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Pets are a great way to remain more active and to have a connection to another living being. They encourage us to care for them and to care for ourselves in the process. They keep us stimulated mentally, socially and physically. And, there is evidence that those who have pets have a better mood and decreased tendency toward depression.
Just watch the face of someone when a puppy or kitten comes in the room! Pet’s are good listeners and will unconditionally love. They can decrease feelings of isolation and give one a sense of purpose. When walking a dog, a person is more likely to connect with others. This alone enhances well-being and reduces stress. Physiologically, having a pet has been proven to resist heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Pets can promote a relaxation response that would decrease the likelihood of any stress related disorder.
Answer submitted by Mary Michaelsen, Occupational Therapist at Provena Mercy Medical Center
This is certainly a question I am asked often. The most recent body of research does seem to be suggesting that an excess of sugar in the diet from foods or beverages may put a person at higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes. What is not completely clear, is whether the increased risk is due to the sugar itself or the increased weight a person may gain as a result of the additional calories. When we are carrying extra weight, our body can become resistant to the action of the insulin we produce. This insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. So, if you could eat a banana split every night and not gain any weight, would you be at higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes? Maybe not, but how many of us can do that?
There are numerous “diets” available commercially, which happens to be a billion dollar industry in America. It is prudent to know which will work for you because the needs of a person looking to lose one-hundred pounds will be different than one tying to get rid of ten. The basic “mantra” is: in order to loose weight, the calorie intake should be less than the calories expended. This can be done by increasing calories burned by exercise, and reducing calorie intake by making changes in diet.
A study in the”New England Journal of Medicine” in 2009 compared “the total calorie intake vs. various compositions of diet (like low carb or low fat, etc.)” After a two-year follow up of various groups, it was concluded; low caloric intake, with a balanced diet was the most effective way of loosing weight and keeping it off, rather than different diets focusing on the composition. Up-short to the study is, make healthier choices in everyday life like replacing coffee creamer with skimmed milk and reducing portion size. Be conscious of the calorie content in food for long-term weight management rather than following a “fad diet.”
A diet plan has to tailor to an individual. Depending on personal preferences, target weight loss, the diet can be selected. Some important facts about various diets which were studied are as follows:
- “Low carbohydrate diets” are proven to give fastest weight loss, but are often hard to follow long-term. As a rule, the more drastic the diet, the harder it is to adhere to it for a prolonged time.
- “Mediterranean diets” rich in olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc. were proven to have health benefits because of the high antioxidant content.
- “Low fat diets” help with more sustained weight loss due to a lower caloric content.
- “Portion control diets” (like weight watchers or Jennie Craig) do show results depending on the compliance with the diet and making healthier choices once the weight has been lost.
These are just some very basic facts about weight management, there are several sites which have comprehensive knowledge about “diets” with objectivity.
- American Heart Association
- Weight –control Information Network
- Food Drug Administration
- National Institute of health
The American Heart Association recommends that we should consume less than 1500 mg of sodium per day. However, the average American consumes over 3400 mg of sodium daily. Sodium is hidden in many foods, and the sodium content is extremely high in restaurant foods, prepared or canned foods, soups and condiments. There is about 600 mg in a ¼ tsp of table salt, so be careful not to add salt to your foods! Substitute pepper, seasonings or lemon juice to add some flavor to your foods.
Why is this so important? Taking in too much salt can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attack, stroke and can also damage the kidneys. Excess sodium intake leads to fluid retention, and as more fluid is added to the vascular system, the blood pressure will rise. Hypertension makes the heart work harder, damages the blood vessels, and can eventually lead to a heart attack. High blood pressure is also hard on the kidneys and is a risk factor for stroke.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, if Americans reduced their salt intake by 1200 mg per day, we could greatly improve our health. We could decrease the number of coronary heart disease patients by 90,000 a year; the number of stokes by 49,000 a year; the number of heart attacks by 76,000 a year; the number of deaths from all causes by 68,000 a year. Now, that is a pretty good reason to put down the salt shaker!
Answer submitted by Melissa Leguillon APN, CNP, Cardiovascular Nurse Practitioner at Provena Mercy Medical Center
Quitting smoking can be a difficult thing to do. About 70% of people who smoke want to quit smoking and only about 4-7% will successfully quit smoking (cold turkey) without any help or medication. Approximately, 25-33% will be successful and off cigarettes for at least 6 months when using medications to help. Up to 40% of people who smoke and participate in smoking cessation programs successfully quit smoking and stay off cigarettes for at least one year. Success rates may seem low but do not get discouraged, everyone is not always successful on their first try.
