Monday, November 30, 2015

Dr. Ellen Hughes' 10 Tips for Healthy Living

Institute Scholar Emerita Ellen Hughes, MD, PhD, sought to understand how each of us can attain our highest level of well-being at every stage of life. Her Institute supported-work involved studying the many ways people age—on molecular, genetic, epigenetic, and cellular levels; as a whole organism; and as a member of a community.

Based on her investigation, here are Dr. Hughes’ top tips for healthy living and active aging:

Maintain a healthy weight. We need fewer calories as we age, so watching portion size is key. Strategies to try: Since we tend to “eat with our eyes” serve meals on smaller dishes. Eat with the opposite hand to slow yourself down. Use smart phone apps, such as MyFitnessPal, to track your calories and exercise.

Exercise. Significant health benefits are associated with being active, but exercise doesn’t need to be intense or prolonged to be beneficial. In fact, just getting up off the couch helps your muscles metabolize fat and sugar more effectively. Work activity into your daily schedule: Park farther away, take the stairs, walk during breaks.

Stay mentally active. Whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain. Clinical trials show that brain fitness programs work. Our brains grow new neurons, and neurons make new connections. Learning new things will keep you mentally strong.

Reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation is believed to play a role in diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Exercise, daily flossing, stress management, and eating an “anti-inflammatory” diet (high in healthy fats and low in simple carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, and additives) helps reduce inflammation.

Cultivate positive emotions. How we view the world affects our health. Happiness is 50 percent genetics, 10 percent environment, and 40 percent voluntary activity. Gratitude and forgiveness are associated with increased happiness, health, and optimism. Laughter reduces cardiovascular stress, enhances immune function, increases pain tolerance, and lowers blood sugar in diabetics.

Manage stress. We can’t eliminate all the stress in life but we can control our response by learning how to relax, which lowers respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, cortisol and adrenaline. There are numerous pathways to relaxation: diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, biofeedback, imagery, hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, prayer, exercise, and music.

Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation contributes to obesity, accidents, physical pain, and poorer health. For better sleep, wake up at the same time each morning. Go to bed only when tired. If unable to fall asleep, get out of bed until you’re sleepy. Slow down before bedtime: no TV, surfing the net, or checking email. Avoid alcohol, stimulants, and heavy meals close to bedtime. Create a cool, dark, quiet place to sleep.

Stay connected. Meaningful relationships are the most consistent predictor of quality of life. Loneliness, depression and isolation increase mortality by three to seven times.

Engage in activities that are meaningful. People are happier when they give. Volunteering, for example, has been found to extend the life of elderly veterans.

Connect with something beyond you. Transcendent purpose and spirituality are associated with better health and greater happiness. Something larger could be a higher power, nature, or something else. More than 50 studies have shown positive health benefits of regular religious attendance.

RECOGNIZE YOU HAVE THE POWER

Thanks to the new science of aging, we know there are things you can do to live better—and not just longer. Healthy lifestyles have a powerful effect on how your genes are expressed. Even small changes can make a big difference!

To view the original article source visit: http://tiih.org/who/blog/dr-ellen-hughes-10-tips-healthy-living/?utm_source=Fall+2015+News&utm_campaign=Fall+Newsletter&utm_medium=email

Monday, November 23, 2015

Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.

Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier
By Arthur C. Brooks

TWENTY-FOUR years ago this month, my wife and I married in Barcelona, Spain. Two weeks after our wedding, flush with international idealism, I had the bright idea of sharing a bit of American culture with my Spanish in-laws by cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner.

Easier said than done. Turkeys are not common in Barcelona. The local butcher shop had to order the bird from a specialty farm in France, and it came only partially plucked. Our tiny oven was too small for the turkey. No one had ever heard of cranberries.

Over dinner, my new family had many queries. Some were practical, such as, “What does this beast eat to be so filled with bread?” But others were philosophical: “Should you celebrate this holiday even if you don’t feel grateful?”

I stumbled over this last question. At the time, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of bourgeois, saccharine insincerity that one should reject. It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.

To continue reading this article, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/choose-to-be-grateful-it-will-make-you-happier.html?_r=0

Monday, November 16, 2015

What is Integrative Medicine?

Good morning,

Today we are sharing an article on Integrative Medicine from U.S.News Health.

As the American healthcare system grows progressively stressed and truly patient-centered care becomes increasingly difficult to find, more people than ever before are looking for alternatives to the conventional healthcare model.

Integrative medicine, which focuses on caring for the whole human being—body, mind, spirit, and community, not just flesh, bones, and organs—is steadily becoming a desirable and logical option for many people.

