Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


1 Comment

10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure Without Medication

By making these 10 lifestyle changes, you can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.

By Mayo Clinic Staff    

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down.

Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.

Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.

1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline

Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.

Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your blood pressure.

Besides shedding pounds, you generally should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.

In general:

  • Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters).
  • Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).
  • These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.

2. Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity — at least 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.

If you have slightly high blood pressure (prehypertension), exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.

The best types of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.

3. Eat a healthy diet

Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:

  • Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
  • Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that’s best for you.
  • Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out, too.

4. Reduce sodium in your diet

Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg.

The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is appropriate for people with greater salt sensitivity, including:

  • African-Americans
  • Anyone age 51 or older
  • Anyone diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease
blood pressure

To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:

Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.

Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.

Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food.

Ease into it. If you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.

5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg.

But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol — generally more than one drink a day for women and for men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.

6. Quit smoking

Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. People who quit smoking, regardless of age, have substantial increases in life expectancy.

7. Cut back on caffeine

The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it, but there is little to no strong effect on blood pressure in habitual coffee drinkers.

Although the effects of chronic caffeine ingestion on blood pressure aren’t clear, the possibility of a slight increase in blood pressure exists.

To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine. Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.

8. Reduce your stress

Chronic stress is an important contributor to high blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.

Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.

If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Try to:

  • Change your expectations. Give yourself time to get things done. Learn to say no and to live within manageable limits. Try to learn to accept things you can’t change.
  • Think about problems under your control and make a plan to solve them. You could talk to your boss about difficulties at work or to family members about problems at home.
  • Know your stress triggers. Avoid whatever triggers you can. For example, spend less time with people who bother you or avoid driving in rush-hour traffic.
  • Make time to relax and to do activities you enjoy. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Try to intentionally enjoy what you do rather than hurrying through your “relaxing activities” at a stressful pace.
  • Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce stressful thoughts.

9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly

Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before you get started.

Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have. If your blood pressure isn’t well-controlled, your doctor will likely want to see you more frequently.

10. Get support

Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low.

If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group. This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Many techniques may slightly reduce sitting time at work

BY KATHRYN DOYLE    NEW YORK    Fri Dec 6, 2013

(Reuters Health) – Three different strategies to reduce the amount of time people spend sitting at work seemed effective, in a new study. But in jobs without flexible schedules, they only reduced sitting time by about eight minutes per day.

“We were surprised by how difficult it was to reduce sedentary time and that no one approach seemed better than the other approaches,” Leon Straker said. He worked on the study at Curtin University in Perth, Australia.

Lots of attention has been paid recently to the dangers of too much sitting, especially for people glued to desk jobs in an office every day.

Research has linked excessive sitting to high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease. Hitting the gym outside work hours doesn’t seem to fully offset those risks.

Employees in office desk jobs should keep in mind their total amount of sitting time, and times spent sitting without a break for 30 minutes or more, Straker said.

“Breaking up long periods of sitting with a short active break – like walking to get a drink – is probably the easiest thing to do for most workers, but the challenge is to remember and actually move,” he told Reuters Health.

He and his colleagues tested three models for getting office employees up and moving. They randomly assigned Australians from three different workplaces to get one of the anti-sitting interventions.

One group had access to active workstations, with treadmill or cycling desks, which they were recommended to use for 10 to 30 minutes several times per day.

A “traditional exercise” group promoted light to moderate physical activity on breaks and before and after work.

The third group adopted ergonomic workstations, broke up computer tasks and practiced “active sitting,” which involves moving around more often and periodically perching on the edge of the chair.

The employees met several times over 12 weeks to discuss putting the measures in place and tried using them.

A total of 133 people were enrolled in the study and divided between the three groups. Of them, 62 finished the study and worked enough days to be included in the analysis.


Before the interventions started and again during their final week, participants wore small devices attached to a belt to measure their sedentary time.

For each workplace strategy, employees spent about eight fewer minutes sitting per day – a reduction in sedentary time of one to two percent, according to results published in PLOS One.

“We expected the ‘Active office’ approach to be more effective at reducing work time sedentariness – however organizations found it quite hard to implement the regular use of active workstations,” Straker said.

These techniques might be best for people able to manage their own time, with flexible working hours and self-monitored breaks, the authors wrote.

Of the three offices used for the study, one – which primarily was concerned with data processing – had scheduling flexibility, and its workers saw the greatest reduction in sitting time with the interventions. The other two organizations were more rigid and their workers had smaller reductions.

