Learning A New Sport May Benefit the Brain

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The Circle City is gearing up to watch the 100th running of the Indy 500, and the event that has been coined “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is truly inspiring. Like most spectators, I often imagine what it would be like to steer the wheel of a race car in this world-renowned race.  

In rectospect, when I imagine myself participating in a new sport…that’s  where it stays… in my imagination.   I often live vicariously through other athletes… especially at Olympic time, for a few fleeting minutes.   Over the years, I have found myself encouraging my children to try a new sport, but have stayed on the sidelines myself.

As a kid I tried all kinds of sports and physical challenges (remember climbing that big tree or jumping that creek?).   But parenthood has made me more of a spectator than a participator.  I tend to stick to my familiar running and workouts, and that could be causing me to miss out on challenging my brain.   

Never Too Old to Learn a New Trick

Studies show learning a new sport or a physical activity in midlife such as juggling, a new dance step, or golfing promotes many benefits to the brain’s health, especially the motor cortex region.  The motor cortex is involved in voluntary movement control as well as movement planning and execution.  This area of the brain has not been studied as well in its overall brain health involvement.  

Most of the research is focused on other areas of the brain engaged in memory and cognition such as, the hippocampus.  Now there is compelling research on the motor cortex in humans and animals that experts believe may improve brain health and possibly help prevent and treat brain disorders such as multiple sclerosis, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The 3 top benefits to the motor cortex with learning a new physical skill are:

1).  Promotes neurogenesis- new brain cell growth.  Studies have shown, people who learn a new physical skill increase their volume of their motor cortex, by growing new brain cells.  

2). Improves brain plasticity- the ability for the brain to change, grow or restructure neurons (nerve cells).

3). Increases myelination- insulation of nerve cell axons.  Nerve cell axons send messages to other nerve cells.  The axons are insulated in a protective lipid sheath called myelin. Myelin is crucial for axons in the brain and spinal cord to conduct neural activity with proper speed and fluency.  Increase myelination has been shown in a 2014 study involving mice learning a new motor skill.  Experts do not known yet if this occurs in humans, but feel the replication of results will be promising (The New York Times, Well Blog by Gretchen Reynolds posted on  3/2/2016, Learning a New Sport May Be Good for the Brain).

So the brain is not as static in growth as we thought. It has the lifelong ability to grow, change and regenerate as long as you make the effort.  …Now, where do I sign up for those Krav Maga lessons?   

Posted in Brain, cognition, exercise, fitness, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Myths that Cause Pregnancy Paranoia

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March Madness is here! For basketball fans, this is a time for lots of game watching excitement.  For an OB/GYN office, this is the time for lots of new expecting mothers!  Very excited and anxious mothers, with many questions pouring in about ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ during pregnancy.

Pregnancy and paranoia come hand-in-hand due to the immense and overwhelming responsibility felt in taking proper care of the unborn child. It is difficult to sort through the mountainous of pregnancy information out there.  And lots of family, friends and even strangers are eager to weigh-in on their pregnancy ‘do’s and don’ts’.   The internet, while resourceful, also can be a pregnant woman’s worst enemy.  I spend lots of time, in the office, addressing and reassuring expecting mothers about ‘what they read’ on the internet. 

Five Myths About the Bump

So to help alleviate some paranoia let’s address the 5 most common prenatal myths.

1).  Stimulating the fetus with classical music, rhythmic literature or talking into a microphone attached to the pregnant belly, will make the baby smarter.

Save your money!  Piping music and sounds into the pregnant belly will not make your baby smarter.  Do not buy stomach headphones, Bellybuds, prenatal music belts or the Baby-Bump Sound System.   

In the first half of the pregnancy the the fetus’s brain is rapidly developing at an astonishing rate of 500,000 neuron cells a minute.  So they do not need any more stimulation. Leave them alone.  

Yes, the baby can hear!

In the second half of the pregnancy, over 20 weeks, the fetus does respond to outside stimulus such as sounds, touch and mother’s movement.  Research has found, newborns can recognize sounds heard when they were in the womb such as their mother’s voice or a song played frequently.  These familiar sounds can soothe the newborn when heard outside the womb, but there is no evidence that gestational auditory stimulation will enhance intelligence.     

2). Drinking red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy will help with a quicker delivery but if you drink it early in the pregnancy it can cause preterm delivery.  There is not enough evidence to support the first claim and the second claim is a resounding no!

Only one very small study found shorter pushing times in pregnant women that drank the tea- that is not enough support.   Consequently, this has procreated a lot of ‘pregnancy tea’ concoctions that claim it will strengthen the uterus and pelvic muscles to facilitate an easier delivery.  

Most likely the tea is not going to help, but if feel the need to try it, make sure it is a well-known brand. Do not take a chance on a tea bought on the internet from an exotic location.

What Can Help With Labor? Being fit.

Fit mothers do have quicker deliveries.  Many studies have found, pregnant women who exercise regularly throughout the pregnancy, push for less time and are less likely to need an assisted delivery or caesarean.

