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Sip Away Stress By Adding These Herbs To Your Tea

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Stress is just a fact of life. Even the things we enjoy doing can cause stress, like planning a vacation, preparing for a new baby’s arrival or getting a promotion and pay raise at work.  Stress management is critical to keeping your body and mind healthy. Sometimes it is difficult to get in a workout or eat healthy but it is very easy to sip away stress.

Effective stress management with herbs.

Herbs That Make Great Stress Reducing Teas

There are three herbs in particular that have a long and well-documented history of being healthy stress reducers. Ingesting them in the form of a tea can help with your stress management plan and they are all safe and easy to find.

Passionflower

This potent herb was first used in the 17th Century by Spanish Jesuits in Peru and is now consumed all over the world.  There are over 500 different species of Passilora, as it is also known, but the most common variety is Passionflower incarnate, which is native to the Midwest and Southeastern United States.

Passionflower has been used for centuries as an effective sedative, pain reliever, digestive aid, and anxiety reducer.  Studies in Western medicine have shown it to be an effective way to treat ulcers, boost the brain’s levels of feel-good hormones and help you relax and fall asleep. 

The herb comes in capsules, powders or tinctures, but the best way is to drink it as a tea. Soaking the dried leaves in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes will make you a brew strong enough to enjoy the health benefits.

Chamomile

Chamomile has a long and well documented history of use as a soothing and healing herb.  It is from a flowering plant in the daisy family and you can use the dried blossoms to make a wonderfully fragrant and slightly sweet tasting tea that has many health benefits, namely stress management.

Chamomile tea can help soothe an upset stomach, relieve tension by inducing muscles to relax and even help you fall asleep.  It has been shown to be effective in relieving stomach cramps, due to its chamazulene content, a kind of oil in the flowers of the plant. It is believed that this ingredient is what helps relieve muscle spasms. Those with irritable bowel syndrome may find it especially helpful in relieving spasms in the bowel to ease constipation or diarrhea.

Lemon Balm

Named for its lemony scent, this herb is native to Europe and the Mediterranean and is a member of the mint family. It has earned a reputation around the globe as a stress-busting herb and makes a great tea to help you sip away your stressful day.

One of the best benefits of drinking lemon balm tea is that it helps boost mental alertness. It is often recommended for the elderly to help stave off dementia by sharpening memory and enhancing problem solving cognitive function. In a Chinese study, eugenol, a compound in the herb was thought to be responsible for boosting memory.  A similar study found that lemon balm suppresses the brain chemical acetlycholinesterase, which breaks down the chemical acetylcholine, which is responsible for memory and mood.

Lemon balm is also a powerful antioxidant to help your cells start to regenerate after a long hard day in your daily life. It can also help you stabilize your blood sugar and that will keep your mood balanced instead of wildly fluctuating with sugar highs and lows.

Related:  History of Green Tea in Indigestion Remedies

All of these herbs are considered generally safe.  Always check with your doctor if you take prescription medication and your pediatrician before you offer any herbs or supplements to your children, though.

Try this tea recipe at home to help manage your stress:

Ingredients and Preparation:

  • 2 teaspoons dried chamomile flowers
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon balm leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried passionflower leaves
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Steep tea leaves in water for 10-15 minutes.
  • Add in honey and lemon.
  • Sip while warm.
  • Serves 1.

These herbal teas are also delicious iced and topped off with slices of fruit.  
Enjoy!

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Three Household Hazards for Pets

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Our furry four-legged family members need us to keep them safe from harm.  There are three common household items that pose a significant hazard to your pet’s safety and health. Though they are so common you may not realize the danger they pose to your dog or cat.

Ways to protect your pets from household harm.

Electrical Cords

In modern households there is an abundance of devices with electrical cords.  Their soft, chewy texture is tempting to pets, especially puppies and kittens.  If your pet chews through the soft outer-coating and his or her teeth hit one of the inner wires it can be deadly.

The resulting electrical shock is terribly painful and will cause severe burns to your pet’s tongue and mouth.  A particularly powerful shock can also damage your pet’s lungs making it difficult for them to breath. If this happens call your vet right away to know what to do next.

Whenever possible keep electrical cords inaccessible to your pets. Don’t leave puppies, kittens or dogs that are chewers alone in rooms where they can get at them.  Unplug what you can and wrap a protective, chew-proof coating around exposed electrical cords.

Paper Shredders

That innocuous paper shredder next to your desk can be a deadly device to your pet. Your dog or cat may try to lick the blades ending up with severely injured tongue and mouth. Oftentimes the injuries from a paper shredder are so severe the pet must be euthanized since it will be unable to eat or pant normally ever again.

To avoid the horror of such a thing:

  • Keep the paper shredder up on a shelf or in a cabinet when not in use (or get a desktop model)
  • If you have to keep it out where your pet could get to it, buy one with a cover over the blades, don’t leave it on an automatic setting, and unplug it when not in use.
  • Don’t shred food wrappers in it as this will draw your pet to it and tempt him or her to lick the blades
  • Put your pet in another room or outside temporarily when using the paper shredder, be sure to unplug it when you are done, and cover the blades before you let your pet back in the room

Related:  Ten Tips for Safe Car Travel with Your Pets

Antifreeze

While this may not be in the house, it is still a common household product that may be in your garage.  Antifreeze contains a sweet-smelling chemical called ethylene glycol, which prevents your car’s radiator from freezing and removes rust.  As little as a half of a teaspoon can be fatal to a small dog or cat and make a larger animal violently ill. It can take several hours for the deadly chemicals to make their way through your pet’s digestive tract and into their bloodstream. Prior to that they may act and appear just fine.

Within 24 hours of ingesting the anti-freeze it is metabolized in the liver and becomes a dangerous metabolite that pulls calcium from the blood and deposits it in the kidneys. This can mean severe damage or kidney failure.

Signs that your pet has ingested anti-freeze are:

  • Vomiting
  • Staggering and loss of balance
  • Refusing to eat
  • Convulsions
  • Falling into a coma

To avoid poisoning your pet, carefully inspect under your car for any antifreeze leaks.  Keep jugs of it on a high shelf or in cabinets that latch closed. The sweet smell will draw your pet to it and even licking up a small puddle on the floor can be fatal.

If your pet does ingest antifreeze rush them to the vet immediately. There is only a short window to save their life.

To ensure good pet health take some precautions with these common but potentially dangerous household items and avoid a disaster for your furry, four-legged family member.

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Five Tips to Avoid Constipation While Traveling

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Nothing can take the fun out a vacation faster than suffering from constipation. If it happens to you, rest assured, you are not alone.  Bowel movement issues are very common among travelers so it’s important to follow these five healthy travel tips to keep you regular.

