Author: aimee

Keeping Bones Strong!

x-ray-bonesLiterally meaning “porous bone”, osteoporosis is a very common bone disease causing bones to be weak and brittle. Like other tissues in our body new bone cells are created to replace the old ones but in osteoporosis, the body loses too much bone, can’t keep up with replacing the old bone cells, or both. This can cause bones to break under normally benign situations like a low fall or coughing. Broken or fractured bones can be painful and lead to life-altering loss of mobility.

Osteoporosis is an increasingly common disease causing over 2 million broken bones every year in the United States. It is estimated that one in two women and about one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to this disease. Interestingly, many people – 84% – don’t test or get treated for osteoporosis after a bone fracture even though that is often the first indicator of the disease. Because of this missed connection to osteoporosis and its painless development, it is sometimes referred to as “the silent disease”. Fractured or broken bones especially in the hip, wrist, and spine, a decrease in height, and a curved spine can be indicators for osteoporosis.

Some factors may increase a person’s risk for developing the disease, including:

  • Family history
  • Aging
  • Postmenopausal women or those with low estrogen
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Low calcium and vitamin D intake
  • Underweight or obesity (excessive abdominal fat)
  • Some medications
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Smoking
  • Over-consumption of alcohol

Recognizing risk factors empowers people to take control of their situation and make active decisions about their health. While a common disease often associated with the elderly, osteoporosis is by no means a normal part of aging. Luckily, it is preventable and manageable. There are lots of resources available but a balanced diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy body weight go a long way for prevention. As an added bonus it also helps prevent other conditions like heart disease and diabetes! Even if you don’t drink milk, there are alternatives for calcium and vitamin D (which helps the body absorb the calcium). Pay attention to how your medicine or other health conditions can affect your bone density. Speak to your healthcare provider about specific risk factors, prevention options, and screening as they apply to you.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation experts point out, “…that osteoporosis is often considered a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences…” because almost all of a person’s bone mass is developed by the ages of 18 for females and 20 for males. Lifestyle decisions throughout life can have an impact on later health so it’s never too early or late to start making conscious, healthy decisions. Conversations between the older and younger generations may help improve future health projections.

 

Springing Into A Healthier You!

Spring is coming and many of us feel the renewed energy that comes with it. This is a great time for people to let air in through open windows and clear out unwanted junk. Maybe you’ve been Marie Kondo-ing your life too since watching her Netflix show or reading her book. Like your home, your body needs attention to keep it a fit and tidy place for you. It’s always a good idea to assess what our body is trying to tell us and give it the best care possible. Let’s spring clean our health habits and get us in our best shape!

Diet

salmon and veggie plate

The dreaded diet talk. It’s not always the most fun to talk about but it’s an important topic. It’s number one in this case because eating is an everyday need that can have a very direct impact on a person’s health. An easy way to start for many will be to aim for a balanced diet while learning more about nutrition needs and then to make adjustments from there depending on independent nutrition goals. Some will do best doing a complete overhaul, while others may prefer a step-by-step approach but always tell your physician about any big diet changes to make sure they align with any health conditions.  

A good beginning point is to re-frame what a diet is: fad diets, quick fixes, and pills rarely work in the long-term and in some cases can have negative effects. Avoiding those potentially dangerous options can minimize disappointment, unnecessary money spending, and wasted efforts. Instead, focus on long-term sustainable eating habits that fuel the body healthfully. Complete elimination of certain foods isn’t always necessary, and in fact, some believe that it drives people to binge on unhealthy foods. The key is balance and being happy with what you’re eating.

A balanced diet includes eating from the 5 basic food groups: fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. The serving size of each and amount of calories needed varies depending on age, activity level, and other factors. Substitutions are a great way to begin incorporating healthier options, like popcorn instead of chips or greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream. Along with that, minimizing processed foods in favor of whole foods is another way to improve one’s health through diet. Portion control is a powerful way to control diet because even too much of a good thing is still too much – 500 calories of organic kale chips is still 500 calories. Learning to read food labels and ingredient lists is also an important skill for awareness of what is going into your body and deciding what is important for your goals. Whatever factors influence your purchases, like if something is non-GMO or organic, those are personal decisions but it’s important to be an informed consumer to ensure you’re making the right choices for yourself. Many companies mask ingredients by using alternative names or use vague and misleading labeling. There are over 100 different ways to just write sugar!

It can all be really overwhelming and confusing but there are lots of resources on the internet to learn more about proper nutrition. It’s important to get information from reputable sources, however, because there are some out there with false information and often trying to push a product. Speaking with your doctor or finding a trained and certified dietitian are also really great ways to find a plan that is safely customized just for you.

