Tag Archives: mental health

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”


  • Seven Simple Ways to Keep Your Weight Loss Resolutions This New Year

    exercise, goal, weight loss, new year resolutionEvery new year, many of us make resolutions to be healthier. Whether it be weight loss, exercising more, eating healthier, or managing stress better, such resolutions usually start off strong. However, by early spring, such goals usually lose steam and get pushed off until the next new year. That is why it is important to plan ahead before making any goals so you can make sure they are realistic and backed up with a lasting motivating factor. With such planning, you can make your new year’s goals come true this year and maintain such healthy habits for the long-term.

    What is a SMART goal?

    SMART goals provide a formula for the greatest success in goal-setting and achieving. SMART stands for:

    • Specific: Being specific requires you to be clear about the goal you want to set. For example, “I want to exercise 30 minutes a day for at least 3 days a week,” or “I want to lose 1 pound a week for the next 12 weeks.” Being specific is more helpful than just saying “I want to lose weight” or “I want to eat healthier.” Such general statements do not provide any concise marker to work towards, therefore they allow for a greater likelihood of non-compliance.
    • Measurable: The marker that a specific goal contains allows your progress to be measured. When you can measure how many days you have been able to exercise each week, or how many cups of water you drink each day, you can have a better idea of what areas of your healthy regimen are doing well, and which need more work. Tracking through an app or food journal can help with keeping track of such progress.
    • Attainable: Perhaps one of the most important parts of a goal is to make sure it is attainable. For example, if you currently consider yourself a couch potato, it would be a stretch to make a goal to run a marathon by the springtime.  A more attainable goal would be “I will train for a summertime 5K race.”
    • Relevant: Another important part of your goal is that it must be relevant to your life. You should never set a goal that someone else may have for you. This type of goal-setting is setting you up for disappointment, especially if you are only working towards that goal to gain approval from others. Set your goals for YOU and YOU only, and you will be sure to be successful.
    • Time-bound: Finally, it is important that your goals include a start and end time. Timing your goal makes it easier to keep track of your progress. For example, “In the next three months, I want to be able to work out for at least three times a week.” In addition, breaking these timed goals into small pieces, like a week or a month at a time, will make them more approachable. So instead of saying, “I want to lose 50 pounds this year,” saying “I want to lose 5 pounds this month” will make this large goal seem more possible.

    What are good motivating factors?

    To keep your motivation level strong, it is important to have some non-scale goals, or goals that have no number attached to them. For example, some non-scale goals may include:

    • Having more energy to play with your kids or grand kids.
    • Moving around with less pain.
    • Being on a reduced number of medications.
    • Fitting in an airplane seat or amusement park ride seat comfortably.

    What is a Realistic Weight Loss Goal?

    If you are one of the many people who wish to lose weight for the new year, it is important  to set healthy expectations. Fad diets may promise 20 pounds lost in 20 days, which may seem great. However, these quick results usually only end up with quick weight regain. This is because such plans end up depriving you of nutrients, make eating healthy feel miserable, and are hard to stick to long-term. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1 to 2 pounds a week is a healthy rate of weight loss.

    More Simple Steps to Getting Healthy This New Year

    • Simplify healthy eating. Instead of getting obsessed with counting every calorie and macronutrient, stick to the basics.  Get out your measuring cups and smaller dinner plates (about 9-inches in diameter) and follow these simple tips:
      • Have at least 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables each day, which do not include corn, peas, and potatoes. With the plate method, fill half of your plate with the non-starchy vegetables at meal time.
      • Limit starchy, refined foods such as rice, potatoes, and pasta. Stick to 1/2 cup at each meal, or with the plate method, 1/4 of your plate. Choose high-fiber starches such as brown rice, quinoa, beans, or sweet potato.
      • Make sure you eat enough protein. Although this may seem easy enough, I find a lot of my patients do not eat enough healthy proteins. To determine your protein needs each day, you can multiply your weight in pounds times 0.3 to give you an estimate in grams.  You may need more protein daily if you workout frequently.
    • Be more mindful. Mindfulness is important for all aspects of life. In eating, mindfulness may include:
      • meal planning and prepping
      • asking yourself if you are eating for hunger or emotions
      • chewing more per bite to really savor and enjoy your food

    Mindfulness in exercise may be choosing exercises you enjoy or listening to your                        body to find ways to move without causing pain. Everyday you can be mindful by                       being present in each moment. You can do this by listening actively to others and using relaxation breathing and meditation to manage stress.