Healthy traveling without constipation

Change Is NOT Always Good

Preparing for a trip and traveling, even if it is on vacation, can be very stressful. If you turn to junk food, skip meals or are feeling stressed, this can cause irregularities in your bowel movements.  Often, using unfamiliar bathrooms can induce anxiety.  Just not following your normal routine can contribute to constipation.

Maintaining healthy eating and drinking habits while preparing for and traveling can help you avoid traveler’s constipation.  Find a food vendor that offers fresh salads, fruit and high fiber cereals or breads and skip the fast food restaurants in the terminal or on the road. If possible, pack your own healthy high fiber snacks to munch on during the flight, train ride or car trip.

1. Dehydration Nation

The TSA won’t let you bring water through security and buying airport bottled water is expensive, so you might be tempted to let yourself get a little dehydrated. If you are road tripping you might drink less to avoid frequent bathroom stops; not a good thing!

Drink plenty of clear fluids, namely water, and save the alcoholic or sugary sodas and cocktails for a special occasion. You may also want to limit your caffeine intake for the duration of your trip, too. It can act as a diuretic and you need adequate water in your bowels to form normal stools and pass them regularly.

Bring an empty water bottle to the airport and fill it at a drinking fountain once you clear security. Sip, don’t gulp, throughout the day and plan accordingly for adequate bathroom breaks.

Related:  Dangers of Laxative Overuse for Chronic Constipation

2. Bacteria Is Your Friend

If you are not regularly taking a probiotic supplement you should be. These gut-healthy bacteria are essential for good digestion.  Before your trip, start taking them and pack them in your suitcase. They will keep your immune system strong and aid in digestion so you don’t end up with stubborn bowels that won’t move.

Try to include foods on your trip that are rich in probiotics like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi (a spicy fermented cabbage) too.

3. You Got To Move It Move It!

The last thing on your mind when traveling might be exercise. Who has time for that?  You do!

You don’t have to run several miles or go to a boot camp class, just choose stairs instead of the elevator once in awhile, walk to and from dinner, plan an activity that incorporates some walking, hiking or just hit the hotel pool for a few laps.  Mild to moderate exercise keeps your metabolism revved up and increased circulation will wake up sluggish bowels while encouraging you to drink plenty of fluids.

4. Don’t Sugar Coat It

Your bowels do not need a layer of sugar when they are already a bit stressed from travel.  Cut back on the sweet stuff and you’ll most likely keep them humming along just fine. It’s easy to over-indulge while on vacation and airport sweets might be tempting, before you board a morning flight, but resist the temptation! 

Pack your own healthy snacks like almonds, a clementine, apple or snack-sized package of whole grain crackers and save the sugar indulgence for the end of your trip.

5. Go Green

Green foods like broccoli, lettuce, peas, asparagus and spinach will make for a much more pleasant trip. Having a few salads with fresh fruits and vegetables will help you stay hydrated and full of fiber; essential for avoiding constipation.

Try eating a small salad or munching on some raw broccoli before meals to ensure you get in your greens. You’ll stay regular and slimmer on your trip.

Following these healthy travel tips can be the difference between the best trip ever, or an unpleasant journey marred by the pain and bloating of constipation.

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19 Tips to Avoid Air Travel Illness & Germs While Traveling

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Getting ill while traveling is no fun, yet it happens all the time.  Following these travel sickness tips could help prevent illness so you can enjoy the journey.

Tips for Preventing Travel Illness.

Airplane Germs

Airports and airplanes are petri dishes of germs from millions of travelers.  Travel in the winter means more exposure to cold and flu viruses, bacteria abounds on handrails, elevator buttons and you will undoubtedly find yourself shoeless walking where many other feet have tread at the security area.  

Give your immune system a boost before travel by regularly taking probiotics for optimal gut health and a stronger immune system. It is also helpful to increase your intake of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that has shown to help lessen susceptibility to bacteria and viruses.  Also, consider vitamin D-3 supplements and zinc, known immunity boosters that can help fortified your immune system before you travel.

Wash your hands, a lot! Frequently washing your hands, especially before you eat or touch your face, is very important.  Many germs and types of bacteria can live on handrails, elevator buttons, doorknobs and handles for hours.  Use soap, wash for at least as long as it takes you to hum the happy birthday song under your breath; and when possible use a paper towel to open the bathroom door to exit.

If washing your hands is not an option, have a few antibacterial wipes in your carry-on to keep your hands clean.

Related:  Healthy Travel Begins with Immune-Boosting Supplements

Jet Lag Drag

Traveling across several time zones can leave you exhausted and cut into the enjoyment of your trip as you struggle to adjust.  You can avoid the worst of jet lag by following a few simple guidelines.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends you stay on your home sleep schedule for trips lasting two or less days, regardless of the difference in time zones. This will minimize disrupting your internal sleep, bathroom, and eating schedule.  

For longer trips, however, you should start slowly adjusting your schedule to the time zone you will be arriving at to start your trip or vacation. At least four days before your trip begins, shift your sleeping and eating times to match the time at your destination. Though it might be difficult, stay on the new time zone schedule as much as possible and try to go to bed when it gets dark there, not back at home.

Other things that can help are:

  • Opt for an overnight flight
  • Cut back on caffeinated foods and beverages
  • Drink plenty of water and other non-sugary fluids
  • Avoid alcohol for a few days and on the plane, it is a sleep disruptor
  • Consider taking melatonin tablets to help you fall asleep once you reach your destination (1-2 mg daily)

Light can be your friend against a jet lag foe. Exposure to bright natural light can help you stay awake and regulate natural secretions of melatonin in the brain.  Exposure to light inhibits the brain from secreting melatonin, and when it becomes dark, it will trigger its release to help you fall asleep.  Seek out bright light in the evening hours when traveling west and in the morning when you are east bound. Get as much sunshine as you can when you arrive at your destination to help you stay awake and adjust to a new sleep time.

Don’t DVT

DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in a vein deep within a muscle, usually your calf or thigh.  Prolonged sitting causes DVTs, like on a flight across the ocean, or several days on a train.  If the clot breaks off it can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

Because of the danger in sitting too long, make sure you get up and move around whenever possible. Walk briskly to your gate, take the stairs, and on the plane or train be sure to get up frequently to walk to the bathroom and stretch.

Wearing compression garments can help.  There are socks and even full length compression suits that can be worn underneath your clothing. The gentle pressure helps keep blood flowing and reduces the chance of developing a blood clot.

Speaking of clothing, wear comfortable loose fitting clothing.  Avoid pants and belts that are constricting.  

Other things you can do to lessen your risk of a DVT is:

  • Avoid caffeine
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Taking circulation supplements like natto (made from fermented soybeans) and fish oil can help

Following these few travel tips can make for a much more pleasant journey.

