While we eat well and exercise to prevent disease, studies show one of the best ways to stay healthy is to hang out with friends. Studies have linked socialization with better heart health, warding off depression, and preventing memory loss.
In fact, research shows social isolation carries the same health risks as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity, and that regular social interaction can improve your odds of survival by 50 percent.
More people than ever live alone today, almost one third of the US population. This means people have to make an effort to socialize.
And if you think all those hours on Facebook are a substitute for in-person socialization, think again. Although social media is great for connections, online conversations tend to center around what’s “cool” or socially relevant, while in-person conversations go more in depth into sharing life experiences. Important social cues such as body language, facial expressions, and vocal inflections also go missing online.
Having friends prevents dementia
The more socially active people are the lower their risk for cognitive decline and dementia, especially if they have high risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Although researchers don’t understand exactly how socialization prevents dementia, they have several ideas. Friends and family may offer support in seeking health treatment when necessary. A rich social life also exercises the brain and fosters connections between neurons, which is vital to preventing cognitive decline and dementia. Social activity also inhibits chronic stress a notorious destroyer of brain function.
Bad socialization is worse than no socialization
Although studies show regular social interaction is good for health, negative and stressful relationships are not good for health. Research shows being in a strained, unsupportive marriage carries a higher risk of depression than being single. One study showed that people in stressful marriages healed from wounds more slowly than those in happy relationships. Women seem to be more negatively impacted by a bad relationship than men.
How to cultivate a healthy social life
Staying socially active doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re interested in improving your health and preserving your brain function, here are some tips to incorporate regular social activity into your life:
- Don’t wait for others to call or invite you out. Pick up the phone and schedule time with friends.
- Volunteer. This can make a difference in other people’s lives and provide you with healthy social interaction.
- Get a job. If you don’t work or work at home, spending some time working out of the home can expand your social life.
- Find groups of people with similar interests or hobbies through the local paper or meetup.com.
- Take some classes. Learning new things not only provides healthy brain stimulation but also exposes you to more people with similar interests.
We all carry trillions of bacteria in our guts, with as many as a thousand different strains. The composition of these strains, or our “bacterial fingerprint,” can influence whether we are prone to depression, anxiety, or obesity.
Some gut bacteria can make you fat
Studies have shown people (and mice) who are overweight have much higher levels of particular strains of bacteria than thinner subjects. When thin mice are inoculated with bacteria from heavy mice, they gain weight. This is because these fat-promoting bacteria have been shown to encourage overeating, promote weight gain, prevent the burning of fat, and make obese people better at deriving calories from food than thin people.
In a nutshell, your “bacterial fingerprint” plays a role in how much fat you carry and how easy or difficult it is for you to lose weight. Although diet and exercise are important, these findings help to explain why solely relying on the “eat less and exercise more” approach to weight loss is outdated.
Effect of gut bacteria on depression and anxiety
The composition of your gut bacteria can also play a role in whether you suffer from depression and anxiety. For instance, having plenty of beneficial bacteria, such as the Bifidobacteria strain, can promote production of serotonin, the “feel-good” chemical that prevents depression.
On the other hand, too much of “bad” bacterial strains can promote depression and anxiety. This is because the gut is linked to the brain by the vagus nerve, a large nerve that sends messages back and forth between the brain and digestive system. The effects of harmful bacteria in the gut travel to the brain, impacting brain function and mood.
In one study, subjects who took probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium reported less anxiety, depression, and anger and an improved ability to solve problems. In another study, mice given a Lactobacillus strain cruised through a maze that normally created high anxiety and showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to their probiotic-deprived counterparts.
Cultivating good gut bacteria
Although researchers are still unsure exactly how to banish obesity, depression, and anxiety with probiotics, it’s clear you need to enhance your bacterial fingerprint for optimal health.
Birthing and baby feeding affect gut bacteria
The balance of good and bad bacteria starts at birth—vaginal deliveries and breastfeeding have been shown to improve a child’s chances of starting off with a healthy bacterial colony compared to C-sections and bottle feeding.
Chronic stress and gut bacteria
Chronic stress can throw your bacterial harmony out of balance, as can diets filled with sweets and sugars, processed foods, and fast foods. These foods damage and inflame the intestinal walls, promoting overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeasts.
Cultured food and fiber promotes good gut bacteria
You can promote bacterial harmony by focusing on an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet that includes cultured and fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented vegetables. If you use store-bought cultured foods, make sure they are the real deal and not simply made with vinegar, or pasteurized, which would kill good bacteria..
