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Top 10 Sleep Mistakes and Their Solutions

Top 10 Sleep Mistakes and Their Solutions

 

Although we may not like to admit it, many of the sleep problems we experience are the result of bad habits and behaviors. We stay up late or sleep in late. We eat foods that disagree with us or enjoy a drink late at night, oblivious to its disruptive impact on our sleep rhythms. Over time, we teach our body not to sleep. For relief we often turn to sleeping pills, which mask rather than solve the problem, and can lead to addiction. Ultimately for real success, with insomnia as with any chronic problem, one must look for the underlying imbalances and root causes and address those.

Here are the common sleep “mistakes” I see in my practice and their solutions.

MISTAKE #1 Not keeping a consistent sleep schedule.
We often think we can make up for lost sleep by going to bed extra early another night, but the body clock’s ability to regulate healthy sleep patterns depends on consistency. We stay up late on weekends, expecting to make up sleep later or use the weekend to make up for lost sleep during the week. Both practices disrupt bodily rhythms and late-night weekends in particular can cause insomnia during the workweek.

SOLUTION: Create a routine and stick to it.
Getting up and going to bed around the same time, even on weekends, is the most important thing you can do to establish good sleep habits. Our bodies thrive on regularity, and the best reinforcement for the body’s internal clock is a consistent sleep schedule.

Waking and sleeping at set times reinforces a consistent sleep rhythm and reminds the brain when to release sleep and wake hormones, and more importantly, when not to.

MISTAKE #2 Using long naps to counter sleep loss. 
Long naps during the day especially after 4 p.m. or even brief nods in the evening while watching TV can damage a good sleep rhythm and keep you from enjoying a full sleep at night.

SOLUTION: Nap for no more than 30 minutes.
If naps are absolutely necessary, make sure you only nap once a day and keep it under a half hour and before 4 p.m. In general, short naps may not hurt sleep and in fact a short siesta for half an hour after lunch or a 20 minute power nap before 4 p.m. works well for many people.

MISTAKE #3 Not preparing for sleep.
Expecting the body to go from full speed to a standstill without slowing down first is unrealistic. Our bodies need time to produce enough sleep neurotransmitters to send feedback signals to the brain’s sleep center, which will result in the release of sleep hormones to allow you to sleep.

SOLUTION: Take the time to slowly shift into sleep. 
a) Create an electronic sundown. By 10 p.m., stop sitting in front of a computer screen (or TV screen) and switch off all electronic devices. They are too stimulating to the brain and will cause you to stay awake longer.
b) Prepare for bed. Dim the lights an hour or more before going to bed, take a warm bath, listen to calming music or soothing sounds, do some restorative yoga or relaxation exercises. Getting your mind and body ready for sleep is essential. Remove any distractions (mentally and physically) that will prevent you from sleeping.

MISTAKE #4 Not giving your body the right sleep signals. 
Our bodies depend on signals to tell them when to fall asleep and wake up, the two most fundamental ones being darkness and light. But we live and work in artificially lit environments and often miss out on the strongest regulatory signal of all, natural sunlight. When we do go to sleep and our bodies need complete darkness for production of the important sleep hormone, melatonin, our bedrooms are not pitch dark, thereby interfering with this key process.

SOLUTION: At night, keep the room as dark as possible.
Look around your bedroom: the alarm clock read-out that glows in bright red; the charging indicator on your cell phone or PDA, the monitor on your computer, the battery indicator on the cordless phone or answering machine, the DVD clock and timer. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of sleep hormones and therefore disturb your sleep rhythms.

Conceal or move the clock, cover all the lights of any electronic device and use dark shades or drapes on the windows if they are exposed to light. If all of that is not possible, wear an eye mask.

If you get up in the middle of the night, try keeping the light off when you go to the bathroom. Use a flashlight or night light.

MISTAKE #5 Having a bed time snack of refined grains or sugars.
These are metabolic disruptors which raise blood sugar and overstress the organs involved in hormone regulation throughout the body. This hormone roller coaster can affect sleep cycles by waking you up at odd times during sleep as the hormone levels fluctuate.

SOLUTION: If you have to eat, have a high-protein snack.

It is better not to have anything before bed. But if you must eat something, a high protein snack will not only prevent the hormone roller coaster, but also may provide L-tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce melatonin.

MISTAKE #6 Using sleeping pills to fall and stay asleep. 
Sleeping pills mask sleep problems and do not resolve the underlying cause of insomnia. Many sleep studies have concluded that sleeping pills, whether prescription or over-the-counter, do more harm than good over the long-term. They can be highly addictive and studies have found them to be potentially dangerous (see references, page 11).

For short term use, there may be indications for needing sleeping pills, but over time, sleeping pills can actually make insomnia worse, not better. If you have been taking them for a long time, ask your doctor to help you design a regimen to wean yourself off them.

SOLUTION: Learn relaxation techniques. 
Aside from physical problems, stress may be the number one cause of sleep disorders. Temporary stress can lead to chronic insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Many people tell me they can’t switch off their racing minds and therefore can’t sleep.

Do some breathing exercises, restorative yoga or meditation. These will calm the mind and reduce the fears and worries that trigger the stress.

MISTAKE #7 Using Alcohol to fall asleep.
Because of alcohol’s sedating effect, many people with insomnia drink alcohol to promote sleep. Alcohol does have an initial sleep inducing effect, but as it gets broken down by the body, it usually impairs sleep during the second half of the night leading to a reduction in overall sleep time. Habitual alcohol consumption just before bedtime can reduce its sleep-inducing effect, while its disruptive effects continue or even increase.

SOLUTION: Take nutrients that calm the body and mind, getting you ready for sleep. 
Don’t drink alcohol to help you sleep. Look for a calming formula that has some of the following: amino acids, L theanine, taurine, 5 HTP and GABA, and herbs like lemon balm, passion flower, chamomile and valerian root. Taking the minerals, calcium and magnesium at night is also helpful. For some people, especially those of us over 50, melatonin can be helpful too. This is because the body produces less melatonin with advancing age and may explain why elderly people often have difficulty sleeping and respond well to melatonin.

MISTAKE #8 Watching television to fall asleep.
Because we have no trouble at all falling asleep in the living room in front of the TV many of us watch TV in bed to fall asleep. But when we fall asleep in a bed watching TV, we invariably wake up later on. This sets up a cycle or conditioning that reinforces poor sleep at night. I have had many patients over the years develop insomnia due to this type of conditioning.

SOLUTION: Get the TV out of the bedroom.
Don’t watch TV in bed. The bed should be associated with sleep (and sex).

MISTAKE #9 Staying in bed hoping to fall asleep.
If you can’t fall asleep within 30-45 minutes, chances are you won’t for at least another hour, and perhaps even longer. You may have missed the open “sleep gate” or missed catching the sleep wave. A “sleep gate” is the open window of time your body will allow you to fall asleep. Researchers have found that our brain goes through several sleep cycles each night where all sleep phases are repeated. These cycles last from 90 minutes to two hours, and at the beginning of each cycle, the body’s “sleep gate” opens. You won’t be able to fall asleep when your sleep gate is closed. 

SOLUTION: Catch the sleep wave. 
If you find you can’t fall asleep within 45 minutes, get up and get out of the bedroom. Read a book, do a restorative yoga pose or do some other calming activity for another 1 -1 1/2 hours before trying to sleep again. Staying in bed only causes stress over not sleeping.

It is like surfing; you need to catch that sleep wave. Have you ever been exhausted and yet you avoid going to sleep and then a few hours later when you are ready for bed, you are suddenly wide awake? You missed the wave.


MISTAKE #10 Making sleep a performance issue. 
Often just thinking about sleep affects your ability to fall asleep. What happens frequently is that the way you cope with the insomnia becomes as much of a problem, as the insomnia itself. It often becomes a vicious cycle of worrying about not being able to sleep which leads to worsening sleep problems. Like so many things in life, it is about letting go, going with the flow. Sleep needs to become a natural rhythm like breathing, something that comes automatically and you don’t think about.

SOLUTION: Let go and go with the flow.
Use the time to practice breathing exercises or meditation and to become aware of how what you eat, what medications you take, what behaviors or certain activities can affect your sleep cycle.

Increase your awareness by paying attention to your body and becoming conscious of how you react to different foods and situations. Use this time productively, instead of getting upset that you can’t fall asleep.

