Stress Reduction

I go back and forth between states of fear/panic/hysteria and calm strength all day. One state strengthens, the other weakens. It takes conscious effort these days for me to get back to a parasympathetic state.

“The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that supplies the internal organs, including the blood vessels, stomach, intestine, liver, kidneys, bladder, genitals, lungs, pupils, heart, and sweat, salivary, and digestive glands.”

The autonomic nervous system has two main divisions:

  • Sympathetic “Fight or Flight” prepares the body for stressful or emergency situations—fight or flight; thus, the sympathetic division increases heart rate and the force of heart contractions, dilates the airways to make breathing easier, causes the body to release stored energy and increase muscular strength. This division also causes palms to sweat, pupils to dilate, and hair to stand on end. It slows body processes that are less important in emergencies, such as digestion and urination.
  • Parasympathetic “Rest and Digest” -Generally, the parasympathetic division conserves and restores. It slows the heart rate and decreases blood pressure. It stimulates the digestive tract to process food and eliminate wastes. Energy from the processed food is used to restore and build tissues.source

Recent research suggest that meditation is a powerful tool for cognitive health and I have been encouraging deep breathing and meditation practices with my clients and patients for years.  A 2014 comprehensive review and meta-analysis from Johns Hopkins University investigated the effects of meditation programs on stress reduction.  Beyond stress reduction, meditation has been shown in other studies to either increase the brain’s volume or slow the rate at which the brain loses volume due to normal aging or disease.

Evidence also suggest that the PNS plays an important role in regulating a diverse array of physiological functions, including; heart rate, hormone secretion, gastrointestinal peristalsis, digestion, inflammation, and immune function. And this is why I am focusing on getting back to – and remaining in – a parasympathetic state as much as possible.

There are many different types or styles of meditation, but one of the most accessible ways to change your state is via the breath.

One of the easiest is ‘box breathing’: (If you’re having any respiratory issues or this causes any discomfort, please contact your doc before proceeding).

  • Exhale fully through the mouth
  • Inhale through the nose to a count of four
  • Hold for a count of four
  • Exhale through the mouth for a count of four
  • Hold your breath for the same count of four.
  • This is one cycle. Start with four cycles, several times a day as needed to settle into a state of ease.
  • Make the process more mindful: touch the tips of your thumbs to the tips of your index finger. Quiet your mind to feel your heartbeat where thumbs and fingers meet. Use your heartbeat to guide the counts of four.

More mindfulness practices to come each week in April – and be sure to follow along @goalfitmethod on instagram for a daily look at implementing strategies to reduce stress.

Do you even lift?

Strength training, resistance training, weights, lifting, throwing iron (my husband’s term-not mine) – whatever you call it, you need to be sure your fitness routine includes strength training to increase muscle mass as well as to reduce your risk of sarcopenia and osteoporosis.

From the Society on Sarcopenia, Cachexia and Wasting Disorders: Sarcopenia can be characterized by the slow and progressive loss of muscle mass that is associated with ageing in the absence of any underlying disease or condition…and can directly lead to health problems including increased hospitalizations and disability, due in part, by contributing to falls, fractures, and frailty in the elderly.

Strength training can also help maintain bone density. Ref

Think you need dairy to keep your bones strong, think again.  Check out Dr. Klaper’s library of resources on the negative effects of including dairy in your diet.

*As always, check with your doc before you begin any exercise program & consider working out initially with a trainer to be sure you are getting the most benefit with least risk of  injury*

Mild Cognitive Impairment: What it is & what you can do to reduce your risk

Mayo Clinic states that “Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes. An estimated 10% to 20% of adults older than 65 have MCI, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Studies suggest that around 10 to 15 percent of individuals with MCI go on to develop dementia each year.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, experts classify mild cognitive impairment based on the thinking skills affected:

  • Amnestic MCI: MCI that primarily affects memory. A person may start to forget important information that he or she would previously have recalled easily, such as appointments, conversations or recent events.
  • Nonamnestic MCI: MCI that affects thinking skills other than memory, including the ability to make sound decisions, judge the time or sequence of steps needed to complete a complex task, or visual perception.

I have worked with countless individuals with MCI for 25 years, and the good news is that there are many things you can do that may prevent, delay onset, or treat MCI. From Harvard Health:

Eat right. A study of almost 900 people published in the September 2015 Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet was associated with slower mental decline in older adults. The diet emphasizes high amounts of plant-based foods like fruits (especially berries), green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and olive oil, with minimal amounts, if any, of animal products and foods high in saturated fat, like red meat, butter, whole-fat cheese, pastries, sweets, and fried and fast foods.

Exercise. Exercise improves heart health, and anything good for the heart tends to be good for the brain, too, says Dr. Okereke. Do at least 30 minutes to an hour of moderate-intensity exercise three to five times a week. It doesn’t matter what you do — weight training, regular cardio, or even brisk walking — as long as you break a sweat.

Mindfulness: Multiple studies tout the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Long-term mindfulness practice may be associated with cognitive and functional improvements for older adults with MCI. Mindfulness training could be a potential efficacious non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention for MCI.

Additionally, Forbes article references a study demonstrating that mushrooms may reduce risk of cognitive decline. A team from the departments of Psychological Medicine and Biochemistry at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in Singapore has found that seniors who consume more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly may have 50% reduced odds of having MCI.

I like to make this quick and easy recipe a few times a week as a side dish or add chickpeas for a full meal

Weight Loss Resistance

Having trouble losing weight?

Here are a dozen fairly common issues that could be factoring into weight loss resistance:

  1. Eating too many calories
  2. Not eating enough calories
  3. Eating too frequently
  4. Overtraining
  5. Undertraining
  6. Elevated cortisol / chronic stress
  7. Non-restorative sleep
  8. Hormonal imbalance
  9. Thyroid issues
  10. Gut imbalance/inflammation
  11. Insulin resistance
  12. Liver issues

A few of these you can address on your own (improve your sleep hygiene, track your calorie/nutrient intake with an app like MyFitnessPal), but make sure to check with your doc to have your thryoid, liver, hormones and any other issues checked that your provider thinks could be at play.

‘Tis the (Sugar) Season

It really is the most wonderful time of the year! Unfortunately, this can also be the time of year that we may be more likely to feel less than our best.

A quick search can yield tons of evidence connecting sugar and reduced immune response. It stands to reason that between Daylight Saving Time (reduced exposure to sunlight), increased stress, reduced physical activity and increased sugar intake (Halloween candy, Thanksgiving treats, Christmas cookies & candy) this season is the perfect time of year to do what you can to bolster your immune system!

For me, that means both cardio and strength-based training (read this); stress management (meditation and mindfulness), restorative sleep, but most importantly – a healthy diet and NO PROCESSED SUGAR ! **note – I do enjoy whole fruits daily**

I’m also adding Truvani’s ‘Under The Weather’, “a properly dosed immune-supporting botanical blend with research-backed ingredients… all in tablet form“.

To enjoy the occasional traditional sweet treat, consider making the switch to monk fruit instead of sugar. Monk fruit is a sugar free, 0-calorie, natural alternative that you can easily swap when baking.

**I am not a doctor and nothing I post should be construed as medical advice. Always seek the counsel of a trained physician before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. I am just sharing what I do – that doesn’t mean it will work for you”