    • Track your progress. Download an app like MyFitnessPal or MyPlate to help you track what you consume and the calories you burn. Some apps, such as Apple Health or Calm, can help you keep track of the number of mindfulness minutes you engage in daily.
    • Fill in the gaps with vitamins and supplements. Even the healthiest diets may be lacking some vitamins. In addition, some climates that may have less days of sunshine may make individuals prone to vitamin D deficiency.  It never hurts to have your healthcare provider check for your levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium, and iron. Low levels of these nutrients may result in such symptoms as low energy, depressed mood, or trouble sleeping.  Zestia by Vita Sciences contains several of these nutrients in addition to probiotics and a SuperFood complex to help promote optimal health inside and out.
    • Reward yourself. Every small goal you achieve should be celebrated. If you went a whole week without any drinking any sugary drinks, then reward yourself with a relaxing hot bath, or by enjoying a relaxing movie night at home.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 15, 2015) “Losing Weight.”

    Medline Plus (December 28, 2017) “8 Small Changes for a Slimmer You in 2018.” 

    Richardson, H. (December 29, 2017) “Holly Richardson: Resolutions, SMART goals, CLEAR goals and BHAGs.”

    Rossy, L. (April 29, 2016) “How Mindfulness Can Help You Stay Motivated to Exercise.” 

     


  • Could Coffee Help You Live Longer?

    coffee, lengthen life, health

    If you’re like me, the day does not begin until I have had my cup of coffee. Whether it be the aroma, the caffeine, or the wake up signal to my digestive system, my body craves coffee from the moment I rise from my evening slumber.  Over the years, there have been mixed reviews about whether or not this common habit was helping or harming us. However, a recent report has found that coffee may actually help you live longer.

    Coffee and Health

    Caffeine may be the first benefit you think about receiving when consuming your cup of joe. However, research has found that energy is not the only good thing that comes from consuming this beverage. Three cups of coffee a day has been found to be the magic number that can provide lower risk of many health conditions including:

    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Uterine and liver cancer

    The only exceptions to these positive findings include some studies of unfiltered forms of coffee. French press or espresso, which contain the substances cafestol and kahweol, may slightly increase cholesterol levels.  However, the decreased risk of many health conditions seems to outweigh such negative findings. A 2015 study found that consumption of the beverage is linked to an approximate 8 to 15 percent reduction in risk of death, with more benefits linked to those who drank more.  In addition, a June 2016 report by the World Health Organization removed coffee from its list of potentially carcinogenic foods.

    Coffee and Longer Life

    A recent report has found that moderate consumption of coffee, or about three cups a day, has been linked to:

    • lower risk of cancers of the prostate, endometrium, skin and liver.
    • decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and better insulin and blood glucose control.
    • decreased risk of liver disease, gout, and gallstones.
    • Lower incidence of cognitive conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, depression, and Alzheimer’s.

    The health benefits of decreased heart disease and diabetes risk have been linked to the antioxidant effect of chlorogenic acid.  Also, the coffee lipids cafestol and kahweol have been linked to possible lower risk of certain cancers and liver disease.

    Researchers are not sure of the exact component of the beverage that provides the most health benefits. Also, there is no solid proof that coffee lowers risk of any disease. However, the link between decreased incidence of death and coffee intake is suggested to be a good enough reason to add a bit of the beverage to your daily routine.

    Other ways to Improve Length of Life

    Besides drinking coffee, there are many small things you can do each day to help improve your quality and quantity of life.