In each case the effects were small, but could be significant if everyone took part at work, Mark Tremblay said.

Tremblay is the director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa. He was not involved in the new study.

“This work is in its infancy,” Tremblay told Reuters Health. “A one percent change might not be substantial in and of itself, but it could be the start of a cascade of lifestyle changes,” that might lead to real individual health benefits, he said.

“It’s encouraging in one respect that there may be some healthy active living modifications that will work for anybody,” Tremblay said. But a pervasive office culture where productivity is paramount makes it hard to make even small changes in some workplaces, he said.

“Reducing overall time in sitting may be challenging for some workers, but it is often possible to identify work tasks that can be done standing or gently walking, and workers can also look at how they commute and spend their leisure time to look for opportunities to sit less and move more,” Straker said.

Tremblay suggests standing while on the phone, having walking meetings and using a more distant bathroom than the one you usually use.

“Introducing a modest amount of discomfort into your day can be good for your health,” he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1bmMDjB PLOS One, online November 12, 2013.      Reuters


Leave a comment

Chia Seeds – The Miracle Food

Posted By admin On Sunday, September 29, 2013  

Salvia hispanica, commonly known as Chia, is a blooming plant that belongs to the family Lamiaceae ( mint ).

It is believed to have originated in southern Mexico and Central America, where the seed played an important role in the diet of the Mayans and Aztecs .

Chia Seeds Nutrition Facts

Nowadays, the popularity of chia seeds grows due to its high nutritional value. Chia seed is a balanced blend of protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber.

Chia contains 5 times more calcium than milk, three times more iron than spinach, 3 times more antioxidants than blueberries  and 2 times more potassium than bananas.

In addition to that, chia seed is the richest source of essential fatty acids such as omega -3 and omega – 6.

By adding just two tablespoons of chia seeds into your daily diet you will provide about 7 grams of the recommended daily dose of fiber, 4 grams of proteins, 5 grams of omega -3 fatty acids, 18 % of the recommended daily dose of calcium, 35 % phosphorus, 24 % of magnesium, and 50 % of manganese.


Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

As partof the healthy diet regime, Chia seeds can help encouraging the immune and reproductive system, preventing cardiovascular disease by reducing cholesterol, triglycerides and high blood pressure.

A study done at the hospital St.Mihail in Toronto showed that participants who regularly ate chia seeds have a significant reduction of the blood pressure. Chia seeds can help patients with diabetes to utilize insulin more efficiently.

Eating Chia before meals reduces appetite, gives a feeling of satiety, increases the level of energy, which is the main reason why the seed is so popular for people who try to lose weight.

Incorporating chia seeds into your diet (on a regular basis), helps not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Studies show that chia seeds help patients with bipolar disorder and also in reducing depression and other negative feelings.

Chia seeds doesn’t have taste, but if you combine it with other food products you will get not only delicious, but also a visual delight.

It can be consumed raw or sprinkled on smoothie or juice, cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables.

Here is one healthy and natural energy Chia drink that you must try!

Chia Fresca

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 fresh lemon (squeezed) or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of chia seeds
  • healthy sweetener to taste

Mix well the lemonade and the stevia, add chia seeds and stir nicely. Then allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes. Chia seeds will absorb the water and become jelly-like.
Relax and enjoy ! 


Leave a comment

Scientists Officially Link Processed Foods To Autoimmune Disease

by APRIL McCARTHY    March 7, 2013

The modern diet of processed foods, takeaways and microwave meals could be to blame for a sharp increase in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, including alopecia, asthma and eczema.

A team of scientists from Yale University in the U.S and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, say junk food diets could be partly to blame.

‘This study is the first to indicate that excess refined and processed salt may be one of the environmental factors driving the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases,’ they said.

Junk foods at fast food restaurants as well as processed foods at grocery retailers represent the largest sources of sodium intake from refined salts.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal sent out an international team of researchers to compare the salt content of 2,124 items from fast food establishments such as Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway. They found that the average salt content varied between companies and between the same products sold in different countries. 

U.S. fast foods are often more than twice as salt-laden as those of other countries. While government-led public health campaigns and legislation efforts have reduced refined salt levels in many countries, the U.S. government has been reluctant to press the issue. That’s left fast-food companies free to go salt crazy, says Norm Campbell, M.D., one of the study authors and a blood-pressure specialist at the University of Calgary.

