Want immediate results? Start today with these nine easy ways to help you feel better and slow down the aging process.
Drink more water – Drinking water is probably the most important factor in controlling your weight. Water is essential for proper muscle tone and to plump up your skin cells to keep them healthy and resilient.Posted in: Res-Q Blog
A good night’s sleep is a major part of our individual health. It can improve the immune system, help fight infection and boost your health.
Here are our Res-Q Q&A’s on the importance of catching some Zs.
What happens when you don’t get enough sleep? A lack of sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and stroke, diabetes and obesity.Posted in: Res-Q Blog
By Tracy Shields - Here are the top five best vitamin and mineral supplements to help prevent heart disease.
When I talk about heart disease, I like to mention that it’s preventable. Your environment, much more than your genes, is a key factor in this top killer—and by environment, I mean what you eat, what you don’t eat, if you exercise, smoke, drink, the stress you incur, and so on. In fact, most of the risk factors associated with heart disease can be changed:
- Quit smoking
- Limit alcohol intake
- Manage stress
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise routinely
- Remove trans fats from your diet, and drastically reduce animal proteins, salt, sugar and saturated fats
- Eat more plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains
Without making those changes, your risk for heart disease is high. But, while you’re working hard at all of these new improvements, here are some of our best picks for heart- healthy supplementation that can boost your heart health:
1. EPA and DHA: The Omega-3 Fatty Acids
No other vitamin or mineral has ever been determined to do more for your heart than omega-3s. The molecules EPA and DHA have been vastly studied; as published by Medscape: “To date, the strongest evidence showing a cardiovascular benefit from omega-3 fatty acid intake derives from three large controlled trials in which a total of 32,000 participants were randomized to a control group or to receive omega-3 fatty acid supplements containing DHA and EPA. In these trials, the supplemented group had a 19% to 45% reduction in cardiovascular events versus the control group.”1 Pure and potent omega-3s work. And because many of us do not add enough fish to our diets, it is essential that we supplement.
Antioxidants are, according to Medterms, “any substance (such as vitamin E, vitamin C or beta carotene) that reduces oxidative damage (damage due to oxygen) such as that caused by free radicals.” Sound too technical? How’s this: Eat more blueberries, pomegranate, kale, red cabbage, peppers, parsley, artichoke, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lemon, walnuts, ginger and red beets. And if you can’t get all of those in your daily diet, look into these antioxidants that come in supplement form:
- Coenzyme Q10 is a great antioxidant that has been shown in clinical studies to reduce the oxidation of LDL
- Selenium, a trace mineral, provides antioxidant action by creating an enzyme that converts peroxide into water.2
- Açai berry is Brazilian fruit from the Açai palm. Its rise in popularity may be due to studies that reveal that the Açai berry is the most potent and effective antioxidant for neutralizing specific types of free radicals having “exceptional activity against superoxide” and the “highest of any food reported to date” for having the most antioxidants.3
- Pomegranate is a potent antioxidant and maybe moreso than apple juice, black cherry juice, blueberry juice, cranberry juice, Concord grape juice, orange juice, and red wine. Pomegranate juice was tested against other fruit juices and found to be more potent, about “20% greater than any of the other beverages tested.” 4
- Green tea is a great antioxidant and detoxifier. The detoxification properties of green tea include inhibiting formation of free radicals, such as radical oxygen species from metals such as iron. Due to the hydroxyl structure of green tea, it is able to bind and neutralize free radicals effectively.5
3. Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice is “a substance that's extracted from rice that's been fermented with a type of yeast called Monascus purpureus. It's been used in China and other Asian countries for centuries as a traditional medicine.” Research discovered that not only does red yeast rice serve general medicinal purposes, it also naturally lowers cholesterol. Red yeast rice only comes in supplement form, though, and buying a brand that works can be tricky. Be sure to do your research. A really potent red yeast rice has the power to lower cholesterol within about 30 days.
Magnesium is good for heart pumping functions and heart energy. It is effective for rhythm, blood pressure and heart pumping and one of the key cardiac nutrients in that it is extremely important to prevent irregular heart rate, arrhythmia and rapid heart rate. Magnesium is also extremely helpful in lowering high blood pressure. Where does magnesium come from and how can you add it to your diet? Spinach, halibut, pumpkin seeds and black beans are all rich sources of magnesium. But how often do any of us snack on pumpkin seeds? Supplementing with magnesium is probably more doable.
