who lost weight, no matter how the weight was lost (i.e. surgery, diet and exercise).

    It is thought that those who are overweight or obese may be more at risk for migraine headaches due to inflammation. Researchers suggest that certain proteins released by fat tissue, obesity-related health problems such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, as well as psychological risk factors, stroke, and respiratory conditions may also increase risk of headaches in those who are overweight or obese.

    If you have migraines, but have not found success with any medications over-the-counter, then you may want to visit your doctor for suggestions. Another option is to try a natural supplement like Migravent by Vita Sciences. Migravent contains ingredients like CoQ10, magnesium, and riboflavin, among others to help promote migraine relief and provide neurological support.

    Tips on losing weight 

    There are many ways to approach weight loss. It will vary according to the individual. Your current health status will determine your nutrient needs and exercise tolerance. Also, your food allergies or intolerances and daily schedule will help determine the eating plan that will work best for you. The key is to start changing unhealthy habits one at a time. Over time, you will create the healthy lifestyle that helps you meet your health goals and that is easy for you to stick with for the long term.

    Here are some tips to help you start planning your weight loss program.

    • Write down short-term and long-term goals: Although the term goals may make some people sigh in frustration, they are important for keeping you on track with your weight loss regimen. Start by writing out your ultimate goal for the year, then break it down into smaller goals such as monthly goals. For example, your yearly goal may be to lose 50 pounds. Since this can seem overwhelming to approach, break this goal down into smaller monthly goals. These goals should be S.M.A.R.T., or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. A goal of this kind will help you track your progress since it’s measurable. Therefore, instead of just saying “I want to eat more vegetables,” instead you could make one of your monthly goals “I will eat at least one cup of vegetables at each meal over the next four weeks.”
    • Make time for planning and prepping meals: Your busy schedule may have you pressed for time. However, in order to have the best chance of weight loss success, you need to make time for meal planning and prepping. Just an hour a week can give you plenty of time to write a shopping list and meal calendar. These tools can help you know what foods you need to stay on track with your diet. A registered dietitian may be helpful to get you started on such as meal plan. Once you have the foods you need in stock, then just take another hour or so a week to wash, chop, dice, and portion out fruit and vegetables for meals and snacks. This can provide convenient meal and snack options that can make it easier for you to stay on track throughout the week.
    • Be active whenever possible: Every step counts, so move whenever possible. Take the stairs when you can, or walk your dog or take a walk after meals. You can also take a walk at lunch at work or home to help get some steps in and aid digestion.
    • Visit your doctor regularly: You should visit your doctor at least once a year to check your numbers. These numbers include blood pressure, weight, and labs like cholesterol and blood glucose. However, if you have a chronic condition or are at risk for such conditions like heart disease or diabetes, then you should visit twice a year or more to keep track of your numbers and risk factors.
    • Be accountable: Besides going to the doctor, it’s important to stay accountable in other ways as well to stay on track with your weight loss. This means weekly weigh-ins, having a weight loss buddy, and/or having a health coach to support you and provide motivation along the way.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed February 13, 2018) “Losing Weight.” https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html

    Mayo Clinic Medline Plus (Last updated on February 7, 2019) “Migraine.” https://medlineplus.gov/migraine.html

    MindTools (accessed March 27, 2019) “SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable.” https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm

    Preidt, R. (March 25, 2019) “Fewer Excess Pounds May Mean Fewer Migraines.” https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-03-23/fewer-excess-pounds-may-mean-fewer-migraines

     


  • Move more to fight depression …and diabetes

    depression. mental health, happy, mood, healthWhen most people start an exercise program, they may be trying to do one of a few things. Most people move more to lose weight, some exercise to gain muscle, and some just want to tone up. However, the benefit from exercise that most may not think of is improved mood. A recent study shows that moving more each day may have prevent depressive symptoms. Not to mention, that research also shows that preventing or improving such symptoms can help improve health outcomes in those with diabetes.

    What is depression?