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Holy Basil: A Divine Answer to Stress Management

by Institute for Vibrant Living

All hail holy basil! This potent herb has many health benefits, some of them being reduced feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.  It has a long history of use around the globe for not only being physically, but mentally healthy, as well, and could be very beneficial for stress management.

Holy basil for stress reduction.

History

Holy basil is closely related to the more familiar sweet basil used in many dishes, especially in Italian cooking; and is from the mint family.  It is a shrub with fuzzy stems and leaves and native to Eastern tropical parts of the world. In India and Hindu countries, it is considered a sacred plant, thus the name holy basil.  It’s been grown and cultivated in India for the past 3,000 years and is revered for being a plant that can heal the body, mind and spirit.

Ayurvedic medicine has included the use of holy basil (aka tulsi) because of its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, among others. It is used to treat physical ailments like headaches, upset stomach, insect bites, skin rashes, and to calm nerves and help one sleep better.

Holy Health Benefits

Western medicine has begun to offer evidence that holy basil extract can dramatically reduce symptoms of general stress like:

  • Exhaustion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Insomnia
  • Sexual/libido issues

The benefits of the herb administered in an extract proved to be effective after only six weeks of use in one study. 

Another study in 2008 used holy basil to evaluate its effectiveness in treating the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders. Test participants took 500 mg of the herb in supplement form twice a day for 60 days.  Test administers published results saying those who took the herb supplement reported significantly reduced feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, in contrast to those who received a placebo.

Related:  Three Herbs for Stress Reduction

Other health benefits attributed to holy basil are due to its anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve:

  • Fevers
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Bites, cuts or stings

As a powerful antioxidant, holy basil is also showing to be a healthy supplement to boost cognitive function, strengthen the immune system, help kidneys function better, and stabilize blood glucose levels.

Holy Basil At Home

It’s simple to cultivate your own unlimited supply of holy basil at home.  You can plant it in in a garden pot inside to get it going when it’s cold outside and transplant it to warm soil (where it grows best) in the summer (at least 65-70 degrees F). Put it somewhere that will allow for full sun and be sure to water it regularly.  To encourage a larger, bushier plant cut off the flowering blossoms, though letting them grown into flowers does not affect the health benefits of the plant. Make sure your plant is well established and growing strong before you harvest the first leaves.

Holy Tea for Two

The best way to get maximum health benefits from holy basil is to use the leaves to make tea.  Pour eight ounces of boiling water over two teaspoons of fresh leaves, cover and steep for five minutes, then enjoy!

If you are not too keen on growing your own you can find the herb in supplement form.

If you are looking for some easy stress management techniques, sipping some holy basil tea could be for you.

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Bones and Raw Food Diet For Dogs - Canine Pet Health

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Somewhere between 37 and 47 percent of households across the country have dogs, so pet health is a high priority for many Americans.  Pet owners are inundated with dog food advertisements claiming one brand or another offers the healthiest pet nutrition.  In lieu of commercially-made dog foods, many dog owners are opting for the Bones and Raw Food Diet (sometimes referred to as BARF), which is essentially what dogs ate before they became domesticated.  The BARF diet offers a number of health benefits over commercial dog foods.

Many dog owners concerned about pet health opt for the Bones and Raw Food diet.

Improved Dental Health

A large number of dogs over the age of three suffer from periodontal disease.  Kibble and canned dog foods contribute to poor dental health in dogs, but raw meaty bones do not.  Chewing through meat and soft bone massages canine gums and scrapes plaque off a dog's teeth.

Better Digestion

Many commercial dog foods are packed with grains.  Because dogs do not produce the digestive enzyme needed to digest grain (amylase), they have trouble digesting foods that contain grains.  Commercially-made dry dog foods also absorb water, which means dogs that eat it can become dehydrated.  Chronic dehydration can lead to crystals and kidney disease. 

Related:  What Does the Term Biodynamic or Organic Mean?

Allergy Relief

Many dogs that eat commercial foods filled with grains, fillers, dyes and preservatives develop allergies.  Animals that suffer from allergies have itchy skin and a smelly, greasy coat.  A diet of raw foods and bones helps reduce allergies in dogs and produces a beautiful, shiny coat.

Stool Changes

To the delight of some pet owners, a raw diet changes the size, consistency and odor of a dog's stool.  Because dogs digest raw foods more easily, those fed the BARF diet defecate less often and poop is smaller, firmer and much less smelly.

Many dog owners concerned about pet health are turning to the BARF diet as an alternative to dry kibble and canned dog foods.  Options for dog owners wanting to try the BARF diet include commercially-made products located in a refrigerated section of the pet grocery aisle, or homemade BARF diets.  Some healthy foods for a homemade diet include:

  • Raw bones
  • Meat
  • Offal (liver, kidneys, heart, tripe)
  • Whole eggs
  • Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, celery, carrots)
  • Fruit (apples, pears, grapefruit, oranges)
  • Flaxseed
  • Garlic
  • Alfalfa
  • Kelp
  • Cod liver oil
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The Inside Scoop on BPPV

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Dizziness and vertigo may be caused by any number of health issues. Most causes are minor and treatable through healthy living tips and exercises developed as healthy habits. The most common cause of vertigo, particularly in the elderly, is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, which is an inner ear condition.

Healthy habits such as regular Epley maneuvers can cure balance problems in the inner ear.

 

If you think you may be suffering from BPPV, lie down with the affected ear toward the floor. BPPV will trigger a brief but intense feeling of the world spinning around.

What Causes BPPV?

The inner ear is a series of semi-circular canals filled with fluid, nerves and fine hairs for hearing. BPPV is caused by loose calcium carbonate crystals called otoconia. These crystals are normally attached to the lining but if they break loose and tumble around the inner ear, they abnormally touch the sensory receptors causing dizziness, vertigo, disorientation and loss of balance.

The best non-surgical treatment for BPPV is to maneuver these loose particles into an area of the inner ear where they cannot trigger the receptors. This is done through simple repetitive exercises that move the head around and can be completed in just a few minutes. Healthy habits include repeating these exercises regularly to maintain efficacy.  

Related:  Natural Remedies for Balance Problems

Healthy Living Tips for BPPV Using Particle Repositioning Maneuvers

Particle positioning maneuvers are a safe and natural way to treat BPPV. They are 95% successful and the only side effect may be initial nausea or vomiting triggered by the BPPV.

If the sufferer has not ascertained which ear is affected, the Brandt-Daroff Maneuver is the best option. Those who know which ear is affected should use the Epley Maneuver.

