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Daily Walk

December 5, 2015

A daily walk ‘can add seven years to your life’

Everyone should be doing at least between 20 and 25 minutes of walking a day.

Just 25 minutes of brisk walking a day can add up to seven years to your life, according to health experts.

Researchers have found that moderate exercise could halve the risk of dying from a heart attack for someone in their fifties or sixties.

Coronary heart disease is the UK’s single biggest killer, causing one death every seven seconds, and exercise has long been seen as a way to reduce the risks by cutting obesity and diabetes.

A new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress suggested that regular exercise can increase life span.

A group of 69 healthy non-smokers, aged between 30 and 60, who did not take regular exercise were tested as part of the study at Saarland University in Germany.

Blood tests taken during six months of regular aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training and strength training showed that an anti-aging process had been triggered and helped repair old DNA.

“This suggests that when people exercise regularly, they may be able to retard the process of aging,” said Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London.

“We may never avoid be-coming completely old, but we may delay the time we become old. We may look younger when we’re 70 and may live into our nineties.

“Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”

The advice from experts is that everyone should do at least 20 minutes of walking or jogging a day, given the sedentary lifestyles and changes in diet that have contributed to high death rates from heart disease. Exercise can also improve brain functioning.

Exercise brings benefits at whatever age the person starts. People who start exercising at the age of 70 are less likely to go on to develop a condition that leads to irregular or racing heart rates in 10 per cent of people aged over 80.

“The study brings a bit more understanding of why physical activity has that effect,” said Christi Deaton, Florence Nightingale Foundation Professor of Clinical Nursing Research at Cambridge Institute of Public Health.

“It helps us understand the process of cellular aging, as that’s what drives our organ system and body aging, and the effects physical activity can have on the cellular level.

“The more active you are, and it doesn’t matter when you start, the more benefit you are going to have.”

Heart attacks are mainly triggered by coronary heart disease, which kills around 73,000 people in the UK every year and is the leading cause of death in both sexes. Heart disease generally affects more men than women, although from the age of 50 the chances of developing the condition are similar for both.

According to a separate study, hundreds of young people die every year from “electrical faults” in their otherwise healthy hearts triggered by intense sporting activity.

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a rare occurrence that affects one in 50,000 athletes, although most who die are men, researchers found. In the 35 year history of the London Marathon, only one woman has died compared to 13 men.

The study’s authors, from St George’s University Hospital in London, found that a large proportion of cases of SCD in sport occurred in people with anatomically normal hearts, but with inherited faults in the heart’s electrical system that causes them to miss beats and trigger death.

http://www.independent.co.uk

Breathing

December 4, 2015

Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response

The Family Health Guide

The term “fight or flight” is also known as the stress response. It’s what the body does as it prepares to confront or avoid danger. When appropriately invoked, the stress response helps us rise to many challenges. But trouble starts when this response is constantly provoked by less momentous, day-to-day events, such as money woes, traffic jams, job worries, or relationship problems.

Health problems are one result. A prime example is high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. The stress response also suppresses the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Moreover, the buildup of stress can contribute to anxiety and depression. We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. One way is to invoke the relaxation response, through a technique first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. The relaxation response is a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is learning to breathe deeply.

The benefits of deep breathing

Deep breathing also goes by the names of diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises.

For many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural. There are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women (and men) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.

Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs doesn’t get a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.

Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.

Practicing breath focus

Breath focus helps you concentrate on slow, deep breathing and aids you in disengaging from distracting thoughts and sensations. It’s especially helpful if you tend to hold in your stomach.

First steps. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).

Breath focus in practice. Once you’ve taken the steps above, you can move on to regular practice of breath focus. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.

Ways to elicit the relaxation response

Several techniques can help you turn down your response to stress. Breath focus helps with nearly all of them:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga, tai chi, and Qi Gong
  • Repetitive prayer
  • Guided imagery

Creating a routine

You may want to try several different relaxation techniques to see which one works best for you. And if your favorite approach fails to engage you, or you want some variety, you’ll have alternatives. You may also find the following tips helpful:

  • Choose a special place where you can sit (or lie down) comfortably and quietly.
  • Don’t try too hard. That may just cause you to tense up.
  • Don’t be too passive, either. The key to eliciting the relaxation response lies in shifting your focus from stressors to deeper, calmer rhythms — and having a focal point is essential.
  • Try to practice once or twice a day, always at the same time, in order to enhance the sense of ritual and establish a habit.
  • Try to practice at least 10—20 minutes each day.

http://www.health.harvard.edu

Smiling

December 3, 2015

There’s Magic In Your Smile

How Smiling Affects Your Brain

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." ~Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s a rough morning. First, my alarm doesn’t go off. Then I’m late getting my son to school because another driver decides to roll into me. It doesn’t damage my car, but it completely wrecks my mood. Then I get to my doctors appointment only to realize I’m an hour early. Just great. It must be a case of the Mondays!

I decide to pop into little French cafe around the corner to grab a cup of tea while I’m waiting. As I sit under my little gray cloud, my pretty, young server Colette flashes me a dazzling smile that sticks there for the entire interaction. I can’t help but smile back. In fact, I even catch myself smiling while washing my hands in the bathroom. Suddenly my day doesn’t seem so bad. I finish my tea and head to my appointment equipped with a grin on my face, feeling as though I’ve slipped on a pair of rose-colored glasses. Today’s lesson? It turns out that when I smile, the world smiles back.

