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2 Portions Of Mushrooms Halve Risk Of Memory Loss

Any variety of mushrooms may well have the beneficial effect as they all contain an antioxidant called ergothioneine.

Two portions of mushrooms a week halve the risk of memory loss, research finds.

Mild cognitive impairment, as it is known, is frequently a precursor to dementia.

It involves forgetfulness, along with problems with language and attention.

However, the problems are normally subtle — certainly more so than dementia.

Older people eating around half a plate of mushrooms per week, though, were at half the risk of developing the condition.

Even one small portion of mushrooms a week may be enough to have a meaningful effect, the scientists think.

Dr Lei Feng, the study’s first author, said:

 

“This correlation is surprising and encouraging.

It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline.”

The study involved over 600 people over 60-years-old in Singapore who were followed over six years.

They were tested for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) along with being asked about their dietary habits.

Dr Feng said:

 

“People with MCI are still able to carry out their normal daily activities.

So, what we had to determine in this study is whether these seniors had poorer performance on standard neuropsychologist tests than other people of the same age and education background.”

 

mushrooms

 

The study found that six commonly eaten mushrooms were linked to a 50 percent lower risk of cognitive decline.

These were:

 

  • golden,
  • oyster,
  • shiitake,
  • white button,
  • dried,
  • and canned mushrooms.

However, any variety of mushrooms may well have the beneficial effect as they all contain an antioxidant called ergothioneine.

Dr Irwin Cheah, study co-author, explained:

 

“We’re very interested in a compound called ergothioneine (ET).

ET is a unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which humans are unable to synthesise on their own.

But it can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms.”

The researchers will now conduct a randomised controlled trial of a pure compound of ET.

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Feng et al., 2019).

 

April 30, 2021       source: PsyBlog

 


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One Portion Of These Foods Boosts Mental Health

People who eat more fruit and vegetables have better mental health, research finds.

Indeed, the more fruit and vegetables people eat, the better their state of mind.

Eating just one extra portion of fruit and vegetables per day is enough to measurably improve mental well-being.

Just one portion has the same positive effect as going for a walk on 8 extra days a month.

Only around one-in-ten people in the US eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.

The recommended amount in the US is 1½ to 2 cups per day of fruit and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables.

Dr Neel Ocean, the study’s first author, said:

“It’s well-established that eating fruit and vegetables can benefit physical health.

Recently, newer studies have suggested that it may also benefit psychological well-being.

Our research builds on previous work in Australia and New Zealand by verifying this relationship using a much bigger UK sample.

While further work is needed to demonstrate cause and effect, the results are clear: people who do eat more fruit and vegetables report a higher level of mental well-being and life satisfaction than those who eat less.”

The study followed many thousands of people across seven years.

The study controlled for other factors, like lifestyle, education, health status and other aspects of the diet.

Dr Peter Howley, study co-author, said:

“There appears to be accumulating evidence for the psychological benefits of fruits and vegetables.

Despite this, the data show that the vast majority of people in the UK still consume less than their five-a-day.

Encouraging better dietary habits may not just be beneficial to physical health in the long run but may also improve mental well-being in the shorter term.”

The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine (Ocean et al., 2019).

April 8, 2021

source: PsyBlog

veggies

Link Between Dietary Fiber And Depression
Partially Explained By Gut-Brain Interactions

New study suggests that higher daily dietary fiber intake is linked to lower risk for depression in premenopausal women

Fiber is a commonly recommended part of a healthy diet. That’s because it’s good for your health in so many ways – from weight management to reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. A new study also finds that it might be linked with a reduced risk of depression, especially in premenopausal women. Study results are published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Depression is a common and serious mental health condition that not only affects a person’s ability to perform daily activities but can also lead to suicide. It’s estimated that more than 264 million people worldwide have depression, with numbers increasing over time. This debilitating condition is much more common in women, and there are a number of theories as to why this is the case. Changes in hormone levels in perimenopausal women have been linked to depression.

Because of the serious consequences and prevalence of depression, numerous studies have been undertaken to evaluate treatment options beyond the use of antidepressants. Lifestyle interventions, including diet, exercise, and mindfulness, may help to reduce the risk for depression. In this new study involving more than 5,800 women of various ages, researchers specifically sought to investigate the relationship between dietary fiber intake and depression in women by menopause status. Dietary fiber is found mainly in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Previous studies have already suggested the benefits of fiber for mental health, but this is the first known study to categorize the association in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. It also included a broader range of ages in participants and involved women who underwent natural, as well as surgical, menopause.

The study confirmed an inverse association between dietary-fiber intake and depression in premenopausal women after adjusting for other variables, but no significant difference was documented in postmenopausal women. Research has suggested that estrogen depletion may play a role in explaining why postmenopausal women don’t benefit as much from increased dietary fiber, because estrogen affects the balance of gut microorganisms found in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. The link between dietary fiber and depression may be partially explained by gut-brain interactions, because it is theorized that changes in gut-microbiota composition may affect neurotransmission. Fiber improves the richness and diversity of gut microbiota.

Results are published in the article “Inverse association between dietary fiber intake and depression in premenopausal women: a nationwide population-based survey.”

“This study highlights an important link between dietary fiber intake and depression, but the direction of the association is unclear in this observational study, such that women with better mental health may have had a healthier diet and consumed more fiber, or a higher dietary fiber intake may have contributed to improved brain health by modulating the gut microbiome or some combination. Nonetheless, it has never been more true that ‘you are what you eat,’ given that what we eat has a profound effect on the gut microbiome which appears to play a key role in health and disease,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

Journal Reference:

Yunsun Kim, Minseok Hong, Seonah Kim, Woo-young Shin, Jung-ha Kim. Inverse association between dietary fiber intake and depression in premenopausal women. Menopause, 2020; Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001711

January 6, 2021

Source: The North American Menopause Society (NAMS)        www.sciencedaily.com


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Foods That Can Reduce Stress

Stress levels may be high these days, but did you know that what we choose to eat can help to reduce stress, ultimately allowing us to take charge of our mental health?

“Instead of thinking of food as ‘stress eating’ or ‘guilty pleasures,’ we can think of using food to shape the lens in how we experience stress,” said psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of the upcoming book “Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety.”

Taking control of stress with the foods we eat can help to counter inflammation throughout the body, as well as elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which can otherwise lead to high blood sugar, increased appetite and weight gain, among other symptoms, according to Felicia Porrazza, a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian who helps stressed-out clients find natural ways to improve their overall wellness.

Feeling less stressed already? I hope so! Here are some food suggestions to help you live in a state of calm.

Open your palate to oily fish

Try out anchovies, sardines and herring, in addition to salmon, trout and mackerel. These foods are a rich source of stress-busting omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which play an important role in brain health.

“Increasing omega-3 fatty acids can help to regulate how our bodies handle stress,” Porrazza said. Stress can increase inflammation in the body so if we can reduce inflammation by consuming more omega-3s, we could also potentially reduce cortisol levels, which could improve health and wellness, Porrazza explained. In fact, omega 3s help to blunt the cortisol response after acute stress, some research has shown. On the flip side, low levels of omega 3s may affect the function of the HPA, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, axis, which plays a role in how our bodies respond to stress, according to Porrazza.

Omega-3 fats might help to reduce the symptoms of clinical anxiety, concluded a recent review and meta-analysis of 19 clinical trials involving over 2,200 participants from 11 countries.

Consuming high amounts of these fatty acids in fish may help protect us from depression, too, according to other research.

Need some ideas besides grilled salmon? Try a Caesar salad with an anchovy vinaigrette dressing, or add some herring to your Sunday bagel order.

Mix it up with shellfish

Mussels, clams and oysters are rich in vitamin B12 in addition to omega-3s, which are both prominent nutrients in diets connected with lower anxiety, Ramsey explained.

In fact, B vitamins, including vitamin B12, help to maintain the nervous system, and stress can cause a slight increase in the body’s requirements of these B vitamins, explained Martha McKittrick, a New York City-based registered dietitian who provides nutrition counseling and wellness coaching to many stressed-out New Yorkers.

Vitamin B deficiencies can increase the risk of developing stress-related symptoms such as irritability, lethargy and depression.

Since vitamin B12 is not produced by plants, if you are vegan, you should ensure that you are consuming vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement.

Consume more vitamin C

Foods such as red and green peppers, oranges, grapefruit and kiwi are rich in vitamin C, which in high doses has antidepressant effects and improves mood, and may be helpful in treating stress-related disorders.

Other research has revealed that vitamin C may help reduce anxiety among high school students.

To boost your vitamin C intake, aim to include one vitamin C-rich food with a meal, and another for a snack. You could also try one of my favorites: dark chocolate-dipped kiwis or oranges for dessert!

Bananas

 

Choose healthy carbs

Carbohydrates can help to boost serotonin production in the brain, which is key in influencing our mood. “Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for happiness and well-being,” Porrazza said.

Serotonin has a calming effect and also promotes sleep and relaxation, McKittrick explained. In fact, low levels of brain serotonin, research has suggested, can lead to increased vulnerability to psychosocial stress.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is necessary for the production of serotonin in the brain. Complex carbs including whole grains and vegetables can help boost levels of serotonin because they make tryptophan more available in the brain.

Carbs like soybeans and peas also deliver a small dose of protein, which can help to balance blood glucose levels. This benefit is important, since fluctuations in blood glucose can cause irritability and worsen stress levels.

Additionally, if you eat too many highly processed carbs that are loaded with sugar and lack protein or healthy fats, like cookies and sweets, you can experience blood sugar spikes and crashes, “and that can make you feel more stressed,” McKittrick added.

