All about snoring

Let’s be honest: Snoring can be funny. Someone is resting peacefully, quietly, then all of a sudden, the loudest, most obnoxious noise bursts forth from deep inside. Whether coming from men, women, or even children, the unexpected noise has caused more than a few giggles from those on the receiving end.

Snoring however is more than just a punchline. It can stop individuals from a restful night’s sleep, impeding their mental and physical performance. In some cases, it could signal an underlying medical problem.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90 million American adults are affected by snoring, and almost 37 million are affected on a nightly basis. Snoring affects both genders, though it affects more men than women. It also becomes more pronounced with advanced age. 1

Our bodies move into a deep relaxed state while sleeping. A relaxing of the throat can cause our tongues to fall backwards. This may block our airway, narrowing the space and blocking the opening that allows us to continue unrestrained breathing during sleep. This disruption in air flow causes our throat to vibrate, which creates the snoring sound. The more narrow the airway, the louder the noise. 1

There are a number of factors that aggravate snoring. These include:

  • Age: Our bodies change every year as we age. Our throats get narrower, and we lose some muscle tone in our throats.
  • Sleeping posture: Sleeping on your back can push your tongue to the back of the airway. Lying on your side instead might help alleviate the problem.
  • Overweight: Having more fatty tissue and less muscle tone around your neck can cause snoring.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol before bed can increase muscle relaxation, which can lead to more snoring.
  • Medications: Just as with alcohol, taking muscle relaxants in the evening may cause greater periods of snoring as the throat will be in a more relaxed state.
  • Smoking: Smoking can irritate the membranes around your throat and nose, which can cause more blockages of the airway. 2

If you or a loves one are plagued with excessive snoring, there are some simply lifestyle changes to be made that will help with the problem, such as increasing physical activity, managing a healthier weight, abstaining from smoking, and establishing good sleep routines. You can also try changing your sleeping posture, such as sleeping on your side or making adjustments with your pillow. Clearing your nasal passages before bed or using an anti-snoring mouthpiece may also bring some relief.

If lifestyle modifications don’t help, you may wish to speak with your doctor about use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine to help keep your airway open and provide you with continuous flow of air. In the most severe of instances, you may have to consider surgery to remove or correct airway passage.

Sometimes snoring can be a sign of a medical issue. Some symptoms to look for include the following: 1

  • Waking up at night feeling confused.
  • Feeling overly tired during the day.
  • Unexplained weight gain.
  • Decrease in attention span and memory.
  • Headaches in the morning,

If you or anyone you know are experiencing some of the symptoms above, consult a medical professional.

 

Resources:

  1. National Sleep Foundation: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/other-sleep-disorders/snoring
  2. How to Stop Snoring: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-stop-snoring.htm

 

Germs and public transportation


Lots of people take public transportation. I do. In many cases it is cheaper, more convenient, and more energy efficient. Maybe you like the break from driving. I like to read a book. Sometimes I catch up on sleep. You may get to see people and get outside a little more. If you live or work in a city, it may be the only realistic option, even if you don’t like it.

But do you get sick from riding the bus? How about the subway? Planes? Boats? Do all those crowds of people give you germs?

Maybe.

Research shows that having ridden a bus recently puts you at greater risk of getting the common cold. But regular riders of the bus are more protected from the risk than occasional riders. It’s possible that the regular riders’ immune systems have developed more antibodies due to the repeated exposures to others.

On a plane, the CDC and WHO used to advise that you were in danger of catching tuberculosis (TB) from another passenger if you sat within two rows of them for eight hours. The thresholds for the common cold and flu viruses are unknown. So that means a plane is just a hotbed of ickiness, right? Not so fast.

The average plane has a ventilation system that changes the air 12 to 15 times an hour. The average office building only changes the air 12 times an hour. Overall, the known risk of catching an infectious disease on a plane is about the same as in an office building. The dry air of the air-conditioned environment in both settings can contribute to infection; dry nasal passages do not do as good a job of protecting you from infection as moist sinuses do. How about the surfaces in a plane? They don’t seem to be any more germy than the average work environment, either.

Some precautions for a plane trip:

  • Try to be healthy and well rested before getting on a flight.
  • Stay hydrated on the flight.
  • Wash your hands well after handling things.