    • Eat a fiber-rich diet of fruits and vegetables. Sounds simple enough, but unfortunately just 12-percent of Americans actually eat the suggested 2 cups each of fruits and vegetables each day.  Not only do these types of foods contain digestive-friendly fiber, but also contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have been found to provide many anti-inflammatory benefits that have been found to help lower risk of chronic disease.
    • Stop smoking and lower alcohol intake.  Any substance that your body sees as a toxin will put strain on a your health. Smoking in particular constricts blood vessels, therefore increasing risk of heart disease. On the other hand, alcohol can put a strain on your liver since it will have to work extra hard to filter this toxin from your body.
    • Reduce stress and get plenty of sleep. Stress can affect sleep and lack of sleep can be stressful. Therefore, it is important to manage one to help the other.  Relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking to someone can help you manage stress. For sleep, talk to your doctor about specific medications or supplements, such as melatonin, that may help you catch some more Z’s.
    • Take vitamins and supplements daily.  If you are not getting enough nutrients from the food you eat, a vitamin and supplement regimen may help. A recent study in China has found a potential link between the health of the gut and longer life.  A probiotic supplement daily, such as Biovia 30X by Vita Sciences, may help improve diversity of gut bacteria in your body and promote improved digestive health and immune support.

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

    Sources:

    Bian, G., et al. (2017) “The Gut Microbiota of Healthy Aged Chinese Is Similar to That of the Healthy Young.” mSphere, 2 (5): e00327-17 DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00327-17

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (January 2012) “What is it about coffee?”

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (September 25, 2017) “The latest scoop on the health benefits of coffee.”

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (September 2014; reviewed and updated October 31, 2017) “How to boost your immune system”

    Medline Health News (November 30, 2017) “Could Your Coffee Habit Lengthen Your Life?”

    Medline Health News (November 16, 2017) “CDC Wants America to Eat Its Fruit and Veggies”

     


  • Could No Sick Leave Cause Poor Health?

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

    Paid Sick Leave and Health Statistics

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

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

    Recent Research

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

    Protect Yourself Against Cold and Flu Season

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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


  • Could Estrogen Help Depression?

    Every once in a while, you may feel a bit gloomy, disappointed, or stressed. However, depression is much more than just having a bad day. Depression is a serious mood disorder that can make simple tasks such as eating, working, and sleeping much more sad, anxiety, depression, menopause, mental healthdifficult. A recent study has found that low estrogen levels in some women may be linked to depression.

    According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), depression occurs when you have several of the following symptoms for more than two weeks.

    • persistent sad mood
    • hopelessness
    • loss of interest in things that were once enjoyable
    • decreased energy
    • trouble focusing or making decisions
    • appetite or weight changes
    • thoughts of taking one’s own life
    • aches or pains with no clear cause

    Also, a person may be at higher risk for depression if they have a family history of the condition. Major life changes or chronic health problems may also increase their risk. Most recently, a study in Menopause showed that a lack of estrogen exposure may put women at higher risk for depression.

    The study looked at 1300 women and their level of estradiol exposure related to their depression risk. It was found that those with higher levels of estradiol exposure from the onset of menstruation to menopause had lower levels of depression.  Also, those women who had longer term use of birth control had a lower risk of the condition.  It is important to know that the number of pregnancies and use of breastfeeding did not impact these results.

    There is no cause and effect of low estrogen and depression, but these study results are still important.  This is because those with earlier menopause, more frequent hot flashes, and less frequent periods all were at higher risk for depression.  Hormone changes are likely to blame for this. During such times during and after menopause, women are at much higher risk for depression than others.

    Therefore, if you feel you may be dealing with depression, there are many resources for help.  There is no one treatment that will help everyone. First of all, let your doctor know if you are feeling depressed. Your doctor may be able to provide medicines that may make dealing with your depression easier to deal with. Also, they could test your hormone levels and provide hormone supplements that may reduce symptoms. Other resources for depression are listed below.