Many low-fat foods rely on salt–and lots of it–for their flavor. One packet of KFC’s Marzetti Light Italian Dressing might only have 15 calories and 0.5 grams fat, but it also has 510 mg sodium–about 1.5 times as much as one Original Recipe chicken drumstick. (Feel like you’re having too much of a good thing? You probably are.

Bread is the No. 1 source of refined salt consumption in the American diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just one 6-inch Roasted Garlic loaf from Subway–just the bread, no meat, no cheeses, no nothing–has 1,260 mg sodium, about as much as 14 strips of bacon.

How Refined Salt Causes Autoimmune Disease

The team from Yale University studied the role of T helper cells in the body. These activate and ‘help’ other cells to fight dangerous pathogens such as bacteria or viruses and battle infections.

Previous research suggests that a subset of these cells – known as Th17 cells – also play an important role in the development of autoimmune diseases. 

In the latest study, scientists discovered that exposing these cells in a lab to a table salt solution made them act more ‘aggressively.’

They found that mice fed a diet high in refined salts saw a dramatic increase in the number of Th17 cells in their nervous systems that promoted inflammation.

They were also more likely to develop a severe form of a disease associated with multiple sclerosis in humans.

The scientists then conducted a closer examination of these effects at a molecular level.

Laboratory tests revealed that salt exposure increased the levels of cytokines released by Th17 cells 10 times more than usual. Cytokines are proteins used to pass messages between cells.

Study co-author Ralf Linker, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said: ‘These findings are an important contribution to the understanding of multiple sclerosis and may offer new targets for a better treatment of the disease, for which at present there is no cure.’

It develops when the immune system mistakes the myelin that surrounds the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord for a foreign body. 

It strips the myelin off the nerves fibres, which disrupts messages passed between the brain and body causing problems with speech, vision and balance.

Another of the study’s authors, Professor David Hafler, from Yale University, said that nature had clearly not intended for the immune system to attack its host body, so he expected that an external factor was playing a part.

He said: ‘These are not diseases of bad genes alone or diseases caused by the environment, but diseases of a bad interaction between genes and the environment.

‘Humans were genetically selected for conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where there was no salt. It’s one of the reasons that having a particular gene may make African Americans much more sensitive to salt.

‘Today, Western diets all have high salt content and that has led to increase in hypertension and perhaps autoimmune disease as well.’

The team next plan to study the role that Th17 cells play in autoimmune conditions that affect the skin.

‘It would be interesting to find out if patients with psoriasis can alleviate their symptoms by reducing their salt intake,’ they said.

‘However, the development of autoimmune diseases is a very complex process which depends on many genetic and environmental factors.’


Stick to Good Salts

Refined, processed and bleached salts are the problem. Salt is critical to our health and is the most readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. Our bodies are not designed to processed refined sodium chloride since it has no nutritional value. However, when a salt is filled with dozens of minerals such as in rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt or the grey texture of Celtic salt, our bodies benefit tremendously for their incorporation into our diet.

“These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated,” argues Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. “We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid.” 

“In water, salt dissolves into mineral ions,” explains Dr Hendel. “These conduct electrical nerve impulses that drive muscle movement and thought processes. Just the simple act of drinking a glass of water requires millions of instructions that come from mineral ions. They’re also needed to balance PH levels in the body.”

Mineral salts, she says, are healthy because they give your body the variety of mineral ions needed to balance its functions, remain healthy and heal. These healing properties have long been recognised in central Europe. At Wieliczka in Poland, a hospital has been carved in a salt mountain. Asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies find that breathing air in the saline underground chambers helps improve symptoms in 90 per cent of cases.

Dr Hendel believes too few minerals, rather than too much salt, may be to blame for health problems. It’s a view that is echoed by other academics such as David McCarron, of Oregon Health Sciences University in the US.

He says salt has always been part of the human diet, but what has changed is the mineral content of our food. Instead of eating food high in minerals, such as nuts, fruit and vegetables, people are filling themselves up with “mineral empty” processed food and fizzy drinks. 

Study Source:
This is the result of a study conducted by Dr. Markus Kleinewietfeld, Prof. David Hafler (both Yale University, New Haven and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, and Harvard University, USA), PD Dr. Ralf Linker (Dept. of Neurology, University Hospital Erlangen), Professor Jens Titze (Vanderbilt University and Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg, FAU, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) and Professor Dominik N. Muller (Experimental and Clinical Research Center, ECRC, a joint cooperation between the Max-Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin, and the Charite — Universitatsmedizin Berlin and FAU) (Nature, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11868)*. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy tissue instead of fighting pathogens.