One final point.
For chronic insomniacs, especially if you are a heavy snorer, make sure Sleep Apnea is not the cause. This is a serious condition that affects at least 12 million Americans, many of whom have not been diagnosed. Usually they are heavy snorers. What happens is that the tissues at the back of the throat relax and in so doing block the airways. The brain senses oxygen deprivation, and sends wakeup signals. There is a release of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone. Not only does this interfere with sleep, it can increase blood pressure, raising your risk of heart problems and stroke. It can also interfere with insulin sensitivity, and increases your risk of diabetes.

EFERENCES

1. What’s wrong with prescribing hypnotics?“. Drug Ther Bull 42 (12): 89-93. December 2004. doi:10.1136/dtb.2004.421289PMID 15587763http://www.nelm.nhs.uk/en/NeLM-Area/Evidence/Drug-Class-Focused-Reviews/498264/.

2. D. Maiuro PhD, Roland (13 Decemember 2009). Handbook of Integrative Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Medicine: Perspectives, Practices, and Research. Springer Publishing Company. pp.128-130. ISBN 0-8261-1094-0http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=4Tkdm1vRFbUC

3. Lader, Malcolm Harold; P. Cardinali, Daniel; R. Pandi-Perumal, S. (22 March 2006). Sleep and sleep disorders: a neuropsychopharmacological approach. Georgetown, Tex.: Landes Bioscience/Eurekah.com. p.127. ISBN 0-387-27681-5.

4. Authier, N.; Boucher, A.; Lamaison, D.; Llorca, PM.; Descotes, J.; Eschalier, A. (2009). “Second Meeting of the French CEIP (Centres d’Evaluation et d’Information sur la Pharmacodependance). Part II: Benzodiazepine Withdrawal.” Therapie 64 (6): 365-370. doi:10.2515/therapie/2009051PMID 20025839.

5. Glass J, Lanctot KL, Herrmann N, Sproule BA, Busto UE (November 2005). “Sedative hypnotics in older people with insomnia: meta-analysis of risks and benefits“. BMJ 331 (7526): 1169. doi:10.1136/bmj.38623.768588.47PMID 16284208PMC 1285093http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/331/7526/1169

By Frank Lipman MD,  an internationally recognized expert in the fields of Integrative and Functional Medicine. A practicing physician, he is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC, where for over 20 years his personal brand of healing has helped thousands of people reclaim their vitality. To bring his approach to a wider audience, he created Eleven Eleven Wellness, Guided Health Solutions. He is the author of Revive (previously called Spent) and Total Renewal. To hang with Frank, visit his blog, follow him on Twitter or join his Facebook community today.

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Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life? Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today! I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

Live Well!

Leesa Wheeler

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

ring ~ 770-393-1284

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4 Countries With the Right Approach to Dementia Care

4 Countries With the Right Approach to Dementia Care

 

By the year 2050, 277 million aging adults are expected to be dependent on  others for personal care. Of those 277 million, approximately half will be  struggling with symptoms of dementia, according to the newly released World  Alzheimer’s Report 2013. (Discover the common signs  of dementia.)

“All governments should make dementia a priority,” according to the authors  of the report, which calls upon policymakers across the globe to “transform  their system of priorities” and infuse dementia research and support efforts  with a tenfold increase in funding.

These statements echo the pleas made over the years by countless individuals  and advocacy groups; a universal cry to address the threat of the “silver  tsunami” that looms ever larger in the world’s rear view mirror.

The report itself highlights many current caregiving issues that advocates  warn will only become more concerning as time goes on. Why are family  caregivers so undervalued? What factors force people to place their loved  one in a long-term care facility? How can we preserve the quality of life of  individuals with dementia and their caregivers?

Progress is being made to address each of these problems, with different  countries adopting different strategies to find a solution to the dementia  care crisis.

The United States joins eleven other countries (Norway, Australia,  Netherlands, Scotland, Denmark, Finland, England, Wales, France, Republic of  Korea and Northern Ireland) in releasing a formal plan to address Alzheimer’s  and other dementias in their respective domains.

Improving support (both financial and emotional) for those affected by  dementia, enhancing the quality of care provided by long-term care facilities  and reducing the overall costs associated with dementia top the lists of  priorities in these plans.

Similar aims, different approaches

The global community appears to agree on the overall goals of dementia care,  but a surprising number of differences in execution occur, depending on  geography and cultural practices.

“Different places are going to have different variations in care,” says Cathy  Greenblatt, PhD, author of Love, Loss and Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer’s  Differently. “But the same things that are important in Florida are important in  Bangalore.”

After watching her grandparents (both of whom had dementia) receive little  more than maintenance care in a local facility, Greenblatt acquired a dim view  of dementia care. “The people working with my grandparents had bought in to the  idea that they were ‘gone.’ I grew up with no evidence that any kind of care  could make a meaningful difference.”

After retiring from her professorial post at Rutgers University,  Greenblatt—inspired by her childhood experiences with her grandparents and a  budding passion for photography—crisscrossed the globe in search of examples of  high quality dementia care.

Despite the cultural disparities and ideological differences of the regions  Greenblatt visited there was one central theme that united them all. No matter  which country she found herself in—India, Japan, France, or the Dominican  Republic—Greenblatt discovered that the best dementia care practices were the  ones that focused on celebrating the ongoing humanity of the person with the  disease. “The things that make a difference are the things that are  universal—treating people with dignity, being in the moment,” she says.

Here are just a few examples of the ways different countries are infusing  dignity into dementia care:

India: Money is always a significant factor when caring for  someone with dementia, no matter what side of the Equator they live on. Having  fewer finances often amplifies the burden of dementia on a person and their  family. But low-income elders in Cochin, India receive special treatment, thanks  to a group of professional staff and volunteers from the Alzheimer’s and Related  Disorders Society of India (ARDSI). While traveling around India, Greenblatt  visited the home of a woman with advanced dementia whose bed consisted of little  more than a wooden frame with a piece of cardboard over it. Still the woman was  able to receive a treatment plan and regular in-home visits from ARDSI  caregivers and social workers.

France: Greenblatt describes the remarkable transformation  of a dementia-stricken Frenchman named Marcel. In a special Snoezelen room at  the Villa Helios in Nice, France, Marcel, whose condition was causing him to act  angry and violent, was changed into a gentler, more caring soul. Snoezelen rooms  are used to calm those with cognitive disorders, such as autism  and dementia. They contain an array of different sensory stimuli, including  water beds, soothing scents, soft lighting, and even big water tubes with  bubbles piped into them.

The Netherlands: Just beyond the outskirts of Amsterdam lies  Hogewey, a quaint village occupied by just over a hundred people. The town has a  theatre, a grocery store, a beauty salon, restaurants and cafes. What makes  Hogewey different from the traditional European hamlet is the fact that nearly  half of its inhabitants have moderate or severe dementia. The remaining “residents” are in fact specially-trained caregivers who pose as beauticians and  restaurant staff, all the while making sure those with cognitive impairment  remain safe and calm.  The so-called “dementia village” is actually an innovative care facility  designed to make those suffering from memory loss feel as though they are living  regular lives and remain engaged with their environment. Residents’ rooms are  decorated based on their hobbies and interests, food preparation and service are  tailored towards individual preferences and there are always staff members  available to provide hands-on care for those who need it. Other caregivers  surreptitiously keep an eye on the residents as they go out shopping or to the  salon, always ready to step in and make sure no one endangers themselves. The  village’s single exit is manned by a staffer who tells any approaching resident  that the door is either broken or barred and offers an alternative path. This  prevents residents from wandering away and becoming lost—an especially common  concern for those with profound dementia.

The United Kingdom: The Pan-London Dementia Action Alliance  recently announced a formal push to make London the world’s first  dementia-friendly capital city. Unlike Hogewey—a self-contained village created  specifically for those with dementia—London aims to integrate the  cognitively-impaired into its pre-existing metropolis more effectively. This  will involve the coordination of countless smaller initiatives, such as making  landmarks more accessible and instructing fire fighters, policemen and bus  drivers how to identify and communicate with the dementia-stricken.

Across the world, person-centered dementia care is rapidly replacing the  outdated paradigms that relegated the cognitively impaired to wheelchairs in  locked wards.

