Category Archives: health

FRIENDSHIP for BETTER HEALTH

Quality friendships really do benefit our mental and physical health. Historically, we always have lived in groups because it facilitated our survival. It’s easier to hunt, live, and provide security as a group. Today, we mostly live in family units or individually.  But, our basic human needs for social support and belonging has not changed. Here are some of the many health benefits of your friendships.

Friends are especially good for your heart and can extend your life. A recent report(1) of a three year study of 13,600 women and men who had no or few friends found that this increased their chance of a first heart attack by 50%. In a study of women only, similar results were found. Women are twice as likely to die when they have the least social support. The women with the best friends had lower blood pressure, less diabetes, and less abdominal fat–better health.

The way this works is that social contact relieves stress which causes inflammation in your arteries. This continued inflammation leads to clogged arteries and heart disease. The study also reports that when younger people have a trusted friend to discuss difficult times, their pulse and blood pressure are lower. These results are measurable and confirmed by other studies.

The psychological benefits involves reducing your stress, increasing your mood and self-esteem while providing a sense of belonging. Talking with friends helps us debrief and cope with life’s traumas. Without friends, we can become isolated and depressed which shortens our lives.

But, this is not to say than any friend can bring these healthy benefits. We need quality friends who are positive, happy and helpful. Not those who always complain or take advantage of you because that just increases your stress. Another study found that we tend to eat more vegetables and fruits, exercise more, and successfully quit smoking if we have the support of friends. So, it’s confirmed, friends influence our behavior for better or worse.

In conclusion, we all need and can benefits from friendships. Since, we know how friends influence our behavior, we try to keep the most positive ones. Leaving unrewarding or difficult relationships behind is acceptable since quality is certainly better than quantity. I recently evaluated my set of friends and let an old friend go since he became toxic. Being open to establishing new friends is important especially when you start to see you old ones pass away.

Some people find it difficult to make new friends because it takes effort. You need to join clubs and organizations or volunteer. You have to get out there and act like a friend to make friends. So, just get involved with any social event that interests you. This effort is going to pay off on multiple health levels for you including your longevity.  So, let’s go out and make a new friend today.   L. Johnson of http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Woolston, C. (3-11-15) Health Benefits of Friendships. Health Day. Retreived on 11-30-15 from: http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/emotional-health-17/psychology-and-mental-health-news-566/health-benefits-of-friendship-648397.html

Women’s Brain Health Alert

Brain Health:  Women’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are DOUBLE that of a man. Women have more than DOUBLE the chance of caring for a family member with cognitive impairment. Current studies show that women are more likely to development cognitive impairment faster than men and not just because of age(1).

The lasting impact this has on women is on different levels. First, more women are struggling with and dying of dementia. Second, since women are often the caretakers, personal and financial sacrifices are often made that end up hurting them. And finally, more women are leaving Alzheimer research work for various reasons.

This ongoing difficult situation for women in all parts of the world resulted in a Global Alliance on Women’s Brain Health. Their goal is to raise money for research, develop a scientific agenda, and organize doctors and scientists to encourage a more rapid solution to the problem. WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s also unites women across the world to search for a cure to Alzheimer’s and is involved in the Global Alliance. Before this alliance, there were few organized efforts to fund research for gender based studies or women’s brain health.

If you or someone you know has been a caretaker of an older adult, you know how stressful, isolating, and costly this can be. It can keep you out of the work force for years and hurt your own retirement. It can negatively change your relationship with your spouse. This is in addition to the emotional toll it can take on you personally.

I completely understand that the desire to take care of your mom comes directly from the heart. So, from my days working in Hospice, I believe that managed or assisted care where you work with a team is best. Remember when our parents went to work, they hired a baby sitter. There was not a sense of guilt or dereliction of duty because we knew this was best for both parties. If we go to work now, your mom can enjoy a stimulating day care or other socially engaging program.

Studies show that day care benefits the elder’s health in the social, cognitive, and physical aspects of life. The social interaction reduces depression and anxiety. Structured activities increase alertness and physical mobility. This is all done by a staff of licensed nurses and trained staff. Day care is certainly better for her than just sitting around watching TV. This involvement benefits both parties as your stress is reduced while their social life is enhanced. My professional experience is that the team approach of different disciplines is the best model of care.