  1. The Brandt-Daroff Maneuver

Sit on the edge of the bed with your feet on the floor. Lay your head down sideways and tuck your feet up onto the bed so you are lying on one side. Keep your head in a fixed position, focusing on the head of an imaginary person stood about six feet from the bed. Lie still until the dizziness (if any) subsides. Return to the sitting position for 30 seconds then lie down on the opposite side, keeping your eyes fixed at that same imaginary point. The Brandt-Daroff Maneuver should be done three times a day and repeated five times per session for two weeks.

  1. Epley Maneuver for DPPV

Sit on the bed with your legs stretched out in front toward the foot of the bed. Turn the head 90 degrees to the left then lie down on your back, maintaining the head’s position. After 30 seconds, move the head to the right side and rest another 30 seconds. Roll the body onto the right side for 30 seconds then sit up in the original position. Rest for one minute. Repeat the cycle three times as a healthy habit for helping to alleviate BPPV each night before sleep.

If these maneuvers do not cure vertigo within two weeks, sufferers should consult their doctor to diagnose the cause.

 

 

 

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The Alkaline Diet for Optimal Health

by Institute for Vibrant Living

When it comes to good health, it's all about equilibrium.  Too much acid in the body throws the pH balance out of whack and boosts vulnerability to viruses and disease.  When people eat acid-forming foods, the body releases alkaline minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorous into the bloodstream to restore pH balance.  If not available through food sources, these minerals are pulled from organs, teeth and bones, a process which compromises the health.  An alkaline diet can help. 

Fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots and cucumbers make great options for an alkaline diet.

The pH balance in our blood should be slightly alkaline for good health, which can be achieved by eating more high-alkaline foods and fewer foods that produce acid.  Good alkaline diet foods include vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and celery. For high-alkaline fruits, people often turn to red or yellow apples, avocados, grapefruit, lemons, limes, pomegranate and rhubarb. Additional alkaline-forming foods include almonds and almond milk, buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds, herbs and herbal tea. Acid-producing foods include meats, fish, dairy products, beans, processed foods and many types of grains.

Alkaline Diet Benefits for the Health

A diet full of alkaline-rich foods offers a number of benefits to the health.

Bone Health

Maintaining a healthy pH balance can benefit bone health.  A study from the University of California showed that chronic acidosis contributes to bone loss.  Research also shows that hip fractures among middle-aged females are often linked to diets low in vegetables and high in animal products.

Related:  The Bone-Blood Connection

Muscle Mass

As people age, they lose muscle, which raises risks for falls and fractures.  Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that diets with more potassium-rich foods (like fruits and vegetables) and less acid might help prevent the loss of muscle mass in aging individuals.

Cancer

Adding high-alkaline foods to the diet can help people with cancer.  Research published in the journal Cancer shows that an alkaline diet makes some chemotherapy medicines more effective.

Adopting an alkaline diet doesn't mean eating only alkaline-rich foods.  Foods high in alkaline should make up about 60 to 80 percent of the diet, with acid-forming foods making up the remaining 20 to 40 percent.  Because pesticides are acid-forming, shoppers should purchase organic produce when possible. 

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Seven Tips for Avoiding the Dangers of Sugar

by Institute for Vibrant Living

As more people are joining the health and fitness bandwagon, concerns about sugar are growing.  According to Time Magazine, the typical American consumes more than 56 pounds of sugar each year.  While everyone knows that sugary foods are bad for the teeth, too much sugar affects the body in many other ways.  Research shows that high-sugar diets can raise risks for diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  Food manufacturers make the problem worse by adding sugar to many common foods like bread, soups, sauces and condiments.   Fortunately, seven tips for avoiding the dangers of sugar can help.

The dangers of sugar include higher risks for tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

1.  Don’t add sugar to food or beverages.  Avoid adding sugar to foods and beverages like pancakes, cereal, coffee and tea.  Instead of using sugary syrups, top pancakes with almond butter and bananas.  Add fresh berries or dried fruits to cereals, and stir all-natural stevia into hot beverages.

2.  Avoid hidden sugars.  Recognizing sugar is the first step to reducing it in the diet.  Ingredients like corn syrup, agave, molasses, malt sugar, honey, and brown sugar are all types of sweeteners that affect the body the same way as white table sugar.  Reading the ingredient list on a product's label can tell you if it contains any of these hidden types of sugar.

Related:  Your Sugar Cravings Explained

3.  Beware of fat-free foods.  If the goal is to limit the dangers of sugar, fat-free foods may not be the answer.  When manufacturers remove fat from certain foods, they often remove taste as well.  To compensate, many fat-free foods contain extra sugar, salt, flour and other thickeners.  Make sure to read labels to determine sugar levels in fat-free foods.

4.  Shop the rainbow.  White makes a great color for decorating but not for the diet.  White foods like potatoes, rice, bread and pasta are almost always higher in sugar and calories.  Foods rich in color like bell peppers, berries, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash offer very little sugar but plenty of healthy phytochemicals, antioxidants and other nutrients.

5.  Steer clear of ingredients ending in –ose.  In addition to more obvious types of hidden sugars like honey and corn syrup, ingredients ending in –ose are also forms of sugar.  These include glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, sucrose, maltose and xylose.  Look for these ingredients on food labels. 

6.  Follow the law of four.  A simple math problem helps people determine how much sugar (in teaspoons) they are about to consume per serving.  For instance, if a serving of cereal contains 12 grams of sugar, divide the 12 by four to find that the serving contains three teaspoons of sugar.

7.  Skip the fruit juice.  In addition to removing all the fiber from fruit, juicing boosts sugar content.  For instance, a 12-ounce glass of apple juice has more calories and nearly the same amount of sugar as a 12-ounce glass of cola.

Too much sugar in the daily diet raises risks for many types of disease.  According to the World Health Organization, people who want to reduce the dangers of sugar should limit sugar calories to about 5 percent of their total daily calorie intake.  Fortunately, by following the tips above, consumers can slash daily sugar consumption for better overall health. 

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Understanding Balance & Tips To Stay Steady On Your Feet

by Institute for Vibrant Living

We take many aspects of life for granted, such as the ability to balance. Healthy habits are important for maintaining many everyday activities such as walking on an uneven sidewalk, stepping off a curb to cross the street, or getting out of bed without falling over. Let’s look at how all the amazing parts of our body work together for perfect balance, and pick up some healthy living tips to keep it that way.

Healthy habits help maintain balance

 

Understanding Balance

Balance is defined as the “ability to maintain the body’s center of mass over its base of support.” We need perfect balance to stand upright, see clearly as we move around, and live a normal healthy life.

Related:  Natural Remedies for Balance Problems

Lack of balance is shown by a range of symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo and the inability to walk steadily in a straight line. These can cause nausea, feelings of disorientation, and problems with sight, hearing, concentrating and remembering things. It takes a combination of systems all working synergistically together to maintain balance.