5. A Multivitamin with Plenty of Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid
According to the British Medical Journal, “a daily dose of at least 0.5 mg of folic acid, along with a similar amount of vitamin B-12, would produce a proportional reduction in blood homocysteine,”7 which means a lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. And according to the American Heart Association, the dietary components with the greatest effects [for lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease] are folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12.8 Besides, a good multivitamin is as important to overall health as water is to a fish. We need these nutrients not only to survive, but to thrive.
2 Prevention’s Guide to Reversing the Aging Process
3 Scientific Abstract, J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Nov 1;54(22):8604-10
4 J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 27;56(4):1415-22. Epub 2008 Jan 26.
5 Green Tea Summary Report: Includes Alternative Medicine Review.
By Tracy Shields - February is heart month, so woo your heart with easy but essential acts of love.
What are the best vitamin and mineral supplements with a proven track record for strengthening the heart? How important is exercise? How about sleep? Is it possible to manage arterial plaque? We’ve picked the top seven best things you can do right now to strengthen and love your heart. We’re continuing with number four today. Check last week’s blog if you missed the first four.
5. Manage Plaque Build-Up:Having a strong, healthy heart also means taking measures to prevent heart disease, especially since this is the leading cause of death in the United States. A certain type called coronary heart disease1, 2 happens when plaque build-up forms on the wall of the arteries. The plaque causes the arteries to narrow, which means less blood flow to the heart. Eventually, a heart attack could happen that would jeopardize a strong heart and lead to death. Having a strong heart means preventing coronary heart disease (hint: take omega-3s daily and reduce meat and protein intake).
6. Control your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar with natural supplements, if your diet is lacking: Vitamin supplements pale in comparison to real foods, but if you’re not getting enough of a certain vitamin or mineral, supplementing can change your life. Get an annual cholesterol test, a blood-sugar test and maybe, more importantly, other preventive tests to measure the extent of plaque build-up in the arteries so that you can assess where your heart health is right now, and know which supplements will work best for you. It may be as simple as supplementing your diet with omega-3s and red yeast rice. Remember to always consult a doctor.
7. Magnesium Orotate:Scientists have discovered a natural compound—magnesium orotate—that may help prevent some of the harmful changes that happen to the heart with heart disease. Additionally, magnesium orotate, a magnesium salt of orotic acid, may strengthen and repair the heart that is recently damaged by a heart attack. Magnesium orotate helps restore the heart cells’ RNA and DNA building blocks. It reduces further damage to the heart and improves its energy to heal, repair, recover and be stronger and healthier again.
As reported by Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy, “At the Hamburg symposium on magnesium orotate, a number of studies of this form of metabolic supplementation were presented that indicate orotic acid and its magnesium salt have a significant beneficial effect on the myocardium under conditions of stress ranging from myocardial infarction to severe physical exercise.”3
8. Deep Breathing, Meditation and Me-Time:Stress can weaken a strong heart, increase your heart rate and give you high blood pressure, all things that can take away the pleasure of life. Although there are many methods and techniques for stress management, one of the best is relaxation.
Watching TV, reading or even engaging in conversation, although enjoyable, isn’t relaxation—it’s stimulation! Deep breathing and the act of doing nothing, on the other hand, are hugely more productive in the relaxation department.
Deep breathing is a great way to experience the health benefits of relaxation. Find a stress-free place where you can be alone—or at least where you can be part of a group or community whose goal is also to relax. Yoga or tai-chi, chi kung classes, meditation retreats and spas have the same goal—all of these activities involve deep breathing and may lower blood pressure and regulate heart rhythm. According to one yoga center, “Stressful situations raise your heart rate and blood pressure, and release stress hormones, which all can injure the heart and the blood vessels, especially during prolonged or repeated exposures.”4
If meditation or yoga classes are not your thing, practice breathing in deeply and out deeply. The heart needs oxygen. So take breaks a couple of minutes at a time, frequently throughout the day, just to take a few deep breaths. It may be enough to help you manage stress and love your heart a little more than you already do.
1. Coronary Heart Disease http://health.allrefer.com/health/coronary-heart-disease-info.html
2. Hypertensive Heart Disease http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001216/
3. Metabolic supplementation with orotic acid and magnesium orotate, Cardiovasc Drugs Ter. 1998 Sept; 12 Suppl 2:147-52 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1007732131887
4. Yoga for your heart
By Tracy Shields - February is heart month, so woo your heart with easy but essential acts of love.
What are the best vitamin and mineral supplements with a proven track record for strengthening the heart? How important is exercise? How about sleep? Is it possible to manage arterial plaque? We’ve picked the top seven best things you can do right now to strengthen and love your heart; here are four to get you started.
1. Exercise: Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy heart and to prevent future heart problems. Not only can it reduce your risk of heart disease, it may even reduce inflammation throughout the years.1 And hey, it’s a heck of a lot easier to prevent heart problems than to correct them.
The secret is regular exercise. Getting your heart rate up into a safe but aerobic zone three to five days per week is key. According to the American Heart Association, “For health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation, perform any moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week at 50–85 percent of your maximum heart rate.”2 However, if you have heart disease, it is recommended to first consult a physician for advice before beginning. Exercise is my top pick because of all the natural, healthy benefits.
2. Proper Nutrition: Like exercise, proper nutrition is also crucial. That means consuming a balance of fats, proteins and carbs. Proteins and carbs are somewhat self-explanatory. But not just any fat will do—especially if it’s coming from a Little Debbie snack cake. The body needs healthy fats called “essential fatty acids” that cannot be produced by the body. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is found primarily in the heart-healthy form (EPA & DHA) in specific types of fish: sardines, tuna, herring, salmon and mackerel.
Quick tips for a healthier heart:
- Use olive oil or alternative spreads (unsaturated fats) like grapeseed oil to give bread or potatoes what your taste buds crave.
- Stop eating junk food. Reduced-fat cookies, crackers or chips often have trans-fats! Replace with homemade, whole grain fruit breads and pies.
- Be suspicious of label claims like “reduced-fat” or “low-carb.” Instead, read over the label to see if it has trans-fats.
- Eat more whole, raw foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.
- Keep your protein intake to 10% daily. For a 132-pound woman, that would be about 48 grams of protein. Studies now show that we do not need any more than 10%-12% protein in our diets. That’s impossible to do if you eat a 3 oz. serving of meat more than once per day (hint: eat more plant-based foods!).3
- Eat less pre-packaged food. Pre-made foods often contain sodium and who knows what else. If every one of your meals comes out of a can or box, it can add up until you’ve eaten more of these synthetic, non-organic chemicals than you should. Reducing excess salt, sugar and other odd ball ingredients is heart healthy and can be easily done by limiting how often you eat boxed or canned food.
- Buy lean instead of fatty meats. Limit or remove red meat entirely from your diet (beef, pork and lamb); replace with chicken breast, turkey, fish or veggie dishes.
- Have a bowl of old-fashioned, cook-on-the-stove oatmeal every day for breakfast, with a tablespoon of ground flax and a handful of blueberries. Not only is it the world’s healthiest breakfast, it also helps reduce cholesterol and is very good for your heart.
3. Take CoQ10: Co-enzyme Q10 is a naturally occurring compound found everywhere in the body. We produce CoQ10 and it’s what gives our bodies energy. As we age, we produce less. And those with heart complications (like heart disease) have been found to have even less. Anyone can supplement with CoQ10, but for heart patients it’s essential. For patients with end-stage heart failure, for example, CoQ10 supplements may be used in conjunction with medication to improve quality of life and reduce symptoms. In a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 32 heart patients, those who took 60 milligrams of CoQ10 for three months had less fatigue and experienced improvements on a six-minute walk test. Studies also indicate that those with congestive heart failure who take CoQ10 supplements in addition to their medications are less likely to be hospitalized than those who do not take CoQ10.4, 5
4. Manage Blood Pressure: If you have high blood pressure, it is important to treat it. Your heart can’t remain healthy and strong if your blood pressure is out of control. First of all, high blood pressure that is not treated leads first to heart disease and next to heart failure or heart attack. As the heart must work harder, the heart muscle can thicken, which demands even more oxygen. The heart is forced to work even harder. Secondly, high blood pressure can lead to plaque build-up in the artery wall that in turn can lead to heart attack. Therefore, if you want to have a strong heart, you need to take care not to damage it. This means making a promise to find ways to manage your blood pressure (hint: lower salt and sugar intake, eat more plant-based foods, take supplements such as CoQ10 and omega-3s, remove dairy from your diet and avoid trans-fats).
We have four more heart-loving acts for you next week, so stay tuned.
1. Why Aerobic Exercise Is Good For The Heart http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070320073101.htm
2. Physical Activity, AHA Scientific Position http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/94/4/857.full
3. How Much Protein Do I Need? http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html#How%20much%20protein
4. Coenzyme Q10 in patients with end-stage heart failure awaiting cardiac transplantation: a randomized, placebo-controlled study, Clin Cardiol. 2004 May;27(5):295-9, Scientific Abstract
5. Effect of coenzyme Q10 therapy in patients with congestive heart failure: a long-term multicenter randomized study. Clin Investig. 1993;71(8 Suppl):S134-6, Scientific Abstract http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8241697
By Tracy Shields - There’s an 87-year-old woman at my fitness club who takes the same cardio classes and weight classes that I take. She uses her own three- and five-pounds weights, she’s no taller than five feet and I’ve never met a human being more enthusiastic and energetic. One morning, I went up to her and asked, “How do you do it?” I wanted to know how she found the motivation and energy to come to such a strenuous fitness class every week when I was having such a hard time getting out of bed some mornings. Her answer still gives me chills and has greatly changed my perspective. She looked me right in the eyes, smiled and said, “Two reasons: I’m lucky and I’m grateful.”
When it comes to fitness, or rather physical exercise, not many of us feel lucky or grateful. If anything, some of us may even resent the fact that we have to workout to the point of muscle aches and maximum exertion just to look and feel good. But when you consider the alternative, it’s a heck of a lot easier to feel lucky and be grateful that you are still healthy and strong enough to be working out at all. That’s my first bit of advice for starting an exercise plan for getting in shape:
- Be grateful. Even if you are limited by a disability or feel as though you are presently too unhealthy to start more strenuous exercising, be grateful for what you can do. Start small and be sure to consult your doctor first before you begin a plan.
- Design a workout plan. There are all sorts of exercise plans on the Internet from beginner to advanced, including plans for men, women, weight-loss, pregnancy and so on. But for starters, make sure you find one that addresses all aspects of fitness: cardiovascular (running, biking, getting your heart-rate up), strength training (lifting weights) and flexibility (stretching, yoga and Pilates). Variety is the key! So try not to stick to one plan longer than three months (unless there is variety built into the plan). Change it up a bit. This forces your body to readapt to new movements and thus keeps it from falling into a comfort zone. Use Livestrong.com to track your plan.
- Know the benefits. Exercise is a virtual panacea. And I’m not just talking about weight loss or increasing your energy for the sport of it. Michael R. Bracko, EdD, FACSM, chairman of the American College of Sports Medicine's Consumer Information Committee, writes, “Exercise can literally cure diseases like some forms of heart disease. Exercise has been implicated in helping people prevent or recover from some forms of cancer. Exercise helps people with arthritis. Exercise helps people prevent and reverse depression.” See the value in exercise. The more you do, the more you will want to participate!
- Increase your stamina and endurance. Workouts can be tough on anybody. When I first started working out I did so with a towel and a bottle of water. But as I became more aware of all the healthy products on the market for workout improvement, I found certain things essential. For one, I recognized that my heart could perform better when taking supplements that encouraged oxygen to the cells. Unlike stimulants, like caffeine, certain all-natural supplements work to create energy in your body in a safer, healthier way. I also “recovered” after a strenuous workout with a raw whey protein drink, with a bit of glutamine added for muscle repair. Know what’s on the market and what can safely and naturally aid your workout. And try to stay away from stimulants or sugar-high-type supplements that tend to cause more damage than good.
- Be safe. As with anything, know your limits. If it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised, start with a low-impact exercise plan and build to higher-impact. Expect your body to build endurance daily, but be patient with yourself. It takes up to three months to see serious results. Also, I strongly suggest that everyone get a heart-rate monitor, which can help you exercise within your safety zone. So many people knock themselves out or go what’s called “anaerobic,” which means that oxygen is used up more quickly than the body is able to replenish inside the working muscle. And while this is important for certain exercises like weight lifting, individuals who are inexperienced tend to believe the anaerobic state is necessary for every cardio workout. This is untrue. Cardio workouts need to be aerobic. A heart-rate monitor can definitely signal where you are in your zone and whether you are working out efficiently or inefficiently. For more information on heart-rate monitors, try Polar. Whatever precautions you take, remember the most important: Listen to your body, a finely tuned instrument that knows exactly what it needs and what it doesn’t. Moreover, knowing your limits and what your body can and cannot handle, makes exercising a million times more proficient.
By Tracy Shields - Make 2014 the year you accomplish your biggest objectives by learning how to train.
For as long as I can remember, the word “goal” has always intimidated me. When prompted to write out my goals for the new year, I would always write down Goliath-like aspirations: quit smoking, lose 20 pounds, start a business, go back to college. Or worse, I would write out boundless, dreamy goals that had no real authenticity and no real plan for attaining any of it: travel the world, find “the one,” become rich and famous (OK, that last one was my goal when I was about 12).
By my mid-30sthirties, I simply gave up on the whole New Year’s Resolution thing and just lived. It seemed a heck of a lot easier. But far less inspiring.
When I hit 40, however, a friend challenged me to do a sprint triathlon. I had never done anything like that, despite working out a few times a week by taking classes at the gym. But it sounded doable: a quarter-mile swim, a 10-mile bike race and a 5K run. What did I need to do to get ready?
You need to train.
I needed to train? And while training, in my mind, was something that only pro athletes do, I figured I’d better do it unless I planned not to cross the finish line.
Training included a set of cardio and muscle-building workouts that lead to better endurance and improved strength and performance. My weekly training looked something like this:
Sunday: 10-mile bike ride
Monday: weight training
Tuesday: light 1.5-mile run
Wednesday: rest day
Thursday: bike 5 miles
Friday 2.5-mile run
Saturday: swim laps
I did this routine for 12 weeks straight and, by race day, I was at my peak fitness and ready for the challenge. And while the race itself was difficult, I doubt that I would have been able to finish if I didn’t train. Did I come in first place? Heck, no. But I was thrilled to finish.
The point of this story has nothing to do with races or triathlons. It has to do with the fact that I accomplished about five of my typical new year’s goals with one challenge:
- I lost weight;
- I was able to buy new, better-fitting clothes;
- I improved my diet by eating better, healthier foods;
- I improved my mood and was better able to manage stress (shocking what a little exercise can do in that department!); and
- I did something new by finishing a triathlon, something that I had never done.
It also made me a firm believer in training for things and working a goal with set parameters. Rather than just putting “exercise more” on your weekly calendar, your chances of success at, say, weight loss are far better if you have something to lose weight for—a wedding, a vacation, a fitness challenge.
The training mindset also works for areas of your life other than fitness. You can train to quit smoking, find a better job, manage debt, take a trip or go back to school. By signing up for something—a weekend retreat (a place where smoking is prohibited), a college course (which might propel you to take even more courses), a chance to win a free vacation (who knows!)—you can train your brain to start preparing for these challenges or opportunities.
Also, whatever event you train for, there needs to be a payoff. Finishing a race is a huge payoff. You might be more willing to workout and get to the gym every day if race day is looming. A spiritual or health retreat is also a huge payoff if it means relaxing peacefully for a long weekend. Although quitting smoking might seem overwhelming, you may be more inclined to quit if it means that you can participate in this future event.
Bottom line? Quit writing out that typical long list of goals and, instead, create one challenge for yourself for which you can train and sign up. By preparing yourself for the challenge, chances are that you will accomplish a lot more than what you set out to do.
Tracy Shields is co-owner of N3 Oceanic, Inc., maker of Res-Q products, a midsize vitamin supplement corporation whose all-natural, heart-focused health products are featured on radio shows across the country, and endorsed by celebrities such as Frankie Avalon and Dr. Oz Garcia. She graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University-Camden with a degree in English literature and journalism, is a Phi Beta Kappa and published writer, and has recently received her certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and Cornell University. She has been featured in SJ Magazine and County Women Magazine (Burlington), is the immediate past president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, South Jersey, was nominated for SJ Biz’s 20 under 40, and is the recipient of the 2014 National Association of Women Business Owners’ Chapter Champion award. Tracy is also a proud mother of two beautiful sons, Daniel and Julien.
By Dr. Adam Teichman, PA Foot and Ankle Associates
It’s natural to get cold feet in winter. But some people have cold feet year round.
I’ll bet that you or someone you know complains of a spouse with cold feet. You can practically feel the temperature of your bedroom drop when they crawl under the sheets and, if their icy toes touch yours, it’s like hitting an iceberg.
Sometimes cold feet are caused by the environment, as in cold winter temperatures. But there are certain conditions that can cause or contribute to perpetually icy feet, regardless of season.
The most common cause of cold feet is poor or impaired circulation. Quite simply, not enough blood is flowing to the skin of your feet. This can usually be remedied by movement—get up and walk around, and put on a pair of slippers or heavy socks (like the wool thermal kind). But poor circulation can also be caused by other factors, such as low iron, poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise, lack of sleep or wearing shoes that are too tight.
Another very common cause of cold feet, especially in women, is hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland is underactive. Cold hands usually accompany the cold feet, along with hair loss and weight gain. A simple blood test ordered by your physician can determine if your thyroid is underactive; oral medicines can correct it.
Raynaud’s Syndrome, although rare, is usually seen in young women. The loss of blood flow to the hands and feet is caused by spasms in the blood vessels.
Cold feet also go hand in hand with aging, a condition called distal hypothermia. In this case, the once-generous blood supply becomes stingy in the extremities—the blood no longer flows as dynamically as it once did. The hands and feet are the first to feel the effects, as the capillaries that feed the fingers and toes become damaged or blocked.
But sometimes people just have cold feet, especially women. In fact, it’s been reported that women are nine times more likely to have cold feet than men are. It may be due to the difference in fat and muscle distribution between the sexes. Men have considerably more muscle mass in their feet and, consequently, more blood flow. In women, the blood supply favors their trunk and core, not their extremities.
Warm feet are a good sign that you’re healthy. If your feet are constantly cold, visit your podiatrist for an examination and diagnosis. Conditions treated early in their development are more easily resolved than those that have progressed far along.
Res-Q offers a number of products to help with impaired circulation, such as Nature’s Shield Leg & Vein Support. This supplement is loaded with bioflavonoids and OPCs, powerful antioxidants that promote healthy circulation, especially in the delicate blood vessels and capillaries of the legs. These antioxidants strengthen blood vessels, capillaries and vein walls, as well as increase the elasticity of blood vessels, which may help to relieve your cold feet.
Dr. Adam J. Teichman is a board-certified podiatric physician and surgeon. He is Chief of Podiatric Surgery at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown, PA, where he is also a member of the Limb Salvage Team. He serves as a surgical instructor at the Podiatric Residency program at St. Luke’s Hospital and Health System in Bethlehem, PA; is a panel physician at Sacred Heart Wound Center and Shire Regenerative Medicine; and is the official team podiatrist of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Top six ways to reduce stress during the holidays…
By Tracy Shields - If you plan on spending your holidays this year entertaining or being entertained, with two people or two hundred, let’s face it: The holidays can make you want to pull your hair out. Not only is this a time of abundant joy, preparation, gift-buying, penny-pinching, cleaning and cooking, it’s also a time that emotions run high, old childhood memories come back to haunt, and getting along with certain family members is anything but easy. That being said, here are the top six best things you can do to shrink the stress and grow the joy…
1. Lose the negative thinking. Imagine that all things are neutral and that you can choose the way in which you perceive them—either positively, negatively or neutrally. Oh wait… you CAN do this. You just have to change your perspective on things. Oscar Wilde once said, “The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.” Try to see the positive in everything. It takes practice, but it’s worth it and reduces stress.
2. Be giving. As hard as it might be to see through the blizzard of commercialism, remember that giving gifts—store-bought or handmade, especially if they come from the heart, still gives joy to the people receiving them. In a New York Times article, “Giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends,” and may also be part of our evolution.1
3. Spend alone and rejoice in the freedom of that aloneness. Each of us knows exactly how much time we need with people and how much time we need apart. Find that balance. Heavy crowds while out holiday shopping, or days spent visiting friends and family, can be overwhelming to some of us. Don’t be afraid to sneak upstairs or outside for a little me time. It’s time to breathe, heal and regain your energy. But be wary. Aloneness is different from loneliness, which happens to many during the holidays. According to Osho, a Zen spiritual leader, “Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive.” Loneliness, on the other hand, is negative. If you find yourself lonely, seeking the company of others who may be absent or distant from your life, try to see that as a separate entity from aloneness. Recognize that loneliness cannot be “cured” by adding people to your life, but rather, by changing your perspective on how you value who you are and what you are capable of all on your own.
4. Volunteer. Nothing says holiday spirit quite like volunteering. And despite its increased popularity during the past several years, not enough of us do it. And don’t think that it’s too hard or you’re not cut out for it. Volunteering is so much more than working a soup kitchen. There’s something for everyone. In fact, the American Red Cross offers all kinds of amazing volunteer opportunities including advocacy, community work, literacy, teaching, computer technology, children’s services and, yes, even helping at a soup kitchen. The point: When you give of your time it not only helps others, it makes you feel good—thus reducing stress.
5. Ask for help. No matter what the issue (too much food to prepare, too many gifts to wrap, need help with the kids, can’t stand another minute alone, etc.), ask for help. One of the joys of social media is that we are always one click away from a post that will show up in our friends’ newsfeeds. And while we all try to be maddeningly independent, it is in our biology to help one another. In an article in Scientific American, “Cooperation has been a driving force in evolution.” It not only takes a proverbial village to raise a child, it takes a village to help us all survive. So bury the pride, reduce the stress and ask for help. You’ll be surprised to see how many people show up at your doorstep ready to support you.
6. Eat well. I don’t mean eat abundantly; I mean eat healthy foods that can fight off infections and enhance your immune system. Eating well makes you stronger and able to handle excess stress. Avocados, almonds, tea, Swiss chard, fatty fish—these are all great examples of foods that not only help strengthen your immune system, but reduce stress as well. And while the holidays may be rich in festiveness, they can also be a little too rich with unhealthy fats, white flour, heavy cream sauces, cookies, pies and cakes. Go easy on these empty calories that may taste delish, but will wear you down and weaken your body’s ability to stay strong and ultimately stress-free.
New regulations for statin use increase the number of people who can be prescribed statins.
Oh, what a surprise. According to a recent story in The Washington Post, “Millions more Americans could end up taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs under new recommendations.” These new recommendations, set forth and supported by both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, have determined that the number of Americans eligible for statin use will double from 36 million to 72 million. If you detect a touch of sarcasm in my tone, you detect right.
That’s a huge increase in people who can now be prescribed drugs.
Half of white men and 60% of African American men by age 50 will be recommended statins by their doctor. Most likely, all men will be recommended statins by age 701. The reason for this increase is due to a widening of parameters used to measure an individual’s need for them. On the one hand, doctors will no longer judge your health or your risk for heart disease by your cholesterol numbers alone, namely your “bad” LDL cholesterol. On the other, they will judge your risk by age, race, past medical history and a battery of other indicators, including if you smoke or have high blood pressure. The more parameters to judge you by, the more likely you will be found to need a statin.
Far more disturbing is that statins will not only be prescribed to people who have been diagnosed with heart disease or high cholesterol, but for people who may have a “7.5% risk factor” for heart disease. In other words, despite looking and feeling healthy, if a red flag for possible heart disease (not now, but within 10 years) pops up in your medical history somewhere, you will be recommended a statin:
“The new recommendations call for prescribing statins to an estimated 33 million Americans who don’t have cardiovascular disease but who have a 7.5 percent or higher risk for a heart attack or stroke over the next decade. Examples of groups that could fall into that category include white women over 60 who smoke and African American men over 50 with high blood pressure.”2
Meanwhile, the FDA is increasing its warnings on statin risks (not calling it a “warning,” mind you, but instead calling it “advice”) to include “cognitive (brain-related) impairment, such as memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion; increased risk of raised blood-sugar levels and the development of type 2 diabetes; and increased risk of muscle damage (with certain brands like Mevacor).3 This is completely contradictory to what Lloyd Jones, the Northwestern doctor who helped develop the new guidelines, was quoted saying in The Washington Post: “If these were unsafe drugs, we certainly wouldn’t have put the threshold where we did.”4
Of course, you know what I would advise to all those 7.5 percenters (and anyone else for that matter): take your omega-3s. Try red yeast rice to lower your cholesterol. Quit smoking. Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol naturally through a healthy diet, exercise and healthy supplementation of vitamins and minerals. Get rid of your risk factors BEFORE you become one of 72 million Americans who have drugs to look forward to in their future.