In terms of what measures to take and what to eat to help prevent cognitive decline, please refer to my other article on the aging brain: http://blog.creativeretirementforwomen.com/the-aging-brain/

L. Johnson of http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Robinson, F., (26 Oct, 2015) “Leaders from Canada, United States, and United Kingdom Announce Global Alliance on Women’s Brain Health”  Yahoo Finance. Retrieved on 10-27-15 from //ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/leaders-canada-united-states-united-120000945.html

Health Benefits of Being in Nature

There are now scientific studies that support the health benefits of being in nature. Our hectic schedule of inside activities where air pollution is greater is slowly killing us. Here are nature’s benefits and why we need to be connected:

1. VITAMIN D  “Those who don’t get enough Vitamin D are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s(1)” Less conclusive studies show a relationship with heart disease and diabetes. Getting your Vitamin D from natural sources is an improvement over supplements because of better absorption rates.

2. IMPROVED SLEEP  Americans generally don’t get enough sleep. We all have an internal biological clock or a circadian rhythm. This rhythm is set according to our exposure to the sun. Spending too much time inside can change this pattern. Taking a walk in the morning can help re-set your clock.

3. MENTAL HEALTH Studies show that the neurotransmitter serotonin is produced. This involves the regulation of mood, appetite and sleep. It also improves some mental functions like memory and learning. Serotonin can act like an anti-depressant in your body.

4. VISION Going outside protects your vision in two ways. It can prevent and reverse Computer Vision Syndrome. If you work on a computer and watch TV when not working, you are at risk. The common symptoms are double or blurred vision, headaches, eye irritation and neck pain. The second protection is against nearsightedness. Artificial light is proven to cause this change in vision that can be reversed in natural light.

5. FRESH AIR  It’s frightening to know that indoor pollination is far worse than outdoor. Lack of fresh air can led to bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer and heart disease(1). This is especially true if you sleep above your garage. So, remember to open windows daily and add house plants too.

6. GROUNDING   A new concept to some. It refers to skin contact with nature(grass, dirt, sand). This way we absorb earth’s electrons since the planet is more negatively charged than our bodies. The theory is this reduces inflammation while increases energy. So, take off your shoes next time you walk in the park and be a kid again.

7. EXERCISE  This is not a direct effect of fresh air, but a byproduct of going outside. It’s hard to be outside without doing some type of activity. Exercising outside has more benefits than in a gym. Results show people exercise longer and feel better about it when in nature.

I think the best way to take advantage of being out doors is to plan activities. If you already have your walking or exercise routine established, just move it to a greener location if need be. I always have a table and chairs on my backyard or patio because I enjoy el fresco dining. Start by making a list of all the outdoor activities you enjoy(including window shopping) and start incorporating them into you routine. So, if I tell you to Take a Hike, I mean for your health.  L. Johnson of http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Zack, (3-2014) Get Outside! 7 Scientifically-Backed Health Benefits of Being in Nature Retrieved from: http://appalachiantrials.com/scientifically-supported-reasons-get-outside/ on 11-12-2014

Stevia Replaces Sugar

Stevia is healthier than sugar because it has zero calories, has little aftertaste, has no effect on blood sugar, and is 200 times sweeter than sugar(1). The Stevia plant, sterol glycosides, originates in South America and is part of the sunflower(Aster) family. It has been used there for 100s of years to sweeten drinks and food. Stevia was approved for use by the FDA in 2008.

We all grew up on sugar and have been suffering the consequences ever since. Lets count the ways that sugar is quietly hurting us according to studies: 1. Sugar increases your cancer risk 2. It increases your risk of heart disease 3. It causes insulin resistance(diabetes) 4. It decays your teeth 5. It increases your calories and weight 6. It is addictive due to the dopamine effect 7. It can overload your liver leading to fatty liver disease.

According to the Life Extension(1) article, the most important dietary step you can take to decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer and other age related diseases, is to avoid elevations of blood sugar and insulin after eating. A study is mentioned that gave Stevia(250 mg) to subjects three times a day for one year. The results were a significant and lasting decrease in blood pressure for patients with mild to moderate hypertension. The benefits were so effective at lowering blood pressure, it is now suggested as an alternative therapy.

