Showing posts with label stress. Show all posts

A Bit Too Old to Know The Abbreviations, But Never To Old to Laugh

Giggle

Have you laughed at all today? Do you know the last time you laughed? How about laughed out loud. LOL. How about laughing while watching a great TV show? Can you even remember the last time you laughed? Catherine Kalamis, in “Laugh Your Way to Health” (Choice magazine, March 2001), said that a 10-minute bout of laughing can have the following effects:
  • As the person laughs, carbon dioxide is driven out of the body and replaced by oxygen-rich air, providing physical and mental freshness.
  • Laughing can produce anti-inflammatory agents that can aid back pain or arthritis.
  • Laughing encourages muscles to relax and exercises muscles all over the body, from the scalp to the legs.
  • Laughing reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • It is also thought that laughter may possibly aid immune system responses, (though the evidence for that is primarily anecdotal).
  • Laughing exercises facial muscles to prevent sagging.
  • Laughing boosts the production of “feel-good” endorphin hormones.
Giggle, snort, and laugh till it hurts. You -- and everyone around you -- will be healthier. Laughter or cheering triggered strong brain activity in listeners, particularly the brain areas that control the muscles of the face -- which means listeners were primed to smile or laugh, too. The response was automatic -- and contagious

A study performed at the University of Maryland noted that laughter seems to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels to relax or expand, increasing blood flow. Mental stress, on the other hand, causes the opposite effect: making vessels constrict, and thus reducing blood flow. That finding confirms earlier studies that suggest a link between emotional stress and the narrowing of these linings, called the endothelium.

The endothelium is the layer of thin, flat cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels. Endothelial cells line the entire circulatory system, from the heart to the smallest capillary. In small blood vessels and capillaries, endothelial cells are often the only type of cell present. Endothelial cells are involved in many aspects of vascular biology, including:
  • Vasoconstriction and vasodilation, and hence the control of blood pressure
  • Blood clotting (thrombosis and fibrinolysis)
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis)
  • Inflammation and swelling (edema)
So: Stress is bad. Laughing is good. Laughter is good for both body and soul. It can thwart stress, boost the immune system, and help protect against the flu and even cancer. In a study, men who watched a favorite funny video had lower levels of stress hormones and higher amounts of growth hormone, both of which bolster the immune response. And study participants had more of the natural killer cells that target tumors and viruses.

Just anticipating a chuckle or guffaw can keep you healthy and reduce stress. In another study, people who knew in advance that they would be watching a funny movie had elevated levels of growth hormone and more beta-endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals that block pain and help you relax). And these levels held steady throughout the hour of viewing as well as afterwards, for up to 24 hours. A mere 30 minutes of comic relief may be all you need for similar health benefits.

So go ahead, laugh often and out loud. It's your -- and your friends', family's, and cronies' -- best medicine.

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How to Recognize and Prevent Burnout

burnout
What is it?
Burnout occurs when a person feels overwhelmed by work and/or social circumstances and is unable to cope due to high levels of stress and emotional and physical exhaustion. Experiencing burnout can cause a person to feel unmotivated and extremely unhappy. High stress levels in all areas of life can reduce productivity and interrupt normal work, family and social relationships. It may also have an adverse affect on one’s health. It may be caused by lack of control, job boredom or monotony, extreme pressure to meet constant and excessive demands and lack of recognition.

Who is at Risk?
People who are dealing with a stressful environment on a daily basis, who must fulfill certain objectives and are under pressure due to time, financial or employer constraints. These people could be executive high flyers or even carers for the disabled. Any job or environment that can become monotonous and make a person feel like their achievements go unrecognized has the potential to increase the likelihood of burnout.

Signs of Burnout
Early signs of burnout relate closely to high levels of stress and the mental rather than physical state of a person’s well-being. Feelings like frustration, hopelessness, irritability and lack of emotional energy are all early signs. As they are also feelings experienced with depression fast diagnosis and early prevention of further burnout is required to.

Introduce positive change. As the state of burnout progresses physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, weight gain or weight loss may manifest and a person is at higher risk of developing extreme mental depression and even other emotional problems, for example, anxiety attacks.

Prevention
Burnout can be prevented or alleviated with the same methods used to combat stress. Having good physical health and maintaining strong relationships within the family and workplace will ensure a foundation of support, if and when it’s needed. A person that can socialize and connect with like-minded people is able to relax easier and counter stress more effectively. To prevent burnout a person may request different duties in a monotonous job or indeed make a career change altogether. A clear expectation of work duties may help as will a clean and relaxed office environment. If the first signs of burnout are being experienced, a person may reassess personal and private life goals and realise and set limits on their capabilities in certain situations. Taking regular breaks may help reduce stress in a highly demanding work environment. Once burnout has occurred, positive changes may be undertaken through counselling, doctor’s advice and help from family and friends. The best defense against burnout is for a person to remain connected with others and practice good communication within work, social and family circles.

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Effective Ways to Help Lower Hypertension

lower hypertension

According to the American Heart Association, one in three Americans has hypertension, with a third of those not knowing they have it. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder than needed and hardens the arterial walls. Hypertension can increase the risk for heart attack and stroke, which are the number one and three primary causes of death in the United States respectively. It can also lead to heart failure, kidney failure and blindness. High blood pressure can lack symptoms so many don’t know that they have it. The only way to find out is to have one’s blood pressure checked regularly. Luckily there are simple lifestyle changes that can help prevent or control hypertension.

