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22 Simple Habits That Can Relieve Holiday Stress and Anxiety

Are the holidays the season of excitement or a time for anxiety and frustration? 
Here are expert tips to get you past the stress and into the festive spirit.

Get adequate sleep

It’s no secret that our bodies crave rest; fail to get enough, and you’ll have some nasty symptoms. Not only does adequate rest—at least seven to eight hours per night—recharge your body for the day ahead, it also gives your nervous system a chance to wind down and reset as well. For those who suffer from anxiety symptoms, a lack of sleep can make you much more anxious. No one wants that around the holidays, warns Barbara Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the co-author of Teenage As A Second Language. She tells Reader’s Digest, “We must all keep in mind that the holidays can be quite overwhelming as well as exciting. Because we are going to be expending a lot of energy during the holidays we must take care of ourselves. That way, we are less likely to become physically sick and emotionally overwhelmed during the holiday season.” Go ahead and go to bed early—chances are you’ll be better able to handle whatever comes your way in the morning.

Give your body the boosts it needs

The typical American diet can leave you short on nutrients your body needs to function at its fullest potential, and sometimes it needs a boost that food is not providing. During stressful times such as the holidays or busy seasons, it’s important to pay close attention to cues your body is sending about its status. Supplements such as magnesium (almost 80 percent of the population is deficient), zinc, and fish oil can deliver the nutrients your body needs to keep running efficiently. Magnesium helps to relax muscles and decrease anxiety. Zinc will help to boost your immune system during the colder months, and the omega-3 oils in fish oil are powerful anti-inflammatories that provide an overall sense of well-being.

Give yourself the gift of self-care

In the midst of the seasonal rush, it’s easy to forget about your own health. Make time for a daily routine—even if it’s just 15 minutes—of doing something relaxing. Whether that’s pulling out the yoga mat, steeping a cup of your favorite herbal tea, or simply reading a good book, the time you give yourself out of your busy day will make a huge difference in your outlook. Kim Fredrickson, a marriage and family therapist and author of the new book Give Your Kids A Break: Parenting With Compassion For You and Your Children, agrees. She advises, “Treat yourself with compassion. It’s important to treat yourself kindly regarding all the extra pressures and activities you’re dealing with.” She continues, “Come up with a plan to take care of yourself as you head into the holidays. Try getting enough sleep, eat as healthy as possible, take time for a daily walk, and set things aside that can wait until January or February.”

Accept what you can control and release the rest

If you struggle with anxious feelings, you may also have control issues. So when the to-do list becomes overwhelming, that’s the time to step back and assess what is reasonable and what you have to let go of. If you’re hosting a dinner and you know that gluten-free Aunt Martha will complain that she can’t have the stuffing, kindly suggest that she might want to bring a side she’ll be able to enjoy. Fredrickson recommends making a list of the things you feel are top priorities, to keep your focus on what matters most. She says, “What’s important? Think about what is really important as you approach the holidays. Make sure your list includes things that are important to you, rather than only focusing on creating good experiences for your family.”

Do what you can from the comfort of home

There’s never been a better time to get things done without getting out of your pajamas. Sure, the Internet has its drawbacks, but there’s no question it’s made life easier for shopping. Tap the wonders of the web to order your groceries and gifts online. Some grocery services will deliver to your door, while some require that you pick up your order; either way, the time you’ll save is priceless. With online gift-wrapping options, it’s never been easier to have gifts sent directly to the relatives. Consider yourself a tech genius this season and eliminate your to-do list worries.

Delegate the details

If you’re facing a panicked rush to get things done, why not hand off some of the to-do lists to your spouse? If you know you’ll never be able to wrap every gift on time or schedule the carpet cleaning you’ve been putting off, recruit help. The same goes for holiday meals. While it’s true that the host often provides much of the main meal, why not ask people on the guest list to provide a side or dessert? Dr. Greenberg advises, “There are no prizes for doing everything on your own. Delegate. Remember people should come together during the holidays and help each other, right?”

Know your limits and respect them

Do memories of holidays past leave you shuddering with a sense of dread? If so, it’s time to learn from past mistakes, and vow to do things differently this year. If hosting the holiday festivities is simply too much of a strain on you or your family, ask someone else to take it on this year. Stress and anxiety can make even the most well-intentioned hostess less than jolly, and chances are good that there’s someone in your family who would love the chance to show off their culinary skill. Dr. Greenberg tells Reader’s Digest, “Know your limits. If it is difficult to be with your family for too long before you start getting irritable with each other, then set a time limit in advance. Believe me, you will be grateful that you did this! Do not expect that this year your family will get along perfectly and that old grudges will be forgotten. Unfortunately, we tend to regress when we are with our families during the holidays and old issues from years ago rear their heads.”

Make time to move

While it might seem counter-intuitive to add exercise to your daily routine during a time of extra activity, it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Activity reduces blood pressure and stress, and a short walk around the block can really go the distance in making the holiday grind more bearable. If walking isn’t something you enjoy, why not try yoga, and let your breath carry you away from it all? Exercise doesn’t have to produce heavy breathing and sweat to count—so find something that gently allows your body to expend its extra energy, and go with it.