So instead of buying expensive teas, invest in a good pair of tennis shoes.

3). Cocoa butter, aloe or coconut oil can help prevent stretch marks. False.  

Actually pregnant women can develop very sensitive skin.  Lotions, oils and creams can cause skin irritation and rashes.  

4). Pregnant women can not eat seafood, deli meat or hot dogs.

Yes you can have seafood.  Just be a little selective and avoid fish that eat other fish such as swordfish and mackerel because they are higher in mercury than other fish.  

Omega-3s Good for Baby’s Brain

Fish is a good source of Omega-3s to help with the baby’s brain development.  It is recommended to eat 12 oz of fish weekly that is low in mercury such as salmon, cod, and light tuna. (Albacore tuna has higher mercury, limit to 6 oz per week).  

Deli meats and hot dogs, you can have- but heat until steaming first.  This is incase the bacteria Listeria, which causes foodborne illness, is present. Listeria can cause complications such as miscarriage, preterm labor, stillborn and newborn infection.

Avoid raw or undercooked meat and only eat soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk.

5). You can only sleep on your left side when pregnant and never on your back or stomach.  Yes and no, you can sleep on your right side and stomach but it is uncertain about your back.  

It is advised by some OBs, after 20 weeks, to not sleep on your back. The idea is, the weight of the pregnant uterus can compress the main vein that returns blood flow to your heart, the vena cava, which may decrease the blood flow to the uterus.  There is not adequate evidence to support

blood flow is decrease to the baby with back sleeping or that it causes a problem in pregnancy.  So do not panic if you wake up on your back.  

In this month of basketball and baby madness remember RELAX. A stressed mom can lead to a stressed baby. Don’t let pregnancy paranoia get the best of you.

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E-Cigarettes and Teens: The harmful effects of vaping

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Good News! Cigarette smoking among teens has been steadily decreasing over the past 5 years.  The bad news is, e-cigarette use in the meantime has tripled; 4.5% to 13.4% among teens (National Youth Tobacco Survey, sponsored by the FDA and CDC).  

Furthermore, e-cig use or “vaping” among high schoolers and middle schoolers has surpassed ‘conventional’ cigarette smoking and now has become the preferred method of nicotine consumption among youth.

At this choking rate, the overall nicotine use in adolescents may become the highest in the past decade.

The Drag on E-cigs

Electronic cigarettes are a battery powered device, that heats up a liquid containing: nicotine, flavoring and other solvents into a vapor or mist, which is inhaled, hence the term ‘vaping’.  This high-tech gadget emerged in 2007 and originally was developed for smokers as a nicotine cessation aid, to quit smoking.

Then the marketers “heroically” promoted their product as a carcinogenic-free, healthier alternative to tobacco smoking. You don’t need to quit- just switch!  

The marketers were successful in convincing the public that vaping, is a safer, lower health risk alternative….and ‘poof ‘, e-cig sales skyrocketed and specialty ‘vaping’ stores appeared everywhere.  

Not surprisingly, this rhetoric ‘filtered down’ to young people; if it’s safer for the older population, then it must be safer for us.  In fact, the University of Michigan found, the majority of 12th graders surveyed, felt e-cigs are not harmful to their health (only 14.2%, felt it could be harmful).   

This is very concerning to doctors, since there has been a growing body of data showing e-cigs causing harmful health effects and addiction, especially with teens.

To top it all off, the marketers furthered their “heroic action” and lit-up the market with a variety of flavors, to appease their customers, such as

Dr. Pepper, bubble gum and cotton candy….because middle age men would want these flavors, right!?

Harmful and Adverse Effects of Vaping

-Irritation and inflammation of throat, mouth and lungs

-Lightheadedness and dizziness

-Coughing, choking sensation, bleeding mouth

-Addiction

-Lung infections and diseases

-Cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and stroke)

-Hypertension

-Birth defects

-Nicotine overdose (By children directly ingesting the e-liquid)

-Proliferation of established cancer cells or tumors*

-Explosion/ burns by faulty devices

*Studies have not shown nicotine to cause cancerous cells or tumors, but there is evidence it accelerates the growth and spread of existing cancer cells. (Indiana University in Indianapolis is conducting lab studies on vaping health effects).

**In comparison to tobacco smoking, e-cigs do have less toxic chemicals and low levels of carcinogens. Although, brands widely vary in ingredients and amount of chemicals they contain, when tested in labs.

Nicotine Effects on a Youth’s Brain

The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that plays a role in emotion and impulse control.  That area is not fully developed until 25 years old, which makes it very vulnerable to the influence of nicotine.  

What nicotine does, is it stimulates the pleasure emotion, by opening the neuron’s gates and flooding the synapse (a nerve cell’s platform for communication) with ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters such as, dopamine and serotonin. The receiving neuron receptors are stimulated by these neurotransmitters and a “high effect” is produced.  It only takes 7 seconds for nicotine to reach the brain and cause this effect.

