Another Good Reason to Drink Coffee

July 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Health & Fitness, Wellness

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Coffee cuts suicide risk in half, say Harvard researchers (via Raw Story )

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) concluded that drinking several cups of coffee a day could cut the risk of suicide by 50 percent in men and women. According to a report in the Harvard Gazette, researchers found that adults who…

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Fishing for a Longer Life: Learn What Eating More Fish Can Do for You – and Enjoy This Delicious, Heart Healthy Recipe

July 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Food & Recipes, Health & Fitness, Wellness

Fishing For Life

Once again, we bring you a healthful and tasty article from guest author Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, who is a leading diet, nutrition, and fitness expert, as well as the National Association of Baby Boomer Women’s Heart Healthy Lifestyle Expert. She frequently serves as a  nutrition and health spokesperson on national television, radio and is often quoted in print.

Brill specializes in cardiovascular disease prevention. Her first book, Cholesterol Down: Ten Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs has been widely endorsed. You can learn more about her on her here:

Fishing for a Longer Life: Learn What Eating More Fish Can Do for You – and Enjoy This Delicious, Heart Healthy Recipe

by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN
It’s called the “Eskimo factor.”

As early as 1944, scientists began to document that Greenland Eskimos had virtually no heart disease. This phenomenon occurred despite the fact that the Eskimos ate a diet low in fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. But what they did subsist on was a diet loaded with oily seafood such as whale and seal meat — providing the Eskimos with a huge daily dose of fish oil (about 15 grams), rich in the superbly heart-healthy marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Eating fish is key to heart health because it is human beings’ primary source of the cardio-protective fatty acids known to enhance human health: the twin polyunsaturated, or “long-chain” omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Studies show that people who eat a fish-rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and have a greater longevity.
Salmon and other seafood is one of the eight key food groups – along with extra virgin olive oil, leafy greens, figs and other fruits, lentils and other legumes, walnuts and flaxseeds, oatmeal and other whole grains, and red wine — that are part my plan (detailed in Prevent a Second Heart Attack) to reverse heart disease, or build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. Dark chocolate is a bonus food in this plan. Yeah!

Omega-3 fish fat can protect against heart disease by targeting the three key areas of heart disease vulnerability, medically termed the “trilogy of vulnerability:”

  • Vulnerable Plaque — the root cause of most heart attacks
  • Vulnerable Heart Muscle — prone to electrical disturbances of the heart (arrhythmias); and
  • Vulnerable Blood — prone to form blood clots.

Daily intake of fish fat can boost your heart disease defense system by:

  • Decreasing progression of and stabilizing vulnerable plaque
  • Reducing your risk of sudden death by protecting against arrhythmias
  • Lowering your triglyceride level
  • Fighting inflammation
  • And thinning your blood, omega-3 fats make platelets less likely to stick together and form clots

One additional advantage of frequent consumption of fish in lieu of other types of animal protein is that fish is the perfect diet food –loaded with protein but low in saturated fat and calories. Hence, eating your seafood prescription will also help you control your weight, and being overweight is another major risk factor that ups your odds of a heart attack.

Here Are a Few Ideas to Help You Increase Your Consumption of Healthy Seafood:

  • Go to your local fish monger and be sure to buy really fresh fish — fish that doesn’t have a fishy smell. Don’t be shy about asking to smell the fish before purchasing. I buy fish that’s right off the boat — in bulk — take it home, cut it into individual servings, wrap in wax paper, label, and freeze.
  • If you eat out, frequent a steak house, where you can almost always find salmon or a tuna steak on the menu. Just be sure to order it grilled and simply dressed with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
  • Consider a can of water-packed albacore tuna served over your greens for lunch with olive oil vinaigrette — instead of a sandwich of cold cuts.
  • Contrary to popular belief, both deep-sea cold water fish and freshwater fish from cold waters (such as lake herring, lake trout, and whitefish) are good sources of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Buy them fresh or frozen; bake, grill, or broil and not deep-fry the fish for maximum heart health benefits.
  • Use of seafood as your protein source of choice is a superbly heart-healthy strategy. You may be surprised at how delicious simply prepared, fresh fish can be. Chef Mario Spina’s Grilled Swordfish, Chef Kern Mattei’s Steamed Red Snapper with Black Bean Sauce, and Chef Julie Korhumel’s Steamed Halibut and Fresh Vegetables in Parchment Paper and Chef Keith Blauschild’s Tuna Romesco are some the delicious recipes in Prevent a Second Heart Attack that feature fish and are sure to please the palate.