Prep your way to less stress

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fail to plan? Plan to fail.” That’s a little harsh, but there’s no question that having a holiday-prep plan will help ensure the success of your season. Take a look at your seasonal to-do list and make notes about the things that can be taken care of in advance. Can you bake and freeze some dinner or dessert items now? How about sending out the invitations early, with your requests of what others should bring for the meal included? Some things don’t need to wait to be done until the week before the big day. Take advantage of the time you have, and take action now.

gingerbread

 

Maintain realistic expectations of yourself and others

Family relationships are complicated. Add in holiday pressures and heightened expectations for a perfect holiday, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Instead of expecting a perfect holiday staged by Hallmark, keep your vision of the day realistic. That one relative who really knows how to push your buttons will not magically become a joy to be around just because it’s a special day. Accept the likely reality for what it is, and make the best of it. Dr. Greenberg cautions that you should rein in your expectations—especially around the holidays. “It is crucial to keep expectations at a reasonable level. If we set the bar too high and expect family get-togethers or other celebrations to be perfect, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.” Who needs the extra stress of having a perfect day?

Keep healthy boundaries in place

Some of your family or friends may see the holidays as an excuse for excess, indulgence, or rude behavior. Though more family time might lead you to have an extra glass of wine, Dr. Greenberg says this isn’t the best option to soothe frazzled nerves. She warns, “Keep the drinking of alcohol to a minimum. Too much alcohol leads to saying the wrong thing, behaving in a clumsy manner, and unintentionally bruising the feelings of others. It also leads to embarrassing yourself and your family.” Everyone wants an enjoyable day, but it shouldn’t cost you your sanity or healthy limitations.

Make a date with yourself

“The holidays can be a chaotic time with friends and family and it’s OK to schedule some alone time,” says Prakash Masand MD, a psychiatrist from Duke University and founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence. “Ask your spouse to watch the kids for an hour and go to the spa, or go hit a bucket of golf balls. Seeking some solitude is both healthy and necessary to reduce stress.”

Hit “pause” on family arguments

Old tensions, political differences, blended families with ex-spouses and new loves—for a lot of people, getting together with extended family to celebrate holidays is a mixture of good and bad. If tensions and disagreements arise, consider pressing pause, at least for now. “Holidays are not the time to resolve family conflicts,” says Dr. Masand. “Many individuals use the family holidays to try to resolve longstanding conflicts with family members often with disastrous consequences, particularly when alcohol is involved. Leave addressing those issues to a later time in a one-to-one conversation.”

Do your shopping in short bursts

In an interesting 2016 study, researchers strapped emotion-tracking devices to 100 people and sent them holiday shopping for an hour. The findings? People’s heart rates increased by an average of 33 percent while shopping, about the same increase seen in someone who’s running a marathon. A majority became fatigued after just half an hour. “There’s so much to do: buying presents, cooking, decorating and more. Saving it all for the last minute will raise your stress,” says Dr. Masand. “Start a few weeks ahead of time and do a little at a time.”

Do less!

The number-one stressor during the holidays is time, a survey by the American Psychological Association found. A full two-thirds of people surveyed often or sometimes feel worried about having time to fit everything in, including family visits, cooking, shopping, decorating, and working. If you find yourself feeling stretched thin every holiday season, why not plan to do a little bit less this year? Jot down a quick list of all the parties, activities, and traditions you “need” to fit in and then prioritize. The ones that end up near the bottom? They’re optional.

Stick to a budget

Money is the second-biggest source of holiday stress (“time” is number one), according to the American Psychological Association. That’s why Dr. Masand suggests making a holiday budget and sticking to it. “Every parent wants to buy that perfect holiday gift for their child, but big-ticket items can take a toll on your wallet and your stress level,” he says. If you exchange gifts with extended friends and family, “consider a grab bag gift exchange where each person buys only one gift to alleviate the stress of having to get something for everyone.” Of course, gifts aren’t the only expenses of the season—there’s also food. “Let others help,” says Dr. Masand. “Don’t feel like you have to be the hero of the holiday season. Ask each person to bring a dish to dinner, make decorating a family activity where the kids help out.”

Go store-bought instead of homemade

Do you always bring the pie for the holiday meal, always homemade? If this year has you feeling overwhelmed or overworked, consider giving yourself the gift of time and buy one instead. Store-bought or cafe-bought desserts can be just as enjoyable, especially if you’re not stressed out and exhausted when you eat them! Try this top-pick frozen apple pie or check out this Chicago Tribune review of sweet potato, pecan, and apple pies from grocery stores like Walmart, Jewel, and Target.

Expect some bad along with the good

In a recent survey, 41 percent of Americans admitted to working too hard to have a “perfect” holiday season. “Expect things to go wrong,” says Dr. Masand. “Your son may hate his Christmas gift. Your daughter might get sick. You may overcook the ham. The point is things will go wrong. Appreciate the season for the time spent with loved ones and create new memories, and don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Draw firm boundaries between work and family

Many people have to work regular schedules in the days leading up to the holidays—those in the travel industry, retail, hospitality, and food services may have to work even more than usual. Other than requesting time off as far in advance as possible, those work schedules can’t necessarily be controlled. What can be are your boundaries when you’re not at work. Thirty-four percent of people in an American Psychological Association survey say they experience significant stress worrying that work obligations will impede on their holiday celebrations. So when you’re off the clock, stay there. Make it clear that you can’t respond to texts or emails on your days off, and don’t let yourself feel pressured into filling in for co-workers who ask to swap shifts.

Look out for the holiday blues

Those of us who have lost loved ones or are facing other difficult life situations may feel especially sad during this time of year when everyone is supposed to be jolly. Don’t ignore these feelings of grief or sadness, say the mental health experts at the Mayo Clinic. Not only is it OK to express these feelings during this time of “cheer,” it’s healthier to do that than to ignore or suppress them. Learn more about what to look out for when holiday blues go too far.

