Monthly Archives: February 2012
Sleep. That gentle rocking into lullaby land that refreshes and restores. Good sleep is essential to good health. A lack of sleep can lead to problems with memory and focus, weight gain, a weakened immune system, and even depression. Sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of accidents–on the job, at home, and on the road. And while your body may seemingly be able to adjust to a sleep-depriving schedule, eventually your lack of snoozing will catch up to you one way or the other, whether it’s by sleeping in, oversleeping, an injury, or an illness. So many want to reach for a sleeping pill or a good stiff drink to help them get to sleep. There are better, more natural cures for insomnia. And since sleep is so important to your overall health, let’s look at some things that can prevent a good night’s snooze, and some natural ways to ensure you get enough Zs each night.
- Your mattress. San Diego beach bunnies know it. New York cosmopolitans know it. Even the fairy tale princesses know it. If your mattress is lumpy, bumpy, too hard or too soft, your slumber will be affected by it. Bad mattresses can cause tossing and turning, aches and pains, and uncomfortably long nights. While an occasional night on the sofa bed won’t lead to chronic sleep deprivation, night after night on a poorly conditioned mattress can. Try out different kinds of mattresses to replace your old, lumpy, bumpy one. Whether you’re in New York or San Diego, mattresses will make a big difference in your sleep and overall health. Think of your mattress as a serious investment.
- Caffeine, carbs and sugars. Watch what you eat and drink each night after dinner. Carbs and sugary snacks or drinks can add excess energy you don’t need. Caffeine can do the same. One vicious cycle many sleep-deprived people fall into is the carb craving, no sleeping, carb craving cycle. You haven’t had enough sleep, so your body is craving carbs for the energy they can provide. The carbs provide the energy, but then you can’t sleep because you’re all hyped up on carbs. So, the next day, your body wants carbs again to provide the energy it didn’t get from sleeping well the night before. Repeat. Caffeine can cause a similar effect. Cutting back on carbs, sugars, and caffeine before bedtime can often ensure a better night’s rest.
- Exercise. Whether you push your body to the limit, or just simply engage in a little more physical exertion than normal, a good workout can lead to better sleep. It’s not just a matter of tiring yourself out, either. The brain chemicals released by exercising help burn off stress hormones, leading to an overall more-relaxed state. Also, exercise can help regulate your body’s inner clock, telling it when to be active and when to relax. Morning exercise sessions are best for promoting better sleep, so avoid the gym after work if you need to catch more Zs.
- Stress. When your stress hormone levels are too high, your body can’t relax. When your body can’t relax, no matter how tired you are, you won’t sleep well, if at all. And before you reach for a sleeping pill, try some meditation or herbal tea. Meditation can calm your thoughts, slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and relax tense muscles. It can also lead to a better frame of mind for dealing with stressful situations. Drinking chamomile, passionflower or valerian tea can stimulate the production of the brain chemical melatonin. Melatonin is one of the brain chemicals that calms and relaxes the brain and body. You need it to sleep. If the stress of the day is causing you to have trouble falling asleep, try relieving the stress naturally. You’ll feel better for it.
To understand nicotine addiction, or any addiction for that matter, one has to start with brain chemistry. The brain uses various chemicals to tell the body what to do and when to do it. One of the busiest of all our brain chemicals is dopamine. And dopamine has a lot to do with nicotine addiction.
Ever wonder why you get hungry? Or thirsty? Ever wonder why you have a drive to win, or at least to succeed? Ever thought about why we feel unsettled, or at least uncomfortable many times when we are alone? Chalk all that up to dopamine. The dopamine pathways in the brain are “hard wired”–you can’t change them or reroute them no matter how you try. Those pathways ensure our survival–they make sure we eat, drink, stick together (there’s safety in numbers after all), and learn the skills we need to make it in the world. So when the teacher gives you an A, or the boss praises your work, or your parents fuss over your clean plate, that little boost of pride and self-worth is really dopamine rushing in to remind you that these are things you want to do again if you want to survive successfully and happily. The brain chooses the most successful, the most useful fulfilling activities and marks them with a dopamine pathway to the memory banks. Then, when the need arises, the brain remembers exactly what it was that satisfied the need the best the last time and stimulates a desire for that very thing. Dopamine springs into action and connects the need to the memory. Then, once the need is met, dopamine springs into action again, re-marking the pathway so it can be remembered in the future.