    Depression is a mood disorder that can greatly impact daily life. It can make daily activities seem impossible by impacting the way you feel, think, sleep, eat, and work. There are various forms of depression such as persistent depressive disorder, which involves symptoms lasting two years or more.

    On the other hand, there are forms of depression that occur as a result of certain environmental changes such as in climate like with seasonal affective disorder, or after pregnancy like with postpartum depression. Some people with depression may also experience other serious mood symptoms like with bipolar disorder or psychotic depression.

    No matter what type of depression a person may have, they all share certain serious symptoms for more than two weeks at a time that may include:

    • persistent “empty” mood or sad feelings
    • irritability
    • hopelessness
    • loss of interest in hobbies or daily activities
    • decreased energy or fatigue
    • restlessness
    • moving or talking more slowly
    • difficulty concentrating
    • trouble sleeping or eating
    • digestive problems or headaches without a medical cause
    • thoughts of death or suicide

    Not everyone with depression experiences every symptom. However, if you have a few of these symptoms and you feel that daily life has become hard to handle, then it may be time to reach out to a healthcare professional for help.

    Antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, like talk therapy are typical primary treatments for depression. However, if these treatments alone are not helping all of your symptoms, then there are some other things you can try. Experts suggest asking for help from a trusted friend, family member, or counselor as well as taking steps to take part in your community for social support.

    Another treatment option is to join a study through the National Institutes of Health where new treatments will be tested. If you need help now, then reach out to someone today for advice through one of the resources found on this website. Exercise can also be something you can do now to help improve your depressive symptoms.

    Exercise and depression research 

    The American Heart Association suggests that most adults exercise at least 150 minutes a week. This means that for most days of the week, you should move at least thirty minutes a day. This doesn’t have to be all at once, but can be a few minutes at a time. And this exercise should be at a moderate pace. Therefore, if you walk briskly for a few minutes here and there for a total of thirty minutes a day, then you can keep your heart strong. Not only that, but you can also keep your mind healthy too.

    A recent study shows that exercise may help improve depressive symptoms. This study looked at data from over 600000 adults. Study results show that there is a protective relationship between exercise and risk for major depressive disorder. And what makes this finding stronger is that this data was taken from actual measured movement, not self-reported exercise. Therefore, experts suggest that exercise could be an effective adjunct strategy to help treat and prevent depressive symptoms.

    Exercise and diabetes research

    If you exercise to help improve your depressive symptoms, you could also help improve your diabetes risk. Experts report that depressive symptoms correlate strongly with a risk of incident diabetes. A study of data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) looked at whether positive behavior could help lower risk of type 2 diabetes in postmenopausal women.

    The study looked at data from over 100000 women over 14 years. Study results show that those who were the most optimistic had a 12-percent lower risk of developing diabetes versus those in the lowest quartile of optimism. Also, those who showed more hostile and negative behaviors, were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, prevention strategies to help target such negative mood and personality traits may help lower risk of type 2 diabetes in these persons.

    Take home message

    If you suffer from depression, then there are many steps you can take to help improve your quality of life. The first step is to ask for help.  I know this is not an easy ask, but there are many resources out there where people want to help you take back your life.

    And if you have diabetes, it may be worth it to be screened for depression to see if such strategies listed above may help you not only feel better in your mind, but also help improve your diabetes symptoms.

    Changes in diet such as consuming more antioxidant-rich foods and taking supplements such as Elevia by Vita Sciences may also help. Elevia contains GABA and 5-HTP to help calm your mind and boost serotonin levels. This could be another tool in your belt to help you improve your depressive symptoms and start feeling better inside and out.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    American Heart Association (last reviewed April 18, 2018) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.”

    Choi KW, Chen C, Stein MB, et al. (Published online January 23, 2019) “Assessment of Bidirectional Relationships Between Physical Activity and Depression Among AdultsA 2-Sample Mendelian Randomization Study.” JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4175

    National Institute of Mental Health (February 2018) “Depression.”

