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For Older Minds, Physical and Mental Activity Are Synergistic
DHF Blog By Ronnie Cohen

Exercising the body and mind may be the best way to keep an older brain sharp, suggests a new study.

"At the end of the day, the two together - physical activity and cognitive training - gave us an additional benefit," said lead researcher Ralph Martins, who directs the Center of Excellence for Alzheimer's Disease Research and Care at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.

Martins and his colleagues studied 172 people, ages 60 to 85, assigning them randomly into four groups.

One group walked three days a week for an hour and did 40 minutes of resistance training twice a week for 16 weeks. Another group did hour-long computer brain-training exercises five days a week, also for 16 weeks. A third group did both the physical exercise and the computer activities. A fourth group maintained their regular routines.

As reported December 2 online in Translational Psychiatry, only the group that engaged in both physical activity and computerized brain training showed significantly improved verbal memory, which helps people remember words and language.

The study failed to show benefits for executive functions that control focus, attention to details and goal setting, or for visual memory, processing speed or attention.

Martins said physical exercise had the most profound and constant effect.

Dr. David Merrill also sees physical activity as the most useful aid to maintaining memory and cognitive ability as people age, but the combination of physical and mental exercise may offer "synergistic" benefits.

Merrill, a geriatric psychiatrist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, "Physical exercise sets the stage for the brain to be responsive to new information. You're all ready to build new synapses, new connections."

Both Martins and Merrill recommend that older people exercise regularly and stay intellectually involved. Both favor real-life challenges over computerized brain exercises.

Martins urges retirees to join service organizations, like the Rotary Club, and to dance for the physical exercise and mental acuity.

"Full retirement doesn't make sense for graceful aging," Merrill said. "People should try to keep working not only to maintain their self-identity but to challenge their brain."

Merrill said the new research is the most recent of a handful of studies showing that a combination of interventions can help seniors remain mentally alert.

He advocates building up to more strenuous exercise than peple did in the study.

"There's lots of data that shows that being physically active is good for the brain," he said. "It's almost so intuitive that it defies logic that so few people are active physically."

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1Kfr5Go

Translational Psychiatry 2014.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015.
Posted by dhf on Tuesday, February 24 @ 00:00:00 EST (723 reads)
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Better Night's Sleep May Help Kids with ADHD
DHF Blog By Shereen Lehman

Kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sleep problems showed slight improvement in their symptoms after undergoing a behavioral sleep intervention, Australian researchers say.
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The daytime improvement in ADHD symptoms was partly the result of the kids getting a better night's sleep, and possibly of parents' learning methods for dealing with behavior problems, the study found.

"Our previous work found that sleep problems were common in children with ADHD and associated with poorer behavior, ADHD symptoms, quality of life, and day-to-day functioning, such as getting ready for school," said lead author Dr. Harriet Hiscock, a pediatrician at Murdoch Children's Research at the Royal Children's Hospital in Victoria.

"We also found that children with ADHD and sleep problems had poorer school attendance, and their parents had poorer mental health and work attendance," Hiscock told Reuters Health in an email. "We wanted to see if we could change some of these outcomes by improving the child's sleep."

For their study, published online January 20 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Hiscock and colleagues enrolled the families of 244 children aged 5 to 12 with ADHD and sleep problems who attended 21 pediatric clinics in Victoria.

Half of the families received the intervention, which included two personal consultations with clinicians who had been trained to determine kids' sleep problems and deliver personalized sleep management programs to the families. The families also had one follow-up phone consultation.

The intervention included guidance for parents on things like setting children's bedtimes, establishing routines, avoiding caffeine, and keeping electronics out of the bedroom.

The remaining families continued their regular care and served as a comparison group.

Parents in both groups kept sleep diaries and filled out questionnaires about their children's behavior, sleep problems, quality of life and daily functioning at the beginning of the study and again three and six months later. Parents also answered questions about their own mental health.

In addition, the children's teachers filled out ADHD rating scales during the study and kids were tested for working memory, such as the ability to count backwards without losing track.

The study team found that at both three and six months, the children in the intervention group had a slight improvement in ADHD symptoms, especially for inattentive symptoms. Their sleep difficulties were also reduced more than those of kids in the comparison group.

Along the same lines, teachers reported greater reductions in school-related behavior problems among children in the intervention group at three and six months.

"Managing behavioral sleep problems in children with ADHD is feasible and highly effective - it improves not only sleep, but also child behavior, ADHD symptoms, quality of life, and working memory," Hiscock said.

She said parents could do this on their own but would likely need some support and guidance from a trained health professional.