The article explains how integrative medicine combines complementary therapies with conventional treatments and will discuss why and how you might choose a health provider who follows this approach.

To find out more visit: http://health.usnews.com/health-conditions/heart-health/integrative-medicine/overview


Monday, November 9, 2015

How Yoga Might Save the U.S. Trillions of Dollars, And A Lot of Lives

This is a great article we are sharing today! Enjoy it!

Find a comfortable nook to settle in to folks, because this article via Forbes.com is a big one.

How Yoga Might Save the U.S. Trillions of Dollars, And A Lot of Lives 

Scientific evidence is mounting daily for what many have long sensed: that practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help us address certain intractable individual and societal problems.

Prominent companies – Google, General Mills, Target, Apple, Nike, AOL, and Procter & Gamble among them – and prominent individuals have already embraced this possibility. Tim Ryan, the Ohio congressman who wrote the book A Mindful Nation, has been a big proponent of bringing mindfulness to the masses. He, along with others, believes that mindfulness should be a part of everyone’s day, to help wire our brains to deal with our many modern stressors.

And, perhaps more importantly for our global health, for kids dealing with extreme stressors, traumas and abuse, putting these practices into schools could be the difference between failure and success.

Last month, a group of American and Canadian scholars, researchers, businesspeople, and yoga teachers came together for a weekend at Omega Institute to discuss how this group of practices that helps us self-regulate as individuals could, quite possibly, help us regulate on a society level. The issues the country is facing – the massive dropout rate of school kids, substance abuse among all age groups, PTSD among veterans, the staggeringly high incarceration and recidivism rates – cost the country volumes in human potential, not to mention trillions in dollars. There are no single solutions, but the evidence suggests that some or all of these problems may be amenable to the practices that have been shown to redirect attention, improve concentration, increase self-control, and endow people with reliable and healthy coping mechanisms in the face of stress and trauma.

Some of the faculty at Omega’s conference have been key players in making this happen. BK Bose, PhD, of the Niroga Institute, a former Silicon Valley engineer who grew up practicing yoga, now works to make mindfulness/meditation/yoga the game-changer that many believe it can be. Rob Schware, PhD, who heads the Give Back Yoga Foundation and the Yoga Service Council, and writes for the Huffington Post, brought his two decades of management experience with World Bank to help grow the movement as a second career. Many, including Bose and Schware, say that the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a famously insidious and costly problem in lives lost and money wasted, is one of several that could be altered by a little mindfulness training early on in life.

In terms of economic cost alone, Cecelia Rouse at Princeton estimates that one high school dropout “costs” about $260,000 in lost earnings over his or her lifetime. Given the fact that at least a million kids drop out of school every year, the annual cost of school failure alone is estimated at $260 billion. As Bose points out, “Over ten years, the cost is upwards of 3 trillion dollars. And this is just for dropping out alone.”

If you continue the trajectory a little further, he says, based on the relatively common course that can include juvenile hall and prison, the numbers grow. “The school-to-prison pipeline is incredibly costly,” says Bose. It can cost upwards of $250,000 per year to keep an inmate in prison, if you factor in all the direct and indirect costs that tend to come with it, like loss in productivity, damage to the family, the escalated health and mental health costs. “Folks have been looking at career criminals – and estimates over their lifetimes are between $4-7 million. If you apply this to all those who land in jail over and over again, the numbers become stratospheric.”

One approach is to increase school retention; the national dropout rate is between 25% and 35%, and up to 50% in inner city schools. But if you go back a necessary step, Bose argues, the real culprits are enormous stresses and traumas that are so often present in the kids’ lives. “The single common denominator is stress: Chronic stress, toxic stress, traumatic stress, primary and secondary post-traumatic stress. Trauma is endemic. The tentacles of stress and trauma run right through – domestic abuse, substances abuse, poverty, racism. And once a kid drops out, homelessness, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, crime, violence are just waiting to pounce. Not to mention the boatload of chronic disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes… You start to see this powerful trajectory between school failure and adult outcomes.”

And this is where the capacity to cope becomes highly relevant. Methods that train the brain attend differently, self-regulate, and respond to stressors are one part. “If you look to neuroscience,” says Bose, “it tells us that stress, among other things, disrupts brain functioning, especially in the prefrontal cortex. And the same neuroscience is also saying there’s also class of practices that mitigate all of this: Mindfulness.”

