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Monday, January 28, 2013

April 15th - It's Coming..Make it less stressful!

One of the most stressful days of the year is the day federal taxes are due - the dreaded April 15th.  It stresses me out every year but it shouldn't.  It is more, I think, the way I approach it than the day itself.  I traditionally haven't followed the steps that I'm going to suggest here but I will in the future.  Experts who suggest ways to reduce the stress of doing your taxes typically recommend the following:

1.  Start early - The sooner that  you get it done, the less time that you spend with the thought of it as a looming stressful deadline.  Even if you don't file (because you owe) until the last minute, at least you won't have the burden upon you.
2.  Take baby steps/break it down into small pieces - Just like a big work project, breaking your tax preparation and filing into small and manageable steps will make the process much more tolerable.  Instead of cramming it all into one weekend day, extend it over a much longer period and do a little bit at a time.  Set a schedule and do a little bit each day during that time period until it is done.  Today is only January 28th so there is plenty of time to do this even this year.
3.  Make it fun - Fun? Taxes? Well, you can at least try.  Put on some of your favorite music, put out some aromatherapy candles, get yourself some healthy snacks and get to it.  Also - reward yourself for accomplishing the steps along the way.  Only you can make it resemble something that is truly fun so give it a shot.
4.  Have someone else do it - Only you know your own tax situation, your ability to do your taxes, your frustration level on projects like this, etc.  Knowing these things and considering the benefit that you may be able to recognize by having a professional prepare your taxes - the cost may just be outweighed by the benefits - particularly if the professional is able to minimize your tax liability in ways that you can only imagine doing yourself.
5.  Plan for next year - Learn from your own mistakes and plan for an easier next year.  By this I mean that if you do not already have a working system in place, set up an organized system for keeping better records during the year (your business expenses, your charitable contributions, your medical expenses, your various tax forms that employers and others send to you, etc.).  Also, based on either the analysis you receive from TurboTax (or whatever you use) or from your CPA or tax preparer - take the necessary steps this year to either decrease the amount you owe or increase your refund next year.
6.  Whatever you do - don't be late! - Even if you owe, there are ways (like payment plans) that this will work out.  You do not want to get hit with the consequences of missing the deadline and if you follow the above suggestions - there should be no reason to.


Avoid the Monday Blues

I thought about writing today about the benefits to your health and overall wellness of NOT working on the weekends.  There is alot of research out there about the health benefits of NOT working on the weekends (and when I say work - I mean at your full-time job) and an equal amount of research on "disconnecting" (meaning the benefits to your health of staying away from your laptop, Blackberry, iPhone, etc. for periods of time).  I'll come back to that though.  Since today is Monday and I know that I certainly can be prone to the "Monday Blues" - I decided to go in search of and find some research and recommendations on combating the "Monday Blues."

Although we are 1 week past what researchers suggest is the most depressing day of the year (the third Monday in January) - there are multiple research findings that suggest that any Monday can trigger the "Monday Blues."  Whether it is the research that suggests that people show biological signs of stress when they start anticipating the workday or the research that found that most workers don't smile until about 11:16 on Mondays or the Japanese research finding the highest suicide levels on Mondays - it is clear that "Monday Blues" do exist.  What can you do about it?  I read some recommendations from Laura Schwecheri on Greatist.com from about a year ago that bear repeating.

1.  Don't live for the weekends - don't only look forward to the weekends; plan something fun during the week to do like a movie night.  This way - you spread out the joy.
2.  Relax!! - Don't go out both nights on the weekend.  Stay in at least one night and chill.  Being on the go too much on the weekend and not getting enough sleep will only stress you out more.
3.  Don't sleep in - Try sticking to the same sleep schedule all week to feel your best.
4.  Plan ahead Sunday night - Pick out your clothes for Monday and make your lunch for Monday on Sunday night.
5.  Go to bed early Sunday night - Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep in preparation for Monday.
6.  Eat breakfast Monday morning
7.  Listen to music - Music boost mood so listen to some music while you get ready for work on Monday morning.  Pick your favor artist.
8.  Hit the (early-bird) gym - Get an early Monday a.m. workout.  Exercise increases your endorphin levels and will boost your mood.
9.  Look snazzy - Wear your best outfit on Monday so you look your best - it will help you feel your best.
10.  Smile - We've all heard how many muscles it takes to smile and how many MORE muscles it takes to frown or scowl so just go ahead and smile all morning and all day.
11.  Treat your self - Give yourself something to look forward to either Monday afternoon or Monday night. Whatever it is that you know will inspire and excite you - plan it for sometime on Monday.  You will look forward to it.
12.  Take small breaks during the day - Get away from your desk or cubicle during the day.  Take a walk outside, avoid eating lunch at your desk or squeeze in a lunch time workout.
13.  Figure out why Mondays are blue for you - If none of the above helps, you REALLY might want to switch careers.  Life is too short to be THAT miserable.