Greenblatt is cheered by these shifting tides because that means fewer and  fewer people with dementia will be treated like her grandparents were. “It’s a  tragic disease and you have no control over the cards you’re dealt. But you do  have control over how you play the hand. There are ways to make the situation  livable for everyone involved.”

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com  Editor

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Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life? Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today!   I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

Live Well!

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

ring ~ 770-393-1284

write ~ info@healthyhighway.org

visit ~ www.HealthyHighway.org

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chews ~ www.Chews4Health.com/Leesa

enjoy ~ www.Chewcolat.com

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10 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Surviving a Plane Crash!

10 Ways to Increase Your Odds of Surviving a Plane Crash

 

Plane crashes seem rare these days, but as last week’s vivid incident on the  San Francisco runway reminds us, they still do happen and the results can be  fatal. Since I am in the Florida Keys with my daughter and we are flying across  the country in a few days, the San Francisco accident admittedly gave me a  scare.  Fortunately, I came across an interview with Ben Sherwood, the  author of The Survivor’s Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your  Life, which included smart tips for increasing your odds that you will  survive a plane crash – if you happen to be so unlucky as to be in one. As it is  the summer travel season, I thought I would share Mr. Sherwood’s and other  experts’ potentially life-saving tips with you:

1. Maybe the most important tip: Sit as close to an exit as possible. A study  by University of Greenwich’s Ed Galea, an expert on how people react and  survive in emergency situations, examined the seating charts of over 100 plane  crashes and discovered that those within 5 rows of the emergency exits had much  better odds of survival than those farther away from exit doors. Aisle  seats are also statistically safer than other seats as it allows you to exit the  plane faster than people in middle and window seats.

2. Galea also found that seats at the back of the plane were safer  statistically than those in the front (sorry, First Class). Passengers in  the tail  of the airplane enjoy a 40% higher survival rate than those in the first few  rows.

3. Always keep your seatbelt snugly buckled when sitting in your seat. “Snug” is the operative word here: Every centimeter of slack in your  belt triples the G-Force your body will experience in the crash.  Also, keep your belt low on your pelvis, rather than your abdomen, as your bones  can handle impact better than your soft internal organs.

4. Pay attention to “Plus Three / Minus Eight.” This is aviation lingo  referring to the first three minutes of being airborne and the last eight. Why  is this time frame important? Eighty percent of all crashes happen in this  eleven-minute window. Rather than take off your shoes, snooze or pick-up a  magazine, pay close attention during take-off and landings for any signs that  something may be amiss.

5. On average you have 90 seconds to exit a burning plane before the aluminum  hull of the aircraft is no longer protective. Leave luggage, purses and laptops  behind. Also, remove high-heeled shoes. Smoke is one of the biggest threats to  plane crash survivors, so if possible, place a cloth over your nose and mouth as  a rudimentary filter.  Again, if possible, for added protection make the  cloth wet before using.

6. Sherwood emphasizes that how you react to an emergency situation and  how prepared you are has significant bearing as to whether you will survive it  or not. Easier said than done, but do not panic. Panic, says Sherwood, is the  enemy of survival. Being prepared helps prevent panic. When boarding a plane  memorize where you are vis-a-vis the emergency exits. Formulate and VISUALIZE  your exit plan – for example what if the closest exit is not available, where is  the second closest exit? The third? Imagine yourself getting to the closest exit  and out to safety.  ”You are responsible for your life,” Galea warns, “If  you know what you’re doing, you’ve got a better chance of surviving.”

7. In most extreme emergencies, about 90 percent of people either panic or  freeze, while only 10 percent keep absolutely calm, are able to think clearly  and instruct others on how to save themselves. If you happen to be a  deer-in-the-headlights person or one who is prone to hysteria and you come in  contact with an Indiana Jones-type (i.e. calm, cool and collected), do your best  to follow his/her instructions.

8. Statistically people who are in better shape are more agile, more alert  and better able to escape. Also, being thin increases your survival chances in a  plane crash as you may be required to squeeze through tight spaces to safety.  While you are not likely to suddenly get in shape or become thinner for an  upcoming flight, you can choose to be as alert as possible. Do not drink alcohol  or take sleeping pills that will impair your ability to respond quickly in an  emergency, especially in those crucial minutes before take-off and landing.

9. Listen to those safety instructions before take-off, even if you have  heard the drill a hundred times. Have your children listen as well. Look at the  emergency card and consider the different impact positions that can be assumed  during a crash. A child has a different impact position than an adult. Bracing  upon impact makes a difference on survival rates. This was well demonstrated by  Discovery TV that crash tested a Boeing 727 in Sonoran Desert. They had the  Boeing 727 equipped with crash test dummies, dozens of cameras, sensors and a  crew of daring pilots, who parachuted from the plane minutes before the jetliner  careened into the ground.

10. Be positive – while accepting the worse case scenario. While you may feel  a sense of hopelessness in the advent of an impending crash or immediately  following a crash, remember that the survival rate of plane crashes is 95.7  percent! That is an incredibly high rate of survival for something as dramatic  as a plane crash.

After sharing his plane crash survival tips, Sherwood likes to reassure his  audience that actual crashes are highly unlikely and the odds are that you  will survive.  ”You could fly every day for the next 164,000 years and not  have an airplane crash,” he said. I don’t know about you, but I find that last  statistic the most comforting.  But in the advent of a crash, thanks to Mr.  Sherwood and others, I also feel more empowered that I can survive.

By Cherise Udell

Cherise Udell is a mom, clean air advocate, anthropologist and feline  aficionado with the nomadic habit of taking spontaneous sojourns to unusual  destinations.  Before her adventures in motherhood, she was an intrepid Amazon  jungle guide equipped with a pair of sturdy wellingtons and a 24-inch machete,  as well as a volunteer at a rainforest animal rescue  center.

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Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life? Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today!   I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

Live Well!

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

 

ring ~ 770-393-1284

write ~ info@healthyhighway.org

visit ~ www.HealthyHighway.org

consult ~  www.healthyhighway.org/contact.html

chews ~ www.Chews4Health.com/Leesa

enjoy ~ www.Chewcolat.com

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15 Tips For Living To 100

15 Tips For Living To 100

Living to 100 is not rare anymore. In fact, a local billboard forecasts, “The  first person to live to 150 has already been born.”

I don’t know if or when people will live to be 150, but I do know that living  to be 100 is something that we can strive for. In fact, the number of 100 year  olds in the United States has roughly  doubled in the past 20 years to around 72,000 and is projected to at least  double again by 2020, making it the fastest growing demographic in America.  According to the 2010 census data, about 1 in 4,400 Americans lives to age  100.

Since we all get older every year, it raises an important question, “What  should I be doing if I want to continue my annual renewal and stay healthy so I  can continue to enjoy the journey.”

In general, your genes will neither kill you nor save you.  Our genes  dictate only about 10% of how long we live. People with “terrible” genes can  make lifestyle changes and improve their odds significantly, and people with “designer” genes can run them in into the ground. So a lot of it has to do with  what you do with what you have.

So how do we protect the 35 trillion cells that we call our body to make them  last for a century? In his book Blue  Zones, Dan Buettner has explored lifestyle changes that increase longevity.  I’ve incorporated his views and expanded on them to include my own. Here are my  personal thoughts on how to live the longest, healthiest and happiest life.

