Monthly Archives: August 2015

DIARY WRITING IMPROVES HEALTH

Many people may be surprised that diary writing improves health. The strength of this mental health technique of venting has actually proven to extend into physical health. We all need a private place of safety to complain, explain, recant, or just express our deepest darkest thoughts and emotions without being judged or embarrassed.

The very first benefit is a sense of safety and privacy not afforded to us in other arenas. We know in this digital age, there is not much that is really safe or private. In your diary or journal, you can say anything you want without fears of rejection, misunderstanding, regret, or political incorrectness. This is the one place where you can always be yourself.

A journal is your sanctuary from the stress and demands of a hectic and profit oriented environment. Journaling is about the relationship you have with yourself. That is, your thoughts and feelings are vitally important to your self-esteem and sense of well being. We all have some secret thoughts or experiences we won’t tell even the people we trust. If it’s not expressed, our negative feelings stay inside and tend to fester(repression).

This primary psychological benefit is called “catharsis” which just means a release of emotions. This release lowers the tension and anxiety surrounding the past feeling or experience. If you ever visited a psychotherapist, the type of conversation you have was designed for this. Writing about emotions in an abstract sense has proven to be more beneficial than verbalizing them which tends to aggravate past trauma instead.

In terms of physical improvements, studies show that this exercise strengthens the immune system by increasing T-lymphocytes. Some studies show it helps with pain management, fatigue, lowers blood pressure and even helps depression. It’s stress reduction benefit decreases arthritis, insomnia, asthma symptoms, and other chronic conditions. So, there actually is a physical health improvement since mental health extend into the body. This physical result is similar to that derived from meditation, progressive relaxation, or other stress reduction techniques. That’s because serotonin and endorphins are released which are mood elevators and pain killers. Except, in this case, you also solidify your thoughts and feelings.

Many of us had a diary as a child, but have given it up with the demands of mid-life. Well, it’s never too late to start or re-start. Writing about 3 times a week for 15 minutes is a good place to begin. Hand writing is a better form of expression than typing. You can write about the past, present or future, but don’t get stuck in the past. In my diary, I even say goodbye and write about people who have passed away and how I feel about that. So, this is a practice in taking care of yourself while appreciating and understanding life as it unfolds.           L. Johnson                More at:   http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Superfood: OLIVE OIL

Olive oil, the keystone food of the Mediterranean diet, helps prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, inflammation, skin aging, and cognitive decline. The powerful protection of olive oil reduces the causes of death and the effect of aging. It an essential ingredient for this longevity diet.

Olive oil is certainly not new to us, but the health benefits increase if we completely eliminate butter and related products and increase the use of olive oil. This is especially true for the first press of extra virgin olive oil that has higher polyphenols which in turn combat inflammation. Why is inflammation bad? Its present with and worsens chronic diseases which is correlated with premature illness and death.

How does it help our cardiovascular system? We know from studies that it decreases overall cholesterol and low-density lipo-protein(LDL). “One of the key polyphenols in olive oil—hydroxytyrosol helps protect the cells that line our blood vessels from being damaged by overly reactive oxygen molecules. Hydroxytyrosol helps protect the blood vessel cells by triggering changes at a genetic level”(1). I find it amazing that genetic changes can occur. But, we are still learning about how profound the effect is of this oil.  In other words, olive oil not only lowers cholesterol, but the oil protects the inside of the cell wall from damage.

Can it really help to prevent cancer? A Life Extension study states olive oil reduces the risk of many types of cancer. The oleic acid in it interferes with the triggering of certain genes that play a key role in cancer. They mention evidence of its preventative effect on breast cancer cells by suppressing the breast cancer gene HER2. “It switches off the proteins that cancer cells rely on to survive and multiply.(2)” It suppresses the gene that drives tumor growth. So, if you’re a woman, this is a wonderful extra benefit.

There is some preliminary evidence that olive oil can reducing aging of the skin. However, further study is needed before solid claims can be made. Life Extension reports, “Scientists linked oleo-canthal, found in olive oil, to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” This occurs as a result of increasing the transfer of proteins in the brain. This benefit is so promising that it may lead to olive oil based therapy for Alzheimer’s.