After repeated exposure of nicotine, fundamental changes take place in the brain- making it difficult to release its neurotransmitters naturally.  In an adolescent, it takes a significant less amount of nicotine, than an adult, for these changes to occur.

The reason why is nicotine interferes with the brain’s protein synthesis by hindering Elf2 activity (a protective protein).  This leads to an increase in neural connections and receptors- that are influenced by ‘pleasure producing’ neurotransmitters.  The more neuron connections and receptors, the more nicotine needed to get that “pleasure hit” and addiction sets in.

Interestingly, the Elf2 activity is not decrease as significantly in a fully develop adult brain, which is why adolescents tend to get addicted quicker and have a harder time quitting later. (Note: Cocaine has the same effect on the brain).

Research has also shown that nicotine can cause teens a variety of other  behavioral problems, such as impaired attention, anxiety and depression.

Clear the Mist

The popularity of vaping is progressively on the rise.  Just driving down US 135 in Greenwood, I quickly spotted 3 ‘vaping’ speciality shops.  I do appreciate that e-cigs have helped smokers reduce their cigarette smoking  and for some, eventually quit, but disturbed by the tripled increase use among our youth. We are trading one public health problem for another.   

So discuss with your teens and children, that e-cigs are harmful to a young person’s developing body and brain, and are just as addictive, as their cigarette cousin.

Hopefully, in the next year, the rate of vaping among youth will be steadily decreasing, like the rate of smoking….and eventually vanish.

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Are We Too Stressed Out Over Hypertension?

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 Hypertension screening is taking on a new beat and will affect how millions are treated. The U.S Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has released new blood pressure screening recommendations for clinical settings.  They suggest that before initiating medication therapy for high blood pressure, measured in the office, it should be confirmed with readings measured outside the office.

The change in rhythm came about from studies discovering, between 15-30% of patients deemed hypertensive in a clinical setting, had normal blood pressure readings the rest of the day. This is mostly due to the phenomenon called “white-coat hypertension” a common problem that triggers high blood pressure due to the stress of being at the doctor’s office.  (Observation Tip: do not down a Starbucks coffee before your visit, that caffeine jolt compounds the problem.)

Currently, we have 70 million Americans diagnosed with high blood pressure. Up to 21 million of those Americans might not be hypertensive if they had further monitoring.

Consequently, we have a lot of people on blood pressure medication unnecessarily.

On the other hand, we have patients, not on blood pressure medications that should be. Studies have shown about 10-15% of patients that had normal blood pressure in the office, actually had high blood pressure outside the office.  This is called, “masked hypertension”.  High blood pressure gone undetected may lead to serious health consequences such as heart attacks, congestive heart failure, stroke and chronic kidney disease.

How Should Blood Pressure Be Screened?

Blood pressure is not a fixed parameter.  It changes throughout the day with activity, stress, emotions and consumptions of caffeine and nicotine.  So a couple of blood pressures in the office, even repeated on another day, only captures a fraction of reality.  That is why the Task Force (USPSTF) now recommends confirming high blood pressure readings in a clinical setting by ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) or home blood pressure monitoring (HBPM).

The ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is a small device worn for 24 hours.  It automatically takes your blood pressure every 20-30 minutes as you go about your daily activities, including sleep.  The device is then returned to the office where the data is downloaded and reviewed by the doctor.

Non-ambulatory monitoring or HBPM needs to be taken twice in the morning and twice in the evening for 3-7 days.  A good cuff monitor needs to be used.  That would be an automatic upper-arm blood pressure monitor, approved by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instruments.  Wrist and finger monitors are not recommended.

Ambulatory Monitoring (ABPM) vs. Non-ambulatory Monitoring (HBPM)

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is currently the heartthrob of blood pressure screening, but HBPM is a great contender as well.

The USPSTF favor ABPM for a couple of reasons.  First, ABPM takes several readings automatically throughout the day and monitors during sleep. Which research has found, patients with elevated blood pressures during sleep are at an even higher risk for cardiovascular events. Secondly, it is more efficient.  The monitoring is done in 24 hours and turned into the doctor.  Where the non-ambulatory (HBPM) is dependent on the patient taking the time to do the blood pressures for 3-7 days, and there is no sleep time monitoring.  Furthermore, during self-monitoring, if a patient becomes anxious or obsessive about a high reading this can cause blood pressure to stay elevated.  

Downfalls with the ABPM. They are not widely available. You may have to go to a cardiologist for the device.  Also, they are expensive, and your insurance may not cover the cost.

So the USPSTF acknowledges that access to ABPM can be a problem and have concluded that there is adequate evidence to support HBPM is an acceptable alternative to outside monitoring.

