Tag Archives: mental health

Is eight hours of sleep enough for your health?

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

Why is sleep important?

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

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

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

New sleep recommendations

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

How to get better sleep

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    What is mental health?

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

    How can being lonely affect your health?

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

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

    Ways to help improve your mood

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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


  • Could your sleep patterns affect your mental health?

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

    The Importance of Sleep

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

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

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

    Sleep and Mental Health

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

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

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

    Ways to Help You Get More Sleep

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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


  • Is anxiety on the rise in America?

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

    What is anxiety?

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

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

    Anxiety on the Rise

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

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

    How to Reduce Anxiety

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • 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 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 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”