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What are the Health Benefits Red Wine Vinegar?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Red wine vinegar is typically used as a condiment and in salad dressings, but it appears that it may be a healthy addition to your diet as well.Health Benefits Red Wine Vinegar | Institute for Vibrant Living

In fact, red wine vinegar has been used for centuries as a folk remedy for many ailments - and now modern research shows that some of the claims attributed to red wine vinegar, ranging from lowering blood pressure (BP) to improving digestive health, may actually be true.

For instance, studies have shown that patients with type 2 diabetes who consumed vinegar as part of a complex carbohydrate-rich meal experienced a reduction in glucose levels afterwards. Other studies have reported a drop in waking glucose levels in diabetes patients who consumed vinegar prior to bedtime.

Researchers have also noticed reductions in fat production in animals that were fed a high-fat diet supplemented with acetic acid - most likely because genes responsible for fatty acid oxidation are activated when acetic acid is ingested. Acetic acid in red wine vinegar also reduces levels of the hunger-inducing hormone ghrelin, helping to control cravings and reducing fat buildup.

In fact, a Swedish study has shown that vinegar supplementation helps people eat less and reduce cravings after meals. Because acetic acid helps to slow sugar absorption, it also prevents blood sugar levels from spiking following a meal, lowering risk for type 2 diabetes.

Improved calcium absorption has also been linked to the consumption of red wine vinegar - animals given vinegar for just over a month showed a better rate of calcium absorption. Not only that, adding a dilute solution of acetic acid has been shown to be effective in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Yersinia and monocytogenes.

Finally, resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant found in red wine - present also in red wine vinegar - that has been shown to counter the harmful effects of a high-calorie diet in mice and extend their lifespan. Red wine and balsamic vinegars may help combat obesity, which is often linked to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer.

Given all these health benefits, why not add red wine vinegar to your diet today?

Source: Health Benefits of Red Wine Vinegar.

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Tips for Breaking Your Facebook Addiction

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Facebook is a valuable worldwide tool for establishing and maintaining social connections.  Users communicate with "friends" and share information in a fun and creative way, but once people log into Facebook, it can be difficult to get back out.  Roughly 39 percent of people on Facebook admit to excessive use, which can eat into everyday activities and promote a sedentary lifestyle.  Take advantage of these healthy living tips to help break your Facebook addiction.  

 

A few healthy habits can help internet users limit their time on Facebook.

Login with a purpose.  Boredom is not the best reason for using Facebook.  Set higher standards for logging in like promoting a cause, checking out a particular page or messaging a friend.  Healthier cures for boredom include reading a good book or taking a bike ride.

Implement no-Facebook zones.  Making certain areas Facebook-free (or Facebook-less!) helps limit daily use.  Turn off technology during meals, when using public transportation, in the bathroom and before going to sleep at night. 

Set an alarm.  Allow yourself a designated period of time for Facebook enjoyment, and stick to it.  Set the alarm on your cell phone to signal when to sign off. 

Related:  Ten Relaxing Ways to Disconnect from Digital Technology

Turn off email notifications.  Of all the healthy habits for limiting Facebook use, this one works the best.  Email notifications taunt users to log into Facebook, and turning them off helps save valuable time. 

Take the weekend off from all social media.  Taking a two-day break from social media shows people how little they really need it. 

Try off-line communication.  Are you missing an old friend?  Is it your sister's birthday?  To communicate with loved ones, try a novel approach with actual communication, like sending a card via snail-mail or making a telephone call.

Think before you post.  Take time to self-evaluate before posting a photo or a status update on Facebook.  Will your post provide value to other users, or will it turn them off?  Friends may become bored after the fourteenth picture of your cat, and they may look at post after post of your accomplishments and pics of your beautiful home as boastful.

Facebook allows users to share information and network with people around the world.  Although social media makes a valuable tool for communication, excessive Facebook use can interfere with daily activities and encourage a sedentary lifestyle.  By showing users how to limit Facebook time, the healthy habits above allow more time for other enjoyable activities

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Creative Ideas for Better Spring Cleaning

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Many people live by the old saying, "A clean home is a happy home."  While keeping living space tidy and clutter-free is one of the best healthy habits for reducing stress, a thorough spring cleaning offers even more benefits.  Deep cleaning is good exercise, and scrubbing the house from top to bottom helps reduce fire hazards and kill germs, mold and bacteria.  While some areas are forgotten during spring cleaning, they can have a big impact on health and safety.  Here are five spring cleaning tasks that help ensure a safer home and promote better health. 

 

Healthy living tips benefit Americans in many areas of life, and spring cleaning is no exception.

  1. Cleaning upholstered furniture:  In addition to brightening up your home, giving upholstered furniture a thorough cleaning helps rid homes of pet dander and dust mites.  To clean furniture, homeowners should remove cushions and vacuum all surfaces.  Next, clean upholstery carefully with a soft bristled brush and foam cleaner or rent a hand-held carpet or upholstery cleaner and follow the manufacturer's directions. If possible do all this out of doors, i.e. in garage, on the deck, patio, etc., so what gets kicked up can get kicked out!

Related:  Are Synthetic Fragrances Toxic?

  1. Scrubbing and Waxing floorsDeep cleaning floors removes dirt, dust mites and other allergens, and waxing helps protect floors from scratches and spills.  A wash-and-wax product takes care of both jobs with one easy application.
  2. Removing dust and dirt from ceiling fans and vents:  Because they circulate air, ceiling fans and vents can also spread dust and allergens throughout the house.  Use a vacuum hose and brush accessory to remove dust from bathroom exhaust fans and heater vent covers.  To clean ceiling fans, wipe each blade with a cloth and cleaner, spraying the cleaner onto the cloth instead of the fan.  
  3. Cleaning light fixtures:  Light fixtures collect dust, which casts a pall over the entire home.  To brighten living spaces and rid the home of harmful dust mites, wipe (cold) light fixtures with a sponge and window cleaner. 
  4. Vacuuming refrigerator coils:  If allowed to collect on refrigerator coils, dust becomes a fire hazard, and an energy waste.  Use a long-handled bottle brush and a vacuum hose to remove dust from refrigerator coils and ensure a safer living environment.

When it comes to healthy habits, homeowners should put spring cleaning near the top of the list.  Annual deep cleaning helps prevent germs, mold and fire hazards.  Making an effort to complete these five jobs ensures extra-thorough cleaning and provides a healthy start to the warm-weather season.

 

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Three Signs Your Dog May Have Periodontal Disease

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Most dog owners do everything they can to protect their pet's health, but some may not be aware of the prevalence of gum (or periodontal) disease among dogs.  When compared to people, dogs are five times more likely to develop periodontal disease.  This happens primarily because a dog's mouth is more alkaline than a human's, which triggers the development of plaque.  In addition, unlike people, few pets receive regular tooth brushing.  Understanding the symptoms of periodontal disease and engaging in a few healthy habits can help keep Fido feeling good.

A few healthy habits can help prevent periodontal disease in dogs.

How Periodontal Disease Can Affect Dogs

Periodontal disease in dogs can lead to gum inflammation, damage to gum tissue, bone loss and tooth loss.  If left untreated it can cause even larger problems.  Canine mouth tissue contains many blood vessels.  If the gums are damaged, it becomes easy for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body like the heart, lung, or kidneys. 

There are three ways to tell if your dog might have periodontal disease:  Teeth develop tartar; breath smells rancid; gums begin to recede.