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.


2 Comments

23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert

The Huffington Post      By Carolyn Gregoire  Posted: 08/20/2013

Think you can spot an introvert in a crowd? Think again. Although the stereotypical introvert may be the one at the party who’s hanging out alone by the food table fiddling with an iPhone, the “social butterfly” can just as easily have an introverted personality.

“Spotting the introvert can be harder than finding Waldo,” Sophia Dembling, author of “The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World,” tells The Huffington Post. “A lot of introverts can pass as extroverts.”

People are frequently unaware that they’re introverts – especially if they’re not shy — because they may not realize that being an introvert is about more than just cultivating time alone. Instead, it can be more instructive to pay attention to whether they’re losing or gaining energy from being around others, even if the company of friends gives them pleasure.

“Introversion is a basic temperament, so the social aspect – which is what people focus on — is really a small part of being an introvert,” Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, psychotherapist and author of “The Introvert Advantage,” said in a Mensa discussion. “It affects everything in your life.”

Despite the growing conversation around introversion, it remains a frequently misunderstood personality trait. As recently as 2010, the American Psychiatric Association even considered classifying “introverted personality” as a disorder by listing it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), a manual used to diagnose mental illness.

But more and more introverts are speaking out about what it really means to be a “quiet” type. Not sure if you’re an innie or an outie? See if any of these 23 telltale signs of introversion apply to you.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

Introverts are notoriously small talk-phobic, as they find idle chatter to be a source of anxiety, or at least annoyance. For many quiet types, chitchat can feel disingenuous.

“Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people,” Laurie Helgoe writes in “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength.” “We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”

2. You go to parties – but not to meet people.

If you’re an introvert, you may sometimes enjoy going to parties, but chances are, you’re not going because you’re excited to meet new people. At a party, most introverts would rather spend time with people they already know and feel comfortable around. If you happen to meet a new person that you connect with, great – but meeting people is rarely the goal.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.

Ever feel like an outsider in the middle of social gatherings and group activities, even with people you know?

“If you tend to find yourself feeling alone in a crowd, you might be an introvert,” says Dembling. “We might let friends or activities pick us, rather than extending our own invitations.”

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.

Networking (read: small-talk with the end goal of advancing your career) can feel particularly disingenuous for introverts, who crave authenticity in their interactions.

“Networking is stressful if we do it in the ways that are stressful to us,” Dembling says, advising introverts to network in small, intimate groups rather than at large mixers.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”

Do you have a penchant for philosophical conversations and a love of thought-provoking books and movies? If so, you’re a textbook introvert.

“Introverts like to jump into the deep end,” says Dembling.

6. You’re easily distracted.

While extroverts tend to get bored easily when they don’t have enough to do, introverts have the opposite problem — they get easily distracted and overwhelmed in environments with an excess of stimulation.

“Extroverts are commonly found to be more easily bored than introverts on monotonous tasks, probably because they require and thrive on high levels of stimulation,” Clark University researchers wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “In contrast, introverts are more easily distracted than extroverts and, hence, prefer relatively unstimulating environments.”

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.

One of the most fundamental characteristics of introverts is that they need time alone to recharge their batteries. Whereas an extrovert might get bored or antsy spending a day at home alone with tea and a stack of magazines, this sort of down time feels necessary and satisfying to an introvert.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.

Introverts can be excellent leaders and public speakers – and although they’re stereotyped as being the shrinking violet, they don’t necessarily shy away from the spotlight. Performers like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera and Emma Watson all identify as introverts, and an estimated 40 percent of CEOs have introverted personalities. Instead, an introvert might struggle more with meeting and greeting large groups of people on an individual basis.

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench – not in the middle.

Whenever possible, introverts tend to avoid being surrounded by people on all sides.

“We’re likely to sit in places where we can get away when we’re ready to – easily,” says Dembling. “When I go to the theater, I want the aisle seat or the back seat.”


10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.

Do you start to get tired and unresponsive after you’ve been out and about for too long? It’s likely because you’re trying to conserve energy. Everything introverts do in the outside world causes them to expend energy, after which they’ll need to go back and replenish their stores in a quiet environment, says Dembling. Short of a quiet place to go, many introverts will resort to zoning out.