USPSTF Blood Pressure Recommendations:

Overall optimal blood pressure, 120/80 mmHg

-Age 18-39, target less than 130/85 mm Hg

-Age 40 to 59, target less than 140/90 mm Hg

-Age 60 and up, target 150/90 mm Hg or less

(Recommendations defer for kidney disease and diabetes)

USPSTF recommends yearly ABPM for individuals with one or more risk factors: Above 40 years old, an initial high-normal blood pressure (130-139/85-89 mmHg) in the office, African Americans at any age, overweight or obese.

USPSTF recommends ABPM every 3-5 years for individuals age 18-39 with blood pressures above optimal level (120/80 mm Hg).

Take away point. The pressure of doctor visits may make you temporarily hypertensive. So don’t fret and start medication in a heartbeat.  Talk to your healthcare provider about confirming, outside the office.

Posted in fitness, Healthy habits, hypertension, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Reboot’ the New Year on a Healthier Note

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The New Year is upon! Time to get off the Holiday Merry-Go-Round and look forward to 2016. Looking back, are you baffled how quickly 2015 slipped away? Were you able to stick to your fitness goals, or did your enthusiasm flame out mid-year? As life’s pace picked up, did your health take a back seat?

If so, then let’s press pause and ‘reboot’ the New Year on a healthier note with three easy to follow, and fun to execute fitness motivations for 2016.

1). “Tribal-ize” your Exercise
In ancient times, tribes would collectively practice various activities such as dancing rituals and hunting skills together. This collective practice, physically and mentally strengthened the individual as well as the whole tribe. Participating in a ‘workout tribe’ is relevant today.

Research has shown when people exercise with others, the brain floods itself with chemicals and hormones, such as endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins are mild opiate neuropeptides that produces a sense of well-being and blocks pain, they are responsible for the “runners high” feeling. Oxytocin is the “love” or “cuddle” hormone and creates a sense of bonding.

Vigorous workouts done alone do release endorphins, but with groups, the endorphin surge is dramatically more. Furthermore, in group settings, oxytocin ‘hugs’ the brain to promote group cohesiveness, or sense of belonging.

University of Saskatchewan professor Kevin Spink has discovered, “those who feel a greater sense of “groupness” and cohesion within an exercise class are more punctual, have better attendance and even work harder.”

Goal One: form a workout tribe!

2). Take a Diet Selfie
Write down or snap a pic, of what you eat and drink, for a couple of days. This is a great way to assess your diet and identify what needs to be modified. You may be shocked. Most of us are not very mindful of what and how much we are eating, until we record it.

Many Americans struggle with not eating enough fresh fruits and veggies. The recommendation is to eat 5 servings of vegetables and fruit a day (3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit).

Too much sugar and flour is a problem. Whole grains is a better selfie partner. The recommendation is 3-6 servings (a serving is: 1/2 cup or one slice of bread) of whole grains a day such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, whole wheat pasta, etc.

We have all heard, more protein and less carbs helps weight loss, maintenance and improved health. Although more research is showing, a diet enriched in plant protein triumphs over, a diet focused on animal protein.

Decrease your intake of processed foods. My rule is, if not 100%, at least 75% of your daily diet should come from foods that is naturally grown or raised. So if it doesn’t come in a box or can-go for it.

Last, make sure you are drinking water and limit juice and soda, including diet soda. Studies have shown people who drink a glass of water before they eat or snack, eat less and lose more weight.
Goal Two: buy a food journal and stick to it!

3). Get to the Art of the Matter
If you want to get healthier this New Year think- ART. Probably you do not associate art with health but it is a powerful motivator and can be an intricate part of balancing your health.

Art is the foundation of feeling alive! When you approach your health, physically and mentally with an artistic creative mindset it refreshes or ‘reboots’ yourself out of the healthiness doldrums.

The American Journal of Public Health published an article titled, The Connection between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature, they reviewed the impact of music, visual arts, movement expression and expressive writing on health and over all well-being. They profoundly concluded:

“There is evidence that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts, can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states as well as have a salient impact on important physiological parameters.”

Evidence has shown that viewing and/or participating in any art form can enhance cognitive function, induce creativity, reduce stress, expedite healing and improve physical well-being and life satisfaction.

Why is this? Dopamine. Creating or engaging in art releases dopamine in the brain, this is the “feel good” motivating neurotransmitter. It also helps develop new neuron connections which improves the brain’s ability to learn, cope with stress and increase cognitive function.

So when you admire or participate in visual arts, dance, music, literature, theater, gardening, home decor, DIY projects, sewing, etc. you are actually growing new neuron pathways. And new pathways protects against mental aging.

Goal three: Ignite your inner artist.

So this New Year- form a workout tribe, try new exercises, take in the arts, and be mindful of what you put in your mouth. This is what has inspired me to continue to improve my health the past 30 years. …And most importantly, make the time to be healthy in 2016. Happy New Year!

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GIRLS LOOK BEYOND BODY IMAGE

Girls Look Beyond Body Image
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Have you ever gone out of the house without your make-up on, and gotten the question, “Are you not feeling well today?” or “you look tired today.” I have! Then I feel embarrassed that somehow I’m ‘offending’ others with my make-up free face. Wait…..that is ridiculous…. why do I feel embarrassed?