Periodontal Disease Prevention

To reduce plaque and tartar in dogs, give raw bones instead of cooked ones.  Raw bones have cartilage, tendons and ligaments that get in and around a dog's teeth and gum line, acting like natural dental floss. 

Holistic veterinarian Dr. Ihor Basko tells us that giving your dog a bone can be beneficial. Chewing helps stimulate saliva enzymes and when given AFTER meals for 10 or 15 minutes helps remove trapped food particles from the teeth. Chewing on bones also help prevent plaque buildup and gum disease especially in the back upper molars.

Dr. Basko goes on to say that bones provide minerals and other nutrients (depending upon what kind of bone) and help satiate your dog’s desire for food. Bones provide the nutrients needed to keep the skeletal system fed regenerating and adapting. Chewing on bones can also help pacify a dog’s habits such as excessive self-licking, scratching and other nervous behaviors.

Feeding bones isn’t appropriate for all dogs – certain breeds of dogs just can’t process bones and gain the same benefits that other dogs get from chewing on bones.  This has a lot to do with jawbone structure.

Brachiocephalic breeds such as boxers, bull dogs, pugs, and shitzu are NOT mechanically designed to be able to chew bones effectively and safely.  A Kong toy might be a better substitute if you have this kind of dog.  Look at your dog’s teeth closely especially the upper and lower molars in back of the mouth, the length of the muzzle, and the condition of the teeth and gums and ascertain if the mouth looks “in shape” to handle a bone. Or ask your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s mouth.

Little dogs and toys with delicate jaw structures and softer teeth should not eat bones. If your dog is too little to eat bones safely, you can still help maintain their dental health using a mix of hydrogen peroxide and aloe vera juice

Dogs with gut sensitivities might not process bones well either. If your dog is prone to loose stools or vomiting, be sure to resolve those GI issues first, and save the bones for after he/she has recovered. If your dog isn’t used to chewing on real meat bones, they can sometimes have a bout of diarrhea or soft stool after eating the bones. Over time, their system will adjust and they will be able to consume bones without issue (if fed bones on a regular basis).

The best time to give a dog a bone is after a full meal. Why? You don’t want your dog starving when he/she starts to chew on the bone. Ingesting too much of a bone could lead to constipation, and possible serious obstruction. Give your dog a bone for only 10 to 15 minutes, then take it away*, wash it, and store in a container in the fridge. Toss it out after 3-4 days.

*A good practice here is to replace the bone with something else (like a couple of pieces of mozzarella cheese) when you take it away. This will help reduce the likelihood of behavioral issues like resource guarding of the bones. If your dog growls when you approach his bone or try to remove it, definitely seek out a qualified dog behaviorist to help you retrain this behavior!

Bones must be Size Appropriate!

Dr. Basko emphasizes that large breed dogs such as Labradors, Dobermans, German Shepherds, etc. need a large enough bone so they will not chew and swallow it quickly. Bones should be larger than the length of the muzzle so it is impossible to swallow whole. A beef shank bone is a good example of a size appropriate bone for larger breeds.  Hunt for beef shank, rib, and large soup bones mostly because of availability, but lamb and large pork bones are suitable for the right jaw and dog. In general, bigger is better.

What Kinds of Bones Should Be Avoided?

Avoid the “3 B’s”: Baked, Broiled, Barbecued

Dr. Basko does not recommend feeding any baked, broiled, or barbecued bones to pets because the heat dries up the bone and makes it more brittle and subject to splintering. Chicken bones and beef “T” bones are mostly the culprits. Keep pets away from these bones!

However, boiling the bone can be useful. If your dog isn’t used to chewing on bones it is best to soften the bone through boiling. This is a good opportunity to make a meat broth for later use. Put the bone in a pot with some water, a little salt, celery, carrot, and parsley and simmer for about 1 hour.

What about Raw Bones?

After the initial few weeks chewing on softer boiled bones, raw bones can be introduced. Raw bones provide more nutrition. Dogs are more prone to wanting to bury fresh bones because they like them to be “aged” and fermented with soild bacteria. This practice is safe (but messy) if your soil is clean and healthy. Dogs need some of the bacteria, yeasts, and minerals in the soil to help digest the bones better. They instinctually know this.

Related:  Ten Tips for Safe Car Travel with your Pets

Good Sources to Find Bones

  • The supermarket (make friends with the butchers and you’ll find yourself getting better cuts since they’ll know it’s for your dogs)
  • From your local CSA (community supported agriculture co-op)
  • Meat markets / butcher shops

Use Supervision

As with most chewable pet-friendly items, supervision is very important! Don’t buy a real meat bone and then toss it to your dog when you leave for work in the morning.

Check on your dog periodically as he/she is chewing on the bone. Then, when you remove the bone, check your dog’s teeth and gums afterwards. You might see minor gum irritation if chewing on real bones is new to your dog. Eventually, the gum tissue will get stronger with stimulation and chewing.

The most common hazard with bone chewing is a slab fracture of one of the upper hind molars. If a dog has been already been chewing on rocks, furniture, and other hard materials, the teeth might have been already weakened resulting in a fracture when the bone chewing was initiated. If this sounds like your dog, be especially careful when feeding real meat bones.

Certain types of chew toys also help to promote good dental health in dogs.  Regular oral exams identify any potential problems your dog may have, and veterinarians may recommend professional cleaning if teeth have excessive plaque or tartar. 

Brush your dog’s teeth.  If they could brush their own teeth, they would; but they can’t so it’s up to you.  Puppies and young dogs get used to it, and some really like it; adult dogs will adapt—but brush your dog’s teeth at least several times a week.  Never use human toothpaste—it is poisonous to dogs. Purchase chicken or peanut butter flavor toothpaste for dogs.  Use a child-sized tooth brush for small dogs, and a larger toothbrush for larger dogs.  Brush the interior and exterior of front and canine teeth.  Brush only the exterior of the molars in the back by running the toothbrush along the gum and teeth, just lift the skin flap; no need to brush the inside of the back teeth (at the hinge area.)

Other healthy habits that keep canines in good overall condition include:

  • Choosing a high-quality dog food devoid of extra fillers
  • Keeping filtered water available at all times for all pets; usually this means in more than one location in the house, and having water available outside if the pets are often outdoors
  • Providing plenty of exercise
  • Regular checkups and de-worming
  • Flea and tick prevention

 

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Six Great Destinations for a Spring Break Family Getaway

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Happy families adopt healthy habits like taking family vacations.  While many people think of vacations as an indulgence, research shows that family getaways promote relaxation and build personal connections.  In addition, family vacations help broaden perspectives, encourage cooperation and create wonderful memories.  For a spring break getaway this year, think outside of the box.  Discover six Spring Break family destinations that combine dining, shopping and entertainment with healthy recreational opportunities

Good healthy habits for families include annual vacations to places like San Antonio, Texas.

