Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cultivate a Positive Outlook for a Healthy Mind and a Healthy Body.

If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

~Mary Engelbreit

So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.

~The Eagles, "Already Gone"

It is easy to fall a victim to negativity. When you are in the trenches with live bullets whizzing over your foxhole, you may consider yourself a victim and feel helpless. If things are not going our way, the line of least resistance is to fall prey to pessimism. A little stress is good for us. However, unrelenting pessimism, when sustained for a long time produces its own chemicals like the stress hormone cortisol that can shrink our brain, depress our immune system and our way of thinking. Studies in the Institute of Mental Health in the Netherland showed that over a 15-year period, older people with positive attitude to life were half as likely to have heart disease as those who held pessimistic views. This occurred regardless of their initial state of health.

Other evidence in favor of the positive attitudes to life is from the Nun's study. The study of nuns in Minnesota showed the nuns who had positive attitudes to life during their adolescent and young adulthood were the healthiest during their adulthood. The Alternative approach to these difficult interludes in our lives is to "see the bless in the mess." Positive thinking lowers the levels of stress hormone cortisol. The effects of the cortisol on the immune system and the brain are counteracted by the hormone DHEA which starts to decline by age 30, declining to less than 20% of their maximum by age 70. A study at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, reveals that older men with high levels of cortisol have smaller anterior cingulated cortices. Studies have linked the shrinkage of this part of the brain with Alzheimer disease and depression in older people. Researchers think stress causes this.

It appears therefore that a positive attitude is life saving. It reduces the stress hormones, preserves our brains and save them from the devastating effects of Alzheimer's disease. Learning to laugh at yourself and with your friends are positive traits that help the brain fights disease. Hence, try to create humor in your life and don't take everything seriously, for we are not here forever. One day we will go to sleep and not wake up. I do not think it would be any different from having a deep sleep and a peaceful rest. So prepare yourself to welcome it as another phase of your life. That way, you decrease stress in your life.

To reduce further stress, in addition to exercising (which builds the brain cells), find time to meditate and have a belief system that gives you hope. Practicing your belief system regularly will help calm your mind, give you a positive attitude and cut down the production of the harmful steroid, cortisol, which can wreak havoc on your brain. Praying, Yoga, Tai chi, deep breathing exercises with progressive relaxation can produce the relaxation response that can cut down the level of cortisol in your blood stream to prevent it from destroying your brain cells. Concentrate on eating foods that can feed the brain. Hence, eat a lot of fish or walnuts that contain omega 3 acids. You may also take omega 3 fatty acid capsules twice daily to feed the brain as aging decreases this essential brain elixir. This way you can live a healthy and enjoyable life.

"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."

Jimmy Dean


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Loneliness is a Toxin for Your Mind and Body Health.

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart
withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears
only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.”
Pearl S. Buck

We were not created to be lonely. We thrive better on social contacts with friends and groups with whom we can have social intercourse. Many people in more traditional societies like Asia and Africa with meager resources are happier because of the social cobweb they weave around themselves. This cobweb serves as a safety net for these people in times of need and even in their day to day transactions where many battering goes on.

It appears that as far back as 1858, the demographer, William Farr observed this important phenomenon. He wrote that widows and widowers were at higher risk of dying than their married peers. Further studies have showed that marriage can add as much as seven years to a man’s life and 2 years to a woman’s. Of course the marriage has to be a healthy and happy one or else it will cause more stress and cause illness.

A study at the University of Chicago found that a married older man with heart disease can expect to live nearly four years longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart. Likewise, a married man who smokes more than a pack a day may live as long as a divorced man who does not smoke.

It appears that social interactions can boost the growth of the brain cells and immune system resulting in good health. In supportive relationships, people can handle stress better. Thus if you aim to live a longer life you should aim for a life partner, children and meaningful supportive relationships.

It also appears that church going, with its social networks, helps to boost your longevity. Hence to live a long life, you should have a family life and maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse, your children, friends and church members. This looks like a simple mind and body health prescription that can keep you healthy and give you a meaningful life.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Eat The Right Food For A Healthy Mind And A Healthy Body.

"Man is what he eats"
Ludwig Feuerbach

That we are what we eat is a true dictum. Food is medicine. Thus eating the right food at the right time is important for our health. Unfortunately, many of my patients don't eat breakfast and have barely enough time to eat lunch. Thus they rely on their dinner for most of their nourishment and fill their whole day with high calorie drinks, snacks and junk food. When this happens they perform poorly at work because the brain needs food to be able to function well. It also has impact on their health as their unhealthy eating habits take their toll on them eventually. The following is an article culled from the New Scientist about the importance of healthy eating.