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.

It’s true that opposites attract, and introverts frequently gravitate towards outgoing extroverts who encourage them to have fun and not take themselves too seriously.

“Introverts are sometimes drawn to extroverts because they like being able to ride their ‘fun bubble,'” Dembling says.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.

The dominant brain pathways introverts use is one that allows you to focus and think about things for a while, so they’re geared toward intense study and developing expertise, according to Olsen Laney.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.

Because really, is anything more terrifying?

14. You screen all your calls – even from friends.

You may not pick up your phone even from people you like, but you’ll call them back as soon as you’re mentally prepared and have gathered the energy for the conversation.

“To me, a ringing phone is like having somebody jump out of a closet and go ‘BOO!,'” says Dembling. “I do like having a long, nice phone call with a friend – as long as it’s not jumping out of the sky at me.”

15. You notice details that others don’t.

The upside of being overwhelmed by too much stimuli is that introverts often have a keen eye for detail, noticing things that may escape others around them. Research has found that introverts exhibit increased brain activity when processing visual information, as compared to extroverts.

16. You have a constantly running inner monologue.

“Extroverts don’t have the same internal talking as we do,” says Olsen Laney. “Most introverts need to think first and talk later.”

17. You have low blood pressure.

A 2006 Japanese study found that introverts tend to have lower blood pressure than their extroverted counterparts.

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” – since your 20s.

Introverts observe and take in a lot of information, and they think before they speak, leading them to appear wise to others.

“Introverts tend to think hard and be analytical,” says Dembling. “That can make them seem wise.”

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

Neurochemically speaking, things like huge parties just aren’t your thing. Extroverts and introverts differ significantly in how their brains process experiences through “reward” centers.

Researchers demonstrated this phenomenon by giving Ritalin – the ADHD drug that stimulates dopamine production in the brain – to introverted and extroverted college students. They found that extroverts were more likely to associate the feeling of euphoria achieved by the rush of dopamine with the environment they were in. Introverts, by contrast, did not connect the feeling of reward to their surroundings. The study “suggests that introverts have a fundamental difference in how strongly they process rewards from their environment, with the brains of introverts weighing internal cues more strongly than external motivational and reward cues,” explained LiveScience’s Tia Ghose.

20. You look at the big picture.

When describing the way that introverts think, Jung explained that they’re more interested in ideas and the big picture rather than facts and details. Of course, many introverts excel in detail-oriented tasks – but they often have a mind for more abstract concepts as well.

“Introverts do really enjoy abstract discussion,” says Dembling.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”

Many introverted children come to believe that there’s something “wrong” with them if they’re naturally less outspoken and assertive than their peers. Introverted adults often say that as children, they were told to come out of their shells or participate more in class.

22. You’re a writer.

Introverts are often better at communicating in writing than in person, and many are drawn to the solitary, creative profession of writing. Most introverts – like “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling – say that they feel most creatively charged when they have time to be alone with their thoughts.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.

Introverts can move around their introverted “set point” which determines how they need to balance solitude with social activity. But when they move too much – possibly by over-exerting themselves with too much socializing and busyness – they get stressed and need to come back to themselves, according Olsen Laney. This may manifest as going through periods of heightened social activity, and then balancing it out with a period of inwardness and solitude.

“There’s a recovery point that seems to be correlated with how much interaction you’ve done,” says Dembling. “We all have our own private cycles.”


Leave a comment

Healthy foods that can help lower blood pressure

16 April, 2012    By Staff Writer    NYR Natural News

If you are suffering from mild to moderate high blood pressure there are some very effective dietary regimes that can help lower blood pressure.

Amongst them is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet which is low in fat and meat and high in fresh fruits and vegetables.

One advantage of including more fruit and vegetables in your daily diet is that you are more likely to be eating a lower calorie but nutrient dense diet and in particular you may be getting more potassium.

Potassium-rich foods

Numerous studies have shown that consuming potassium through foods and/or supplements will lower blood pressure. Nearly 20 years ago a large study involving 30,000 male health professionals found that individuals who ate less than 2.4 g of potassium a day had a 50% higher risk for high blood pressure than those who ingested at least 3.6 grams of potassium a day.

Then again in 2009, a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that the most effective way to battle high blood pressure is to boost potassium intake while limiting sodium intake. This multiple-year research project tracked almost 3,000 participants, who completed questionnaires and provided urine samples.