Exercise

While eating healthy definitely gets you on the right track, using that energy is the next step. The average adult should be getting about 75 minutes of intense or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity spread out over a week. 30 minutes of moderate activity is a good place to start but if that’s too long, a couple 5 minute options like walking work too. The important part is to move! Most people should also opt for strength training twice a week that covers the major muscle groups. If you’re just starting on a work out routine, it’s OK to take it slow and ramp up as you gain strength. If it’s too difficult at the start it may feel like a chore to do, the soreness may be demotivating, and it could be dangerous if you and your body are not properly prepared for the task. Start off with a manageable regimen and build on it as you gain strength and ability. Working with a trainer to learn proper alignment and information is an option that may take some of the guesswork out. Changes in exercise habits is something to talk with your doctor as well to ensure it doesn’t conflict with any potential health conditions.

Sometimes meeting those activity goals can seem daunting. Joining a class or a club is a really great way to stay active and even meet new people. It might open doors to activities you never thought of too – an ultimate frisbee team, a martial arts club, a cycling group – there are many options out there or start your own! Finding ways to make being active exciting and fun is a great way to keep up with it while enjoying it. Just don’t forget your rest days, especially if you’re involved in an intense activity, they’re just as important! On top of meeting the physical activity goal, don’t forget to get up from time to time. Sitting for long stretches isn’t great for posture, blood circulation, and may even lead to metabolic issues. There are lots of options for staying active throughout the day and week, the trick is finding what’s right for you!

Screenings and Check Ups

Dr check upIt may be tempting to reschedule or cancel appointments because we feel fine but it is very important to have regular check-ups and not only coming in at critical times. Annual physicals are a great time to let your doctor know about your diet and exercise habits as well as for raising any concerns or asking questions. Screenings are an important part of a comprehensive health regimen as it allows physicians to catch conditions early, especially if you may be predisposed for something. This allows for treatment to start right away increasing chances for positive results. In fact, since regular screenings have been started, mortality rates for many conditions has dropped. Keeping on top of your health with regular checkups and screenings allows for early diagnosis which may offer more options for medicine and treatment and can potentially save you time and money in the long run.   

Mental Wellness

meditationOne of the many great benefits of our ever growing modern culture is the destigmatize of mental health issues. This has allowed people to get the help they need and for more research to be done to further help and understand those conditions. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself every now and then, even if you don’t think you need it. The good news is that the earlier topics covered can help improve mental health so if you’re following those you’re already a step in the right direction! Everyone’s needs are different but there are bountiful resources online to learn different ways for self-care.

Talking to someone can be a really great way to find relief, closure, or help in something you may be dealing with. There are also a number of new apps and online resources to connect you with a professional if the traditional methods are not available. Even starting with a journal can be a way to process emotions, thoughts, and questions. There are lots of different ways to center ourselves whether it’s going outside, cuddling in a fuzzy blanket, mediating, a hot bath, exercising, a certain smell or food; there are so many different things to try. Finding balance in ourselves is a journey we take during our lives, it may be chaotic or stressful at times, but it shapes us and we can learn to overcome our obstacles. There is never anything wrong with reaching out for help and always know there are options.

 

There’s no better time than now to take control of our lives and health. If all of this seems overwhelming, break down the steps and incorporate each bit slowly. We may prioritize parts differently but as long as there are consistent efforts to make better daily decisions, we’re in the right direction. Let’s open our metaphorical windows and air out our bad habits.

 

Sleep: The Foundation of Life

2019 is ramping up to be the “year of healthy” for many people. With modern science, a plethora of information at our fingertips, and a better understanding for the need to take care of ourselves people are buying up the latest gadgets, apps, and anything else they can get their hands on. But, the foundation of a healthy, happy lifestyle might be a lot easier than any of us expected: begin with sleep. Sleep is the baseline for a lot of aspects we want to improve on including our personal life, professional life, and our bodies. As the world becomes more connected and our lives more hectic, we are at a height of sleep deprivation as a society globally and it only seems like it’s going to get worse.

So, why is sleep so important?

Weight loss

Sleep plays an important role in weight loss. First, proper sleep gives the energy needed during the day to be active. Often when people feel sluggish or tired they are less likely to work out or keep their routines. Insufficient sleep can also disrupt hormone production. In this case, specifically ghrelin and leptin which are both related to appetite. Simply put, ghrelin is linked to the feeling of hunger while leptin makes us feel satiated and poor sleep increases ghrelin levels while lowering leptin. This can be where midnight munchies kick in—staying up late can lead us to eating more and later than we normally would. It’s not too hard to see how those hormone level changes along with lack of exercise could inhibit weight loss goals, so save the snacks and get those 8 hours of sleep in.