The female body image (pretty and thin) is ubiquitous throughout our culture. Women feel pressured by media and peers, to keep up with the latest style, make-up, hair and thinness. Unfortunately, we listen to them and it starts young!

Girl Body Image Stats/Facts:
-50%-88% feel negative about their body.
-58% want to lose weight.
-55% report participating in vomiting, laxatives, diet pills, smoking, and diuretics to lose weight.
-By age 10, 80% of girls report being afraid of becoming fat
-Girls rated “The way I look” is the most important indicator of self-worth, while boys rated abilities most important.
-Body image conflicts leads to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.

Which Came First the Chicken or the Egg?
The above statistics have been increasing since the 1960’s when Twiggy, an ultra thin super model, became famous, setting off the thinness craze. And since then, there is now a plethora of products, pills and diets out there to make you prettier and thinner. Even toys and dolls, the most famous being Barbie, have been design to reflect this image.

Unfortunately advertisers and media still seem to dictate what the female body shape and size should look like: small waist and hips, thin thighs with large breast.
In fact, girls that spent more time engaging in media such as, movies, TV and music videos reported higher body dissatisfaction than girls who engage in less media. So Hollywood definitely plays a role.

On the other hand, we have girl competition. Recent studies have revealed, a girl’s ‘peers’ maybe more influential than ‘Hollywood’. Girl competition with appearance is a very prominent issue.

So is she feeding off the media (‘the chicken’) or feeding off her peers (‘the egg’)? For your daughter it may be either or both. So it is very challenging for parents to cultivate a positive body image when there is constant media and peers scrutinizing appearances.

Words of Wisdom from Inspiring Women
Amy Jo Clark a.k.a ‘Daisy’ from the WIBC radio show ‘Chicks on the Right’ has noted, unlike male-hosted political talk shows, her and ‘Mock’, radio co-hostess, will frequently get internet trolls attacking their appearance in hopes to destroy their confidence. But these people do not shake her. “It is better to be smart than to be beautiful. It is better to be funny than pretty.” Amy goes on to say, “the body is a shell for your soul. The soul is what matters”.

She is also a parent and feels the ‘key’ to helping her daughter have a positive body image is-communication. Conversations about having a good character and how you treat others is what is important.

DeVyn Barker a Greenwood High School graduate, former college softball player and at one time owned a fitness gym for young girls in Indianapolis. She worked with them on physical training to improve athletic skills and fitness. DeVyn was shocked when listening to her young clients talk about their bodies.

“Being in the physical fitness atmosphere and training young women has opened my eyes so much recently. I’m having as young as 8-9 year old girls tell me they want to train with me to be skinny. What? Are you kidding me? No I will not make you ‘skinny” I will teach you a healthy lifestyle in which to live by. I will teach you strength in women is admirable physically and emotionally. Shame on this world that has made the visual appearance all these girls see. There is beauty in good character, kindness, and passionate hearts. Jesus fearfully and wonderfully made you. If you have a young daughter, I encourage you (even if you already do) compliment her character as her true beauty!”

Devyn embodies the perfect example for girls and women.

Three Tips: Listen, Talk, Resources
1). Listen to girls carefully, to pick up on clues. If they ask about weight loss methods, about a diet their friends is on, or make a subtle negative comment about their body- those are good hints. Seize that time to discuss body image, healthy weight, peer and media influences.

2). Talk often to your girls about body image and ask questions. A good way to start, is to ask if their friends are concerned about their weight or shape. Then ask, what do you think about your friends’ concerns and if they can relate. Conversation is crucial for girls to create a positive body image. Take this time to debunk media stereotypes, peer pressure and myths.

3). Resources that are age appropriate will help with body image issues. Books, internet (parental screening needed) and talking to a mentor or counselor are all good options. A few suggestion below:

Books:
-‘What I Like About Me!’ by Allia Zobel Nolan for age 3-7.
-‘All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype to Celebrate Real Beauty’, by Audrey Brashich for ages 10-14.
-‘101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body’, by Brenda Lane Richardson and Elane Rehr.
-‘Heaven Bound in a Hollywood World’, by Frieda Drowler. Wonderful book set up to be done in 33 days (for millennials). You can do this with your daughter.

Internet:
-‘Mighty Girl’ is a website that promotes healthy girl image/empowerment’
-‘Body Image and Adolescents’, Chapter 13, by Jillian Croll. http://www.epi.umn.edu
-PBS Kids online, ‘Raising a Girl With a Positive Body Image’

Over all, I feel the image girls are striving for is the fault of us, women, not just media. We are the ones that participate. I am guilty of not feeling polished or fully presentable to the world unless my make-up is on.

So understanding a balance is best. Unfortunately a young girl places their identity and meaning on a certain idea of being beautiful. This is stressful to many young girls. But I think women can change this idealist beauty girl culture by conversation and example.