Remember that ultimately, a holiday is just a day

“The holidays are filled with both joy and stress,” says Ellen Braaten, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital. If you find yourself feeling extremely overwhelmed by emotions, pressures, or obligations this year, try to shift your perspective by deciding what’s most important and what you want the holidays to mean to you. “The holidays are just another time of year, certainly something to mark, but not the end-all, be-all,” she says.

Focus on the good

Yes, the holidays can be stressful and difficult. But they’re also full of joy for many of us. The American Psychological Association found that 78 percent of people report feeling happy, 75 percent feel love, and 60 percent report being in high spirits this time of year. So don’t lose sight of what you enjoy most about this time of year, whether it’s the twinkling lights, music, food, or fellowship.

Jen Babakhan       Sunny Sea Gold
 
source: www.rd.com
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Common Painkillers Tied to Kidney Risks for Children: Study

Children taking the common painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be at risk for acute kidney damage, particularly when the kids are dehydrated, a new study finds.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (commonly called NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (brand names Advil and Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) and ketorolac (Toradol) are used to relieve pain and fever.

“The one thing we did see that seemed to be connected to kidney damage was dehydration,” said lead researcher Dr. Jason Misurac, a nephrologist at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

For the study, which was published in the Jan. 25 online edition of the Journal of Pediatrics, Misurac’s team looked at the medical records of children admitted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis from 1999 through mid-2010. Over that time, they identified more than 1,000 cases of children being treated for kidney damage.

In nearly 3 percent of the cases, the damage was related to NSAIDs, the study found. Most kids were teens, but four were under 5 years old. All of them had been given NSAIDs before being hospitalized. Since many other cases involved several causes of kidney damage, it is possible some of those also were related to NSAIDs, the researchers said.

Most children who developed kidney damage had been given the recommended dose and had not been taking NSAIDs for more than a week.

In adults, taking NSAIDs regularly for several years has been tied to kidney problems, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Cases involving children have previously been reported but only rarely.

Misurac noted that most of the children in the study hadn’t been drinking well and also were vomiting and had diarrhea, all of which can lead to dehydration. When someone is dehydrated the kidneys have a way of protecting themselves, which NSAIDs block, resulting in the damage, Misurac explained.

“Certainly in the way NSAIDs affect the kidneys, it’s reasonable to think that dehydration plus an NSAID has more of an effect than just an NSAID by itself,” he said.

Often the signs of kidney problems aren’t apparent, Misurac said. One sign is a decrease in urine; another is stomach pain. “But most kids who have episodes of acute kidney injury have nonspecific symptoms and there’s no one way to tell,” he said.

“If kids are dehydrated and not drinking well, then parents should think twice about using NSAIDs,” Misurac said. Tylenol (acetaminophen), which acts differently than NSAIDs, might be a better choice for children, he said.

For many of the children in the study, the kidney damage was reversed, Misurac said. The damage, however, was permanent for seven patients and they will probably need ongoing monitoring and treatment for declining kidney function, he said.

All the children under age 5 had to undergo dialysis and were more likely to be treated in an intensive-care unit, the researchers said. They also stayed in the hospital longer.

Although the study showed an association between taking NSAIDs and kidney problems in children, it didn’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

One expert agreed that NSAIDs can damage the kidneys.

“This is well known. Unfortunately, it is better known among doctors; the public is not as educated regarding this problem,” said Dr. Felix Ramirez-Seijas, director of pediatric nephrology at Miami Children’s Hospital.

Ramirez-Seijas said NSAIDs are “overused and abused, both by doctors and patients.”

For children, most fevers should not be treated; fever is how the body fights infection, he said. “There is a fear of fever that leads to overtreatment,” Ramirez-Seijas said.

In addition, children who take NSAIDs for aches after vigorous exercise also are at risk, because they may be dehydrated, Ramirez-Seijas said.

His advice to parents is to be sure children are well hydrated if they are going take NSAIDs. In addition, he believes that even these over-the-counter drugs should only be used with the advice of a doctor.

“Most people see taking a couple of Advil like taking a sip of water, but it’s not,” Ramirez-Seijas said.

By Steven Reinberg     HealthDay    Jan. 25
 

 

nsaids

 

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

What are NSAIDs and how do they work?

Prostaglandins are a family of chemicals that are produced by the cells of the body and have several important functions. They promote inflammation that is necessary for healing, but also results in pain, and fever; support the blood clotting function of platelets; and protect the lining of the stomach from the damaging effects of acid.

Prostaglandins are produced within the body’s cells by the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). There are two COX enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. Both enzymes produce prostaglandins that promote inflammation, pain, and fever. However, only COX-1 produces prostaglandins that support platelets and protect the stomach. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) block the COX enzymes and reduce prostaglandins throughout the body. As a consequence, ongoing inflammation, pain, and fever are reduced. Since the prostaglandins that protect the stomach and support platelets and blood clotting also are reduced, NSAIDs can cause ulcers in the stomach and promote bleeding.

What NSAIDs are approved in the United States?

The following list is an example of NSAIDs available:

  • aspirin
  • celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • diclofenac (Cambia, Cataflam, Voltaren-XR, Zipsor, Zorvolex)
  • diflunisal (Dolobid – discontinued brand)
  • etodolac (Lodine – discontinued brand)
  • ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • indomethacin (Indocin)
  • ketoprofen (Active-Ketoprofen [Orudis – discontinued brand])
  • ketorolac (Toradol – discontinued brand)
  • nabumetone (Relafen – discontinued brand)
  • naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
  • oxaprozin (Daypro)
  • piroxicam (Feldene)
  • salsalate (Disalsate [Amigesic – discontinued brand])
  • sulindac (Clinoril – discontinued brand)
  • tolmetin (Tolectin – discontinued brand)

What are the side effects of NSAIDs?

