Tag Archives: Health

Overwhelmed?

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I am overwhelmed.  Who hasn’t said that?  But what does it really mean?  The definition is “to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything.”  That is certainly true when it comes to all of the health and wellness advice that we hear.

I truly believe that everyone wants to feel good and to be healthy.  There are so many reasons that we have trouble striving for, and reaching, improved health.  These reasons can be emotional, physical, political, and many others.  Add in the vastness of information at our disposal, much of which is confusing and contradictory.  How are we supposed to navigate all of this, and who has the time to do it anyway?

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Sometimes we have to make the time if we are faced with serious illness in our lives.  We need to be able to find reliable and valid information.  Please, please, please remember that what we read is not always true just because it comes from an excellent public speaker and/or a doctor.  Solid starting points are:  WebMDHealthfinder.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services.  Take advantage of their search functions.  Also, Wikipedia is always a great place to start a search, but keep in mind that the information can be posted by anyone at any time and always needs to be verified.

prioritize

So what is the most important aspects of health and wellness to concerns ourselves about?  Exercise?  Diet?  Stress control?  Should we worry about butter vs. margarine?  Alkaline vs. acidic?  Carbs vs. fat?  Organic vs. conventional?  The concerns seem endless.  And for each concern there are multiple and conflicting opinions as to what we should be doing.  Then, just when we think we have it figured out, the experts discover something new and everything we know as true is turned upside down.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But it is also the nature of the proverbial beast.  As our technology and understanding evolve and increase, so do our core beliefs on what is healthy.

Certainly when our lives are effected by a specific illness we tend to concentrate on that one as the most important.  If we are predisposed to a disease, that should be of greater importance to us to learn about.  Knowledge is power… as long as we are willing to implement that knowledge.  Just how much time and energy do we need to spend researching all aspects of health and wellness in order to improve our health and quality of life?

Good_News

The good news is that for most of us, simply being mindful goes a long way toward improving our health and wellness.  Start with the basics, my personal mantra:  balance, moderation, and variety.  They all are all different, yet each ties in with the others:

download     Balance:
Work and play, good food and junk food, spending and saving, exercising and relaxing… It doesn’t matter what it is.  Too much of one and not enough of the other infringes on our health and happiness.  When we balance all aspects of our existence we can enjoy a healthier, happier life.

images (2)     Moderation:
Anything taken to the extreme can be harmful.  As I’ve mentioned before, that includes drinking too much water.  Not only do we want to balance relaxation with exercise, we also want to exercise in a safe manner and not push harder than our bodies can safely handle.  If we are not active, we need to work up to strenuous activities.  “Weekend athletes” suffer injuries due to their lack of conditioning.  If we “work hard and play hard” we are balanced, but if we are pushing ourselves too hard in each of them, we will suffer from the lack of moderation in both.

Variety of fresh vegetables at market. Siem Reap     Variety:
We all know how important it is to have variety in our diet.  Different colored fruits and vegetables each provide distinct health properties.  We need a variety of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in order to survive and thrive.  Most of us eat wheat (white or processed whole wheat) at every meal and for snacks in between.  Many of our bodies are rejecting the wheat we are consuming at every meal (and it’s not the same wheat our grandparents ate.)  We are complex organisms.  When we consume a large variety of healthy foods we don’t have to concerns ourselves with the specifics of eating the right combination of nutrients.  When we vary our exercise routines we are working different muscle groups and different systems.  By varying our mental activities, we work different parts of our brains.

When we are mindful and aware of what we are doing to and with our bodies, we can do so with balance, moderation, and variety which will increase our health and wellness.  Will you start with being mindful and perhaps throw a little more balance, moderation, and variety in?  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

Our Loved Ones are Important to Us

Because the quality of life of our loved ones is Important to us, so is this message…
7 Common Myths and Misconceptions about Hospice

Myths-and-Facts

 We are living longer.  That’s good news!  Most of us are no longer dying of acute infections and plagues.  More good news!  Unfortunately, the diseases that oftentimes consume us now tend to drag on for an extended period.  So, while living longer, we may not be living better – especially toward the end.  We know this to be true.  We don’t want to think about a time when our loved ones may no longer be with us.  By not thinking about it and by being uninformed or misinformed about the options as our loved ones get older or fall ill, we are doing a tremendous disservice to them, and to ourselves, if they are diagnosed with a terminal illness.  It’s truly tragic that hospice is seen as taboo and as something not to discuss because hospice is not the enemy.  The illness is.