The researchers found that participants with the highest sodium and lowest potassium levels were 50% more likely to have high blood pressure than participants with lower sodium and higher potassium readings.

This finding was confirmed in a 2011 study, suggesting it is important to get the sodium/potassium balance right in our diets. The easy way to do this is to avoid processed foods, which are very high in processed salt and low in potassium and other essential nutrients in favour of a whole food diet based on unprocessed foods. This type of diet will naturally provide much larger amounts of potassium in relation to sodium, as this chart illustrates.

Small servings make a big impact

Including more potassium rich foods in your diet is fairly simple and probably healthier than trying to adjust your potassium intake with supplements. The tables below show the foods that are highest in potassium per 100g (3½ oz) serving:

Fruits       Potassium (mg)              
Dates                 648
Avocado             485
Bananas              370
Raisins                355
Plums 
                299
Nectarines          294
Guava                284
Apricots (fresh)   281
Cantaloupe         267
Prunes                262
Papaya               257
Figs                   232
Peaches             202
Oranges             200

Vegetables      Potassium (mg)
Potatoes              407
Lima beans          394
Carrots                341
Spinach               324
Radishes              322
Sweet potato       300
Brussels sprouts    295
Endive                 294
Asparagus             238
Cabbage               233
Peppers                213

Nuts & Seeds    Potassium (mg)
Pistachio           1007
Pumpkin            919
Sunflower          850
Flaxseed            813
Hazelnut            755
Pine nuts           730
Almonds            705
Peanuts             658
Cashew             565

Other foods that may help lower blood pressure include:

Garlic

This popular cooking ingredient has been shown to thin the blood and raise levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol while lowering ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) thus making it useful in the treatment of heart disease and stroke. This effect can also impact blood pressure.

In 2008, researchers from Australia released findings from a meta-analysis – a type of data review where researchers look at existing high quality trials – showing that garlic supplements reduced high blood pressure as much as prescriptions called beta blockers. Overall those taking a daily dose garlic supplement ranging from 600mg to 900mg experienced significant reductions.

On average their systolic (top) number dropped 8.4mm Hg and their diastolic (bottom) reading fell by 7.3mm Hg. The amount of supplement provided to study participants is similar to one clove of garlic.

Dark Chocolate

There have been several studies linking dark chocolate to lower blood pressure. In 2010 a meta-analysis found that chocolate with around 50-70% cocoa solids was better than placebo at lowering blood pressure.

According to the study there was a relatively modest but nevertheless clinically relevant blood pressure-lowering effect of cocoa in people with hypertension: a decline of 5 mmHg in systolic blood pressure. Across the board such a reduction could reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event by about 20% over 5 years.What is more, the effect was comparable to other lifestyle modifications, such as moderate physical activity (30 minutes a day) may reduce systolic BP by 4-9 mmHg.

Chocolate’s benefits may come from its flavonol content; a 40g (1¼ oz) serving of dark chocolate contains the same amount of antioxidants as a glass of red wine. Other studies have shown heart healthy effects of dark chocolate.

Pomegranate juice

A 2004 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition illustrated the effectiveness of pomegranate juice in lowering blood pressure. In this research project, patients with severe cartoid artery blockages drank an ounce of pomegranate juice daily for a year and experienced a 20% drop in their blood pressure readings. They also had a 30 percent decrease in the amount of plaque in their arteries.

A 2011 study at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh also found that pomegranate juice lowered blood pressure. When shopping for pomegranate juice, look for a juice without fillers or sweeteners.

Herbs & spices

Several everyday herbs and spices also have blood pressure lowering properties. In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food researchers tested extracts from 24 common herbs and spices. In addition to finding high levels of antioxidant-rich compounds known as phenols, the researchers found a strong and direct correlation between the phenol content of common herbs and spices and their ability to inhibit the formation of advanced glycation end products, or AGE compounds.

AGE compounds are known to activate the immune system, resulting in the inflammation and tissue damage associated with ageing and diabetes. They also aggravate atherosclerosis, which produces cholesterol plaques.

The most potent AGE inhibitors included extracts of cloves, ground Jamaican allspice, and cinnamon. Potent herbs tested included sage, marjoram, tarragon, and rosemary.

Herbs and spices have virtually no calories so if you keep a good variety in your cupboard and season your food liberally, you could double or even triple the medicinal value of your meal without increasing it’s caloric content!