When I started following the Mediterranean diet, I increased my olive oil intake. Rather than steam my veggies, I now saute them in olive oil. My salad dressing is olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar. And I use the oil for dipping sourdough–no more butter forever. In terms of eating actual olives, the curing process adds sodium while removing a lot of the polyphenols. So, the olives are not as beneficial as the oil itself. If including olive oil in your routine diet requires too many changes, studies say it’s okay to take 1 to 2 tablespoons a day(3). If it seems odd to drink oil at first, remember it’s all about your health and longevity.   L. Johnson of www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)WhFoods staff(no date) “Olive oil, extra virgin” Retrieved on 7-15-2015 from: website: www.whfoods.com/genpage.php/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&bid=132                                  (2)Downey, M.(Aug.2014) “Olive Oil” Life Extension Magazine. Retrieved on 7-15-2015 from website: www.lifeextension.com//Magazine/2014/8/Olive-Oil-Powerful-Protection-Against-Aging-And-Mortality/Page-01                                                                                                                                              (3)Busch, S. (no date) “The benefits of 1 to 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil Per Day” Retrieved on 7-15-2015 from website: www.healthyeating.sfgage.com/benefits-1-2-tablespoons-olive-oil-per-day-9046.html        

Sex in Retirement

Some may feel that sex in retirement is an oxymoron. It may seem natural that sex declines with age since men lose testosterone while women lose estrogen. This natural occurrence often results in a loss of libido or sexual desire that may effect other areas of your life.

The larger problem here is not just loss of intercourse, but also the loss of the important feelings of intimacy, affection, and love.   Some women feel less inhibited since they can’t get pregnant at this stage. However, others must deal with symptoms of menopause that might interfere with their enjoyment in the bedroom.

If you are considering skipping sex in retirement, let me remind you of the benefits. Mood and self-esteem are elevated due production of endorphins. Your blood pressure, stress and sleep are all improved. It is highly correlated with your happiness and sense of well being in life. You burn calories and look younger. Studies show that sex causes collagen production. Groups of people asked to estimate age found that those who had regular sex looked seven years younger on average. Sex improves your health and makes you look younger!

Because this stage is characterized by a loss of interest in sex, both parties can surrender to this urge to forget sex, or both parties can show effort to keep it in their lives. The bottom line may be how important this level of closeness is to you personally. Most of us will feel that intimacy , love and sex cannot be discounted and is characteristic of a healthy relationship and an enjoyable life.

What to do: Rather than possibly lose your relationship or deciding to stay single the rest of your life, you can you do something about loss of desire? There are treatment options that you can discuss with your doctor. Estrogen hormone therapy may be appropriate for some, while Viagra for women is available. Viagra (and Calais) for women are intended to increase blood flow to the pubic area. Consumer reviews of Viagra from women are still forthcoming, so as a newer medication, time and success of usage will determine its popularity. Hormonal replacement patches that release testosterone have also benefited many women.

Whether you decide to try the above supplements or not, first be sure you are physically healthy. We all need to take care of our medical issues, meaning we don’t smoke, we exercise, and are generally healthy. The next focus for restoring interest in sex is arousal. Making love may be physical, but we all know arousal begins in the mind. This means we must first re-connect with arousal neural pathways in the brain.

To accomplish this, I suggest retro experiences to trigger prior arousal responses. For example, the goal is to have fun recreating that romantic evening with candlelight, soft music, vintage wine, gourmet food, a sexy outfit, and the man of your choice. The thoughts and visualizations that aroused you in the past should arouse you again. Self-awareness of all the little details that go into your experience is key to renewing that arousal.

In addition, an active fantasy life is considered healthy. I hope you are open to playfulness and experimentation in the bedroom as part of your continued pursuit of healthy social and physical involvements.     L. Johnson   More details in: www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

TIME GOES FASTER WITH AGE (If you let it)

How often have you heard that time goes faster with age? We know that it’s not time that changes, of course, it’s your perception. Here are a few surprising things that influence your time perception and how to slow time down.

Time perception tends to be a subjective and individual experience. That’s because much of it is based on prior memories. If there are more details in a memory, the event seems newer. If details fade, we perceive it as an older memory.  Our brain just interprets faded memories as being older than vivid memories. What makes a memory vivid usually involves emotion. Life threatening memories, for example, retain their detail and are never forgotten. However, a good memory alone does not change the feeling of time moving faster as we age.

You could argue that time is incrementally relative to your age. That is, when you are 10 years old, adding one year is 1/10th of your life so far. If you are 50, one year is only 1/50th of your life. So, when older, any additional time is understood in terms of how much time we have experienced to that point.

Aging also involves an experience where the novelty of life is wearing off. The time it takes for the mind to process a new or novel situation is more than to process a familiar situation. Learning something new certainly takes longer than doing something routine. This effort can make time seem longer. As life becomes more commonplace, we need less time to integrate it. This lack of mental processing effort can make time seem shorter, according to this theory.