"They can certainly take the first steps, i.e., establishing good sleep hygiene by ensuring a bedtime routine, set bedtime and a media-free bedroom," she said.

Hiscock thinks pediatricians should ask about sleep problems in children with ADHD and offer evidence-based solutions such as the one used in the study.

"I think it adds to the body of literature that suggests that behavioral interventions can be quite efficacious for this group of kids and you don't necessarily have to treat their insomnia with medication," Dr. Judith Owens told Reuters Health.

"One thing that was a little different in this study from other studies was that they seemed to find improvements in daytime behavior as well," said Owens, a sleep medicine specialist at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C. who wasn't involved in the study.

Parents are often overwhelmed and exhausted by the end of the day and often don't enforce healthy sleep practices, said Owens, who also ran an ADHD clinic for 25 years.

Taking those steps, such as enforcing a regular bedtime, establishing a bedtime routine, and keeping a policy of no electronics in the evening is a good place to start, although it may not fix the problem entirely, she added.

"If you don't do those basic things then all the rest of the interventions aren't going to be nearly as successful," Owens said.

SOURCE: http://bmj.co/1tsra4o

BMJ 2105.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015. Click For Restrictions -
Posted by dhf on Monday, February 23 @ 00:00:00 EST (735 reads)
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Stressful Relationships Tied to Mental Decline
DHF Blog By Kathryn Doyle

Having close personal relationships in middle age that cause stress, problems or worries, may contribute to cognitive declines in older age, according to a new study.

"Any relationship involves both positive and negative exchanges, especially those close relationships that are most likely to evoke ambivalent sentiments," said lead author Jing Liao of University College London.

"Negative aspects of close relationships refer to unpleasant social exchanges when the recipient finds the relationship ineffective, intrusive or over-controlling," Liao told Reuters Health by email.

Liao and her coauthors used data on 5,873 British civil servants who participated in a long-term study and underwent cognitive testing over a 10-year period, starting in middle age, around 1997.

The tests measured verbal memory and fluency.

The participants had filled out questionnaires on their social relationships in 1990 and did the same three more times after 1997. They answered questions about how much their close relationships produced worries, problems and stress as well as how much, or how little, support they felt. To assess positive relationships, the questionnaire included items about shared interests, self-esteem and helping behaviors.

Those who reported more negative aspects of close relationships also tended to have more rapid cognitive aging, based on the periodic testing.

For people in the top-third of reported negative relationship aspects, compared to those in the bottom third, the extra decline was equivalent to an added year of aging, the researchers found.

"These differences in cognitive decline, though small, could be traced back to risk factors in midlife," Liao said. "Given (that) the incidence of dementia increases exponentially with advancing age and no effective medicine is currently available, our study provides evidence of what risk factors could be targeted before cognitive changes are irreversible."

People who reported the most negative aspects of close relationships were also more likely to have symptoms of depression and diabetes than others, according to the results published October 22 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

There is evidence that, in general, those with a partner or those who are less socially isolated report better quality of life and live longer, Liao said.

But healthy people are more likely to have a partner and be more socially engaged, she noted.

"Previous studies, including some of those I have conducted with my colleagues on the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, have found that close relationships that involve strain and conflict are associated with poorer executive functioning," said Margie E. Lachman, director of the Lifespan Initiative on Healthy Aging and Lifespan Lab at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

"This study, which followed the same people over time, was able to confirm that experiencing social strain and stress in close relationships has an impact on cognitive declines," Lachman, who was not part of the new study, told Reuters Health by email.

Negative aspects of relationships appear to result in cognitive declines, rather than the other way around, she said.

"Further work is needed, however, to see to what extent declines in cognitive functioning might lead to increases in actual negative interactions in close relationships, rather than just describing the relationship as characterized by lack of support and causing stress," Lachman said.

The British civil servants in the study were likely better supported and experienced less cognitive decline than the general population, so the association Liao's group found may be even stronger for other groups, Liao noted.

The elderly should be encouraged to foster protective relationships, she added.

"Interventions should be targeted at how to reduce negative interactions and alleviate adverse psychological reactions," potentially by minimizing or resolving conflicts and enhancing the ability to cope, Liao said.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1EYgD0L

Am J Epidemiol 2014.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014. Click For Restrictions -
Posted by dhf on Friday, February 20 @ 00:00:00 EST (654 reads)
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Compound Found in Grapes May Combat Age-Related Memory Loss
DHF Blog Resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of red grapes, red wine, peanuts, and some berries, may be effective for treating age-related declines in memory and mood function, according to a recent study in the online Scientific Reports. This could potentially help patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers tested the effects of resveratrol in a group of aged rats against a group of controls.