Stevia additional health benefits work as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-tumor, and immunological agent. Additionally, subjects who ate stevia felt more satisfied on less calories and did not eat more throughout the day. This is most likely because blood sugar and insulin levels remained stable. Stevia can actually help reverse insulin resistance to prevent diabetes.

I find the contrast between the hazards of sugar and the benefits of Stevia, to be night and day. I find it amazing that the FDA took so long to approve it and that its inclusion into drinks and foods is slow to materialize. But, as health oriented people, we can take charge of our own diets. I have personally been using Stevia for a couple of years now and I have to honestly say that I do not miss sugar at all. In fact, I find myself using less and less sweeteners because Stevia helps me slowly lose the taste for sweetness.

When buying Stevia, I was surprised that it was not in my local grocery store. I find health food stores overpriced in my area, so I head for the internet. Since Stevia is packaged under different brand names, just check the ingredients. It’s okay to be sweet again.   L. Johnson      http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Iafelice, R. Superfoods: Sweet As Sugar. Life Extension Magazine, 2014 Feb. 95-99

WALKING FOR LIFE

Walking for life is one of the most sustainable and easiest exercises for most people. That’s because walking is already incorporated into your lifestyle and can be done anytime without equipment or expense. When I taught a class in the weight reduction program, we needed to pair people together to ensure long-term sustainability of walking. Social support is very motivational and often the key to personal involvement. If you’re not sure walking is enough of an exercise for you, here are the many benefits.

Benefits of Walking for Life

1. Walking lowers cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure and stroke. This comes as no surprise since exercise stimulates better circulation. Studies show that it increases your good HDL cholesterol while lowering the bad LDL cholesterol. It can lower triglyceride levels especially if done after a meal.

2. It burns calories and reduces your weight. Weight management is clearly a primary concern of most Americans. As you increase your walking speed and distance, you increase your burned calories. Body fat is modestly reduced with regular walking.

3. It improves brain function and reduces dementia. I mentioned in a prior post about brain shrinkage as we age or gain weight. Sending oxygen to the brain is so important as it helps prevent cognitive decline. Studies shows that walking helps you preform better on tests and it even improves memory in seniors.

4. It strengthens bones since it’s a wright-bearing activity. It helps preserve healthy joints thereby reducing arthritis. This is especially important for women who tend to lose bone density with age. Arthritis people tend to tolerate walking better than other exercises.

5. It firms your muscles and waistline. You can easily tone the bottom half of your body and increase arm movements to help with the top half. Adding hand weights increases your heart rate and tones the arms for a better workout.

6. It gives you energy by sending oxygen to your cells. Cells need oxygen to be healthy. This helps prevent physical disability in the elderly.

7. Walking produces endorphins that reduce anxiety and increases mood. Some studies show that exercise is just as effective as anti-depressant medication. You also reduce your stress and improve your sleep.

8. It can be a social activity which also helps lower blood pressure and heart related problems. It increases your immune response, self-esteem and improved mood as well. Studies show that socially oriented people have greater longevity.

9. There is a good chance you will live longer as a regular walker. Studies show that those people who walk the fastest outlive those who walk slower on average. Another study had people walk for 150 minutes a week( 5 days of half hour). This resulted an additional three and a half years to your life.

The great convenience about walking is all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes. I personally walk for as many errands as possible. I’m self motivated, so I walk with or without people. Some people find it helpful to monitor walking with a step-counter or stop watch. Studies show this monitoring encourages people to continually do more exercise, so I’m in favor of it. Since the social part is also very important, try to involve people you know. If you don’t know walkers, you can establish a walking club in your area and you’ll meet new friends and neighbors. The wonder of having workout buddies is that you forget you’re exercising!     L. Johnson         http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Women Need Vitamin D

According to ScienceDaily(1) Americans have low vitamin D levels. That means we are susceptible to other illnesses including breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. The link between vitamin D and dementia risk is confirmed. D maintains muscle strength helping reduce falls in the elderly. It can reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis which has no cure. It can reduce metabolic syndrome and risk of diabetes. Vitamin D also regulates genes that relate to cancer development and can provide powerful protection against common cancers. If you live in the northern part of the U.S., your are at higher risk during the winter months without sunlight.