 

  1. Carlsbad, California:  Situated between Orange County, California and San Diego, the City of Carlsbad offers a variety of exciting opportunities for a family vacation. Affectionately dubbed, "The Village by the Sea," Carlsbad delivers seven miles of scenic coastline for surfing, swimming and fishing.  Tourists enjoy an array of charming shops and boutiques, sidewalk cafes, and colorful flower gardens.  Close proximity to fun family attractions like Sea World and LEGOLAND resort make Carlsbad a favorite getaway location for children.
  2. Amelia Island, Florida:  A barrier island located off Florida's northeast coast, Amelia Island offers a number of attractive vacation features.  A history of French, Spanish, British and American rule supplies rich cultural diversity; and 13 miles of beaches provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.  Tourists enjoy a variety of shops and restaurants and strolling along the public boardwalk.
  3. San Antonio, Texas:  San Antonio offers a wonderful mix of history, cultural attractions and natural beauty.  Located in south-central Texas, San Antonio is home to the Alamo, a Spanish mission-turned-museum that played a key role in the Texas Revolution for independence from Mexico. Visitors to the city also enjoy the beautiful River Walk on the banks of the San Antonio River and proximity to theme parks like Six Flags and Sea World.

Related:  Lack of Exercise is More Harmful to the Health than You Might Think

  1. Lake Tahoe, California:  When it comes to healthy habits, many families enjoy snow skiing. Lake Tahoe, California, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, has much to offer families in the way of a skiing destination.  Because Tahoe transitions from a winter-to-beach destination in the springtime, vacationers enjoy lower prices and fewer tourists.  In addition to beautiful ski areas, popular attractions include charming mountain villages, a variety of shops and restaurants, and a number of cozy lodge-style resorts.
  2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina:  The boardwalk at Myrtle Beach, located on the coast of South Carolina, makes every child's heart skip a beat.  Features include a variety of arcades and tourist-inspired restaurants.  The Family Kingdom amusement park offers Sky Wheel, one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the United States.  Miles of coastline and celebrity-designed golf courses also provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor sporting.
  3. Wisconsin Dells:  For families that live in the central United States, Wisconsin Dells offers something special for children.  Affectionately known as the "Water Capital of the World," this southern Wisconsin city plays home to a number of water parks including Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park and Noah's Ark Water Park.  When families have had enough of this type of amusement, they can take to the wilderness for hiking and camping.

An annual vacation is one of the most valuable healthy habits that families can adopt.  While it may seem like a luxury, getting away as a group allows parents, children and siblings to form closer bonds and make wonderful memories.  The six destinations above offer something for every member of the family, from shopping and dining to entertainment and recreation.   

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Three Exercises to Improve Balance

by Institute for Vibrant Living

When it comes to healthy habits, few people think of taking steps to improve balance.  However, making good balance a priority can help boost quality of life well into the golden years.  With age, muscles get weaker and the stride becomes shorter.  Add in worsening vision and susceptibility for a serious fall rises.  In fact, one out of every three adults over the age of 65 suffers a serious fall each year.  Staying physically active can help.  Here are three specific exercises to build better balance.  

Healthy habits like balance exercises can help people stay mobile as they age.

 

  1. Heel-to-Toe Walk:  A long hallway makes a great space in which to perform this exercise.  Start by taking a step with one foot, and place the heel of the other foot directly in front of the toes.  Focusing on a spot ahead, continue walking heel-to-toe for 20 steps.  For more challenge, try walking backwards 20 steps toe-to-heel.    
  2. Stand on One Foot:   Standing on one foot is easy, or is it?  Using a chair back for support if needed, stand on one foot for a count of 15 seconds and repeat with the other foot.  Complete five sets of this exercise with each foot.

Related:  Discover the Benefits of Hatha Yoga for Stress Relief

  1. Balance Walk:  This is a modified version of the heel-to-toe-walk.  Raise the arms to shoulder height at the sides, palms down.  Focus on a spot ahead and walk in a straight line, placing one foot in front of the other, but with a normal (not heel-to-toe) stride.  With each step, lift the leg, hold and balance for one second before stepping.  Do two sets of 20 steps.    

When it comes to quality of life as we age, it helps to engage in healthy habits like building better balance.  Many people take good balance for granted, but it is wise to take steps to improve it.  The three exercises above can help.  By increasing muscle mass and improving upright stability, performing balance-boosting exercises promotes better mobility and keeps people active and injury-free through age 65 and beyond.

 

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Five Tips for Productive Family Meetings

by Institute for Vibrant Living

It takes work to build a happy family, and one handy tool can help:  regular family meetings.  Getting together to talk on a regular basis helps families build connections, work out problems and share information.  Because family meetings give parents and children an equal voice, kids feel listened to and respected.  Starting family meetings when children are young provides an invaluable sense of cooperation, safety and stability that transcends to school and social situations.  Five healthy living tips help ensure successful family meetings.

Healthy habits like regular family meetings teach children about compromise and cooperation.

  1. Follow a weekly schedule.  Set aside a little time one day a week for a family meeting, and stick to it.  When it comes to healthy habits, consistency is the key to success, and in the case of family meetings, consistency helps keep them calm and orderly.  It also shows children that family time is important.  If families have to skip a meeting for one reason or another, get back on track the following week.

 

  1. Keep meetings short and fun.  Start with 10-15 minutes for kindergarteners, and extend time as children grow.  Add enjoyment with refreshments or a special post-meeting dessert or game. 

 

  1. Make meetings a "safe place" to share concerns, worries and issues.  Encourage everyone to participate in calm problem-solving, and teach children that sometimes it is okay to "agree to disagree."

Related:  How to Deal with a Death in the Family

  1. Start the meeting with appreciation for other family members.  This puts everyone in a "feel good" mood and builds family bonds.  It is up to Mom and Dad to make sure everyone gets a mention. 

 

  1. End family meetings with "can't-waits."  These are things that family members are looking forward to in the week to come.  Can't-waits might include an exciting new work project for Mom or Dad or a special activity at school or sporting event for the kids. 

Both kids and parents benefit from healthy habits like family meetings.  These valuable get-togethers foster independence by allowing children to have a voice in important matters, but they also teach the value of interdependence.  Learning how to cooperate and compromise helps kids become more effective problem-solvers as they grow into young adults.

 

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Five Healthy Habits for Family Wellbeing

by Institute for Vibrant Living

When it comes to good health, it is more enjoyable when the whole family gets involved.  Parents lead the way by establishing boundaries, ensuring plenty of quality family time, and providing healthy meals.  In addition, staying physically active ensures greater confidence and a more positive self-image for each family member.  Five healthy habits help families build stronger connections and promote better fitness.

Healthy habits like bike riding together encourage better wellbeing for the whole family.

  1. Establish no-technology family time.  Televisions, computers and cell phones get in the way of family bonding, so establishing some tech-free together time is one of the best healthy habits for families.  Take 60 minutes after dinner to go for a walk together, walk the dog if you have one, play a board game, or go for a bike ride.
  2. Build healthier minds and bodies with yoga.  A family yoga class teaches adults and kids to become more aware of their bodies and builds balance, strength and flexibility.  In addition to the physical benefits, yoga also promotes a more relaxed and focused mind. Because family schedules can be hectic, this is something everyone can use.
  3. Connect to the great outdoors.  Living in the electronic age, it's easy to forget about all of the wonderful benefits Mother Nature offers.  From hiking through the forest to a day at the beach – outdoor outings allow family members to connect with nature.  In addition, studies show that people who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop depression and anxiety. 

Related:  The Importance of Family Time on Kids' Mental Health

  1. Engage in a little family competition.  If parents set a good example by keeping activities light-hearted, family competition can be fun and healthy.  Competition teaches kids humility, respect for others and it builds confidence and physical fitness.  Fun, competitive activities for families include outdoor activities like kickball, basketball, ladder ball or spike ball and enjoyable indoor games like Pictionary, charades or Wii Sports.
  2. Enjoy "pick-and-play" activities.  Write ideas for fun family activities on small pieces of paper and stuff them into a colorful jar or box.  Set aside a little time each week, and draw from the container to see what the family will do together that day.  Make sure to take turns so that everyone feels involved.