Have a Marvelous Monday!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hugging and Health

It's Not Rocket Science is not all about diet and exercise.  Today - it's about hugs.  Hugs, you ask?  What do hugs have to do with health?  I just read a quote by Virginia Satir "You need four hugs a day for survival, eight for daily maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth."  Research has proven that hugs can help you be healthier, think and feel younger, reduce your stress, add years to your life and even slow down aging.  What is it about hugs that accomplishes these things?  So, what is the science beyond this miracle action - the hug?

Researchers at the University of Vienna concluded that oxytocin is released into the bloodstream when you hug someone who is close to you.  This lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and can even improve memory.   In a very interesting finding by these researchers, they also discovered that the same effect is not achieved by a hug from someone you do not know or if the hug is not something that both the parties want at that time - in those cases, a different hormone (the stress hormone - cortisol) is secreted instead of oxytocin. Researchers at the University of North Carolina previously concluded that hugs increase the release of oxytocin and decrease the risk of heart disease. In addition to oxytocin, hugs also stimulate the brain to release dopamine (the pleasure hormone).  Some researchers have even concluded that hugs are more important as we age - Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser has previously been quoted as saying "The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health."

So - hug your friends, your family, your pets, and others close to you at least 4 times but strive for 12 times every day.  You'll be happier and healthier as a result.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Personal Responsibility for Your Own Wellness

Only you control what you eat and how often you exercise.  When I was working on my wellness last year, I  used a personal mantra "Only I can control it."  I realized that there were some things I could not control in life but one thing I could control was every morsel that I put in my mouth and the frequency with which I laced up my running shoes and hit the street or did my crunches or pumped iron.

I was reminded of this importance of personal responsibility for one's own wellness when reading an article yesterday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Cindy Creasy's All You Can Eat column.  Cindy attended  a presentation that my friend Kim Williams and I gave to a small networking group of women this past Saturday.  The topics were taking steps toward vegetarianism and the benefits of following a vegetarian diet.  The article appropriately ended with a great quote from Kim:

        "I feel like it's really empowering.  Just by changing your diet, you can make a change in your health."

How true!  Remember, You Can Control It and ONLY You Can Control It.  Take the first step today.  You will feel empowered and will be making a positive change in your health.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Protein for Vegetarians/Vegans

Ever since becoming a vegetarian in July of 2012, the most common question that I get is "but, how do you get your protein." It is such a predictable question now that I probably need to include, when I tell people that I'm a vegetarian - "and..I get plenty of protein."  Here are some examples of sources of protein that vegetarians and vegans get - not even including eggs, milk, and cheese (that most vegetarians eat but vegans do not.)

  • Vegetables themselves - for example cooked spinach, french beans, cooked kale, and boiled peas have a fair amount of protein in them
  • Non-Dairy Milk - soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk - often have more protein (and in some cases QUITE ABIT more) than regular milk
  • Nut Butter like peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter
  • Quinoa - one half cup has 8 grams of protein
  • Tofu - one half cup contains 10 grams of protein
  • Lentils  - one cup packs 18 grains of protein
  • Beans - one cup of garbanzo beans, black beans or kidney beans has 15 grams of protein
  • Tempeh - one half cup has 15 grams
  • Sprouted Grain Bread
  • Some Cereals - I like Kashi's Go Lean and the new Grape-Nuts FIT - Go Lean has 13 grams per cup; FIT has 6 grams
  • Greek Yogurt - 13 to 18 grams of protein
  • Nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.) - Nuts are all good sources but peanuts have 7 grams of protein in one ounce
  • Seeds like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • Flax seed
  • Protein Powder (Vegan versions are available)
NOTE: The USDA recommendation for protein is 46 grams of protein a day for adult women and and 56 grams of protein a day for adult men.  So, with many or even all of the above as staples of a vegetarian's or vegan's diet - it doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to see that we easily get enough protein - or at least we should if we are eating healthy and know our available protein sources.