Vitamin D deficiency can affect other areas of your body as well. Here are six reasons to get you D levels checked(2).

1. Brain Function: Studies have found that low vitamin D can cause memory and attention difficulties. Many think that mental changes are due to hormonal loss during and after menopause, but it could be your vitamin D level.

2. Weight Gain: This is female specific; when postmenopausal women took 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium daily, they gained less weight and increased their bone integrity.

3. Heart Function: If you are a woman over 50, studies show low levels of Vitamin D can put you in danger of having a heart attack, stroke, or congestive heart failure.

4. Parkinson’s disease:  Parkinson’s is a disorder of the brain that manifests itself as shaking, stiffness, and poor muscular coordination. This disorder mainly develops in people over 50 and increases with age.  Low levels of Vitamin D increases the threat of Parkinson’s disease, while high levels may protect against the devastating illness.

5. Bones Integrity: Studies of bone structure show that Vitamin D deficiency will increase the start and spread of bone fractures. Women are more like to be effected because your bones tend to become brittle and more prone to break.

6. Depression: A study with severely depressed middle age women who were given oral vitamin D supplements revealed a positive response from all participants. We are not sure if this is the cause of the depression, but we know you can feel better as a result.

Life Extension Magazine has confirmed a number of vitamin D benefits similar to the above. They noted that weight loss and reduced inflammation occurred together. It increases survival rates for breast cancer and lymphoma patients. It is associated with less coronary artery disease and premature risk of mortality. It improved cognitive test scores and reduces risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. It can protect against uterine fibroids in women and can prevent infections after surgery. So, its importance cannot be under-estimated.

How to increase our vitamin D?

1. Improve your diet: fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are a good source of Vitamin D as well as beef liver, cheese, egg yolks. Foods fortified with D are dairy products, orange juice, some cereals and milk.

2. Supplements: Although studies have shown that 600-800 IU of Vitamin D per day is safe, always check with your doctor before starting a Vitamin D supplements. Some feel this is not the best way because of the poor absorption rate of vitamins.

3. Sunshine: The article suggests that it’s better if we get at least 15 minutes of sun a day before we apply sunscreen.

I have to admit that I have been taking vitamin D3 at 5,000 IU for a few years now. I originally started after reading some convincing research.  It’s difficult to fell the physical change, except for just maintaining good health. If you’re not sure if you need vitamin D,  just get your levels checked.   L.  Johnson of www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/vitamin+d/         (2)http://www.empowher.com/holistic-health/content/got-vitamin-d-what-women-over-50-should-know-0?page=0,1

Pet Ownership Health Benefits

Pet ownership offers a surprising range of health benefits. Most of us have heard of the pet therapy programs in many hospitals because pets help patients recover faster on less medication. The hospital program is a big success because patients return home sooner, the cost is less, and they’re happier and healthier overall.

The unconditional love provided by a pet is fairly rare in life and has proven to reduce anxiety and depression.  Pets offer companionship that reduces boredom and isolation especially for those residing alone.  This emotional benefit has been scientifically proven to improve our physical health in a number of different areas. Here are health results from a pet study(1).

CARDIOVASCULAR IMPROVEMENT: Dogs and cats provide similar benefits. A study found that, “If you have a cat, you’re 30% less likely to have a heart attack, and you’re 40% less likely to have a stroke.”(1)

BLOOD PRESSURE: So many people are on hypertension medications so early in life. We need to find a better method to control this. The comfort of a pet actually lowers blood pressure and makes the biggest difference if blood pressure is already elevated.

IMMUNITY AND ALLERGIES: Having a pet as a child can reduce allergies and increase immunity. Children raised on farms don’t have allergies, have less illnesses, and attend school more often on average.

DECREASES STRESS: A study gave people a stressful task and found they experienced less distress when with their pets. This relaxation response was better when compared to being with a family, spouse or friends. Pets can reduce stress more than our own spouse or best friend!

PAIN MANAGEMENT: A study in hospitals revealed that surgery patients need less pain medication and recover faster when pets are present. Pets can reduce migraine and arthritis pain as well.