NSAIDs are associated with several side effects. The frequency of side effects varies among NSAIDs.

Common side effects are

  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • diarrhea,
  • constipation,
  • decreased appetite,
  • rash,
  • dizziness,
  • headache, and
  • drowsiness.

Other important side effects are:

  • kidney failure (primarily with chronic use),
  • liver failure,
  • ulcers, and
  • prolonged bleeding after injury or surgery.

NSAIDs can cause fluid retention which can lead to edema, which is most commonly manifested by swelling of the ankles.

WARNING: Some individuals are allergic to NSAIDs and may develop shortness of breath when an NSAID is taken. People with asthma are at a higher risk for experiencing serious allergic reaction to NSAIDs. Individuals with a serious allergy to one NSAID are likely to experience a similar reaction to a different NSAID.

Use of aspirin in children and teenagers with chickenpox or influenza has been associated with the development of Reye’s syndrome, a serious and sometimes fatal liver disease. Therefore, aspirin and non-aspirin salicylates (for example, salsalate [Amigesic]) should not be used in children and teenagers with suspected or confirmed chickenpox or influenza.

NSAIDs increase the risk of potentially fatal, stomach and intestinal adverse reactions (for example, bleeding, ulcers, and perforation of the stomach or intestines). These events can occur at any time during treatment and without warning symptoms. Elderly patients are at greater risk for these adverse events. NSAIDs (except low dose aspirin) may increase the risk of potentially fatal heart attacks, stroke, and related conditions. This risk may increase with duration of use and in patients who have underlying risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease. Therefore, NSAIDs should not be used for the treatment of pain resulting from coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

For what conditions are NSAIDs used?

NSAIDs are used primarily to treat inflammation, mild to moderate pain, and fever.

Specific uses include the treatment of:

  • headaches,
  • arthritis,
  • ankylosing spondylitis,
  • sports injuries, and
  • menstrual cramps.
  • Ketorolac (Toradol) is only used for short-term treatment of moderately severe acute pain that otherwise would be treated with narcotics.

Aspirin (also an NSAID) is used to inhibit the clotting of blood and prevent strokes and heart attacks in individuals at high risk for strokes and heart attacks.

NSAIDs also are included in many cold and allergy preparations.

Celecoxib (Celebrex) is used for treating familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) to prevent the formation and growth of colon polyps.

With which drugs do NSAIDs interact?

NSAIDs reduce blood flow to the kidneys and therefore reduce the action of diuretics (“water pills”) and decrease the elimination of lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid) and methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall). As a result, the blood levels of these drugs may increase as may their side effects.

NSAIDs also decrease the ability of the blood to clot and therefore increase bleeding. When used with other drugs that also increase bleeding (for example, warfarin [Coumadin]), there is an increased likelihood of serious bleeding or complications of bleeding. Therefore, individuals who are taking drugs that reduce the ability of blood to clot should avoid prolonged use of NSAIDs.

NSAIDs also may increase blood pressure in patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) and therefore antagonize the action of drugs that are used to treat hypertension.

NSAIDs increase the negative effect of cyclosporine on kidney function.

Persons who have more than three alcoholic beverages per day may be at increased risk of developing stomach ulcers when taking NSAIDs.

 

Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD  
Pharmacy Author: Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD 


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Common Painkillers Linked To Increased Risk Of Heart Attack, Study Says

Story highlights
A new study links common painkillers called to increased risk of heart attacks
Researchers urge doctors and patients to weight the risks and benefits
The drugs are not proved to be a a direct cause of heart attacks

(CNN)Taking even over-the-counter doses of common painkillers known as NSAIDs – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack in a new study.

The likelihood of experiencing a heart attack was calculated to increase by an average of 20% to 50%, compared with someone not taking the drugs, regardless of the dosage and amount of time the medications are taken.

The findings are observational and based on an association, however, with the drugs not proved to be a a direct cause of heart attack.

This group of drugs includes ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib and naproxen, which are available over the counter or by prescription for higher doses, to relieve pain or fever resulting from a range of causes, including flu, headaches, back pain and menstrual cramps. Their range of uses also means they are often taken as needed, for short periods of time.

The level of risk increased as early as one week into the use of any drug in this category and at any dose, and the risk associated with taking higher doses was greatest within the first month.
“We found that all common NSAIDs shared a heightened risk of heart attack,” said Dr. Michèle Bally, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, who led the research. “There is a perception that naproxen has the lowest cardiovascular risk (among the NSAIDs), but that’s not true.”

Researchers’ overall finding was that taking any dosage of these drugs for one week, one month or longer was linked to an increased risk of a heart attack. The risk appeared to decline when these painkillers were no longer taken, with a slight decline one to 30 days after use and a greater decline, falling below 11%, between 30 days and one year after use.

Based on the paper, published Tuesday in the BMJ, Bally’s team suggests that doctors and patients weigh the potential harms and benefits before relying on the drugs as a treatment option.

“People minimize the risks because drugs are over the counter and they don’t read labels,” Bally said. “Why not consider all treatment options? … Every therapeutic decision is a balance of benefits and risk.”

Building on previous research

Cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 cause of death globally, according to the World Health Organization, with 80% of all deaths in this category due to heart attacks and strokes. Each year, it’s estimated that 735,000 people in the United States have a heart attack. In the United Kingdom, more than 200,000 hospital visits each year are due to a heart attack.