Are you considering a cruise instead? Cruises have all the same risks: Lots of people. Crowded spaces. Lots of surface areas touched by lots of people. Cruises also seem to have more risk of noroviruses, or what most people call “stomach flu.” The same precautions apply on a boat as they do on a plane. One more precaution: If you use a public bathroom and someone in there is vomiting or has diarrhea from norovirus, the air may be contaminated for a while. Get out and go to another bathroom. Then tell the ship’s staff of the occurrence.

There isn’t a lot of research on subway and transit trains, but the same rules should apply. Wash your hands after you get off and before you touch your work area or home items. Don’t eat or touch your mouth until you’ve cleaned up.

If you are acutely ill:

  • Delay flights until you are no longer infectious.
  • The CDC has the authority to restrict you from air travel if you are sick from TB.
  • If you have the flu, don’t fly or go to work until you are no longer infectious. Ask your doctor.
  • If you have a common cold, consider not taking public transit until the acute symptoms are controllable. Almost all symptoms of the common cold (sneezing, runny nose, coughing) spread the virus around. If you must sneeze or cough, do it into the crook of your elbow, rather than your hands.

It seems that taking public transportation comes with infection risks that are very similar to those of our normal workday. Our normal workday has elevators, cafeterias, common bathrooms, conference rooms, etc. In the short run, taking the bus may make you more likely to get sick. In the long run, public transportation may strengthen your immune system overall. So keep washing your hands, and shy away from people who seem to be sick.

 

Reference:

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20110120/catch-bus-catch-cold

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/conveyance-transportation-issues/air-travel

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/disease-prevention-traveling#1

 

Beating the winter blues

With shorter days and increased hours of darkness, it might seem natural to feel down now and again. Maybe you feel anxious or a little more moody. You find it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Perhaps you just don’t have the energy you used to.

For as many as one in four adults, it may be more than a case of the winter blues. An estimated 11 million Americans experience seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Some simple strategies can help you win the fight against SAD:

Talk to your healthcare provider.

If you experience symptoms for more than a few weeks, it’s a good idea to talk to a medical professional. If it’s something more than a winter slump, the sooner you get help the better.

Stay on track with healthy eating.

Eating a healthy diet will help to give you more energy and enhance your mood. Also pay attention to how you feel when you eat certain foods. If you find you get a temporary high and then a big drop, avoid those foods as well.

Stay active.

We all know that getting your 150 minutes of physical activity each week is important for overall health. Research also shows it is beneficial for coping with the winter blues.

Get outside light.

Getting as much daylight as possible is important. It plays a big role in your mood and how you are feeling. If possible position yourself near windows on sunny days and choose colors that reflect light for décor.

Turn up the music.

Studies have shown that listening to upbeat, cheerful music helps to improve mood in both the short- and long-term. Try a daily dose when you are feeling in a funk and see how your body responds.

Be a social butterfly.

Studies have shown that socializing can help to boost mood and fight the winter blues. This could be as simple as a quick phone call to a night out with friends. Find a happy medium that makes you feel best and make it a habit.

Call a health coach.

UPMC Health Plan offers an online program called Beating the Blues US ™. It can help you relieve stress and feel more positive, take control of your mood and thoughts, feel more confident, and change the way you respond to challenging situations.

It’s important to have a plan in place so you’re prepared when you start to feel a drop in your mood or a shift in how you are feeling. As you find which strategies work best for you, build those into your daily routine.

 

References:

American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/index.aspx

National Institutes of Health: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/jan2013/feature1

UPMC Health Plan Beating the Blues: https://www.upmchealthplan.com/beatingtheblues/

Height loss and aging

You’re not as tall as you think!

I hate to break it to you, but you probably aren’t as tall as you say you are.

Women will typically lose about two inches of height between ages 30 and 70. Men usually lose about an inch by age 70, and about two inches by age 80.

Why do we lose that height as we age?

There are three main culprits:

  • Spinal disc degeneration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle loss

Let’s take them one at a time.

Spinal disc degeneration: Your discs are like little sponges that protect your vertebrae. Over time, injuries and genetic factors can lead to some of them degenerating. They dry out and shrink. This can happen to one or more discs over time. This leads to your spine getting shorter, making you lose height.