A healthy colony of good gut bacteria also relies on plenty of soluble fiber in the diet. Eating plenty of produce will give you just what you need in that respect.
Probiotics for obesity, depression, and anxiety
Fortunately, we have powerful probiotics today that can help you cultivate your inner garden. Probiotics should be stable enough to survive the hot and acidic environment of the stomach and contain ample amounts of beneficial strains. Ask my office for advice on a probiotic that’s right for you.
Counting calories, avoiding fats, miniscule portions, living with hunger—dieting is a drag and the majority of people eventually gain back the pounds they fought so hard to lose. Newer research shows sloth and gluttony aren’t necessarily to blame for excess weight, but instead inflammation, leaky gut, stress, and other health imbalances.
Dieting slows the metabolism, influences hormones that control appetite so you may become hungrier, and can create a cycle of unhealthy yo-yo dieting.
You’ll have better success if you eat with a focus on lowering inflammation, detoxifying the system, and meeting your nutritional needs. Many people take on anti-inflammatory diets to manage constant pain, digestive complaints, skin rashes such as eczema or psoriasis, an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and other chronic health problems.
People are surprised to find that not only do their symptoms fade but they also lose unwanted pounds. This is because excess weight can be a symptom of health imbalances, such as chronic inflammation, stress or leaky gut, a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes inflamed and porous, allowing inflammatory compounds into the bloodstream.
Weight loss through better health
An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole foods and is free of inflammatory foods. Although it may cut out many of your favorite foods, it does not require you to be hungry. In fact, hunger can work against you by increasing stress and causing low blood sugar. Taking certain herbs and supplements that gently cleanse and detoxify the body can boost the anti-inflammatory and weight-loss benefits of the diet. Ask my office for more details on supporting your success with nutritional therapy.
Anti-inflammatory diet basics that can lead to weight loss
Although anti-inflammatory diets vary, there are some basics to follow:
- Eliminate all processed foods, fast foods, desserts, coffee drinks, sodas, etc. These foods are designed to be addictive. Your anti-inflammatory diet should consist mainly of whole foods found in the produce and meat sections of the grocery store, with an emphasis on plenty of vegetables. Also eliminate processed vegetable oils and hydrogenated oils. Stick with natural oils such as coconut oil and olive oil.
- Eliminate common inflammatory foods. The most common culprit is gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and other wheat-like grains. Many people enjoy weight loss simply by going on a gluten-free diet. However, you may have developed an intolerance to other foods, including dairy, eggs, soy, and nuts. Eliminate these foods for about a month to see whether you react upon reintroducing them one at a time.
- Eliminate sweets. Sugars and sweeteners are inflammatory and a major culprit in excess weight. On the anti-inflammatory diet you will avoid all sweeteners, including natural ones such as honey and maple syrup. This helps curb cravings, stabilize blood sugar, lower inflammation, and eliminate excess fat. Enjoy fruit instead, such as berries.
- Some people may need to follow stricter versions of this diet, such as eliminating grains, foods with lectins, or nightshades. An anti-inflammatory diet can be tailored to individual needs, but the focus is on clearing out the junk and getting back to foods in their most natural state, with an emphasis on plenty of leafy green vegetables.
- Eat to satisfaction, but do not overeat. Overeating even healthy foods stresses the system and causes blood sugar problems. If you have an eating disorder or food addiction, you may need additional support for that.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep promotes hunger, stress, and inflammation and is linked with obesity in studies. Sufficient sleep is a major inflammation-buster. And, of course, get regular physical activity, not to burn calories but because it is vital to good health. Overtraining, however, can cause inflammation and actually counteract your weight loss efforts.
Boost success with gut repair and detoxification
I have found adding in nutritional compounds to help repair a damaged gut, lower inflammation, support the liver, and gently detoxify the system is a wonderful way to boost weight loss and the powerful effects of an anti-inflammatory diet. Ask my office for more information about a detoxification and gut-repair program.
When it comes to Mother’s Day, flowers and brunch are lovely, but what most women need is some time off and help around the house. Catching a break in these areas can go a long way to supporting their health.
Most mothers seem to get the lion’s share of stress these days, and about 70 percent say they find mothering “incredibly stressful.” In addition to shouldering the bulk of the parenting and household duties, the majority of today’s moms work outside of the home, and more women than ever are single mothers.
