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Aging Gracefully

April 1, 2010

I’ve often heard people say that although they are afraid to get old, but that it’s better than the alternative (dying young). I had thought that was a good philosophy, until I went to my health class on Tuesday. We watched videos on Alzheimer’s and dementia and all the disabilities that come with getting old. It talked about the fact that our health care is at a point right now that we don’t let our bodies die when they naturally would. We fight off infectious diseases that took many lives in the past. We treat chronic diseases to such an extent that even when people can no longer swallow food, we put a feeding tube in them to keep them alive even further. Is this pushing nature too far? By the time many of our seniors die, they are so debilitated that they completely rely on others (whether it be nurses or family) to survive. I couldn’t help but think that this is such an awful way to live your last days. This is strictly my own personal opinion.

The bright side of all of this is that there are things that we can do, both to age better and to hopefully even avoid those diseases that cause deterioration of the brain. The biggest one: EXERCISE! While it may seem that this only keeps your body healthier, it also helps keep your brain healthier. Scientists typically say that what is good for your body is good for your brain (this also includes eating healthy foods). By exercising regularly, it keeps blood flowing better to your brain, resulting in less gray matter development. Another way to keep your brain healthy is to exercise your brain. By doing puzzles and solving problems, it also helps our brain stay strong, because it is being used. Try checking out this website for simple puzzles to do: http://www.brainbashers.com/

Exercise will also keep your body healthier. It will keep your muscles strong and your bones strong. It is even more important to stay motivated to move as we get older. It is never too late to start. Just keep moving!

Remember to keep the other aspects of your live  (social, spiritual, etc) healthy too!

Check out this website for more helpful ideas: http://websites.afar.org/site/PageServer?pagename=IA_Advocacy

ZZzzzz……

March 29, 2010

sleep. That’s all I want to do right now.

Unfortunately, that’s because I am part of the 70% of adults that do not get the recommended amount of sleep each night. With our society, we have become a 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week kind of people. There are so many things that we need to get done (or rather, things that we are expected to get done), and we still only have the same amount of time to do it in.

The risks of not getting adequate sleep are many. They range from things as seemingly insignificant as irritability and skin damage to higher risks of cancer, heart disease and obesity. Other risks include things such as drowsiness, which can be dangerous for drivers, and lack of productivity at work.

So how can we avoid these consequences and try to get more shut-eye?

Try this:

1. evaluate how your are using your time throughout the day. See what you can eliminate and replace with an earlier bedtime (ex: if you find that you are spending an hour watching useless tv or surfing the web, you can go to bed an hour earlier instead)

2. Avoid caffeine. Although it gives you a little boost throughout the day, it can stay in your system for hours, thus resulting in laying in bed awake at night.

3. Do not exercise within 2 hours of going to bed. When your heart rate is up, your body will not want to go to sleep.

4. Don’t think about things that may make you worry before bed. Think carefree thoughts. Keep a notepad by your bed to jot down anything you are worried about forgetting in the morning. Once you write it down, stop thinking about it.

5. Make your bed a place for sleeping only. No working in bed. If it is a place your mind associates with sleep, you will be more likely to sleep.

6. Make your room dark- use blinds, drapes, shades, a sleep-mask– whatever you need to do to keep the light out.

7. Establish a regular bedtime and wake-up time, and stick to it as best as you can- even on weekends.

Simple ways to cut calories

March 26, 2010

To start off with, allow me get up on my soap box for a minute (one of the many, as I’m discovering). okay, ready, go!

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I turn on the television and commercial after commercial is advertising diet pills, miracle exercise equipment (use this for 5 minutes a day and you can look like THIS!), liposuction, and basically new ways to get to your “dream body” fast and easy. Forgive my language, but this is BULL! Losing weight is not going to be a product of taking a pill every night, or drinking a shake loaded down with expensive protein powder. Losing weight is going to come as a result of hard work. Yes, that’s right, ladies and gents, it takes work to lose that stubborn weight. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s true. Especially if you are looking to actually maintain that weight loss, it needs to come as a result of a lifestyle change, not just some 3 month long program that you join and can’t wait to get off so that you can get back to your french fries, ice cream and Oreo cookies. It’s not just about being skinny, it’s more about being healthy! And weight loss is just a nice side benefit.