Chef Keith Blauschild’s Tuna Romesco
A meaty tuna steak topped with a fresh, spicy, almond-studded tomato sauce.

Four 6-ounce tuna steaks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 plum tomato, cut in half and seeds removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Season tuna with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to cook. Roughly chop the tomato. In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and almonds and sauté until the garlic turns golden but not too brown. Add the plum tomato, sun-dried tomato, roasted red pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the tomato is soft. Let cool. Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree until smooth. Remove to a bowl and stir in the vinegar and parsley. To cook the tuna, spray the fillets lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Heat a nonstick skillet or grill to high heat. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness and desired degree of doneness.

Serves 4

NUTRITION per 6-ounce tuna and 1/4 cup sauce:
Calories: 285
Fat: 10 g (< 1 g EPA, < 1 g DHA, <1 g ALA)
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 77 mg
Sodium: 307 mg
Carbohydrate: 6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 2 g
Protein: 43 g

Great News! Grab Your Forks and Napkins Because Now Many of Your Favorite Comfort Foods Are Still On the Menu, Even If You’re Newly Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes

Health Comfort Foods - For Real!

Cool Weather and Comfort Food: You Know It’s Coming, Don’t You?

It’s hard to miss the signs here in the heart of the Midwestern United States.  No doubt the same thing is happening all over the northern hemisphere. With the advent of cooler days, longer nights, football in the stadiums and autumnal color on the trees, it’s time to think about serving up a slew of your favorite cool weather comfort foods for dinner.

(Sorry for talking “fall weather” to you readers in the southern hemisphere, especially those of you in Australia and New Zealand. I know it’s springtime for you… But keep reading,  you won’t want to miss the book I discuss  at the end of the post…)

No Doubt You Have an All-time Favorite Hearty and Comforting Meal

When it comes to comfort foods, my favorite – hands down – is a fabulous beef pot roast, complete with potatoes, carrots, onions, and maybe some green beans.  All slow-cooked or stewed in a delicious tomato-based beefy gravy.  Served with homemade biscuits on the side…  With perhaps a nice hot apple cobbler for dessert.

I’ve always loved preparing this meal for my husband and family, but lately I’ve discovered that it’s a meal your dinner dinner guests probably crave as well.

You wouldn’t believe how many friends and business associates give me major hints that they’d love to be invited over next time I’m serving this up.  These days I’m not afraid to serve it up for company.  Try it! You’ll be amazed at the compliments this homey meal will earn you!

But pot roast isn’t the only star when it comes to favorite comfort foods. Yours might be something else. Perhaps, as the Fall season comes upon us, you find yourself craving one of these other delicious treats:

These Are All Delicious Options

But did you know they they can be healthy choices, too? That’s really good news. Especially so if you’re newly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, right?

Healthy choices? Before you got to that last sentence, you were probably crossing your arms, shaking your finger, and giving me the hex sign, right? I know, I know.  If you’re just learning how to live with diabetes, yo’ve probably taken a look at your newly imposed carbohydrate limitations  and decided these delicious favorite dishes are history. Meals that are forever relegated to your “forbidden foods” list…

Good news! The fact is that with just a few — mostly minor — changes to your preparation techniques, you CAN still enjoy these favorite meals. This week’s issue of Diabetic Living Weekly Newsletter is chock full of articles complete with delicious recipes, including “14 Comfort Foods Made Healthy.”

The link takes you to a great slide show-style post, complete with photos, recipes and all the nutrition facts and diabetic exchanges you need.

(If you haven’t yet made acquaintance with this resource, I suggest you check it out right away!)

Just click the link and prepare to start enjoying two week’s worth of  “legal” comfort foods, OK?

But Wait! Are You Looking For Even More  Recipes That Are Both Delicious and Diabetic-friendly?

  • Maybe you’d like to see some diabetic-friendly yet comforting desserts? Like a carrot cake? Or maybe cheese cake?
  • Or perhaps you need recipes that are also gluten-free or low-glycemic?
  • You’re in luck! Here’s an amazing recipe resource I’ve just discovered:  Fun With Gluten-Free Low-Glycemic Food!

This amazing cookbook is by Debbie Johnson, the former owner and executive chef of The Golden Chalice Restaurant & Gallery, in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

Debbie’s mind-boggling claim to fame is that she offered her hungry Golden Chalice clientele delicious food — without telling them that everything on the menu was 100% gluten-free, sugar-free, low-glycemic, organic and allergy-friendly.