But....thanks for asking :-).

Happiness and Health

An article in the U.S. News and World Report in 2011 reported on a study which had been recently published in the journal Applied Psychology:  Health and Well-Being and reported to be the most comprehensive review to date of the evidence linking happiness to health outcomes. Authored by Ed Diener of the University of Illinois, the study reviewed more than 160 different studies of human and animal subjects.  Diener said that the general conclusion was that "..your subjective well-being-that is, feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed - contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations."  Apparently, most the long-term studies that the researchers reviewed found that anxiety, depression, a lack of enjoyment of daily activities, and pessimism were all associated with higher rates of disease and shorter lives. Diener said that while "happiness is no magic bullet," "the overwhelming majority of the studies support the conclusion that happiness is associated with health and longevity."  The article ended with some great "It's Not Rocket Science" advice:

**Add "Be Happy and Avoid Chronic Anger and Depression" to the four other MAJOR health recommendations that are most widely suggested:
1.Avoid Obesity
2.Eat Right
3.DON'T Smoke
4.Exercise

So, like musician Bobby McFerrin says in his 1988 song that became the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."  That quote originated from the Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba and is as good advice today as it was in the 1960s when it was printed up on inspiration cards and posters.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Plan It, Write It, Do It, Log It

I have read for many years that people are more likely to exercise if they write it down as part of a weekly/daily plan and/or write it down after completing the exercise.  I suggest both.  I call it "Plan It, Write It, Do It, Log It."  Just like other personal and/or work weekly or daily goals or "to do lists" or meeting/appointment scheduling, exercise takes commitment and should be written into your plan.  Call it "an appointment with yourself."  It is that important!!

Yesterday, while at Barnes and Noble, I stumbled upon a great way to follow this advice.  Published by Hinkler Books Pty Ltd out of Australia, it is called the Anatomy of Fitness: Personal Training & Workout Diary.  Not only does it have weekly and daily planning sections for you to record your exercise plans for the week and to write down exactly what you did but it also has sections for the following:

  • Daily food diary including fluid intake;
  • Place to record what vitamins and supplements you took;
  • Personal reflections on your weekly energy level, stress level, hours of sleep, sleep quality, mood, appetite, and injuries or illnesses;
  • Place to record your weekly start weight and BMI and your ending weekly weight and BMI;
  • A monthly planning section; 
  • A complete physical assessment section to record your measurements and physical ability at the beginning of the year and at the end of year including a place to record your own goals; 
  • Sections to capture your monthly progress;
  • A section to track your heart rate;
  • An End of the Year Assessment; and,
  • A lot of valuable information at the beginning of the publication on general health and wellness including information on BMI, strength training, cardio training including a comparison of calories you will burn doing different forms of cardio, stretching and flexibility, warming up and cooling down, setting goals and staying motivated, nutrition, a guide as to how to use the diary, and diagrams of the human body showing all of the human muscles.
Amazingly enough, it was on sale for under $6.00 and I was able to pick it up for $5.65.  

I recommend this resource highly but however you do it, start today making this important appointment with yourself.  Remember - "Plan It, Write It, Do It, Log It."

Friday, January 18, 2013

SWEET!! - A New Study on Sugar....and a little more information

Hot off the press!!  In the first systematic review of available evidence commissioned by the World Health Organization, researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand found in a review of studies that increased consumption of "free sugars" including additives to foods and those naturally found in honey, syrups, and fruit juices let to an average gain of between 1.6 and 1.8 pounds in body weight in adults while people who cut back on sugar lost about the same amount.  The researchers looked at 15,000 studies on sugar and obesity at the request of the WHO and narrowed down the list to about 70 that strictly measured the correlation between sugar consumption and weight. The study authors said that the findings confirm the WHO's guideline of keeping sugar intake at 10% or below of daily calories. Walter Willett, a
professor at Harvard and author of an editorial that accompanied the study" said "What's emerged most clearly is that sugar in the form of water, sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks is especially problematic."  He also said that because it is easier to drink than eat "It's almost almost impossible to eat 17 teaspoons of sugar, but it's very easy to drink a 20 ounce soda with 17 teaspoons of sugar."

