Stress is a reaction to danger. With this purpose, our body’s reaction was necessary when we lived in the wild and were in danger (like a tiger chasing us). Unlike our ancestors dealing with dangers in the wild, we have to deal with stressors throughout our days. That regular stress adds up. It may feel like tigers are chasing us but with a few new habits, you can keep your reaction calmer.
According to Dr. Sears: “During a stress response, such as running from a tiger, your body is in strict survival mode. So it secrets cortisol to rev up your body; other hormones, such as endorphins, which blunt the perception of pain; and prolactin, which suppresses your desire and ability to reproduce. Glucagon, a hormone in the liver, releases sugar. This sends extra fuel throughout the body, especially to the muscles, that you will need to run from the approaching tiger.”
What do our tigers look like today? Maybe it is opening bills, turning on the news, looking at social media, or hearing a text alert. Or something more serious that we have less control over like a loved one with an illness. Subsequently, our bodies enter that being chased by a tiger state.
Because of chronic stress, we can develop serious health conditions. A body under regular stress is prone to premature aging, insulin sensitivity, cancer, increased appetite, weight gain, increased abdominal fat storage, digestive issues, weekend muscles and bones, and decreased memory function. Doing small things regularly throughout the day will result in fewer side effects of stress.
After a stressful period or to prevent unnecessary stress:
Faced with a problem, if you can’t change it, try your best to put it out of your head.
Focus on solutions and don’t fixate on the problem.
Breathing and meditation
Exercise or move to release energy.
Choose to be around positive people.
Try to not turn to food for comfort- if you want something try a cup of caffeine-free tea (caffeine will rev you up more) or nourish your body with a healthy snack.
Take a few minutes outside (rain or shine)
Do something kind for someone else.
Get a good night’s sleep (trouble falling asleep with too many to-do’s…do a brain dump list of all the things right to get them out of your head)
This topic is close to my heart. My father was a long, long-time smoker and died in 2003 from various cancers including lung. I clearly remember the smell of him lighting up a cigarette in the car, in our house, at a restaurant, etc. Early on I knew that he should stop. I got in a lot of trouble the day I took a pack of his cigarettes and broke them all and put them in the trash. Smoking is a leading cause of preventable death in the US, yet people still smoke.
The CDC says “Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases the risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis”.
If you smoke and have contemplated or tried quitting, you are brave and optimistic about tackling this complicated habit. Research shows, that it can take multiple attempts to stop smoking. But once you’ve stopped, the body begins to repair itself as early as 20- minutes after a cigarette with the heart rate and blood pressure coming down. 12 hours after smoking, the carbon monoxide in your blood drops to normal. And after only a few months, circulation improves, and lung function increases!
What would it look like if you didn’t smoke? How much money would you save both from buying cigarettes and future health care costs? How much time do you spend on the habit? Imagine all the benefits and imagine what life could look like without this habit.
There are many resources for quitting smoking. Here are a few places to start:
Inflammation can be a body’s first-aid response to injury but sometimes it’s important to prevent inflammation. Here’s why…
There are two types of inflammation in the body. Acute inflammation is the body’s response to injury. When an injury occurs, the part of the body that is hurt usually will get swollen, red, and warm to the touch. Now think of that in terms of the whole body. As we age, our bodies are more “worn out”, and if coupled with poor lifestyle habits, chronic inflammation may occur.
Chronic inflammation is the body sending inflammatory cells throughout even though there is not an acute injury. Over time, this can cause aches and pains to more serious issues like autoimmune diseases, increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
How do we combat the wear and tear that can cause chronic inflammation?
Start with Lifestyle Changes, small changes make a big impact:
A balanced regular exercise routine is important for our overall health and completing regular daily activities.
Physical fitness isn’t just about being a weightlifter, marathon runner, or having a bikini body. Good physical health is important for your overall health and mindset. Being purposefully active regularly has everyday benefits. For example, a fall can have serious consequences. According to the CDC, one out of five falls results in an injury. So, making sure we do regular balance and strength exercises can help prevent serious injury if we are to fall.