Osteoporosis: Your vertebrae are stacked on top of each other. Osteoporosis makes your bones less solid. Spinal bone fractures are often painless, so a person may not know it has happened. Over time, your spine begins to bow over, usually forward.

Muscle loss: We tend to lose muscle mass as we age. Our core muscles are meant to keep us upright, with good posture. As we lose muscle mass in our torsos, we begin to stoop forward, just like with osteoporosis.

So, what can you do about it?

  • To avoid spinal disc degeneration: Use good form when lifting: Keep a straight back, lift with your legs and the keep the weight close to you. It may happen anyway, as many people have spinal discs that degenerate and have no pain or symptoms.
  • To avoid osteoporosis: Do not smoke. Do not drink alcohol to excess. Eat enough protein and calcium. Get enough vitamin D. Be sure to do regular weight-bearing physical activities, like walking, aerobics, or running. Strength training also helps to build and maintain healthy bones.
  • To avoid muscle loss: Regular exercise, especially of the core muscles (in the abdomen) can keep your posture straight and healthy.

Even if you aren’t at the age where you have lost height, there is a good chance that you aren’t as tall as you claim to be.

According to research, people tend to over-report their height, and under-report their weight. This tends to make people underestimate their BMI, which is based on height and weight. It isn’t perfectly clear whether people do it on purpose, or whether it represents wishful thinking.

So if you think you might be shrinking, you very well might be. There are normal aging reasons for height loss. There are also unhealthy causes of height loss, which is one of the reasons you will have your height and weight measured at the doctor’s office when you visit. If your height loss is outside of what is normal, or if it is very rapid, talk to your doctor.

 

References:

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/preventive-care/article/why-you-shrink-you-age

http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/tc/degenerative-disc-disease-topic-overview

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/manage/ptc-20207963

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3590903/

17 ways to get healthy in 2017

Every year, over 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions (for example: lose weight, get active, quit smoking). However, research from the University of Scranton found that only eight percent of individuals are successful (University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology)! Many people start strong, but quit by February. So let’s make this year different! Don’t just set a New Year’s resolution, make 2017 the healthiest year for you by making small changes and creating healthy lifestyle habits. Here are some healthy changes you can make to start your year off right and keep it going all year long!

1. Eat right

Start the year off by incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your diet. Avoid or limit processed foods with added sugars and fats. Eating right can not only help you be healthy but also help you feel good for 2017!

2. Try a new food or recipe

Break out of your normal routine and try something new! Adding variety to your diet is not only exciting but has many other benefits as well. It can improve your nutrition and add more flavors to your food, set a good example for family and friends, and expand your choices. Take the challenge of trying a new food or recipe each month.

3. Meal plan

Take time each week to plan healthy meals and snacks. Find recipes, use the Choose MyPlate guidelines to help you choose healthy foods, and write down the meals you want to make for each week. Planning ahead can help you feel organized and help you stay on track with healthy eating.

4. Drink more water

Switch up your beverages from those high-calorie, sugary beverages to water! Water quenches thirst, and has no calories or sugar. Not a fan of water? Try creating your own flavored waters with real fruits and vegetables — like strawberry lemon, cucumber, or apple and cinnamon. Flavors are endless, and they are better for you!

5. Sit less and move more

Research has shown that extended sitting can lead to many health problems. In fact, experts have coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” In 2017, take a stand — literally! By moving more, you will make a profound impact on your health.

6. Exercise

Want to feel better, have more energy, and be stronger? Exercise!!! The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise, five days per week. The options for exercise are endless! Find activities that you like to do and that 30 minutes will fly by. Like to dance? Try a Zumba class! Hate being inside? Go for a hike outside!

7. Go for an adventure

Try a new Zumba class, go rock climbing, adventure on a lake with a paddleboard, or sign-up for an obstacle race. Try something new that gets you moving and motivated in the new year!

8. Sweet dreams

Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night can improve memory, boost creativity, lower stress, strengthen the immune system, help with weight loss, and even extend your life span. Get those ZZZs in tonight to benefit tomorrow!

9. Take a deep breath

Stress can do a lot of damage to our health — physically, mentally, and emotionally! And while we may not be able to control the stressful event or situation, we can control how our body reacts. Try taking three to five deep breaths to help lower your stress levels.