If you or a love one face/have faced a terminal illness I am truly sorry for your suffering.  If you have used hospice services,  please comment and share your experience below.

Hospice’s sole purpose is to increase quality of life:  to comfort us and our loved ones, and to make everyone’s life easier and more fulfilling.  When the days of life are limited, hospice adds life to the remaining days.  When I was working for a hospice company, one patient (I refer to her as “The Entertainer”) chose no medication during the day so she could be as alert, active, and interactive as possible with her family and friends.  At night she threw out her arm and said “Let me have it!” as she tapped the inside of her elbow.  She slept through the night and started over the next morning.  Every experience is different because each is tailored to the patient, and every patient is unique.

In addition to the stigma surrounding hospice, there are also many MYTHS and MISCONCEPTIONS running rampant.  I address seven here.

1a     MYTH:  Hospice means everyone is giving up.

FACT:  It really means that caring people will work together to improve our quality of life physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually with high quality palliative (comfort) care and symptom management.  A team of nurses, home health aides, clergy, social workers, volunteers, and others work together with the patient and their loved ones to create an individual plan with the sole purpose of supporting and comforting everyone involved.  Sometimes doctors hold off on recommending hospice because they don’t want to give the “giving up” message, but by opening up that line of communication early, the patient and family will reap the greatest benefit.

2e     MYTH:  Hospice is just for the last few days of life.  I’m not there yet.

FACT:  Hospice certainly helps people “die with dignity.”  It also has many advantages and services for up to the last six months of life, and sometimes longer.  Most patients and their caregivers miss out on very valuable services by waiting until the very end.  Earlier entry ensures comfort, support, and care that will add valuable life to our days.

3e     MYTH:  If a new treatment becomes available, it won’t be an option.

FACT:  Patients can be discharged from hospice whenever they choose to be, for any reason, and for any number of times.  If the new treatment doesn’t work, they can always return to hospice for excellent palliative care.

4c     MYTH:  Hospice is expensive.

FACT:  Hospice is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most major insurance companies.  All services, medication, and equipment related to the diagnosis are covered, sometimes with a copay (never over $5.00.)  This often saves the the patient a lot of money.

5h     MYTH:  Hospice is only for the elderly or cancer patients.

FACT:  Hospice is for any person in the end stages of life who is diagnosed with six or fewer months to live, although this can be extended as often as needed.

6g     MYTH:  The patient can no longer go to the hospital if needed.

FACT:  The purpose of palliative care is to minimize hospital visits and take care of the patient at home with qualified and caring staff.  This reduces everyone’s stress and the patient’s discomfort.  Hospital stays are always permitted when necessary.

7b     Myth:  The patients can’t keep their own doctor.

FACT:  The patient can certainly keep their own doctor if they choose to.  The hospice doctor will work closely with him or her on their behalf.

PLEASE, for your the sake of your loved ones, don’t let the stigma of hospice cloud their judgement.  Learn about it now, so you can help them understand it if/when the time comes.  Hospice can add valuable life to their days.

For more information on hospice, visit:  Medicare and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

My poor self-sacrificing telomeres!

Fountain of youth?!  How easy is it to attain?

Fountain of youth?! How easy is it to attain?

Could our telomeres be the key to the fountain of youth?  (If you are not interested in the science, skip the next two paragraphs.  You won’t feel like you missed much.)