There is a period during our late teens and twenties where our memory takes on greater significance. This stage coincides when our identity is forming. We perceive this stage as more detailed and longer than other life stages. We may view this time as more meaningful and influential as a result. Some feel this occurs due to the novelty of learning about life. But, I believe this is also combined with emotion which causes us to really set this time apart from the rest of life. This period of adolescence to adulthood is one of the biggest transition in life. This suggests that other big life changes may have a similar effect.  Those college years may seem like yesterday because of the life changing emotional changes that took place.

But, time perception and age is more than isolated events in the past and dealing with novel situations. In my quest to slow time down, I’ve noticed a few things. We all know from employment that the busier you are, the faster time goes. I would rephrase this to: the more distracted you are, the faster time seems to go. In this digital age, distractions are everywhere. Just because novelty may take longer to process, it doesn’t mean time in general slows down; it only seems like it at that moment. Outside of that situation, it has little effect on time perception in general and relativity to age.

Another wrinkle in time perception may have to do with how much anxiety or depression you feel. We talked about how emotions help lock in memories. Acute and chronic emotional distress or pain, tends to slow time. A bad toothache that lasted only 24 hours always seems much longer. Emotional pain and physical pain have a similar effect as it’s a distressful(and distorted) perception of time.

How to slow time: I’m not going to suggest staring at a clock, however, this certainly slows time. Some feel that doing anything new or different seems to slow time. Having less digital distractions(including TV) slows time for me. Unstructured time without anything to do can provide the feeling of having more time. I purposely schedule some unstructured time because it seems relaxing as well as slower. Keeping a diary or journal tends to preserve memories better than photos. Reading my diary takes me right back to that time and how I felt with clarity. It’s almost like re-living the experience which makes it more vivid and brings it closer in time.

Meditation not only reduces stress and anxiety, improves your mood and health, but helps you focus on time. The calming effect of meditation seems to dismiss the distractions and unnecessary worry and tension. I feel like I make better use of my time after meditation. Pets have proven to be beneficial for patient recovery and provide unconditional love. Some feel the time spent with pets slows time via the calming effect.

But, we are talking about a subjective perception or mind set. Mind sets are meant to be flexible depending on the situation. You can alter your mind set with visualization and affirmations. For example, before I get up in the morning, I visualize how the day will slowly unfold and I repeat to myself how long and beautiful the day will be. I do this for five to ten minutes. So, my mind and time perception are set before I get out of bed. I also find that reviewing the days events in the evening helps memory and my appreciation of time spent. These suggestions help slow time for me and it might for you as well. Have fun with your time travel and let me know if you have more suggestions.    L.  Johnson from: http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Over-Cooking Causes Cancer

Over-Cooking your foods is a slow way of shortening your life. A recent article discovers startling dangers when foods are cooked at high temperatures. Studies reveal that, “breast and prostate cancers are sharply increased in those who eat heavily cooked meat such as hamburgers(1)”.

It is not confined to low quality meat such as ground beef. When any food is cooked above 300 degrees, damaging chemical changes occur. Upon ingesting this chemically altered food, we are exposed to mutagens that effect our DNA by increasing cancer risk. This altered food also causes glycation and inflammation that destroy our body’s proteins which leads to premature aging.

If you are skeptical about the proof, please see the life extension reference at the end of the article. This study included over 100 supporting scientific studies. These studies discuss how well done steak, bacon, and hamburgers dramatically increase breast cancer risk. Eating deep fried foods are even worse due to their link to a wide number of cancers. Even over cooking healthy foods like fish, can create a similar danger.

What to do: This article really woke me up and scared me into changing my cooking routine. The worst methods of cooking are deep frying, oven broiled and pan fried. The best methods are steaming, stewing, poaching and boiling. If you never had steamed fish, it’s much moister and cleaner than other methods.  It turns out that small changes in cooking make all the difference. You can boil eggs in the morning rather than fry them. If you are a big meat eater, consider stewing meats which also makes them very tender and flavorful. Steaming all your veggies also helps keeps the nutrients intact.

Besides cooking better, eating cruciferous vegetables(broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) contain Idole-3-carbinol which offers protection against cancers caused by over cooking. Chlorophyllin, the green pigment from plants, is also another way to mitigate this damaging effect. If you are a big fan of bar-b-q or grilling, you might consider this supplement. Chlorophyllin is sometimes sold as an herbal supplement, so be sure you get a high quality product with proper absorption.

A positive attitude about making healthy changes is just part of our lifestyle. I am research driven and absolutely determined to get the best out of life. I’ve already eliminated foods from my diet like beef, pork, butter, deep fried foods, etc. I figure that it’s never too late to get healthier. If that means making changing the way I cook to improve health and increase longevity, I look forward to it.  L.  Johnson from: http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Fallon, Wm., “Live Longer by Changing How You Cook”. Life Extension 2015 Aug. Vol.21. No.8, p7-15.