“The results of the study were striking,” said researcher Ashok K. Shetty, PhD, director of neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. “They indicated that for the control rats who did not receive resveratrol, spatial learning ability was largely maintained but ability to make new spatial memories significantly declined between 22 and 25 months. By contrast, both spatial learning and memory improved in the resveratrol-treated rats."

Researchers also reported mood function improvements in resveratrol-treated rats compared with declines in controls. In addition, treated rats showed nearly double the growth and development of neurons, improved blood flow, and diminished chronic inflammation in the hippocampus compared to rats that did not receive resveratrol.

“The study provides novel evidence that resveratrol treatment in late middle age can help improve memory and mood function in old age,” Dr. Shetty said.

—Jolynn Tumolo

References

1. Kodali M, Parihar VK, Hattiangady B, Mishra V, Shuai B, Shetty AK. Resveratrol prevents age-related memory and mood dysfunction with increased hippocampal neurogenesis and microvasculature, and reduced glial activation. Scientific Reports. 2015 Jan. 28.

2. Compound found in grapes, red wine may help prevent memory loss [press release]. Newswise: Charlottesville, VA; Feb. 4, 2015.
Posted by dhf on Thursday, February 19 @ 00:00:00 EST (670 reads)
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Seniors Still Given Potentially Dangerous Sedatives:
DHF Blog JAMA Psychiatry-- Doctors continue to prescribe sedatives such as Xanax or Valium for seniors despite the significant risks they pose, a new study contends.

The drugs in question are a class of medications called benzodiazepines. This class includes drugs such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan. As people get older, these drugs are known to put seniors at risk for confusion and falls. Yet, the researchers found that older folks are increasingly being prescribed these medications.

The analysis included national data from 2008. It showed that about 5 percent of Americans aged 18 to 80 (11.5 million people) were prescribed these drugs. Just under 3 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 35 were given these sedatives. But among those aged 65 to 80, nearly 9 percent were on the drugs, according to the study.

Almost one-third of seniors given these sedatives stayed on them for at least four months, the researchers found. Long-term use may make the medications less effective. There's also a greater risk of dependence on the drugs with long-term use, according to the study authors.

"These prescribing patterns likely put a large number of older adults at unnecessary risk of falls, motor vehicle accidents and confusion," study senior author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and a research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said in a university news release.

"As life expectancy increases and the population ages, an increasing number of older adult Americans will face these risks from long-term benzodiazepine use unless steps are taken to promote safer alternative treatments," Olfson said.

The researchers hope the study is a wake-up call for health care professionals. They suggested that health care professionals could teach older adults who have trouble sleeping or experience anxiety about non-drug options for their problems.

"Examples include increasing light-to-moderate exercise, promoting supportive relationships, ensuring adequate exposure to natural light, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine late in the day, avoiding naps, establishing a regular, relaxing bedtime routine, and accepting that quality of sleep naturally tends to decline as we age."


More information

HealthinAging.org has more about older adults and medications.


Posted by dhf on Sunday, January 04 @ 00:00:00 EST (671 reads)
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Ability to balance on one leg may reflect brain health and stroke risk
DHF Blog Struggling to balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer was linked to an increased risk for small blood vessel damage in the brain and reduced cognitive function in otherwise healthy people with no clinical symptoms, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

“Our study found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health,” said Yasuharu Tabara, Ph.D., lead study author and associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan. “Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline.”

The study consisted of 841 women and 546 men, average age of 67. To measure one-leg standing time, participants stood with their eyes open and raised one leg. The maximum time for keeping the leg raised was 60 seconds. Participants performed this examination twice and the better of the two times was used in the study analysis.  Cerebral small vessel disease was evaluated using brain magnetic resonance imaging.

Researchers found that the inability to balance on one leg for longer than 20 seconds was associated with cerebral small vessel disease, namely small infarctions without symptoms such as lacunar infarction and microbleeds. They noted that:

  • 34.5 percent of those with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had trouble balancing.
  • 16 percent of those with one lacunar infarction lesion had trouble balancing.
  • 30 percent of those with more than two microbleed lesions had trouble balancing.
  • 15.3 percent one microbleed lesion had trouble balancing.

Overall, those with cerebral diseases were older, had high blood pressure and had thicker carotid arteries than those who did not have cerebral small vessel disease. However, after adjustment for these covariates, people with more microbleeds and lacunar infarctions in the brain had shorter one-legged standing times. Short one-legged standing times were also independently linked with lower cognitive scores.