  • Many of her guests ate the food and thoroughly enjoyed it – without realizing just how healthy it was.
  • Those who came because they had challenges with their diets would look up at the servers and say things like, “You mean I can eat anything on this menu, anything?”
  • The server would smile and say,  “Yes, you can eat anything you like.”
  • And why not? Debbie’s recipes are delicious and chock-full of healthy fruits and veggies, legumes and certain nuts and seeds, especially sprouted nuts and seeds.

As a Hungry Person with Special Food Needs, Can You Imagine How Amazing It Would Be to Be Able to East ANYTHING on the menu?

Debbie notes: “Our entire restaurant was geared to people with food and environmental sensitivities of all kinds, yet we didn’t advertise the fact on our signage. So locals came in and thought we were just a fine gourmet restaurant. Who wouldn’t? our menu offered only the freshest, organic, foods that were rich, flavorful, and delicious. Desserts were always a must at The Golden Chalice, they were just hard to resist.”

Now You Can Enjoy Debbie’s Amazing Golden Chalice Recipes at Home

The recipes in Debbie’s amazing ebook (yes, you can download it and start checking out the recipes instantly, no waiting for shipping!) are not only delicious but they are helpful for people with everything from allergies, celiac disease and diabetes to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). And, every recipe contains “healing” food of some type. Not to mention that they are more alkaline.

Perhaps these recipes will become your new definition of Comfort Foods. After all, these recipes are:

  • Delicious
  • Easy to digest, and
  • Leave you feeling both full and energized.

Isn’t that the very definition of comforting?

If you’d like to take a look at one of these great recipes, here’s a gluten-free favorite: Golden Chalice Carrot Cake.

One Last Thing: What’s The Deal With “Alkaline” Foods?

Debbie says her recipes are “more alkaline, ” which might not be a term you’re familiar with.

On the other hand, perhaps you’re aware that some nutritionists are now recommending we all enjoy a more alkaline diet in order to prevent cancer and other diseases? It’s a concept that’s controversial and perhaps still a bit “out-there,” but it’s been getting a lot of attention recently. To help explain what alkaline foods are all about, here’s a clip from CBS News that explains it for you:

In closing: Fun With Gluten-Free Low-Glycemic Food! is a cookbook for people who love delicious food but don’t want to get sick eating it!

Whether or not you decide to subscribe to an alkaline diet, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the recipes. And why wouldn’t you? After all, the book’s title says it all: Fun With Gluten-Free Low-Glycemic Food!

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Yummy Recipe for Stress Management: With All the Trauma in the World, Why Not Take Action to Relieve Your Stress by Baking Something Healthy & Delicious – Sharing With Friends?

October 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Diabetes, Food & Recipes, Wellness

Looking For Stress Reduction? Have Some Fun With Friends!

With All the Economic Drama of Recent Days, You Know We’re All in Need of Some Good Stress Management Techniques.

Hopefully you’ve been able to find an opportunity for a big belly laugh every day, since you know laughter’s a proven stress reliever. No need to head to a comedy club, there have been some great opportunities offered by the presidential campaign:

  • Tina Fey’s impressions of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live have really had the world laughing
  • The real Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live this past weekend was another good chance to laugh, especially Amy’s the end of show rap  
  • Not to mention the ably delivered standup comedy of both McCain and Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner

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Do You Fall Asleep During The Day But Deny You Have A Sleep Disorder? I Did And It Almost Killed Me!

September 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Health & Fitness, Sleep Apnea, Steve Holmes, Wellness

Do You Fall Asleep During The Day But Deny You Have A Sleep Disorder?

Hello, my name is Steve and I have sleep apnea.

My wife diagnosed this more than five years ago, but I was in denial. The only reason I’m alive today is because my doctor died and my wife is VERY persistant.

What you say? – Alive because my doctor died? – How does that work?

Well, it goes like this: I’ve been mostly healthy all my life – the kind of guy who eats anything, does whatever I want, and avoids the doctor like the plague. My family doctor also treated my parents and knew the whole family health history. That means he knew that I’m never sick, so every few years I’d show up to prove I’m still alive. We had this GREAT arrangement, where he’d leave me alone until I asked for help.

