THE HUMAN HEART (from IDEA Fitness Journal October 2018
As “head coach” of the circulatory/cardiovascular system, the heart pumps blood throughout the body, supplying oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
Actually, two circulatory systems work as a “team”: Systemic circulation carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the body and sends deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Pulmonary circulation transports oxygen-poor blood from the heart’s right ventricle to the lungs, where it picks up a new supply of oxygen-rich blood that it carries to the heart’s left atrium.
According to the Heart Health Institute (2015), you’d need to leave your kitchen faucet on full blast for at least 45 years to match the amount of blood pumped by the heart in an average lifetime. Heart health is high on the list of client goals—and for good reason. Learn more about this miraculous muscular organ:
- The “broken-heart myth” may not be that far-fetched. A breakup or traumatic news (say, the death of a loved one) can spur a heightened risk of heart attack. It can also trigger the release of stress hormones that may temporarily stun the heart, potentially causing heart attack symptoms (Heart Health Institute 2015).
- The heart of a typical athlete “churns out up to 8 gallons of blood per minute” (Arkansas Heart Hospital 2016).
- Heart attacks (also known as myocardial infarctions) most often occur early on a Monday morning in fall or winter (Lefer 2010).
- What’s the earliest known case of heart disease? Scientists have found atherosclerosis in a 3,500-year-old Egyptian mummy (Allam et al. 2011).
- Christmas and New Year’s Day are the two days of the year when heart attacks are most likely to occur (Kloner 2004).
- The heart beats 100,000 times a day and 35 million times a year. During an average lifespan, it will beat more than 3 billion times (Arkansas Heart Hospital 2016).
- Women have smaller hearts than men do and exhibit different signs of a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience shoulder pain, nausea and indigestion rather than the trademark chest pain (Watson 2009).
USING STRESS FOR POSITIVE RESULTS (from IDEA Fitness Journal October 2018)
You’ve been training for a 10K. You’re ready, but when you show up on race day, your heart is pounding and you feel panicked. What should you do to lower your stress? Some people might say, “Take a deep breath.” We all know that deep breathing to calm the nervous system is a go-to strategy for dealing with stress. But is it always the best strategy?
In her work as a psychologist and a yoga and fitness professional at Stanford University, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, has found that expanding your repertoire of strategies for dealing with stress is helpful. She suggests three alternative approaches.
Harness the Energy of Stress – Studies have compared the physiological responses of terrified first-time skydivers and experienced skydivers (Allison et al. 2012; Hare, Wetherell & Smith 2013). Surprisingly, they don’t differ. Heart rates go up whether people are scared or thrilled. Yet how you interpret your pounding heart and sweaty palms can be the difference between feeling panicked and feeling amped up. It turns out that choosing a positive interpretation of stress is something many elite athletes have learned to do. They don’t see stress as a barrier to performance, and they don’t view anxiety as a signal they are going to choke.
The takeaway: When you feel your heart pounding, palms sweating or mind racing, remember that these are signs of an adrenaline rush that can fuel peak performance. Remind yourself that even the most accomplished athletes, performers and leaders experience anxiety, and the most successful choose to channel their stress into energy and positive motivation.
Choose a Growth Mindset – Think of a time in your life that changed you in a positive way. Maybe you discovered your courage or developed more compassion for others. Maybe it was a turning point that forced you to make an important change.
Whatever your story is, it’s likely it was stressful while you were going through it. Psychologists know that it is through stress that we learn and grow—even if the process isn’t always fun. Difficult experiences can have positive outcomes, whether it’s personal growth from defeating obstacles or growth that can follow serious adversity.
The takeaway: Reflect on how you have grown from adversity. What past difficulties have strengthened you and given you a greater sense of your own capabilities and purpose? You can strengthen your resilience by thinking about how a stressful situation can contribute to your personal growth.
Make It About Something Bigger Than Yourself – Imagine two people in a hospital waiting room, both worried. One reaches out to hold the other’s hand, hoping to comfort her and offer compassion. Which of the two will experience greater stress relief?
Both will likely feel better, but the person who offered the compassion will get the bigger benefit. Neuroscientists have studied what happens in the brain during social support, and giving support reduces stress significantly more than receiving support (Inagaki et al. 2016). Moreover, just thinking about helping and encouraging someone else can create the same stress-relieving changes in the brain (Engen & Singer 2015).
The takeaway: Savor being part of something bigger than yourself. In a moment of stress, thinking about others who might also be struggling, or connecting to the joy of helping others, can be a powerful source of resilience.