Digging a little deeper into this topic, the American Heart Association has recommended guidelines for limiting the amount of added sugars.  The AHA defines "added sugars" as "any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal)."  They (added sugars) can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar, and honey as well as chemically manufactured sweeteners like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).  Distinguishing added sugars from naturally occurring sugars - those found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose), the AHA recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars a day (about 6 teaspoons) and 150 calories a day for men (about 9 teaspoons).  As a comparison to what what most Americans eat - most Americans get more than 22 teaspoons or 355 calories of added sugar a day.

Below are some of the AHA's simple "It's Not Rocket Science" tips to reduce sugar in your diet:
1.  Remove sugar (white and brown), syrup, honey and molasses from the table - out of sight, out of mind.
2.  Cut back on the amount of sugar added to things you eat or drink regularly like cereal, pancakes, coffee or tea. Start by using half as much sugar and wean down from there or use an artificial sweetener.
3.  Buy sugar free or low calorie beverages.
4.  Buy fresh fruits or fruits canned in water or natural juice - not canned in SYRUP.
5.  Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, add fresh fruit or dried fruit.
6.  When baking cookies, brownies, or cakes - cut the sugar that is called for by one third to one half.
7.  Instead of adding sugar in recipes, try adding extracts like almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
8.  Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar; try ginger, allspice, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
9.  Substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in recipes.




Thursday, January 17, 2013

Don't Let Stress Get the Best of You

A friend of mine (Denise Butler) who is a health educator and Wellness Coordinator for the City of Richmond (VA) gave me the following words of wisdom yesterday concerning stress management, particularly when dealing with stressful situations at work:

1.  Ask yourself "Can I control it?" and "Is it important?" - If the answer is NO to either, on some level you have to let it go.
2.  Deal with stress at the time it happens and don't let it build.  For example, go for a walk after a stressful meeting, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths right after a bad phone call, stick to a schedule and make "you time" part of that schedule every day.
3.  Do what works...If you like humor, have a comic book close;  If you like exercise, do it as often as you can; if you like to journal, keep it with you.

She told me that stress is a different "beast" for each person, is very important, and we can't let it get the best of us.

Now, why is this all so important....."chronic stress" or prolonged tension from stress raises blood pressure, increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, increases vulnerability to anxiety and depression, contributes to infertility, and hastens the aging process.  It also can slow down wound healing, impair development in children, negatively affect memory, and increase the levels of visceral fat in the body contributing to weight gain.

After reading all that, it doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to realize that we all have to find our own ways to manage the stress that we face either in the workplace or elsewhere.  Some simple steps you can take (and of course, follow Denise's recommendations about finding what works best for you) are:

1.  BREATHE, BREATHE, BREATHE - just stopping to take deep breaths and otherwise being very aware of how much or HOW LITTLE you are breathing can make a huge impact on your stress.  Regular breathing and periodic breaks where you engage in deep breathing exercises provide significant benefit.
2.  LAUGH - You will be amazed how much less stressed you feel when you take time to laugh.  Whatever it is that makes you laugh - reading a good joke book, seeing a comedy movie, being around funny people, etc. - DO IT.
3. Have your own personal saying when faced with stress - whether it is what Denise suggested ("Can I control it? and "Is it Important?") or something else like "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff....and it's all Small Stuff", come up with it for yourself and use it when you're under stress.
4.  At work, get away from your desk periodically.  It is scientifically proven that just taking a brief break periodically from your desk and going to spend even 10 minutes with someone who you like will re-charge you, boost your energy, and reduce your stress.  I've tried it and it works.
5.  Get enough sleep and in a sleep friendly environment - not a bedroom cluttered with papers and with all kinds of electronic devices buzzing.
6.  Exercise.

Life is too short anyway, don't let stress manage you - you need to manage it.  It can truly be a beast but you can tame it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Blood Pressure - What Is It, Why Is It Important, and What Can You Do About It?

What exactly do your blood pressure numbers mean and what is high blood pressure?  Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of the blood vessels.  During each heartbeat, blood pressure varies between a maximum (systolic - or the top number in your reading) and a minimum (diastolic - or the bottom number in your reading).  The systolic rate is your peak blood pressure when the heart is squeezing blood out and your diastolic rate is the pressure when your heart is filling with blood and is relaxing between beats.  When referred to as a person's "blood pressure" - the term usually refers to the systemic arterial pressure measured at a person's upper arm and is a measure of the pressure in the brachial artery.  It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). 

