How Can Yoga Help Free Stress And Relieve Pain?

April 18, 2015
yoga stress release pose relax sunset oceanAny situation the body perceives as dangerous or threatening triggers the stress or “fight or flight” response in the body. This threat may be overt physical danger or more subtle, dealing with interpersonal conflict such as a disagreement with a coworker or situation pressures, like coping with financial problems.

The body’s efforts to deal with a threatening situation cause a series of reactions. The heart accelerates to provide maximum oxygen levels to organs and cells. The muscles tighten and shorten to prepare for action, to maneuver through the situation, to fight or to flee from the danger. Adrenaline courses through the body heightening awareness and providing a quick burst of energy.

The automatic stress response serves a purpose. It protects the body. However, chronic stress, remaining in a stress response state for a prolonged period of time, takes a negative toll on the body. It causes physical and psychological distress, which affects a person’s overall health and well-being.

Effects Of Stress On Health

· 43% of all adults suffer from health problems because of stress.
· 75% to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
· Stress is a key contributor to heart disease, headaches, body aches, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, anxiety, and depression.
· The 50% prevalence of any emotional disorder is typically due to untreated stress.
· The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that stress is a significant hazard in the workplace and results in costs of over $300 billion annually.

Symptoms of chronic stress related to the continuous release of stress hormones and an elevated metabolism:

· The digestive system may experience stress as stomach aches, nausea, and intestinal irritability.
· Mentally, a person under chronic stress may experience racing thoughts, unreasonable worrying, lack of focus and disorganization and pessimism.
· Loss of quality sleep.
· A person under chronic stress also displays emotional and behavioral markers of the condition. They may become irritable, experience feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
· Stress associated behaviors, overeating or under eating, avoidance and displaying nervous behaviors like nail biting and pacing emerge under chronic stress.
· Stress related aches and pains could occur in different parts of the body. When the muscles shorten or tighten to prepare for action within the stress response then remain that way, it causes aches and pains in different parts of the body. 

Where muscular tension presents itself while under stress varies from one person to another. Some people may clench or tighten their jaw causing pain and discomfort in this area and possibly across the forehead and scalp. Other people hold tension in the shoulders and neck. Some people may find themselves experiencing chronic backaches.

How Yoga Can Help With Stress Related Aches And Conditions

Essentially, yoga acts as a therapeutic antidote to stress; it provides physical, mental, and emotional relief to people experiencing chronic stress. Relief occurs during the actual yoga practice and the benefits continue to present beyond sessions when a person practices yoga consistently.

Yoga poses ease stress related aches and pains due to muscular tension. The yoga poses stretch, lengthen, strengthen, and relax tense muscles. The meditation and breathing exercises calm the mind and the nervous system. They also allow a person to reestablish mental focus and clarity during and following practice.

The breath work and poses practiced during yoga elicit the relaxation response in the body, which helps to decrease and regulate stress hormones.

It is also important to note that yoga has a profound effect on various aspects of one’s health, including the ability to lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, help regulate blood sugars in diabetes, and decrease anxiety, all of which are commonly seen with chronic stress.

How To Utilize Yoga To Manage Stress

If one intends to develop a yoga practice as part of a stress management plan, consistency is key to success. Yoga provides progressive therapy.
The poses reshape and improve the health and functionality of the muscles, the joints and organs over time; it is a form of training and as with any training, regular practice sets the stage for progress.

This also applies to the meditative and relaxation exercises associated with the practice. According to Dr. Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD, recent studies show as little as three months of weekly yoga practice, relieves stress related headaches, backaches, reduces stress, and lowers cortisol (stress hormone) secretions. It also lowers blood pressure and improves participant’s mood.

Practicing yoga has been shown to relieve the immediate symptoms of stress related aches, pains, mental distress, and negative emotional states. It also appears to effectively counter the fight or flight stress response by lowering cortisol levels and teaching the mind to observe (through meditation) rather than react to situations. People experiencing chronic stress can benefit greatly from incorporating a yoga practice in their health regimen.