Diet

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s DASH diet, is a good model to follow. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet basically is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Fruits and vegetables provide fiber, magnesium and potassium, which are all important for arterial health. Specific fruits and vegetables such as canteloupes, prunes, raisins, bananas and potatoes are especially high in potassium. Potassium helps regulate the body’s fluid and salt levels. This, in conjunction with decreasing salt intake to no more than 1500mg a day, can effectively lower blood pressure readings by 10 points. Other foods that help lower hypertension include oatmeal, soy, and dark chocolate. Some Vitamins and supplements that may aid in lowering blood pressure include magnesium, fish-oil supplements, garlic and hawthorn. Dosages and efficacy may vary from individual to individual. Checking with one’s physician prior to taking these supplements is a must.

Lifestyle changes

There are several life-style changes that can help reduce hypertension. These include limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, exercise and decreasing stress.

In some, alcohol raises blood pressure and heavy drinkers tend to have hypertension. Alcohol consumption should be limited to a drink a day. Smoking should be eliminated completely. Tobacco can include elements and compounds that contribute to the hardening of the arteries and the nicotine in cigarettes can cause blood vessels to contract, increasing the risks associated with high blood pressure.

Brisk exercise, consisting of thirty minutes a day, several times a week can help lower overall blood pressure. Although exercise can temporarily increase blood pressure during the activity, it does help lower overall resting blood pressure greatly. In addition, exercise promotes weight loss, reducing the amount of work that the heart has to perform. Checking with one’s physician prior to implementation of an exercise program is advised.

Stress can increase heart rate, which can lead to hypertension. Relaxation techniques and biofeedback methods are helpful to combat stress. These may include meditation, mind-body exercises, stress reduction training and things as simple as becoming involved with a hobby or getting a pet.

The numbers

Blood pressure consists of two numbers. The top number, systolic pressure measures blood flow at its highest pressure when the heart beats, while the lower number, diastolic pressure, measures blood flow when the heart is at rest. Although both numbers are important, the diastolic pressure reading is the one that concerns the most, because high pressure at rest can only go up when exertion is applied. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute maintains that a blood pressure of 120/80mg or lower is normal. Readings of 140/90mg or higher can indicate hypertension. It’s important to get checked regularly, not only by a physician, but also occasionally at home, by taking one’s own blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a silent killer. Regular checkups and home monitoring can diagnose this problem. Changes in lifestyle and diet can help control or lower hypertension. Consultation with one’s physician is necessary prior to exercise programs, vitamin supplement ingestion and the prescription of medications, if indicated.

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Hidden Reasons for Back Pain

back pain

People who suffer from back pain usually can pinpoint those obvious causes for the problem. Usually back pain occurs from factors such as heavy or improper lifting, strained ligaments and muscles or sudden body movements. There are also structural reasons for back pain such as arthritis, osteoporosis, sciatica or ruptured disks. However, often back problems are due to hidden causes that are not as obvious.

Shoes and Back Pain

Because shoes support the entire body and are the only contact between the ground and a person, it’s important to wear the right shoes to avoid back pain. Shoes that are not aligned properly and don’t give proper support and ride quality can cause problems with backs. For example, high heels put added pressure on the foot which causes back pain. When wearing these shoes, a woman’s heels are placed unnaturally above her toes so even a slight change to the foot can affect body alignment. The spine has curves designed to distributed body weight and wearing high heels changes these curves.

Other types of shoes that don’t provide enough or any cushion include sandals, flip-flops and cowboy boots. In other words, choose well-cushioned shoes to reduce the odds of getting back pain.

Backpacks Causing Back Pain

Although mostly older people suffer from back problems, children can develop them from carrying heavy backpacks packed with books, calculators, notebooks and other school supplies. Usually, kids walk bent over from the strain of carrying too much weight on their backs and shoulders. According to a Children’s Hospital.org article, there are students who carry as much as 30% of their body weight. Besides a child complaining of back pain, another sign of the problem is a change in posture such as a child leaning either backward, forward or to the side. Excessive redness on shoulders is another sign that a backpack is too heavy. An alternative to heavy backpacks is pulling a small luggage on rollers such as those used when flying.

Poor Posture and Fatigue

Bad posture, whether lying, standing or sitting, causes the back to be more susceptible to back pain. Fatigue is another cause of poor posture leading to back pain. When the spine isn’t properly aligned muscles, spinal joints and ligaments are placed under additional stress causing back pain. The most common type of back pain from poor posture is lower back pain because the lower back supports the majority of the body’s weight. Poor posture can also lead to upper back pain such as people who slouch.

Stress and Back Pain

Back pain can be caused from emotional factors, as well as physical problems. Stress from work or home situations can do more than just cause mental frustration. These stressors can also cause back problems. According to Big Back Pain.com, there’s a significant link between stress and back pain. That’s because stress causes stress hormones to be released which increases the perception of pain. These stress hormones also leads to muscle tightening with muscles becoming so tense they can cause pain spasms with neck and back muscles being especially sensitive to stress effects.

It’s usually not too late to improve a bad back problem; however, it’s important not to ignore symptoms of back pain. As soon as symptoms of back problems surface, it’s vital to seek help and make needed adjustments. Correcting the problem may include the help of a doctor or health care professional.

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