In families, good health starts from the top down.  Parents set the tone by being healthy role models, ensuring plenty of quality family time and providing nutritious foods, physical activity, and spirited competition.  The healthy living tips above help families stay connected and have fun in enjoyable, wholesome ways.

 

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Is Your Hair Loss a Symptom of Failing Health?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Everyone wants a full, healthy head of hair, which is why hair loss can be devastating.  Unfortunately, 85 percent of men and 40 percent of women lose their hair at one time or another.  How well and how fully hair grows may be dependent on the health.  A number of health conditions can interrupt the normal cycle of hair growth, resulting in lost locks.  

Eighty-five percent of men and 40 percent of women experience hair loss.

The Three Phases of Hair Growth

Each hair on the head goes through its own growth cycle.  The normal cycle of hair growth is made up of three phases.  When hair is growing, it is in the anagen phase, which can last from two to six years.  Then, hair enters the catagen phase, which lasts approximately two weeks.  During this phase, the hair follicle gets smaller and growth stops.  Hair then rests for a period of two to four months, known as the telogen phase, before falling out and being replaced with new hair. 

Related:  Tips on How To Counter Male Pattern Baldness

Normal Hair Loss

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is normal to lose between 50 and 100 strands of hair daily.  Unusually excessive hair in a brush or more than normal on the pillow or shower drain may indicate excessive hair loss.  Women tend to lose hair on the top of the scalp, and they may find that their part is widening, while men often notice hair receding from the forehead or crown. 

Sudden loss of hair is sometimes caused by a medical condition, and proper treatment can help.  The following medical problems can result in hair loss:

  • Addison’s disease – destruction of the adrenal gland affects production of certain hormones that may result in hair loss
  • Celiac disease – damage to the intestinal lining caused by this disease affects absorption of nutrients that contribute to healthy hair growth
  • Diabetes – this disease can lead to alopecia areata, a condition in which the immune system attacks hair follicles
  • Hodgkin’s disease – symptoms of this cancer of the lymphatic system can include alopecia
  • Hyperandrogenism  – a hair-thinning condition in women caused by excessive levels of androgens like testosterone
  • Hypothyroidism  – an underactive thyroid gland affects hormone production, which can contribute to hair loss
  • Lupus – can cause hair follicles to become brittle and hair to fall out in patches
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – can lead to hair loss in women due to an imbalance of male and female sex hormones.
  • Scleroderma – this disease of the connective tissue causes hardening of the skin, which can affect the scalp
  • Syphilis – Some people in the latter stages of this venereal disease experience hair loss

Finding excess hair on the pillow or in the shower can be distressing, but there may be an easy fix.  People who are experiencing abnormal hair loss benefit from a visit to a medical professional.  By taking a health history and doing blood work, doctors can rule out disease as a cause for hair loss and look for other contributors.  

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13 Medications that Can Cause Hair Loss

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Are you noticing more strands than normal in your hairbrush?  Many people assume that hair loss is a problem only experienced by men, but 40 percent of women across the country also deal with this unpleasant conundrum.  It's normal to shed from 50 to 100 strands of hair each day, but more than this may be cause for concern.  While there are a number of possible reasons for hair loss, a new medication just might be the culprit.

The Cycle of Hair Growth

Each strand of hair goes through its own growth cycle. The hair growth cycle begins with the anagen phase in which hair grows for two to six years.  In the catagen phase, which lasts approximately two weeks, the follicle shrinks.  This cuts off blood supply to the follicle and stops hair growth.  During the telogen phase, follicles rest for a period of one to four months. Finally, hair falls out, new hair emerges, and the cycle begins anew. 

Related:  Fight Hair Loss with these Vitamins and Supplements

How Medications Create Hair Loss

Certain medications interfere with the hair growth cycle, which can result in two types of hair loss called anagen effluvium and telogen effluvium.  Anagen effluvium occurs during the growth phase and affects the normal division of cells that produce new hair.  This type of hair loss often occurs shortly after beginning a medication.  It can be extreme and result in the loss of eyebrows, eyelashes and other hair on the body.  Chemotherapy medications are examples of medicines that can cause anagen effluvium.

The most common type of medication-related hair loss is telogen effluvium.  It typically occurs after an individual has taken a medication for two to four months.  The medication triggers hair follicles to enter the resting phase too early, which leads to loss of approximately 100 to 150 hairs strands per day.

Medications that Can Cause Hair Loss

In addition to chemotherapy medications, a number of other drugs can cause hair loss:

  • Acne medications that contain retinoids
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors
  • Antibiotics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Birth control pills
  • Diuretics
  • Heart failure and hypertension medications
  • NSAIDs
  • Statins
  • Steroids
  • Thyroid medications

The type of medication, the amount taken and a person's level of sensitivity can all affect how much, if any, hair loss is experienced.  While many people re-grow hair as soon as a medication is stopped or the dosage is adjusted, others may experience permanent hair loss.  People taking a new medication who have concerns about hair loss should check with their pharmacist and health care provider.  Switching to a new medication may be all that is needed.

 

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Seven Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

by Institute for Vibrant Living

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 29 percent of American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension.  This is a condition where the force of blood pushing against arterial walls is too high.  Labelled "the silent killer" because of an absence of symptoms, hypertension causes a wide range of health problems including blood vessel weakness and scarring, greater risks for blood clots, more arterial plaque, and tissue and organ damage due to blocked arteries.  While research shows family history can increase the risks for hypertension, there are also a number of lifestyle factors that boost the chances for its development.

A high-sodium diet is just one of the risk factors for high blood pressure.

 

  1. Excessive Bodyweight and BMI:  People are considered overweight when body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 30, and BMI measuring over 30 indicates obesity.  Research shows that excessive bodyweight raises risks for developing high blood pressure.  Monitoring bodyweight and BMI can help people keep blood pressure in check.  For successful weight loss, most people can lose from 1-2 pounds per week by subtracting 500 calories per day from their diet and adding daily exercise. 

 

  1. Inactivity:  In addition to raising risks for high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle increases chances for blood vessel disease, heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes.  Engage in regular exercise to help ensure healthy blood pressure.  Whether walking or biking, tennis or martial arts, finding a physical activity you love ensures regular participation.

 

  1. A High-Sodium Diet:  Salt retains fluid in the body, which can put extra pressure on the heart and contribute to high blood pressure.  Keeping track of sodium consumption helps.  While people with normal blood pressure should limit daily sodium to 2,300 mg, people with hypertension should consume 1,500 mg a day or less.

 

Related:  Seven Tips to Lowering High Blood Pressure Naturally

 

  1. Tobacco Use:  Every cigarette raises blood pressure temporarily and can contribute to damaged arteries and heart disease.  Smokers, especially those already at risk for hypertension, should make a plan to quit.  Hypnosis, acupuncture, guided imagery, patches, gum and certain medications can help.

 

  1. Heavy Alcohol Use:  Daily alcohol use or binge drinking can contribute to high blood pressure.  At highest risk are people who consume more than three drinks per day (12 oz. of beer, 4 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of liquor).  To prevent the development of hypertension men should limit alcohol consumption to two drinks daily, and women should limit consumption to one daily drink.