10. Be positive

Believe it or not, positive thinking has beneficial effects on your health: increased life span, lower rates of depression and distress, better coping skills to stress, and even reduced risk of illness. To reap the rewards, stay positive! Find an optimistic viewpoint in a negative situation, surround yourself with a positive environment, and practice positive self-talk by being kind and encouraging to yourself. For example, instead of saying, “I’ve never done this before,” try, “It’s an opportunity for me to learn something new.”

11. Stay healthy

Take charge of your health by staying up to date with your preventive care! Follow up with your primary care doctor at least once a year and have all recommended screenings and immunizations.

12. Take time for yourself

Many of us are so busy running from one place to the next without slowing down, leaving us feeling more tired and drained each day. Take some time that you need to slow down, relax, and recharge to enjoy life. Whether it’s a small 10-minute walk or treating yourself to a spa day, make plans with yourself and make it a priority!

13. Be mindful

Being mindful can help you stay positive and feel less stress. Stay in the moment and give your full attention to what is going on around you. See everything. Hear all the noises. Smell the scents. Ground yourself in that moment. These small mindful moments can make a positive impact each day.

14. Build your support network

Social support can be an invaluable tool — having family, friends, and peers you can turn to can also help you cope with difficult situations, improve self-esteem, and strengthen your health. Start building your social network by creating new friendships or improving on existing relationships. Whether you are receiving support or helping another, you will reap many rewards!

15. Imagine your ideal self

What is the best and healthiest version of yourself? Five years down the road, what do you want your health to look like? Whether it is reducing your risk for chronic disease, getting off your blood pressure medicine, or being able to walk for 30 minutes, knowing your wellness vision can help you take steps toward that healthier version of you!

16. Work with a health coach

A UPMC Health Plan health coach can help you get healthy in 2017. With programs and resources in weight management, stress management, nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco cessation, a health coach can provide support and accountability while working on your healthy lifestyle goals!

17. Set SMART goals

Set yourself up for success in 2017 by setting SMART goals. SMART goals help you break down the general, long-term goals into smaller, more realistic goals that work toward your overall vision. By having a specific plan that is measurable and realistic, you are more likely to achieve your goals.

 

Start 2017 off the healthy way! Whether you want to lose weight, get more active, or just be healthier, remember that small changes make a big difference!

Sources:

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/how_to_be_successful_with_your_new_years_resolution

http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

 

How habits can help you achieve your New Year’s goals

As we race into 2017, I want to wish you a happy New Year, and a healthy one too! Turning the page to a different year is viewed by many as a “new beginning”— a chance to set goals and start anew. So the big question is, how can we follow through and reach the final day of the year having climbed the highest mountain we set our sights on? Many think willpower is the key, but it’s something more.

I often have members who make up their mind to change behaviors they have been doing for a long time (being sedentary, snacking, overeating, or smoking), which are, believe it or not, often linked to our habits. One way to change behavior is by using repetition to create new habits and break old ones. In this post I will break down what habits are, how to identify one, how to go about creating new ones, and an example of forming a new habit.

A habit is a behavior or routine that is repeated, often unconsciously, and was acquired through frequent repetition. For example, the things you do daily like having coffee with breakfast, flossing your teeth before brushing, and eating a cookie each night before bed. Habits can be both “good” and “bad.” Habits are in our neural pathways and the brain is capable of changing, adapting, and re-organizing them as a response to changes in our environment or situations.

In his book, Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that every habit functions the same way: through cues, behaviors, and rewards. To change habits and achieve success at your goals, you will need to understand each of these pieces, how they contribute to one another, and how to interrupt what scientists and researchers call the habit loop.

  • Reminder (also known as cue) – A trigger that makes the habit unfold automatically
  • Routine – The behavior itself, or what you are doing
  • Reward – The benefit gained from doing the behavior or something that cues your brain to learn to crave the behavior

While these three pieces seem simple, changing habits can be very challenging. According to Charles Duhigg and other behavioral scientists and researchers, there are a few steps to get started.

  • Identify your routine – What you are doing that is the “habit.”
  • Experiment with rewards – When you feel the urge to repeat your habit, pay attention to the perceived reward. This part is hard and may take some time. Experimenting with various rewards is important in the identification process.
  • Isolate the reminder – The final step is to figure out the cue or reminder that triggers your routine. For example this can be stress, boredom, how you’re feeling, or others.
  • Plan – Once you have identified and understood your habit loop, you can plan to change the behavior.