In fact, the last time I saw him, I drove to his office to discover it was now an office for Psychiatric Therapy. My self-diagosis on that subject was very positive, and I since I didn’t want another second opinion from my wife, I picked up the cellphone and called my doctor’s number. The reply – after a few giggles from the receptionist – was that they’d moved seven years earlier, and I needed do drive east for a couple of blocks.

As a typical guy, I generally figure that any problem short of broken bones will go away with time, and often, time will mend those too. In fact, I’ve broken ribs on multiple occasions, and the doctor just prescribed pain pills and said “you’re tough and have great chest muscles to holdem in place, so call me in a few weeks if you haven’t gotten any better.”

So, since I was convinced that sleep apnea was just a made-up disease by doctors conspiring to take more trips to Tahiti, and since my doctor wasn’t likely to send the authorities to drag me into his office for a physical examination, my expert opinion was that I was in perfect health.

My belief was that my wife just needed a new hobby – and maybe ear plugs. After all, my dad’s snores could shake the house, but he lived to be 77 years old.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, my wife was not deterred from her insistance that I not only snored, but I was continually stopping my breathing throughout the night. I assured her that I just reverted to a more shallow form of breathing during parts of the night. Heck, if I wasn’t breating, I wouldn’t be perfectly fine each morning. RIGHT?

After three years of this verbal dance, I was blind-sided by a need to renew a prescription for a special hand cream. When I called my doctor’s office, I was told that he would not renew my prescription without seeing me in person to prove I was alive and still needed the medication. I said something like: “What? You know my voice. Of course I’m alive, and I’ll need this stuff for as long as I live – if not longer!

How dare my doctor to dare challenge my self-diagnosis! And, given that I was just turning 50, he insisted on checking out my overall health. So, I decided that procrastination was my best friend, and maybe the doc would foget about this unreasonable demand and accidentally fill my prescription.

Well, after a two month delay, I decided to bite the bullet and make an appointment. To my surprise, the receptionist informed me that my long-term, usually reasonable doctor had passed away. My response was to say something comforting like: That’s terrible! … Can someone else fill my prescription?

Natually, no doctor was going to give me a prescription without EVER seeing me in person, and this was an even bigger problem because I had moved to another state two years earlier. This had been fine until then, because of the wonders of the telephone and fax. Now I needed a new doctor in my own community. How unreasonable!

In part 2, we’ll review the joys of meeting a new doctor – in person – at the age of 50.

Part 3 will cover the wonders of spending the night in a sleep lab, and hearing the truth about Sleep Apnea.

Later, we’ll explore the ongoing saga of living [yes, living] life with Sleep Apnea, and how it is actually better than gradually dying in denial.

For those of you who want to know more facts about Sleep Apnea, here is my current definition – minus the Tahiti part:

Sleep Apnea “A condition characterized by temporary breathing interruptions during sleep. The pauses in breathing can occur dozens or even hundreds of times a night.”

Symptoms include:

  • loud snoring
  • a gasping or snorting sound when the sleeping individual starts to breathe again.

Although the individual may not be aware of having sleep apnea, the condition can:

  • disrupt the quality of sleep
  • result in daytime fatigue
  • raise your blood pressure
  • cause permanent brain damage
  • result in sudden death over time

The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the tongue or other soft tissue blocks the airway.

Enough with these boring technical details. We’re still too early in this story to believe this kind of non-sense.

So, if you absolutely need to know more facts before the next installment, go ahead and check out this 5-star book about Sleep Apnea.

For more information about how to get a better night sleep, read my wife’s recent post about Sleep Apnea and many other sleep challenges.

Chronic Insomnia, Stress, Depression, Sleep Apnea: Why Has Getting a Great Night’s Sleep Become an Elusive Dream for Baby Boomers? And What Can You Do to Help Yourself?

September 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Health & Fitness, Sleep Apnea, Wellness

Can You Get a Restful Night Sleep?

Remember how much you played when you were a kid? Likely you had so much energy you played outside after school, and maybe even headed outdoors again after dinner; coming in only after your parents repeatedly hollered for you to come home. And didn’t they usually have to holler at least three times — because you pretended not to hear them?

Perhaps your favorite games were: “Tag,” “Red Rover,” “Kick the Can,” “Hide and Seek.” Or maybe kickball or softball in someone’s back yard. Then again, maybe you played that slightly more strategic and mentally challenging game, “Mother, May I?”