Balance requires:

  • Muscles, bones and joints that provide motor control. Movements and postural adjustments that help us stay balanced are driven by the brain through sensory receptors and motor impulses. Information from the joints and body relay information to the brain.
  • Vision to provide sensory input through sight, giving a sense of distance and proportion. Rods and cones in the retina provide fine detail and visual information about how the body is orientated in relation to other objects.
  • The inner ear contains semicircular canals filled with fluid that detect turning movements. It sends sensory information to the brain to make compensatory adjustments to the rest of the body
  • Nerves are used to detect changes in the body as we move around. For example, pressure on the front soles of the feet tells the brain that you are leaning forward. Movement in the neck tells the brain which way you are looking. All these allow the brain to make fine adjustments so that the body remains upright and balanced through an ongoing series of large and small movements.

Healthy Living Tips to Support Balance

Fortunately, all these activities go on subconsciously or proprioceptively, allowing us to think, move and get on with life while the body and brain control the task of keeping us upright and safe.

As balance requires a coordinated combination of several systems, if one component ceases to function correctly, it is likely to affect our balance. Disease, injury or aging can affect sight, muscles, joints, the nervous system and the brain, resulting in imbalance.

Balance also depends on other more subtle factors.  Make sure to get enough sleep, as being tired can affect your balance.  Side effects of prescription drugs can dizziness and a feeling of being imbalanced and off-center.  Having a clear mind also helps with balance, therefore stress can impact your ability to remain balanced.  Hatha yoga is one of the best ways to safely and naturally improve your ability to be balanced.  

By taking care of the body holistically, we can support the interaction of different components that allow us to balance. Healthy habits include taking supplements that support vision, active cognitive function and supple joints and bones. If just one part of the whole becomes incapacitated, your balance is likely to suffer as a result.

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Five Tips to Eating Healthy While Tailgating

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Football and tailgating go hand in hand, but typical tailgate food isn't always healthy. Cheeseburgers, hotdogs, ribs, potato chips and dips often have high levels of fat and calories.  What's more, grilling produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs), cancer-causing compounds that form when muscle meats are cooked over high heat.  Fortunately, football fans can enjoy healthy tailgating by following five easy tips.

Enjoy healthy tailgating by blending grilled meats with plenty of vegetables.

1.  Incorporate more fruits and veggies into tailgate food.  Fill trays with sliced vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber, broccoli and cauliflower, and substitute hummus for fatty dips.  Use prosciutto, fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fat-free dressing and skewers to create caprese on a stick.  Replace high-calorie desserts with fresh orange wedges, grapes, watermelon, or apple slices.

2.  Have fun with activity.  Tailgating isn't just about the food.  It's a time for relaxing and socializing with friends and family.  Active games like tag, corn hole, Frisbee or football make a tailgate party healthier and more fun.

Related:  Heart Healthy Recipes

3.  Make smarter beverage choices.  For healthy tailgating, make lighter choices when it comes to alcohol by packing the cooler with light beer or wine spritzers.  For the kids, replace high-sugar sodas and concentrated fruit juices with bottled water, coconut water or infused water.

4.  Stay hydrated.  Having plenty of water available helps prevent dehydration on a hot day.  Drinking H2O in between cocktails also helps counteract the effects of alcohol like headache and low energy.

5.  Reduce HCAs for healthy tailgating.  Studies show that well-cooked meat produces 3.5 times more HCAs than medium-rare meat.  Research also shows that the use of ingredients like herbs and vinegar can reduce HCAs by 50 percent or more.  Marinate chicken in a blend of white wine, garlic, thyme, rosemary and ginger for a yummy HCA-reducing recipe.  Combine ground beef with dried cherries, garlic, a little honey, cumin, and dried chilies and grill to medium-rare.

Tailgating is an activity long-enjoyed by football fans, but football foods aren't always the best when it comes to the health.  Fortunately, following the five tips above helps reduce fat, calories, alcohol content, and HCAs for happy, healthy tailgating.  

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Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery – What You Need To Know

by Institute for Vibrant Living

The latest trend for healthy living tips includes vaginal rejuvenation, which is the third fastest-growing type of plastic surgery for women. Also known as vaginoplasty or vaginal tightening, this surgical or laser procedure may be required for practical, sexual or aesthetic reasons.  

Healthy living tips may include vaginal rejuvenation

 

What is Vaginal Rejuvenation?

Vaginal rejuvenation is a new type of cosmeto-gynecological surgery. It treats vaginal relaxation which is commonly associated with childbirth and aging. Unfortunately, as the vagina stretches and loses muscle tone it can reduce sexual satisfaction and cause a loss of self-esteem.

Vaginoplasty can also help reduce mild incontinence and leaking due to slack muscle tone associated with older age. The procedure is performed under general anesthetic and the surgeon tightens the inner and outer muscles and structures of the vagina to improve muscle tone, strength and control.

Healthy Living Tips for ConsideringVaginal Rejuvenation

There are several different reasons why a woman may want to undergo vaginoplasty. For many women post-childbirth, their vaginal muscles become loose as the years go by. Vaginoplasty can tighten the vaginal canal, restore lubrication and stimulate non-responsive areas, increasing sexual satisfaction. Vaginal rejuvenation also increases blood flow to the area. New tissue produces collagen and increases lubrication, particularly for those with atrophic vaginitis.

Some women seek out vaginal rejuvenation or labiaplasty for cosmetic reasons, shaping or reducing the vaginal lip area. This may help boost self-confidence or enhance sexual pleasure by restoring the vagina to pre-childbirth condition.

Vaginal tightening may also be advised to help control mild urinary incontinence and embarrassing bladder leakage caused by slack muscle tissue in the vaginal area. In some cases, healthy habits such as regular kegel exercises can tighten the vagina and reduce the risk of incontinence. However, some women still need vaginal rejuvenation surgery.

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Laser or Non-Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation?

Although vaginal rejuvenation is a relatively new procedure, there are several different methods available including laser and surgical non-laser techniques. Patients considering vaginal rejuvenation should talk to their doctor about which method would be best suited to their needs.

Non-surgical laser treatment for vaginal rejuvenation is painless, FDA approved, and is usually provided in a series of treatments. Alternatively, vaginal rejuvenation surgery is usually recommended for women requiring treatment for a pelvic organ prolapse or significant vaginal relaxation. This is done using a Bovie electric scalpel or radiofrequency Elman technique.

As with all surgical enhancements, sensible healthy living tips should be followed including finding a well-qualified doctor who is experienced in vaginal rejuvenation to perform this highly personal procedure.