Posted in adolescent health, body image | Tagged | 1 Comment

YOGA POWER: Fitness and Peace in the Postures

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I did not understand, YOGA POWER, until my mom walked into the room and I noticed how great she looked in her yoga pants! Yoga transformed her- she lost weight, toned-up, and increased her strength and flexibility! You would never guess she is in her… well, I promised not to reveal her age, but you would be impressed.

STUDIO YOU YOGA
That is when she told me about Studio You Yoga a new yoga center that opened up in Greenwood off of US 135, in front of Home Depot. The yoga instructors at Studio You Yoga are passionate about teaching yoga that focuses on YOU becoming successful in achieving mind-body balance through physical fitness, self-awareness and personal growth.

What is Yoga?
Yoga is a full body workout that focuses on two things, holding poses, also called postures, and breathing. Not just simple reflex breathing but controlled, deliberate breathes that clear the mind. Breath, in yoga, signifies your ‘vital energy’. Yoga masters believe if you control your breath, then you control your body and calm the mind.

Yoga postures are movements designed to strengthen, increase flexibility and improve balance. They can be simple, such as lying on the floor while relaxed, to much more challenging movements which push you physically. No…you won’t be tied up like a pretzel, so don’t let that common fear scare you off. You modify what you can do that day. That is why you need a good instructor to help you identify and work through your limitations.

Meet STUDIO YOU YOGA Instructors
As soon as you walk into the studio you just feel healthier by the creative and soothing environment. The instructors are so kind, knowledgeable and eager to help. They have a team of certified yoga teachers on staff. The three pictured above are the owner and two of the instructors.

-LORI DAVIS (co-owner, featured in the middle).
She is a registered yoga instructor and a former figure athlete (very competitive and strenuous sport). Yoga has been an lifeline for Lori.

“Yoga led me to see myself from the inside to the outside, I AM COMPETING WITH NO ONE, I AM AT PEACE.” The power of yoga inspired her to help others find balance in their life, as it did for her, so she helped open the doors of Studio You Yoga in November 2013. The studio has been doing well and plans to expand into the space next door.

-KAREN KRIEGER (registered yoga instructor, featured to the right)
Karen’s yoga passion started in the golden state of California, she started teaching in 2011.

“Teaching yoga is the privilege of witnessing the internal transformation that occurs at the junction of breath and movement. As we learn to balance on the mat…we learn to balance life’s challenges.”

-CHIA BUSH, (registered yoga instructor, featured to the left)
Chia’s yoga passion sparked in Taiwan where she was influenced by well respected Indian yoga masters.

“Yoga became my new ‘Addiction’. Hey, A good addiction!” “I love to share my knowledge with people and through Yoga I am willing to help and teach people to make them feel better for themselves. I truly believe a healthy life, a healthy body and a healthy mind all connect together. You can find all that through the practice of YOGA.”

Mother Knows Best
I confess, I really did not pay attention to the power of yoga until my mom’s transformation. Yoga and her instructors have been an intricate part of her fitness. The following is her (Jan Mosher) thoughts:

“Why do yoga? For me it’s about flexibility, strength, and balance! Also, the oh so positive effect of calming and soothing of the mind.

Sometimes the most difficult thing about going to yoga or any exercise is getting yourself there! However, once I begin to move through the postures I feel better, and by the end of the class an overall sense of well-being has replaced, for instance, an aching back or a sore neck. Instead, I feel relaxed and energized at the same time.

I have increased strength in my arms, legs, and core. My flexibility has increased greatly and my balance has improved. Of course, there is still room for improvement, but I am determined to keep working as I am encouraged with my accomplishments so far.”

Diverse Yoga Classes
Classes are available for different levels from beginners, intermediate to advance. There is also a cornucopia of dynamic and intriguing classes that involve essential oils and heated rooms. Check out their website for classes, schedules and prices at http://www.studioyouyoga.com. By the way, MEN do attend their classes.

Yoga is comprehensive body workout and a great way to achieve serenity, peace and…take a breathe… look fantastic in your yoga pants!

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Healthy Cool Treats for the Summer

You are minding your own business, suddenly, in the distances, you hear the sweet charms of an ice cream truck. Like a Pavlov’s dog you start to salivate. Now you’re frustrated! You want something cool, you want something refreshing but you don’t want the muffin-top look in your bathing suit. To prepare for this yearning, I searched for simple, healthy, refreshing treats and tried them on my family and neighbors. These were their favorites:

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Homemade Popsicles

Avoid the high fructose corn syrup and brightly, colored, stained lips and tongue with a natural fruit popsicle. You can use any fruit combination with almond or coconut milk to add smoothness. Try this following recipe:

Mango, Orange, Green Apple, and Lime Popsicle:
Combine 1/2 pound of frozen mango chunks (no sugar added variety), one green apple, 1/2 cup of light coconut milk, fresh squeezed juice from one orange and one lime, 1 tablespoon of honey (or agave or sugar) puree in a blender until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds. Freeze bars for four hours or until firm.