No matter what games you preferred, chances are:

  • Once you got home, you fell asleep as soon as your head hit the pillow, totally spent.
  • When you woke up in the morning you were alert, refreshed, and ready to get right back into it.
  • Nobody gave any thought to having problems with sleep.

Could Playing “Mother, May I?” Have Anything to Do with Sleep?

Maybe not, but let’s give the question some thought.

In that game, in case you forgot, one kid was the “mother” and the other kids were her “children.” The game started out with the kids all an equal distance away from mother, with their goal being to gain access to her. The first to reach her became the new “mother” and won the game. The “mother’s” goal, therefore, was to maintain her role by allowing some forward motion, while preventing any kid from totally reaching her. The rules, went something like this:

  • Each kid took turns asking “mother” if he or she could take a certain number of steps toward her.
  • It could be something as small as five baby steps, or as large as three giant steps. Your more creative friends might have even jazzed things up by suggesting more unusual options like ballet, backward or bunny steps.
  • The “mother,” in her infinite wisdom, would reply, “Yes, you may,” or “No, you may not.”
  • You and your friends found infinite fun in figuring out the type of steps that might get you across the finish line, but your biggest challenge was in remembering to ask the all-important question, “Mother, May I?
  • If you forgot to ask permission, Mother would force you to go back to the starting line and you had to start all over again.
  • Forgetting to ask permission felt sort of like drawing the “Jail” card in the more sedentary game of Monopoly” (“Go back to the beginning. Do not pass go, do not collect $200”) in that you were highly unlikely to win the game at that point… Take about extreme frustration. Starting over was the worst!

The Games You Play These Days Are Different – And As an Adult, Your Most Extreme Frustration Doesn’t Come From Forgetting to Ask Permission, But Might Possibly Result From Failing to Get a Good Night’s Sleep!

First of all, we all sleep less than we used to, according to a recent Japanese study. The research showed that in 1970 we slept an average of 7.5 to 8 hours a night. In 1990, we slept an average of 7 to 7.5 hours a night.

Nobody knows why this is so, but if you had to hazard a guess, it’d probably be due to our faster-paced “24/7” lifestyle, which offers you less time for play, and in which you have to juggle so many more responsibilities.

But if you want to know how all-pervasive insomnia has become, try gathering together two or three Baby Boomer-aged couples and challenging them to a game of “Truth or Dare.” Or, less dramatically, just mention your recent sleep problems and ask your friends if they have any advice or suggestions.

  • Don’t be surprised if the flood gates open, and you find out that most of your friends are also sleep deprived. Sort of surprising, since you all once thought your sleepless nights would end once your kids were old enough to sleep through the night!
  • The fact is, most Boomers either regularly experience personal trouble sleeping or they know someone who does. Many will even tell you about couples they know who’ve resorted to sleeping in separate bedrooms due to sleep problems
  • If you aren’t bold enough to ask your friends directly, all you have to do is watch TV commercials for a few hours, and you realize you’re not alone when it comes to being challenged to get a good night’s sleep
  • The reasons your friends are losing sleep are many and varied: Everything from snoring to restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, teeth grinding, night sweats, sleep walking or talking, nightmares, stress, depression and reaction to meds
  • Of course, the pharmaceutical companies suggest all sorts of solutions, but you’re not sure if that’s right for you.
  • And don’t get people started on their fears about sleep apnea and having to wear a mask unless you’ve got a whole evening! That’s a major conversation (Though if wearing a sleep mask can keep you or your spouse from dying of a heart attack or losing your brain function due to oxygen deprivation, isn’t the mask a no-brainer (easy) solution?)

It’s not possible to return to your carefree childhood days when sleep came easily. But, it is possible for you to get a better night’s sleep. And as with your old “Mother, May I?” game, there are dozens of ways you can successfully get yourself to the goal line to win yourself that bliss and energy that comes from experiencing fantastic sleep. Guess it turns out that Mother really did know best…

The first thing your mother would advise you would be to try non-pill solutions first, since all medications have some potential for side-effects. So just like you did with the game, now is when you need to look at the more creative – and successful sleep inducing – steps you can take…

If You Asked “Mother, May I Get Better Rest?” She’d Suggest You First Take These Baby Steps to Improve Your “Sleep Game:” Minor Lifestyle and Environmental Changes

  • Prepare yourself for sleep
  • Follow a sleep schedule, and
  • Get the “sleep vampires” out of your bedroom!