Fill up on fermented foods

Fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, tempeh and sauerkraut contain friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which have the ability to reduce stress and cortisol levels.

In fact, randomized controlled trials featuring probiotics suggest a causal link between the gut microbiota and stress responding.

Feeling shy? Fermented foods may help reduce symptoms of social anxiety, too, research has shown. These probiotic-rich foods may also help control negative thoughts that are associated with low moods.

How does it all work? Our gut bacteria produce about 95% of our body’s serotonin supply, which can positively affect how we feel, according to Porrazza. On the flip side, stress can increase inflammation and gut dysbiosis, which is basically an imbalance of the gut microbiota, and this can negatively influence mood.

Other fermented foods include sourdough bread, kimchi, miso and pickles.

Ramsey fights stress with a kefir-rich banana smoothie. “I get a good dose of potassium from the banana and I add nuts, cinnamon and cacao for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a great energy and brain boost.”

Bananas are also a source of vitamin B6, which helps in the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin.

Munch on magnesium-rich foods

A lot of times when you are stressed out, your magnesium levels can become depleted, McKittrick explained. “If you have a magnesium-deficient diet, it can raise stress hormones, so it is important to eat magnesium-rich foods, like leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds; legumes; and whole grains,” she said.

Conquer stress with crunchy foods

“A lot of my clients, when they think about crunchy foods, they think of chips, but sometimes you can manage stress with healthier crunchy foods like celery and carrots with hummus,” Porrazza said.

Cutting up an apple and then munching on it can also release stress, as Porrazza has observed with her clients. “Doing something with their hands can help them take themselves out of their head and give them a little bit of a mindful moment, which can take them out of the stress of the moment,” she added.

Take a tea break

Green, black and oolong teas are rich in theanine, an amino acid that helps reduce stress and promote calm feelings.

These teas are also rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which helps protect against disease.

Black tea in particular has been studied for its role in stress recovery and reduction in cortisol levels.

And while there isn’t enough research to show that chamomile reduces stress, the act of sitting and drinking a cup of this herbal tea may be calming for some, Porrazza explained.

Other stress-busting diet tips

Lastly, there are a few diet strategies to avoid, in order to feel less stressed. One is to consume less caffeine.

Caffeine has effects on the brain and nervous system and can elevate cortisol levels and exacerbate the effects of stress on the body,” McKittrick said.

Because of caffeine’s effects, it’s important to pay attention to how your body responds to caffeine. “If I am stressed, I can only have half a cup of coffee,” McKittrick added.

And it’s important to not go too long without eating. Doing so can cause low blood sugar, which can make you feel more irritable and worsen stress. “It’s very individual, but for most I would say don’t go more than four to five hours without food – but pay attention to your own body,” McKittrick said.

By Lisa Drayer, CNN        January 23, 2021

source : CNN


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The Weight Loss Diet That Automatically Stops Overeating

Unlike the Western diet, this diet naturally puts you off overeating.
No matter how much you like to eat, a Mediterranean-style diet can protect you from overeating.
According to a study, a Mediterranean diet stops the feeling of hunger and over-consumption, unlike the Western diet that causes prediabetes, obesity, and liver disease.
However, a Mediterranean diet can have similar amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and protein to other types of diets because what we eat is important.
Generally, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, olive oil, fish, and seafood are plentiful in the Mediterranean diet.
Researchers have found that animals on a Mediterranean diet didn’t eat all the available food and so didn’t put on weight.
Professor Carol Shively, the study’s first author, said:

“By comparison, the animals on a Western diet ate far more than they needed and gained weight.”

The study compared the impact of consuming a Mediterranean diet with a Western diet on monkeys.
The Western diet was mainly from animal sources, whereas the Mediterranean diet was from plant products but with the same amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Professor Shively said:
“What we found was that the group on the Mediterranean diet actually ate fewer calories, had lower body weight and had less body fat than those on the Western diet.”
The results show that in contrast to a Western diet, a Mediterranean diet averted binge eating, prediabetes, and obesity.
Moreover, the Mediterranean diet was shown to protect the subjects from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
The build up of excessive fat in the liver causes this condition which leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
NAFLD is a consequence of obesity and sadly it is predicted that one-third of the United States population will have the disease by 2030.
NAFLD is becoming a more frequent reason for liver transplants in young American adults.
Professor Shively said:
“Diet composition is a critically important contributor to the U.S. public health, and unfortunately those at the greatest risk for obesity and related costly chronic diseases also have the poorest quality diets.
The Western diet was developed and promoted by companies who want us to eat their food, so they make it hyper-palatable, meaning it hits all our buttons so we overconsume.
Eating a Mediterranean diet should allow people to enjoy their food and not overeat, which is such a problem in this country.
We hope our findings will encourage people to eat healthier foods that are also enjoyable, and improve human health.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the journal Obesity (Shively et al., 2020). 
source: Psyblog
trout_fish

FODMAP Diet: What You Need to Know

You may have heard of the FODMAP diet from a friend or on the internet. When people say “FODMAP diet,” they usually mean a diet low in FODMAP — certain sugars that may cause intestinal distress. This diet is designed to help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) figure out which foods are problematic and which foods reduce symptoms.

“The low FODMAP diet is a temporary eating plan that’s very restrictive,” says Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Hazel Galon Veloso, M.D. “It’s always good to talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, but especially with the low FODMAP diet since it eliminates so many foods — it’s not a diet anyone should follow for long. It’s a short discovery process to determine what foods are troublesome for you.”

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine absorbs poorly. Some people experience digestive distress after eating them. Symptoms include:

  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach bloating
  • Gas and flatulence

How does the low FODMAP diet work?

Low FODMAP is a three-step elimination diet:

  1. First, you stop eating certain foods (high FODMAP foods).
  2. Next, you slowly reintroduce them to see which ones are troublesome.
  3. Once you identify the foods that cause symptoms, you can avoid or limit them while enjoying everything else worry-free.

“We recommend following the elimination portion of the diet for only two to six weeks,” says Veloso. “This reduces your symptoms and if you have SIBO, it can help decrease abnormally high levels of intestinal bacteria. Then every three days, you can add a high FODMAP food back into your diet, one at a time, to see if it causes any symptoms. If a particular high FODMAP food causes symptoms, then avoid this long term.”

What can I eat on the FODMAP diet?

Foods that trigger symptoms vary from person to person.

To ease IBS and SIBO symptoms, it’s essential to avoid high FODMAP foods that aggravate the gut, including:

  • Dairy-based milk, yogurt and ice cream
  • Wheat-based products such as cereal, bread and crackers
  • Beans and lentils
  • Some vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, onions and garlic
  • Some fruits, such as apples, cherries, pears and peaches

Instead, base your meals around low FODMAP foods such as:

  • Eggs and meat
  • Certain cheeses such as brie, Camembert, cheddar and feta
  • Almond milk
  • Grains like rice, quinoa and oats
  • Vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini
  • Fruits such as grapes, oranges, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple

Get a full list of FODMAP food from your doctor or nutritionist.

Who should try it?

The low FODMAP diet is part of the therapy for those with IBS and SIBO. Research has found that it reduces symptoms in up to 86% of people.

Because the diet can be challenging during the first, most restrictive phase, it’s important to work with a doctor or dietitian, who can ensure you’re following the diet correctly — which is crucial to success — and maintaining proper nutrition.

“Anyone who is underweight shouldn’t try this on their own,” says Veloso. “The low FODMAP diet isn’t meant for weight loss, but you can lose weight on it because it eliminates so many foods. For someone at an already too low weight, losing more can be dangerous.”

How a Doctor Can Help

Dietary changes can have a big impact on IBS and SIBO symptoms, but doctors often use other therapies as well. Antibiotics can quickly reduce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, while laxatives and low-dose antidepressants can relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

A combination of dietary changes, medications and stress management techniques is often the best approach. Learn how you can work with a doctor to find the SIBO and IBS treatments that work well for you.

Reviewed By:  Hazel Galon Veloso, M.D.


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How Anxiety and Your Diet are Connected, According to Experts