It is important to understand that smoking is an addiction caused by the nicotine in cigarettes. It can be as addictive as cocaine and alcohol. Because your body becomes dependent on smoking, your body makes it difficult for you to quit. If you have tried to quit before, and were not successful, please DO NOT GIVE UP! Try again in a few weeks and reflect on the past experience or experiences to help you be successful this time.
If you have not tried nicotine replacement therapy or medications yet, it is definitely something to look into. There are over-the-counter nicotine replacement agents and prescribed medications that can help you quit. Some of the over-the-counter medications are the Nicotine patch, gum or lozenges. Some of the prescribed medications are Zyban, Wellbutrin, Chantix, Nicotine inhaler and Nicotine nasal spray. Please consult with your physician if you are considering trying any of these.
Look for support! Your support system can greatly impact your outcome. People who have a good support system have a higher success rate. Tell your family and friends that you are quitting and ask them to help and support you. Find someone to lean on and call when you feel that you may be giving in to a cigarette. This person should be aware that you are trying to quit and know that you will call him/her when you are feeling weak. Look for support groups close to you. Support groups give you the opportunity to share and learn experiences with others that are going through the same thing as you.
Finally, look for a smoking cessation program close to you. A smoking cessation program will provide you with all the information and support necessary to help you be successful in quitting. It will address topics such as coping skills, medications, nicotine replacement therapy, nicotine dependence, quitting skills, recovery and relapse prevention and stress management.
Provena Mercy Medical Center offers a “Freedom from Smoking” cessation program. Please feel free to call 1-866-PROVENA to obtain information on the next available clinic and register.
You are describing what so many are experiencing right now, and it is not to be taken lightly. Stress raises our blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and blood sugar. It causes us to make poor lifestyle choices (like eating unhealthy and not exercising)and losing contact with those we love. Short term stress is part of life, and our bodies react, then revert back to normal. It’s long term, chronic stress that is harmful. If you “come down” off high stress twice a day, your body can repair the damage that has been done. Here are a few ideas to manage stress at work and at home:
- It is a proven fact that three deep breaths will lower your heart rate and lower your blood pressure! This is a great stress relief technique and is something you can do anywhere, anytime, and begins to reverse the stress response. Use your abdomen to breathe, like filling a balloon slowly to a count of 4; hold for a couple seconds, then slowly exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight. Think about taking in a deep, cleansing breath, and blowing out all the tension. You will notice that your shoulders relax and your body settles down.
- Change your environment, external and internal. Give yourself a “release valve” by venting in some way; this can be done verbally or in writing. Journaling can offer great relief–studies have proven it improves sleep, reduces pain and improves mood. Just write continuously, with no attention to punctuation, capitalization or penmanship…just write until you have let everything out.
- Disconnect/disengage–this is a way of escape when you are physically unable to get away. Visualizing works well, and meditation is excellent.
- The number one stress reliever is EXERCISE! Take 1-2 minutes several times a day and jog in place, run up some stairs, or walk briskly down the hall and back; then stretch your shoulders, back and legs. The best daily exercise is just taking a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes, to release tension and endorphins.
- Take one minute, five times a day, to close your eyes and think about someone, or something, you love. This changes your internal environment, and there is definitely a “mind/body” connection.
Conditions and situations are not inherently stressful…it’s how we perceive them. Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.” Wherever your thoughts are going, that’s where YOU are going. Ask yourself, “How important is this, and can I change it?” Sometimes it is not that important in the scheme of things, and perhaps it won’t be that important in a week, a month or a year, so it makes it easier to just let it go. Sometimes we can’t change the whole situation, but we can change some part of it, and we can always inject some humor to change the atmosphere. Many of these suggestions can be implemented at your desk, in a conversation, in the car, or when you take a few moments in the restroom!
Always try to give yourself some transition between work and home, by changing your thoughts, changing your physiology and changing your environment. Stop at the park or walk into a store, just for a few minutes to allow yourself to let go. Be true to your values, and give your time and effort to those that top your list. No one ever wanted put on their tombstone, “I wish I would have spent more time at the office.”
I recommend a book “Stress Free for Good” by Dr. Fred Luskin and Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier. We offer a stress management class every month, free of charge. Not only do you learn about the destructive forces of stress, but also what to do, and practice some techniques. Class is the fourth Wednesday of every month, and meets from 12-2 pm on the even months, 4-6 pm on the odd months. We would love to see you there! Call 1-866-PROVENA to register.