Scientist and spiritual teachers alike agree that the simple act can transform you and the world around you. Current research (and common sense) shows us that a smile is contagious (1). It can make us appear more attractive to others. It lifts our mood as well as the moods of those around us. (Merci, Colette.) And it can even lengthen our lives (2). So before you read on, slap a nice, genuine smile on that face of yours. You’ll thank me later.

How Smiling Affects Your Brain

Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness. For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting offstress (3). Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, excited. The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well (4). This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever — 100% organically and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions (4).

Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter (5). Many of today’s pharmaceutical anti-depressants also influence the levels of serotonin in your brain, but with a smile, you again don’t have to worry about negative side effects — and you don’t need a prescription from your doctor.

How Smiling Affects Your Body

You’re actually better looking when you smile — and I’m not just trying to butter you up. When you smile, people treat you differently. You’re viewed as attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing an attractive smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel rewarded.

It also explains the 2011 findings by researchers at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Subjects were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness. They found that both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not (6). If you don’t believe me, see how many looks you get when you walk outside with that smile your wearing right now. (You’re still smiling like I asked, right?)

How Smiling Affects Those Around You

Did you know that your smile is actually contagious? The part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression of smiling when happy or mimicking another’s smile resides in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area (7). In a Swedish study, subjects were shown pictures of several emotions: joy, anger, fear and surprise. When the picture of someone smiling was presented, the researchers asked the subjects to frown. Instead, they found that the facial expressions went directly to imitation of what subjects saw (8). It took conscious effort to turn that smile upside down. So if you’re smiling at someone, it’s likely they can’t help but smile back. If they don’t, they’re making a conscious effort not to.

Looking at the bigger picture, each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release feel good chemicals in your brain, activate reward centers, make you both more attractive and increase the chances of you both living longer, healthier lives.

My morning started a complete mess. Anyone in my shoes would have been frowning by the time they hit that café. We can’t always control what happens to us, but I am 100% confident that gracing your face with a grin can seriously change your internal and external experience. Your smile is something that should be worn often, so make it a priority to surround yourself with people, places and things that brighten your day. Vow to be the positive, happy person in your group of friends. Watch funny movies often and be sure to look people in the eye and show them your pearly whites. The world is simply a better place when you smile.

By Sarah Stevenson.

  1. Primitive emotional contagion. Hatfield, Elaine; Cacioppo, John T.; Rapson, Richard L. Clark, Margaret S. (Ed), (1992). Emotion and social behavior. Review of personality and social psychology, Vol. 14., (pp. 151-177). Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc, xi, 311 pp.
  2. Abel E. and Kruger M. (2010) Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity, Psychological Science, 21, 542—544.
  3. Seaward BL. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett; 2009:258
  4. R.D. (2000). Neural correlates of conscious emotional experience. In R.D. Lane & L. Nadel (Eds.), Cognitive neuroscience of emotion (pp. 345—370). New York: Oxford University Press.
  5. Karren KJ, et al. Mind/Body Health: The Effect of Attitudes, Emotions and Relationships. New York, N.Y.: Benjamin Cummings, 2010:461.
  6. Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research Phil Trans R Soc B June 12, 2011 366: 1638-1659.
  7. O’Doherty, J., Winston, J., Critchley, H. Perrett, D., Burt, D.M., and Dolan R.J., (2003)Beauty in a smile: the role of medial orbitofrontal cortex in facial attractiveness. Neuropsychologia, 41, 147—155.
  8. Sonnby—Borgström, M. (2002), Automatic mimicry reactions as related to differences in emotional empathy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43: 433—443.

https://www.psychologytoday.com

December 2, 2015

A Wake-Up Call About the Calories in Coffee

Caleries in Coffee

Chances are, you'll indulge in some special—and high-calorie—foods this holiday season. But you probably don’t think of the coffee you sip at the end of your meal as one of those fattening treats. But maybe you should.

While coffee has some nutritional benefits, there can be quite a few calories in coffee. Two cups each with two ounces of cream and two teaspoons of sugar contain about 300 calories and 24 grams of fat—about the same amount of calories and twice the fat as a slice of pumpkin pie.

Let's say you drink two cups of coffee a day. Simply adding cream to two cups a day adds up to 87,600 calories and 8,760 grams of fat in a year. Add sugar, and you tack on another 23,360 calories. While whole milk is a little less caloric than cream it's still no weight-loss bargain; pour it in two cups of coffee a day and you’ll add 27,740 calories and 1,460 grams of fat to your diet over the course of a year. And that can lead to weight gain: The usual rule of thumb is that 3,500 calories equals about a pound of body fat.

Does all this mean you have to drink your coffee black? Not at all. But a few simple adjustments, such as switching to 2 percent or nonfat milk or weaning yourself off sugar, can make a big difference to the number of calories in coffee. (Learn how almond, coconut, hemp, rice, and soy milks compare with dairy.)

To figure out how many calories and grams of fat you’re adding to your coffee, keep these numbers in mind:

  • 2 ounces of nonfat milk adds 22 calories and 0.1 grams of fat
  • 2 oz of 2% milk adds 30 calories and 1.2 g of fat
  • 2 oz of whole milk adds 38 calories and 2 g of fat
  • 2 oz of cream adds 120 calories and 12 g of fat
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar adds 16 calories and no fat

(http://www.consumerreports.org/coffee-blends/calories-in-coffee)