IMPROVED MOOD: A decrease in a range depressive symptoms has been noted. It’s most likely from the unconditional love and companionship pets provide. Pet contact releases endorphins that have a pain killing and mood increasing effect.

EMOTIONAL  DEVELOPMENT: Caring for a pet, especially when young, enables better social skills and a sense of responsibility. Pets even increase literacy skills and self-confidence in children.

SOCIAL BENEFIT: It’s not a surprise that studies show dog owners are better socially connected and friendlier than non-owners.  Taking your dog for a walk twice a day is a form of social networking.

MAY LOWER CHOLESTEROL: Pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels on average. The causal relationship is still being explored.

If you are already a pet owner, then you are taking care of your health. If you’re considering getting a pet, be sure you have the minimum time available to spend. Each type of pet needs a certain amount of attention because pets can get lonely and depressed too. For those retiring alone, I believe having a pet is an essential relationship for happiness and longevity.  I’ve personally had pets since I was a child and I’ve always enjoyed the special supportive relationship they offer.       L. Johnson       http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Gekas, A. 2-28-11 10. Benefits of Owing a Pet. Retrieved from: womansday.com/life/pet-care/a2352/10-health-benefits-of-owning-a-pet-116238/

Superfood: CHAGA MUSHROOM

If you haven’t heard of the medicinal Chaga mushroom, this article is for you. The Inonotus obliquus is a fungus that grows on trees by feeding off the lignins without damaging the integrity of the tree itself. However, it doesn’t look like a typical mushroom with a top and stem. It’s visually similar to a piece of bark with red, brown and black colors.

A superfoods site(1)tells why this fungus is so healthy. It starts with the extremely high level of immune boosting antioxidants such as glucans and betulinic acid. Beta glucans boost the immune system, but is not produced by the body. It is found in grains like oats, wheat, rye, and barley besides certain mushrooms. This immune response protects us from breast, stomach and colorectal cancers. It has been used in Russia as an anticancer drug since 1955.

Betulinic acid is an anti-inflammatory and antiretroviral agent that is also found in the bark of trees. It is thought to inhibit melanoma and has been studied by the National Cancer Institute as a treatment for some cancers. Chaga is also considered one of most powerful adaptogens or compounds that promotes homeostasis in the body.

Its even good for your skin. Chaga has the highest melanin content in any food which acts as a gene protector. Melanin, a pigment produced in the skin of all animals, can protect the skin from sun damage as well as hair and eyes. It prevents UV radiation damage from the sun. We all know how UV damage tends to age the skin prematurely.

Here are the vitamins and minerals(1):

  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin D2
  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • sulfur
  • potassium
  • rubidium and cesium
  • silicon
  • germanium
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • antimony
  • barium
  • bismuth
  • boron
  • chromium
  • copper

There are different ways to ingest the Chaga mushroom, but it’s mostly ground and used in tea or as an extract in capsule form. I personally enjoy it as a brewed tea, so I buy the ground powder on amazon. I find the taste similar to orange pekoe tea with a bit of an earthy flavor. It’s mild enough that I don’t use sweeteners and my teenage daughter has fallen in love with it.

Side effects: It may increase the effect of anticoagulants like aspirin and warfarin. It may also interact with diabetes medicines like insulin.

(1)Superfoods for Superhealth staff. Changa Mushroom Benefits as an Immune Enhancing Superfood. 2015. Retrieved from www.superfoods-for-superhealth.com/chaga.html on 8-31-15.

by L. Johnson    http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

TIPS TO REDUCE ANXIETY

As a therapist for over 30 years, I can confirm that we all feel a need to reduce anxiety at some point in our lives. It’s that sense of dread, panic or being trapped accompanied by physical symptoms of sweating, rapid heart beat, faster breathing, and fatigue. When you have an anxiety attack, you may feel a temporary need to escape the situation. Most anxiety lasts only a few minutes, but can seem much longer due to its intensity. Anxiety often re-occurs in similar situations resulting in avoidance behaviors in an attempt to control it.