    Sandoiu, A. (January 27, 2019) “Diabetes: How optimism may influence your risk.” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324297.php

     


  • Can healthy fats help your anxiety?

    healthy fat, heart health, health, salmon, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocadoAn essential part of  a heart healthy diet is plenty of plant-based unsaturated fats.  Not only do plant-based foods provide heart-healthy fiber, but they are also rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in the body, and in turn reduce chronic disease risk. One such group of antioxidants are the omega-3 fatty acids found in such foods as avocado, plant-based oils and fatty fish. Recent research shows that these healthy fats may be able to help with mental health. A recent study shows that by increasing the amount of healthy fats in your diet, you could help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

     

    What are healthy fats?

    Healthy fats typically describe the group of fats known as unsaturated fats. These fats can be found in plant-based foods such as avocado, nuts, and seeds. They can also be found in plant-based oils like olive oil and fatty fish like salmon and trout. Research shows that by replacing some of your saturated fat intake with unsaturated fats, you can benefit heart health. The cause of this is still unknown, but it is suggested that it may be due to the fiber and antioxidants in such unsaturated food sources.

    Healthy fat intake and anxiety

    A recent meta-analysis study looked at research done on omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and mental health.  Study results show that those with clinically diagnosed anxiety may benefit from treatment with omega-3 fatty acids.  This is because treatment with such fats seemed to reduce symptoms of anxiety under stressful situations. Even those who suffered from other diagnosed mental health conditions outside of clinical anxiety showed reduced anxiety symptoms after such treatment.

    Although more research needs to be done to confirm such findings, these results are promising for future potential treatment options for anxiety. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to add in more healthy fats to your daily diet.  Also, an omega-3 fatty acid supplement could be helpful to healthy of the body and mind.  An example of such a supplement is fish oil like that by Vita Sciences.  This formula by Vita Sciences provides 400 milligrams of EPA and 300 milligrams of DHA, which are omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish.  This supplement is a great way to get your healthy fats if you don’t think you will be able to get them in every day in your diet.

    Other ways to help reduce anxiety

    Besides increasing healthy fats in your diet, there are other ways you can work to reduce anxiety in your daily routine.

    • Make sure to sleep enough each day: The average adult should receive at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is important not just for energy levels, but for regulating fluid, hormones, and blood pressure in the body. Lack of sleep can also increase risk of anxiety and stress levels, especially in those that already suffer from anxiety. If you have trouble sleeping, visit the National Sleep Foundation website for tips. You should also visit your healthcare provider if you find that your sleep problems become a long-term problem. This is because you may be suffering from a condition known as sleep apnea that can affect quality of sleep and breathing. A healthcare provider can also help you manage pain, urinary incontinence, or insomnia that can impact sleep quality and quantity.
    • Talk to someone: Talking to a health care professional like a therapist or counselor can help you come up with strategies for dealing with your stress or anxiety. Even just talking to a friend or loved one may be helpful to get worries off your mind.
    • Find time to relax: Try to set aside at least 15 minutes a day to relax. This relaxing could include relaxation breathing, diffusing calming essential oils like lavender, or engaging in activities like yoga or meditation.
    • Volunteer in your community: Helping others in your community may be able to increase your sense of purpose and help you meet others with similar interests. In turn, these factors may help lower your stress and anxiety levels over time.
    • Stay active: Regular exercise each day can help reduce anxiety levels. This may be due to the vitamin D you get from working out in the sunshine. Also, it could be from the serotonin your body releases when you exercise. Either way, get moving each day and it can make you feel better inside and out.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (August 13, 2018) “The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

    Lattari, E., Budde, H., Paes, F., Neto, G. A. M., Appolinario, J. C., Nardi, A. E., … Machado, S. (2018). Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Anxiety Symptoms and Cortical Activity in Patients with Panic Disorder: A Pilot Study. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH14, 11–25. http://doi.org/10.2174/1745017901814010011

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 18, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

    Nauert, PhD, R. (accessed September 18, 2018) “Sleep Loss Increases Anxiety-Especially Among Worriers.” https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/06/27/sleep-loss-increases-anxiety-especially-among-worriers/56531.html

    Su K, Tseng P, Lin P, et al. Association of Use of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids With Changes in Severity of Anxiety SymptomsA Systematic Review and Meta-analysisJAMA Network Open.2018;1(5):e182327. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2327

     

     

     


  • Can alcohol intake increase your appetite?