2 Comments

Relax: It’s Good For Your Genes

By Maia Szalavitz   May 03, 2013

While it might seem that your body and brain aren’t doing much when you’re on break, relaxing triggers a flurry of genetic activity that is responsible for some important health benefits.

When you really relax —  using any type of meditative technique such as deep breathing, yoga or prayer — the genes in your body switch to a different mode. Genes that counteract the chemical effects of stress kick in, while those responsible for driving more anxious and alert states take a back seat. And a new study shows that long term practice of relaxation techniques can significantly enhance these genetic benefits.

Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, first defined the relaxation response in the early 1970s and led the latest genetic investigation published in the journal PLOS One.

“We have within us an innate, inborn capacity that counters the harmful effects of stress,” says Benson, “And this study has shown its genomic basis:  namely that specific hubs of genes are changed when people evoke this relaxation response.”

“It’s fantastic,” says Dr. Mladen Golubic, medical director of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not associated with the study. While other studies have linked the relaxation response to lower stress levels and reduced blood pressure, the current trail details the physiological pathways responsible for producing these benefits. The findings confirm and expand on work Benson’s group published in 2008 in which they showed that people who meditated over a long period of time showed altered expression of the genes involved in the stress response.

In the current study, Benson and his colleagues studied 52 people, half of whom had meditated for four to 20 years using relaxation techniques and half of whom were novices. Both groups had their blood taken and analyzed before and after a 20 minute relaxation session in which they used a CD for guidance. The new meditaters agreed to participate in two relaxation sessions; in the first, they listened to a CD that provided general health information unrelated to stress, which served as a control. That way, the researchers could compare any molecular changes captured in their blood after they learned deep breathing, mindfulness and mantra practice, which involved focusing their mind on a single repeated word while ignoring distractions.

After these sessions, the scientists identified four sets of changes in the way genes were expressed; these alterations only occurred after the participants used relaxation techniques. The first involved genes related to mitochondria, the batteries that power the cell. “These changes lead to [mitochondria] being more stable and more controlled,” Benson says, “The word we use in the paper to describe the mitochondrial changes is that they are more resilient.”


That makes sense, says Golubic, since “we know that people engaged in meditation report better moods, more energy and that they sleep better.”

Genes linked to insulin production were also affected, with the relaxation response boosting levels of the hormone that is also involved in energy metabolism. “Insulin facilitates the entrance of glucose into cells and into the mitochondria,” says Golubic.

And wasn’t just individual genes that Benson’s group identified, but suites of genes that were likely connected in a pathway. That strengthened the findings, since the changes appeared consistently and therefore were unlikely to be linked simply by chance. “What really matters is if you find genetic changes in hundreds of genes in the same pathway. When you find whole pathways that show change, that’s impressive,” says Golubic.

Meditation also affected genes related to telomeres, which cap off the ends of chromosomes to protect and extend the lives of cells. “The shorter the telomere, the more the aging process is manifest,” Benson says, “What the relaxation response is consistent with is stabilizing the telomeres and making them less likely to break down.” An earlier study found that experienced meditaters had about 30% more activity in the enzyme that repairs telomeres following an intensive meditation retreat.

The researchers also saw less activity in genes related to inflammation; in other studies, these genes were over-expressed in patients with hypertension, heart disease and cancer. The data suggest that meditation, or regular relaxation, can downplay the activity of these genes and potentially counteract some of the physiologic processes that drive them.

All of these changes were seen to a much greater extent in the experienced meditaters than in the novices. But those new to the practice also showed differences after only two months of training. “The longer you evoke the relaxation response over time — years as opposed to weeks as opposed to once or twice — the more profound the changes.” Benson says.

And there is no “right” or “best” way of achieving relaxation, say Benson and Golubic. Each individual can find whatever method works best; the benefits, according to the research so far, are the same.

“The relaxation response is best understood as the opposite of stress or the fight-or-flight response,” says Benson, “There are two steps generally used in evoking it.  One is repetition.  The repetition can be of a word, sound, prayer, phrase or movement. The other is that when other thoughts come to mind, you disregard them and go back to the repetition.”

Benson recommends practicing the technique for ten to 20 minutes, at least once a day. “It should be a daily habit,” he says, adding “People have been doing it for millennia.  Now we have a scientific basis to prove its worth. It’s wonderful to be alive to see it.”

source: Time