There’s some good evidence for the idea. In 2011, a Harvard study showed that mindfulness is linked to increased gray matter density in certain cortical areas, including the prefrontal cortex and regions involved in self-referential thoughts and emotion regulation. There seems to be a strong connection between mindfulness and the brain machinery involved in self-regulation. Other work has shown mindfulness to be linked to relative de-activation of the default mode network (DMN), the brain system that’s active during mind-wandering and self-referential “worry” thoughts, which are generally stressful in nature. Indeed Jon Kabat-Zinn, MD at UMass has developed his career to developing the mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) to helping people learn to change the stress response. (For nice reviews of the application of the practices in early childhood education, see this 2012 piece and this 2011 piece.)

This is all well and good, Bose adds, but there’s an obvious caveat. When they’re in the midst of stress and trauma, few kids have the ability to sit still enough to take part in a sitting practice. “If you’re not ready to sit in classroom,” says Bose, “you’re not ready to do sitting meditation. If you have drugs and gangs and violence all around you, you simply can’t sit still. Teachers tell us that they often yell at kids 100 times a day to sit and pay attention. It doesn’t work. And to ask them to do this in the context of meditation can have a worse-than-neutral effect – it could be disastrous.”

So, you have to go beyond the neuroscience-of-meditation field and look to the trauma research, which tells us that physical activity can help the brain deal with stress and trauma. “Trauma research tell us that we hold trauma in our bodies… The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex doesn’t even talk to the amygdala. Neuroscience says mindfulness; trauma research says movement. All of the sudden you’ve got moving meditation or mindfulness in motion. Mindfulness alone isn’t going to cut it for these kids.” One theory is that because the executive areas of the brain can be affected by stress and trauma, “getting in” through another avenue is key. Indeed, some studies have shown that physical activity can enhance cognitive control via the prefrontal cortex in children, and exercise is well known to enhance neurogenesis in brain regions like the hippocampus, in you and old alike, which can be affected by stress (for a brief review, see here).

Therefore, Bose and his colleagues have done what are also beginning to, combining movement and mindfulness into one program, called Transformative Life Skills (TLS), which incorporates elements of movement, attention training and relaxation skills. The 18-week program can be introduced to schools relatively cheaply. The research so far has shown that it can be extremely helpful in helping kids reduce levels of negative thinking, negative affect, revenge motivation, depression, emotional arousal, physical arousal, rumination, perceived-stress, attitudes toward violence; and it’s been associated with greater levels of self-control, tolerance for distress, and school engagement.

The return-on-investment seems to speak for itself. The cost of training and coaching 50 teachers in TLS is $5,000. And if they work with 1,000 students, works out to be about $5 per kid. If even one kid took a different path in life, the program would be worth the investment many times over.

And similar programs, like the one run by the Holistic Life Foundation, Inc. (HLF) serving inner city schools in Baltimore, have found just this. Ali Smith, Executive Director, who founded the program along with his brother and college friend as a way to bring meditation to “at-risk” kids, has seen the results firsthand. So has the early research. Smith and his brother grew up in this hectic environment, but his parents had them mediate every day before school. He says he didn’t understand its purpose so much back then, but it made a difference on some level, and sparked his and his brother’s desire to give back in the same way as they got older. He hopes that mindfulness will be a part of every school day in the future: “Even just to give kids a moment of stillness in their day, so that they stop, and can have inner and outer silence… That would be amazing.”

One problem with this type of service at this juncture is the relatively small size of the operations. Though service programs are growing, many are still local in reach, and affect people only on the order of tens or hundreds per year. “What I see happening,” says Schware, “is a lot of very fired up yoga teachers who want to serve; so they go work in drug rehabs or jails.” After a year or two, though, many realize they can’t pay their bills while doing this work, so find themselves in a difficult position. “And if you’ve set up a nonprofit,” adds Schware, “it’s even harder financially.” The Yoga Service Council helps many of these small non-profits become sustainable, but it’s unclear where the future of the industry really lies here, or in a larger domain.

“The math is pretty simple and clear,” says Schware. “We’re going to get our money back many, many times over. There’s a huge potential return on investments, if we’re going to implement these things systematically.” Policy-level initiatives would, of course, be ideal, and they may come in time. Hopefully the right people will see the connection sooner than later.

“This is about more than just mindfulness,” says Bose. “It’s about the integration of these modalities. This is not some feel good, foo-foo practice from the Himalayas. This is based in cutting edge neuroscience, trauma research, and in somatic psychology. This is vital to ensure our well-being, and to our economy.  Let’s come together under the banner of transformative practices, and put forward the essence of yoga, not the hype. This is simple. Anyone can do this, anytime, anywhere. If you can move, if you can breathe, then you can do the practice.”

- See more at: http://www.yoganonymous.com/forbes-com-how-yoga-might-save-the-u-s-trillions-of-dollars-and-a-lot-of-lives#sthash.DNqk0JhC.dpuf