  • Start planning for longevity today. If you wanted to have  an adequate retirement savings account, you probably would start saving early.  The same is true with your health. Start implementing the things we’re going to  discuss below today.
  • Eat healthy. This is very confusing today because it seems  what is healthy keeps changing. But the basics are pretty consistent: avoid junk  food; limit prepared foods (restaurant and take out), sugary drinks and sodas;  eat lots of fruits and vegetables. If possible, eat organically grown fruits and  vegetables to minimize exposure to pesticide. If you haven’t heart about the  clean 15 and dirty dozen (12 highest pesticide laden fruits and vegetables), click  here.
  • Control your weight. It’s really simple; the fatter your  body, the harder your heart has to work to supply it with blood and the harder  your knees have to work to keep it moving. Some simple tips include don’t go  back for seconds (keep the food off the table and on a serving counter so people  have to physically get up to grab another spoonful), keep only healthy snacks in  the house or with you at work, chew your food at least 30 times per bite and put  your fork or sandwich down between bites so your meal will take longer and your  stomach will have time to tell your brain you are getting full. This will allow  you to stop eating before you overeat.
  • Don’t add salt to your food. Salt  is a growing health problem in the United States and is contributing to high  blood pressure and heart disease. There is so much salt already in the food we  eat that adding extra salt is unhealthy.
  • Take a multivitamin and fish oil daily. (Leesa recommends Chews4Health!
  • Maintain Family Units. In today’s fractured world, many  families live far away from each other. Yet in places such as Sardinia, Italy  where there are ten times the centenarians as in the United States, families  typically live together in units that include the grandparents. They call it the  grandmother affect. Interestingly, in a recent study of killer  whales reported in Science, in which the grandmother whale survived and  continued to live with the pod, the effect on her adult male offspring was a 14  times greater likelihood of his survival one year beyond the loss of his  mother.
  • Eat on A Smaller Plate. People in Okinawa, Japan use plates  about the size of a salad plate.  They live seven good years longer than  the average American and have 1/5 the rate of breast and colon cancer and 1/6  the rate of heart disease. Centenarians stop eating with they are 80% full.
  • Remain Active. It’s not about running in the Boston  Marathon. It’s about staying active and moving. Hardwire some type of physical  activity into every week of your life. Walk in nature, take the stairs, do yoga  or tai chi, garden. Do this at least two to three times per week. I do  resistance training with a personal trainer twice a week and walk almost every  other day.
  • Stay Connected. People live longer who have ongoing social  interactions, who are able to share their happiness and sorrow and who have  companionship. This does not mean chat rooms and Facebook. It means sitting in  the room with real people. Volunteering, participating and sharing are life  extenders.
  • Have a purpose. People who have a reason to wake up in the  morning live longer, healthier, happier lives. What’s yours? If an answer  doesn’t pop into your head, search for one. It could be playing with your  grandchildren, gardening, adult education, volunteering at your favorite charity  or school, or any of a thousand other reasons. Find yours. According to Dan  Buettner it’s worth about 7 years of life expectancy.
  • Have a day of rest. Having one day a week where all you do  is relax, abstain from work and any stress related activity, and/or pray has  been shown to increase longevity. Even God rested on the seventh day. There is a  reason that is part of every major religion. Enjoy this Free  relaxing instrumental music while you rest and relax.
  • Remain Spiritual: People who are part of a faith based  community who pray at least 4 times per month live between 4 and 14 extra  years.
  • Choose friends wisely. People tend to become who they hang  out with. The Framingham  Study showed that if your 3 best friends are obese, you are 50% more likely  to become obese. Friends with healthy habits increase your chance of remaining  healthy.
  • Smile More: People who are happier and have a more positive  attitude live longer. Happiness lowers stress, strengths your immune system and  keep the tips of your chromosomes, called telomeres,  longer, preventing cancer and disease.

By Mache Seibel

Dr. Mache Seibel

Health expert and guest speaker Dr. Mache Seibel addresses consumers’  critical needs from weight  control to HRT, menopause  and beyond. He served on the Harvard Medical School faculty for 19 years and is  a pioneer in many areas of women’s health. He works with companies and  organizations to bring exciting educational content to consumers. Visit his  award-winning website DoctorSeibel.com  to sign up for his  free monthly newsletter.

8 Tips for Creating a Life with More Joy and Less Stress

3 Generations of Family #caregiving
Get your new year started on the right foot. We’ve compiled a list of new years resolutions you can use to cultivate a life with more relaxation, happiness, purpose and love. Happy new year!

Most of us who haven’t retired yet live busy, stressed-out lives. After all, we’ve got a lot to do: A job to work, children to raise, parents to check on, errands to run. What’s not to be stressed about, right?

The fact is that our responsibilities and obligations aren’t likely to fade anytime soon, but our stress can. It comes down to attitude. The mindset with which we approach the world around us (and the world within us) is the number one factor determining our happiness.

Here are eight time tested guidelines for a life with less stress and more joy:

1. Clarify Your Top Priorities and Control What You Can

Take time to plan and prioritize. The most common source of stress is the perception that you’ve got too much work to do.  Rather than obsess about it, pick one thing that, if you get it done today, will move you closer to your highest goal and purpose in life. Then do that first.

Remember also that some things are beyond your control. Has a parent with dementia said something unkind? Remind yourself that while you can’t prevent these remarks, you can control how you react to them.

Laughing man #laughter

2. Laugh Often

Laughter is a healthy way of relieving tension. It decreases levels of stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) while increasing the primary neurotransmitter for contentment, endorphin, our body’s own natural pain reliever. It also brings people together, which is always beneficial. Did your elderly mother try to make coffee with cat litter? Allow yourself to laugh it off instead of getting flustered.

You can also work actively to add laughter to your life. Place a higher priority on spending time with loved ones who make you laugh. Get a daily dose of your favorite sitcom on Netflix-streaming or Hulu if it’s not on TV. Or try Laughter Yoga. Its practitioners note that science has found the body is unable to differentiate between natural laughter and forced laughter. For this reason they actually suggest that people make themselves laugh and have group laughter sessions, advising students to “fake it till you make it.”

3. Have Empathy for Yourself

Those stressed out from working, parenting, or caregiving should try not to be too hard on themselves. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and don’t blame yourself difficulties or bad outcomes. During the hardest times work to soothe and reassure yourself. Try repeating a favorite prayer or self-affirming mantra, reminding yourself that you’re doing the best you can under difficult circumstances.

4. Socialize

Swimming #Seniors

While a few hermits may claim that the solitary life is ideal, the psychological and medical communities agree that it’s important to spend quality time with friends and family. A groundbreaking survey by Gallup in 2008 found that social time is crucial to happiness and well-being. Gallup contacted 140,000 individuals and asked them how happy they had been on the day prior. Respondents were also asked about how many hours they spent socializing the day before (among numerous other questions). Unsurprisingly, there was a direct correlation between social time and reported happiness.

Organize regular monthly get-togethers with friends in a social setting that you can look forward to, such as a dinner club,  a Bunko or Mah Jong game, or  a movie or book club. Also take advantage of opportunities to make socializing therapeutic. If you become overly stressed from caring for an aging parent, join a support group (many can be found through the Alzheimer’s Association). Even online socializing at sites such as our Eldercare Community Forum can be beneficial.

5. Practice Self Care

Body and mind are interconnected, so our bodies will be best poised to cope with stress when we are well nourished and in reasonable shape. Exercise, of course, is key. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever.” Try incorporating extra activity into you daily routine. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator. Park further away than you need to next time you go to the supermarket.

Nutrition is also crucial. By now most of us understand what constitutes a healthy diet, but how we consume our food may be just as important as what we eat. Take the time to savor your food. Sometimes we can’t avoid scarfing something down quickly to keep us up and running. Even so, at least once a day try to eat or drink something really delicious, like a small chunk of fine cheese, an imported chocolate, or a glass of nice wine.

Smiling Man #seniors

6. Look on the Bright Side of Life

Optimism, or positive thinking, has been linked by researchers to increased health and happiness. While there’s some evidence that our level optimism is genetic (or heritable), that doesn’t mean we that we don’t have any choice in the matter or that we shouldn’t make optimism a goal. That would be, well, pessimistic.

A recent study reported about in Medical Daily found that optimism is actually important than one’s physical health in determining wellbeing.

7. Get Enough Sleep and Rest

Sleep is restorative and is one of our body’s ways to mitigate stress. Research by Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, found that the happiness to be gained by getting an extra hour of sleep each night is equivalent to getting a $60,000 raise. How do we get more sleep? A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh Sleep Medicine Institute found that learning some simple but surprising guidelines can help improve sleep duration and quality significantly:

  • Spend less time in bed. Don’t spend leisure time in bed, in the morning or in the evening. If you want to cozy up with a good book, go for the couch rather than your bed.
  • Get up at the same time every day. Your sleep will improve if you can muster the self-discipline to get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you haven’t slept well.
  • Don’t go to bed until you feel sleepy. Even if it is past your normal bedtime, it is better to stay up and be active than to lie awake in bed.
  • Get out of bed if you’re not sleeping. If you’re having trouble sleeping, get up and read or watch a little TV rather than remaining in bed awake.

Mother and Daughter #caregiving

8. Be Here Now

Another way of putting this is, “Live in the moment.” If we live our lives always waiting for some hoped for point in the future (for example our next vacation) we discard the here and now, which is all we really have.  American author Henry James wrote, “Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.”