Previous research has showed that this class of painkillers could increase the risk of having a heart attack, known as myocardial infarction. In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration called on drugmakers to update their warnings labels to identify an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.

But the specifics in terms of timing, dosage and treatment durations were less clear.

Bally and her team reviewed all available studies in this area from Canadian and European databases, analyzing the findings from 446,763 people, with 61,460 of them having had a heart attack. Their goal was to calculate the risk, determinants and time course of heart attacks associated with the use of NSAIDs under typical circumstances.

The team looked at very short-term use and at any dose, said Bally. “In real life, people use drugs at low doses and use them on and off,” she said, adding that this is not reflected in many clinical trials, for example, in which people have often been monitored during prolonged use of these drugs.

When using them for one week, the greatest risk was associated with rofecoxib, followed by diclofenac, ibuprofen and then celecoxib, respectively, though all except celecoxib had similar levels of risk, hovering around 50% increased odds of a heart attack, at any dose.

At higher doses, typically needing a prescription, some drugs had an even greater risk of heart attack between one week and one month of use. For example, naproxen showed a 75% increased likelihood of a heart attack within one month with doses of 1200 milligrams per day or more, and naproxen showed an 83% increased likelihood of a heart attack with doses greater than 750 milligrams per day when taken for one week to one month.

But the level of risk declined, on average, when the drugs were used for longer than one month.

“This is relative to not taking these drugs, your baseline risk,” Bally said. “The risk is not 75%. It’s an increase (maybe) from a tiny baseline risk that they have.”
Millions of these pills are sold every year, Bally said. “Therefore the risk, no matter how small or relative, is important to note from a population viewpoint.”
“We already know that these drugs increase your risk of having a heart attack,” said Dr. Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, in a statement. “However this large-scale study worryingly highlights just how quickly you become at risk of having a heart attack after starting NSAIDs.” Knapton was not involved in the research.

Knapton further added that people must be made aware of the risk and that alternative medication or treatment should be considered where appropriate. For example, physical therapy or yoga could be used to alleviate pain from an injury.

nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Association, not causation

The researchers stress that the findings are purely observational, as they used readily available data about certain populations. Not all potentially influential factors could be taken into account, they say.

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, commented that a number of lifestyle factors, such as smoking and body mass index, are not available in the data about the study participants. “It leads to uncertainty,” he said.

Tobacco use, unhealthy diet, obesity, alcohol abuse and hypertension are just a few of many factors that can cause a heart attack.

“This is the largest study of its kind, but it is still observational data based on prescription or dispensing information, rather than whether people were actually taking their medication,” said Dr. Amitava Banerjee, senior clinical lecturer in clinical data science at UCL in the UK. “Although these data reflect real-world use of NSAIDs, it is impossible to control for all the factors which may lead to confounding or bias.”

This uncertainty combined with the overall observational nature of the findings means the cause of the increased risk shown in the analysis cannot be explained, nor can the drugs be directly stated as a cause of heart attacks.

Bally thinks a cause could be changes in blood pressure or effects on kidney function, as these areas are poorly studied. But she stresses that all five drugs studied have individual behaviors. “It will be hard to point to one factor,” she said.

Relative, not absolute risk

“The paper has good evidence that there is some risk of a heart attack for all NSAIDs and suggests that the risk starts immediately on starting them, but is only expressed in relative terms,” said Evans, who was not involved in the research. “There is no clear description of the absolute risk.”

The findings are based on the chances of a heart attack occurring in people taking these drugs, compared with those not taking them. If risk was already low in a person, a 20% to 50% increased risk is not that much cause for concern.

“The risks are relatively small, and for most people who are not at high risk of a heart attack, these findings have minimal implications,” Evans said.

It’s also possible that people taking these drugs are, on average, already at higher risk than people not taking the drugs, he said, commenting that the study did not account for these factors in their calculations. For example, the reason someone is prescribed an NSAID, such as for severe pain, may also be the reason they have a heart attack soon after. So while the study shows that risk of a heart attack increases as soon as a few days into taking NSAIDs, the links may not be as clear as suggested, Evans said.

“The most likely mechanisms for action of the drugs would be expected to show a low risk at the start and only have an effect on heart attacks after longer usage. That this wasn’t the case casts some doubt on the findings of an immediate increase in risk,” he said.
“All effective medicines have unwanted effects, and NSAIDs, although easily available, are not without some risks, but this study is no reason to induce anxiety in most users of these drugs,” he said.

But while waiting for more clarity on the true level of risk and its cause, experts still advise caution when prescribing or taking these painkillers.

“The increased risk of heart attack with NSAIDs, regardless of which one, means that both health professionals and the public should weigh up the harm and the benefit when prescribing these medications, especially for more than a day or two,” Banerjee said.
“Despite the over-the-counter availability of the traditional NSAIDs, this caution is still required. The mechanism of this increased risk of heart attack is not at all clear from existing studies.”

By Meera Senthilingam, CNN         May 9, 2017
 source: www.cnn.com


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The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses – including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease. We all know inflammation on the surface of the body as local redness, heat, swelling and pain. It is the cornerstone of the body’s healing response, bringing more nourishment and more immune activity to a site of injury or infection. But when inflammation persists or serves no purpose, it damages the body and causes illness. Stress, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition, and exposure to toxins (like secondhand tobacco smoke) can all contribute to such chronic inflammation, but dietary choices play a big role as well. Learning how specific foods influence the inflammatory process is the best strategy for containing it and reducing long-term disease risks.

pyramid

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is not a diet in the popular sense – it is not intended as a weight-loss program (although people can and do lose weight on it), nor is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet an eating plan to stay on for a limited period of time. Rather, it is way of selecting and preparing anti-inflammatory foods based on scientific knowledge of how they can help your body maintain optimum health. Along with influencing inflammation, this natural anti-inflammatory diet will provide steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids dietary fiber, and protective phytonutrients.