These are solutions that can be extremely effective, and are a great place to start solving your sleepless equation. Here’s how to start:

Take Action to Prepare Yourself for a Better Sleep

Just as your mother had you follow pre-bedtime routine (remember, it probably went something like this: take a bath or wash up, get into your PJs, brush your teeth, story time and prayers, kiss goodnight and lights out) you can still get your mind and body into “sleep mode” with a regular routine that send a message to your brain that it’s time to wind down. Here’s the grown up version:

  • Find ways to relax your body: First, avoid physical exertion just before bedtime. Your goal is to reduce any muscle tension you may have acquired over the day. Try relaxation techniques such as massage, meditation, progressive relaxation, or even taking a warm bath or shower.
  • Unwind mentally: About a half hour before going to bed, stop whatever else you’ve been doing – including watching late night TV – and replace it with an enjoyable low-key activity, such as reading or listening to music. There are even some sleep promoting recordings available, which you might find effective.
  • Drink a glass of warm milk before bed: It turns out there’s a scientific basis for your mother’s old-fashioned remedy. Milk contains tryptophan, a chemical that may promote sleep in some people. And if a solution actually pops into your head while you’re relaxing, make a point to get up and write enough of it down so you’ll remember it tomorrow, then return to bed
  • If you’re hungry at bedtime, try a high-carb snack: It’s harder to sleep if you’re either hungry or overly full. But if you are hungry, select a light snack that is high in carbohydrates, such as a crackers, pretzels or a plain bagel
  • Avoid eating heavy, spicy, or high-sugar foods late in the evening, they activate your digestive system, which keeps you from relaxing into sleep
  • Stop drinking caffeinated beverages after noon: Amazingly, caffeine can interfere with your sleep for up to twenty hours after you consume it. Caffeine is also present in colas, chocolate bars, and cocoa. Even headache remedies and diet pills contain caffeine. Instead try drinking herbal teas or to other energy boosters like ginseng, ginger, and licorice. At night, use calming herbs like valerian, hops, and passion-flower
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption: Alcohol temporarily depresses your nervous system making you sleepy, but it’s rapidly metabolized, which creates a rebound effect just a few hours later, waking you up with a start. So that nightcap you’ve taken for better sleep is actually not a good idea
  • Cut out your cigarette usage: Nicotine alters your energy patterns, locking you into a pattern of stimulation. Perhaps worse, cigarette smoke contains high amounts of carbon monoxide, which replaces the needed oxygen in your body. Both cigarettes and caffeine, can leave you “wired but tired”
  • Consider adjusting your prescription drugs: Many prescriptions, like steroids, asthma medications, thyroid hormone, and decongestants containing stimulants, cause sleeplessness as a side effect. Also, some long-term meds can cause nutritional deficiencies that result in sleep problems. If you adjust the dosage or the time of day these drugs are taken, sleep will often return naturally
  • Don’t get in bed until you feel tired enough to go to sleep: If you find that you’re still awake after lying in bed for 20 minutes, go into another room and do something relaxing, such as reading a book. Return to bed only when you’re sleepy
  • And finally, once you’re in bed, try not to spend time worrying: Don’t allow your mind to dwell on problems – or challenge it to find solutions for them – while you’re in bed. Instead, before going to bed, make a list of problems and “next steps” for the following day

Follow a Regular Schedule

Again, Mother had it right when she tried to keep you on a daily schedule:

  • You’ll find it’s worthwhile to work at going to bed and getting up at the same time every day — even on weekends.
  • Once you make a habit of regular bedtimes and wake-up times, you’ll find that your mind and body become conditioned to expecting to go to sleep at “bedtime.”
  • Once you achieve some success with this strategy you’ll find keeping to a schedule doesn’t seem too confining.
  • Also, plan for regular times to exercise. Ideally, exercise in the morning or afternoon, but avoid exercise in the final four hours before bedtime. (Yeah, getting to sleep’s a lot harder now than when you were a kid!)