 

 

 

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4 Dangers of Dry Dog Food – Pet Health

by Institute for Vibrant Living

For many people across America, pets are part of the family, making pet health a high priority.  Many dog owners rely on dry dog food products to keep their four-legged companions strong and fit.  Hundreds of brands promise all the nutrition and goodness dogs need.  Unfortunately, dry dog food may not be as healthy as you might think. Here are four important facts you may not know about dry dog food:

Many dry dog food brands promise tartar prevention, but dry kibble may actually worsen tartar buildup and contribute to poor pet health.

1.  Dry dog food does not prevent tartar buildup.

Good pet health extends to your dog's teeth, and dry dog food does not help.  Because of its abrasive quality, it can remove some plaque at the tips of the teeth, but it can also collect at the gum line.  This can cause plaque, tartar and gum disease, and the amount of refined carbohydrates in some dry dog foods makes the problem even worse.

Get in the habit of regularly brushing your dog’s teeth. It’s easy, and it can prolong your dog’s life (just like good oral hygiene can extend human longevity.)  Regular brushing helps prevent bad doggy breath, it makes your pet more comfortable as they age; and over time, you can save a lot of money by not having to have professional intervention to repair what should have been tended to all along.  Get a tube of chicken or peanut butter flavored dog tooth paste from the pet shop.  Use a soft toothbrush size-appropriate for your dog’s breed.  Have a partner hold your dog, and gently brush their teeth several times a week.  They’ll get used to it and enjoy it once you develop a routine.

2.  Many dry dog foods are deficient in nutrients needed for good pet health.

Most dry dog foods lack an adequate amount of essential fatty acids (EFAs), nutrients that are needed for healthy pet function.  Found in fatty fish, chicken, pork and many plant oils, EFAs are important for your dog's growth and reproduction and they support healthy skin and fur.

3.  Some dry dog foods can cause bladder stones and bladder infections.

Certain dry dog foods lack important minerals, which can cause a buildup of other minerals in a dog's body to compensate.  This mineral buildup can lead to bladder stones.  Cereal products found in some dry dog foods can also cause mineral buildup in dog urine, which can lead to bladders stones and bladder infections. 

Related:  Which Holiday Plants are Poisonous to My Pets?

4Dry dog foods can be bad for your dog's health and the health of your lawn.

Lacking adequate sources of energy and high in insoluble fiber, many dry dog foods are difficult for dogs to digest.  This results in large, moist and smelly stools.  These wet stools contain concentrated urine that can burn grass, as evidenced by brown patches on the lawns of many dog owners.        

Devoted dog owners put pet health on top of their list of daily priorities.  There are good dry dog food brands available.  Learn to read the labels and seek out a healthy alternative for your pet.  Many are turning to homemade dog food as an alternative to dry kibble.  The foods below offer good daily nutrition for dogs:

  • Seeded apples, oats, blueberries, carrots – sources of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber
  • Chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish – sources of protein
  • Salmon, flax seed – sources of essential fatty acids
  • Plain yogurt, cottage cheese – sources of calcium
  • Brown rice, sweet potatoes, barley – sources of carbohydrates
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The Effects of Stress on People with Diabetes

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Sweaty palms, flushing in the face, feelings of anxiety… these are just a few of the signs of stress.  For most people, occasional stress is not a big deal, but the effects of stress on people with diabetes are markedly different and more dangerous.  Stress triggers the release of hormones like cortisol that can raise glucose (blood sugar) levels. 

How does cortisol raise blood sugar?

The fight-or-flight response is the body's way of dealing with a stressful event.  The release of cortisol and other hormones creates a rush of glucose to use as energy for fight or flight.  When experiencing short-term episodes of stress, this response is healthy for most people.  However, for people with diabetes, it creates a serious problem.  Diabetic bodies have trouble moving glucose from the bloodstream into cells, so episodes of stress can lead to an excess of sugar in the bloodstream.

For people with diabetes, stress can cause a vicious cycle.  Stress raises blood sugar, and the diabetic becomes even more stressed over high glucose levels.  Chronic stress like that experienced when dealing with relationship problems or caring for a sick loved one can make diabetes management more difficult by taking the focus off of personal health care.

One of the effects of stress is emotional eating, but using food to relieve stress is dangerous for diabetics.  Many comfort foods are high in fat and sugar, which can impact blood glucose and body weight.  When people are overweight, body cells become less sensitive to insulin released from the pancreas and glucose pools in the bloodstream instead of being absorbed by the cells.

What are some stress-relief techniques for managing blood sugar?

Stress-relieving techniques that may help control blood sugar include meditation, yoga, tai chi, and guided imagery.  Exercise also helps relieve stress, and it may offer even more help for people with type 2 diabetes.  Some research indicates that fat cells are more insulin-resistant than muscle cells for people with type 2 diabetes.  Exercise and building muscle appears to lower insulin resistance because muscle cells use up excess glucose in the blood for energy. 

Related:  Health Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

What are some ways to manage blood sugar?

To metabolize carbohydrates, the body converts them into sugar and releases insulin to move sugar into cells.  Because diabetes hampers this process, the sugar stays in the bloodstream.  People with and without diabetes can manage blood sugar by limiting consumption of carbohydrates to fiber-rich, low-sugar forms like oatmeal and fresh vegetables.  Carbohydrates that contain fiber are metabolized slowly, so the rise in blood sugar is gradual.  

Drinking plenty of water also helps keep blood glucose in check.  Water helps the kidneys flush glucose out of the body through urine, and it keeps the bloodstream hydrated.

While some stress is acute or short-term like the stress we experience in traffic, other stress is long-term or chronic.  No matter what the causes of stress or the duration, people with diabetes have to work harder than others to keep it under control.  Following the tips above can help people manage blood sugar and reduce stress for diabetes and good overall health.

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Cholesterol by Any Other Name

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Most people know that high total cholesterol usually indicates heart disease and high blood pressure. Although we are familiar with “good” and “bad” cholesterol, there are six main types of lipids (fats) in the bloodstream that can give a more informed view of our state of health. These can be very useful for those with high blood pressure symptoms and those wanting to counter high blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle.

Raised cholesterol is the main culprit for causing high blood pressure

 

HDL Cholesterol

HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and is considered “good” cholesterol. It helps remove the less desirable LDL cholesterol fatty acids by transporting it to the liver where it is reprocessed. HDL cholesterol also helps maintain the inner endothelium lining of blood vessels by keeping them clear of plaque build-up, a common cause of high blood pressure.

In the case of HDL cholesterol, high numbers can be good. If you have 60 mg/dL of HDL cholesterol or more, this means you are at lower risk of heart disease than those with less than 40mg/dL. Anaerobic exercise, quitting smoking and losing excess weight can all help boost healthy HDL levels.

Related:  What is the Diabetes-Cholesterol Connection and Why is it Important?