You can also adapt your existing recipes according to these anti-inflammatory diet principles:

General Diet Tips:

  • Aim for variety.
  • Include as much fresh food as possible.
  • Minimize your consumption of processed foods and fast food.
  • Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

Caloric Intake

  • Most adults need to consume between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day.
  • Women and smaller and less active people need fewer calories.
  • Men and bigger and more active people need more calories.
  • If you are eating the appropriate number of calories for your level of activity, your weight should not fluctuate greatly.
  • The distribution of calories you take in should be as follows: 40 to 50 percent from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat, and 20 to 30 percent from protein.
  • Try to include carbohydrates, fat, and protein at each meal.

Carbohydrates

  • On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, adult women should consume between 160 to 200 grams of carbohydrates a day.
  • Adult men should consume between 240 to 300 grams of carbohydrates a day.
  • The majority of this should be in the form of less-refined, less-processed foods with a low glycemic load.
  • Reduce your consumption of foods made with wheat flour and sugar, especially bread and most packaged snack foods (including chips and pretzels).
  • Eat more whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat, in which the grain is intact or in a few large pieces. These are preferable to whole wheat flour products, which have roughly the same glycemic index as white flour products.
  • Eat more beans, winter squashes, and sweet potatoes.
  • Cook pasta al dente and eat it in moderation.
  • Avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup.

Fat

  • On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, 600 calories can come from fat – that is, about 67 grams. This should be in a ratio of 1:2:1 of saturated to monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fat.
  • Reduce your intake of saturated fat by eating less butter, cream, high-fat cheese, unskinned chicken and fatty meats, and products made with palm kernel oil.
  • Use extra-virgin olive oil as a main cooking oil. If you want a neutral tasting oil, use expeller-pressed, organic canola oil. Organic, high-oleic, expeller pressed versions of sunflower and safflower oil are also acceptable.
  • Avoid regular safflower and sunflower oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and mixed vegetable oils.
  • Strictly avoid margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products listing them as ingredients. Strictly avoid all products made with partially hydrogenated oils of any kind. Include in your diet avocados and nuts, especially walnuts, cashews, almonds, and nut butters made from these nuts.
  • For omega-3 fatty acids, eat salmon (preferably fresh or frozen wild or canned sockeye), sardines packed in water or olive oil, herring, and black cod (sablefish, butterfish); omega-3 fortified eggs; hemp seeds and flaxseeds (preferably freshly ground); or take a fish oil supplement (look for products that provide both EPA and DHA, in a convenient daily dosage of two to three grams).

Protein

  • On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, your daily intake of protein should be between 80 and 120 grams. Eat less protein if you have liver or kidney problems, allergies, or autoimmune disease.
  • Decrease your consumption of animal protein except for fish and high quality natural cheese and yogurt.
  • Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans in general and soybeans in particular. Become familiar with the range of whole-soy foods available and find ones you like.

Fiber

  • Try to eat 40 grams of fiber a day. You can achieve this by increasing your consumption of fruit, especially berries, vegetables (especially beans), and whole grains.
  • Ready-made cereals can be good fiber sources, but read labels to make sure they give you at least 4 and preferably 5 grams of bran per one-ounce serving.

Phytonutrients

  • To get maximum natural protection against age-related diseases (including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease) as well as against environmental toxicity, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum, especially berries, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, and dark leafy greens.
  • Choose organic produce whenever possible. Learn which conventionally grown crops are most likely to carry pesticide residues and avoid them.
  • Eat cruciferous (cabbage-family) vegetables regularly.
  • Include soy foods in your diet.
  • Drink tea instead of coffee, especially good quality white, green or oolong tea.
  • If you drink alcohol, use red wine preferentially.
  • Enjoy plain dark chocolate in moderation (with a minimum cocoa content of 70 percent).

Vitamins and Minerals

The best way to obtain all of your daily vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients is by eating a diet high in fresh foods with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. In addition, supplement your diet with the following antioxidant cocktail:

  • Vitamin C, 200 milligrams a day.
  • Vitamin E, 400 IU of natural mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-tocopherol with other tocopherols, or, better, a minimum of 80 milligrams of natural mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols).
  • Selenium, 200 micrograms of an organic (yeast-bound) form.
  • Mixed carotenoids, 10,000-15,000 IU daily.
  • The antioxidants can be most conveniently taken as part of a daily multivitamin/multimineral supplement that also provides at least 400 micrograms of folic acid and 2,000 IU of vitamin D. It should contain no iron (unless you are a female and having regular menstrual periods) and no preformed vitamin A (retinol). Take these supplements with your largest meal.
  • Women should take supplemental calcium, preferably as calcium citrate, 500-700 milligrams a day, depending on their dietary intake of this mineral. Men should avoid supplemental calcium.

Other Dietary Supplements

  • If you are not eating oily fish at least twice a week, take supplemental fish oil, in capsule or liquid form (two to three grams a day of a product containing both EPA and DHA). Look for molecularly distilled products certified to be free of heavy metals and other contaminants.
  • Talk to your doctor about going on low-dose aspirin therapy, one or two baby aspirins a day (81 or 162 milligrams).
  • If you are not regularly eating ginger and turmeric, consider taking these in supplemental form.
  • Add coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to your daily regimen: 60-100 milligrams of a softgel form taken with your largest meal.
  • If you are prone to metabolic syndrome, take alpha-lipoic acid, 100 to 400 milligrams a day.