Although previous studies have examined the connection between gait and physical abilities and the risk of stroke, this is among the first study to closely examine how long a person can stand on one leg as an indication of their overall brain health.

“One-leg standing time is a simple measure of postural instability and might be a consequence of the presence of brain abnormalities,” said Tabara.

Small vessel disease occurs due to microangiopathy of arterioles in the brain, making these arteries less flexible, which can interfere with blood flow. Small vessel disease typically increases with age. Loss of motor coordination, including balance, as well as cognitive impairment has been suggested to represent subclinical brain damage. Tabara and colleagues also found a strong link between struggling to stand on one leg and increased age, with marked shorter one-leg standing time in patients age 60 and over.

Although the study did not assess participants’ histories of falling or physical fitness issues, such as how fast they could walk or any gait abnormalities, Tabara said the one-leg standing test is an easy way to determine if there are early signs of being at risk for a stroke and cognitive impairment and whether these patients need additional evaluation.

More information

For more on stroke, visit the American Stroke Association.


Posted by dhf on Saturday, January 03 @ 00:00:00 EST (307 reads)
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More Evidence That Healthy Living Works Wonders for Women's Hearts
DHF Blog

 (HealthDay News) -- Women can dramatically lower their likelihood of heart disease prior to old age by following healthy living guidelines, according to a large, long-term study.

The study found that women who followed six healthy living recommendations -- such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise -- dropped their odds of heart disease about 90 percent over 20 years, compared to women living the unhealthiest lifestyles.

The researchers also estimated that unhealthy lifestyles were responsible for almost 75 percent of heart disease cases in younger and middle-aged women.

"Adopting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle can substantially reduce the incidence of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, as well as reduce the incidence of coronary artery disease in young women," said the study's lead author, Andrea Chomistek, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Indiana University Bloomington.

Although cardiac deaths in women between 35 and 44 are uncommon, the rate of these deaths has stayed much the same over the past four decades. Yet at the same time, fewer people have been dying of heart disease overall in the United States, Chomistek said. "This disparity may be explained by unhealthy lifestyle choices," she said.

"A healthy lifestyle was also associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease among women who had already developed a cardiovascular risk factor like diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol," she said.

The findings are in the new issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study followed almost 90,000 nurses from 1991 to 2011. The women were between 27 and 44 years old when the study started.

The researchers focused on six behaviors described as healthy: not smoking, exercising at least 2.5 hours a week, having a normal weight, watching seven or fewer hours of television a week, eating a healthy diet, and drinking some alcohol but no more than about one drink per day.

Around 5 percent of the women fit into this category at any one time, according to Chomistek.

The study also looked at risk factors for cardiac disease like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. "Even though heart disease is pretty rare for a young women, developing a risk factor for heart disease is not," she said.

About 45 percent of the women developed one of these risk factors, during the 20-year study period, Chomistek said. A healthy lifestyle helps these women, too, the study found.

"Women who had diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol and adhered to a healthy lifestyle had a much lower risk of subsequently developing heart disease -- i.e. having a heart attack -- compared to women who did not adhere to a healthy lifestyle," she said.

"Many of these women were on treatment for their risk factors, but lifestyle was still very important for preventing subsequent heart disease," Chomistek noted.

Would these findings be similar in men? Death rates from heart disease in younger men have stubbornly resisted declining like those of women, "and this merits further study," Chomistek said.

In both genders, "there is unequivocal evidence that a healthy eating pattern, being physically active, maintaining an ideal body weight and not smoking are strongly related to reduced risk of heart disease," said Donna Arnett, chair of epidemiology at University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and past president of the American Heart Association. She wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

Many women "lack knowledge that heart disease can affect them at any age, and they might not recognize the symptoms of heart disease," Arnett said. "While many women have classic symptoms of heart attack -- like crushing pain in the center of the chest that radiates to the neck/arm, shortness of breath and profuse sweating -- others have back pain or indigestion."

This study confirms the importance of healthy behaviors, such as not smoking and exercising more, Arnett said. And these findings also play a role in moving the public discussion toward "creating a world where doing those things is the default option."

More information

For more about managing weight, try the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Posted by dhf on Friday, January 02 @ 00:00:00 EST (295 reads)
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kids with bedroom smartphones, get less sleep
DHF Blog
Got a kid with a smartphone? New research shows it might just be cutting into sleep time.
 