Okay. whew. Sorry about that. It’s been building up inside of me for a while, as I’m sure you could tell. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my Oreos as much as the next person, but its all about moderation. If a weight loss plan sounds too good to be true, most likely, it is!

As complicated as people try to make it, what maintaining/losing/gaining weight really comes down to is calories.

  • If you want to maintain your weight, your intake has to match your output.
  • If you want to lose weight, your intake has to be less than your output.
  • and If you want to gain weight, your intake has to exceed your output.

One pound is approximately 3,500 calories. This means, you need to create a calorie deficit of 1,000 per day to lose 2 pounds per week, and 500 per day to lose 1 pound a week. That deficit can be created by either eating smarter and finding more nutrient-dense food to enjoy, or by exercising, OR preferably, BOTH! Studies have shown that combining healthy eating patterns with daily exercise is the most effective method for weight loss, particularly for sustained weight loss.

To figure out whether  or not a food is nutrient dense, you must look at the nutrition label. Take the amount of calories and divide it into 2000, and then turn it into a percentage. Or, The easiest way that I like to do it is take the calories and divide it by 10, and then divide that by 2. That’s your percentage of calories (of a 2000 calorie diet) for the day that are in that one food item. Then, taking that percentage, look and see if anything healthy in that food item (like iron, fiber, protein or any vitamins or minerals) has a higher percentage than the amount of calorie percentage. The more items that are higher than the calories, the better off you are. That means that you are getting more good things (nutrients) than calories. You’ll most likely reach your recommended These foods are sometimes called Nutrient-Dense Superfoods.

Cutting back calories doesn’t mean you starve yourself. In fact, there are quite a few very painless ways to cut back on the calories you eat.

Try This:

1. Focusing on nutrient dense food is a biggie! Rather than eating that donut for breakfast, have a slice of whole grain bread and a banana instead. You’ll feel just as satisfied (if not more so), plus you’ll get more nutrients, AND it will be less calories! What else could you want?

2. Try cutting back your portion sizes. Many times we eat past the point that we need to, because we eat so quickly that the message our body sends to our brain to tell us we’re full doesn’t get to us until it’s too late and we’ve eaten too much. So I guess this tip is actually two-fold. First of all, eat slower, so you have time to recognize the “full” signal. And second, cut back your portions. Try eating from a smaller plate. You will have the illusion that you are eating just as much (because your plate will still look full), but you won’t be (because there is less room to load up the plate with food)– thus eating less calories without even thinking twice about it.

3. If you currently drink 2% or whole milk, try cutting back to 1% (low fat) or skim milk. You will still get the calcium and other nutrients in the milk, but you will not get as much saturated fat or calories.

4. Try replacing things in your diet. Instead of using butter in your cooking, most recipes you can replace the butter with applesauce. Sounds strange I know. But just experiment. Start with half and half. Replace 1 stick of butter with an equal amount of applesauce (1/2 cup). For more tips on this, you can search the internet and find millions of tips and advice from people.

5. Just say NO! to eating when you are not hungry. Many of us eat out of boredom, because of emotions, or as part of a social activity. If you’re not hungry, don’t even think about putting it in your mouth.

6. Forego some of the foods you know are bad for you. If you eat a Snickers bar daily, eliminating that will help a ton. There goes about 300 calories each day!

7. Drink more water. Many times we confuse the feeling of thirst with the feeling of hunger. If you think you’re hungry, drink a glass of water. Wait a few minutes. Then if you still feel hungry, it probably really is hunger. Plus, this way you’ll stay more hydrated, which is healthier as well.

8. Finally, shop healthily. If you don’t buy it, chances are you won’t eat it. This puts the main pressure of your eating decisions on your grocery shopping trip. Make a list. Make sure the foods on the list are healthy foods that will not hurt your weight loss efforts, and then only buy the foods on your list. Avoid the cookie aisle. Don’t look at the candy bars by the register. Just don’t do it.

(don’t feel like you have to totally eliminate anything that isn’t fruit or whole grain. You can still eat those less healthy foods you love. Just keep it to a minimum. Moderation is key here. Remember, it’s about being healthy!)