You can begin with yoga by joining a class that is led by a qualified instructor. There are also instructional programs available on DVD. It is very important to learn proper techniques for poses and breath work to reap all the benefits yoga has to offer.

Take care and be well.

5 Health Concerns Men Should Never Procrastinate About

April 12, 2015
Photo Doctor of Medicine and health Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and taking care of our emotional well-being are all-important elements of living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining an optimal level of health. Medical experts and research has confirmed repeatedly that the lifestyle choices we make are crucial for healthy aging, and preventing various diseases that can result in premature death.

However, prevention goes a step beyond, with preventative medical care that can alert both men and women to various medical conditions that can lead to serious complications that can affect health and shorten one’s lifespan. Early detection and monitoring for high-risk conditions is an essential element of good healthcare.

When it comes to healthcare, men tend to see doctors less and do not pay as much attention to their possible health concerns as women do.

Men can often go years between doctors’ visits—missing valuable opportunities for screening and detection of possible physical diseases.

Here are some health concerns worth keeping on top of so that you don’t end up with unnecessary complications:

.High blood pressure: Men are just as prone to high blood pressure as women. High blood pressure is largely hereditary but can be influenced by environmental factors such as caffeine intake, intake of salt, and obesity.

Unless the blood pressure is extremely high, you will have no symptoms and the blood pressure will be left unchecked and unnoticed. Visit your doctor every five years or so to have your blood pressure obtained. Try to check your blood pressure at stations found in most pharmacies. Numbers of 140/90 or greater bear a visit to your doctor.

· Colon cancer: Colon cancer is the second largest cause of cancer death among men. Fortunately, it is largely preventable by being screened for colon cancer, beginning at age 50 (and sooner if it runs in the family). It involves having a colorectal specialist insert a camera at the end of a flexible tube into the colon to look for and remove cancer-causing polyps. This procedure is called a colonoscopy and it should be repeated every ten years as a screening

measure, starting at 50 years of age. Keeping a high fiber diet that is low in fat can also reduce the risks of colon cancer.

· Prostate Cancer: Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer. Doctors know that there are basically two types of prostate cancer—slow growing and fast growing. Either way, it is worth getting screened for prostate cancer through the use of digital rectal examination every five years at the doctor’s office. Some doctors also draw blood for prostate specific antigen or PSA. This number can be high in enlarged prostate conditions or in prostate cancer. If it is elevated, doctors can try and determine if it is related to cancer or not.

· Smoking Cessation: Lung cancer caused by smoking is the number one cause of cancer deaths in America. The simplest way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to never smoke or to stop smoking as soon as possible. There are many ways to quit smoking, including medications like Chantix® or nicotine replacement modalities. Gum, lozenges and patches are available that contain nicotine to help you get off the smoking habit. There are even vapor cigarettes that can provide nicotine but not the harmful carcinogens.

The Centers For Disease Control recommend only one screening test for lung cancer, known as the low-dose computed tomography, through the test is not always accurate and has its own risk factors. The LDCT uses an X-ray machine that scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to created detailed pictures of the lungs.

The CDC recommends yearly lung screenings for those who: have a history of heavy smoking, smoke now or have quit within the last 15 years and are between 55 and 80 years old. Heavy smoking is defined as smoking at least one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. A 30 pack-year history can equate to 1 pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

· Heart Disease: Men are at a greater risk of heart disease than women are and must begin making strides toward lowering their risk early in life. Things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, and family history contribute to a high risk of heart disease.

Especially with men who have family histories, measures should be taken to reduce the other risk factors. This means adopting a heart healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat. It means a commitment to exercise at least thirty minutes per day, five days a week. Finally it means seeing a doctor to find out about risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. If these are elevated, your doctor may prescribe medications that can further reduce your risk of getting a heart attack.

· The Family Connection: Besides all the conditions listed above, it is also a good idea to find out about any medical conditions that run in the family as genetics can play a big role in the development of certain diseases.