The minimum exercise guidelines for an adult (ages 18-64) are 150 minutes of moderate activity a week and 2 days of strength activities. That looks like, five 30-min brisk walks and two strength videos on YouTube. For 65 and older, the guideline is the same and in addition, add balance activities. That looks like, a 1-hour long yoga class and two 45-min brisk walks.
There are four types of exercises we should do every week: balance, flexibility, strength, and endurance.
Balance exercises are important for carrying out everyday activities. This movement will help prevent falls or more serious injuries.
Flexibility exercises have benefits like injury prevention, less pain, improved posture, a better mindset, increased strength, and overall better ability to move.
Endurance exercise is what we often think of when we hear “exercise”- aerobic activity. Something to get your blood flowing. It is good for your heart and makes everyday activities easier (like going up stairs).
Strength exercises also make everyday activities easier and can protect from injury and reduce fall risk. Building strength builds muscle which improves balance.
Each exercise session doesn’t need to focus on one type- often different types are combined. Like Yoga combines flexibility, balance, and strength.
Where to start: Doing a little homework is important and checking with your doctor to make sure you are physically ready. Check out your local gym or YMCA and schedule a session with a trainer. Ask your favorite health coach for advice on how to get started. Getting some tips from a professional makes it more fun, tailored to you, and prevents injury.
Start slowly, and try different things until you find what works for you and what you like. If you don’t like a type of exercise even though your neighbor raves about it, don’t do it! The more you enjoy it, the more regularly you’ll do it.
Eat a healthy diet and avoid heavy meals late at night.
No nightcaps! Alcohol disturbs a good night’s sleep.
Watch caffeine intake. Especially later in the day and evening.
Go to bed earlier. Don’t start the next episode of your favorite show.
Keep big projects and work for the morning. Starting big projects or doing work close to bedtime will keep you from relaxing into a restful sleep. Even though the house is quiet, and it seems like a good time to get things done it’s better to get to bed. Then try the opposite to get that to-do list tackled, wake up early you’ll find your brain is fresher and more alert.
Tomorrow’s to-dos-keep a notepad by your bed and if something is keeping you up jot it down instead of losing sleep over it.
Go to bed at the same time each night. No matter what day of the week it is!
Set the bedroom up for sleep. Keep it dark, and cool, and consider removing the TV and devices.
No iPhones at bedtime!
Clear stuffy noses. A stuffy nose will make breathing during the night more difficult which will lead to insufficient oxygen intake. Open-mouth breathing is not restful. Take allergy medicines, use an air purifier or take a warm shower to clear your airways.
Be aware of snoring or irregular breathing at night. Those are common signs of sleep disorders and should be addressed with your doctor.
Listen to sleep sounds or white noise. These will help a busy mind calm. There are many apps with sleep sounds.
When we think about health measurements, we hear BMI a lot. What exactly is it and is it an accurate way to measure our health?
What is BMI:
BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It’s a calculation of height divided by weight in pounds, times 703 that Doctor’s offices often use. There are many BMI calculators online to check your own without having to do the math! See the chart below for the ranges to determine where you fall.
What you should know:
BMI is a starting block for understanding your overall health. BMI does leave out some important factors.
When understanding fat, it is important to understand the two types of fats that the body carries. There is visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat that sits right under our skin-think cellulite. It’s stubborn to get rid of but doesn’t bother our bodies. Visceral fat on the other hand is different. Found in the abdominal cavity around the organs, visceral fat is more dangerous because it secretes waste that can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease. But with a healthy diet and exercise, visceral fat is easier to lose than subcutaneous fat.
What does this have to do with BMI? When we only look at BMI it does not consider what type of fat is in our body. This can leave us with an incomplete picture. You may have a low BMI but carry excess weight in the belly area. This is where another simpler way to measure your health comes into play. Waist circumference. Simply put, it’s measuring your waist. For women, it should be less than 35 inches, and for men, it should be less than 40.
One other point about BMI, on the flip side of abdominal fat, is muscle. For very active, muscular individuals BMI may not be as accurate because muscle weighs more than fat. So, another reason to check that waist circumference.
Here is the health coach take away: Understand what your BMI is and measure your waist. Use those numbers together as a place to start to get a clear picture of your overall health. The closer you are to “normal” BMI ranges and waist circumference the less likely you are to develop serious chronic health issues.