The baseline existential dread of the pandemic has made me more attuned than ever to my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms. These days, I’m especially mindful about not only checking in with my therapist and refilling my medication on time, but also about my intake of caffeine, booze, and foods I have trouble digesting, all of which seem to worsen my anxiety.
For the past several years, researchers have also been interested in the connection between what we eat and how we feel. Along the way, anti-anxiety diets have emerged, along with lists of foods to eat and avoid to keep anxiety at bay. Ever the skeptical health journalist, though, I wonder whether we have enough evidence to conclude that certain foods can increase or decrease anxiety. Can you really manage your anxiety through diet?
According to the experts I interviewed, the general idea that what you eat can impact your anxiety levels is consistent with the research so far. But they caution that the effects of specific foods on anxiety aren’t entirely clear, and they remain wary of broad recommendations about what to eat and what to avoid in order manage anxiety. Last but certainly not least, remixing your diet can’t replace therapy or medication.
“Quite a bit of research” shows that staying hydrated and following a balanced diet, with minimal caffeine and alcohol, can affect mental health, says Sarah Adler, a clinical associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford Medicine. We know caffeine is a stimulant, while alcohol can cause a rebound in anxiety following the short-term relief it provides, and it disrupts sleep, which “really primes your body to be more anxious.” We also know your body metabolizes the complex carbs in whole foods slower than the simple sugars in processed foods, which helps stabilize your blood sugar, creating an overall sense of calm.
This is consistent with what we know about the trajectory anxiety tends to follow: it feeds on itself, growing until it plateaus, then resolves, says Petros Levounis, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “If you sustain this curve, meaning, if you stay with the anxiety, and your body experiences the plateau and the resolution, it teaches your body little by little, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he explains. “Your anxiety gets a little better.”
Aborting your anxiety, though — not only by physically fleeing the source of it, but chemically, by consuming alcohol or processed sugar, for example — makes this lesson harder for your body to learn, worsening your anxiety in the long run. These ingredients have an immediate, satisfying effect on your central nervous system. Complex carbohydrates that take time to digest allow you to sit with your anxiety.
Beyond healthy eating guidelines, though, a vast amount of literature has surfaced about the gut-brain connection, Adler tells me. Your gut, a.k.a., your intestines, “has something like 100 million neurons, and those neurons help you produce neurotransmitters,” including “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin. “Whether [the neurons are] firing properly is highly influenced by what’s inside your gut.” Specifically, the balance of the bacterial community that inhabits in your gut — your gut microbiome — “plays a really important role in the function of those neurons.”
And now, scientists are just beginning to understand how specific nutrients might directly affect anxiety. An analysis of human studies associated treatment with omega-3 fatty acid, found at high levels in fish and seafood, with reduced anxiety symptoms. Adler cites studies that have demonstrated, for example, that diets low in magnesium increase anxiety-related behaviors in mice, suggesting that magnesium-rich foods like chard, nuts, seeds, and whole grains “can potentially have an impact on anxiety.” Some foods with possibly anxiety-lowering properties have been shown to increase the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. The results are preliminary but promising.
Some anti-anxiety diets are based partly on the theory that links anxiety to inflammation, and call for eliminating supposedly pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, while upping your intake of anti-inflammatory foods like turkey and turmeric, for a few weeks. Indeed, “anxiety is generally thought to be correlated with a lower inflammation state,” Adler says. But “I think I would be really mindful of telling to people to cut out things.” Anxiety is associated with disordered eating behaviors, so heavily restrictive diets might make you more susceptible to them if you already struggle with anxiety.
Levounis is also wary of recommendations of foods based on whether they increase or decrease inflammation. “I’m not sure we’re at the point where we can pinpoint foods and how they relate to pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects,” he says. Suggesting or advising against a pro- or anti-inflammatory food to manage anxiety requires first, proving it’s pro- or anti-inflammatory, and then, whether eating it even translates to alleviating or worsening anxiety. “It’s a two-step process. I’m not sure if we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s on it.”
Adler also cautions against making “blanket recommendations for everyone,” since responses to specific foods vary from person to person. Instead, she advises being mindful of how different foods make you feel, not just in the moment, but the next day, as well. Maybe cut out a category of food, like processed foods, for a period of time, with the intention of noting how you feel. Then, gradually reintroduce them, asking yourself if you feel any differently when doing so. This way, you can identify specific foods within a category that affect your anxiety.
Particularly if you have an anxiety disorder — anxiety that impairs your ability to function as opposed to a healthy response to a stressful situation — you don’t want to address it solely through diet. “It’s concerning to think that somebody may rely on choice of food to treat bona fide psychiatric disorders while we do have treatments that have been scientifically proven to help,” like medication and therapy, Levounis says. If you have an anxiety disorder and want to experiment with your diet, he suggests speaking to a nutritionist or primary care doctor, but without neglecting tried and true treatments.
She believes therapy would ideally include talking about other factors related to emotional well-being, such as diet and exercise. “Managing your diet is a part of managing your anxiety,” she says. After all, any self-sabotaging habits you engage in beyond therapy can undermine the hard work you do within it. Rather than directing you to change your diet in a certain way, it can give you an understanding of “all the levers you can pull to help you reduce your anxiety.”
The idea of diet as one of several tools to manage anxiety really resonates. Personally, I’ll stick to my healthy-ish diet, along with therapy and medication, without getting too caught up in whether I should be eating X or Y and focusing on what makes me feel good.
By Melissa Pandika      Jan. 21, 2021
source: www.mic.com

How To Help A Friend With Anxiety When You’re Struggling Yourself

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to assist a loved one with their mental health, that’s OK. Here’s what therapists recommend.
Anxiety levels are through the roof, which can only be expected in a pandemic – and sadly some friendships are feeling the strain as a result.
Friends are catching up on Zoom, messaging on Whatsapp and in some cases meeting one-on-one to chew the fat over the pandemic, subsequent lockdowns and the huge life – and therefore, mental – impact it’s having.
Anxiety levels appear to remain the same as they were back in April, according to a survey by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is monitoring the social impacts of the coronavirus in Britain.
Its most recent survey revealed 76% of adults are now “very or somewhat” worried about the effect of the coronavirus on their life – this has increased gradually since the end of the summer.
It’s getting to the point where some friendships are feeling increasingly strained, and sometimes one-sided – people are playing host to their friends’ venting sessions while struggling to deal with their own anxieties – and finding it hard to juggle the two.
“My friend unloads her anxiety on me, and now I feel drained,” was the title of a Guardian advice column submission that had heads bobbing in agreement.
“It’s becoming less about having conversations and more about listening to an exhausting monologue,” the advice-seeker wrote of their relationship with an anxious friend in the pandemic. They just didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with all of that anxiety, in addition to their own.
So, how can you support an anxious friend?
It can be hard to know where to begin when supporting someone who is anxious – especially as we all experience anxiety differently, and at varying levels. Not everyone has lots of people they can rely on for support, either.
A good place to start is by stopping and specifically asking your friend (or loved one) what they might want or need, says psychotherapist and member of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, Rakhi Chand.
This could be a distraction – why not chat about something that doesn’t involve the timeframe for a coronavirus vaccine or the state of American politics? – or it could just be offering a listening ear.

Some of the best support you can offer is letting your friend know you’re there to support them, and you can understand and empathize with how they are feeling, says psychotherapist Lucy Fuller. But it can be “very difficult” to be in the presence of someone who is feeling really anxious when you yourself are feeling that way, she adds.

If this resonates with you, it might be helpful to ask yourself what you need in a given moment. Chand says, for example, that sometimes she knows she needs fresh air or exercise to take her mind off concerns, and at other times she needs to sit and dissect the issues with her loved one.
Don’t dismiss your own anxiety in the process, she adds. “I think many of us are good at subtly dismissing ourselves by ending sentences with things like ‘but I’m really lucky, lots of people have it much worse.’ Whilst perspective is good, notice where you are on a spectrum of dismissing yourself. Too much of dismissing your anxiety won’t help it ultimately.”
Be gentle on yourself if you know you just haven’t got the bandwidth at that time, on that particular day, to shoulder someone else’s concerns. And do feel free to let them know that – albeit kindly.
“I would suggest being honest and letting them know that you are sorry it is so difficult for them, but that you are also on a cliff edge and can’t cope with it all right now,” suggests Fuller. “Comfort might be gained from just being together, even not talking.”
One way of doing this might be taking a walk together in natural and beautiful surroundings (a forest perhaps, along the coast, or even around the block or park) so you’re both moving away from the biggest points of stress for an hour.
“Try to share the activity of taking in the surroundings and being in the moment,” says Fuller. “There can be comfort gained from being in the presence of someone you love or have great respect for, without sharing words, but experiencing a parallel sense of calm.”
It’s also worth noting that if you are regularly finding you simply can’t deal with a friend’s anxieties because you feel under a lot of strain, it may be a sign that you too should seek some help. “If you regularly haven’t got space to support or listen to them then maybe it’s time to speak to a professional,” says Chand.
anxiety
What not to do
Therapists generally advise against trying to fix the problem for your friend – unless they specifically ask for your advice. The listening is more important.
“Often the last thing people need when they are feeling wobbly is for someone they rely on to try to fix the problem, or tell them what they ‘should’ be doing in order to make themselves feel better,” says Fuller. “It isn’t always as simple as that, so by coming supportively ‘alongside’ someone who is experiencing emotional difficulties is a very comforting way of supporting them.”
Telling a friend that you know how they feel isn’t usually helpful either, adds Fuller, “as it takes away the seriousness of the emotional condition that they are experiencing”.
Similarly, she cautions against your friendship catch-ups turning into an “anxiety competition” – which can develop, consciously or subconsciously.
“To say or suggest to someone that they don’t feel as bad as you diminishes their experience and can shame them into thinking that it isn’t safe to share their feelings with you,” she says. So best not to go down that route.
While venting is a “very healthy and important way to alleviate stress and anxiety,” ultimately if either of you need to vent more and you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by everything, doing so to a professional in person or using a mental health helpline might be a good solution.
This story originally appeared in HuffPost UK.
By Natasha Hinde        11/12/2020

How To De-clutter Your Life
And Reduce Anxiety In 10 Steps

You don’t need Marie Kondo to save you.

Last summer, mere months after swearing that I wasn’t going to have a second baby, I found out I was having a second baby. Oh, universe.

Of all the varied emotions (most of them happy, for the record) I felt over “li’l surprise,” as we’ve come to call him, one of the most prevalent was panic over how to fit him in our two-bedroom, already overflowing, toddler-dominated townhouse. Like, actually, where is this baby going to go? A drawer? It might be a drawer.

This panic quickly morphed to full-fledged anxiety over the clutter I find myself surrounded by on a daily basis. Toys everywhere. An entirely unusable basement thanks to boxes we never unpacked from our last move. A shame-closet so stuffed with junk we can’t even open the door.

When I was about 12 weeks pregnant, I booked an appointment with my therapist to discuss my feelings about bringing another baby into the world. I spent $160/hour crying to her about the state of my basement.