It’s no wonder women suffer more stress-related diseases than men. More women than men die of heart disease, succumb to Alzheimer’s, and suffer from autoimmune disease. The burdens of being a modern women coupled with a woman’s complex hormonal system increase the risk of breakdowns in health.
Mother’s Day gift ideas to improve Mom’s health
With that in mind, here are some Mother’s Day gift ideas, requested by real-live moms, that can increase well being and help lower her risk of disease. As anyone who has ever lived with a mom can tell you, a happier mom makes for a happier household.
A housecleaner: The top requested Mother’s Day gift
When you have kids, keeping the house clean and tidy is a never-ending chore, yet an uncluttered house helps reduce stress by uncluttering the mind. Just as good as having the house thoroughly cleaned is knowing it’s going to be cleaned, a powerful stress-buster in itself. One cleaning is great, a regular service is heavenly. Cleaning the car, the garage, and outside areas are also great gifts.
Another common request from moms is a break from the ones they love the most. It’s not personal, but running a family requires non-stop physical, emotional, and strategic skills. Some mothers would love the house to themselves for a day or even a weekend. Others prefer you send them away to spend a few days alone on the coast or somewhere nice. Time alone on a regular basis, free from daily duties, will help keep the mom batteries charged.
Whether it’s a massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, or some other form of bodywork, moms want the healing touch. Many studies demonstrate the health benefits of various forms of bodywork. A one-time session is great, but a package of regular visits will give mom a regular break from stress and some genuine wellness support.
Help with cooking
Another never-ending chore for moms is cooking. Growing children are always hungry and eating at a fast-food restaurant is a time-saving temptation that does no one good in the end. Progressive personal chefs today can deliver more economical services, such as crockpot ingredients ready to cook. You can also prepare and freeze ingredients for easy meals, or cook a few meals in large batches and stock the freezer for those hectic evenings.
The gift of appreciation
Mothers like to be acknowledged for all they do. If housecleaning, vacations, and bodywork are not in the cards, smaller gestures are still adored. A gift card for some free movies can buy her some time alone here and there. Homemade presents from the children will be treasured, and flowers enjoyed. As any good business leader knows, appreciating people boosts morale and energizes people, something every mom could use in the important and exhausting business of running a family.
One in 12 in military has clogged heart arteries, according to the Journal Of American Medical Association Tue, Dec 25 2012
Over one in 12 U.S. service members who died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had plaque buildup in the arteries around their hearts, which is considered an early sign of heart disease. These soldiers had not been diagnosed with heart disease before deployment.
“This is a young, healthy, fit group,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Bryant Webber, from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He also said that “These are people who are asymptomatic, they feel fine, they’re deployed into combat.” “It just proves again the point that we know that this is a clinically silent disease, meaning people can go years without being diagnosed, having no signs or symptoms of the disease.”
Webber also said the findings also show that although the U.S. has made progress in lowering the nationwide prevalence of heart disease, there’s more work that can be done to encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and reduce their risks.
This data comes from autopsies done on U.S. service members (98% men) who died in October 2001 through August 2011 during combat or from unintentional injuries. This study resembles autopsy research on Korean and Vietnam war veterans, which found signs of heart disease in as many as 3/4 of deceased service members at the time.
They said that the findings are not directly comparable, because there the prior study was performed when a a draft in place as compared to the current study. The issue, when service is optional, healthier people may be more likely to sign up.
The researchers had information on 3,832 service members who’d been killed at an average age of 26. Approximately 9 percent had any buildup in their coronary arteries, and about a quarter of the soldiers with buildup in their arteries had severe blockage.
Some service members who had been obese or had high cholesterol or high blood pressure prior to entering the service were especially likely to have plaque buildup.
“Young, healthy people are likely to have a lower burden of disease today than their parents or grandparents had decades ago.” That’s is due to better control of blood pressure and cholesterol and lower rates of smoking in today’s service members.
The major problem is that risks for heart disease that have not declined are obesity and diabetes. “Obesity is the one that has not trended in the right direction,” Levy said. “Those changes in obesity and diabetes threaten to reverse some of the dramatic improvements that we are seeing in heart disease death rates,” he added.
Even though these changes have occurred, this disease (heart disease) is still the number one cause of death among men and women. The majority of people suffering from this disease, either knowingly or not, can prevent this issue by lifestyle changes.
SOURCE: bit.ly/JjFzqx Journal of the American Medical Association, online December 25, 2012.