 

  1. Stress:  Research hasn't proven that stress causes hypertension, but stressful situations can spike blood pressure temporarily.  In addition, some people smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, or consume too many unhealthy foods in an effort to deal with stress, all of which are risk factors for high blood pressure.  Effective stress management techniques include meditation, yoga or guided imagery. 

 

  1. Gender and Age:  Up until 45 years of age, men are more prone to hypertension than women.  From 45 to 65 years of age, risks are roughly equal between men and women, and after the age of 65, more women are likely to get high blood pressure than men.

The healthy strategies listed above can help in the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, but some people may need medication to keep it in check.  Because of the absence of symptoms, people should have regular checkups in order to know and monitor their blood pressure numbers.   

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Three Exercises to Improve Balance & Prevent Falls

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Many of us take balance for granted, but as we get older, it becomes more of a challenge to remain upright.  Our stride becomes shorter, we walk slower and our muscles and vision begin to weaken.  All of these factors contribute to diminished balance, which can increase susceptibility to falls and related injuries.  In fact, one in three adults over the age of 65 experiences a fall each year, some with devastating results.  Fortunately, people can maintain good balance with healthy habits and an active lifestyle.  Three exercises in particular help improve and preserve good balance.

Balance begins to wane as we get older, but healthy habits can help.

 

  1. Heel-To-Toe Walk:  Perform this exercise in a wide open area or hallway.  Holding arms slightly or all the way out to the sides, take a step with one foot and place the heel of the other directly in front.  Find a focal point ahead, and repeat stepping this way for 20 steps.  For even more challenge, walk backward toe-to-heel for 20 more steps.
  2. Leg Swings:  With your arms at your sides, stand on the left leg and swing the right leg forward and back ten times without touching the floor.  Switch to standing on the right leg and swing the left leg ten times.  Next, hold arms out to the side, stand on the left leg and swing the right leg slightly in front of the right leg and out to the side without touching the floor.  Perform a total of ten swings and repeat on the other side.
  3. Wobble Board Training:  Certain thingamajigs make practicing healthy habits fun.  A wobble board features a flat surface in a round or rectangular design over one or two cylinders.  Standing on a wobble board helps improve balance, build lower-body strength and enhance focus.  When it comes to balance, more practice on the board delivers better results.

Related:  Natural Remedies for Balance Problems

As with flexibility or strength, balance improves with practice, but balance exercises aren't just for the elderly.  People who work on balance training early in life enjoy an active lifestyle well into the golden years.  Adding the exercises above to your list of healthy habits helps ensure more stability on your feet and the confidence to take on exciting active challenges.    

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Improve Your Balance with Four Healthy Habits

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Balance is the awareness of body position and the ability to distribute weight in order to remain upright.  Young people have few problems maintaining balance on the playground or the athletic field, but as people age, balance weakens.  This can result in falls and injuries in later life.  In fact, 30 to 50 percent of people over the age of 65 suffer at least one fall, some never fully recovering.  Fortunately, four healthy habits can help improve balance and enhance fitness levels throughout life.

Practicing healthy habits helps people retain good balance as they age.

 

1.  Stand on one leg

The beauty of this exercise is its convenience.  You can do it on your coffee break or while you're watching television.  You can do it while standing in line at the post office or store.  Shoot for about 45 seconds on each side, and when you have mastered that, try it with your eyes closed—but have something to hold onto if you try doing it with your eyes closed.

2.  Practice tai chi or yoga.  

Tai chi and yoga offer big benefits for balance as people age.  Studies show that people in their mid-60s who practice tai chi score in the 90th percentile on measures of balance and stability according to American Fitness Standards.  A study from Temple University showed that women 65 years of age and older who took yoga classes twice a week showed better ankle stability and reported more confidence in walking.  Because 22 percent of people 65 and older have a fear of falling, confidence in walking makes a big difference when it comes to quality of life.

3.  Build strong legs with squats.  

Few healthy habits enhance mobility and balance like squats.  Connective tissue and nerve endings deteriorate with age, and doing squats helps rebuild muscle memory by improving communication between the muscles and the brain.  To perform a basic squat:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and clasp your hands in front of your body, about 12 inches from your chest.
  2. Keeping your back straight and abdominal muscles tight, lower your body slowly (as if sitting) until legs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Hold for five seconds.
  4. Pressing the heels into the floor, rise slowly until standing.
  5. Perform two or three sets of ten repetitions each, resting about 90 seconds in between sets.  (Hold onto the back of a chair in front of you for increased stability.)

4.  Get a good night's sleep.  

Studies show that sleep deprivation slows reaction time, which affects balance.  Additional research conducted at California Pacific Medical Center found a link between sleep deprivation and falls.  The study examined almost 3,000 aging females and found that those getting less than seven hours of nightly sleep were more likely to fall than women getting more sleep.  Healthy habits that contribute to a good night's sleep include a regular sleeping/waking schedule; a warm bath or a cup of chamomile tea; and avoidance of television, cellphones and computers before bedtime.  Supplements like melatonin can help.

Related:  Sleep Disorders Linked to Serious Health Issues

A large percentage of people over the age of 65 fall every year due to diminished balance.   An injury caused by a fall can result in lost independence, related illness and early death.  The healthy living tips listed above can help improve balance, lower risks for falling and enhance fitness levels for years to come. 

 

 

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Tips for Better Balance & Coordination: Pilates

by Institute for Vibrant Living

We often underestimate the value of good balance, but this necessary skill helps us navigate many situations in life like climbing stairs, riding a bike or taking a shower.  As we age, our ability to balance begins to wane, but healthy habits like Pilates can help.  Pilates is a whole-body form of exercise that boosts coordination and balance by aligning the spine and pelvis, building muscle strength and improving flexibility.  It was introduced to America in the 1920s by a German physical trainer, Joseph Pilates and has since become a popular method of exercise.

Pilates is one of several healthy habits that build better balance.

 

Research on Pilates and Balance

A number of studies have shown the benefits of Pilates for balance.  Research published in the "Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation" examined a group of subjects over the age of 60 who were prescribed either five weeks of regular activity or five weeks of Pilates training.  After completion of the first five-week period, subjects waited six weeks and performed the alternate intervention.  Results showed that participation in the Pilates program resulted in better static and dynamic balance in subjects in comparison to regular activity.

Pilates Exercises for Better Balance

To help build better balance, try three Pilates-based exercises:

Toe Raises:  Toe raises build calf strength and promote better balance.  Stand with heels and calves together and toes positioned slightly outward.  Pull abdominal muscles in and move shoulders back and down.  Lift up onto the balls of the feet, and squeeze the glutes as you come down, but don't bring heels all the way to the floor.  Keep them slightly elevated, and repeat raises for 10 or 15 repetitions.  Then, do repetitions twice as quickly as many times as you can.

Standing Pilates Lunge:  This exercise promotes flexible hips, builds leg strength and improves balance.  Stand with your legs together. Moving the right knee into a deep bend, step the left foot straight back into a lunge.  Keep the hips and toes forward and the back straight.  Rest hands on top of the right thigh if needed.  Straighten the left leg carefully and hold for 30 seconds.  Repeat on the other side.

Standing Leg Circle:  This exercise encourages better balance with an easy gentle motion.  Stand with feet together and arms stretched out to the side.  Putting weight on the left leg, bend the right knee slightly with the toe pointed down.  Sweep the right leg forward, out to the side and back, making a circle.  Return to the bent-knee position, and perform 10 repetitions.  Repeat on the other side. 