LDL Cholesterol

LDL refers to low-density lipoprotein which is “bad” cholesterol as it collects on the walls of blood vessels, restricting the blood flow and causing the symptoms of high blood pressure. If left to build-up, plaque-causing LDL cholesterol can lead to a blockage where a blood clot might form.

High levels of LDL indicate a higher risk of heart disease or stroke. If your LDL levels are above 150 mg/dL, you need to exercise regularly, cut out saturated fats and eat more fiber.

RLP

RLP stands for remnant-like particle cholesterol which is considered one of the most harmful lipoproteins. High levels of RLP are associated with coronary heart disease, even in those with normal total cholesterol and low LDL. Omega-3 fatty acids can significantly lower levels of RLP in those with levels above 7.5mg/dL.

IDL

Intermediate-density lipoproteins are similar to LDL and can similarly be controlled with a low-fat diet and exercise. IDL creates damaging plaque build-up in the arteries causing high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, which lead to heart disease, stroke and sudden death.

Lipoprotein(a)

Recent research shows that Lp(a) levels can accurately assess the risk of future cardiovascular disease. Although more research needs to be done, doctors suggest Lp(a) levels should be below 50mg/dL to reduce the risk of heart disease

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are another form of fat which the body uses to store energy. Unfortunately, fat stored in the form of triglycerides tends to affect muscle tissue and creates fatty liver disease.

High triglycerides can be genetic but when accompanied by high blood pressure, obesity, increased blood sugars and high levels of inflammatory proteins they indicate a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Try to maintain triglyceride levels at 150 or below by losing weight and increasing exercise.

Learning more about these blood lipids helps us understand the importance of following a healthy lifestyle. The best way to reduce high blood pressure and raised cholesterol is by following a low-fat, high-fiber diet with regular exercise to keep all those lipids in check.

 

 

 

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The Effects of Stress Include Faster Cancer Growth and Metastasis

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Whether sitting in heavy traffic or dealing with long-term financial woes, people are exposed to stress on a regular basis. The causes of stress are many, but all stress falls into one of two categories. The short-lived type of stress we might feel in traffic is known as acute stress, and this type usually wanes when the situation changes. The type of stress we feel when dealing with frequent financial trouble is known as chronic stress because it lasts for weeks, months, even years and has no clear end in sight. While acute stress presents little cause for concern, chronic stress can damage the health in many ways including encouraging the growth and spread of cancer.

A few simple practices can help counter the harmful effects of stress on health.

Research into the Effects of Stress on Cancer Growth and Metastasis

Isolation or confinement is a condition that creates stress in mice.  Research on mice with cancerous tumors found that tumors were more likely to metastasize (spread) when mice were isolated.  Another study showed that tumors transplanted into the mammary pads of mice metastasized much more quickly if mice were under constant stress than if mice were not under stress.  While scientists continue to research whether stress causes cancer directly, there's no doubt that it helps certain types of cancer grow and spread.  

How Stress Encourages the Growth and Spread of Cancer

Lorenzo Cohen, a professor of General Oncology and Behavioral Science explains that stress makes the body "more hospitable to cancer."  The release of hormones triggered by chronic stress hinders anoikis, a process in the body that destroys diseased cells and keeps them from spreading.  There is also some evidence to suggest that stress triggers the release of growth hormones that can boost blood supply to cancerous tumors.

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While it is important for all people to try to counteract the effects of stress, it is essential for people with cancer.  Here are a few ways to keep stress at bay:

Try therapeutic strategies. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help reduce stress by discovering its sources and offering management tools for accompanying worry and anxiety.

Practice activities that encourage mindfulness.  Whether you enjoy painting or yoga, activities that keep the mind focused on something other than stress can provide temporary relief.

Get plenty of sleep.  A good night's sleep helps improve mood, memory and the ability to think clearly.  Proper sleep also helps boost the immune system, and a healthy body is the best defense against stress.

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Seven Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Next Cruise Vacation

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Those looking for healthy living tips for relaxing should definitely consider unwinding on a luxury cruise. We look at ways to get the most from your cruise while maintaining healthy habits such as daily exercise and eating five-a-day fruit and vegetables.

Healthy living tips recommend taking relaxing vacations such as cruises

 

Here are our seven top tips for successful cruising:

Book Last Minute

Although cruise lines offer tempting deals to get you to book early, the best prices are always last minute. If you are flexible on your travel dates you can pick up a bargain (as low as $40 a day per person) if you book one month or less before departure. That’s a great healthy habit for your bank balance!

Check in After 2pm

Sailings usually depart early evening so boarding commences around noon. Those staying overnight in the area or flying into a nearby airport create long lines prior to the official boarding time as they have nowhere else to hang out. Miss the rush by aiming to arrive at the port around 2pm. You’ll “sail through” check-in, missing the long lines and be just in time to enjoy afternoon tea in the buffet.

Splurge on a Balcony

Although you spend most of your time in the cabin asleep, having a balcony has definite advantages. It gives you a quiet space for sunbathing and quiet reading. It also provides a source of daylight so you wake naturally as part of your circadian rhythm, another useful healthy living tip.

Relax in the Spa

Healthy habits need not be abandoned while enjoying your cruise. Check out the dozens of massages and beauty treatments available at the onboard spa. Many cruise spas also offer a range of talks and beauty demonstrations so you can look and feel years younger at the end of your relaxing cruise.

Related: Safe Anxiety Treatments: Rose and Lavender are Scents that Soothe

Enjoy Specialty Restaurants

Whether you are celebrating a special event or just want to enjoy romantic dining with a table for two, the specialty restaurants really make a cruise extra special. The attentive waiter service, choice of dining times (book ahead!) and exquisite cuisine are well worth the modest supplement. Some specialty restaurants even include live entertainment or a dinner show.

Enjoy Top Entertainment

Cruises attract some top performers and the shows are free. Look forward to being entertained by international comedians, singers, dancers, musicians, acrobatics, Broadway-style costumes and more at the nightly shows. Bars also feature live musical entertainment from dueling pianos and Spanish guitarists to singing duos and dance bands. Healthy habits should include dancing off those calories!

Plan Shore Excursions in Advance

With over 2,000 cruisers onboard some popular shore excursions book up fast so it pays to be organized. Healthy living tips include joining in some watersport activities or walking tours as an enjoyable way to include some exercise on your fantastic luxury cruise. Bon voyage! 

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The Effects of Stress on Your Immune System

by Institute for Vibrant Living

When it comes to preventing or fighting infection, the body relies on the immune system.  This network of cells, proteins, tissues and organs works to combat foreign invaders like germs, bacteria, fungi and parasites.  A number of things can weaken the immune system including chronic stress.  Because causes of stress include work, relationships, health problems and life changes, it is impossible to avoid.  Knowing more about the how stress affects the immune system can help. 