10 BEST FOODS TO REDUCE ANXIETY (HEALTH 09/27/18)
We all know the saying, “You are what you eat.” But recent research makes the case that this adage applies not just to your physical body but your mind as well. The foods you put on your plate really can make a real difference when it comes to mental health issues, including anxiety disorders—the top cause of mental illnesses in the United States.
How does food help with anxiety? Anxiety is caused in part by an imbalance of neurotransmitters, explains Ali Miller, RD, an integrative dietitian and author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers believed to play a role in mood regulation. A diet that features nutrients from whole food ingredients helps create neurotransmitter balance by improving the gut microbiome.
When it comes to dialing down anxiety, what you don’t eat is just as important as what you do, says Nathalie Rhone, RDN. “Foods that are processed, high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, fried, or loaded with additives can all heighten anxiety since they are inflammatory in your system, which can eventually affect your brain.”
Here, 10 foods to add to your meal prep routine now.
Turkey – Tryptophan, an amino acid in turkey, has a relaxation effect can also ease anxiety. “Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin, the happy, calming neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep,” says Rhone.
Salmon –This versatile and satiating fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health and a well-functioning nervous system. Opt for wild salmon over farmed varieties.
Dark chocolate – Nutritionists sing the praises of dark chocolate because it has more healthy antioxidants than other kinds. “The antioxidants in dark chocolate trigger the walls of blood vessels to relax, which boosts circulation and lowers blood pressure.” Make a small chunk of 70% (or higher) dark chocolate a part of your mid-day diet.
Asparagus – In 2013, the Chinese government proclaimed that asparagus extract is a natural functional (aka, medicinal) food for its ability to reduce stress and promote relaxation Bonus points go to asparagus for being a prebiotic food, meaning it serves as a food source for probiotics, which are also thought to have positive effects on mood.
Sauerkraut -Speaking of probiotics, fermented products such as sauerkraut are considered probiotic foods, and consuming more of them on a regular basis appears to have a mood-boosting effect.
Citrus fruits – “Our adrenal glands are the most concentrated storage tissue for vitamin C and they use the nutrient in the regulation of cortisol,” says Miller.
Broccoli – Dark green veggies like broccoli contain magnesium, “a calming mineral that can help with relaxation, as well as with keeping things moving through your digestive system,” notes Rhone. Other top sources of magnesium include almonds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
Avocado – Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that help optimize circulation, says Sass, which contributes to better blood flow to the epicenter of your anxious thoughts: your brain.
Oats – Like leafy greens, oats contain high levels of soothing minerals like magnesium. They also provide steady, even energy and are packed with antioxidants and nutrients involved in mood regulation.
Chamomile tea – Chamomile tea might help reduce your anxiety. According to a report from Harvard Medical School, chamomile tea has been shown to be an effective alternative treatment for anxiety.
SURPRISING NEWS ON DIABETIC SYMPTOMS (IDEA Fit Tips, Vol 16, Issue 9)
Research published online in The Journals of Gerontology turned up some unexpected findings about type 2 diabetes.
Just two weeks without much activity can have a dramatic impact on health, according to researchers who studied overweight older adults at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And unfortunately, it may be difficult to recover from this negative effect.
Not only did an abrupt, brief period of inactivity hasten the onset of the disease and elevate blood sugar levels among prediabetic patients, but some study participants did not fully recover when they returned to normal activity for 2 weeks.
“We expected to find that the study participants would become diabetic, but we were surprised to see that they didn’t revert back to their healthier state when they returned to normal activity,” says Chris McGlory, a Diabetes Canada Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and lead author of the study.
If people are going to be off their feet for an extended period, they need to work actively to recover their ability to handle blood sugar.
For pre-diabetic older adults to recover metabolic health and prevent further declines from periods of inactivity, strategies such as active rehabilitation, dietary changes and perhaps medication might be useful,” says McGlory.
Research has shown that within days of the start of inactivity, there are notable reductions in skeletal muscle mass and strength, along with rapid onset of insulin resistance, a common feature of type 2 diabetes.
STILL WALKING – We are still walking at 5:30pm, Mondays and Wednesdays, in Gillson Park. Everyone is welcome.
NOT TOO LATE TO JOIN THE FREE WALKING CLINIC – Monday & Thurs. 5:30pm-6:30pm- Gillson Park
HUNGER AND ANGER = HANGER (from ACE Health eTips June 27, 2018)
Most of us have experienced the overwhelming grouchiness that takes over when we’ve gone too long without food. Turns out, there’s some science to explain why this happens. Here’s what you need to know and how you can help your clients cope when hanger strikes.