Water

  • Drink pure water, or drinks that are mostly water (tea, very diluted fruit juice, sparkling water with lemon) throughout the day.
  • Use bottled water or get a home water purifier if your tap water tastes of chlorine or other contaminants, or if you live in an area where the water is known or suspected to be contaminated.
 Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet         Courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging, Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
 


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9 Health Benefits of Thyme

Thyme is more than just a tasty garden herb. This medicinal plant has been shown to help combat inflammation, acne, high blood pressure, and even certain types of cancer. Here’s how thyme can reduce your pain and benefit your health.

1. Antibacterial

Medicinal Chemistry published a study that found essential oil from common garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) exhibited very strong activity against clinical bacterial strains of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia and Pseudomonas.

Thyme oil also worked against antibiotic resistant strains that were tested. This is especially promising news considering the current increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The antibacterial action of thyme also makes it useful for oral care. Try mixing one drop of thyme oil in a cup of warm water and using it as a mouthwash.

2. Anti-inflammatory

Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is an enzyme that plays a key role in the body’s inflammatory response. A Nara Women’s University study found that thyme essential oil reduced COX-2 levels by almost 75 percent.

Interestingly, when researchers isolated a pure extract of carvacrol, a compound in thyme oil, this extract reduced COX-2 levels by more than 80 percent.

Thyme’s anti-inflammatory action can also help with localized pain. You can mix a few drops of thyme oil into a basic massage oil and rub it into an area where you’re experiencing pain, such as muscle aches, headaches, or skin inflammation.

3. Supports Brain Health

In one study, rats given a thyme supplement had antioxidant levels in their brains that were equivalent to antioxidant levels of much younger mice. Also, the level of healthy fats, such as omega-3 fats, were significantly higher compared to mice that had not received the thyme supplement.

Studies have indicated that high levels of omega-3 will help protect cognitive function and mental health as we age.

4. Acne Treatment

A Leeds University study found that a thyme tincture was more effective in killing the bacterium that causes acne than common chemical-based creams, such as benzoyl peroxide.

The thyme tincture was made by steeping thyme leaves in alcohol. This extracts the vital compounds from the plant. Naturally Healthy Skin has a good recipe for a thyme acne gel you can make at home.

Health Benefits of Thyme

5. Anticancer

Thyme extracts are shown to cause cell death in both breast and colon cancer cells.

Two studies found that wild thyme (Thymus serphyllum) extract killed breast cancer cells, and mastic thyme (Thymus mastichina) extract was effective against colon cancer cells.

6. Reduces Respiratory Symptoms

A fluid extract of thyme and ivy leaves was shown to significantly reduce coughing and other symptoms of acute bronchitis compared to a placebo.

Drinking thyme tea may help when you have a sore throat or a cough. You can also try adding 2 drops of thyme oil to a container of hot water for steam inhalation.

7. Lowers Blood Pressure

In separate studies, extracts from wild thyme (Thymus serphyllum) and Himalayan thyme (Thymus linearis Benth.) were found to reduce blood pressure in rats. Both studies indicated that thyme extract may protect against hypertension.

8. Fungicide

A 2007 study looked at the effect of thyme essential oil as a disinfectant against household molds. They concluded that thyme oil is an effective fungicide against many different types of fungi and molds.

You can add a few drops of thyme oil to water or your favorite household cleanser to help clean up any fungal problems in your home.

Thyme can also kill fungi within your body. For instance, Candida albicans is the fungus that causes both vaginal and mouth yeast infections in humans. Italian researchers found that thyme essential oil greatly enhanced intracellular killing of Candida albicans.

9. Bug Repellant

Thymol, a compound in thyme, is an ingredient in many different pesticides. It’s been shown to effectively repel mosquitos, which can help prevent mosquito-borne disease.

To use as a repellant, mix 4 drops of thyme oil per teaspoon of olive oil and apply to your skin or clothing. You can also mix 5 drops for every 2 ounces of water and use as a spray.

How to Eat More Thyme

Many of these studies looked at thyme essential oil. Speak to your doctor, naturopath or herbalist before you start to consume thyme oil internally. Essential oils are potent compounds that should be taken under the advice of a professional.

Incorporating more fresh or dried thyme into your diet is a gentler way to get all the benefits from this wonderful herb.

By: Zoe Blarowski      June 22, 2016


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This ONE Ingredient Can Reduce Pain and Inflammation

Ginger has a long history of use for relieving digestive problems such as nausea, loss of appetite, motion sickness and pain. – WebMD

“Research shows that ginger affects certain inflammatory processes at a cellular level.”

A positive development in the world of medicine is the willingness of medical professionals to experiment with natural remedies. Despite technological advancements and cutting-edge pharmaceuticals, some of the most effective medicines can be found right in our local grocery store.

The typical American diet disproportionally includes sugar, sodium and other additives that wreak havoc on our body. This is partially due to the fact that, through advances in food science, we’ve accepted convenience at the expense of what our body really needs: a natural, healthy diet.

Fortunately, enough research now exists that proves the effectiveness of everyday foods. One of those foods is ginger – a sweet and spicy ingredient that also happens to benefit our health in a number of ways. In addition to the great taste, ginger is a nutritious and exceptionally versatile ingredient.

Arthritis is one of the most prevalent ailments in society today. A painful and degenerative condition, arthritis is caused by inflammation in the joints. This inflammation adversely affects mobility and causes often debilitating physical pain. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, has a tendency to get worse with age as natural wear and tear of the body takes its toll.