Nicotine, while three times more deadly drop for drop than arsenic, has a remarkable effect on the brain. It can fool the dopamine pathways into recognizing it as a fulfillment of certain needs. Need to relax? Nictoine! Need to re-energize? Nicotine! Need to curb hunger pangs? Nicotine! And that, in a very over simplified statement, is what causes nicotine addiction. It’s not really a condition as much as it is a mental illness. The dopamine pathways scream for the wrong answer because the drug has hijacked them with false messages. It’s what makes nicotine addiction so hard to break.
What to do, then, to break nicotine addiction? We need to retrain the dopamine pathways. We need to teach our brains that there is moe than one way to satisfy our needs. For those who use smokeless tobacco or nasal snuff, switching to a chewing tobacco substitute or a non-tobacco chew may be the first step. The brain will relearn that the need for a pinch doesn’t have to mean a need for nicotine. For smokers, going cold turkey tends to do the trick. In fact, 70% of all successful ex-smokers became that way by simply quitting. Teaching the brain that nicotine isn’t the answer by simply not giving it any.
Nicotine addiction isn’t just some little bad habit. It’s a killer habit. But it doesn’t need a killer cure. Just some perseverance, will power and a little “back to school” for your brain.
Alright, we all know that overeating, not exercising, smoking, and drinking are NOT the ideal picture of a healthy lifestyle. Did you know that there are other bad habits that, while they may not seem “as bad,” are really just as detrimental to our overall health and well-being? Let’s take a look at 5 things many of us do (or don’t do) that are sabotaging our efforts to live on the good side of life.
- Smokeless tobacco – Many think that by not lighting up, their tobacco use is not as dangerous. Boy, are they WRONG! Smokeless tobacco leads to a higher rate of nicotine addiction, a higher risk for some kinds of cancers, and a serious risk to your dental health. If you absolutely have to have that pinch between cheek and gum, there are several smokeless tobacco alternatives available on the market. Using one of these chewing tobacco alternatives can provide you with a tobacco-free chew and save your health.
- Poor sleep habits – Not sleeping enough at night can cause everything from headaches to poor job performance to weight gain. That’s right, not getting enough Zs can make you fat. Low energy levels cause you to reach for high-energy foods like carbs, and trigger your body’s natural response to slow down metabolism and raise weigh-gaining hormone levels. And at the end of the day, you’ll be more likely to hit the drive through than cook a wholesome meal because you’re simply too tired to cook. Then, all those energy-creating carbs can keep you wound up way past your bedtime. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s one well worth breaking.
- Chronic dehydration – Not drinking enough water can make you fat, too, among other things. Your body needs water for the kidneys to function. Without enough water, the kidneys don’t function properly and the liver picks up the slack. The liver’s main function is to convert fats into energy, and if it has to do the work of the kidneys, it can’t do that properly. And water is the key–not soda or energy drinks or coffee. The caffeine present in many drinks counteracts the hydrating properties of the water present. Caffeine is actually a diuretic–a dehydrator–so drinking caffeinated sodas, coffees, and teas doesn’t help your dry body.
- Too much exercise – While most of us suffer from a lack of exercise, some who try to fix that problem create a different, and dangerous, one by going overboard. Sometimes, we make a decision to exercise and then go at gung ho like a Marine in boot camp. Yet even the Marine Corps does it right–giving recruits lots of water, rest periods and alternating types of exercises. Good guidelines are at least one day a week of rest from ALL exercise. Changing up your routine helps, too. Add weight or strength training, yoga, or Pilates to your aerobic workouts, whatever they may be. Otherwise, you could end up with headaches, muscle sprains, fractures, hormonal imbalances, chronic dehydration, and even lowered immunity and a higher risk of infection.