The blueprint for everything “us” is in our DNA.  Our DNA is neatly packaged in chromosomes during cell division.  “In human bodies, cells divide nearly two trillion times every day.”  (ASU)  Each time a cell divides, the DNA is replicated, and the end of each chromosome is slightly shortened.  Telomeres protect the DNA by covering the ends of the chromosomes (like an aglet protects a shoelace.)  Each time they replicate, it is the telomere that is shortened, protecting the DNA.  Imagine that you are an architect and you have a blueprint that needs to be duplicated many times for all of your contractors.  But every time you make a copy, part of the original is removed.  The end result would not be a very healthy building.  It would be disastrous.  (UCSF)

And so it is with our chromosomes.  Rather than allowing the ends of the DNA to fray with each replication, the telomeres protect the tips and are whittled away with each copy made.  “The ends of our chromosomes are made up of cells with a DNA sequence that protects the threads of DNA from unraveling, a natural fraying effect that is part of cell division.”  (How Stuff Works)  Thank you, telomeres!  Your selfless acts of self-sacrifice allow me to keep replicating my cells in a healthy way!  But once they are gone, the cell can no longer divide.

What can we do to preserve our telomeres to protect our DNA?  “One study so far has observed an increase in telomerase activity (which protects and lengthens telomeres) by persons enrolled in a health program including eating a healthy diet, getting daily exercise, and using stress reduction techniques such as yoga and/or meditation.”  (Telomere FAQs)

Bottom line:  Why does it matter?  It matters because it appears that we can actually lengthen our telomeres by implementing a healthy lifestyle, which in turn allows our cells to continue replicating longer keeping us younger and healthier!  What is the latest superfood of the day?  What fad diet it spreading like wildfire?  What is the most recent exercise craze?  The beautify of is that It doesn’t matter!  What does matter is that we adopt healthier lifestyles.  Exercise more.  Eat healthier foods.  Eat less of the unhealthy foods.  When you increase your telomeres, you quite possibly increase your life!

Remember:  Balance.  Moderation.  Variety.

“Date” Yet one more four-letter word.

Tzolkin Calendar - hsc08a

No, not that kind of date!  It can’t be healthy to eat food past the “expire” date, can it?  What about the “sell by” or “use by” dates?  These labels are confusing, and really don’t mean very much.  We might as well use an Aztec Calendar Wheel for the same amount of clarity!

They give us the the date by which the manufacturer has deemed the food to be closest to the taste that the manufacturer decided was best.  “But companies want people to taste their products as best they can at the optimum, because that’s how they maintain their business and their market shares.”  (Institute of Food Technologists)  “There should be a standard date and wording that is used. This is about quality, not safety. You can make your own decision about whether a food still has an edible quality that’s acceptable to you.” (Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic)  All sources say the same thing.  Smell it.  Taste it.  You can tell if a food has gone bad.

This is much different than contamination.  “Bacteria, viruses, or parasites mainly cause foodborne illness. Many foodborne illnesses are a result of bacteria or viruses, which are microorganisms or “germs” that occur either naturally in foods or are spread as a result of poor practices, such as cross contaminating foods or improper handling during food preparation. Bacteria can rapidly multiply under the right conditions.”  (MDH)

Bacteria growth in food 2

Bottom line:  Let your senses (including common sense) guide you, and take basic precautions including hand-washing and sanitary kitchen practices.  (Information on food safety here.)

You CAN Have Your Cake (and Eat it Too.)

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I just love this graphic (and the article that goes with it) and had to share it.  But that’s the literal-thinker in me.  I just can’t help myself sometimes!

I woke up this morning with a burning desire to share…  Is sugar ‘evil’?  Of course not.  It’s an object.  A substance.  Evil comes with maliciously causing harm.  (More on this later…)  So why, now, do we hear about so much about sugar being evil, and how diabetes and heart disease – all related to sugar consumption are at epidemic levels?  Sugar has been refined since 642 AD, and in “the 11th Century AD. Crusaders returning home talked of this “new spice” and how pleasant it was.”  642 AD.  That’s a looooong time ago!  So, what has changed?

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Quantity has changed, that’s for sure.  Some by choice, some not-so-much.  We used to have a small amount of homemade confection on the rare occasion, a holiday perhaps, because as we’ve all learned:  “food is love.”  And when we are fed food that makes us feel good it must mean we are loved more, right?  With increasing technology and science, sweeteners became more physically and financially available to more and more people.