The official definition of hanger is “a feeling or showing of anger due to hunger.” As humans, we have the choice to listen to our hunger. Yet, in our busy and overbooked lives, we often choose to ignore this signal, waiting far too long to feed our empty stomachs. The body’s response to being ignored is to cause an emotional reaction (like anxiety and stress) to prompt a reaction. And the longer the body is deprived, the greater the emotional response.
It’s important to realize that the stomach and brain are connected to one another, and part of the communication is related to signals of hunger and satiety. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found a correlation between hunger, feeling angry and having low blood sugar. Basically, when you’ve gone too long between meals, your blood sugar level drops, signaling the release of a cascade of hormones.
Ghrelin – Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomach that stimulates feelings of hunger. It can also produce anxiety in the brain, which is where hanger starts. When you’re hungry, you’re more more irritable and more aware of your emotions because it reinforces the drive to seek food and to satisfy nutrition needs. A release of ghrelin causes you to be hungry and should be the motivation for you to begin seeking out food. When you eat, ghrelin disappears and so does the anxiety. However, if this hunger signal is ignored, it can cause a disruption of other hormones in your body.
Cortisol and Adrenaline – A low blood sugar level also triggers the release of stress-related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. As these two hormones increase, the body goes into a fight-or-flight response. From there, the effects of hanger are expressed mentally, emotionally and physically.
When you’re hungry, your prefrontal cortex doesn’t function at a high capacity. This can affect personality, self-control, planning and even temporarily shut down long-term memory. Emotionally, your mind begins to feel anxiety and stress. This can lead you to lose patience and focus, or even act abnormally. Physically, your heart rate, blood pressure and respiration all increase.
Neuropeptide Y – If you continue to ignore the ghrelin and the spike in cortisol and adrenaline, your body will go into a panic mode and you will experience hanger in its full effects. At this point, the body releases neuropeptide Y, which has been found to make people behave more aggressively toward those around them. Additionally, this neuropeptide stimulates food intake with a preference for quickly digestible carbohydrates. Lastly, a release of neuropeptide Y increases your motivation to eat large amounts of food, while also delaying how long it takes for that food to make you feel satisfied. In a nutshell, hanger causes you to have a larger-than-normal appetite, especially for carbs, so you end up overeating.
Real-life Effects of Hanger
Example #1: One study that attracted attention a few years ago found that judges are less likely to set lenient sentences the closer it gets to lunch. Turns out, their hunger led to hanger, which impacted their decision-making skills.
Example #2: A classic study of married couples asked them to stick pins into “voodoo dolls” that represented their loved ones, to reflect how angry they felt toward them. They found that when people had lower blood sugar levels, the more pins they stuck into their dolls. Ouch!
HOW TO PREVENT HANGER
Be Mindful – Listen for clues. If you notice yourself getting more irritable, hunger may be the cause. Take a break and find a snack that contributes to healthy eating. Most people should not go more than four to five hours between meals. This type of healthy eating pattern will help relieve your hunger and balance out your blood sugar levels to prevent riding the emotional rollercoaster of hanger.
Be Prepared – Keep snacks on hand that are travel-friendly, so you have them readily available. A snack should contain a blend of carbs, proteins and fats. Whole-grain carbs that are high in fiber (5 grams or more per serving) raise serotonin levels to give your blood sugar a quick boost, while the fiber keeps your stomach full. Proteins and fats are digested more slowly to give you staying power and keep you feeling full for longer. By having your own stash of healthy and fresh foods within reach, you’ll be less tempted to indulge in less-healthy fare that lack the nutrition your body craves.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR AND WEIGHT LOSS? (from IDEA Fitness Journal July 2018)
Apple cider vinegar has a cure-all reputation for helping with weight loss, cholesterol, diabetes, acne, digestive problems and other issues. The truth is somewhat less impressive, but apple cider vinegar does have proven health benefits.
Some small studies have found that vinegar can aid weight loss (Kondo et al. 2009). The vinegar may reduce food intake either by increasing satiety (Ostman et al. 2005) or by leaving people feeling nauseated (Darzi et al. 2014), which seems like a pretty miserable way to lose weight.
Vinegar has long been a folk remedy for diabetes, and recent science supports the association. Drinking about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before a meal helps to control blood sugar in healthy adults as well as adults with diabetes (Johnston et al. 2013). The effect seems to happen because vinegar reduces the digestion of carbohydrates (Johnston et al. 2010).