Check Your Bedroom for “Sleep Vampires”

When you were a kid, your parents may have helped you eliminate any bogeymen, ogres or monsters who were hiding in your closet or under the bed. These days you can make your bedroom more sleep-friendly by eliminating the “sleep vampires” that are robbing you of your “daily eight.” For example:

  • Block out noise:. Or better yet, eliminate it. Even if you fall back to sleep after noise wakes you, the quality of your sleep is compromised because you need time to get back to sleep. Don’t play radios, televisions, or stereos in the bedroom while you’re trying to sleep, and if sounds “bleed through” your bedroom walls from other parts of the house, silence them as well. If you can’t control the noise, try earplugs or use some sort of white noise emitter to block the sound. This can be as simple as running a fan in your room, or try a white noise machine, which creates a consistent, smooth humming designed to mask other noises
  • Reduce the light in your bedroom: The issue isn’t merely how light affects your eyes. Light also affects the way your brain produces hormones that regulate your sleep cycle. Even a tiny amount of light can disrupt your sleep. Possible solutions: Ask your sleep partner to read in another room; wear a “sleep mask”; use blackout shades or other window treatments to make the room very dark. More on this later in the post…
  • Adjust the room temperature: If you’re physically uncomfortable, you won’t sleep as soundly as you might. Correct the temperature by adjusting the thermostat, your sleepwear, or bedding. Or install a ceiling fan, open or close a window.
  • Hide the clock: If you have insomnia, looking at the clock can make you anxious. Try keeping it out of your line of sight
  • Try banning pets (and children) from your bed: If your dog or cat sleeps in your bed, your chances for sound sleep are jeopardized. Try having your pets sleep on the floor, giving them their own bed in your room, or keeping them in another room. As for any young children or grandchildren who may have wandered in due to their own anxieties, work at getting them to stay in their own beds
  • Don’t talk about problems or challenges you’re facing either at home or work while you’re in your bedroom. Your goal is to get your brain to understand that the bedroom is where you go when you are ready to sleep
  • Don’t use your bedroom for an office or project area: As tempting as it might be to set up your bedroom for multi-tasking, it’s not a good idea. When you use your bedroom for a home office or hobby room, your mind is confused as to the purpose of the bedroom. If space is tight and you MUST allow the bedroom to do double-time, try visually separating your work or task areas from your sleep areas with a partition of some sort
  • Beyond what you do in the room, pay attention to what you do – or don’t do – in or on your bed: Ideally, you don’t want use your bed to watch TV, pay bills, work or read. That way, when you actually get into your bed your body knows it is time to sleep. Sex, of course, is an acceptable exception
  • Finally recognize the impact of your partner’s sleep problems. A bed partner who snores, tosses and turns a lot, talks while sleeping, or gets up often can affect your sleep, even if the activity doesn’t totally awaken you. As mentioned above, earplugs or “white noise” can help. If your partner gets up a lot, make sure he or she sleeps closest to the door. If your partner tosses and turns frequently, consider a larger bed, or even resort to separate beds or bedrooms

You Need to Realize That Your Sleep Problems Are More Than Just a Nagging Frustration, They Are Actually a Health Issue.

When you don’t sleep well, it affects how well you function, how you feel emotionally, and may even affect how well your immune system fights off disease.

Besides that, your health may be affected simply because more accidents happen at night, when our innate circadian sleep patterns would prefer that we are sleeping. Take a look:

  • Every nuclear accident reported so far anywhere in the world has occurred on the night shift, when people are tired
  • Most highway accidents take place between midnight and 6:00 am and are fatigue-related. Their rate is nearly triple that of accidents occurring at noon or 6:00 pm
  • People who suffer from severe sleep apnea have more than twice as many car accidents as the general population
  • Fifty thousand car accidents a year occur because drivers fall asleep at the wheel
  • About 25 percent of American workers have work shifts that are not nine-to-five
  • The most difficult schedule for the body to adapt to is a “swing shift,” the work shift that cycles between the various day-parts. This challenge is similar to “jet lag,” the difficulty the body experiences during travel

Even if you aren’t flying off to Asia or working the night shift, it’s possible that you may have a profound sleep disorder called Circadian Rhythm Insomnia, simply because you live in the city or the suburbs. Why? Urban living there forces you to live and work under artificial light. As a result of unavoidably being exposed to so much light at night, you may actually suffer the same disrupted rhythms and light deprivation that a night worker suffers from. That’s because the natural cycle of the body seems to be about twenty-five hours. (Which is why you get a boost in the fall when we set the clocks back one hour.)

What Can You Do If You Think You Might Be Experiencing Circadian Rhythm Insomnia?