Here is an example of putting it together. You’ve been getting home from work late (cue) and skipping your evening workout (habit) to watch your favorite TV show (reward). You have gained five pounds and you know that it’s because you aren’t taking care of yourself like you used to. You come up with a plan: You decide to try working out in the morning, so you set your alarm an hour earlier (new cue) and work out before work (new routine). You find that you feel really refreshed and mentally sharp all day at work (new reward) and so you continue to go to the gym in the morning. You can even continue watching that favorite evening TV show (reward).

It takes time to form new habits, but consistency is key. You also have to be willing to experiment a little along the way, too. But if you use the power of repetition in 2017, you are sure to reach those “new year, new you” goals!

References:

Alison, P. & Benjamin, G. (2016). Habitual exercise instigation (vs. execution) predicts healthy adults’ exercise frequency. Health Psychology. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/hea0000249

Arloski, M. (2014). Wellness coaching for lasting lifestyle change. Whole Person Associates.

Clear, J. (2016). The 3 R’s of habit change: How to start new habits that actually stick. http://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change

Duhigg, C. (2014). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in business and life. Random House Trade.

Fogg, B.J. (2016). What causes behavior change. Retrieved from: http://www.behaviormodel.org/

Lally, P., Wardle, J, & Gardner, B. (2011). Experiences of habit formation: a qualitative study. Psychol Health Med. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21749245

Lally, P., Jaarveld, C., Potts, H, & Wardle, J. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674/full

Ouellette, J. & Wood, W. (1998). Habit and intention in everyday life: The multiple process by which past behavior predicts future behavior. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www-ccd.usc.edu/assets/sites/208/docs/Ouellette.Wood.1998.pdf

Verplankena, B. & Melkevikb, O. (2008). Predicting habit: The case of physical exercise. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bas_Verplanken/publication/223184833_Predicting_Habit_The_case_of_physical_exercise/links/5534ed280cf2df9ea6a40563.pdf

Mental health disorders in children

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (1), one in five children are currently managing a mental health diagnosis or will be diagnosed before age 18. But what do mental health disorder symptoms look like? As an adult, you may wonder: When are children “just being kids” and when is it important to pay attention?

Mental health disorders in children impact daily activities and symptoms impact various areas of life including home, school, and peer interaction.

Common disorders

The National Institute of Mental Health lists the most prominent mental health disorders seen in children. These include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • OCD
  • PTSD
  • Phobias
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Schizophrenia

Causes

  • Family history
  • Trauma
  • Brain development and chemical makeup

Symptoms

Mental health disorder symptoms may look different in children compared to adults (2).

Irritability vs. sadness

Children experiencing depression may show signs of irritability rather than sadness (which is more prominent in adults). This can be due to the level of emotional development in children compared to adults.

Physical vs. emotional

Physical symptoms are also reported more often than emotional symptoms. Children may complain of stomachaches rather than feeling anxious or sad. Again, this can be due to brain development in a child compared to adults.

Health care providers including PCPs, specialists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, etc. evaluate the symptoms severity and duration. How severe and how long a child has shown symptoms will help a health care professional determine a diagnosis.

Because mental health disorders may look different in children, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests connecting with other adults (teachers, caregivers, etc.) to evaluate behavior in different environments. A key component to distinguishing “childhood behavior” and a mental health diagnosis is similar behaviors and symptoms regardless if the child is at home, school, etc.

Evaluation and treatment

Talk with a doctor

Being able to talk with a doctor is the first step to treating and managing mental health disorders in children. A health care professional can work with you on a treatment plan that works best for your child.

Discuss evidence-based treatments

Research suggests that psychotherapy and medication are the most common and effective treatments for mental health disorders in children and adults.

  • Therapy
    Many different types of therapy have been shown to be effective in managing mental health disorders, including CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), behavior modification therapy, talk therapy, and family therapy. Talk with your child’s health care provider for more information.
  • Medications
    Medications impact a child’s brain development. Discuss benefits and risks of medication versus alternative treatment options. If medication is prescribed for a child with a mental health disorder, the child should be monitored closely and frequently.