The Brain

For the brain, sleep does a number of things. A person’s memory and processing may improve with proper sleep and it gives the brain a chance to clean itself. Reaction time, cognitive abilities, and mood are seriously affected by sleep deprivation. A person’s ability to handle stress diminishes without sleep and are at risk for increased likelihood of anxiety and depression. Traffic incidents increase around daylight savings time when drivers lose an hour of sleep so their alertness, reaction, and overall cognitive functions are impaired.

The Body

Sleep doesn’t just affect us mentally but also physically. After a really good workout, despite how energetic a person might have been during it, the body gets sore. Exercise creates micro-tears that lead to the forming of more muscle which leads to our soreness sometimes days after. While there’s a few ways to help with that delayed onset muscle soreness—stretching, ice baths, epsom salts, etc—sleep helps with that healing process. For any injury or sickness, rest is extremely important in the body’s recovery process. There’s a number of things going on for the body while you sleep but growth hormones and prolactin, an anti-inflammatory, is released during deep sleep. Research has also shown that a person’s sensitivity to pain and sleep have an inverse relationship, meaning the less sleep a person gets the more pain they may experience.

The Organs

This is a separate topic from the body because the organs deserve their own spotlight. Sleep’s reach and effect on all parts of a person is astounding. Insufficient sleep is associated with poor cholesterol and blood pressure levels thus increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease. Like bad accidents during daylight savings times, heart attacks and strokes increase during that time as well. Some research shows multi-organ injury through successive sleep deprivation, which is a common problem in society and may explain chronic disease increases. Cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, is regulated by the adrenal gland which can be disrupted by inadequate sleep. Cortisol controls a number of things in the body so when there’s too much of it problems can arise such as headaches, memory issues, trouble sleeping, weight gain, anxiety, depression, heart disease, and blood sugar issues. There’s also some research that suggests poor quality sleep could lead to an increased risk of certain cancers. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and may suppress tumor growth.

Skin and Hair

Beauty sleep isn’t just a saying. A restful night does wonders for the face and hair. Bags under the eyes is one of the more obvious signs of poor sleep but wrinkles and a dull complexion are also key indications. Collagen is produced while sleeping which can prevent wrinkles and even just 5 hours of sleep can make skin drier making fine lines more noticeable. Blood flow is increased during a long slumber giving a glowing complexion and stronger, fuller hair. Cortisol, the stress hormone mentioned earlier, can cause hair to fall out! A full night sleep is crucial for healthy skin, hair, and nails.

This only scratches the surface of the benefits of restful sleep and the pitfalls of sleep deprivation. It is critically important to everyone’s health to do their best to get enough sleep. It can be difficult in this ever-busy and connected world, and there’s no replacement for a full night of sleep, but a nap can offer some benefits as well. It’s also important to remember, there is no such thing as “catching up on sleep”; once it’s lost, it’s gone. Set a bedtime and get in those ZZZs.

We wish you all a good night’s sleep!

A Heart Healthy Diet

fruit, watermelon heart cutoutFebruary is American Heart Month. The heart is the pump that keeps the body going. It has physical and emotional meanings for us so it’s important to take care of it. There’s also reason to believe that preventing heart disease may help with preventing dementia. A great way to take care of the heart is to be conscious of what we’re eating. These are some tips for a heart-healthy diet.

Fiber. It’s not the most glamorous aspect of nutrition but it’s extremely important for everyone. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to make sure you’re getting enough daily. Not only does it help keep you regular but it also helps lower your LDL – the bad cholesterol. For adult women aim for about 28g and adult men should get about 34g of fiber. These amounts can vary with age.

Fats. Not all fats are created equal. There are three types: saturated, unsaturated (mono- and poly-), and trans fatty acids. Opt for unsaturated fats like canola, peanut, and olive. These types of fats are less likely to clog your arteries compared to butter and lard. Omega-3 fatty acids, notably found in fish, are thought to help in several ways like clearing plaque in arteries and lowering blood pressure. Avoid trans fats as best you can. These have been shown to have negative effects on the body especially in terms of cardiovascular health. It is not found much in natural food, presenting mostly in processed foods, which, many dieticians can agree aren’t very good for you anyway.

Speaking of processed foods. Here it is again: Reduce the amount of processed foods you consume. Not just for the trans fats but the amounts of salt and sugar can be problematic. Keep an eye on nutrition labels to keep within recommended levels.  When cooking, try using seasonings to flavor foods instead of adding salt. The case for sugar alternatives is long and complicated, so be mindful of how much you consume in general.

Manage portion sizes. How much you eat is just as important as what you’re eating. Excessive calorie intake can lead to weight gain which can lead to stresses on the heart. Actual serving sizes of foods may change depending on diet needs but it’s important to get the appropriate amount of sustenance. It may be a good idea to limit the consumption of red and processed meats while making sure to eat 3.5oz serving of fish twice a week. And be sure to get at least 5 cups of fruit and vegetables daily! Food diaries are popular for those looking to track their nutritional intake and it’s even easier with the growing number of apps available.