Many studies have shown that skipping breakfast reduces people's performance at school and at work since the brain needs a steady supply of glucose. According to research published in 1993, children eating breakfast made up of fizzy drinks and sugary snacks performed at the level of an average 70-year-old in tests of memory and attention.

Beans on toasts are a far better combination as researchers from the University of Ulster, United Kingdom discovered. Toast alone boosted children's scores on a variety of tests. However, when the tests got tougher, the breakfast with the high protein beans worked best. Beans are also good source of fiber. Researchers have shown a link between a high fiber diet and improved ability to process facts with the brain.

A smart choice for lunch is omelet and salad. Eggs are rich in choline, which your body uses to produce the chemical in the brain called acetylcholine. This is a chemical that transmits information between the nerve cells. Researchers at Boston University found that when healthy young adults were given the drug scopolamine which blocks acetylcholine receptors in the brain, it reduced their ability to remember word pairs. Low dose of acetylcholine is also associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies suggest that boosting dietary intake may slow age-related memory loss.

A salad packed with antioxidants, including beta carotene and vitamins C and E, should help keep an aging brain in good condition by helping to remove damaging free radicals. Dwight Tapp and colleagues form the University of California at Irvine found that a diet high in antioxidants improved the thinking skills of 39 aging beagles.

Yogurt is a good desert after lunch. It will make you alert and ready to face the afternoon stresses. This is because yogurt contains the amino acid tyrosine that is needed for the production of neurotransmitters dopamine and adrenaline, among others. Studies in the US military indicate that tyrosine becomes depleted when we are under stress and that supplementing your intake can improve alertness and memory.

Have a snack in mid afternoon to maintain your glucose levels. However avoid junk foods and especially highly processed foods such as cakes which contain tans-fatty acids. These pile on the fat and have been implicated in many mental disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) to autism. Researchers at a neuroscience meeting in 2005 in San Diego, California reported that rats and mice raised on the rodent equivalent of junk food struggled to find their way around a maze and took longer to remember solutions to problems they had already solved.

Triglycerides, cholesterol-like substance found in high levels in rodents fed on trans-fats might be the culprit. When the researchers gave these rats a drug to bring the triglycerides down, the animals did better on their memory tests.

Brains are about 60% fats. If trans-fats clog up the system. What should you eat to keep it well oiled? Evidence is mounting in favor of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA. Hence fish is the best food for the brain. It lubricates and feeds the developing brain and prevents dementia. Studies published in 2005 showed that older mice from a strain genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s had 70 per cent less of the amyloid plaques associated with the disease when fed on a high-DHA diet.

Finally, finish your evening meal with strawberries and blueberries. Rats fed on these fruits have shown improved coordination, concentration and short-term memory.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Year of Blogging on Healthy Mind and Healthy Body.

"Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit.

When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open. " ~B.K.S. Iyengar

The United Nations defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Most of our healthcare is concentrated on the first part of the UN definition of health. The second part is what is missing in many peoples' lives. Dr Benson calls this second part the third leg of health care, the first two legs being medical and surgical care which treat the sickened body. We all know that medicine and surgery alone cannot cure humanity of all its ailments. There is the need for the mind and body components to complement medicine and surgery to provide the appropriate holistic care.

About a year ago, we started on the journey of exploring the concept of self-care and its importance in our wellbeing. By self-care, I mean the responsibility the individual has on caring for her spiritual and physical needs to prevent diseases. When the body is in tune with the calm, meditating mind, it is able to withstand diseases, be it mental or physical in nature. Minding your mind tames your mind and prevents it from producing stress hormones to harm the body. Nurturing your body through exercising and healthy eating has positive effects on the mind by keeping it young and in good shape. Thus as exercise is medicine for the body and the mind, healthy nutrition keeps both the mind and body strong and shields it from the onslaught of harmful thoughts and microbes.

I wish to thank all my readers for visiting this blog and sharing their feelings through their comments. We will continue to bring you more information and helpful hints to help you live meaningful holistic lives that may be immune to the germ and stress. This way, you can pursue your dreams and contribute to the global efforts to make this world better than we met it. You may register to receive emails when I post new articles on the blog. If you have any ideas to share, we would be happy to read your comments. If you like what you read, share it with your friends.

"Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;

... and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man. " ~James H. West