It's a sign of the times that there are probably as many kids with smartphones in their bedrooms as there are kids with their own TVs. And while health experts have warned for years about the deleterious effects of screen time on a child's bedtime, they have a new foe in the smartphone, a gadget that not only has a screen, but also provides constant access to the outside world.
 
According to new research, children who slept in the same room as their tablets or smartphones got almost 21 fewer minutes of sleep than those without the gadgets. That's even more than the 18 minutes of sleep kids typically lose when they have TVs in their rooms.
 
The study tracked the behavior and sleep patterns of more than 2,000 elementary and middle school-aged-kids in two age groups, 9 and 12 years old. They found that those who slept in the same room with their gadgets reported fewer hours of sleep each night and also more feelings of drowsiness throughout the day.
 
"Studies have shown that traditional screens and screen time, like TV viewing, can interfere with sleep, but much less is known about the impacts of smartphones and other small screens," said lead author Jennifer Falbe of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
 
While parents used to worry about the glow of the screen from the TV or computer game keeping their kids awake, now they have to worry about the games, videos, websites, texts and Snapchats that kids feel compelled to access at all hours. And even if the sound is turned off, that vibrating hum of incoming calls, texts, and Instagram messages may keep kids awake.
 
According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, elementary school-aged kids need at least 10 hours of sleep each day, while teenagers need between nine and 10. Yet many aren't getting nearly this amount, and the risks can't be overstated.
 
"The risks associated with shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality would include reduced academic performance, behavioral problems, possibly an increased risk for weight gain and possibly negative impacts on immunity," Falbe said.
 
The researchers also conceded that there could be other factors keeping these kids awake. For instance, there are generalities that could be made about the parents, lifestyle, or habits of kids with smartphones that might otherwise affect their sleep.
 
Still, this study joins a growing body of research suggesting that parents would be wise to limit their child's use of all screens — from TVs to computers to smartphones — when it's time to hit the hay.


More information

For more on sleep, see the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.


Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Posted by dhf on Thursday, January 01 @ 00:00:00 EST (336 reads)
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8 ways to unwind, relax and enjoy life!
DHF Blog
By Cleveland Clinic Wellness Editors 

8 ways to unwind, relax and enjoy life!

#1 Take time to sit quietly

Wish you meditated regularly? Put a cushion, a candle and a timer in a quiet area — with your space already set up, all you have to do is sit.

Research shows that meditating for 20 minutes four times a week can provide significant benefit to your mental and physical health, but finding that time on a regular basis isn’t exactly easy. To pave your way to a regular practice, pick a quiet part of your home and set up everything you need to meditate — a cushion or a set of folded blankets, a timer and perhaps a candle. Then, when you find yourself with a few extra minutes on your hands, you’ll only have to sit down to begin your practice. And once you’re sitting, you’ll be more likely to stay for a while.

#2 Make your own aromatherapy

Natural spirit lifter: Place oranges studded with whole cloves in a bowl in your living room, and tuck one in the cupholder of your car.

According to aromatherapy, the essential oils of citrus fruits are bliss in a bottle. To make your own citrus aromatherapy, place several whole cloves in the skin of an orange (you’ll release some of the aromatic oils of an orange peel by piercing it with the cloves). Then stack several of these oranges in a clear bowl and place them in your home or office where you’ll be able to smell the scent regularly. A bonus: The scent of cloves is considered to be warming.

#3 Drift off to sea

Stressed? Relax by resting a palm on the center of your breastbone, home of the acupressure point known as the Sea of Tranquillity.

When you feel your stress levels spiraling out of control, bring the soles of both feet to the floor, sit up tall and lay a palm on the center of your breastbone. This spot is home to the acupressure point known as the Sea of Tranquillity. According to traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating this point deepens your breathing, which calms the nerves and promotes the relaxation response. Stay here, breathing naturally, until you feel your inhales and exhales lengthen, then gently remove your hand. Stimulating this point can also help you fall back asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night: Simply lie on your back with one palm resting on the center of your breastbone and breathe regularly until you feel yourself start to drift back off.

#4 Expand your network of friends

Make time for making friends. Socializing stimulates the reward center of our brain. The more support we have, the better life feels.

If you can’t remember the last time you struck up a conversation with a stranger or mingled at a party, it’s time to kick your wallflower tendencies to the curb. People who have a large network of friends experience life as more rewarding and stimulating. Having a strong but small group of people to lean on yields greater overall satisfaction as well. If shyness keeps you from reaching out to others, consider joining a group, volunteering or taking a class, where you’ll share a common goal and interest.