Children who experience a mental health diagnosis are able to manage the disorder through education, therapy, possible medication, and support from family members and caregivers. It is important to stay connected with health care professionals, educate yourself on your child’s diagnosis, be present during conversations with your child about their experience, and practice self-care.

 

References:

  1. National Institute of Mental Health

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/mental-illness-in-children/art-20046577?pg=1

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/treatment-of-children-with-mental-illness-fact-sheet/index.shtml

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-disorder-among-children.shtml

  1. Mayo Clinic

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/mental-illness-in-children/art-20046577?pg=1

 

Redefine holiday health & wellness

The holiday season is a time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family. For many of us, though, it often also becomes a time of worry about keeping up with our health and wellness plan. But the truth is that you can celebrate the holiday season and still focus on staying well. The foods you eat, how active you are, and how you manage your stress determine how your mind and body feels. What you can control is fueling your body with nutritious choices, sweating a little each day, setting aside some extra time to unwind and relax, and having self-love for the person you are. If you do these things it’s going to be very hard to feel like you failed this holiday season. Here are my tips on how to get started.

Focus on stress management

The holiday season can be a stressful time in part because of all of the added activities and commitments. Make a promise to yourself to make time each day to unwind and relax. This can mean different things for different people. Some examples include taking a bubble bath, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and visualization. You have to find what works for you and then let no barriers stand between doing it.

Tracking and self-monitoring

As the old saying goes, you can’t measure what you didn’t track. So make it easy to hold yourself accountable. Having self-monitoring in place for things like calories, activity, sleep, and stress can help you be more successful at tracking your progress. Some health and wellness trackers even have all of the measures you need built in with goal lines for easy up-to-the-second progress checks throughout the day.

Shift your focus

A big challenge for many during the holiday season is our beliefs about the things we are eating and drinking. For example, if you have a piece of your favorite pie at a party and then tell yourself a story about how bad it is because it’s unhealthy, you are robbing yourself of the enjoyment you wanted in the first place. Chances are you will also end up with self-loathing thoughts and guilt about food, which is BAD. If you want pie, eat it and eat it with no regret or guilt. Abandon negative thoughts and voices in your head and be positive and empowered about the choices you are making.

Go social

The most important part of the holiday season is spending time with those who you love, so focus on doing exactly that! Use the time you have to make connections and catch up rather than focusing solely on the food. My favorite trick is to plan ahead and have a filling snack before the party, which allows me to concentrate on conversation rather than indulging in extra food and drinks.

Do away with “last chance” thinking

Many adults struggle with thoughts and guilt of “last chance” food and drinks during the holiday season. Try not to think of anything you consume as a last chance; if you want to have it later in the season, just plan ahead. In fact, if there is something you really enjoy, make a note on the calendar to have it another time and look forward to a treat rather than overindulging because you have to wait another year to enjoy it.

Self-love and self-care

This holiday season, show yourself some love by being present with your mind, body, and surroundings and adding more intention into your day. By doing this, you will focus on what’s good for your heart and what makes you most happy. If you start to experience negative chatter in your mind or feelings of shame or guilt, then identify what is causing these feelings. Remind yourself that your self-worth isn’t based on anything unless you allow it to be.

At its core, the holiday season is intended to be a time of celebration, generosity, and gratitude. So make a promise to yourself to enjoy every moment, slow down and take time for yourself, and to do the best you can with each day given. I think you will find that by focusing on the positive ways to stay accountable, you will have a different view on aspects of the holiday season you once perceived as challenges!

Health benefits of meditation

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We all experience stress on a day-to-day basis, right? Stress could be something small that can be easily fixed or something big that can leave you wanting to pull your hair out. So what are some of the healthy ways you manage your stress? As you noticed, I said “healthy ways.” If you said deep breathing, using humor, or even exercising — you have a very healthy way of managing your stress. What about meditation? Is that something that comes to mind?

Believe it or not, meditation has been around for thousands of years. It has continued to become more popular in today’s busy and stressful society. Now anybody can download a smartphone app to practice meditation anytime, anywhere. You don’t need a temple on top of a mountain to practice a meditation technique.

So what exactly is meditation?