Oftentimes, children, parents, and grandparents share similar health problems because inherited factors put family members at risk through genes. Disease often results from the combined effects of minor changes in multiple genes, and each gene then contributes in a small way to the symptoms of and development of disease.

Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer account for 7 of every 10 deaths in the United States, and they are considered genetic diseases because they run in families. Gathering a detailed family history can give you important information as to your risk factors and that awareness can be used to monitor for and possibly prevent the onset of problems whenever possible.

Take care and be well.

A “concerned” guy.


What Does "Natural" Really Stand For on Food Labels?

April 11, 2015
FDA struggles to define what “natural”_opt Food manufacturers want us to believe "natural" means a particular food item is healthy. You may even believe this yourself, right? Consider that viruses, germs and bacteria are natural. Many deadly poisons, such as arsenic occur in nature.

Yet, that does not make them a healthy choice. What does natural on a food label signify?

If you see the word natural on a food label, does that imply a health benefit?

The consumer advocate magazine Consumer Reports, relates “natural” can be a deceptive term.

  • Food manufacturers will not likely use the term "unnatural" on their products.
  • Foods labeled natural may have a healthy, harmful or neutral effect on your body.
Consumer Reports believes that the natural label is applied to unnatural foods and has urged the FDA to ban its use on food labels.

The United States Food and Drug Administration do not have a solid definition of what natural on a food label defines. This is a problem existing in many other modern countries. It allows manufacturers of unhealthy products to get away with using the “natural” label.

If you combine two natural fruit juices together you have created an “artificial” flavor.

Yet, if you combine one fruit juice with a bunch of chemicals, you create something considered naturally flavored.

If the “Natural” Labeling Process Appears Bewildering, it is.

A recent survey of 1,000 shoppers conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center revealed that sixty per cent of the survey takers looked for the natural label on food. Sixty six per cent of those polled expressed a belief that the term natural means food with no artificial ingredients, genetically modified organisms (GMO) or pesticides. 

However, these requirements are not mandatory for food producers to use the natural description.

With no hard and fast rules about exactly what natural means, the term is untrustworthy when applied to food labels.

Having said that, what steps should you take to find out if the food you are considering buying is actually "natural" or not?

Your first move should be to contact the manufacturer. A time consuming exercise it may well be, but get someone on the phone. Ask some tough questions. Note the name of the individual you are talking to, and ask them to forward all relevant information to you via snail mail or e-mail.

Alarm bells should ring should a food manufacturer or processor representative tell you that information is private and non-publicized. Also, do not forget that foods with tons of sugar and calories may be natural, but that does not make them healthy. 

So what is the bottom line?

Try to avoid packaged foods as much as you can. Enjoy eating more healthy whole foods, more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed prepackaged foods. By doing this you will consume actual natural and healthy foods.

Take care and be well.

A “natural” guy.

5 Natural Ways To Boost Your Memory Power

March 26, 2015
Bright IdeaMemory, how many of us wish it to be as potent as in our younger years.

As we grow, it is natural for bodily systems to begin to fade and slow down, and memory is one of the first to go. It may become difficult to remember a name, information, or even the directions to a place you have been to several times.

Sometimes brain impairing conditions causes significant memory issues. Alzheimer’s, dementia and other conditions cause severe memory lapses. The sufferers may not recognize their own family or friends. Some of us worry that we may become one of the 10 million baby boomers who develop
Alzheimer's disease.

Yet, memory issues do not have to be so extreme to cause us distress and concern. How many times have you not been able to recall the name of a movie, or a good book you read? Maybe, more often than not you cannot seem to remember where you leave your car keys when you enter your home. How many times do you find yourself thinking or saying, “What was that guy’s name.”

Not being able to recall as we once did is alarming. There are natural ways to boost your memory power. Methods that help these embarrassing and problematic mishaps happen less often. The following are five natural ways to boost your memory power and improve brain function.

5 Natural Ways to Boost Memory Power

To improve cognitive function, we must take care of our minds. The following are five ways to boost memory power that are safe and effective.