#5 Practice smart splurges

Indulging in some retail therapy? To boost your mood, skip material objects and buy an experience, like dinner or a manicure instead.

Shopping for happiness? Steer clear of the mall. According to a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, retail therapy may be able to cheer you up, but only if you’re spending your money on an experience rather than a product. Purchasing material things like a fabulous outfit or widescreen TV can make us second-guess our choice and lead to less satisfaction. However, buying something like a massage, an evening out with the family or a vacation tends to leave people happier in the end.

#6 Allow yourself a tasty treat

Conquer your cravings with dark chocolate. Research shows it can satisfy our sweet tooth better than milk chocolate can — and it’s more filling. 

Here’s a piece of news we can sink our teeth into: A small study at the University of Copenhagen found that dark chocolate was better than milk chocolate at satisfying a sweet tooth. Those who ate the dark confection reported feeling fuller for longer, ate fewer calories at their next meal and had fewer cravings afterward than those who ate the milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is loaded with heart-healthy antioxidants called flavanols that may help lower blood pressure. Some studies have shown an association with chocolate intake and reduced risks for heart disease and stroke. But that doesn’t mean chocolate is a health food that you can nosh on at will. Treat yourself to no more than a small square (about an ounce) of dark chocolate a day to satisfy your cravings and fill up on antioxidants.

#7 Stay in bed longer

How to look more attractive: Spend more time in bed. A new study shows people are rated better-looking when they are getting enough sleep.

Turns out, there really is such a thing as beauty rest. To look your most attractive, the best thing you can do is get a good night’s sleep. That’s according to a study published in the British Medical Journal, which found people were rated better-looking when they had received a full night’s sleep. Observers also ranked sleep-deprived volunteers as being less healthy and more tired looking. According to the study’s authors, people are programmed to pick up on exhaustion and may be less attracted to it, because of the health problems and lower life expectancy associated with long-term sleep deprivation. Besides being bad for your appearance, lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk of hypertension, weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. Set aside plenty of time each night for rest. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to your family doctor.

#8 Indulge in a massage

Work out your kinks and your stress with a massage. Rubdowns help lower stress hormones and may even boost the immune system.

Massages aren’t just good for muscle tension — they can help wipe out stress and anxiety too. Research suggests that rubdowns may elicit the relaxation response — a physical state of deep rest that releases tension in muscles, slows down breathing, and decreases heart rate and blood pressure. These physiological changes can help reduce the effects of stress on the body and change how we react emotionally to pressure. In other words, it can help take the edge off. Many massage therapy schools offer free or reduced-rate rubdowns so students can hone their skills. Look online or in the yellow pages for massage schools in your area.

Posted by dhf on Wednesday, October 29 @ 00:00:00 EDT (784 reads)
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Everyday Stressors and How to Conquer Them!
DHF Blog
By Kate Hanley 

When it comes to stress, it’s the little things that matter. A seemingly tiny mishap — such as a lost set of keys — can trigger a tidal wave of negative reactions on an emotional, physical and even cellular level as stress hormones spike.

The flip side of this unfortunate truth is that even small steps can go a long way toward soothing — or even circumventing — the stress response.

We took a good look at the 10 moments during the day when stress is most likely to flare, then asked our Cleveland Clinic experts and reviewed the research, to offer up proven solutions to these tense times. We hope that they help you reduce your daily stress and guide you toward a more peaceful existence. 

1. Stressful Situation: Poor communication with your spouse or partner
Feel like you and your partner just don’t connect anymore? Your communication skills are likely suffering from disuse. “We spend an average of seven minutes a day actually conversing with our partner,” says Scott Bea, PsyD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. Here, a few ways to get back in the swing:

• Try active listening. It’s easy to blame your partner for 100 percent of your disconnection woes, but everyone in the partnership — meaning you — bears some responsibility for keeping the lines of communication open. To steer your interactions in a more positive direction, Bea suggests active listening: After your partner says something to you, repeat it using slightly different wording, and include a feeling word. For example, say, “You had to deal with one request after another from your boss today, and that made you feel unappreciated.” “It’s a simple formula that takes a lot of practice,” Bea says. The payoff? “It’s nearly impossible to overreact when you’re conversing this way.” Make sure to take turns so that each of you gets a chance both to speak as well as to practice improving your active listening skills.
• Send a signal. “We get lazy in our communication habits, so we forget to listen,” Bea says. To change that dynamic, let your partner know that you want to have a new kind of conversation. Say, “Would you mind if we turn off the TV for a few minutes? There’s something I want to talk about.”
• Create a new habit. Human brains love ritual, Bea says. So create a ritual that fosters true communication, such as having everyone at the table take turns talking about one thing they’re concerned about and one thing they’re grateful for. “Setting aside some time each day where you check in with each other wards off bigger misunderstandings.”