It was time to to act. For the baby, who deserves more than a drawer to call his own, and for my own mental health.

Clutter really is linked to anxiety
Clutter and anxiety go together like boozy date nights and surprise pregnancies: kind of inevitable.

“Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives,” psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote in Psychology Today.

The negative effect of clutter is especially prevalent among women, the New York Times notes, citing a 2019 study that found a cluttered home is a stressful home. Another study from 2010 found that women who perceived their homes as messy or cluttered had increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) throughout the day.

But, as Carter explains in Psychology Today, clutter is actually one of the easiest sources of life stress to fix — much easier than fixing a stressful job or relationship issues, for instance. You just have to do it.

It took work. It took time. But I am pleased to say I have significantly reduced the clutter in my house and my mind over the last several months. Here’s how I did it, and how you can, too:

1. Pick one project at a time
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by de-cluttering your entire house, so break it up into bite-sized pieces. Pick one project, such as going through your closet and donating everything you never wear. Then bask in the glory of finishing something.

“This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little,” Carter notes.

Even just taking a single night off from Netflix will give you two to three hours, which is plenty of time to tackle that junk drawer full of used batteries and dead pens.

2. Be ruthless
Adopt a stone-cold attitude. Now is not the time to weep over that genius essay you wrote in Grade 4. If you don’t use it, and there’s little sentimental value, give it away or toss it.

Here is a random sample of just some of the crap from my house I either threw out, recycled, or donated over the last few months:

  • About 300 books
  • Two bookshelves
  • Dozens of kitchen appliances I have never used, such as an egg steamer (??)
  • The elliptical machine, nicknamed “El Bastardo” that has doubled as a laundry hanger for at least five years
  • My ex’s guitar (sorry)
  • Dozens of giant photo frames or framed art we were never actually going to hang again.
  • All of my impractical shoes. I’m about to be a mom of two, so let’s get real
  • An entire cupboard full of bath and beauty products I’ve never or barely used
  • An antique steamer trunk from the foot of the bed that my husband tripped over every. single. night.

3. Join a ‘Buy Nothing’ group
As satisfying as it is to drop off car loads of stuff at the Salvation Army or Value Village, chances are your neighbourhood has a “Buy Nothing” group where people will come to your house and take your stuff away, no questions asked!

That antique steamer trunk I mentioned? A mom in my neighbourhood took it, gave it to her pirate-obsessed son, and now he has his own treasure trunk. YARR!

4. Donate books
Yeah, I know. This one can be controversial for book lovers. And I am one, so I get it.

If you have the space, and don’t consider books clutter, great. But if you have a basement overflowing with multiple copies of Memoirs of a Geisha and every psychology textbook from your undergrad, it might be time to let go.

And let go I did. I asked my husband to do the same and we parsed it down to a meaningful collection.

And you know what? It didn’t even hurt. I’m happy thinking about other people finding joy in the books that were just collecting dust in my basement.

5. Invest in furniture that doubles as storage
Out of sight, out of mind. Consider investing in a piece of furniture that doubles as storage. I got this storage ottoman from Ikea, and now all of my son’s toy trains and tracks have a place to live other than my living room floor.

You can also re-purpose existing furniture for storage. One of my (now-empty) square bookshelves is now a handy toy shelf in my son’s playroom.

6. Look critically at the space you do have and how it can be used better
This one was huge for me, and important for anyone living in a small space. Instead of pining for more room (we very nearly moved), look critically at how your current space can be better utilized. For me, that meant tackling the biggest stressor of all … my basement.

After, many, many trips to Value Village and weeks spent sorting, I morphed my previously unusable basement into a playroom for my toddler. This allowed us to move all of his toys cluttering my living room, thus creating usable space (for me!) upstairs.


Suddenly, I could breathe again.

I gave my bedroom a similar makeover. We don’t have a third bedroom to turn into a nursery for this little nugget, but we do have a pretty large master. After giving away the steamer trunk, half my clothes, and moving a few decorative lamps, the back end of our room is now the “nursery.”


We’re ready for you, li’l surprise!

7. Rotate toys
Did you know kids get overwhelmed by having too much “stuff,” too? A 2017 study found that kids with too many toys get easily distracted and have lower-quality playtime. Fewer toys lead to more, focused creative play.

Researchers suggest that parents pack away most of the children’s toys, and rotate them a few at a time.

8. De-clutter your schedule
Congrats, your house is looking more like a house and less like an emporium of crap! But there’s still more de-cluttering you could do.

If you’re anything like me, you spend your weekends shuttling your kids to museums, drop ins, classes … anything to keep busy! But now that I have a house I can actually stand to spend time in, we’ve started embracing slow weekends at home, and everyone is better for it.

Send your kid to the playroom. Do an art project. Make pancakes together. You’ll all feel calmer when you use your down-time to actually relax.

9. De-clutter your socials
While you’re bettering your life, how about cleaning up your social media? Unfollow any accounts you don’t really care about (like all those baby product accounts you followed just to enter free giveaways), so that you’re more likely to see updates from those you do care about.

Take stock of how many online parenting groups you’re in (I’m in about 37, no joke). Mute the ones you don’t really need nor care to see on a daily basis.

Finally, if you’re doing any hate follows (we’re all guilty of this, right?), consider letting go. You live your life, little miss perfect mommy blogger we only follow to hate, and we’ll live ours. Go in peace. Enjoy your home-grown, organic mung beans.

10. De-clutter your mind
Your house, schedule, and social media are all cleaned up. All that’s left to tackle now is your mind (oh, just that?). Embracing mindfulness is a great way to help you roll with the punches, be more present, and control your reactions, parenting expert Alyson Schafer notes.

Here are some great apps to get you started:

  • Dan Harris’s 10% Happier
  • Sam Harris’s Waking Up
  • Meditation Timer
  • Calm
By Natalie Stechyson         01/06/2020


3 Comments

8 Everyday Tools For Fighting Depression

Eight exercise for developing serenity and calm.

Teaching people to focus on positive emotions helps them deal with stress, new research finds.

People were taught classic positive psychology exercises such as keeping a gratitude journal, recognising positive events each day and doing small acts of kindness.

Together, the training helped reduce people’s anxiety and depression over the six weeks of the study.

The researchers focused on 170 caregivers for people with dementia.

Half were put in a control group, while the rest were encouraged to focus on their positive emotions.

People were taught eight skills:

  1. Practice a small act of kindness each day and recognise the power it has to increase positive emotions.
  2. Set a simple and attainable goal for each day and note down progress.
  3. Savour a positive event through journalling or discussing it with someone.
  4. Spot at least one positive event each day.
  5. List a personal strength and how you have used it recently.
  6. Use mindfulness to pay attention to daily experiences.
  7. Identify a daily stressor and reframe it as a positive event.
  8. Keep a gratitude journal.

Professor Judith Moskowitz, the study’s first author, said:

“The caregivers who learned the skills had less depression, better self-reported physical health, more feelings of happiness and other positive emotions than the control group.”

The results showed that those who learned the positive psychology exercises experienced a 7 percent drop in depression scores and 9 percent drop in anxiety.

This was enough to move people from being moderately depressed to being within the ‘normal’ range.

Professor Moskowitz chose dementia caregivers as the disease is on the rise:

“Nationally we are having a huge increase in informal caregivers.

People are living longer with dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, and their long-term care is falling to family members and friends.

This intervention is one way we can help reduce the stress and burden and enable them to provide better care.”

One participant in the study commented:

“Doing this study helped me look at my life, not as a big neon sign that says, ‘DEMENTIA’ in front of me, but little bitty things like, ‘We’re having a meal with L’s sister, and we’ll have a great visit.’

I’m seeing the trees are green, the wind is blowing.

Yeah, dementia is out there, but I’ve kind of unplugged the neon sign and scaled down the size of the letters.”

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. 

The study was published in the journal Health Psychology (Moskowitz et al., 2019).

source: Psyblog

 

depression

 

Research Connects Positive Thinking With Reduced Memory Loss

A new study reveals that positive thinking may help reduce memory loss as people age. It seems the people who look at life through rose-colored glasses may have the right idea after all. This study adds to mounting research about the role of a good attitude, or ‘positive effect,’ in healthy aging.

The study, published on October 22, 2020, in the journal Psychological Science, found that people with an optimistic attitude have better memory as they age. Most people want to retain good memories in life, but the ability to do so largely depends on emotional and physical health. While many factors come into play in regards to the strength of our memory, it turns out being cheerful can reduce memory loss.

THE STUDY

For the study, a team of researchers analyzed data from a 9-year longitudinal study involving 991 middle-aged and older U.S. adults. They all participated in a national study conducted at three separate times: between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014. In the questionnaires, the participants reported on various positive emotions they’d experienced in the past 30 days.

In the last two assessments, the researchers also gave the participants tests to observe the strength of their memory. For these assessments, participants had to recall words right after they’d been said to them, and again after 15 minutes passed. The researchers analyzed how positive thinking could reduce memory loss, taking age, gender, education, depression, negative outlooks, and extroversion into account.

“Our findings showed that memory declined with age,” said Claudia Haase, senior author of the paper and an associate professor at Northwestern University.

“However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade,” added Emily Hittner, the paper’s lead author and a Ph.D. graduate of Northwestern University.

In the future, they hope to do further studies on what life factors may improve positive affect, and therefore reduce memory loss. For example, better physical health and stronger relationships may play a role in one’s overall happiness.

OTHER WAYS TO REDUCE MEMORY LOSS

 In addition to thinking positively, other lifestyle factors can help improve your memory:

1 – GET PLENTY OF EXERCISE.