The American Heart Association guideline for desired blood pressure is a systolic rate (top number) of between 90 and 119 and a diastolic rate (bottom number) between 60 and 79.  Numbers below this fall within the "hypotension" category (meaning pressure is too low) while numbers of 120/80 and above fall within various ranges of prehypertension and actual hypertension. 

Why is this important?  At least in the case of "hypertension", elevated blood pressure puts mechanical stress on the walls of your arteries which make the heart have to work harder and contributes to the progression of unhealthy tissue growth within the artery walls.  The higher the pressure and the longer this continues, the thicker and larger and ultimately weaker the heart muscle becomes over time.  Persistent hypertension is a significant risk factor for strokes, heart attacks, heart failures, arterial aneurysms and is a leading cause of chronic renal failure.

First and foremost - know your blood pressure.  "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it" - so knowing your blood pressure (including at different times of the day and under different conditions) is critical.  Once you know it - there is so much information in the public domain as to how to keep it under control or to reduce it that It Is Not Rocket Science as to action steps you can take.  Some of the most well known ones are: 

1.  Don't smoke cigarettes or use any tobacco products
2.  Lose weight if you are overweight
3.  Exercise regularly
4.  Cut back on sodium intake  (adding salt to your food and eating processed foods SIGNIFICANTLY increases the amount of sodium you consume)
5.  Limit alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks a day.
6.  Incorporate relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation OR biofeedback into your routine.  If you can't leave a stressful situation or environment, you have to train your body and your mind to handle and manage the stress.

If these don't work to get and keep your blood pressure in the desired range, there are various medications for blood pressure but that should be the last resort. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Caffeine and Blood Pressure

Mayo Clinic emeritus hypertension specialist Dr. Sheldon C. Sheps suggests that if you or your doctor are concerned about caffeine's effect on your blood pressure, try limiting the amount of caffeine you drink to 200 milligrams a day - about the same as in two 12-ounce cups of brewed coffee.  He also advises to be cognizant of the amount of caffeine in your preferred brand of coffee as different brands vary as to how much caffeine is in the coffee.  One other of his valuable suggestions is to avoid caffeine right before activities that naturally increase your blood pressure anyway like exercise. 

Dr. Sheps suggests that a way of checking to see if caffeine is raising your blood pressure is to check your blood pressure within 30 to 60 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage.  If your blood pressure is elevated by five to 10 points then, you may have a caffeine sensitivity as it concerns your blood pressure.

I recently found out that my doctor recommends the same amount of daily intake of coffee - two cups.  No more.    

Monday, January 14, 2013

Relaxation Drinks - What are they, where are they going and info on one specifically - KOPPLA

It is not Rocket Science that stress contributes to weight gain, risk of such debilitating diseases as heart disease and disabling events like stroke.  The economy and the information age have many of us very stressed out - working harder, faster, and often for less pay.  Experts suggest many different methods of stress management - more sleep, regular exercise, massages, yoga, spiritual growth and development, etc.  There will be many postings in the future on stress and stress management and its overall place in a person's wellness plan but today's posting is specifically about one method that is available - something called Relaxation Drinks.

What are Relaxation Drinks?  Defined on Wikipedia as "a non-alcoholic beverage containing calming ingredients which may be found in nature," the concept of relaxation drinks first emerged in Japan in 2005.  While melatonin is found in many, it is not found in all relaxation drinks.  The drinks emerged in the United States in about 2006.  While currently far behind the "Energy Drink" market,  there is enormous potential for these products and growth opportunity given the challenges facing all of us as we try to keep up with the fast pace required in today's culture. 

A Reuters' article in 2011 cited that 22.4 million cases (or 36 million gallons) of relaxation drinks were sold in 2010 (double the amount sold in 2008) and that by 2014, sales are expected to exceed 79 million gallons. IBISWorld reported in late 2011 390 different types of relaxation drinks on the market that year (an increase from the 350 on the market in 2010).

The one that I favor is called KOPPLA and is available on the website kopplanutrients.com.  Known as an adaptogenic formula - Koppla's products differ from others because the developers have a true scientifically rooted understanding of how individual phytochemicals interact with other phytochemicals and how those combinations then manifest into therapeutic benefits for the human body.  Koppla's products are really "remedies" versus "supplements" .  Their formula, when the body is under stress, helps to restore a balanced, sustained flow of oxygen and blood throughout the body - helping to regulate a more functional state of physical calm and mental focus.  Koppla comes in powder that can be mixed with hot or cold water.  It also comes in a shot.  The shots are extra strength and users have reported feeling benefits of stress relief and focused energy management in as little as 5-10 minutes.  Koppla offers trial versions of it product for free, directly from kopplanutrients.com/en/products. The science behind the formula can be found at kopplanutrients.com/en/formula-product-info/#benefits.  