Related:  Yoga Lowers Fatigue and Inflammation in Breast Cancer Survivors

Additional Benefits of Pilates

When it comes to healthy habits, Pilates offers many benefits.  In addition to improving balance and coordination, Pilates helps promote:

  • Better posture
  • Quicker rehabilitation from injury
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Enhanced concentration
  • Stress relief
  • Improved fitness and athletic performance

By building control and stability with a smaller range of motion and progressing to a larger range of motion, Pilates is the perfect exercise for older adults.  Although the impact of Pilates is gentler on the body than other forms of exercise, elderly people should always consult with a health care provider before beginning any exercise regimen.

 

 

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High Blood Pressure: Understanding the Numbers

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Blood pressure plays a big role when it comes to good health, but many people take their annual reading for granted.  A set of numbers deemed "normal" is often enough to calm the mind until next year's checkup.  Learning more about the meaning behind the numbers helps empower people and prevent high blood pressure.

Regular readings help to diagnose and treat high blood pressure.

 

Blood Pressure Defined

As the heart beats, it pumps blood into the blood vessels to carry oxygen to various parts of the body.  Blood pressure is the force exerted by the pumped blood against vessel walls.  When the heart beats, blood pressure rises, and when the heart rests between beats, blood pressure falls.

Systolic and Diastolic Pressure

A blood pressure reading is a set of two numbers, with one over the other like a fraction. Referred to as systolic blood pressure, the top number measures the pressure of blood when the heart beats (or contracts).  Known as diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number measures the pressure of blood in between heart beats.

Related:  Watermelon Lowers Blood Pressure

Healthy Blood Pressure Numbers

According to the American Heart Association, a normal measurement of blood pressure should show a reading with a top number between 90 and 120 and a bottom number between 60 and 80.  Numbers that are higher than the normal range suggest the heart is working too hard, which can impact health in a number of ways.  Numbers that are too low mean the heart and body may not be receiving enough oxygenated blood.  High blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and lower-than-normal blood pressure is referred to as hypotension.

High Blood Pressure Symptoms

Because high blood pressure is essentially a condition without symptoms, it is often referred to as the "silent killer." When blood pressure reaches emergency levels, symptoms may include:

  • A very high reading
  • Severe headache
  • Severe anxiety
  • Nosebleed

Lifestyle Practices for Reducing Blood Pressure

People with pre-hypertension (120/80 to 140/90) can benefit from lifestyle changes that help to reduce blood pressure.  People with higher readings may require medication, but these practices are still beneficial to people with any blood pressure reading.

Get more exercise: Consistent exercise is more helpful to blood pressure that sporadic exercise.  In other words, shoot for 30 minutes of exercise every day in lieu of hours at the gym on weekends. 

Reduce sodium intake:  Season foods with herbs and spices instead of salt, and steer clear of fast foods and processed foods often packed with sodium.  Adults with normal blood pressure should aim for 2,300 mg of sodium per day or less.  Adults with high blood pressure should limit daily sodium intake to 1,500 mg. 

Maintain a healthy body weight:  Research shows that for overweight individuals, a loss of even five to ten pounds can help lower blood pressure. 

Limit alcohol intake:  Having more than three drinks at one time can raise blood pressure temporarily, and repeated heavy drinking can result in long-term high blood pressure.

Manage stress:  Stress can cause the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow, which raises blood pressure temporarily.  Manage stress levels with exercise, meditation, yoga, a warm bath or soft music.

Don't smoke.  Nicotine in cigarettes narrows arteries, raising heart rate and blood pressure.  To protect lung health and promote healthy blood pressure, smokers should consult with their doctor about making a plan to quit.

 

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Take Vitamin D to Prevent Falls

by Institute for Vibrant Living

According to research, up to 41 percent of American adults are deficient in vitamin D.  Studies show that a lack of vitamin D raises risks for osteoporosis and may affect neuromuscular control and coordination.  This may explain the link between vitamin D deficiency and a higher risk for falls, especially in elderly men.  In balance tests requiring stepping and leaning tasks, elderly men with low levels of vitamin D showed poor performance.  While elderly people have a harder time absorbing vitamin D, eating certain foods and other healthy habits can help stabilize vitamin D levels.

Healthy habits for boosting vitamin D include adding fatty fish to the diet.

 

Healthy Living Tips for Getting More Vitamin D

Soak up the sun for short periods.  When sunlight hits the skin, the body makes its own vitamin D.  Exposure to ultraviolet B rays triggers the skin to convert cholesterol to vitamin D3.  During warm parts of the year, roughly 20 minutes of daily sunshine (sans sunscreen) results in about 90 percent of the vitamin D needed for the day.  After 20 minutes, people should apply organic sunscreen to protect the skin from too much sunlight.

Enjoy salmon.  When it comes to healthy habits for boosting vitamin D, eating fatty fish is one of the best.  In fact, one salmon filet provides all the vitamin D needed for one day.  Enjoy fresh steaks or filets for dinner or salmon-salad sandwiches or wraps for lunch.  In addition to providing vitamin D, salmon is an excellent source of essential fatty acids and lean protein.

Related:  Are You Vitamin D Deficient?  Take this Quiz!

Drink milk.  Most brands of pasteurized milk in the United States deliver good quantities of vitamin D.  Whole milk contains the most vitamin D, but skim milk still offers about 20 percent of the recommended daily value.  Many plant-based milk products like soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk also offer significant amounts of vitamin D, some even more than cow's milk.

Choose products fortified with vitamin D.  Check labels on breakfast cereals, yogurt and orange juice at the grocery store.  Many are fortified with vitamin D and other important nutrients. 

Take vitamin D3 supplementsVitamin D3 supplements offer an easy remedy for getting adequate amounts of vitamin D during the fall or winter months.  To protect bones, adults should aim for 800-1000 IU of vitamin D3 per day unless otherwise specified by a health care provider.

Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D is important for bone health and good balance.  Because aging affects the absorption of certain nutrients, sufficient vitamin D is especially essential to the elderly.  While many studies show a link between falls and insufficient vitamin D levels, others show a correlation between falls and high-dose vitamin D supplementation.   Therefore, elderly people should have vitamin D levels checked before beginning a supplementary regimen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Understanding Zika & Tips To Avoid Contraction

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Zika is the latest health problem to affect tropical travelers. There are now confirmed cases of Zika in the U.S.  We investigate the truth about Zika is and offer some healthy living tips for avoiding the serious side effects that this mosquito-borne virus can cause.

Healthy habits include measures to avoid mosquito bites and Zika.

 

What is Zika?

Zika is a virus spread mainly through the bite of an infected mosquito. Named after the Zika Forest of Uganda where it was first found, until recently, the virus was contained in a narrow Equatorial belt of Africa and Asia. An epidemic of Zika outbreaks has now been confirmed in multiple countries including the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, Singapore and the Pacific Islands.

Anyone planning to travel to these areas, particularly women of child-bearing age, should follow the latest healthy living tips and information about Zika from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Most people who contract Zika have mild symptoms including a fever; a fine, red rash on parts of the body; painful joints; and conjunctivitis or itchy red eyes. The symptoms can linger for several weeks but the only treatment is to take acetaminophen to control the fever (not aspirin or NSAIDS) and drink plenty of fluids.