It’s this inflammatory response where ginger truly demonstrates its medicinal properties. One of the leading arthritis organizations, the Arthritis Foundation, promotes ginger as a natural anti-inflammatory ingredient. The organization’s website cites a study by the University of Miami that suggests ginger supplementation as a natural substitute for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). In the study of 247 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, those given a highly concentrated dose of ginger extract “reduced pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40 percent over the placebo.”

One of the study’s lead researchers states that “Ginger has anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and antioxidant activities, as well as a small amount of analgesic (pain reduction) property.” In other words, it is ginger’s ability to counteract inflammation and pain that makes the spice a particularly potent medicinal alternative. This is certainly positive and welcome news for the millions of people who suffer from pain and inflammation from arthritis and other ailments.

ginger

As mentioned, ginger is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be consumed in a number of different forms. The Arthritis Foundation notes that choosing an effective form of ginger is essential to experiencing the most powerful effects from its medicinal properties. Specifically, the organization recommends choosing supplements that use “super-critical extraction,” a process that results in the purest ginger. This process also provides the greatest medicinal effects of any ginger delivery method.

That said, there are a number of ways to incorporate ginger into your diet. Many people add ginger to fresh juices and everyday food. Favorite foods and beverages to include ginger as an ingredient are: carrot ginger lentil soup, stir fry, ginger berry smoothies, salad, split pea soup, kale juice, homemade ginger ale, ginger cookies and candy ginger.

Aside from ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties, the spice also serves other medicinal purposes. Research has shown that ginger can relieve the pain caused by headaches, menstrual cramps, and other injuries. Some research has even documented that the potency of ginger’s anti-inflammatory and pain reduction benefits exceeds that of painkillers and other drugs.

GINGER ALSO HELPS:

– Fight cancer. Studies show that ginger may help to kill cancer cells. Promising research exists that specifically shows ginger’s powerful counteractive effects in breast cancer patients.

– Aid digestive processes and reduce bloating. Ginger tea and ginger ale drinkers have known this for quite some time. The ingredient contains certain compounds that counteract digestive discomfort while improving digestive processes – both of which help to ward off and reduce bloating.

– Prevent and aid motion sickness. A plethora of research exists that notes ginger’s counteractive effects on nausea and vomiting. For this reason, ginger ale and other ginger beverages are a favorite for those that suffer from motion sickness.

– Prevent sickness. As an anti-viral, ginger is effective in reducing the likelihood of illness. At minimum, consuming ginger during cold and flu months should be considered as a viable alternative.


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8 Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger Health Benefits: 8 Reasons Why This Root Rules Winter

The Huffington Post Canada    By Arti Patel    03/11/2016

Ginger may only be an option when you’re sick, but there’s good reason to get a dose of it every day.

Ginger has a long list of health benefits from fighting indigestion to boosting immunity, and since the cold and flu season seems to be sticking around, it’s time to learn about what this root can do for you.

Although fresh ginger can be a little intimidating (and spicy!), there are easy ways to consume it says registered dietitian Selena Devries of Kelowna B.C..

“You can simply grate it, skin and all, into recipes,” she tells The Huffington Post Canada. “And to keep it fresh, store it in the freezer with the skin on and take out as needed.”

If you’re new to ginger (or just can’t handle the taste), try a powdered form and mix it into teas or your meals. You can also start adding ginger to the meals you eat on a regular basis — like oatmeal, stir-fry or sauteed veggies.

“Ginger can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Eating it traditionally pickled will also provide a good dose of probiotics helping to boost your immune system,” she adds.

Eight reasons why ginger should be considered winter’s best superfood

ginger-root-sliced

Reduce Nausea
One of the most well known benefits of ginger is to help with reducing nausea, says registered dietitian Selena Devries of Kelowna B.C.. “Try making ginger tea by steeping a one-inch root in one to two cups of hot water for about 10 minutes,” she says. “Sweeten with a dash of honey.”

It Can Help With Indigestion
Upset stomach? Try chewing on candied or crystallized ginger. According to author Gerard E. Mullin of The Inside Tract, ginger helps the stomach to efficiently empty it’s contents.

Ginger Is Anti-Inflammatory
Devries says if you’re suffering from any type of inflammatory disease, ginger is a great root to add to your diet. “It is packed with gingerols and volatile oils which help to decrease inflammation in the body.”

Goodbye Flatulence
Are you always gassy, bloated or burping? Ginger has a carminative effect, Devries says, meaning it is able to break up and reduce intestinal gas. “Sprinkle fresh ginger on oatmeal, stir-fry and veggie side dishes.”

Sooth Your Muscle Cramps
“Because of ginger’s powerful anti-inflammatory effect, it helps to relieve muscle cramping,” Devries says. If you develop muscle cramps after workouts, try drinking a smoothie with frozen bananas, pineapple, turmeric, hemp hearts, ginger and a milk of your choice.

It’s A Natural Immune Booster
There’s a reason you’re told to drink ginger tea when you’re sick. “Lacto-fermented ginger is a great source of good gut bacteria which will boost the immune system, and help to prevent you from getting sick,” Devries adds. Try fermenting ginger at home or buy a ginger-flavoured kombucha at your local supermarket.

It’s High In Antioxidants
“Antioxidants, which are found in a variety of plant-based foods, help to repair the damage done by harmful, free radicals in the body,” she says. For a high dose of antioxidants, try a ginger tonic.

Reduce Menstrual Pain
One study found ginger was effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain during your period, Devries notes. “Although this is just one study, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to up your intake of ginger during your period.”