Exercise improves every aspect of health, not just our physical appearance and muscle-to-fat ratio. You will increase your endurance and strength, plus give your brain muscles a run for their money as well. Since the mind and body are inarguably linked, we must take care of them both.

Lack of exercise can lead to developing health problems such as obesity. A growing body of evidence links obesity and all the health complications that go along with it to increased memory loss. Furthermore, obesity heightens the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life.

Researchers believe this may occur because obesity negatively affects brain structure and volume. Overweight and obesity cause the hippocampus to shrink, which leads to cognitive decline. Also, the same proteins in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s have been found in those with severe obesity.

Several studies show how regular exercise may help reduce memory loss. For example, studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can result in a larger hippocampus. This area of the brain aids in learning and memory; therefore, a larger brain can support a stronger memory.

2 – PRIORITIZE SLEEP.

Unfortunately, in our “24/7” society, many of us suffer from some level of sleep deprivation. When we run on little sleep, it starts to affect our cognitive function, including memory. Deep, quality sleep helps us consolidate and sort through memories, so without enough REM sleep, our memory suffers. No matter what your schedule looks like, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and make sure to keep it consistent.

3 – EAT A HEALTHY DIET.

What we put into our bodies not only affects our physical health, but our mental performance as well. Eating too many processed, high-calorie foods can lead to a feeling of brain fog, impairing our memory. Experts say that if you want to reduce memory loss, you should include these foods in your diet:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon
  • Blueberries
  • Turmeric
  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dark chocolate (near 100% cacao, little or no sugar added)
  • Nuts such as walnuts
  • Oranges
  • Green tea
  • Coffee

4 – DO BRAIN GAMES AND PUZZLES.

Just like any other muscle in your body, your brain needs regular exercise to perform at its best. Do crossword puzzles or other brain games which require you to jog your memory. Instead of passing your time scrolling through social media or watching Netflix, take a few minutes a day to challenge your brain. Not only will you possibly learn something new, but you will reduce memory loss in the process.

5 – WATCH YOUR SUGAR CONSUMPTION.

This tip will help both your physical health and your memory. Just like berries and nuts can improve your memory, unhealthy foods like sugar can hinder it. Studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar have difficulty remembering things and have a heightened risk of developing dementia. Even if the person doesn’t have diabetes, eating too much sugar can hinder memory and brain health.

Researchers believe that, once again, the hippocampus starts to malfunction with too much sugar intake. While it requires a certain amount of glucose to function, too much of it can cause the opposite effect.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON RESEARCH THAT SHOWS POSITIVE THINKING CAN REDUCE MEMORY LOSS

Positive thinking enhances many aspects of life, from our relationships to our physical health. Researchers have found that optimism may help reduce memory loss as well, perhaps due to stronger pathways in the brain. While more studies need to be done about the relationship between memory and positive thinking, this shows great promise for future research.

Since thoughts create our reality, it seems vitally important that we pay attention to what goes on inside our heads. Positive thoughts lead to better outcomes in life, so make sure to take care of your mental health.

source: www.powerofpositivity.com


7 Comments

This Simple Exercise Triples Weight Loss

Around one-third of people over 65 are overweight or obese.

Bursts of short, high-intensity exercise can triple weight loss, research finds.

Known as ‘interval training’, or HIIT, the exercise can burn off more calories in a shorter period of time.

The exercises involved do not require any special equipment and can all be done at home in less than half an hour.

They include things like ‘jumping jacks’, squats, step ups and push ups.

Common types of interval training involve 30-second bursts going “all out” followed by four minutes of recovery at a much lower intensity.

Interval training can also be done on a bicycle, by running, jogging, speed walking or with a variety of other exercises.

The study included 36 people aged 70 with visceral (belly) fat exceeding 1 pound in women and 4 pounds in men.

They followed a 10-week course of interval training.

The interval training started at just 18 minutes per day, three times per week.

It involved 40 seconds of work, followed by 20 seconds of rest.

Over the 10 weeks of the study, they worked up to 36-minute workouts per day.

The results showed that the interval training tripled the losses in belly fat, in comparison to a control group who did not exercise.

The effects of exercise were stronger for men than for women in this study.

The study’s authors conclude:

“In conclusion, the main finding of this trial is that 10 weeks of progressive vigorous interval training decreased total FM [fat mass] by almost threefold compared to the control group while increasing muscle mass.

These outcomes are previously known to be associated with improved cardiometabolic health and decreased risk of CVDs.”

Around one-third of people over 65 are overweight or obese.

Obesity increases the risk of a range of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. 

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Ballin et al., 2019).

 

weight-loss

 

15 Things You Don’t Realize
May Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss

Over-emphasizing health food

Start with the fact that there are plenty of unhealthy foods that masquerade as healthy. Although choosing healthy foods are the correct path, they can’t be consumed without keeping portions in check. “My patients often report eating low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets full of healthful foods like quinoa, green leafy vegetables and berries, but they are eating too much of these foods,” says Gillian Goddard, MD, an endocrinologist and certified nutrition support clinician in New York City. “What makes foods healthy is their nutrient content. This does not mean we can eat them in limitless quantities.” For example, a half cup of quinoa has 111 calories. “Most people are eating two or three cups of quinoa in a sitting which can come in at 400-600 calories. That doesn’t include, the nuts, cheese and olive oil they’re adding,” adds Dr. Goddard.

Failing to understand cravings

They’re not easy to deal with. Julia Ross, author of the new book, The Craving Cure: Identify Your Craving Type to Activate Your Natural Appetite Control, says that when it comes to eating, the brain’s directives are all-powerful. Unfortunately, she says, the brain is telling most of us to eat sweets, fried foods, and starchy pastas and breads. Instead she advises not to skip meals and to make better choices to ward off bad choices. “Increase your protein at each meal and include some red meat along with poultry and fish. This kind of dense protein, eaten regularly, is the most effective food for turning off cravings for sweet and starchy ‘treats,'” Ross continues. 

Treating weight loss as punishment

Finding the willpower to shed pounds is tough enough. If you consider your weight-loss efforts as punishment, you’ll start to resent your diet—especially in social situations. “You’re staring down the bread basket or considering dessert,” says fitness instructor Jenna Bergen Southerland in an article in Prevention. Your thought process may be that everyone else is getting to eat those things, and you can’t.
Southerland says to not look at it as deprivation. “Food, in general, is certainly a necessity. But a brownie? So the next time this thought whispers across your brain, take a step back and ask yourself two questions: Am I really depriving myself of a necessity? If I don’t change my eating habits, what am I really depriving myself of? The answer: A healthier, happier life. Keep that in mind and you’ll happily pass up the junk.”

Not watching liquid calories

Even healthy drinks like fruit juice or smoothies have a ton of calories and sugar. When you’re trying to lose weight these drinks can seem like a sensible tactic, but if you have too much it can seriously undermine your success, points out, Yvonne Sanders, U.S. head of operations, with Slimming World, an online weight-loss food optimization platform based in Dallas. 

Not snacking strategically

When people go more than three hours between meals they can become too hungry and then overeat whatever comes their way, explains Dafna Chazin, RDN, a dietitian at a weight loss practice in Voorhees, New Jersey. “Most people need two snacks in the afternoon hours, spaced out and protein-rich, to curb hunger and reduce impulsive eating.” Some good snack choices include Greek yogurt, hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, fruit, and nuts, she says. 

Relying on calorie counting

Many weight-loss experts still claim that a calorie is a calorie—but that’s flat out wrong. “A 100-calorie pack of cookies is not going to provide the same nutritional value as something like a green smoothie,” says Lindsey Smith, author of the forthcoming book, Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl’s Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating. “While the green smoothie may have more calories, it also has way more nutrients that can help your body lose weight, keep it off, and feel mentally and physically healthy.”

Cutting out fat

Saying fat will make you fat is so 1990s, quips Smith. “You need it to keep hunger away for hours, to think clearly, and to make good decisions and function throughout the day,” Smith says. “Plus, most items that claim they are ‘low-fat’ are usually packed with sugar or other chemicals to make up for the flavour loss, and they can actually lead to more weight gain.” She also advises to incorporate healthy choices such as avocados, coconut oil, fish, nuts and seeds. 

Skipping meals

“It’s almost logical to think that if you skip meals or cut your food intake drastically, you’ll cut out more calories over the course of the day, but it rarely works that way,” says Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND, and director of worldwide nutrition education and training Herbalife Nutrition in Los Angeles. “Skipping meals and cutting back invariably leads to uncontrollable hunger and overeating.”
Instead, she advises to plan out how you can distribute your daily calories over three meals and one or two snacks. “It’s easier to practice portion control when you know you’ll be eating every few hours, and you’ll help to break the ‘starve-then-binge’ habit,” Bowerman says. Gearing up for holiday cheese platters?

Rewarding exercise with food

Many people fool themselves into thinking they’ve burned off a lot more calories during exercise than they actually have, and they use that as an excuse to indulge, Bowerman says. “Be aware of how many calories you actually burn when you exercise (you can find lots of resources online), and compare that to the calories you’re tempted to take in afterwards.” Also, keep a log of the type of exercise you do and the amount of time you spend doing it. This journaling can keep track of what you’re taking in and what you’re burning. 

Negative self-talk

Don’t be so hard on yourself, Bowerman says. “If you think you should be perfect—that you’ll always exercise every morning or never eat another piece of candy—you’re setting the bar awfully high,” she says. The fix here is to practice positive self-talk. “Offer the same support to yourself as you would to a friend. You wouldn’t tell your friend who’s struggling with weight, ‘You just don’t have the willpower. I guess you’ll just be fat for the rest of your life.’ So, why do you say that to yourself?” 