Some people have situational anxiety and others may have anxiety for no apparent reason–free floating anxiety. Some may have anxiety attacks and others may feel less intense anxiety more often. But, we all have a need to manage it in some way. In discussing anxiety reduction, I will present different categories or approaches to management starting with the least invasive first.

STRESS REDUCTION TECHNIQUES:

Diaphragm Breathing: Find a comfortable and quite place to sit. Just take a slow deep breath filling your lungs completely until you see your stomach rise. Upon each exhale, visualize the tension slowly leaving your body. Drop your shoulders and let your muscles feel like they are hanging on your bones. About 10 minutes of this should get you ready for the next exercise.

Progressive Relaxation: While your are still sitting in a comfortable place, you begin to tense a muscle group for 5 to 10 seconds followed by relaxation. Start with your forehead and work down your body to your feet. You move from head to arms, chest, legs and feet. Do not tense too hard or long as the tension sometimes remains.

Transcendental Meditation: After the two above exercise, you can now begin your meditation. I’ve always preferred to sit in a yoga position, but a comfortable chair is just as good. Close your eyes for 15 to 20 minutes in a quite place. I allow my mind to wander for this time rather than self direct. I find the mind wanders to those areas of life that are of concern. I then view them in an anxiety free light which often gives me insights in understanding or resolving it.

Biofeedback: After the above, you can now begin your biofeedback. This is simply the body giving the mind feedback about how they interact. You can start with a finger thermometer that shows how warming your finger results in dilating your arteries. This reduces the physical and vascular effect of anxiety. Using biofeedback to monitor and control muscle tension is a better option, but you would need to get some equipment. I was a biofeedback therapist, so I know you can make appointments with an expert and learn the techniques in as little as 5 to 10 sessions.

EXERCISE:

Stretching: There are routine warm-up stretches that prepare the body for exercise. But, there is Yoga and Tai Chi as well. Yoga involves specific body postures and includes breath control and focusing of the mind. Tai Chi involves slow movements to increase vascular circulation. If you reside near a Chinese community, you may see this form of martial art practiced in public parks. It mostly involves stretching and slow circular movements. This can be used as a warm up for more active exercise.

Anaerobic: This is simply the use of muscles with faster motion. Many sports and weight lifting are start and stop activities. Besides stress reduction, you increase your muscular strength, coordination and flexibility.

Aerobic: This is continual exercises improving the body’s use of oxygen. This includes walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, etc. Besides stress reduction, you will increase your stamina, strengthen your heart and arteries, burn calories, increase your mood and even extend your longevity. Of the three, aerobic exercise appears to have the most physical and mental benefits if done for at least 20 minutes three time or more a week.

NUTRITION:

Anti-anxiety Foods: Whole grains have magnesium and serotonin which calm neurotransmitters in the brain. Chamomile tea ingredients have an effect similar to Valium on your brain. Other foods that have been identified are almonds(balances mood), acai and blueberries(both high in antioxidants that relieve stress), and seaweed(tryptophan). This also means avoidance of foods that led to anxiety like caffeine, sugar, glycemic or white carbs, and fried foods.

PSYCHOLOGICAL TECHNIQUES:

Guided Imagery: This is using your imagination to guide your life. This involves closing your eyes sitting or reclined and revisiting a relaxing situation. You try to use all your senses. When you visit your favorite beach, you see, smell, feel, and taste it. You can feel the breeze and taste the salt in your mouth. Relaxing images often improves mood in only a few minutes.

Creative Visualizations: There is an excellent book called “Creative Visualization” by Shakti Gawain suggesting you set your mind before you get out of bed. That is, once awake, just lie there and picture how your day will unfold. Picture your interview success(or other task) and how relaxed and cheerful your will be. It’s a form of mental rehearsal like athletes do before a game.

Affirmations: This is the process of repeating positive phrases about yourself to change your outlook. When repeated daily, these positive phrases become a self fulfilling prophecy and can change your behavior. If you repeat how calm and relaxed you are on a daily basis, you slowly convince yourself until you are that person.

UNDERSTAND THE CAUSE:

Specific: Certain situations can trigger anxiety in some people. After my rear end car accident, I felt anxious when tailgated for a couple of years. Since I understood the cause, I was able to plan a resolution. So, I would start my deep breathing techniques when tailgated and sometimes turned up the radio to distract me. I finally got over it after using these techniques.