Healthy Self-Esteem

March 25, 2010

This is something I feel is a very big problem in our society. We are taught (from an incredibly young age), that you have to look a certain way to be pretty; that you have to act a certain way for people to like you; that you have to have certain things to be important. THIS IS ALL WRONG! All of it. It scares me to see 10 year old girls who look like they are 18. It scares me to think that children in elementary school can have eating disorders because they are not being accepted for how they are and they feel like they need to be different. It makes me sad that there are so many people who don’t understand what it means to truly like and appreciate themselves for who they are- not what kind of shoes they have or what car they drive. That so many people don’t think they are good enough. I admit, this is a problem I have had my fair share of struggles with as well, so don’t think I’m just pointing my finger at everyone else.

I feel so strongly that this is a problem brought on by the society we live in– and that we have the power to change it! Now, I’m not being paid by Dove to say this, but I completely LOVE their program of Real Beauty. It is so inspiring. I couldn’t decide which of these commercials I liked more, so I decided to post both. The first one is just frightening.

It blows my mind to see the transformation that they do to this girl, and then they display it and tell us that this is what we should look like.

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And the second one, it makes me smile, but at the same time, it just makes me want to cry. Its so sad, yet so sweet at the same time. What are we teaching our children, if they are afraid to come out of the house because of what they look like?

Having self-esteem is so critical. When you feel that you are a worthwhile person, you’ll be less vulnerable to the world and more likely to make good choices regarding yourself and your body. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you will enjoy life so much more. You can stop worrying about what others think and only worry about what you think. Be who you want to be and who you feel that you should be. Everyone else gets to decide who they will be- don’t let them decide who you will be. Try taking this short self esteem test... see if there are things you can improve on. (Now, don’t get down on yourself if the score isn’t what you want it to be– that would be totally counter-productive. Just take it as a helpful suggestion of what you can concentrate on.)

Lets do our best to not judge others. Lets all try to accept each other as equals and try a little bit harder to be a good friend and reach out to those who made need us. Service is a strong way to build self-esteem. When we stop thinking about ourselves and our own problems, its amazing how much those things just take care of themselves anyways.

Cancer- staying healthy

March 24, 2010

Cancer is a scary thing. Even the word can instantly create strong feelings in many people. Practically everyone’s life has been touched by cancer in one way or another. I doubt you could find a person walking this earth that doesn’t know someone who had cancer or someone that even died from cancer.

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. By 2030, it is estimated that 12 million deaths per year will be a result of cancer, which is an increase of 5 millions deaths compared to 2004. And the most incredible thing about it is that more than one third of those cancer cases can be prevented! Many cancers are caused by tobacco use, alcohol consumption, high-fat diets, having an unhealthy body weight, and lack of physical activity.

They way to prevent many types of cancer should be fairly obvious now– avoid those risk factors listed above. Additional risk factors include having a low fruit and vegetable intake, contracting sexually transmitted diseases, or heavy inhalation of urban air pollution. Try to increase avoidance with all of those risk factors, receive vaccinations against Human papilloma virus and hepatitis B, and reduce exposure to sunlight- which can lead to skin cancer.

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared a “war on Cancer.” A lot of money is being spent to find cures and we are finally beginning to gain the upper hand against cancer. I think this is wonderful, especially considering how many deaths are caused by it. However, I also think that prevention is essential. It’s much more cost effective, and much easier on people’s lives and the lives of their families. It feel very strongly that this is something we need more awareness of- which is probably why I’m studying public health.Of course we need to keep working to find cures for those cancers that are not preventable. Or that still happen despite our best efforts to avoid them, but just remember, a lot of it is up to you: Would you rather make time today to exercise? Or would you rather make time later to deal with cancer?

Flossing your teeth…

March 22, 2010

Seems like a strange, trivial thing to focus on for a whole post, right? WRONG!

Flossing your teeth is actually a very beneficial habit to get into, and it doesn’t just help your teeth.The benefits of flossing go way beyond your mouth.The bacteria that doesn’t get removed from just brushing has the potential to cause other much more serious health problems.

Heart Disease: oral bacteria can compromise heart health by promoting the formation of blood clots and fatty deposits.

Diabetes: Those who develop periodontal diseases (infection in the gums) have a harder time controlling their blood sugar when they have diabetes.