- Dieting – Most nutritionists agree that dieting doesn’t really get you anywhere. Oh, sure the latest celebrity-endorsed diet craze may help you lose weight, but unless you can stick with it for the rest of your life, that weight is just going to return again. The so-called “yo-yo” syndrome is nothing to laugh at. Constant dieting and then regaining can lead to many health problems, including obesity. The best “diet” plan is a lifestyle plan–a change in your eating habits that becomes a eating habit itself. Examples are learning portion control; cutting down on carbs, fats, and sugars (notice I didn’t say cutting “out”); switching to learner cuts of meat; and adopting a healthier diet in general.
Whether your family has been restricted to mostly indoor fun by cold and snow or by winter’s wet and rainy days, it’s safe to assume that many have not been as physically active in the long winter months.
Along with the inactivity of winter comes the winter holidays with their abundance of good food and treats galore. Young and old alike need the benefit of some added exercise to shake off the winter’s extra calorie intake and sleepy, hibernating activity levels.
With the return of spring’s warm sunshine and bright blue days, we can look forward to getting back outdoors and getting back in shape. And for the kids, both young and old, spring has several sports to offer to help. Physical education classes often combine sports with other activities like running for the not-so-team-sports-inclined, but if you need a way for your child to make friends, be physically active, and perhaps excel at something, then organized sports may just be the answer.
And while some physical education curriculum emphasizes the rudimentary elements of sports such as baseball or volleyball or track and field, some spring sports aren’t as readily focused on. And some spring sports are left for the older kids to explore, not showing up until later–say in the middle school physical education programs. When deciding on a springtime sport, therefore, you may have to find a good teaching coach, as your child may have had only the most basic, if any, of skill training in their physical education classes.
- Spring Soccer – Soccer is everywhere these days. It is one of the team sports focused on by many sports-oriented physical education curriculum programs, so your kids may be somewhat familiar with the basic skills and rules of the game. Spring soccer can offer a way to branch out away from the school, too, as there are many community-oriented teams sponsored by businesses and individuals. With its continuous play and high energy level, soccer is a good way to get, or stay, in shape.
- Baseball/Softball – Spring is the time for the “boys of summer” to begin training. Many school teams do nearly all their playing in the spring, to coincide with the school calendar. Even if your child’s team isn’t officially practicing and playing, the longer afternoons and warmer days make the perfect time to engage in some games of catch, or pick-up games at the park. Break out the gloves and bats and go hit a few into the bleachers (or at least the outfield).
- Lacrosse – Lacrosse is one of those sports that if it is taught in schools at all, it’s typically saved for middle school physical education classes. The amount of coordination and physical abilities involved make it difficult for younger children to enjoy. However, middle school and high school students often find it rewarding and fun.
- Track and Field – Track and field sports are some of the most flexible when it comes to ability and talent. Whether you like running, jumping, or throwing, track and field offers a way to do it all. And kids can find their own talents and skills among the many events track and field has to offer.
Kids today have it both good and bad. They have many more opportunities and activities to become involved in than kids even 30 years ago had. And at the same time, they have all these tremendous pressures and stresses placed on them to do well academically, socially, physically, athletically–you name it. So while today’s children can do more and be more, they are also expected to do just that–MORE. And what often gets lost along the way is the fun aspect of it all. Here are three great physical activities that kids can do, and have fun at at the same time!
- Cheerleading – While we might not think of cheering as great exercise–after all, those flashy cheer uniforms, cheer shoes, and other cheerleading apparel catch our eye first. But cheerleading requires a great deal of athleticism, physical fitness, coordination, and flexibility, not to mention team work and sportsmanship. Cheerleading teaches children how to have spirit and stay healthy at the same time.
- Dance – Be it ballet, ballroom, or break dancing, all forms of dance are physically demanding yet fun. Your child doesn’t need to be the next Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire to learn a great deal, gain some valuable skill and body awareness, and have a great time in the process. While some dance companies can be competitive to get into, others are willing to take just about anyone. And while some classes and studios can be very expensive, there are others that will fit most budgets. Dance can be something children take with them through the rest of their lives, so the experience doesn’t always end with the last recital.