Don’t forget to exercise! Diet and exercise go hand in hand for living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Getting the blood pumping has many heart benefits like raising the “good” cholesterol, managing blood sugar, and keeping weight in check. 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise is a good starting point but always talk to your doctor before starting a new workout regime.

Quit smoking. There’s no way around it and you’ve probably seen it everywhere. All the hard work done through diet and exercise could be negated by smoking tobacco. Quitting may be even better than any heart drug on the market and it decreases your chance of dying from heart disease by 33%.

There are no shortcuts to health so it’s important to keep up with a healthy lifestyle. There is never a bad time to start but there may certainly be benefits to sooner rather than later. Let now be the time you take your health and your life in your hands.

Happy heart day!

7 Ways To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

setting goals

Have you set your resolutions for 2019? Have you kept up with it or has it already began to fall to the wayside?

Many of us begin the year optimistically with a handful of goals and aspirations we’d like to accomplish by the end of the year only to find ourselves repeating those same goals again for the next or even altogether giving up on resolutions entirely. It can be a vicious and deflating experience.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Let this year be the year you accomplish your goals!

1. Choose Small Actionable Goals

A big goal isn’t a bad thing but if it’s vague like “lose weight”, “be healthy”, “be smarter” then what are you really trying to accomplish? Think about what your true intentions are and how you’ll get there. Is “be healthy” really that you want to get stronger or maybe you want to take your self-care more seriously? If you’re trying to get stronger, how will you get there? Saying that you just want to bench an extra 50 or 100 pounds might sound good but that’s not going to happen in the span of a week so maybe you’ll plan to add 5 pounds for now. Or you want to be more mindful and take better care of your body so you want to increase your water and yoga practice. It could be your goal to start off by drinking 20 oz of water every day with the intention of increasing it throughout the year and you might begin with 10 minutes of yoga daily. Everyone’s approach will be different for what they want in their life but each goal should be very specific with a game plan in mind. It will help make goals seem more attainable and less daunting.

2. Create Deadlines

Now that you have your goal broken down, add timelines to them. This will help you stay on course and level up your abilities as you go. Don’t feel bad if you need to adjust your timeline. Maybe that 20th pound added to your weights is harder to overcome than the last sets so you want to take some more time before adding more weight. If you hit a roadblock or begin to plateau just reexamine where you are and re-adjust your plan.

3. Be Selective

It can be easy, as you’re thinking of resolutions, to create a long list of things you’d like to accomplish but be careful! Too many things can become overwhelming and may cause you to lose sight of all of them. Pare down your list into the most important ones and just focusing on one thing is fine.

4. Track

Be sure to keep track of your goals and your accomplishments. This will help you see where you’ve come from and what you still have left. Keeping a clear sight of this can be motivating as well. Habit trackers can be very handy and you can find many apps or write it out to help keep you on track.

5. Reward Yourself!

With all your tracking you’ll know when you’ve reached deadlines or milestones so give yourself a big congratulations and reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything huge but a little self-acknowledgement can go a long way. Maybe there is a new place you wanted an excuse to visit or you’ve been holding out on getting a small item. These could be opportunities to reward yourself. But it could be as small as giving yourself 10 minutes of just you time in a corner with a candle. And it might feel silly but actually say to yourself, “good job!” or “you’re doing awesome!” as you’re going through this process. You are your own biggest cheerleader to cheer away!

6. Find Support

There are actually studies showing that if you share your intentions of a goal it creates a similar sense of accomplishment from having actually done the goal. So, it may be best to keep quiet about what you’re hoping to do this year, however, depending on certain goals, it may be helpful to have a few close friends or family know to help keep you accountable. Sometimes when you’re feeling stuck it can be nice to have someone to talk to about where you’re at and the difficulties you’re facing. It can create insight for yourself to talk things out with someone else or maybe they’ll share something helpful. You may even have friends with similar goals that you can work with (or some friendly competition) to accomplish the goals.

7. Keep Going!

Pitfalls happen. It’s OK. If you find yourself falling off the rails a bit – maybe things got really busy at work – just jump back in. Tell yourself it’s OK and just continue on. Things happen and you can’t let it deter you. If you’re struggling a lot try reevaluating what’s going on in your life, your goals, and if they’re still aligned and realistic. Again, it’s ok to adjust your goals. Just keep going!

If this is your first year really working toward your new year’s resolution, it can seem a daunting task and it can get hard at times. Just keep going and when the next year comes look back at how it went. Every time you go through this process you will understand it and yourself better. It’s also never too late to make a goal. You don’t have to wait for a new year to want to improve something about yourself or in your life. And remember, always be proud of what you accomplish and good luck with your goals!

And to get a deeper understanding of creating habits, watch this video of BJ Fogg during a TEDx Talk.