The only way to diagnose Zika from other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever or chikungunya is through a blood test. For some people, particularly children, Zika symptoms are so mild they do not even know they have the virus but their brains may be affected long-term. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Zika, but once you have had it you are protected against future infection.

Related:  Natural Ways to Avoid Bug Bites

Health Concerns Surrounding Zika

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency concerning Zika. This was because the virus was found to be associated with causing brain damage in unborn babies. If a woman is infected with Zika during pregnancy she can transmit it to the baby, causing birth defects such as microcephaly.

Healthy habits recommend that men traveling to areas where Zika virus is found should use a condom to avoid passing on the Zika virus to a pregnant partner. As doctors do not know how long the virus may remain active in semen, men who may have been infected with Zika should take steps to protect their sexual partner for at least six months. Women should use barrier protection for at least eight weeks after possible Zika exposure.

Healthy Living Tips for Avoiding Zika

Until more is known about the effects of Zika and how long the virus may survive in a victim, the CDC has issued several serious healthy living tips and warnings. Pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas where there are known outbreaks of Zika. Those who have inadvertently been in contact with Zika should have a blood test for Zika, even if they have no symptoms.

All tropical travelers should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, preferably made from fabric treated with permethrin, to deter mosquito bites. Regularly apply insect repellant containing deet and read blogs and books that suggest more healthy habits for avoiding Zika.

 

 

 

 

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Is Your Doctor Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Roughly 70 million Americans have high blood pressure, a medical condition that boosts risks for heart attack and stroke.  Research shows about 20 percent of people diagnosed with high blood pressure have something called "white-coat hypertension."  This is a term used to explain a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading related to the stress some people experience from going to the doctor.  Stress has been shown to raise blood pressure temporarily, but you can learn how to lower blood pressure at the doctor's office with four handy tips.   

Sometimes, just the stress of going to the doctor can result in high blood pressure.

 

Be aware of your anxiety.  Awareness of doctor-related anxiety is the first step toward controlling it.  Arrive to your appointment ten to fifteen minutes early so you can use techniques to calm down.  As you wait, practice deep breathing or listen to soft, relaxing music on an mp3 player.

Don’t talk.  A number of studies conducted on adults and children in different settings showed a link between talking and elevated blood pressure readings.  Some subjects already diagnosed with high blood pressure experienced increases greater than 25-40 percent within 30 seconds of someone speaking.

Related:  New Study Suggests Folate Reduces Risk of Hypertension

Pay attention to your body position.  Research shows that the truest blood pressure readings are those taken when patients are sitting in a chair that provides back and arm support.  It is also important to place both feet flat on the ground for accurate testing.

Avoid caffeinated beverages.  Although it is unclear why, caffeine can cause a temporary spike in blood pressure.  While some researchers think caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline which contributes to a blood pressure rise, others believe caffeine may inhibit a specific hormone that keeps arteries open for proper blood flow. 

Normal Blood Pressure   

To be considered a 'normal' blood pressure reading, the top number (or systolic pressure) should fall between 90 and 120 and the bottom number (or diastolic pressure) should fall between 60 and 80.  Readings that are higher than this may require careful monitoring or medication. 

High blood pressure increases risks for heart attack and stroke, so regular testing is important.  To help determine if white-coat hypertension is a possibility for you, check your blood pressure with a home monitor and compare readings with those at the doctor's office.  If it is determined you have white coat hypertension, you may just need to find better ways to manage stress.  Techniques like meditation, yoga, tai chi, guided imagery, self-hypnosis and more can help curb anxiety at the doctor's office and in many other areas of life.

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The Worst Diet for Stress Reduction

by Institute for Vibrant Living

You are what you eat. It’s trite but true and some of the most common foods we eat increase the negative effects of stress on our mental and physical health.  Changing your diet may help change your life in a positive way by helping you manage stress more effectively while enhancing your overall physical health.

The worst foods for stress can and should be all but eliminated from your diet to be replaced by wholesome, more natural foods with the essentials like lean protein, high quality carbohydrates, very little sugar, low in fat and with fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.

Avoid foods that worsen the effect of stress

The Dirty Diet

Highly processed foods are your body’s worst enemy. They provide very little nutrients while being loaded with empty calories made up of sugar and artery-clogging fat.  The foods that fall into this category are most things that come in a box or plastic wrapper and have white flour, sugar and hydrogenated oils listed first in the ingredients.  Here are some of the worst offenders:

Doughnuts, cookies, and cakes:  These are just sugar and fat bombs without fiber, vitamins or minerals of any kind. One glazed doughnut can have upward of 600 calories and will send your blood glucose levels soaring. You may get a temporary sugar high but it won’t be worth the ugly sugar crash that will leave you feeling sluggish and less able to tolerate life’s daily stressors.

Pretzels, potato chips, tortilla chips and crackers:  These foods are usually just a substitute for an eating utensil to transport some kind of fatty dip to your mouth. They offer no real vitamins or minerals, no fiber and are made with highly processed white flour, which spikes glucose levels in the blood. They are usually loaded with fat, excess salt and it is so easy to eat half of a bag of them. They don’t fill you up so once you come down from the sugar high they provide you will be looking for more food, packing on pounds and increasing your risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

Related:  Healthy Food that Tastes Better than Junk Food

Drinks:  Lattes, soda, juice, cocktails and beer:  It is so easy to guzzle down these empty calories that offer nothing in the way of health benefits. The caffeine boost in the latte will not be able to offset the sugar crash it also brings with it, and the carbonation in soda will leave you feeling bloated but still hungry.  Hello obesity!  Hard liquors mixed with sugary concoctions like juice will only make you tipsy and ultimately hung-over. Beer, while not sweet, is basically drinking a glass of sugar. Even a glass of pure orange, apple or cranberry juice is just a lot of sugar minus the fiber and nutrients you would get if you ate the fruit whole that it comes from.

Fast food and take-out:  Most of what you get at the drive-thru or have delivered is unhealthy with excess sodium, fat and calories without many healthy ingredients like vitamins, minerals or fiber.  You might think the Chinese take-out with broccoli and water chestnuts is healthy, but the greasy fatty meats, MSG preservatives and sugar-loaded soy sauce outweigh any health benefits a few vegetables have.  Any kind of fast food sandwich accompanied by French fries is just a lot of fat and carbs with little or no health benefits. The buns are white flour and sugar, the meat is fatty and the sodium levels are more than you should consume in a week, let alone one meal. 

Eating these kinds of foods increases the negative effects of stress on the body. They may provide temporary comfort, but your weight creeps up and you feel increasingly fatigued because you have been denying your body essential nutrients to rebuild, you will find stress levels rising. 

Unfortunately these foods are staples of Western diets, but research is not only showing these kinds of foods are not only physically unhealthy, but also mentally. People who consume highly processed foods and drinks, and regularly drink beer are at an increased risk for depression and anxiety, certainly things that will increase your stress levels.

The good news is, you can avoid all these kinds of foods and still enjoy delicious meals, drinks and treats. It just takes a little extra effort to plan your day so that you are not starving and find yourself chugging a soda to make it to the end of your day. Healthy options are out there and it’s worth your time and energy to find them and stave off the negative health consequences poor diet and stress will have on you.

 

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Three Stress-Relieving Yoga Poses

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India about 5000 years ago. It calms and balances your mood and gently stretches all your muscles to help maintain strong bones, bring balance to your posture, and encourages you to breathe deeply. Yoga is something everyone can learn to do to help with stress management in today’s busy stressful lifestyle.