Feel stress coming on, try Koppla's product - it works.  Songwriter, vocalist and musician Carly Simon says "Koppla is the first beverage I have ever found that does two things - tastes great and visibly reduces tension."  Actor Henry Winkler (Fonzie of "Happy Days" fame) and his wife Stacey are dedicated users of Koppla  and use it at least once a day. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

You Don't Have to Do a "Fad" Diet

Healthy living principles don't require a "fad" diet - the latest book or DVD.  Eating right, exercising regularly, and taking care of yourself is not Rocket Science.  Applying some common sense and some discipline, anyone can be on the path to a much healthier self.  Aerobic exercise along with strength training and a healthy diet will help you decrease your weight, improve your current health, and reduce your risk of such ailments as Diabetes, Heart Disease, and even Cancer.  I recommend a low fat diet and going light on your intake of sodium and sugar.  It really isn't Rocket Science. 

Really, the most important thing is changing your habits and sustaining them.  You won't get anywhere permanently if you don't sustain the change.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Standing at Work is much better for your Health than Sitting All Day

NBC's Rock Center's lead story tonight was on the significant health impact of standing more (including at work) versus sitting down.  I started standing at work about two months ago and stand now at work between 85 to 90 percent of the day.  Having heard for years that it was better for your back and your core, I am sold on it.  Rock Center's story cited research and promotes a "treadmill desk".   Dr. James Levine, an obesity expert at The Mayo Clinic, was profiled on the show tonight and is cited in an article I found online on the topic.  He says that "as soon as you stand up, you start to activate your body's metabolic engines."  The Sax Institutes's 45 and Up Study, the largest ongoing study of healthy aging in the Southern Hemisphere, produced recent results showing that adults who sat for 11 hours or more a day had a 40% increased risk of dying in the next three years than those who sat for less than four hours.  Another study detailed in an article in the May 2010 edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of such activity.  The lead researcher in that study, Steven Blair, said that people who sit have less desirable levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, and even waist size.

Even if you choose not to stand most of the day, definitely stand up more throughout the day and move around.  Even ten minutes every hour of getting up and walking around will improve your long term health.  Remember that, throughout evolution, our predecessors on this planet NEVER sat as much as we do not.  The human body is not supposed to sit down for most of the day - it is meant to MOVE.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Blood Pressure and Aging of the Brain

In the past year, interesting research has come out from both researchers at the University of California at Davis and the University of Hawaii regarding the impact of high blood pressure on the brain and the benefit of taking beta blockers on reducing the risk of Alzheimer's Disease and other types of dementia.  According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - 68 million American adults (1 in 3) suffer from high blood pressure.  The UC-Davis research research used data from the Framingham Heart Study and concluded, apparently for the first time, that high blood pressure can begin in an individual's 30s and 40s  to cause deteriorations to the brain that contribute to memory loss and ultimately Alzheimer's Disease and other types of dementia.  The Hawaii research found that those who took beta blockers were the only ones in that study who experienced a a difference in brain abnormality prevention and lowered blood pressure.  Anyone whose blood pressure is elevated should make lifestyle changes (lose weight, exercise, lower salt intake), take medication, or both to lower it to 120/80 or below. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Recent reports linking deaths and illnesses to energy drinks

The FDA reported in November of last year that there had been 92 illnesses and 13 deaths linked to the consumption of 5-Hour Energy shots, 40 illnesses and five deaths linked to Monster Energy, and 13 illnesses and two lasting disabilities linked to Rockstar Energy.  This was based on something called AERs (Adverse-Event Reports) that are filed by patients, families, and doctors.  These reports dated back to 2004.  These reports came about one year after a goverment report that cited a sharp spike in the number of people who need emergency medical care after consuming energy drinks.  That report showed more than a tenfold increase in the number of emergency rooom visits tied to the use of these drinks between 2005 and 2009.