1. Drink Less Alcohol:

It is no secret that overconsumption of alcohol can damage health. The toxins present in alcohol can immediately begin to attack and impair systems as well as areas of the brain. Impaired memory is a common side effect of heavy drinking. Drinking can lead to severe blackouts in which the person can only remember what happened the night before in part.

2. Eat a Balanced Diet:

It may seem crazy but the foods you eat can impair memory. If your main diet consists of junk foods, you may find that you not only feel bad, but that your memory is often foggy and vague. Nutrition is key to all functions in the body, and the mind. Of course, eating the right foods is important for health and well being.

Yet, certain foods are beneficial for improving cognitive functions. Foods rich in B vitamins have may help to prevent the onset of dementia, heart disease, and even brain shrinkage in older adults. Fill your diet with B vitamin rich foods. Eggs, milk, leafy greens, nuts, beans, fruits, fish, poultry, and legumes contain B vitamins.

Eat foods that are high in antioxidants are helpful to prevent memory loss. Antioxidants rich foods include tomatoes, carrots, avocados, berries, and citrus fruits.

3. Take Time to Relax:

Did you ever notice how your mind feels clearer after a nap or a brisk walk? This is because giving yourself time to relax helps your brain reset itself in the midst of excessive work. Studies have shown that students who study and get proper sleep perform better on exams than those who opt to cram all night before. This is because, like any other muscle, the brain needs rest between intervals of heavy use. When you allot time for a refresh break, you will significant improvement in your recall and alertness.

4. Bacopa:

This natural medicine used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine and health care. People use it to help revitalize tired, worn out, or aging brain cells as well as enhance memory and specific recall. In India, People use Bacopa to help improve intelligence and help with mental organization. Many who use this medicine claim that they are able to recall certain information when needed. They have learned to organize and compartmentalize their thoughts and important information.

*Side effects may include increased bowel movements, stomach cramps, nausea, dry mouth, and fatigue.

5. Gingko Biloba:

There are many “so called” memory boosters in the supplement market. Most of them lack scientific research to support their claims. Yet, Ginkgo Biloba shows promise. European doctors use it for patients with dementia that stems from reduced blood flow. The doctors believe Ginkgo helps to improve blood flow in small vessels.

Dr. Fugh-Berman is an associate professor in the complementary and alternative medicine Master's program at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. Dr. Fugh-Berman claims two systematic reviews and meta-analyses found Ginkgo is helpful for dementia. In fact, it has about the same range as conventional prescription drugs given to Alzheimer's patients. While it does not help to prevent dementia, it does improve and may prevents it from getting worse.

Studies show gingko an effective supplement for improving mental alertness in healthy people.

*Ginkgo can in some people cause stomach upset, headache, dizziness, constipation, forceful heartbeat, and allergic skin reactions.

6. Regular Exercise:

Getting the blood pumping is also an effective way to get the brain functioning better. Proper blood circulation gives the brain the oxygen it needs to improve cognitive functions. Function improvement including alertness, recall, intellect, critical thinking, and comprehension. Simple activities like taking a walk, going for a jog, or stretching are all effective ways to improve memory and brain health.

7. Flex Your Brain Muscles:

Lifting weights builds body muscle, and using your brain builds memory muscles. Do word games, do puzzles, and read more instead of watching television. Using your brain will help to keep your memory sharp.

Guard Your Brain Cells

It is important to remember that your brain cells are an especially precious limited resource. Unlike the rest of the body, these cells do not reproduce once damaged or destroyed. Take care of your brain by avoiding excessive alcohol. Also, avoid drugs, cigarettes, and other substances that harm brain health to keep it sharp.

For even more great ways to boost your memory, visit your doctor to discuss your specific needs.

Take care and be well.

Photo: Bright Idea by zaldy icaonapo


Can Meditation Help Your Brain Be More Youthful?

March 23, 2015

naked-yoga-620x414As people age, their brain will lose mass and size. These alterations may start to ensue in people as early as their mid to late 20s. Prior research has shown people who meditate lose less brain mass over time than those who do not. In particular, research concluded people who meditated had less of a decrease in their white brain matter.