2. Stressful Situation: Focusing on your work
It’s an unwritten rule of the modern age: The more work you have to do, the more you check Facebook. If you’re struggling to be productive at work, consider getting yourself a plant.

Multiple studies have shown that living plants — and even flowers — improve productivity in the workplace. In one study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M, workers with plants in their office environment showed more creativity — thinking up new ideas and approaching old problems innovatively.

Plants that don’t need a lot of natural light and can withstand infrequent watering include the peace lily, spider plant, philodendron, grape ivy, and Chinese evergreen. Allow soil to dry out completely between waterings, avoid placing plants anywhere subject to extremes in temperature (near an outside door or under a heating vent), and occasionally move your plant around the office to give it varying intensities of light.

3. Stressful Situation: Difficult coworkers
Everyone’s got one: an annoying colleague. Whether they’re bossy, passive-aggressive or just plain chirpy, the fact that you spend so many waking hours in their company means your coworkers can have a big impact on your quality of life.

Of course, you can’t change another person’s behavior — you can only change your own reaction to it. That’s why Scott Bea, PsyD, a psychologist in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health, suggests that you start practicing mindfulness meditation. “When you achieve the ability to notice your internal experience, you can be a witness to your emotions instead of getting caught up in them,” Bea says. Meaning, your coworker’s antics will have significantly less power to wreck your day.

To put the power of mindfulness meditation to work on the job, practice it on your own time first, Bea says. He recommends spending five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night sitting quietly and watching your thoughts arise, allowing them to float away as you redirect your attention to the sound of your breath. “When you practice mindfulness on your own time, you’ll be able to call on those skills instead of getting pulled into the drama at work,” Bea says.

And when you can remain on more neutral emotional ground, it will be easier to be diplomatic with your troublesome colleague. Then you’ll be able to speak to them calmly about any issues — and move on.

4. Stressful Situation: Making time to exercise
It’s 5 p.m. on Tuesday, and instead of heading to the gym for your regular Zumba class, you’re headed to your child’s school play. It’s just an inevitable part of parenthood, right?

Not necessarily, says Heather Nettle, MA, coordinator of exercise physiology services for the Cleveland Clinic. The true reason you didn’t get a workout was because of poor planning. “So many people fail to exercise because they try to set up a regular time each week,” such as Monday mornings or Thursdays after work. That approach is fine if your schedule never changes, but most people have different things popping up each week.

Instead, Nettle counsels that you plan only one week at a time. “When you plan only for the week ahead, you can find time between everything else you have to do.” It’s less intimidating to commit to exercising for the next week, and not the rest of your life. And a weekly plan is likely to make you feel more successful: “Each week you get to reevaluate and set a reasonable goal based on all your other responsibilities.”  Feeling good about the exercise you get instead of feeling bad about the workouts you skip — now that’s priceless. 

5. Stressful Situation: Stuck in traffic/running late
Next time you’re sitting behind the wheel, staring at a sea of red taillights, knowing that you’ll be late and there is little or nothing you can do about it, try singing.

Singing will keep you from screaming, plus a whole lot more. Studies have found that singing promotes positive emotions, boosts the immune system, and can lower blood pressure. Plus, the car is the perfect place to unleash your inner Pavarotti — the radio is at your fingertips, and you don’t have to worry that anyone else will hear you.

6. Stressful Situation: Anxiety about money
Whether you are fretting about money because you overspend, under-earn or are simply feeling the effects of the Great Recession, we have one piece of advice: Put down the calculator. “Tallying up how much you owe over and over only keeps anxiety alive,” says Scott Bea, PsyD, a psychologist in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health.

Although you’re only trying to make yourself feel better by determining how much you owe or where the money to cover your bills will come from, you’re ultimately only making yourself feel worse. “The ritual of adding up your numbers makes you feel better for a moment, but it quickly wears off. You’re left feeling anxious again, and you’re compelled to try the same unfulfilling strategy.”

Instead of repeatedly dwelling on your money issue du jour, take another tack: Set aside a certain time each day, week or month when you will look objectively at your financial situation and plan your strategies for remedying them. “It takes a lot of discipline to stick to a scheduled ‘worry time,’ but when you do, you take yourself off the anxiety merry-go-round.”