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Fruit and Herb Infused Water (Spa Water)
So many benefits to keeping hydrated with water such as combating fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps and pain. Water improves digestion, metabolism, thinking and alertness. It also plays a big role in aiding weight loss and maintenance.

But, the thought of plain water does not excite most of us. So making fruit infused water is a natural delicious alternative to high sugary drinks such as lemonade and soda. Water with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from fresh fruit, mixes up a perfect refreshing beverage for the summer!

(Spas frequently serve this water to their clients to cleanse and refresh, hence spa water.)

How to Make Spa Water
You can use any fruit (except for bananas) and fresh herb combo. Use 2 quart mason jars or a pitcher. Wash fruit well before adding to the jar. For a strong flavors, gently press or crush fruit and herbs. Fill jars with ice cubes, add water to the top, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the fruit and herbs steep. Good for up to 3 days.

Infused Water Combos To Try
1). Watermelon Rosemary ( Sweet and aromatic. Biggest hit!)- 1 cup of watermelon cubes and a sprig of fresh rosemary.
2). Strawberry, Lime, Cucumber, Mint (Light and refreshing)- 8-10 strawberries cut in halves, half a cucumber sliced, one lime sliced and mint leaves.
3). Blackberry, Blueberry, Lemon, Sage (Rich savory berry flavor) – Handful of blackberries and blueberries, one lemon sliced and sage or mint leaves.
4). Orange, Lemon, Lime (Tangy and a little bitter)- One orange, lemon and lime sliced.

*Fruit and herb infused waters are not very sweet. You can add 1 teaspoon of honey, agave nectar or sugar to your cup. A little sugar is still much better than the 10 teaspoons of sugar in soda.

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Frozen Banana Pops
Instead of cake-pops, how about banana-pops! These were gone in seconds.
Just slice a couple of bananas, melt dark chocolate in the microwave, dip banana slices in the chocolate and place on wax paper. You can top the slices with sprinkles, chopped almonds, walnuts, shredded coconut or chia seeds. Place a tooth pick in each banana slice. Refrigerate or freeze for one hour. Enjoy! Keep in fridge/freezer for storage.

On a hot summer afternoon try these easy refreshing healthier treats, instead of stalking the ice cream man. Have a great summer!

Posted in Chocolate, healthy eating, snacks, spa water | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Couples ‘Teething’ Into Parenthood: Tips for the Transition

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Nothing can be more stressful on the health of a marriage than transitioning to parenthood. For example, right now, I am listening to my kids fighting upstairs while my husband is left to fend for himself. He’s okay… I’m REALLY busy… then “Alicia can you give me some help here!?”….sigh.

Children bring endearment, fulfillment and a sense of purpose to a marriage but they also can bring lots of conflict as well. In fact, sociologist studies found 90% of couples reported decrease marital satisfaction when transitioning to parenthood. Furthermore, martial issues were ranked at its highest during the child’s first year.

Don’t fret! This is temporary! Studies also showed martial satisfaction goes up as the child gets older. In fact, the rate of satisfaction returns to the previous (before baby) level.

Happy Marriage, Happy Baby
There’s hope amongst the spit-up and diapers. Couples who have a solid relationship before going into parenthood, have less conflict and cope better when issues rattle the marriage.

Knowledge of these problems is the key; this is important because studies show ‘Happy Marriage’ leads to a ‘Happy Baby’. The following is a list of common conflicts and research supported solutions.

What Issues Rattle A Marriage?
Studies identified four top issues of conflict:
1. Sleep deprivation
2. Imbalance workload- Women do 75% of childcare/housework. (Ramp it up guys!)
3. Social isolation
4. Depression- Occurs in 10-20% of mothers and one-tenth to one-quarter of fathers.

The Right Formula Can Help?
Reacher’s identified 3 top strategic ingredients for couples to implement:
1). Awareness- Couples need to be aware of the common issues.
2). Exercise empathy- Research shows a little empathy goes a long way.
3). Devise a Game Plan- For example, to help avoid feeling socially isolated have a social outing or date night once a week.

(Above data obtained from the book, ‘Brain Rules For Baby’ by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist. *A must read!)

Local Marriage Author and Blogger Gives Advice
Lori D. Lowe, Indianapolis resident, is a marriage researcher, writer (WTHR.com and ICON newsletter), blogger and author of ‘FIRST KISS TO LASTING BLISS: HOPE & INSPIRATION FOR YOUR MARRIAGE’. She is committed to providing marriage advice supported by research. I contacted Lori for marital advice for new parents and she eloquently responded:

To help prepare for the transition from married couple to parents, first be ready for a wide range of emotions. My husband and I were surprised at the blissful feelings we felt upon becoming new parents. Everyone warned us of the work and exhaustion, but there are often feelings of overwhelming joy. On the other hand, friends have shared experience with postpartum depression, so be aware that changing hormones can bring mood changes.