By Jeff Anderson

www.aplaceformom.com

Image of laughing man courtesy Flickr user Chris Waits, used via Creative Common License

7 Ways Vitamin C Fights Heart Disease

7 Ways Vitamin C Fights Heart Disease

 

A recent study showed that men who consume at least 300 milligrams of vitamin  C, through food and supplements, slash their risk of death from heart disease by  40 percent.

Here are seven proven ways that vitamin C helps lower your risk of heart  disease:

1.  Vitamin C is linked to reduced levels of lipoprotein (a).  High  levels of  lipoprotein (a) are linked to stroke.

2.  Vitamin C helps to prevent high blood pressure.

3.  Vitamin C helps to prevent hardening of the arteries.

4.  It lowers blood cholesterol levels.

5.  Vitamin C helps repair damaged artery walls, thereby preventing  cholesterol from being deposited.

6.  As an antioxidant, it reduces free radicals which can damage the  heart and blood vessels.

7.  Vitamin C is also linked, in studies, to an increase in high density  lipoproteins (HDL), which is also frequently called the good cholesterol.

Vitamin C is found in most fruits and vegetables, especially pomegranates, tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, acai, and  red bell peppers.

By Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.

Michelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international  best-selling and 12-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine,  whose works include: Healing  Recipes, The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body  Detox, The Life Force Diet, The  Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and The Phytozyme  Cure.  Check out her natural health resources and subscribe to her free  e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News at WorldsHealthiestDiet.com  to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow her on Twitter @mschoffrocook  and Facebook.

 

14 Things Your Eyes Say About Your Health

14 Things Your Eyes Say About Your Health

 

Looking someone straight in the eye may or may not reveal their honesty — but the eyes can tell you about cholesterol, liver disease, or diabetes, if you know what to look for.

“The eye is a unique window into health,” says ophthalmologist Andrew Iwach, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco. “It’s the only place in the body where, without surgery, we can look in and see veins, arteries, and a nerve (the optic nerve).”

The eyes’ transparency explains why common eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration can be detected early with regular eye exams.  “Unfortunately, people get busy and delay not only eye exams but regular physicals. That’s why eye doctors sometimes discover other issues, like diabetes or high blood pressure,” Iwach says.  Especially vulnerable, he says: People like caregivers, who worry about others around them while neglecting care for themselves.

Keep your eye out for these 14 problems:

1. Red flag: Disappearing eyebrows

What it means: Shaved eyebrows are a fad (or fashion, if you will) in some circles. But when the outer third of the brows (the part closest to the ears) starts to disappear on its own, this is a common sign of thyroid disease — either hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland). The thyroid is a small but critical gland that helps regulate metabolism, and thyroid hormones are among those critical to hair production.

More clues: Brows tend to thin with age naturally. But with thyroid disease, the brow-hair loss isn’t evenly distributed; it’s a selective dropout on the ends. There’s usually a loss of hair elsewhere on the body, too, but the brows are so prominent, it’s often noticed here first. Early graying is a related sign of a thyroid problem. Women are more often affected than men, and hyperthyroidism especially strikes women in their 20s and 30s.

What to do: Mention this symptom to a dermatologist or your regular doctor. Most other symptoms of both hyper- and hypothyroidism are notoriously broad and general. Before you see a doctor, make note of any other changes you’ve noticed, possibly concerning weight, energy levels, bowel or menstrual regularity, mood, or skin changes.

2. Red flag: A stye that won’t go away

What it means: The vast majority of the time, a small, raised, often reddish bump along the inner or outer eyelid margin is just an unsightly but innocuous stye (also called a “chalazion”). But if the spot doesn’t clear up in three months, or seems to keep recurring in the same location, it can also be a rare cancer (sebaceous gland carcinoma).

More clues: Actual styes are plugged-up oil glands at the eyelash follicle. Fairly common, they tend to clear up within a month. A cancerous cyst that mimics a stye, on the other hand, doesn’t go away.
(Or it may seem to go away but return in the same spot.) Another eyelid cancer warning sign: Loss of some of the eyelashes around the stye.

What to do: Point out a persistent stye to an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in the eye). A biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. The stye is usually removed surgically.

3. Red flag: Bumpy yellowish patches on the eyelid

What it means: Xanthelasma palpebra, the medical name for these tiny yellow bumps, are usually a warning you that you may have high cholesterol. They’re also called “cholesterol bumps” — they’re basically fatty deposits.

More clues: Sometimes people mistake these bumps for a stye, but with xanthelasma, there tends to be more than one bump and they’re quite small.

What to do: See your doctor or a skin or eye specialist. A diagnosis can usually be made by sight. An ophthalmologist can also examine the eye and see deposits; for this reason, in fact, sometimes high cholesterol is first diagnosed during a routine eye exam. The problem usually isn’t serious and doesn’t cause pain or vision problems. A physician will also evaluate you for other signs of coronary artery disease.

4. Red flag: Burning eyes, blurry vision while using a computer

What it means: You might be a workaholic, and you definitely have “computer vision syndrome” (CVS). The eyestrain is partly caused by the lack of contrast on a computer screen (compared with ink on paper) and the extra work involved in focusing on pixels of light. What’s more, by midlife the eyes lose some of their ability to produce lubricating tears. Irritation sets in, adding to blurriness and discomfort.

More clues: Does the problem worsen in the afternoon (when the eyes tend to become drier)? Is it
worse when you’re reading fine print (more eyestrain)? People who wear glasses or contacts tend to be bothered more by CVS. “Sometimes the problem is made worse by a fan positioned so it blows right in the face,” the AAO’s Iwach adds, noting that the air further dries tired eyes.

What to do: Reduce glare by closing window shades, investing in a computer hood, or checking out antireflective coating for your glasses (if you wear them). Simply tinkering with the contrast of your screen can help, too. White areas should neither glow brightly like a light source nor appear gray. Flat-panel LCD display screens (like those on laptops) cause less eyestrain than older models. Keep reference material close to the same height as your monitor, giving your eyes a break from having to refocus so much.

5. Red flag: Increasing gunk in the eye

What it means: Blepharitis — inflammation of the eyelids, especially at the edges — can have several causes. Two of them, surprisingly, are conditions better associated with other body parts: scalp dandruff and acne rosacea (which causes flushed red skin, usually in the faces of fair-skinned women at midlife).

More clues: The eyes may also feel irritated, as if specks have gotten in them. They may burn, tear, or feel dry. The crusty debris tends to gather in the lashes or the inner corners of the eyes, or even on the lids.

What to do: With clean hands, apply a warm, damp washcloth to the eyes for about five minutes at a time to loosen debris and soothe the skin. See a doctor, who may prescribe an antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics, as well as artificial tears.

6. Red flag: A small blind spot in your vision, with shimmering lights or a wavy line

What it means: An ocular migraine (also called an “ophthalmic migraine,” “optical migraine,” or “migraine aura”) produces this disturbed vision, with or without an accompanying headache. Changes in blood flow to the brain are thought to be the cause.

More clues: The visual distortion starts in the center of the field of vision. It might appear as a bright dot, dots, or a line that can seem to move and disrupt your ability to see properly, as if you were looking through a pocked or cracked window. It’s painless and causes no lasting damage. Individuals seem to have different triggers (ranging from chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol to stress). A headache, possibly severe enough to cause nausea, sometimes follows.

What to do: If you’re driving, pull over until the phenomenon passes (usually within an hour). Do have an eye specialist check it out if vision impairment lasts more than an hour or so, to rule out serious problems such as a retinal tear; or if you also experience other symptoms elsewhere that could indicate stroke or seizure (such as fever, loss of muscle strength, or speech impairment).

7. Red flag: Red, itchy eyes

What it means: Many things can irritate eyes, but itchiness accompanied by sneezing, coughing, sinus congestion, and/or a runny nose, usually screams “I’m allergic!” When the eyes are involved, the trigger is usually airborne, like pollen, dust, or animal dander.

More clues: An eye allergy can also be caused by certain cosmetics or ointments. Some people, for example, are allergic to the preservative in eye drops used to treat dry eyes.

What to do: Staying away from the allergic trigger is the usual treatment. Antihistamines can treat the itchiness; those in eye-drop or gel form deliver relief to the eyes faster. If the problem turns out to be an allergy to eye drops, look for a preservative-free brand.