Meditation is a mind and body practice that focuses on the cooperation not just between the brain and the body, but also the mind and behavior.1 Meditation allows you to focus your attention on just one thing instead of focusing on other thoughts that are keeping your mind busy and causing stress.2 There are many types of meditation out there, but they all have the elements of a location with few distractions, a relaxed posture, a focus of attention, and the mindset of allowing distractions come and go without judging.1 Just to warn you, it does take practice to become really good with mediation, especially with keeping focus on your breathing or your go-to word.

There have been a number of studies on the benefits of meditation on our health. Studies have found that meditation can change the brain wave patterns from patterns of high activation to patterns of relaxation that can help manage and improve our health. When the brain is in a relaxation pattern, it allows the stress hormones to lower in the blood.1,2 Put it this way: Meditation is like a cool-down for your mind, just like a cool-down after a good workout for your body.

Here are some benefit examples of meditation:

Benefits of meditation on illness1,2:

  • Pain management
  • Better sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved management of:
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Depression
    • Asthma
    • Heart disease (and even decreasing the risk of this condition)

Benefits of meditation on emotional health1,2,3:

  • Mental stress
  • Ease anxiety
  • Helps reduce negative emotions
  • Can promote healthier behaviors

Those are some of the benefits of meditation. Remember, there are many types of meditation — so it could take time to find the one most suitable for you. Meditation takes practice, so be patient. You will not become a master of meditation in one day. Lastly, meditation does have a lot of health benefits, but at the same time it can’t be used on its own to treat a medical condition. Make sure you consult with your doctor.

 

References:

  1. Meditation: In Depth https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
  2. Meditation: A simple fast way to reduce stress. mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858
  3. Corliss, J. (January 08, 2014). Mindfulness mediation may ease anxiety, mental stress health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967

 

Tips for healthy teeth

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When’s the last time you gave your teeth a serious thought? Maybe at your dental exam. Maybe even the last time you had a tooth ache. Or maybe twice a day while brushing your teeth. And you’re not alone. The truth is many adults don’t give their teeth a second thought day to day and yet they plan a very important part in our overall health. Many of us don’t realize there are simple things we can do to keep our teeth as healthy as possible.

Here are ten easy tips for keeping your teeth pearly white and healthy for years to come!

  1. Get into a routine for brushing: Always brush your teeth two times a day and for two minutes at a time. The American Dental Association also recommends using a fluoride toothpaste as well as flossing.
  1. Slow on sweets: Sugar and sweet snacks can wreak havoc on your teeth so opt for the fruits and vegetables instead. If you must have snacks always remember to brush afterwards to prevent damage which happens when bacteria in the mouth breaks down sugars and produces acids that can erode teeth. Sticky candies can also linger causing issues.
  1. Out with the old: Toothbrushes should be changed 3 to 4 times a year so get on a rotation that is easy to remember like the change of seasons.
  1. Don’t use tobacco: Choose to not smoke or use smokeless tobacco as it can stain teeth and significantly increase the risk of gum disease and oral cancer.
  1. Check in with the Dentist twice per year: The American Dental Association recommends that you have a checkup every 6 months or more often if you have certain issues or problems.
  1. Be Aware: See your doctor or a dentist if you have sudden changes in taste and smell as it could be a sign of an issue.
  1. Don’t use teeth to open things: It seems silly to say but using your teeth to open containers, crack nuts, remove bottle tops, open packaging, or remove tags off of clothing it can result in serious unnecessary damage such as cracking, pulling out, or even breaking teeth.
  1. If you lose a tooth by having it knocked out: Save it or if possible try to hold it in place while seeking immediate dental care. If this is not an option carefully wrap the tooth in plastic and place it in milk until care is available. 
  1. Protect your teeth from danger: Many adults lose or crack teeth playing sports each year. To avoid unnecessary trauma when playing contact sports wear a mouth guard to protect teeth and gums. If you participate in endurance sports that rely on gu’s and chews for energy read THIS article for tips to protect teeth.
  1. Limit alcohol, acidic drinks, and sugary beverages: Acids from foods can soften tooth enamel and cause cavities. Replace these beverages with water and if you do drink them brush immediately after to avoid damage.

What tips do you use to keep your teeth healthy? Share in the comments below!

 

References:

American Dental Association: http://www.ada.org/en/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/factsheets/childrens_oral_health/brushup.htm

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