- Yoga – Children love yoga. They seem attracted to the gracefulness, the quietness, the exoticness of it, and the fun factor of it. And they can greatly benefit from it, too. Yoga builds flexibility, grace, and awareness of the body in both time and place. Yoga is something that can be done anywhere, with little to no equipment necessary. You can learn it at home, from videos, books, and DVDs. Some of the exercise and fitness oriented television networks offer yoga programs, too. So, you can get a good stretch, gain some inner peace and quiet, and not spend much while doing so. And, like dance, the benefits of yoga can be carried through a lifetime, making a bit of childhood last long after pigtails and cowlicks are gone.
You can be in the best shape you’ve ever been in–lose 30 pounds, buff up those muscles, smooth out all that cellulite, recondition your hair so it shines–but if your skin is looking spotty or dull, it won’t really matter. Why? Because your skin is what makes that all-important first impression. If your face is bumpier than a country dirt road, or if your cheeks are spotty, or if acne, infection or an immune deficiency disease or disorder has left you with uneven skin tone, all the body work will be lost behind the lack-luster appearance your face puts forward. So, to put your best face forward every day, here are three ways to regain that glowing look of health and guarantee more roses in your cheeks than any English cottage garden could hold.
- Whitening Facials – Uneven skin tone can occur anywhere on the body, especially in areas that receive an overabundance of sun exposure. While the sun IS the biggest culprit of dark spots on the skin, infections and diseases can also do their damage. And not all spots are dark, did you know that? Some conditions can cause white spots to appear. The answer to all these spots is whitening facials. A whitening facial essentially lightens the skin, either erasing the darker area of pigmentation, or whitening the skin around the lighter patches. Either way, whitening facials use LED light to stimulate and maintain healthy skin cells, eradicating the damage done by sun, wind, age, and other less-than-favorable conditions.
- Laser Skin Treatments – Laser skin treatments can ease the look of everything from wrinkles to age spots to scars to sagging skin. Have you got bigger bags under your eyes than a diva checking in at the Hollywood Wilshire hotel? A laser skin treatment can help tighten that skin and relieve you of that baggage. Same with dark spots under the eyes. Suffering from rosacea? Laser skin treatments can handle that, too. Those bicycle handlebars from that wreck when you were ten left you with a nasty scar on your forehead? With a laser skin treatment, the scar can be virtually erased. Laser skin treatments are also used to lighten skin, just like LED whitening facials. There are now many approved uses for lasers as dermatological tools, so many conditions can be treated through laser skin treatments.
- Acne Treatment – Spots are no fun unless you are a Dalmatian. And while regular cleansing and watching your diet can help with acne problems, some folks just seem to suffer unmercifully with the stuff–and well past the age of the high school prom, too. A good dermatologist will have many acne treatment tools in her arsenal against the dreaded spots–laser treatments, peels, cleansing and purifying products. What acne treatment she chooses will depend largely on how bad your problem is, as well as what your lifestyle will support.
Having healthy looking skin is important. After all, you only have one chance to make a good first impression, and your face usually does that for you.
Your eyes are an important part of your body, and maintaining good eye health is just as important as maintaining your overall health and fitness. To avoid vision problems, cataracts, macular degeneration, and other diseases and conditions of the eye, there are some things that each of us should do. If you want to ensure that your eyes and vision stay as healthy and strong for as long as possible, follow these tips.
- Yearly checkups – seeing your eye doctor at least once a year is the best place to start. You may need to see him or her more often if you suffer from diabetes, glaucoma, or another condition. But you’ll never know unless you go, right? So make an appointment and keep it.
- Eat right to protect your sight – Carrots are good for your eyes, right? But did you know that fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna and salmon, are too? And don’t forget your fruits and veggies–especially those leafy greens. They help promote eye health.