As the technology has advanced, and the processing increases, not only is it more affordable, it is often the cheapest “food” source.  The only available option for many where quality foods are not available at grocery stores are the highly processed foods often high in sugar.

As if that’s not enough, the food products industry has learned to use our predilection for sweets (our bodies’ own survival instinct) against us.  “Even the common “sweet tooth” may be rooted in survival instinct, he suggested. Carbohydrates, typically sweet, are a vital energy source to a wild animal continuously on the go. The evolved ability to associate sweetness with energy may lie behind our present-day preferences for ice cream and candy bars, Pritchard speculates.”  This is why, in addition to insidious advertising, our food products are laced with sugar and salt and chemical concoctions to keep us coming back for more.  And the ‘evil’ encroaches!

So, what is one to do?  It’s a hard call.  I am all about balance, moderation, and variety.  I think it is very important not to deprive ourselves because deprivation causes us to feel bad, lacking, angry… and it can cause us to binge.  If you can occasionally have a ‘sweet treat’, then by all means enjoy it.  Preferably homemade and less processed…

As I learned from Potatoes Not Prozac, I work best when coming from a mindset of abundance, not deprivation.  By changing my diet and slowly cutting back the ‘sweets and treats’ and increasing the different ‘real foods’ I was eating, not only did I begin to feel and look better, now I am able to eat so much more than before.  And since I LOOOOVE to eat, this is a definite win-win for me!

Balance.  Moderation.  Variety.  Have that very occasional dessert if you are so inclined, if you can.  That doesn’t work for me.  If I have some, I want more.  The addictive component of sweeteners is too strong for me.  I choose to stay away completely.  It’s a personal choice.  Choose what works best for you, your body, your heath and well-being.  And enjoy your life!

To clean or not to clean?

 

“Our house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.”  ~Author UnknownImage

Clean!  Definitely we need to clean to keep our homes safe and healthy (and mine is dirty enough to be happy!)  I think we all agree that breathing in, consuming, or absorbing toxins is not a healthy choice.  Sometimes we just don’t have an option.  When it comes to cleaners, so many are made with toxic (harmful or deadly, by definition) ingredients.  What can we do?  First we need to realize why we choose the products we do.  A few of the reasons are:

  • Convenience
  • Lack of awareness of toxins and/or their possible effects
  • Lack of (perceived) cleaning options

I was going to quote from an article titled “How Toxic are your Household Cleaning Supplies?” but realized I don’t have room here to share all I wanted to.  Please see the link for the myriad of health issues related to ingredients in many commercial cleaners.

While reading an article about cleaning products, I was reminded of a few things:  Labels do not tell us all we need to know, antibacterial cleaners can do more harm than good (by killing the bacteria we *need* to be healthy, and by breeding resistant microbes which is very dangerous), and that many products are unsafe.  I realized that I still use some hazardous cleaning products.  Why?  Partly for the above mentioned reasons, and because at one point I made what I thought were good choices when shopping and then conveniently forgot about it.  Products do change over time.  I have used Simple Green for as long as I can remember.  It appears now to be ‘safe’, but it appears that it was not for a while.  

Is it easier (and more cost-effective) to make our own cleaners?  A quick internet search results in an almost endless list of how tos.  I found Eartheasy to be quite comprehensive.  If you are looking to make the switch to homemade cleaning solutions, that is a good place to start.  There are also healthier options on store shelves.  See “Awareness” below.  

In order to eliminate some of the toxins we inhale or absorb, we must address these three reasons:

  • Convenience:  Look over some of the suggestions in the Eartheasy article.  Do I have any of those products in my home (or can I easily pick them up)?  I want to start easy.  For instance, I can easily clean my chopping block (cutting board) by rubbing with a slice of lemon to disinfect the surface, and for tougher stains squeeze the juice and let it sit on the spot 10 minutes before wiping. 
  • Awareness:  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resource for protecting health, human and environmental.  An article from 2012 cites many products that may be dangerous.  I strongly recommend perusing their site – it is a wealth of information.  
  • Options:  The options are almost endless.  Once you determine what is important to you and do a little bit of legwork (the links here are a good starting point), you can determine if you want to make your own or purchase healthier options.  (EWG’s Consumer Guides is a great place to start looking at our options.)