Apple cider vinegar has impressive antibacterial and antifungal properties, including against pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli that cause foodborne illness (Yagnik, Serafin & Shah 2018). Vinegar has been used for centuries to clean wounds and disinfect surfaces.
One caution: Vinegar is quite acidic (about 5% acetic acid) and can irritate the skin, mouth and throat. It can also harm tooth enamel. If you drink it, dilute a tablespoon in at least a cup of water. Better yet, use vinegar as an ingredient in food: vinaigrettes for grain salads, green salads and other vegetables.
Unpasteurized vinegar still contains the “vinegar mother,” or the bacteria that converts wine into vinegar. Consider looking for unpasteurized brands, as those probiotic bacteria may have additional benefits.
FOOD FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE MOOD (excerpted from ACE Prosource Dec. 2015)
There are numerous research studies to support the fact that foods do affect mood and temperament. Here is a list of some of the most potent and well-documented foods, nutrients and supplements that influence how we feel.
Hydration –There is no other nutrient, food or supplement that will affect the brain more profoundly than water. The brain of an adult human is approximately 78 percent water. A loss of only 1 to 2 percent of body weight as fluid, leads to reductions in the subjective perception of alertness and ability to concentrate and to increases in self-reported tiredness and headache. Daily fluid intake recommendations are 9 to 12 cups of fluid per day for a sedentary individual in the form of fluids, non-alcoholic beverages, soups and foods. An additional 2 cups per day should be added for the following factors: illness, weight-loss dieting, activity, hot, dry or humid environments, high altitude, travel, pregnancy and lactation.
Carbohydrate and Protein –The amino acid tryptophan is a building block for serotonin, the calming, feel-good brain chemical. Typically, unless you are on a protein-restricted diet, you have enough tryptophan circulating to raise serotonin levels. A lack of carbohydrate in the diet, which initiates the cascade of biochemical events that allow tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain, is the most common dietary reason for low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is also responsible for helping the body prepare for rest and sleep. Therefore, it is a combination of protein and carbohydrate that enhances mood, alertness, rest and relaxation.
Research has found that diets that include less than 40 percent of total calories from carbohydrate can increase the risk of depression in depression-prone subjects. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of low mood and sleep disturbances are frequently reported by individuals on very-low-carbohydrate diets. When managing a carbohydrate-controlled diet, maintain total carbohydrate at or above 40 percent of total calories from carbohydrates.
Fish Oils: DHA and EPA – Fish oils may help ease symptoms of depression. Patients with mild-to-moderate depression have benefited from fish oil treatment. Eating three to five 4-ounce servings of fatty fish per week is also highly recommended. Fish high in oils include sardines, salmon, herring, trout, black cod, shellfish and canned tuna that contains the original fish oils.
Vitamin D –The role of vitamin D in depression is well documented, as vitamin D plays an important part in maintaining levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Studies utilizing good research methodology have shown in meta-analysis that vitamin D supplementation (≥800 IU daily) was somewhat favorable in the management of depression in studies that demonstrate a change in vitamin levels. Because most adults spend the majority of their time inside, our summers are fairly brief in the northern hemisphere, and the liberal use of sunscreens block the ultraviolet rays from the sun that convert vitamin D to its active form, a daily supplement of vitamin D-3 of 800 to 1,000 IU may be a useful strategy for helping to maintain a good mood.
Choline – Choline, found most prominently in egg yolks, has been shown to be significantly lacking in the diets of Americans. Choline, a B vitamin, is half of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which acts every time we think or move. Choline is half of the phospholipid, phosphotidylcholine, which is required for the creation of channels in the brain cell membrane to allow nutrients into and toxins out of brain cells. Low choline levels have been associated with increasing incidence of anxiety in one study, and may also be linked to depression.
Because there is no association between egg yolks consumption and blood cholesterol levels, the most efficient way to add choline back to the diet is to eat one to two whole eggs per day. That strategy alone will increase choline consumption by 50 percent.
A Plant-rich Diet – The brain is a highly metabolic organ, and research is beginning to indicate that many of the phytochemicals in plants act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, protecting brain cells from injury and reducing inflammation. These actions have the potential to promote memory, learning and cognitive function. Fruits and beverages such as tea, red wine, cocoa and coffee are major dietary sources of polyphenols, which have been identified as having potent neuroprotective actions. A specialized group of polyphenols, the flavonoids, are found in a variety of foods and beverages, including parsley, celery, citrus fruits, oregano, wine, soy and soy products, onions, leeks, broccoli, green tea, red wine and chocolate. Another group of polyphenols come from berries, kiwis, plums and apples. A fourth type comes from grapes, wine and peanuts.