7. Stressful Situation: Deciding what to make for dinner
Quick — what’s for dinner tonight? If the mere thought of preparing an evening meal causes your stress levels to rise, you’re in good company: A 2011 survey of moms by BetterBathrooms.com found that 5:55 p.m. — prime time for making dinner — is the most stressful time of day.

Dinnertime stress comes from 1) the desire to eat something nutritious (and tasty), 2) little time for prep, and 3) the end of a long day — when stamina and blood sugar levels are usually running low. No wonder it’s so stressful.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, the director of coaching at the Cleveland Clinic, offers these two simple strategies to keep you well-fed and unstressed.

First, schedule your grocery shopping on your calendar with all your other appointments. “Folks typically forget to make time to grocery shop, which creates the condition of having nothing in the house,” Jamieson-Petonic says, making it all the more likely you’ll end up eating a frozen pizza or ordering in.

Then, when you’re at the store, focus on buying staples. Here is Jamieson-Petonic’s list of what to have on hand at all times:

Whole-grain pasta
Brown rice
Canned beans
Low-sodium broths
Low-salt tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Low-sugar pasta sauce
Salsa
Precut, frozen grilled chicken breast
Ground turkey
Frozen fruits and veggies

From this list, you can make the following meals (and even more):

• Burrito bowls with grilled chicken, rice, tomatoes and salsa with frozen grilled peppers
• Chicken noodle soup in the slow cooker — throw everything in the pot in the morning and dinner is done when you get home
• Pasta with olive oil and basil or pasta with red sauce and veggies
• Macaroni and sauce with ground turkey
• Black beans and rice with salsa and veggies

8. Stressful Situation: Leaving the house on time with everything you need
Ever walk into a room and forget what you went in there to get? Science says it’s no surprise: A 2011 study by researchers at Notre Dame found that participants became more forgetful when they walked through a doorway.

If you frequently leave your lunch, wallet, gym clothes or anything vital at home, take a minute the night before to sit down and write a list of everything you need when you leave. Include everything — even the no-brainers, such as your keys and wallet. The next morning, you won’t have to wander through the house trying to remember what you forgot. The stress-free result: You’re more likely to leave on time with everything you need.

9. Stressful Situation: No time for yourself
In our productivity-obsessed culture, hobbies — whether goal-directed, such as gardening, or something a little more amorphous, such as puttering around in the garage — can get short shrift. But it’s precisely these types of nonessential activities that help keep us happy and whole, says Scott Bea, PsyD, a psychologist in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. “Whatever absorbs your attention and regenerates you deserves a regular portion of your time. It may not add anything to the planet, but it makes you a more fulfilled human.” This “me time” benefits you and everyone you come in contact with.

How to find this elusive “me time”? Bea counsels setting up something regular in your schedule — 30 minutes after the kids go to bed to knit, or Saturday morning trips to the flea market. The ritual of the process is as important as what you do. “Our brains are set up to respond to routine,” he says. Making “me time” part of your established routine will make it easier for you to ignore the things you feel you “should” be doing. If you have kids, speak to your spouse about taking turns so each partner gets a share of restorative time. And if that doesn’t work for whatever reason, get creative. “We all need help from friends, neighbors and family members periodically. Instead of thinking of all the reasons why you can’t take time for yourself, focus that energy on asking for the help you need to make it happen.”

10. Stressful Situation: Tossing and turning all night
Although all the conditions are ripe for sleep — outside it’s pitch black, you’re cozy in bed, and you’ve longed for this moment all day — you can’t sleep. No matter how much you hope sleep will come if you just keep waiting for it, the best thing you can do is to get out of bed, says Michelle Drerup, PsyD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.

“When your mind is going, you get more stimulated as the minutes go by,” Drerup says. Add in the worry of not getting enough sleep and you’re wound up tighter than a spool of thread. When you get out of bed, you take the pressure to fall asleep off the table. “Do something calming to distract you from whatever’s on your mind.” That includes reading for fun (no work-related material allowed), doing a crossword puzzle or listening to music. Only when you feel drowsy should you get back in bed.

No matter how much you’d like to sleep in the next morning, Drerup also counsels waking up at your usual time. “Trying to catch up on your sleep — whether that’s sleeping late or taking a nap — will only disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and make sleeping more difficult the following night,” she says. Instead, push through the day — avoiding caffeine after lunch — so that you are primed for sleep at your usual bedtime.


Kate Hanley is the author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide and founder of MsMindbody.com.

Posted by dhf on Wednesday, October 22 @ 00:00:00 EDT (568 reads)
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