Not enough water

Many people fail to drink enough water, and this is a big factor in blocking weight loss progress, says Sean McCaffrey, DC, a chiropractor who operates McCaffrey Family Health in Springfield, Illinois, where he offers a weight-loss clinic. “Water makes you feel full, which helps to curb appetite,” he says, plus it’s necessary for digestion and to prevent dehydration.
Also, a proper supply of water is needed to help the body burn fat. “Six to eight, eight-ounce glasses are recommended but some people need more or less, depending on the climate they live in, their overall health and how much exercise they do,” McCaffrey adds. 

Taking weekends off

It isn’t hard to undo a week of careful eating with just a few indulgences over the weekend. “Your weight isn’t going to budge if you’re constantly taking two steps forward and two steps back,” Bowerman says. To keep on the right track, do your weekly weigh-in on Friday mornings rather than Mondays. “If you’ve had a good week, it will show on the scale and will help keep you motivated throughout the weekend. You can also ‘bank’ a few calories during the week to spend on the weekend,” Bowerman says. “But be careful and know the calorie content of your indulgences. A margarita and a basket of chips could set you back several hundred calories.”

Too much protein

While protein is an important part of a healthy diet, too much of a good thing can block your weight-loss success. “If it runs, jumps, swims or flies, it tends to be good protein,” Dr. McCaffrey adds. He cautions relying on protein powders or shakes. “They often have lots of sugar and other additives. Under certain circumstances, these may be appropriate to use but most people can easily get adequate protein through their diet,” he says.

Not enough sleep

Rebecca Lewis, RD, in-house dietitian at HelloFresh, says even just a single night of poor sleep can make you feel hungrier than usual the next day. “Instead, make sure you are getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Start by turning down lights and powering down your electronics about an hour before bed,” she says. 

Eating too fast

Slow down as you eat your meals, as it takes time for the signal from your stomach to get to your brain that you’ve just eaten, says Lewis. “Without that signal, we’re inclined to keep eating until we are full—and then end up stuffed. Instead, slow down, put your fork down between bites, try to stretch your meal to be a full 20 minutes, and stop eating when you’re medium-full.”

Erica Lamberg 
 
 
stress-eat

 

 

Weight Loss:
Research Reveals An Easy Way
To Shed Pounds

 
Surprisingly, weight loss was achieved without making other changes to diet or lifestyle.
 
Small changes to meal times could lead to a doubling in weight loss, research finds.
 
Consuming more of the day’s calories earlier can help to reduce belly fat and double weight loss, scientists have found.
 
Higher quality sleep — which is linked to eating earlier — may be one of the reasons that weight loss is improved.
 
The study included 31 obese and overweight people who were following a weight loss diet.
 
Their sleep and movements were tracked using wearable activity monitors.
 
The results of the study showed that those who had more of their calories earlier in the day ended up lowering their body mass index more and they had lower body fat.
 
Those that ate earlier also went to sleep earlier.
 
Late night snacking is known to be one of the great enemies of weight loss and good quality sleep.
 
Dr Adnin Zaman, the study’s first author, said:
“We used a novel set of methods for simultaneous measurement of daily sleep, physical activity, and meal timing patterns that could be used to identify persons at risk for increased weight gain.
Given that wearable activity monitors and smartphones are now ubiquitous in our modern society, it may soon be possible to consider the timing of behaviors across 24 hours in how we approach the prevention and treatment of obesity.”
Eating earlier in the day is not the only approach involving shifting meals that works.
 
Another approach is to move meals more towards the middle of the day — in other words eat breakfast later and supper earlier.
 
Participants in one study who ate breakfast 90 minutes later and supper 90 minutes earlier doubled their weight loss.
 
Surprisingly, this was without making other changes to diet or lifestyle.
 
September 29, 2020
 
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. 
 
The study was presented at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, La.
 
source: Psyblog


1 Comment

Using Food To Ward Off Anxiety

It’s normal to feel anxious or worried from time to time. Work deadlines, writing an exam or giving a presentation, for example, can trigger short-lived anxiety.

People with an anxiety disorder, however, experience persistent and intense anxiety, worry or fear that’s out of proportion to everyday occurrences. Symptoms interfere with daily life, impacting thoughts, emotions, behaviour and physical health. Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (excessive worry about ordinary, everyday situations). Anxiety often goes hand in hand with depression.

Growing scientific evidence suggests that the foods we eat – and the ones that we don’t – play a role in developing and treating anxiety.

The diet-anxiety connection

Components in whole foods can influence mood in a number of ways. Some nutrients are used to synthesize brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that regulate emotions, while others impact how the brain responds to stress.

An imbalance of omega-3 fats, which are essential for the integrity of brain cell membranes, may alter how brain cells communicate with one another. Certain nutrients may also dampen inflammation in the brain.

While diet can’t cure anxiety – nor can it take the place of medication – research suggests that the following strategies may help reduce symptoms.

Follow a healthy dietary pattern. Studies conducted in many different countries have found that healthy traditional diet patterns, including the Mediterranean diet and vegetarian diets, are associated with a lower risk of anxiety disorders.

In general, eating a diet that’s low in added sugars and emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and beans and lentils guards against anxiety. In contrast, a “Western-style” diet consisting of refined grains, highly processed foods and sugary foods increases the risk.

Include omega-3′s, fatty fish. Observational studies have linked a higher intake of oily fish and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, to a lower risk of anxiety disorders in children, adults and pregnant women.

A randomized controlled trial published in 2013 found that medical students who received omega-3 supplements (2.5 grams a day) experienced a 20-per-cent reduction in anxiety compared with the placebo group. They also had lower blood levels of stress-induced inflammatory proteins.

Salmon, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel and anchovies are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids; these fish are also low in mercury. Include them in your diet at least twice a week. DHA supplements made from algae are available for people who eat a vegetarian diet.

Try fermented foods. Preliminary evidence suggests that a regular intake of fermented foods, a source of probiotic bacteria, may reduce the risk of social anxiety in women. Fermented foods include kefir, kombucha, kimchi, unpasteurized sauerkraut and yogurt.

Probiotics may also help ease anxiety symptoms. A review of 10 randomized controlled trials, published in 2017, concluded that probiotic supplements significantly improved anxiety. However, the strain of probiotic, the dose and the duration of treatment varied widely across studies.

Once consumed, probiotic bacteria take up residence in the gut, where they help to maintain a strong intestinal barrier. When the lining of the gut becomes more permeable than normal, toxins can escape into the bloodstream, triggering an inflammatory response that may interfere with neurotransmitters.

It’s also thought that probiotics in the gut increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates stress and emotions.

Increase magnesium, zinc. Findings from a number of studies have shown that a deficiency of these two minerals, needed for healthy brain cells, can lead to anxiety.

Excellent sources of magnesium include oat bran, brown rice, quinoa, spinach, Swiss chard, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, black beans, lentils, tofu and edamame.

You’ll find zinc in oysters, beef, crab, pork, chicken, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, yogurt, milk and fortified breakfast cereals.

Avoid triggers. Eat at regular intervals during the day to prevent low blood sugar, which could precipitate feelings of anxiety. Limit or avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can also make you feel jittery and nervous.

Drink water throughout the day to prevent becoming dehydrated; even mild dehydration can worsen your mood.

LESLIE BECK         THE GLOBE AND MAIL         August 23, 2020

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is Director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan.

source: www.theglobeandmail.com

salmon

 

9 Foods That Calm Anxiety
(and 3 That Make It Worse)

Scientists are just beginning to recognize the connection between food and our brain. Eat these nutrients for a wave of calming feelings that keep worry away.

Omega-3 fatty acids make your brain happy

Doctors often know how to calm anxiety, or treat it, with therapy and medications, but the answer to calming the condition could be hiding in plain sight: the foods we eat. Doctors and nutritionists are starting to understand more about how certain nutrients, or lack of them, affect the brain. “Our brain has very high energy and nutrient requirements,” says clinical nutritionist and health coach Melissa Reagan Brunetti, CNC. “Nutritional deficiencies and dietary patterns can affect its function, and alter brain chemistry and the formulation of neurotransmitters—chemicals in the brain that can stimulate and calm.” These neurotransmitters influence our mood as well as our appetite, she says. A study from Ohio State University showed one nutrient that’s especially good for reducing anxious symptoms is omega 3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like wild salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds. “Our brains need fat from dietary sources to function properly,” Brunetti says. “If you are not eating a sufficient amount of beneficial fats, your brain will suffer.”

Probiotics are good for the gut

Surprisingly, another calming food source is probiotics. “Your gut bacteria is needed for production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid], which all play a role in mood,” Brunetti says. “The microbiome [gut bacteria] has a direct link to the brain and the immune system, so restoring balance in the gut of good and bad bacteria through use of probiotics can benefit the brain.” Recent research has found that probiotics may actually work to treat, or even prevent, anxious feelings. You can either take a probiotic supplement or eat foods that have been fermented, a process which encourages good bacteria to grow, and has been shown in studies as a way how to calm anxiety. “I like to see patients eat more fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir, as the kinds of bacteria in your gut influence anxiety,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, a psychiatrist who specializes in using dietary changes to help balance moods, and author of Eat Complete. Another fermented food you probably already have in your fridge? Pickles!