Prepare your marriage for this transition by discussing the lifestyle you want to live with your children. In what faith will you raise them? What church will your family attend? Are sports and the arts important for them to participate in, or will you try to keep a less hectic schedule where kids can explore and learn on their own? Will one parent stay home, and if so, how will your finances be affected? Discuss these topics while you have the time and energy. Make a financial plan, so that money stresses do not overwhelm you.

Don’t think you can split the workload for home and child care 50/50. While it’s great to say both partners will contribute equally, the truth is that when one partner is exhausted, the other one may have to give 100%. If you have family and friends who are willing to help on occasion, use that time to reconnect as a couple.

Prioritize your marriage; a strong marriage is one of the best gifts you can give your children.

It’s an amazing blessing to transition from a marriage to a family with children. Remember you are part of a team. Work together to encourage one another. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Instead of complaining to others about your spouse, focus on what they are doing right. Research shows that focusing on gratitude and expressing it to your spouse will enrich your marriage.

For more research-based marriage tips, visit Lori D Lowe’s blog at http://www.marriagegems.com.

So while caring for your new bundle of joy, don’t forget about your biggest baby….your husband (I’m kidding). Remember-‘Happy Marriage Leads to Happy Baby’. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Boredom Brilliance

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“Mom, I’m bored…” that statement is like nails on a chalk board to me. Usually the complaint is announced by my 5 year old son when we are running errands or at one of his sister’s practices or shows. Guilty, I am, of handing him my phone or iPad but my tolerance for this wining is low. And I feel sorry for him, he’s bored.

I confess, in these times, I as well, am engaging in mindless surfing. And that is the question, do we need to be stimulating our brains with our devices constantly? Should we let ourselves get bored and space out?

The Boredom Question
Researchers are studying the cognitive effects of boredom and mind-wandering. What they found so far- Boredom Leads To More Creativity!

Constant stimulation does not allow for creative thought. Spacing-out (mind-wandering) or day dreaming gives the brain much needed downtime. A brain on idle allows conscious and subconscious thoughts to kick in. This leads to sprouting of original ideas which fuel the creative juices. Also people reported improvement in self-reflection and problem solving.

The More You Use It-You Lose It
The more a person spends time on their device, studies have shown the following:
-Less originality
-Less creative thoughts
-Decrease self-awareness/reflection
-More likely to be ‘stuck in a rut’

Extinction of Boredom
It is not uncommon to walk into a waiting room or restaurant seeing several people looking down at their phones checking Twitter and Facebook. I don’t blame them. I think people feel pressure to keep up with social media (or defending their Clash of Clans Base.)

I grew up in the pre-cell phone pre-internet era where ‘day dreaming’ or ‘spacing out’ was a daily occurrence. As an American, I also grew up with the idea that ‘day dreaming’ or ‘spacing out’ is an unproductive act. Time should be spent more wisely doing something. So when Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, now you have the world right in your pocket! It is not surprising that Americans hitched on so quickly.

Quick Stats
-58% of American adults have a smartphone
-Average American spends 2 hours and 48 mins a day on mobile devices. (Flurry study, 2014).
-Average mobile consumer checks their device 150 times a day
-44% sleep with their phone next to their beds.

Bored and Brilliant Project
Check out the informational web-site, ‘New Tech City’ Manoush Zomorodi, host of the WNYC podcast recently launched a project coined ‘Bored and Brilliant: The Art Of Spacing Out’. They asked participates to put down their phones and become bored once a day. Then a task was requested to create or do something, such as, construct your dream home out of stuff from your wallet.

What they found from 18,000 participates was stunning. The participants reactions:
-Felt more present in the moment
-Tried new activities
-Got new ideas. Had creative and brilliant moments.
-Notice problems and found solutions

Many were challenged with putting down their phone. It was very hard and some described having a “withdraw” effect. In the end, most felt more satisfied in their lives and will continue to limit their usage.

Connecting To Your Self
Remember: allow time to just THINK without being entertained by your device. This will help you connect- BACK TO YOURSELF.

Of course, there’s an app for that-called ‘Moment’ it will track how often you check your phone and usage time. It is suggested to limit your usage to 30-95 mins a day.

For technology use by kids, it is suggested by Dr. L. Rosen, a researcher psychologist, to use a 1:5 ratio. Every 1 minute of screen time should be equivalent to 5 mins of non-tech activities (ex: 30 mins of iPad: 150 minutes of other activities). In teens, technology becomes more important for school work and social life so the ratio flips to 5:1.

Now when I hear… Mom I’m bored, I respond THAT IS GREAT! now you have the opportunity to exercise creativity (O-TEC). “It’s O-TEC time”. This little acronym nugget came from my boredom. Brilliant huh?! Maybe I should stick to my phone.

Posted in boredom, cognition, creative, Family and health, health care, Psycholog | Tagged , , | 2 Comments