Non-Specific: Some people I know are just anxious people. They over-react in anxious ways to various minor or routine stresses. This is sometime called free floating anxiety when a specific cause is not apparent. In this case, you understand this is part of your character. So, you just program stress reduction into your daily routine–taking time before and after work everyday.

PSYCHOTHERAPY:

Talk Therapy: If you practice all the above techniques on a daily basis and your anxiety is still causing you distress, you may consider counseling. This will most likely go deeper into the cause and provide an expert opinion as to the treatment. This treatment may focus on coping skills, self-esteem exercises or prior traumas. In my practice, I noticed that anxiety and depression often go hand and hand. If this is your experience and it interferes with your life, it may be important for you to try counseling.

Behavior Therapy: Cognitive Behavior Therapy involves talk therapy with a specialist. This system involves changing the old thinking patterns and habits that contribute to your anxiety. We replace self-defeating thoughts with positive affirmations. You practice following your thoughts with positive behavior change until new habits develop. This may involve stress reduction techniques as well and can be attended in a group rather than individual sessions.

Medications: If you are in therapy, your therapist may refer you to a Psychiatrist for a medication evaluation if indicated. This is not the place to start as this is often a treatment of last resort. There are many medications available for anxiety and depression that the doctor will evaluate you for, so I won’t go into detail here as this is always individual.

In conclusion, these anxiety reduction techniques are presented in progressive order so you can start at the top and work your way down. The more techniques you use, the stronger the effect. It also takes a few weeks of practice to get maximum benefit. Many of these techniques can be incorporated into your daily routine, like meditation and exercise, and will result in healthy improvements in different areas.  L. Johnson   www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

BEST DIETS

The best diets are ranked by doctors, nutritionalists and dietitians for U. S. News and World Report(1) annually. There are many factors that go into the ranking like its heart and diabetes ratings, weight loss potential, ease of following and best plant based diets. These different ratings are combined to afford its overall rating.

One of the first things you notice reviewing the list is how the trendy diets are near the bottom. Here is a list of the top and bottom five diets:

The Worst:

The Fast Diet–weak on dietary guidance when not fasting

Atkins–good for weight loss, not for nutrition or heart health

Raw food–3rd for weight loss, but too hard to follow

Dukan–not proven with a ton of rules

Paleo–not proven and ignores certain food groups, hard to follow

The Best:

DASH diet-(Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)This started out to lower blood pressure, but ranks high due to its safety, nutritional completeness and prevention of diabetes and blood pressure.

TLC diet (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) was created by the National Institutes of Health. Its described as a complete diet and is especially heart healthy. Its a do-it-yourself diet, so you just get organized with meal planning.

Mayo Clinic Developed at the clinic to make healthy eating a lifestyle. It has great nutritional balance and safety, but not necessarily as a weight loss diet.

Mediterranean Diet This diet is heavy into veggies and fruits, olive oil, fish, nuts, and grains. It’s a longevity diet, but not necessarily for weight loss.

Weight Watchers The only commercial diet on the top 5. It’s a nutritionally sound diet that’s easy to follow and has group support to encourage weight loss.

I found it interesting that cancer prevention wasn’t included as part of the ranking criteria considering it’s the second cause of death in the U.S.(heart disease is first). A plant based diet is good for cancer prevention as many of these are, but you may want a more specific diet. For example, we know that onions, mushrooms, and cruciferous vegetables provide more cancer protection than other veggies. So, adapting a diet specific to cancer is better than a general good diet, if that is your situation.

After examining the details of these diets, I find the DASH and the Mediterranean diets to be similar with their heavy emphasis on whole grains and veggies. I personally follow the Mediterranean diet because I have a cerebrovascular(stroke) history in my ancestry and I like the freedom it provides. I encourage you to choose a diet based on your genetic predispositions as well. So, take a little time to find out your family medical history to help determine your direction. Then you can choose a diet specific to your genes and family history. Bon Appetite.

L. Johnson        www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)U.S. News staff. Jan. 2015. “Best diets overall” Retrieved on 9-14-15 from website: health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-overall-diets