Activities like yoga, tai chi, meditation, reading or listening to soft music can help combat the effects of stress.

The Research

Research from Ohio State University has shown marked effects of stress on the immune systems of medical students, especially during arduous three-day exams.  Effects include weakened infection-fighting T-cells and reduced production of gamma interferon, a protein that helps boost the immune system.

Subsequent research examined the effects of stress-easing interventions on medical students during exams.  Results showed that the immune systems of medical students who participated in regular hypnosis and relaxation training were more robust than those of medical students who did not participate in these techniques.

Another study examined men infected with HIV who were asymptomatic at the onset of the study.  The research showed that men with higher levels of stress experienced a quicker progression of AIDS than men with lower stress levels.  After five years, the chances for developing AIDS were two to three times higher in men with higher-than-normal stress levels.

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In addition to causing physiological changes in the immune system, stress can lead people to engage in behaviors like drinking, smoking and unhealthy eating.  When combined with stress, any or all of these behaviors can wreak havoc on the immune system.

Fortunately, there are techniques to lessen the effects of stress on the immune system and other areas of the body.  These include:

  • Stress-relieving activities like yoga, tai chi, meditation, reading, warm baths, or listening to soft music
  • Regular physical exercise
  • Bonding with a pet
  • Establishing and maintaining close relationships with friends and family

Research clearly shows that chronic stress can impact health by weakening the immune system. Instead of choosing to ignore stress or to eat, drink, or smoke it away, people can take advantage of the tips above to reduce stress levels and keep harmful foreign invaders at bay.

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The Effects of Stress on Your Heart

by Institute for Vibrant Living

In a modern world, it is nearly impossible to avoid stress. Causes of stress include family or work issues, major life changes, health concerns and emotional problems.  Occasional stress is healthy, but chronic stress takes a toll on the body including the heart.  Prolonged exposure to stress can encourage people to engage in unhealthy behaviors that raise risks for heart disease, and stress can create real physiological changes within the body. 

Directly or indirectly, the effects of stress include inflammation, elevated cholesterol and higher blood pressure.

Physiological Effects of Stress:  Blood Pressure

When under stress, the body releases adrenaline, which causes the heart rate and blood pressure to rise. This can be helpful and healthy in the event of an emergency but becomes harmful to the body over time. In an attempt to dull chronic stress, some people smoke or drink alcohol in excess, behaviors which can also contribute to high blood pressure.

Physiological Effects of Stress:  Cholesterol

When LDL cholesterol is too high, it can build up in the arteries and lead to heart disease. Research shows that stress has an indirect effect on cholesterol levels.  It can result in unhealthy dietary habits and increased body weight, which are proven risks factors for high cholesterol

Physiological Effects of Stress:  Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is associated with a range of health conditions including heart disease.  A new study conducted by researchers from Ohio State University, UCLA, Northwestern University and the University of British Columbia shows that the body's immune cells change as a result of chronic stress.

When responding to prolonged stress, immune cells go into battle mode, as if the body were experiencing infection or trauma.  This can lead to high levels of inflammation.  Results showed that mice exposed to chronic stress and people with a low socioeconomic status (a predictor of chronic stress) showed higher levels of inflammation than counterparts experiencing lower levels of stress.

Related:  The Stress-Menopause Connection

Ways to Counteract the Effects of Stress

Engaging in stress-relieving activities and managing unhealthy behaviors can help counteract the effects of stress on the heart and the rest of the body.

Get adequate exercise.  Physical exercise leads to the release of endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain that help counter stress.  Regular exercise also strengthens the heart muscle, lowers blood pressure, and helps people maintain a heart-healthy body weight.

Keep a positive attitude.  Research shows that a positive attitude helps reduce the chances of death in people with heart disease.  Attitude-raising activities include watching funny movies, taking a gratitude inventory and engaging in positive visualization.

Try stress-relieving activities.  A number of activities can help relieve stress.  While some people enjoy reading, painting, taking a bubble bath or listening to soft music, others prefer yoga or meditation.  No matter what the technique, it's important to utilize it regularly if experiencing chronic stress.

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Seven Common Causes of Balance Issues

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Even the healthiest adults may encounter balance issues, particularly as they grow older. While some imbalance issues may require medication, other balance problems can be cured by understanding the cause and adopting healthy habits to prevent them.

Healthy living tips for the inner ear support balance

Here are some healthy living tips and advice about how to deal with seven common causes of imbalance, so you can feel a bit steadier on your feet.

1.     Migraine

Some people suffer visual disturbances, flashing images, partial blindness in one eye or dizziness as part of what is known as a migraine aura. Take preventative headache medication at the first signs of a migraine to avoid it developing into a cluster migraine and try to avoid any trigger foods such as chocolate, strawberries and red wine.

2.     Inflammation of the Inner Ear

The inner ear is made up of several semi-circular canals lined with hairs and nerves to sense when we turn our head or move. This is the balance control center of the body. Unfortunately the quantity of nerve cells steadily decline after the age of 55. If healthy habits are ignored, it can result in a loss of balance, vertigo, BPPV or acoustic neuroma. A knock on the head, low blood pressure or an ear infection can also affect the balance in the inner ear. Get a regular checkup with a health professional to ensure that your whole body is healthy as part of balance support.

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3.     Heart arrhythmia

An irregular heartbeat can cause momentary loss of balance or co-ordination. Any irregular heartbeat, such as racing, throbbing or a rapid pulse should be checked out by a medical professional to avoid more serious health issues.

4.     Peripheral neuropathy

The brain relies on peripheral nerves to transmit sensory information which helps the different systems in the body to control balance. Physical injury, diabetes, repetitive stress and metabolic disorders can disrupt the nerve messages to the brain, resulting in balance problems.

5.     Depression and anxiety

Lightheadedness can be brought on by panic attacks, feelings of anxiety, hyperventilation and other emotional stresses. Regular exercise and good social support can help negate these serious health issues, helping ease anxiety and reducing associated dizzy spells.

6.     Standing up too quickly

Another cause of imbalance is suddenly standing or sitting up, or getting out of bed too quickly. Rapid movement can cause a drop in blood pressure, a common cause of unsteadiness. Healthy living tips for better balance include getting into the habit of rising slowly and steadily from a chair or bed.

7.     Muscle weakness

Regular exercise may help improve muscle weakness. In rare instances, loss of balance and weakness may be due to medical problems such as MS, Alzheimer’s, lupus and brain tumors.

If you are suffering from momentary balance issues it makes sense to get your overall fitness checked out by a doctor regularly as one of the healthy habits to ensure your whole body is functioning well.  Other commonsense healthy living tips include adopting a healthy diet and regular exercise suitable for your age and ability. Not only will this diagnose any health issues, it may also prevent balance issues in later life.