8. Red flag: Whites of the eye turned yellowish

What it means: Two groups of people most often show this symptom, known as jaundice: Newborns with immature liver function and adults with problems of the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts, including hepatitis and cirrhosis. The yellow in the white part of the eye (the sclera) is caused by a buildup of bilirubin, the by-product of old red blood cells the liver can’t process.

More clues: “Other tissues of the body would have the same look, but we can’t see it as clearly as in the whites of the eye,” says ophthalmologist Iwach. (Skin can also turn yellowish when a person consumes too much beta carotene — found in carrots — but in those cases the whites of the eyes remain white.)

What to do: Mention the symptom to a doctor if the person isn’t already under care for a liver-related disease, so the jaundice can be evaluated and the underlying cause treated.

9. Red flag: A bump or brown spot on the eyelid

What it means: Even people who are vigilant about checking their skin may overlook the eyelid as a spot where skin cancer can strike. Most malignant eyelid tumors are basal cell carcinoma. When such a tumor appears as a brown spot, then — as with any other form of skin cancer — it’s more likely to be malignant melanoma.

More clues: Elderly, fair-skinned people are at highest risk. Look especially at the lower eyelid. The bump may look pearly, with tiny blood vessels. If the bump is in the eyelash area, some eyelashes may be missing.

What to do: Always have any suspicious skin spots or sores checked out by a dermatologist, family physician, or eye doctor. Early detection is critical, before the problem spreads to nearby lymph nodes.

10. Red flag: Eyes that seem to bulge

What it means: The most common cause of protruding eyes is hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid gland), especially the form known as Graves’ disease. (First Lady Barbara Bush had it.)

More clues: One way to tell if an eye is bulging is to see whether there’s any visible white part between the top of the iris and the upper eyelid, because normally there shouldn’t be. (Some people inherit a tendency toward eyes that bulge, so if the appearance seems to run in a family, it probably isn’t hyperthyroidism.) The person may not blink often and may seem to be staring at you. Because the condition develops slowly, it’s sometimes first noticed in photos or by the occasional visitor rather than by someone who lives with the person every day.

What to do: Mention the symptom to a doctor, especially if it’s present in tandem with other signs of Graves’, including blurry vision, restlessness, fatigue, increase in appetite, weight loss, tremors, and palpitations. A blood test can measure thyroid levels. Treatment includes medication and surgery.

11. Red flag: Sudden double vision, dim vision, or loss of vision

What it means: These are the visual warning signs of stroke.

More clues: The other signs of stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the arm or leg or face,
typically on just one side of the body; trouble walking because of dizziness or loss of balance or
coordination; slurred speech; or bad headache. In a large stroke (caused by a blood clot or bleeding in the brain), these symptoms happen all at once. In a smaller stroke caused by narrowed arteries, they can occur across a longer period of minutes or hours.

What to do: Seek immediate medical help by calling 911.

12. Red flag: Dry eyes that are sensitive to light

What it means: Sjogren’s (pronounced “show-grins”) syndrome is an immune system disorder. It impairs the glands in the eyes and mouth that keep them moist.

More clues: Sjogren’s usually affects women over age 40 with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Usually the eyes and mouth are affected together. The person may also have vaginal dryness, dry sinuses, and dry skin. Because of a lack of saliva, it can be difficult to chew and swallow.

What to do: A doctor can diagnose Sjogren’s through testing. Artificial lubricants (such as artificial tears) are usually necessary to protect the eyes, as well as to improve eating. Drinking plenty of water also helps.

13. Red flag: Sudden difficulty closing one eye, inability to control tears in it

What it means: Bell’s palsy is an impairment of the nerve that controls facial muscles (the seventh cranial nerve), causing temporary paralysis in half the face. It sometimes follows a viral infection (such as shingles, mono, or HIV) or a bacterial infection (such as Lyme disease). Diabetics and pregnant women are also at higher risk.

More clues: Half of the entire face, not just the eye, is affected. Effects vary from person to person, but the overall effect is for the face to appear droopy and be weak. The eyelid may droop and be difficult or impossible to close, and there will be either excessive tearing or an inability to produce tears. The effects tend to come on suddenly.

What to do: See a doctor. Most cases are temporary and the person recovers completely within weeks. Rarely, the condition can recur. Physical therapy helps restore speaking, smiling, and other tasks that require the facial muscles working in unison, and it also helps avoid an asymmetrical appearance. Professional eye care can keep the affected eye lubricated and undamaged.

14. Red flag: Blurred vision in a diabetic

What it means: Diabetics are at increased risk for several eye problems, including glaucoma and cataracts. But the most common threat to vision is diabetic retinopathy, in which the diabetes affects the circulatory system of the eye. It’s the leading cause of blindness in American adults.

More clues: The changes linked to diabetic retinopathy tend to show up in people who have had the disease for a long time, not those recently diagnosed. The person may also see “floaters,” tiny dark specks in the field of vision. Sometimes diabetes causes small hemorrhages (bleeding) that are visible in the eye. There’s no pain. People with poorly controlled blood sugar may have worse symptoms.

What to do: Someone with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam annually to catch and control the earliest stages of retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, or other changes — before they manifest as changes you’re aware of.

By Paula Spencer, Caring.com senior editor

Caring.com was created to help you care for your aging parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. As the leading destination for eldercare resources on the Internet, our mission is to give you the information and services you need to make better decisions, save time, and feel more supported. Caring.com provides the practical information, personal support, expert advice, and easy-to-use tools you need during this challenging time.

Heat Wave Survival Tips

Heat Wave Survival Tips

Feeling the heat? A heatwave stretching across much of the U.S. has many of us  seeking relief, but it’s prime time for heat-related illness to strike.

In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather  events, including floods, according to the American Red Cross. Our bodies lose  water and salt when we perspire, which can lead to heat cramps. If not  addressed, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion leads to  heatstroke, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Young children, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases are most at risk of developing heat cramps,  heat exhaustion, or heatstroke. Do you know how to lower your risk of  heat-related illness…would you recognize the warning signs, and would you know  what to do should heat-related illness strike?

Tips to Avoid Heat-Related Illness

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric like  cotton.
  • When outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Choose shade over the sun on a hot day.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise during a heatwave.
  • Drink plenty of water or other fluids.
  • If you feel overheated, take a cool shower or bath.
  • Avoid sitting in a hot car or leaving your child in the car. (And that goes  for pets, too!)
  • Take advantage of cooling centers during a prolonged hot spell.
  • Listen to weather advisories before planning outdoor events.
  • Check on people who live alone, especially the elderly or ill.

Risk Factors for Heat-Related Illness

  • prolonged exposure to high temperatures
  • high levels of humidity
  • dehydration

You are at increased risk if you:

  • have heart disease or other chronic illness
  • are drinking alcohol
  • exercise excessively
  • take certain medications like diuretics and beta blockers

Early Warning Signs of Heat-Related Illness

  • fatigue
  • thirst
  • muscle cramps
  • profuse sweating

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • dizziness and lightheadedness
  • weakness
  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • cool, moist skin
  • dark urine

Symptoms of Heatstroke

  • fast, shallow breathing
  • pulse is fast and weak
  • confusion and strange behavior
  • fever
  • skin is red, hot, and dry
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness

First Aid for Heat-Related Illness

  • Take the victim to a cool place.
  • Have them lie down with their feet up.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths (or cool water alone) to their skin. Cold compresses  can also help.
  • If the person is conscious, have them drink water or a salted drink. Do not  offer drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine.

When to Call 9-1-1

Consider it a medical emergency if the victim:

  • appears to have blue lips and fingernails
  • has a high fever
  • has difficulty breathing
  • has a seizure
  • is confused or behaving irrationally
  • has lost consciousness

By Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis.  She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and a regular  contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2  Causes. Follow on  Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Photo credit: Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Sources: American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

7 Warm-Weather Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

7 Warm-Weather Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

The days are getting warmer and longer, inspiring people to engage in  backyard barbecues, and midday picnics.

Even if your elderly loved one isn’t able to take part in traditions like  cookouts, or holiday parties, you can introduce seasonal celebrations into their  lives through food. Many popular warm-weather foods even offer the added bonus  of helping a senior get the nutrients they need to remain healthy.