Caffeine makes you anxious

Although some of us feel like we’re miserable until we’ve had our morning cup of java, coffee and other caffeinated foods and drinks actually worsen anxious feelings. Because it’s a stimulant for the nervous system, it increases heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. According to the University of Michigan, coffee can lead to symptoms of worrying like nervousness, sweating, and shaking. A study from Brazil found that caffeine actually induced panic attacks in people with an anxious disorder. Another study, from Wake Forest University, found that caffeine reduced blood flow to the brain by 27 percent. Not to mention that it can mess with sleep, which is essential for brain health. “Limiting caffeine intake can help quell inflammation and contribute to improved brain function,” Brunetti says. Likewise, Dr. Ramsey suggests avoiding energy drinks with caffeine, as well as indulging in too much dark chocolate (stick to one or two squares a day).

Water keeps everything flowing smoothly

How to calm anxiety in one step? Drink good old fashioned water. “Staying hydrated with clean water is very important,” Brunetti says. A study from the University of Connecticut showed that even mild dehydration can cause mood problems. According to the study’s author, Lawrence E. Armstrong, PhD, by the time you feel thirsty it’s too late. “Our thirst sensation doesn’t really appear until we are one or two percent dehydrated,” he says. “By then dehydration is already setting in and starting to impact how our mind and body perform.” The connection behind dehydration and anxious symptoms is not totally known; but the UConn study authors think it may be part of an ancient warning system alerting us to find water for survival. So, you should be sure to consume water throughout the day.

Stay away from refined sugar and processed foods

Sweets and processed foods all are, not surprisingly, bad for your mental health. Sugar and refined carbs cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a sudden drop. A study from Columbia University found that the more refined carbs and sugar women ate, the higher their risk for mood changes and depression. Another study, from the United Kingdom, found that eating processed meat and fried foods had similar responses, possibly because of the link with heart disease and inflammation, which are also associated with mental health problems. “Skip highly processed foods, as these are mainly simple sugars and vegetable oils,” Dr. Ramsey suggests. Instead, try eating more complex carbs like whole grains, which were linked to fewer mental health issues in the Columbia study.

Alcohol brings you down

Alcohol is a depressant but it can also worsen anxiety symptoms. And unfortunately, the two often go hand-in-hand—in a study that took place over 14 years, researchers found that people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) were 4.5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that 20 percent of people with SAD also suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. Drinking can seem like a good way to calm your nerves, but in reality, it causes spikes and dips in blood sugar, dehydrates you, and causes impaired brain function—all of which can lead to anxious feelings, which then make you want to drink more, creating a vicious cycle. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking a lot can cause changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters that may induce these symptoms. For this reason, Brunetti says it’s best to reduce or eliminate alcohol.

Load up on antioxidants

Here’s another reason antioxidants are superfoods: They can help quell anxious moods. “Antioxidants protect the brain against oxidative stress [free radicals],” Brunetti says. “Oxidative stress leads to inflammation, which can impair neurotransmitter production.” Research by the State University of New York found that anxious symptoms are linked with a lower antioxidant state, and that antioxidants could actually help treat mood issues as well. So which nutrients are antioxidants, and which foods contain them? “Diets rich in beta-carotene like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, and kale; vitamin C like citrus fruits, red peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and strawberries; and vitamin E like almonds, avocado, spinach, sunflower seeds, spinach, and sweet potatoes, are essential for supporting optimal brain function,” Brunetti says. Another powerful antioxidant Brunetti says is shown to combat anxious feelings is the trace mineral selenium, found in Brazil nuts, halibut, grass-fed beef, turkey, chicken, and eggs. Also, studies have shown that upping your zinc, which has antioxidant properties, leads to fewer anxious feelings. Cashews are a great source of zinc.

Magnesium is calming

Another nutrient that might stave off anxious symptoms is magnesium. “Magnesium is a calming mineral that has been found to induce relaxation,” Brunetti says. In an Austrian study with mice, diets low in magnesium increased anxious behaviors. Research has shown that magnesium may also help treat mental health issues in humans. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, inadequate magnesium reduces levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and antidepressants have been shown to increase magnesium in the brain—evidence of a positive link. “Magnesium can act at the blood brain barrier to prevent the entrance of stress hormones into the brain,” psychiatrist Emily Deans, MD, writes on Psychology Today. “All these reasons are why I call magnesium ‘the original chill pill.’” Dr. Ramsey suggests eating eggs and greens, like spinach and Swiss chard, for magnesium. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and avocado.

Try tryptophan

We usually think of tryptophan as the nutrient in turkey that puts us to sleep after Thanksgiving—and in fact, tryptophan is an amino acid that the body needs to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps regulate sleep and moods. According to the University of Michigan, tryptophan may help reduce anxious feelings. In one small study, participants who ate a food bar rich in tryptophan reported fewer symptoms than those who ate a bar without tryptophan. More research is needed, but it seems likely that there is a connection. Tryptophan is in most protein-rich foods like turkey and other meats, nuts, seeds, beans, and eggs. (Incidentally, protein is also important for the production on the neurotransmitter dopamine, which can benefit mood as well.)

B vitamins bump up good feelings

Harvard Medical School advises eating foods rich in B vitamins, like beef, avocado, and almonds, to help ward off anxious feelings. “B vitamins have positive effects on the nervous system, and deficiencies have been linked to anxious disorders,” Brunetti says. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin B6 helps the body make several neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which influence mood. A study from Australia found that stressed-out workers who were given a high dose of B vitamins felt less strained and in a better mood after 12 weeks. Another study, from the University of Miami, found that depressed adults who took a vitamin B complex had fewer depressive and anxious symptoms after two months. “Another nutrient that seems to matter is choline, found in eggs, which is a cousin of B vitamins,” Dr. Ramsey says. More research is needed, but these results are promising.

Cozy up with herbal teas

So you might not want to indulge in too much coffee, but you can relax with a mug of herbal tea in order to feel less anxious. “Great options for herbal teas are chamomile, skullcap, and kava kava to start,” Dr. Ramsey says. A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that participants who took chamomile for eight weeks experienced fewer anxious symptoms than those that didn’t. However, be aware that kava can interact with anti-anxiety and antidepressant meds, so talk to your doctor first if you’re on them. Plus, it’s so relaxing that high doses of it could impair your ability to drive, according to one study. If you’re using herbs for anxiety, steer clear of ones that are stimulating, such as ginseng, cautions Dr. Ramsey, because they might actually make anxious feelings worse.

It’s not just what you eat, but how

How to calm anxiety? Pay attention to how and when you eat. Bad habits can have a negative effect on anxious moods, which “get worse when people have low blood sugar,” Dr. Ramsey says. “A simple step people often forget is to eat regularly.” Brunetti says if low blood sugar is an issue for you (in other words, if you get “hangry”), eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day can help. According to Harvard Medical School, there is evidence that our Western diet, with its focus on refined carbs and processed foods, might not be great for anxious moods; instead, Mediterranean or Japanese diets, which include a lot of veggies and fish, may be the way to go. But, be careful of fad diets that eliminate entire food groups. “Diets that are too low in [complex] carbohydrates can also be detrimental” for anxious feelings, Brunetti says. “Include a variety of foods in your diet to ensure you are getting a wide range of nutrients needed to calm the mind.”

Tina Donvito      November 21, 2018

source: www.rd.com


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The 4 Best Ways To Live Longer

The main lifestyle factors that increase your life expectancy are reducing stress and avoiding smoking, heavy drinking and type 2 diabetes, a study reveals.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented naturally by doing regular physical activity, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.
A person’s quality of life, such as poor sleep and lifestyle risk factors such as obesity will all influence longevity.
Researchers found that diabetes and smoking are the leading causes of life shortening for both men and women.
Smoking lowers life expectancy by 6.6 years and diabetes by 6.5 years and heavy stress by 2.8 years for a man aged 30.
Smoking cause a 5.5 years fewer years, diabetes 5.3 years, and heavy stress 2.3 years decline in life expectancy for a 30-year-old woman.
Exercise is another lifestyle risk factor: men with a lack of physical activity had 2.4 years shorter life.
In contrast, improving quality of life and positive changes in lifestyle, such as eating lots of fruits and vegetables can boost longevity.
Eating vegetables makes people live longer by 0.9 years and fruits by 1.4 years.
For older persons, the factors that affect longevity were similar to younger people, except for the outcomes which were smaller.
People who live with moderation seem to have the best outcomes as well as living longer.
Psychological risk factors also affect life expectancy, for example, having some stress — as long as at a similar level to what is usual for others — did not reduce lifespan.
However, higher levels of stress took a few years off their life time.
The analysed data are from 38,549 Finish people aged between 25 and 74 with a follow-up period of 16 years.
Dr Tommi Härkänen, the study’s first author, said:
“Before, life expectancy has usually been assessed based on only a few sociodemographic background factor groups, such as age, sex, and education.
In this study, we wanted to assess the impact of several different factors to a person’s life expectancy, so we could compare their effects.”
The life expectancy differences between women and men appear to be related to some modifiable risk factors.
Professor Seppo Koskinen, study co-author, explains:
“What was interesting about the study was how small the difference in the life expectancy of 30-year men and women was based on the same risk factor values – only 1.6 years.
According to the statistics from Statistics Finland, the difference between the sexes has been over five years for all 30-year-olds, which comes down to women having healthier lifestyles than men.”
Education in this study appeared to have only a small impact on life expectancy if other risk factor levels were similar.
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal (Härkänen et al., 2020).
source: PsyBlog
Woman with photo of elderly woman's eyes on hers'
Lifestyle factors that signal how long we live

Keep Things Simple For A Healthy, Long Life

I’m often asked for medical advice by friends, family members, even new acquaintances: What about this diet? What should I do about this symptom? What about this medication?