Respiratory Disease: Those with periodontal disease are at higher risk for respiratory infection

Low Birth Weight: Women with periodontis are more likely to give birth to a premature low-weight baby and have a pre-term delivery.

Plus, you’ll have cleaner teeth and fresher breath. Who doesn’t want fresher breath?

All of that just from a little bit of plaque buildup on your teeth. Who would have thought? All of that can be prevented with less than 5 minutes a day. If you can’t find time to even do that though, try flossing your top teeth in the morning and the bottom teeth at night. Then you’ll only have to make an extra 2 minutes.

To see the correct way to floss to effectively remove as much bacteria and plaque as possible, visit this website: http://www.gumsurgery.com/flossing.htm

An Apple a Day

March 15, 2010

Fruits. Vegetables. Everyone knows they are good for your health. But… the downside is that they can get very expensive. The effort that it takes to keep fresh produce in your house without it going rotten is a task much bigger and more challenging than it may sound. But don’t give up just yet. There are other options out there.

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Try This:

First option: try to buy the fruits and vegetables that are in season OR on sale. Find out what fruits are in season before you go shopping so you know what to keep an eye out for. Walmart price matches, so if you bring in another store’s weekly ad for a lower price than Walmart already has, you can save additional money without having to spend that saved money on gas to go to 15 different grocery stores.

Second option: Buy frozen. Despite popular belief, frozen fruits and veggies are just as healthy (if not more so) for you as fresh fruits and veggies. They are frozen rapidly at the peak of freshness and ripeness, thus freezing the nutrients right in. This is a great option especially for saving time and money. Vegetables are purchased for next to nothing when they are frozen, and the preparation time is minimal. Fruits can be purchased frozen as well, but they are a little more pricey. Instead, I recommend freezing your own fruit. This makes for great smoothies later. If you buy several boxes of strawberries when they are in season and very cheap, you can simply put them into a freezer Ziploc bag and enjoy as a delicious smoothie later, when strawberries cost you an arm and a leg in the store.

OR, if your fruit is ripe past the point where you want to eat it (I don’t know about you, but I do NOT like eating mushy bananas) but it has not spoiled yet, pack it away in the freezer and save yourself from throwing it (and your money) in the garbage. I never use a recipe for smoothies, I just add whatever I want. Milk, yogurt, some kind of frozen fruit (or if your using fresh fruit, you probably want to add some ice), and a banana are usually my key ingredients, but feel free to experiment with adding peanut butter for additional protein, honey for added sweetness, or even try fruit juice instead of milk (but be careful not to add lots of sugar unknowingly with the sugared-down, barely-even-made-from-fruit fruit juice). Just add more fruit or milk to get it to the right consistency and enjoy!

Third option: Canned fruits/veggies. Buying canned foods is often the cheapest option, but it can also have many added ingredients that make it much less healthy. However, if you know what to look for, these have many of the same benefits of frozen- they are canned at their peak of nutritional value, thereby preserving those precious vitamins and minerals.

When choosing canned fruit, keep in mind:

  • Some canned fruits have been peeled (peaches and pears, for example) thereby significantly reducing their fiber content.
  • Vitamin C is heat sensitive and can be destroyed in the canning process, so fresh fruit is often a much better source. But heat doesn’t bother other good-for-you vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B vitamins and potassium.
  • Some fruits are canned in heavy or light syrup, which adds lots of empty sugar calories. Choose canned fruit packed in its own juice or in water instead.

Fourth option: Dried fruits. This is a great option to take as a snack on the go and to eat when fruit is out of season. Buying dried fruit can sometimes be expensive as well, but the good news is that you can dry your own fruit!!! Wonderful news, isn’t it? The other great news is that dried fruit can last up to a year without refrigeration! However, if you are going to store them for this long, make sure you also complete the simple pasteurization step. You can get several different versions of the instructions on how to do it, but these were just two that I found:

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/homemade-dried-fruit.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_2083871_dry-fruit.html

The best part about it is that you need no special tools or appliances or gadgets or anything. I mean, really, what’s more energy efficient than using the sun? Just make sure that if you live somewhere where it’s humid, you don’t use the sun option… the oven choice would be better for humid climates.

For more ideas on eating healthy on a budget, check this out!