- Maintain your weight – Obesity can cause diabetes, which can lead to diabetic eye disease and glaucoma. You don’t want to end up a patient for green argon laser or YAG laser treatments, now do you?
- Wear protective eye gear – Wearing proper protective gear can save your eyes from unnecessary injuries. Don’t ignore warning labels or think you look stupid wearing goggles. Think how stupid you’ll look wearing that eye patch or bandage.
- Quit smoking – Better yet, don’t start. Smoking can cause cataracts, as well as macular degeneration and optic nerve damage. Again, what’ll it be–that puff or a date with the YAG laser or green argon laser? See, YAG lasers remove cataracts, while green argon lasers burn those little blood vessels in your eyes so they can’t bleed anymore. They’re commonly used in the treatment of cataracts and glaucoma. So, ciggy or laser beams in your eyeball–your choice!
- Wear your shades – When it’s bright out, you wear your sunscreen. Well, put on your sunglasses, too. Not only will you look cool, but you’ll be saving your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Just make sure that yours have a UV-A and UV-B rating, as they’ll do the best job.
- Take a break – From the computer, that is. Computer related eye strain and dryness can cause vision damage and headaches. Take a break every 20 minutes and stare at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. The 20-20-20 rule reduces eye strain and makes you blink, giving your eyes a drink.
- Wash your hands – The easiest way to avoid eye infections is to prevent spreading germs into your eyes. The easiest way to do that is by keeping dirty hands away from your face and eyes. So, wash your grubby paws before you scratch your nose, rub your eyes, or mess with your hair.
- It’ your job – And staying safe in your workplace is your responsibility. Whether you need to wear eye protection, or take a break from that computer, or put on your shades, ensure that you care for your eyes at all times, even when you’re busiest.
- Know your history – Your family’s eye and vision history is important to know, as many eye and vision problems can be hereditary. Knowing what came before can help you prepare and prevent what may lie ahead.
Fat. That ugly “f” word. We fight it with diet, exercise, cold laser treatment, the works. And yet there it is. It’s a part of our life, our bodies. And we have to accept it, because it isn’t going away any time soon.
Researchers disagree over whether or not we are born with all the fat cells we’re ever going to have. Some say fat cells increase as we mature, while others say no. Either way, by the time we reach adulthood, we have about 30 billion of the little suckers in our bodies. Even cosmetic treatments like cold laser fat reduction don’t reduce the number of fat cells. In fact, research has shown that nothing reduces their number, not even a cold laser. You can reduce their size, however.
When a person eats, be it a piece of lean salmon or a piece of pie, the lipids from that food are stored in the fat cells. Proteins formed by the fat cells themselves, called lipoproteins, help to capture free fatty acids and turn them into lipids which are stored in the fat cells. The body then releases these lipids to produce energy for cell growth. All cells use fats and cholesterol as the building blocks from which to form their outer membranes and to organize their functions and systems. And this process occurs in both times of surplus caloric intake and in times of reduced or limited food supply.
So, we all have fat, and we can’t really get rid of it, and it’s ours for life. Why then, do some suffer from obesity and its related health problems while others don’t? Do their bodies do something different? While we can’t grow more fat cells, we can stretch the ones we have to more than 4 times their normal size. And one of those lipoproteins, leptin, gets a bit out of whack in the case of obesity. In a human being, each cell produces leptin. As the body burns fat for energy, the leptin level drops, signaling the brain to tell the body it needs food. In obese individuals, their levels of leptin are always elevated, as the cells are hyper making leptin. The brain then becomes leptin resistant. The body never knows when to eat, so it eats more than it should to make up for a supposed lack of leptin caused by the leptin resistance.
Fat, That ugly “f” word. It’s ours. We might as well get used to that fact. And then take steps to ensure that we live in a healthy relationship with it. It’s here to stay, after all.
So, you’ve been busy dieting and exercising. You’re no longer overweight, or maybe just a little so. And you’re still not looking as good as you would like to. What to do about those pudgy puddles of fat, especially around the middle? That’s where laser fat removal can come into play. If you are in relatively good health, and no more than a few pounds overweight, with no diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or liver problems, you are most likely a candidate for laser circumference removal.