Here are some popular spring and summer treats that may offer some unexpected  health benefits for you and your elderly loved one. Ruth Frechman, M.A., a  registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Nutrition and  Dietetics, offers her perspective on how these foods can be both tasty and  nutritious for seniors.

Watermelon: Synonymous with summer, this juicy fruit is not  only low-fat, it also contains a staggering amount of nutrients seniors need.  Pound for pound, watermelon  has more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or veggie. Also found in tomatoes,  lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to combat certain forms of cancer  and heart disease. Watermelon is also packed with potassium, which can be a boon  for seniors suffering from potassium deficiency, or hypokalemia. According to  the National Institutes for Health, hypokalemia in seniors can sometimes be  brought on by certain heart failure and blood pressure meds, and can cause  problems with heart and muscle function. Watermelon also contains significant  amounts of vitamins A, C, and B6.

Iceberg lettuce: Don’t forgo a spring salad just because it  has romaine lettuce in it. Oft-maligned as the less-healthy relative of spinach  and romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce actually has more of the antioxidant  alpha-carotene than either of them. Alpha-carotene (and its companion,  beta-carotene) can be transformed by the body into vitamin A, which can help  maintain good eye health. Research has shown that alpha-carotene, on its own,  may also play a role in lowering a person’s risk of dying from ailments such as  cancer and cardiovascular disease. Iceberg lettuce also has a good deal of  vitamin K, which can help combat osteoporosis and regulate blood clotting.  Frechman says that, because the amount of alpha-carotene in iceberg lettuce is  relatively low compared to other veggies, so you may want to add some carrots,  tomatoes, and spinach to a salad to boost its overall carotene content.

Spices: Seasoned sauces and rubs are the cornerstones of a  delicious warm weather cook-out. Spices can serve the dual purpose of making  food more flavorful to seniors whose ability to taste has been diminished, as  well as helping them fight off disease. From tumeric, whose primary compound,  curcumin has been shown to be beneficial in fighting off diseases such as  Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer; to cinnamon, which can help people with  type 2 diabetes by lowering their blood sugar, total cholesterol, and  triglycerides, spices have numerous potential health benefits.

Popcorn: Going the movies to see a popular summer flick can  be a simple, fun way for caregivers and their elderly loved ones to get out of  the house. Popcorn has been a cinema staple for years, and often gets a bad rap  for being unhealthy. But, if you forgo the extra salt and butter, recent  research indicates that popcorn may actually have health benefits. Researchers  found polyphenols—a group of beneficial antioxidants—to be more plentiful in  popcorn than certain fruits and veggies. Popcorn is also a pure source of whole  grain, an important dietary element for seniors. (Leesa recommends the bag of Organic Popcorn in Olive Oil found at Trader Joes!)

Party dip: Perennial components of popular party dips, tomatoes and avocados  can offer seniors an array of healthy nutrients. Salsa comprised of tomatoes and  other vegetables can provide an elderly person with part of their daily  recommended vegetable intake, as well as antioxidants such as lycopene. Though  they are high in (“good”) fat, avocados, the main component of guacamole, are  full of vitamins and minerals that can deliver a host of health benefits to  seniors. (Leesa says to make sure the veggies are organic!)

Eggs: Sometimes shunned as a member of the protein portion  of MyPlate, eggs are actually a good source of protein and contain many essential  vitamins and minerals, including vitamins: A, D, E, B6 and B12. And, it’s  not just egg whites that contain health benefits. According to Frechman, egg  yolks contain choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin—several nutrients that are  essential for good eye health. (Leesa recommends using free-range organic eggs.) 

Chocolate: In moderation, certain types of chocolate  are actually good for you. Dark chocolate is chock-full of antioxidants and has  been shown to have numerous health benefits, including: reducing blood pressure,  and increasing insulin sensitivity. (Leesa recommends Vivani Organic Dark Chocolate – order yours today from Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/vivanichocolate. )

While this article is directed at the elderly, Leesa says everyone can enjoy the benefits of these foods! Enjoy!

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com  Editor

AgingCare.com provides online  caregiver support by connecting people caring for elderly parents to other  caregivers, elder care experts, personalized information, and local resources.  AgingCare.com has become the trusted resource for exchanging ideas, sharing  conversations and finding credible information for those seeking elder care  solutions.

7 Surprising Reasons You Wake Up Tired

7 Surprising Reasons You Wake Up Tired

When you can’t sleep, you know it. But what about when you can, yet you wake  up feeling tired and achy or you’re groggy again a few hours later? What’s that  about? All too often, it turns out, the problem is one that doesn’t keep you  awake but does sabotage your sleep in more subtle ways, so the hours you spend  in bed don’t refresh and revitalize you the way they should. Here are seven  signs that you have a sleep problem that’s secretly stealing your rest.

1. You sleep poorly and wake with a bad taste in your  mouth.

What it’s a symptom of: “Morning mouth” can be a  signal of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or asymptomatic heartburn.  Recent sleep studies have shown that up to 25 percent of people who report  sleeping poorly without a diagnosed cause have sleep-related acid reflux. But  because they don’t have obvious heartburn symptoms, they’re unaware of the  condition.

How it interrupts sleep: Acid reflux causes the  body to partially awaken from sleep, even when there are no symptoms of  heartburn. The result of this “silent reflux” is fitful, uneven sleep, but when  you wake up digestion is complete and you can’t tell why you slept poorly.

What to do: Follow treatment suggestions for  heartburn, even though you aren’t experiencing classic heartburn symptoms: Don’t  eat for at least two hours before hitting the sack, and avoid acid-causing foods  in your evening meals. (Alcohol, chocolate, heavy sauces, fatty meats, spicy  foods, citrus fruits, and tomatoes all contribute to heartburn and acid reflux.)  Some doctors also recommend chewing gum before bed, because it boosts the  production of saliva, which neutralizes stomach acid.

Certain medications, particularly aspirin and other painkillers, are hard on  the stomach and esophageal lining, so don’t take them just before bed.

Sleep studies have shown that sleeping on the left side reduces symptoms, and  sleeping on the right side causes them to worsen because acid takes longer to  clear out of the esophagus when you’re on your right side. If you prefer to  sleep on your back — a position that can increase reflux — elevating your head  and shoulders can help.

Losing weight can do wonders to banish heartburn and acid reflux. And if all  else fails, try taking an over-the-counter antacid.

2. You toss and turn or wake up often to use the  bathroom.

What it’s a symptom of: Nocturia is the official  name for waking  up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. The National Sleep  Foundation estimates that 65 percent of older adults are sleep deprived as a  result of frequent nighttime urination. Normally, our bodies have a natural  process that concentrates urine while we sleep so we can get six to eight hours  without waking. But as we get older, we become less able to hold fluids for long  periods because of a decline in antidiuretic hormones.

How it interrupts sleep: For some people, the  problem manifests as having to get up to use the bathroom, and then being unable  to get back to sleep. Once middle-of-the-night sleeplessness attacks, they lie  awake for hours. But for others the problem is more subtle; they may sleep  fitfully without waking fully, as the body attempts to send a signal that it  needs to go.

What to do: Start with simple steps. Don’t drink  any liquids for at least three hours before going to bed. This includes foods  with a lot of liquid in them, like soups or fruit. Lower your coffee and tea  consumption; the acids in coffee and tea can irritate the bladder. Don’t drink  alcohol, which functions as a diuretic as well as a bladder irritant.

Go to the bathroom last thing before getting in bed and relax long enough to  fully empty your bladder. It’s also important to get checked for conditions that  cause urination problems. Guys, this means getting your prostate checked.  Inflammation of the prostate, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPN), and prostate  tumors can all cause frequent urination. In women, overactive  bladder, urinary  tract infections, incontinence,  and cystitis are common causes of urinary problems.

Diabetes  can also cause frequent urination, so if you haven’t been tested for diabetes  recently, see your doctor. Certain drugs such as diuretics and heart medications  can contribute to this problem; if that’s the case, talk to your doctor about  taking them earlier in the day. A prescription antidiuretic can cut down on  nighttime urination if all else fails and there’s no underlying issue.

3. Your jaw clicks, pops, or feels sore, or your teeth are wearing  down.

What it’s a symptom of: Teeth grinding, officially  known as bruxism,  is a subconscious neuromuscular activity. Bruxism often goes on without your  being aware of it; experts estimate that only 5 percent of people who grind  their teeth or clench their jaws know they do it until a sleep partner notices  the telltale sound or a dentist detects wear on the teeth. Jaw clenching is  another form of bruxism, except you clench your teeth tightly together rather  than moving them from side to side. Jaw clenching can be harder to detect than  grinding, but one sign is waking with pain or stiffness in the neck.