    • Talk therapy with a licensed health care provider can help you talk about your feelings. Such counseling can help you manage your stress better and cope with life issues in a healthy way.
    • Being more active through walking, running, gardening, or other exercises. The fresh air from nature and the “feel good” hormones released during exercise can help improve mood.
    • Spending time with other people such as family, friends, or support groups can improve your mood. Talking with others that care about you and your health can help you see that you are not alone in dealing with life’s issues.
    • Setting realistic goals for yourself can make life easier to deal with. Taking small steps towards your goals can make life seem less overwhelming. You should celebrate each small victory and don’t be afraid to ask others for help along the way.
    • Ask your doctor about trying certain supplements such as Estrosa by Vitasciences.  Estrosa contains compounds such as Black Cohosh that have been found to help relieve the hot flashes, weight gain, bloating, and mood swings related to menopause. For both women and men, Elevia by Vitasciences helps boost serotonin levels which can improve mood and calm the mind.

    Also, foundations such as Hope for Depression provide valuable resources to help those depression, foundationwith depression learn more about the condition. Also,  this foundation helps support research efforts to find better treatments for those with depression.

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

    Sources:

    Medline Plus (July 21, 2017) “Estrogen May Influence Women’s Depression Risk” https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167353.html

    National Institute of Mental Health (October 2016) “Depression” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml


  • Unexpected Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    Fatigue, memory loss, and painful numbness and tingling are some of the earliest symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. Yet many people with even moderate vitamin B12 deficiency or worse, pernicious anemia, are surprised to learn that a host of other underlying health problems can also be attributed to not having enough vitamin B12 in your blood supply. Listed are some startling symptoms associated with severely low vitamin B12 levels.

    Unexpected Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

     

    Unexpected Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    Vitamin B12 is such an important nutrient for survival; it should come as no surprise that a depletion of vitamin B12 should manifest itself in so many seemingly-unconnected ailments.

    Scientists have seen where individuals may suffer for years from depression, heart palpitations, dizziness, or difficulty conceiving a baby without ever making the connection between that and vitamin B12 deficiency, where a few months of intense supplementation can reverse the symptoms.

    Emotional difficulties, illness

    Chronic depression, anxiety, and even paranoia are all listed as possible symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.  In patients diagnosed with mental disorders such as bipolar or schizophrenia, researchers have noted that an underlying vitamin B12 deficiency can worsen their symptoms even more so.

    This is not to say that your anxieties or bouts of depression aren’t real. Rather, get your vitamin B12 levels checked, and see if supplementing with extra vitamin B12 has a positive effect on your emotional state- which it very likely will.

    Never discontinue taking any antidepressants, antipsychotic or other medications without your doctor’s consent.

    Infertility

    Vitamin B12 deficiency is directly linked with many ailments that interfere with family planning. From the beginning, before trying to conceive, depletion in vitamin B12 can increase your risk for complications during pregnancy and nerve damage in utero.

    Researchers have noted that mothers who have severe vitamin B12 deficiency before, during, or after pregnancy are more likely to suffer miscarriage, deliver prematurely, or give birth to a baby with neural tube defects and inability to thrive.

    If you are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, then it’s a good idea to take vitamin B12 injections or other non-dietary vitamin B12 supplementations before getting pregnant, during your pregnancy, and afterwards while breastfeeding.

    For more, read Vitamin B12 and your Sex Drive

    Heart disease

    Vitamin B12 deficiency doesn’t cause heart disease, but it can inhibit your ability to synthesize homocysteine properly. Vitamin B12 is essential for digesting the amino acid homocysteine, keeping it in check and preventing hyperhomocysteinemia- elevated homocysteine in the blood supply.

    Excess homocysteine is attributed to increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. Signs may include heart palpitations, fatigue, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

    To keep homocysteine levels under control, it’s important to also maintain vitamin B12 levels in your bloodstream.

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    Have you noticed constant tiredness, sadness, or brain fog? These are common signs of vitamin B12 deficiency.

    Do you have questions about symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency? Please drop us a line below!