    After a long, hard week you may be reaching for a nice, cold beer or a glass of wine. Sure, an alcoholic drink can take the edge off and lower your stress for a bit. However, it could increase your appetite and make healthy eating very hard to do. A recent study shows that this overeating caused by alcohol could be due to a gene that is activated by alcohol consumption.

    wine, health, alcoholAbout alcohol

    Alcohol has been enjoyed for thousands of years since about the 5th century AD.  This type of drink comes in many forms and flavors, is a central nervous system depressant that can relax the mind and body upon consumption. It is absorbed quickly from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Drinking too much though can impair mobility and cognition in the short-term. If consumed in excess over many years can increase risk of liver disease.

    Ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks. This substance is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugar, and starches into alcohol.  The way that ethanol affects you depends on a variety of factors including age, weight, how much you ate before drinking, and use of medications, to name a few. Regardless of these factors, the recommended maximum intake of alcohol for moderate consumption is 14 standard drinks a week for men and 7 standard drinks a week for women. One standard drink is equal to (ABV=alcohol by volume):

    • 12 ounces beer (5% ABV)
    • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% ABV)
    • 5 ounces of wine (12% ABV)
    • 1.5 ounces of liquor (40% ABV)

    Alcohol and appetite

    Drinking alcohol often occurs in establishments which serve unhealthy fare as french fries, nachos, hot wings, and other fried foods.  This type of food is thought to help those who are drinking to sober up. Research has found that all types of protein, fat, and carbohydrates can help you sober up after drinking, as long as you eat something.

    So, what if you don’t feel like eating after drinking? A recent study has found that this is an unlikely outcome. This is because alcohol triggers a neuron signal found in both animals and humans that increases appetite.  Starvation normally activates this neuron, known as Agrp, to increase a person’s motivation for eating.  However, ethanol can also activate these neurons.  This can explain why you may be extra hungry after a few drinks at the bar.

    If this type of drinking and eating becomes a pattern, it could lead to weight gain and heart health issues over time. Therefore, it is important that if you do drink alcohol, that you do so in moderation and make sure you limit eating too many unhealthy foods while drinking.

    Staying healthy during social hour

    Since hunger seems to be inevitable after drinking, week after week of this behavior may impact your health in a not-so-healthy way. Therefore, use the following tips to have your drink and stay healthy too.

    • Choose healthier food to munch on while drinking: Instead of fried foods, opt for a veggie plate with celery, carrots, and salad dressing. Or you could get a turkey burger without a bun topped with tons of vegetables like lettuce and tomato. Other options like baked chips and salsa, grilled chicken wings, or fruit salad are found at some bars and could be healthier drinking snack options.
    • Drink lots of water:  Drinking alcohol can dehydrate you since it reduces the activation of the hormone known as ADH or anti-diuretic hormone. When it does this, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water, so you urinate more. Over time, this can cause you to become dehydrated. Water is needed for many aspects of health, so if you do drink alcohol, drink plenty of water with it.
    • Find other ways to relax: If drinking wine or beer is a way for you to relax, perhaps try not to do it so much. Find other ways to relax such as walking, reading, yoga, meditation, or exercising, among other things.  You could also take a supplement such as Elevia by Vita Sciences that increases your “feel-good” hormone serotonin to help you relax. Elevia contains ingredients such as GABA and 5-htp to help calm your body and mind.

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

    References:

    Cains, S., Blomeley, C., Kollo, M., Racz, R., and Burdakov, D. (2017) “Agrp neuron activity is required for alcohol-induced overeating.” Nature Communications, 8:14014.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 29, 2018) “Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions.”

    Freudenrich, Ph.D., C. (accessed August 21, 2018) “How Alcohol Works.” How Stuff Works online.

    Gowin, Ph.D., J. (September 15, 2013) “What’s the Best Meal to Sober up after drinking?” Psychology Today online.


  • 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.”