How it interrupts sleep: Bruxism involves tensing  of the jaw muscles, so it interferes with the relaxation necessary for deep  sleep. And if you’re fully grinding, your body is engaged in movement rather  than resting.

What to do: See a dentist. If you don’t have one,  dental schools often offer low-cost dental care provided by students supervised  by a professor. A dentist can look for underlying causes, such as problems with  your bite alignment, and can prescribe a mouth-guard-type device such as a  dental splint. If jaw clenching is your primary issue, there are specific dental  devices for that.

Experts also suggest giving up gum chewing during the day, because the  habitual chewing action can continue at night. Some people who grind their teeth  have experienced relief from botox injections to the jaw muscle. Others have had  success using a new biofeedback device called Grindcare, approved by the FDA in  2010.

4. You move all over the bed or wake tangled in the  covers.

What it’s a symptom of: That kind of movement  indicates restless  leg syndrome or a related problem, periodic limb movement disorder  (PLMD).

How it interrupts sleep: Doctors don’t know exactly  what causes these sleep movement disorders, but they do know they’re directly  related to a lack of deep, restful, REM sleep. The restlessness can prevent you  from sinking into deep sleep, or a muscle jerk can wake or partially rouse you  from deep sleep.

What to do: See a doctor to discuss your symptoms  and get a diagnosis, which may also involve looking for underlying conditions  related to restless leg syndrome or PLMD. Diabetes, arthritis,  peripheral neuropathy, anemia, thyroid disease, and kidney problems can all  contribute to restless leg syndrome and PLMD. Make sure to tell your doctor  about any medications you’re taking; a number of medications, including  antidepressants, antihistamines, and lithium, can cause restless leg syndrome as  a side effect.

You can also try making dietary changes to make sure you’re getting enough  iron and B vitamins, particularly folic acid, since iron and folate deficiency  have been linked to restless leg syndrome. Red meat, spinach, and other leafy  greens are good sources of both nutrients, but you may want to take supplements  as well. If your doctor diagnoses restless leg syndrome or PLMD, medications  used to treat Parkinson’s can relieve symptoms by eliminating the muscle jerks.  Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help you sleep more deeply, with  the idea of preventing the involuntary movements from keeping you in light  sleep.

5. You wake up with a dry mouth or horrible morning  breath.

What it’s a symptom of: Mouth breathing and snoring  both disrupt sleep by compromising breathing. Look for drool on your pillow or  in the corners of your mouth. If you have a partner, ask him or her to monitor  you for snoring, gasping, or overloud breathing.

How it interrupts sleep: Mouth breathing and  snoring can interrupt sleep because you’re not getting enough air to fully  relax. Severe snoring — particularly when accompanied by gasps or snorts — can  also indicate a more serious problem with obstructed breathing during sleep.

What to do: Train yourself to breathe through your  nose. Try snore-stopping nose strips, available over the counter at the  drugstore, or use saline nasal spray to irrigate your nasal passages. Experiment  with sleep positions; most people have a tendency to snore and breathe through  their mouths when sleeping on their backs. Use pillows to prop yourself on your  side, or try the tennis ball trick: Put a tennis ball in the back pocket of your  pajama bottoms (or attach it some other way), so it alerts you when you roll  over.

If you typically drink alcohol in the evening, try cutting it out. Alcohol, a  sedative, relaxes the muscles of the nose and throat, contributing to snoring.  Other sedatives and sleeping pills do the same thing, so avoid using anything  sedating. Alcohol also can trigger snoring in two other ways: It makes you sleep  more deeply initially and is dehydrating.

Losing weight — even just ten pounds — can eliminate snoring, studies show.  If none of these solutions work, consult a doctor to get tested for  sleep-disordered breathing conditions such as apnea.

6. You sleep fitfully, feel exhausted all the time, and wake with a  sore throat or neck pain.

What it’s a symptom of: Obstructive  sleep apnea is a disorder defined as breathing interrupted by intervals of  ten seconds or more. A milder sleep breathing problem is upper  airway resistance syndrome (UARS), in which breathing is obstructed but  stops for shorter intervals of under ten seconds. The number of people who have  sleep apnea and don’t know it is astounding; experts estimate that 20 million  Americans have sleep apnea, and 87 percent of those are unaware they have the  problem. One mistaken assumption is that you have to snore to have sleep apnea.  In fact, many people with apnea don’t snore.

How it interrupts sleep: Obstructive sleep apnea  results when the throat closes and cuts off airflow, preventing you from getting  enough oxygen. UARS is similar, but it’s usually tongue position that blocks air  from getting into the throat. Blood oxygen levels drop, and when the brain knows  it’s not getting enough oxygen, it starts to wake up. This causes fitful,  unproductive sleep. Weight gain is a major factor in sleep apnea, because when  people gain weight they end up with extra-soft tissue in the throat area, which  causes or contributes to the blockage.

What to do: See an otolaryngologist, who will  examine your nose, mouth, and throat to see what’s interrupting your breathing  and how to fix the problem. It’s also important to have your oxygen levels  measured during sleep. Your doctor will likely recommend using a Continuous  Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, a mask that blows air directly into your  airways. Studies have shown CPAP masks to be extremely effective in treating  sleep apnea. Another mask called a BiPap (Bilevel positive airway pressure  device) works similarly but has dual pressure settings. Airway masks only work  if you wear them, so work closely with your doctor to choose a model that’s  comfortable for you.

Other options include oral appliances, which change your mouth position by  moving your jaw forward to open up the throat, and surgery, which aims to remove  the excess tissue from the throat. Newer, minimally invasive outpatient surgical  treatments include the Pillar procedure, which involves using permanent stitches  to firm up the soft palate; coblation, which uses radiofrequency to shrink nasal  tissues; and use of a carbon dioxide laser to shrink the tonsils.

7. You get a full night’s sleep but feel groggy all the time or get  sleepy while driving.

What it’s a symptom of: This signals circadian  rhythm problems or, more simply, getting out of sync with night and day.  Irregular sleep patterns, staying up late under bright lights, working a shift  schedule, using computers and other devices in bed, and having too much light in  the room while you sleep can disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

Why it interrupts sleep: The onset of darkness  triggers production of the hormone melatonin, which tells the brain it’s time to  sleep. Conversely, when your eyes register light, it shuts off melatonin  production and tells you it’s time to wake up. Even a small amount of ambient  light in the room can keep your body from falling into and remaining in a deep  sleep. The use of devices with lighted screens is especially problematic in  terms of melatonin production because the light shines directly into your eyes.  This light is also at the blue end of the spectrum, which scientists believe is  particularly disruptive to circadian rhythms.

What to do: Try to get on a regular sleep schedule  that’s not too far off from the natural cycle of night and day — and preferably  the same schedule all week. (Experts recommend 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. or 11 p.m. to 7  a.m. every night, but that’s just a general outline.) If you struggle with not  feeling alert in the morning, go outside and take a brisk walk in daylight to  feel more awake; you’ll find that it’s much easier to fall asleep the following  night. This is also a trick experts recommend to help night owls reset their  internal clocks. Force yourself to get up and get into bright light one or two  mornings in a row and you’ll be less likely to get that “second wind” and burn  the midnight oil or experience nighttime sleeplessness.

As much as possible, banish all screens (TVs, computers, and iPads) for at  least an hour before bed. Reading is much more sleep-inducing than looking at a  lighted screen, but make sure your reading light isn’t too bright and turn it so  it doesn’t shine in your eyes. Remove night-lights; if you need to get up in the  middle of the night, keep a small flashlight next to your bed, being careful to  turn it away from you. Check your bedroom for all sources of light, however  small. Does your smoke alarm have a light in it? Put tape over it. Use an alarm  clock without a lighted dial, or cover it. If your windows allow moonlight and  light from streetlights to shine in, install blackout curtains or shades tightly  fitted to the window frames. Don’t charge laptops, phones, cameras, and other  devices in your bedroom unless you cover the light they give off.

(Leesa recommeds rubbing Lavendar essential oil on the soles of your feet before bed!)

By Melanie  Haiken, Caring.com  senior editor

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