We are responsible for our own health (and that of our families.)  As always, moderation is important.  We cannot escape toxins.  We can only do our best to become aware and make small changes that add.  I try to keep things simple.  I don’t like to vacuum, so we have almost exclusively hardwood floors and don’t wear our shoes in the house, for example.  The less I have to clean, the better!

Please comment if there are any areas you would like me to cover in more depth.  This is a huge subject matter!

We Can’t Afford to NOT Eat Healthy

Cost of Eating Healthy

Yes, a double negative to make my point!  Illness is very costly, every which way we look at it, and wellness doesn’t have to be expensive.  Starting on a very small scale, let’s take potatoes.  A pound of potatoes costs $0.69.  A pound of potato chips costs $4.50.  So we can buy four and a half pounds of potatoes for the same price as one pound of chips.  Although it takes about four pounds of raw potatoes to make one pound of potato chips, we are not getting four times the nutrition.  As a matter of fact:

One ounce of potatoes has 28 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 6 grams of carbohydrates.  One ounce is considered mildly inflammatory (-17).  Regarding inflammation, “Sears calls inflammation a silent epidemic that triggers chronic diseases over the years.”

One ounce of potato chips has 153 calories (5.5 times our spud bud), 10 grams of fat, and at 14 grams, more than double the carbohydrates.  They are considered mildly inflammatory (-73).  According to the Nutritional Target Map and Caloric Ratio Pyramid:  Potato chips are less filling, less nutritious, and the caloric ratio has moved from mostly carbohydrates to mostly fats.  But I must ask…  Who eats only one ounce of potato chips?!

When we move to a serving size of 8 ounces of chips (which I feel is generously underrating how much we actually eat), the Inflammation Factor shoots to strongly inflammatory at -594, with a whopping 1,242 calories, 85 grams of fat, and 1192 mg of sodium!  The Inflammation Factor of a large potato (70 grams more than the bag of chips) comes in at moderately inflammatory (-179), 278 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 30 mg of sodium.

The potato is just one example of how healthier whole food is often much less expensive than its processed counterpart.  Remember, nutrient density is so important in not only how we spend our money, but how we spend it wisely on nutrient-rich foods.  In addition, if we are consuming (and over-consuming) the chips and many other convenience foods that are high in fats, sugars, calories, and inflammatory effect, we are greatly increasing our chances of disease.  Diabetes is just one of the lifestyle diseases that is currently plaguing us.  “People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year,” and that does not include loss of productivity, income, etc.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford medical bills like that!  Besides, I would much rather spend my money on food, shelter, and doing fun things with my daughter when we can…  “A sane diet alone would save us hundreds of billions of dollars and maybe more.”  –Mark Bittman.

An Internet search for ‘eating healthy on a budget’ will bring up a lot of information.  One comprehensive resource is Eating Well.  Like anything else, it takes some practice to plan ahead and prepare the foods.  We can do it!  If we don’t have time during the week, we can prepare ahead of time and stock the refrigerator and freezer.

Exercise is another component of a healthy lifestyle.   There are so many free or inexpensive options.  Arnold Schwarzenegger said:  “I’ve never paid for a push-up or a sit-up in my life – and I’ve done millions.”  We can lace up our shoes and go for a nice brisk walk with friends.  How about dancing?  That’s a personal favorite!  The secret is to do what we enjoy, and to make it a habit.  A couple of resources:  100 Free (or Cheap) Ways to Exercise, and Six Ways to Build a Better Body on a Budget.

There are many other components to a healthy lifestyle and improved quality of life, including our mental and emotional states.  Diet and exercise play such a big role that I will leave off now with a reminder:  Balance, moderation, and variety…  In all things.