People are usually disappointed when I don’t share their enthusiasm about the latest health fads. Members of my family, in particular, are often underwhelmed by my medical advice.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always do a great job of conveying why I’m skeptical about the newest medical technology, reports of the latest health news and fashions and even people’s symptoms. Mostly it’s because in my experience, so much about health just isn’t that simple.

Most symptoms, after all, aren’t explainable, at least to the level of detail we all seem to want. “What’s causing my symptoms?” friends, family and patients ask me. Is it a virus? Bacteria? Arterial blockage?

In spite of all the science and technology in medicine, what we doctors do is more about making educated guesses. Especially in primary care, it’s often a matter of playing the probabilities more than providing precise diagnostic information.

But prevention is different. We know a lot about it, based on huge bodies of epidemiological research. Most of prevention is fairly straightforward. You’ve heard the advice again and again. In fact, the repetition may make it easy to tune out.

I’ll risk it, though, and tell you again that there really aren’t shortcuts to health. Here’s what you need to do:

  •     Get enough sleep.
  •     Move your body throughout the day.
  •     Eat well — a healthy assortment of foods. Mostly plants, and not too much.
  •     Interact socially. Isolation is not good for the body, soul or mind.
  •     Take some time to reflect on what you are grateful for.

Recently I’ve come across a couple of sources that do a good job of conveying these messages. One is a set of books and ideas about the world’s so-called Blue Zones. If you haven’t heard about them, Blue Zones are the places in the world where people both have the healthiest and longest lives.

People in these communities often live well beyond 100 years:

  •     Okinawa, Japan
  •     Ikaria, Greece
  •     Sardinia, Italy
  •     Nicoya, Costa Rica
  •     Loma Linda, Calif.

In these places, people have preventive medicine baked into their lives, mostly without even having to think about it. Their daily activities involve eating healthful diets rich in local plants, walking most places, and lots of intergenerational social interaction.

Interestingly, folks in these communities generally do drink alcohol. But they limit it to one or two drinks a day. Also, they typically do eat meat — but not very often and in small portions. (Loma Linda may be a bit of an exception, with its large population of Seventh-day Adventists.)

One thing that probably won’t surprise you: Blue Zoners do not eat refined sugars. They skip the convenient packaged foods that we’re trained to eat because they’re cheap and widely available.

Summarizing these themes visually in under two minutes is another gem from the idea lab of Dr. Mike Evans from Toronto. You’ve seen some of his other videos here. I love them. Just watch the one below, and follow his advice. That’s what I’m trying to do in my own life.

John Henning Schumann is a writer and doctor in Tulsa, Okla. He serves as president of the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa. He also hosts Public Radio Tulsa’s Medical Matters. He’s on Twitter: @GlassHospital

January 2, 2016    John Schumann    Public Radio Tulsa
 
source: www.npr.org


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How People Are Practicing Healthier Behaviors in the Face of COVID-19

  • In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are getting motivated to make healthier choices and adopt healthier habits.
  • Some people living with chronic conditions have found they’re also vigilant about self-care.
  • Experts say even small changes can lead to big improvements in overall health.
  • With many things still shut down, experts say this is an excellent time to focus on your health.

Like most New Yorkers, Rob Taub, 64, has been sheltering in place as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the city and the nation at large.

For Taub, a writer and broadcaster who lives in the city’s Upper East Side neighborhood, there has been one surprising result of the radical day-to-day life changes brought about by the outbreak — his overall health has improved.

Taub has been living with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure for nearly 15 years. An athlete growing up, he said when he was in his 40s he “looked like an NFL player,” but then something changed as he got older.

“I started gaining 15 pounds a year. Soon I was 40 pounds, then 50 pounds overweight,” said Taub, who serves as an ambassador for the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Now, as he’s been adhering to physical distancing and stay-at-home guidelines, he’s found that his overall health has improved.

The man who ate out at restaurants for about 80 percent of his meals now cooks for himself at home. A big change has been salt intake.

“One of the things I switched to recently prior to COVID-19 was oatmeal because there’s no salt in it and I realized my blood pressure was going down while eating it,” he said. “When cooking for myself, there is no salt. I realize restaurant food is laden with salt and it’s not good for you.”

Taub takes his blood pressure every day — at the time of his interview with Healthline it was at 112/80 mm Hg — and has been able to cut back on his medications.

These readings are better than he ever thought he’d see, especially when they were at their worst about a decade and a half ago.

Being vigilant is also important because he has a family history of these health concerns. His mother died at 73 from complications tied to diabetes.

man_cooking

A time to embrace healthy habits

While now is a difficult time for many — stress and anxiety are up, people’s insecurities and fears over their personal health have increased — for some people like Taub, this new way of life has ironically led to better, healthier behaviors.

Dr. Robert Eckel, the American Diabetes Association president of medicine and science, and an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said Taub’s story isn’t unusual.

With life on pause, he said that “now is a good time to focus” on health.

He added that depending on a person’s individual lifestyle and desires — and assuming they’re not facing too severe of an economic impact from the current health crisis — sheltering at home gives an opportunity to adopt some healthier behaviors, from more routine fitness to better sleep habits.

A big piece of it is reflected in Taub’s experience — eating better food.

“In general, a heart healthy diet is a diabetes healthy diet and cancer healthy and blood pressure healthy diet,” Eckel, a past-president of the American Heart Association, told Healthline.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent science-based consumer advocacy organization, writes that rampant unhealthy diets have something of a domino effect on overall health in the United States.

The organization says that diets that rely on heavily processed meals low on nutritious value contribute to about 678,000 deaths each year as a result of diseases tied to poor nutrition and obesity, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

It should be no surprise then that each of these conditions are highly prevalent in the North America.

Annually, heart disease is the leading cause of death nationwide, resulting in 1 in every 4 deaths, while more than 100 million adults live with diabetes or prediabetes.

Obesity statistics are similarly high, with the condition’s prevalence shooting from 30.5 percent in the year from 1999 to 2000, to 42.4 percent in the 2017–2018 time frame. The prevalence of obesity-related diseases moved from 4.7 percent to 9.2 percent during that time frame.

Eckel said that as the coronavirus puts a pause on day-to-day life, it gives Americans an opportunity to hit the reset button on some of these worrying trends.

He cited both the DASH and Mediterranean diets as fairly accessible healthy eating plans that promote weight reduction, decreased salt intake, increased daily nutritional intake, and lowered blood pressure.

He also cited moderate exercise as a way to maintain healthy behaviors while stuck at home.

This means trying to fit in about 40 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day — this doesn’t mean having fancy or expensive equipment. It could be a brisk walk or using light weights to include some sort of resistance-training workout at home.

Really anything to avoid being in a “predominantly sedentary position,” he explained.

The challenges of making these changes

Of course, all of this can be easier said than done for some people.

The emotional, psychological, and financial toll taken by COVID-19 can make it hard for people to dedicate time to make some of these lifestyle shifts.

Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, told Healthline that the people he treats generally have fallen in two camps during this crisis. One group was already exercising, visiting gyms, and adhering to healthy diets. Anecdotally, he noticed this group actually seemed to “fall off a bit” from their schedules once sheltering at home.

“They haven’t been doing as well in this setting,” Laffin said.

The other group consists of people who weren’t regularly exercising, not making the best dietary choices, but are now changing their routines slightly, finding they have more time to go for a walk or start preparing meals.

“It’s a double-edged sword. I’ve seen people benefit from this time but also some people not benefit as much,” he added.

For those in the second group, does Laffin envision these new healthy habits being maintained over the years once the COVID-19 threat passes?

“I think the most important part is getting into these habits and routines, and sticking with them. People are creatures of habit, so if for a couple of months with more time to exercise and eat healthily, I hope they find they can’t go without the daily routine of eating healthier, of making these choices,” he said.

If they feel better and see that their weight is lower and that their overall health has improved, Laffin added that he hopes these people will see these are necessary behaviors to hold on to.

Maintaining new routines

For those in the first group who are finding it difficult to self-motivate during an uncertain time, Laffin suggested pursuing routines that aren’t intimidating.

Just walking around the block is a good way to add some activity, and taking quick breaks in between working from home to do some light exercise could be helpful.

As for food, one doesn’t have to embrace complicated recipes if they’re used to dining out or grabbing a quick meal at the office cafeteria. He said to make sure you try to make dishes that have 50 to 60 percent fruits and vegetables.

Try to stock up on some healthier items when you do go to the local grocery store, just so you have them on hand and can incorporate them with your meal, even if it’s a side dish to complement what you might naturally gravitate to.

“I think it’s important for everyone to be realistic with themselves, however,” Laffin added. “A lot of people out there will slide back a bit, they will put on some extra pounds, they won’t be as physically active. Understand that this is not a 6-week reality, this is going to be going on for 6, 12, 18 months — now is the time to make these adjustments but also be realistic.”

For Taub’s part, he’s a social person who lives alone and said he will heartily embrace eating out with friends once it’s safe and responsible to do so.

What will he make sure to do moving forward to keep up with his new shelter-in-place healthy behaviors?

“I’m going to be aggressive in restaurants about what I order, I might even call ahead to see what I can get that is salt-free. If they won’t accommodate me, then I won’t go there,” Taub stressed.

“If I’m able to control my blood pressure more, then I have to be more cognizant of my behaviors,” he added. “It’s too easy to depend on medication, as great as it is. I need to be really diligent about it.”

Written by Brian Mastroianni              May 26, 2020              Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell