Healthy, Strong Bones

Bones play a vital role in the function of the body. They provide structure, protect organs, anchor muscles, and store calcium. Building strong bones, obtaining optimal bone mass, and decreasing your risk for osteoporosis comes from consuming an adequate amount of calcium and participating in weight bearing physical activity. A person with high bone mass as a young adult will more likely have higher bone mass as they age. That’s why it is essential for growing children and teens to get enough calcium while they are young. This is important because it will decrease your risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bones and/or when the body reabsorbs too much old bone. It results in a thinning of bone tissue and a loss of bone mass, which increases the risk for bone fractures generally in the wrist, hip, and spine. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 10 million Americans have the disease and about 34 million are at risk. Some of the risk factors for osteoporosis are:

  • Female
  • White/Caucasian
  • Post menopausal women
  • Older adults (over age 50 for women and over age 70 for men)
  • Small in body size
  • Eating a diet low in calcium
  • Physically inactive

Calcium is the best mineral for healthy, strong bones and teeth. Although the body stores 99% of its calcium in the bones and teeth, the body also needs calcium for proper function of heart, muscles, and nerves.  Calcium must be absorbed through the food you eat. You can view the recommended calcium intake chart for how much calcium you need, depending on your gender and age.  Good food sources rich in calcium include:

  • Diary products– low fat or no-fat mil, yogurt, and cheese
  • Dark green leafy vegetables– broccoli
  • Calcium fortified foods– orange juice, cereal, bread, soy beverages, and tofu products
  • Nuts– almonds

Like calcium, weight bearing physical activity also helps build strong bones because it causes the bones and muscles to work against gravity. Some activities include: walking, jogging, or walking; tennis or raquetball; field hockey; stair climbing; jump roping; basketball; dancing; hiking; soccer; weight lifting. Sufficient amount of calcium and weight bearing activity can help your bones stay strong and healthy. Strong bones are important because it decreases your risk of breaking a bone or developing osteoporosis which can lead to other healthy problems.

April 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm 3 comments

Maintain a Healthy Weight

There are many fad diets out there that promise fast results when it comes to losing weight. However, these diets fail to produce lasting results because they restrict your nutritional intake and can be unhealthy. No one diet can promise a certain amount of weight lost in a short amount of time. Just like no one woke up one morning with excess body weight, you can’t expect to lose that amount of weight just over night. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is about lifestyle changes, not short-term dietary changes. This includes healthy eating, regular physical exercise, and balancing calories consumed with calories burned. Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifetime goal and will contribute to good health now and later. Read these success stories from people just like you.

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is very important because it will help prevent and control many diseases and conditions. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and certain cancers. According to the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) data for ’07-’08, 68% of adults were overweight and obese. Child obesity has likewise increased in the past 30 years. The prevalence of child obesity has doubled among children ages 2-5, tripled children ages 6-11, and has more than tripled among adolescents ages 12-19. The “Body Mass Index” (BMI) is a good measure to determine if your weight is healthy based on height and weight. To calculate your BMI, see the BMI calculator. You can also determine your BMI by finding your height and weight on the BMI chart.

Losing weight takes time but evidence shows that people who lose 1-2 lbs a week are more successful at keeping weight off. Modest weight lost decreases your risk of developing chronic diseases related to obesity and produces other health benefits. For example, losing a little as 5-10% of your total body weight produces health benefits like improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars. Once you reach a healthy weight it’s important to keep it off. Here’s how:

  • Watch your diet– follow a healthy and realistic eating pattern, keep your eating patterns consistent, eat breakfast every day
  • Be active– get daily physical activity (People who have lost weight and keep it off usually engage in 60-90 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the weeks while not exceeding calorie intake. It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean 60-90 minutes all at once.)
  • Stay on course– monitor your diet and physical activity, monitor your weight, get support from family, friends, and other

Learn more by visiting Healthy Eating For a Healthy Weight and Physical Activity for Healthy Weight. Balancing Calories can also help you prevent weight gain by considering factors such as your height, weight, sex, age, and activity level. And remember it’s a lifestyle, not a diet!

April 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm 4 comments

Avoid Addictions

Addiction is a gradual process that eventually takes over a person’s life. No addict ever thinks that they will become addicted to a certain behavior or substance. That’s why it is so important to avoid addictions, or any destructive physical/psychological dependence, altogether. Compulsive behaviors can take over  and ruin a person’s life before they even realize the dangerous potential of their addiction and get the help needed. Although addictive behaviors like gambling, food, sex, pornography, computers, internet, work, exercise, idolizing, and substance abuse are all very important and shouldn’t be ignored, this post will focus on avoiding alcohol and smoking. Alcohol and drug addiction are the leading major problems faced in the world.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. The number of Americans dying each year from cigarette related diseases is the equivalent of 3 fully loaded 747 aircraft planes crashing daily for 365 days a year with no survivors. That’s 435,000 deaths a year and 1,192 deaths a day! Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung disease (including emphysema, bronchitis, and chronic airway obstruction) (CDC, 2011).  In addition, smoking is related to many illnesses among the respiratory system, heart and circulatory system, eyes and vision, osteoporosis, damages in the developing fetuses, and facial wrinkling. In addition to smoking, this article describes the many negative health effects drug addiction and abuse can have on your health. To increase the quality and quantity of years by 10 years, it is essential to refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.

Alcohol is very common in America’s society and is the number one health problem facing college students today. There are about 79,000 deaths annually from alcohol and it’s the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the country. Alcohol consumption has immediate, adverse health effects as well as long-term  health effects.  Immediate health effects include unintentional injuries, violence, risky sexual behaviors, stillbirths and miscarriages among pregnant women, birth defects among children, and alcohol poisoning. Long-term health effects include neurological problems (dementia, stroke, neuropathy), cardiovascular problems (myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation, hypertension), psychiatric problems (depression, anxiety, suicide), social problems (unemployment, lost productivity, family problems), cancer (mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, breast), liver diseases (alcohol hepatitis, cirrhosis), and other gastrointestinal problems.  Addictions form as a way to escape reality and deal with life’s problems. However, destructive addictions are an unhealthy way to cope with it all. To avoid an addiction from ever happening sometimes taking a walk, or some time to be alone, think, and rejuvenate helps. Don’t get sucked into an unhealthy, destructive addiction that will control your life. Be in control.

April 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm 2 comments

Brain Power

Keeping your brain sharp is part of having good mental health. It’s important to exercise your brain just like you exercise your body.  If you don’t have good brain power, or “the effective use of one’s brain,” than your memory is more likely to fade as you age. A decrease in memory and concentration tends to be caused by decreased blood flow to the brain and loss of brain cells. Research shows that when the brain is exercised it encourages the brain to work at high levels by multiplying brain cells, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage. Just like eating healthy and staying physically fit are important health goals, engaging in regular mental workouts is just as important. There are lots of things you can do now to enhance and protect your brain.

  1. Physical Exercise– stimulates the formation of new brain cells (neurons) and strengthens the connections between those cells.  Research shows that the brain areas stimulated through exercise ares associated with memory and learning. It may even help prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in the future. Alzheimer’s’ disease is the most common form of dementia (50-70% of cases) and has recently surpassed diabetes as the 6th leading killer in America. Therefore it’s very important to prevent this disease as much as possible.
  2. Lifelong Learning– if you continue to learn new things and take on new challenges your brain continues to grow. Active learning over a lifetime helps your brain receive and store new information more easily, no matter the age. So learn a new skill and try something new. It can be learning how to play a new instrument, learning a new language, starting a new hobby, or learning how to cook a new dish. Whatever it is, it’s never too late.
  3. Mental Stimulation– mental activities make your brain think and stay sharp. A study conducted by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine founds that mentally active seniors reduced their risk of dementia by 75% compared to those who did not stimulate their minds. Such activities include traveling, going to museums, reading, scrabble or crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, volunteering, dancing, crafts, and “thinking” game like chess, checkers, cards, etc.
  4. Social Interaction– socializing stimulates the brain and has been associated with lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy. In a study of more than 2, 800 people aged 65 or older, Harvard researchers found that those who had at least 5 social ties were less likely to suffer cognitive decline than those who didn’t. Social ties include social groups, church groups, regular visits, or phone calls to family or friends.
  5. Sleep– sleep is essential for the brain to process knowledge and for memories to form. Neuroscientists say that during sleep the hippocampus is highly active and more knowledge is transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory. Naps are good too.
  6. Stress Management– the hippocampus has many cortisol receptors and since high cortisol levels are released during stress, it makes the brain very vulnerable to stress. Severe stress can impair cell communication in the brain’s learning and memory region.
  7. Laughter and Humor– having fun and laughing decreases stress levels. Humor stimulates dopamine in the brain and even improves memory. It’s like the saying goes ” laughter is the best medicine.”

Brain power foods include:

  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Dark greens
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Citrus foods
  • Berries
  • Oatmeal
  • Broccoli

April 1, 2011 at 10:36 pm 3 comments

Got Water?

Did you know that 60%-70% of your body weight is water? Water is essential for your body to regulate body temperature and whereby nutrients can travel to all of your organs. It transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs. Your body looses water frequently through urination, respiration, and by sweating. People who are more active loose more water than those who are sedentary. If you don’t replace the water that your body has lost it can lead to dehydration. This happens when you body lacks sufficient water to carry out normal functions. Mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired, leading to chronic pains in joints and muscles, lower back pain, headaches, and constipation. According to the University of Minnesota Water Resource Center, when you don’t get enough water your body goes into emergency mode and clings to every single water molecule it can find. The stored molecules appear as extra weight and the extra weight is only released when the body gets enough water. Many people begin drinking water when they start getting thirsty. However, your body needs water long before you feel thirsty.  A good indication that you’re not getting enough water is when your urine has a strong odor along with a yellow or amber color.

So how much water do you need? This varies with each individual depending on your health, how active you are, and where you live. In general, doctors recommend 8-9 cups for adults. A good estimate is to take your body weight in half and that gives you the number of the ounces of water you should drink on average every day. Food usually accounts for 20% of the water your body needs. The rest will come from the beverages you drink. This water calculator can help you figure out how much water you need each day. It’s advisable to drink  small amounts of water throughout the day, and not all at once. Although drinking enough water may be difficult at first and you will probably have to make frequent trips to the bathroom, the health benefits are great. In addition to the daily maintenance of our bodies, water plays a key role in the prevention of disease. According to this article, drinking eight ounces of water every day can decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50%, and can possibly reduce the risk of breast cancer to name a few. Our bodies need water in order to function, just like a car needs oil and gasoline to run. Drink up!

April 1, 2011 at 3:13 pm 2 comments

Stress Management

Life is full of hassles, frustration, deadlines, and demands.  Your relationships, school, and job responsibilities will always be demanding and there is just not enough hours in the day.  How can you possibly cope with it all?  Well you have a lot more control than you probably think. It’s important to understand what your stressors are, or the sources of your stress. A little stress isn’t entirely bad, for it helps you perform well under pressure and even motivates you to do your best. Your body kicks into high gear mode, in a process called the fight-or-flight response. It’s your body’s way of protecting you and when working properly it can help you stay focused, alert, energetic, and in some life-threatening cases even save your life. However, too much stress can have negative and harmful effects on your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and quality of life. To completely eliminate stress is unrealistic. The key is to properly manage it through healthy coping strategies. The following list includes just a few ways to positively cope with stress that may or may not be effective.

  • Listening to music
  • Playing with a pet
  • Go for a walk
  • Get a massage
  • Exercising or getting outdoors to enjoy nature
  • Practicing deep breathing, meditation, or muscle relaxation
  • Praying or going to church
  • Writing, painting, or some other creative activity
  • Taking a bath or a shower
  • Going out with a friend (shopping, movie, dining)
  • Discussing situation with a spouse or close friend
  • Gardening or making home repair

This article provides helpful strategies to properly manage and deal with stress:

  1. Avoid unnecessary stress– learn how to say “no”; avoid people who stress you out; take control of your environment; make a to-do list with your highest priorities on top; avoid hot-botton topics
  2. Alter the situation– express your feelings; be willing to compromise; be more assertive; manage your time better
  3. Adapt to the stressors- reframe problems; look at the big picture; adjust your standards; focus on the positive
  4. Accept the things you can’t change– don’t try to control the uncontrollable; look for the upside; share your feelings; learn to forgive
  5. Make time for fun and relaxation– see above list
  6. Adopt a healthy lifestyle– exercise regularly; eat a healthy diet; reduce caffeine and sugar; avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs; get enough sleep

Excess chronic stress without proper relief can impact your overall health. It can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, sleeping problems, and increased susceptibility to colds. According to the WebMD article “The Effects of Stress on your Body,” 75%-90% of all doctor office visits are stress-related ailments and complaints. When the stress-response system is always on, your body is exposed to high levels of certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and as a result your heart rate speeds up, your digestion slows down, your blood flow to major muscle group is diverted, and your autonomic nervous functions are altered. Chronic stress that isn’t taken care of via relaxation techniques can led to more serious health problems like depression, heart disease, obesity, anxiety disorder,  diabetes, hair loss, and possibly cancer. People are affected by stress differently and so they deal with stress in their own way. Despite these differences, proper stress management is crucial.

April 1, 2011 at 5:16 am 2 comments

Don’t Skip Breakfast!

Do you eat breakfast? Studies show that children who eat breakfast do better in school and have less behavioral problems than those who don’t.  If this is true for children, than why not for adults? People who eat breakfast will feel better and perform well at work and as they go throughout their day. There is the famous saying that “breakfast is that most important meal of the day,” but what’s the big deal? For one thing, breakfast fuels the body with needed nutrients. Functioning on low fuel may make you tired and unable to cope with the so many demanding tasks of everyday life. After sleeping and fasting for several hours, your body needs fuel and energy to get going.

Skipping breakfast is often a common strategy used by those who want to lose weight. This is not a good idea. In fact, people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than those who don’t. Breakfast helps fight the urge to nibble throughout the day or eat too big of a lunch. Milton Stokes, RD, MPH, chief dietitian for St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City states that “breakfast skippers replace calories during the day with mindless nibbling, bingeing at lunch and dinner. They set themselves up for failure.” Eating breakfast helps your body feel satisfied and as a result you are less likely to snack or overeat throughout the day. This article shows how eating breakfast can help one lose weight. Skipping breakfast slows down your metabolism and your blood sugar drops. This explains why skipping breakfast leaves you more hungry and less energized. Breakfast skippers are also more likely to impulsively snack in the morning (usually on high-fat sweets) and eat more for lunch and dinner. According to a study presented at an American Heart Association conference, eating breakfast daily may reduce the risk for obesity and insulin resistance syndrome.

Many people feel like they don’t have time to eat breakfast or they just aren’t hungry yet. This is no excuse. Breakfast fuels our bodies for the day. Although eating a little something is better than nothing, eating a healthy breakfast is the best. Breakfast that contains some protein and fiber keeps you feeling fuller longer and satisfies your hunger. Be good to yourself and eat a healthy, nutritious breakfast. Here are some fast, delicious, and healthy choices to help you start off your day right:

  • Milk and whole-grain cereal
  • Whole-grain granola topped with fruit and yogurt
  • Fruit smoothie made with yogurt
  • Cheese and whole-grain crackers
  • Peanut butter spread on whole-grain toast or a bagel
  • Bagel with cheese
  • Instant oatmeal topped with milk and fruit
  • Toasted waffle topped with slice fruit

Additional quick and healthy breakfast ideas are available on this website.

March 25, 2011 at 5:38 am 9 comments

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