As you can see, eating a diet rich in a full variety of plant foods will support the kind of nutritional intake that will keep you healthy AND happy, functioning at optimal levels throughout your lifetime.
HAVE A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY SEASON – STAY ACTIVE. EAT SENSIBLY. LAUGH A LOT. SMILE EVERY DAY.
Just in time to help you recover from holiday stress, a new 6-week Qigong Class begins January 9 through February 13; the 45-minute class will start at 3:30PM. Qigong is similar to Tai Chi, but easier to learn. Regina Wolgel will continue to teach this amazing class. Cost is $120 for the 6-weeks ($25 drop-in). Call or email us to register.
A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION THAT SUITS EVERYONE
Want a good idea for a New Year’s resolution? How about “BE HAPPY”.
Why Be Happy? (from IDEA Fitness Journal, Dec. 2012)
Contrary to old notions that happiness is frivolous, shallow, naïve or a waste of valuable time, there is a growing body of evidence that happiness is beneficial for morbidity (risk of illness), survival of illness and longevity (Diener 2011).
Researchers know that negative emotions such as sustained stress or fear can contribute to heart disease, stroke and diabetes; that chronic anger and anxiety can hasten atherosclerosis and increase systemic inflammation; and that early-childhood “toxic stress” from neglect or abuse has harmful effects on the brain and other organ systems (Rimer & Drexler 2012). In the Harvard Public Health Review (Rimer & Drexler 2012), researcher Laura Kubzansky notes that happiness appears to have a positive health benefit independent of the impact of not having negative mental health factors. “It looks like there is a benefit of positive mental health that goes beyond the fact that you’re not depressed. What that is is still a mystery. But when we understand the set of processes involved, we will have much more insight into how health works.”
In a study that followed more than 6,000 men and women, aged 25–74, for 20 years, Kubzansky and Thurston (2007) determined that emotional vitality—a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance—appears to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
According to a meta-analysis of 83 studies, optimism is a significant predictor of positive physical health outcomes related to mortality, survival, cardiovascular outcomes, immune function, cancer outcomes, outcomes related to pregnancy, physical symptoms and pain health (Rasmussen, Scheier & Greenhouse 2009).
Diener and Chan’s 2011 review—the most comprehensive of its kind—concludes, “All of these different kinds of studies point to the same conclusion: that health and then longevity in turn are influenced by our mood states.” The studies suggest that high subjective well-being may add 4–10 years of life compared with low subjective well-being (and the years will also be more enjoyable than they would have been for less happy people, the authors note!).
One of the studies reviewed followed nearly 5,000 university students for more than 40 years and found that those who were most pessimistic as students tended to die younger than their more optimistic peers (Brummett et al. 2006). An even longer study that followed 180 Catholic nuns from early adulthood to old age found that those who wrote positive autobiographies in their early 20s tended to outlive those who wrote more negative accounts (Danner, Snowdon & Friesen 2001).
What Happy People Do
Research has shown distinct differences between people who are generally happy and those who are generally unhappy. Happy people
- devote a great amount of time to nurturing and enjoying relationships;
- are comfortable expressing gratitude;
- are often the first to offer help to others;
- are optimistic about their futures;
- savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment;
- make physical exercise a weekly and daily habit;
- are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions; and
- have stresses and even tragedies, but are able to cope in the face of challenges.
Becoming Fit for Happiness
- In his best-selling book, Be Happy: Release the Power of Happiness in You (Hay House 2009), Robert Holden, PhD, says: “The intention to be happy is what changes everything. When you decide with all your heart to be happy, you are calling upon the grace and power of your original nature to help you out.”
- Holden believes that when you choose to be happy, “you are not trying to create something that doesn’t exist; you are choosing to be yourself again.” He adds that the happier you are, the more you will express these natural qualities: presence, acceptance, selflessness, authenticity, equanimity, wisdom, altruism, enthusiasm, kindness and love.
- Fitness and happiness share important common ground. Both contribute to significantly better overall health, and both are lifelong processes that create lasting change. If you are a PFTL client, you are already on a path of transformation, so integrating strategies to develop greater emotional well-being may become a natural, powerful (and joyful!) fit.
HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY NEW YEAR!!!