While the FDA has not made enough of a direct link through its own independent research and analysis to find that these energy drinks are so dangerous as to require that they be removed from the market, it does not take a rocket scientist to recognize some definite risks in the consumption of these products.  Given that they are sometimes consumed with alcohol, they may be consumed as "refreshment" when athletes have been participating in strenuous physical activity and ALREADY have elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and that the emergency room visit study showed that more than one quarter of those who visited the ER after using energy drinks were also taking another pharmaceutical (often a stimulant such as Ritalin) -- enough "red flags" have been raised to warrant significant consideration before consuming one of these drinks.  Among the eye-opening statistics from the ER visit study was that the age range of 12 to 17 accounted for 11% of the emergency room visits. 

Caveat emptor!! Parents - beware too!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day

Exercise is quite likely the most important step that you can take to feel better, look better, live longer, and prevent chronic disease and other conditions.  This is not Rocket Science.  Expert after expert after expert say that at a minimum everyone should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.  Every day!  Don't skimp some days and say you will make it up the next day.  You have to make it a habit and there is significant research behind the recommendation to exercise at least 30 minutes every day.  Of course, it is always recommended to see your medical professional if you have been sedentary before starting an exercise program.

30 minutes every day may sound like alot but it is not.  Think about how you spend your day and I guarantee you can find 30 minutes a day to exercise.  Remember - it is the minimum recommended amount.  Also remember that it does not have to be the same type of exercise every day, there are hundreds of ways to exercise (although a good way to start is just to lace up some sneakers and start a daily walking routine), and you can even split it into two 15 minutes sessions or three 10 minute sessions. 

So, if you are starting out - start with 30 minutes but recognize that if time permits and as your fitness level increases you will reap even additional short and long term health benefits by increasing the time.  Increasing to 45 minutes a day and if possible, to one hour a day are shown to add additional years to your life.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rowing is an excellent, low-impact exercise that combines resistance training with a rigorous cardiovascular workout.  It targets the entire body and you don't have to be on the River Thames to get a great rowing workout.  Rowing machines come in a variety of models and many are priced incredibly affordable and require very little space.  Many are so compact as to be easily tucked away when not in use.  The amount of resistance on indoor rowers can be adjusted easily allowing you to customize your workout based on your fitness level and slowly increase the resistance level over time.  The sliding seats on rowing machines afford the thighs and calves with a terrific lower body workout and of course, the rowing motion targets the upper body.  One hour of rowing either on the water or on the rowing machine can easily allow you to burn between 750 and 800 calories. You will not find a more convenient way to get a whole body workout than an exercise rower.
I highly recommend the below linked sites  for anyone interested in fantastic vegetarian friendly recipes.  Living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is not rocket science and I know of only positive effects of being a vegetarian.  It also opens up a whole new world to the new vegetarian of healthy and delicious foods.  Loma Linda University in California has released results of various studies that show that a vegetarian diet reduces risk of such diseases as cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, controls body mass index and waist size, and increases brain health.  It also, in a more recent study of 96,000 people, found vegetarian participants to live between 6.1 and 9.5 years longer than non-vegetarians (the average is about eight years longer).  Other interesting findings were that:

Vegans are, on average, 30 pounds lighter than meat eaters
Vegans are five units lighter on the BMI scale than meat-eaters
Vegetarians and vegans are also less insulin resistant than meat-eaters
Lean people are more likely to exercise regularly, eat plants, and avoiding cigarettes than overweight people


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www.vegetarianlight.com
https://www.facebook.com/VegetarianLight
http://pinterest.com/vegetarianlight/

Premise behind It's Not Rocket Science

The premise behind this blog is that it really is not Rocket Science to become healthier and live longer.  Simple steps can easily be taken and are supported by the evidence to help you achieve any health and wellness goal.  Between February 1st and September of 2012, I lost between 45 and 50 pounds and 6 inches on my waist simply by adopting proven strategies and an evidence based wellness plan.  By doing so, I am confident that I have added years to my life. 

What you will see in the future here will sometimes be information from recently released studies that are on point but what I will try to do is really boil down the information into simple steps you can take to be healthier and live longer.  There is so much information out there on the Internet but becoming a healthier you IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. It does take discipline and commitment but it is worth it!!

Welcome to my Blog

Welcome to my Blog.  It's Not Rocket Science is a blog dedicated to easy lifestyle changes that anyone can make particularly in the areas of diet and exercise that will make you look better, feel better, and live longer.  Many of them will be based on real evidence as to what really works in these areas.