Yoga for stress management

The Stress-Free Three

To help calm your mind and relax your body to relieve stress these three poses are good to learn and practice regularly.

1. Downward Facing Dog

Downward facing dog is a very basic pose, sometime called a resting pose. While it appears to be very simple, there is a technique to it and done properly it has many health benefits, one of which is helping you with stress management.

Downward facing dog is deceptively challenging and requires some strength.  To do it properly, place your palms on the floor in front of you, fingers spread and palms pressing into the floor. Hands should be in line with wrist, and in line with shoulders.  Step your legs back one at a time keeping your feet in line with your hands. Make sure to keep your elbows straight as you press your bottom toward the sky pressing your thighs back and up. Lower your heels to the floor (if you can; it may take a few attempts to increase your flexibility) and relax your head and neck. Try holding the position for at least 30 seconds to begin with and gradually increase that over time.  Remember to always breathe through the nose.

Downward facing dog helps to manage stress by:

  • Clearing your head, literally and figuratively. You need to focus on form and stop fretting about your to-do list. The inverted position will also help open up nasal passages to allow you to breathe more deeply. Oxygen-rich blood will rush to your brain and help you think more clearly.
  • This pose helps strengthen bones, tighten the core and increase flexibility.  It will improve your posture and start ridding you of the little aches and pains that come with slumping at a desk all day, rushing around doing errands and tensing up with everyday stress. These little pains increase your stress level, even though you may not be conscious of them.
  • Improves your appearance:  he effect is temporary, but the rush of blood to your brain and face will give your complexion a healthy glow.  Often we feel as good as we look.

Related:  Discover the Benefits of Hatha Yoga for Stress Relief

2. Child’s Pose

This is another basic yoga pose also known as a resting pose. It requires no props and is easy for anyone to do.

Assume child’s pose by getting down on your hands and knees, in a table posture.  Lean back on your heels then extend your arms forward and lower your torso and head to the ground. Keep your forehead on the ground, keeping your neck relaxed. Press your palms into the floor in front of the body as you rest your bottom on your heels. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds, gradually increasing that time. Remember to breathe.

Child’s pose is a great way to manage stress because it helps relax your body so you can focus on your breathing to calm the mind.  While you relax you are gently stretching your back, neck and shoulders, where stress tends to manifest itself as tension in the muscles.  Having your eyes facing the floor makes it easier to block out the outside world and help you relax your body. It is natural for your stomach to press into your thighs and your hips to spread a bit. This has the benefit of helping with digestion and increased flexibility in the hips.  If this is difficult, try spreading your knees outward, toward the sides of your mat.  Relax.

3. Legs Up Wall

This is a very simple pose with great mental and physical health benefits. Most anyone can do it with very little practice. This is a calming pose that is especially good to do at the end of the day to aid in falling asleep.

To get into the pose correctly, find a clear space against a wall and sit down pressing your hip against the wall so that you are facing sideways. Slowly rotate your body so that your back relaxes to the floor and your legs are pointing straight up resting against the wall. Your bottom does not have to be touching the wall but should only be a few inches away from it.  Relax your arms at your side, while you focus on taking slow deep breathes. That’s it!

As you rest, blood will begin to drain out of tired swollen feet and legs and return to the core where it can be recycled with a fresh infusion of oxygen. You will be gently stretching the back of your legs (hamstrings), which tend to get tight after sitting all day.

Legs-up-wall pose is very good for quieting the mind. You can stay in this pose for quite some time (10 to 15 minutes) to practice deep even breathing without needing a break.  It helps calm the nervous system, aids in digestion and helps tired legs and feet to feel refreshed.  It is especially pleasing to feel the rush of blood back into your lower legs and feet when you leave the pose and stand back up, slowly. 

These three poses are a good way to help with stress management even when you don’t have a lot of time. Slowly increase the time you hold each pose and enjoy the mental and physical benefits.

 

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Three Meditations for Stress Management

by Institute for Vibrant Living

We can all use a little help with stress management. Modern life is hectic and can cause prolonged stress, which is mentally and physically harmful to your health and wellbeing.  Meditation is a great way to relax and unwind so you can let the stress of every day drift away.

Meditation dates back thousands of years and is practiced in many different cultures. While meditation rituals and practice vary around the globe, it is considered essential to spiritual development. Western medicine has finally caught up with the rest of the world and recognizes there are many health benefits to meditating, one of them being stress management.

The many benefits of meditation for stress management

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of allowing your mind and body to enter a state of deep relaxation. It slows the metabolism, your heart rate and even lowers blood pressure, which is very healing for the entire body.

When one is in a meditative state, muscle tension will decrease, brain wave patterns shift from swift beta waves typical of busy daytime activities to slower alpha waves, the kind you have just before falling asleep.

Three Meditations to Practice for Stress Management

1. Peace & Calm

Sit or lie in a comfortable position, preferably in a quiet room or space.  Close your eyes and begin to breath in and out deeply, keeping your breathing slow.

Focus attention on your breathing, feeling the movement as each breath flows in then out.

Find a calm and peaceful place deep inside yourself, completely shutting out the outside world.   As you inhale say a relaxing word to yourself. As you exhale say that word to yourself again. Repeat this exercise for three to five minutes.

Related:  "B" Calm at Work:  New Ways to Reduce Stress

2. Golden Temple

Again, find a comfortable position. Begin by inhaling through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. As you breathe deeply, visualize a green meadow full of beautiful and fragrant flowers. In the middle of the meadow imagine a golden temple with peace and healing emanating from it. Visualize yourself walking through the meadow and into the temple. You are the only person there and it is completely still and peaceful inside.

Stand very still and feel healing energy pour into your body through every pore in your skin, filling you with a warm golden light. Every cell in your body is nourished and healed by the light and the energy it fills you with feels like a healing balm that induces a total state of relaxation.

Allow stress to dissolve and flow out of your mind and body as you become completely at ease. Remain in the temple for as long as you want.

When you are ready to leave, open your eyes and continue breathing slowly but deeply for a few more cycles.

3. Oak Tree

Find a position with your arms resting at your sides. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply, taking long slow relaxed breathes.

After a few cycles of deep breathing visualize your body as a strong, sturdy tree. You are solid like the trunk of the tree. Imagine your roots are growing out of your arms and legs going deeply down into the earth to anchor your body. You feel solid, strong and confident.

If stressful thoughts or situations occur visualize your body remaining grounded and strong just like the tree. Let yourself feel your strength with arms and legs rooted firmly in the earth.  You are confident in your power and can calmly handle any situation.

Meditation Tips

Learning to meditate will take some practice and consistent effort.  If you are new to it try these tips:

  • Do it first thing in the morning so you don’t keep putting it off as your day gets busier and more unpredictable.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t do it perfectly. It takes practice to shut out the outside world and find a calm quiet place inside yourself. Practicing daily will help you master that more quickly.
  • As you settle into a meditative pose and begin your breathing, do a simple check of your feelings. Are you feeling rushed, pressured, anxious or sad?  Maybe you are excited or very happy. However you feel is okay because with meditation you can learn to let go of the negative to embrace the positive.
  • Count your breaths. This will help you bring your focus back if your mind wanders, which is completely normal. Don’t get frustrated with this lack of focus, just keep bringing your focus back to your breath and with time it will become easier to keep your mind still.

Meditation is a simple practice anyone can master and it is a wonderful, do anywhere activity for those looking for stress-management.