White brain matter acts as a connector and insulator for gray brain matter. It transfers nerve impulses concerning the functional parts of the brain. Gray brain matter accommodates the various neurological centers of the brain. These neurological centers target speech, motor skills, memory, etc.

Meditation is something practiced by more than 15 million Americans and many more people around the world. Meditation started in eastern culture, but embraced by western societies.

Meditation has a wide diversity of benefits, comprising:

· Improves sleep
· Inner peace and tranquility
· Reduces chronic pain
· Reduces stress and anxiety
· Reduces depression
· Boosts attention
· Improves immunity
· Helps with weight loss
· Boosts memory
· Advances heart health and helps lower high blood pressure
· Mends well-being and enables deeper more meaningful relationships

Now studies show meditation may also help to keep our brains youthful.

Fascinating Meditation Experiments

A team of researchers from UCLA speculated if meditation preserves the gray matter of people who meditate. The researchers observed meditation to have an extensive influence overall on the brain. Not just sections of the brain connected with meditation.

The study evaluated people having years of experience with meditation compared to those who had zero experience. The meditators had a median of 20 years of experience with meditation practice. The study participants included people in their mid-20s to their late 70s.

Both men and women participated in the study with 28 men and 22 women.

They found the meditators still experienced a decline in gray matter with age but less than non-meditators.

The researchers noted the positive outcome of the study but caution people appraising the findings. Because, they were not able ascertain a direct link to meditation and the preservation of gray matter.

A 2012 UCLA study showed meditators to have more gyrification, the folds in their brains. Brain folds may contribute to an ability process information faster than usual.

nude girl yoga lotus position

Meditation seems to allow practitioners to maintain both white and gray matter. They appear to form increased connections in the brain. In other words, it seems to keep the brain more youthful.

As well as positive effects on brain matter, practicing meditation may have a positive effect on other body functions.

Anti-Aging Benefits Of Meditation

The youth stabilizing and replenishing paybacks of meditation comprise:

· Meditation increases DHEA levels. This hormone facilitates the production of the hormones that maintain fat and mineral metabolism.
· It increases Melatonin. Melatonin hormone performs as antioxidant, furnishes immune support and fights depression.
· It helps decrease cortisol. Cortisol, the stress hormone, makes the body keep dangerous belly fat. The type of fat associated with heart disease and diabetes.

The Healthful Effects Of Meditation

Part of feeling and maintaining a youthful mental outlook is the quality of thinking. While practicing meditation you learn to quiet mental chaos and develop the ability to concentrate.

They experience greater clarity of thought and tend to react less and respond more to difficult situations. They preserve their capacity to be adaptive. They think with the extra benefit of choosing their response to situations rather than reacting to them.

How To Meditate

Typical meditators meditate at least twice a day for twenty minutes per session. Most recommend meditation to start the day and to close it. A person may meditate whenever they have time in their schedule to accommodate it.

Some meditation is better than no mediation. As it is also beneficial to meditate in shorter increments of time, say 5 to 15 minutes.

There are also several different methods of meditation, including:

· Primordial Sound Meditation
· Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
· Zen
· Transcendental Meditation
· Yoga Meditation (Kundalini)
· Focused Attention Meditation
· Open Monitoring Meditation
· Vipassana Meditation
· Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)
· Mantra Meditation (OM Meditation)

· Qigong (Chi kung)

Getting Started With Meditation

A person new to meditation needs to be patient; it takes time to train the mind to focus and settle into practicing meditation. First, you need to decide which from of meditation will benefit you more, and then learn the proper way. Seek out the services of an expert, if possible.

On the other hand, there are many books, DVD’s and free online sources demonstrating exact steps of particular methods.

When beginning, try to meditate at the same time daily. However, if not possible, you can still meditate at different time.

Building a meditation practice is more important than what time you practice. The positive benefits of a consistent meditation practice can develop in just a few weeks.
Continued practice may preserve your brain's youthful dynamics for years to come.

Take care and be well.

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