Whew! What a mouthful! Laser circumference removal is simply the removal of fat around your mid-section, reducing the size of your waist. Laser fat removal procedures can be done anywhere there is a pudgy puddle–your middle, your thighs, your chin, your hips and rear, even your face and upper arms. The cold laser uses low-level laser energy to break up the fat in the fat cells. The fat stored in the cells is flushed out into your bloodstream. From there it is removed from the body as waste. In no time at all, the area where the cold laser fat removal procedure was performed has a tighter, leaner, firmer look. Goodbye pudgies!
Laser body mass reduction or laser contouring are other names for sculpting and fine-tuning the body through the same use of cold laser fat removal. Unlike laser circumference removal, it doesn’t just concentrate on one area like your midsection, nor is it restricted to just one area, like your hips or rear end. Using laser body mass reduction contouring, you and your cosmetic surgeon can create (or recreate) a fully fine-tuned appearance. Essentially, what you’re doing is reshaping your body by removing pudgy puddles from more than one area at the same time. You can sculpt your back, thighs, buttocks, hips and tummy all at the same time. Your appearance is more uniform and your “bodywork” is less noticeable while in progress. Let them think it was all due to sweat equity and rabbit food. They never have to know that you used laser fat removal to get that great beach-ready body!
Laser fat removal, whether laser circumference removal, or overall laser body mass reduction contouring, is safe and effective. It’s been approved by the FDA since 2008. It is performed by hundreds of doctors nationwide. And it’s easy on you, too. There’s almost no down time, no recovery time, no change in your active lifestyle. It will cost you, though. Most procedures carry a $2000 to $4000 price tag, making it a rather large investment in you. I guess it all depends on how many, and how big and bothersome, your pudgy puddles really are.
Laser equipment has become a basic weapon in every modern healthcare facility’s arsenal against disease and deformity. From surgical lasers that can conduct almost bloodless procedures to low-level laser therapy for joint and bone injuries, to laser fat removal and cataract surgery, medical lasers have come a long way in the mainstream of healthcare. They are no longer simply a product of some sci-fi writer’s imagination, that’s for sure.
- Ophthalmology – Doctors routinely use laser equipment to perform vision-saving procedures. YAG lasers can be used to cut tiny holes in a cataract, restoring vision. Green argon lasers are used to cauterize the tiny bleeding vessels at the back of the eye in diabetic eye disease and glaucoma. The patient walks in, has the laser surgery performed, and then walks out the same day. There’s no need for anesthesia, no need for lengthy recovery. And vision improves almost immediately.
- Orthopedics – Orthopedic surgeons have begun using low-level laser therapy to aid in the healing of joint and bone injuries. Several famous athletes have been high-profile patients of the new technique, but that doesn’t mean that you and yours can’t also benefit. Low-level laser energy is aimed at the broken bone or inflamed tissues. The result is faster healing with less pain. Even chronic injuries such as back pain and neck problems can improve with low-level laser therapy.
- Neurology – Brain surgeons can use a surgical laser to perform procedures on brain tumors. The laser can be aimed at the tumor from outside the skull. It can be used to cut the vessels which supply blood to the tumor, causing it to diminish or even dissolve away. Laser equipment can also be used to deliver pinpoint radiation to a tumor, leaving the surrounding tissue undisturbed and healthy. The radiation then kills the cancerous cells, keeping the cancer from spreading as well as destroying the tumor itself.
- Cosmetic surgery – Cosmetic surgeons use surgical lasers and low-level laser therapy with their patients, as well. While perhaps not as life-saving as look-saving, cosmetic treatments using laser equipment are a vital part of many practices. Laser fat removal–otherwise known as laser liposuction–can aid in giving a person a healthy, better looking body. Mental health is a great part of a person’s overall health and self-image, so I suppose you could say that plastic surgeons improve a person’s mental state using laser equipment just as much as he does their physical state.