  • Try to work by day under natural light, in an office with windows. If you are an urban dweller, make sure your shades blot out the city lights at night. This will allow your brain the peace of total darkness
  • If you are a shift worker, try to change to an earlier shift. If that’s not possible, try to work regular hours
  • Consider taking melatonin extracts at night. Studies show this may help regulate your body clock. One study of individuals flying to Europe found that of you take melatonin for several days before your flight you can eliminate much of the impact of jet lag. However, not all medical professionals are convinced.
  • A newer treatment for circadian shift problems is simple, safe, and effective: Exposure to light that simulates sunlight. This is the same treatment commonly used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). We’ve now learned that your inner body clock can be selectively manipulated by using bright light

Do You Need to See a Sleep Specialist?

OK, if you’ve removed your sleep robbing activities, put yourself on a sleep-promoting schedule, rid your bedroom of sleep vampires and STILL can’t sleep, you probably realize it’s time to take bigger steps.

Your first step will be to recognize that the sleep problems you or your partner are experiencing could be symptoms of an underlying illness or a complication created by medications you might currently be taking. So if you’re still playing the “Mother May I?” game, you’ll want to call your primary healthcare provider and make an appointment to discuss your situation.

You’ve probably heard that in recent years health-care professionals have become increasingly aware of the importance of sleep. So much so that professionals from a wide range of disciplines — including neurology, pulmonology (lungs), psychiatry, psychology, and otorhinolaryngology (ears/nose/throat) — have developed secondary specializations in the area of sleep. But trying to take a giant step there directly will get you nowhere.

Most certified sleep specialists require referrals from your primary care physician, so that’s why your best plan of action is to see your regular healthcare provider first. If he or she suspects a serious sleep disorder or feels testing would be beneficial, you will be referred to a specialist. And depending on the symptoms you report, that referral can happen lightening fast, so don’t try to bypass the referral step!

You’ve probably realized that some sleep specialists operate free-standing sleep centers sleep centers or sleep labs designed to diagnose sleep disorders while others work from hospitals or clinics. Maybe you’ve even heard that some testing can be done in the comfort of your home.

Where you end up will depend on what sort of issues you’re experiencing. Some centers are geared toward assessing breathing-related sleep problems, such as sleep apnea while other centers address a broader range of sleep disorders, including problems related to

  • Snoring
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Narcolepsy
  • Teeth grinding
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep talking
  • Sleepwalking
  • Nightmares
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Medications or other health issues which can impact your sleep

So To Sum It All Up, Here’s the Final Way Sleep Problems Are Related to That Old “Mother, May I?” Game:

There are a lot of ways to get to the goal line – once again getting a good night’s sleep. But your first step, once you’ve tried the suggestions listed above, needs to be to contact your primary care practitioner, and get a referral — the ol’ “Mother May I?” permission — to see a sleep specialist.

And if the worst case happens? If for example, it turns out you have sleep apnea and you’re advised that you ought to wear a sleep mask to bed every night? Here’s the great thing about that: Your neurologist will explain that if you wear the mask, you’re instantly and completely cured.

Which means you’ll have a lot more energy to go out and play with your friends! How wonderful is that!

Newly Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes: Wondering if You’ll Ever Be Able to Enjoy Treats Like Chocolate, Ice Cream, or Granola Again?

September 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Diabetes, Food & Recipes, Wellness

Can You Still Eat Treats With Type 2 Diabetes?

If you’re like most Baby Boomers who’ve suddenly found themselves with newly-acquired Type 2 diabetes, you were probably totally shocked when routine blood work during your annual check-up revealed your blood glucose numbers were “out of whack.” (Sorry, Highly Technical Term)

It Seems Baby Boomers Are More Likely to Develop Type 2 Diabetes

The typical Type 2 Diabetic profile includes:

  • Over 40
  • Sedentary and overweight, especially with excess weight around the middle (“Apple” body type)
  • Hispanic, Black, Native American, or Asian background

The Good News is You Can Handle It – Even the “Healthy Eating” Part!

Here are some helpful tips to get you started on the road to glycemic control:

  • Set goals for controlling your diabetes with your doctor
  • Arrange for some training in how to handle your new challenge. (Many hospitals and clinics now have diabetes education offerings, and many insurance programs cover this)
  • Check out web sites designed to help you manage your diabetes, too. All have great tips and recipes. Here are several good ones:

Be Honest About Your Eating Habits

When you meet with the dietician during your diabetes training sessions, it’s tempting to try to put a “good face” on your eating habits, but best to tell the truth… Your goal is to find out what changes you need to make in your diet in order to keep your blood glucose numbers in control.

  • Don’t worry, most likely you will still be able to enjoy eating many of your favorite foods – but now you’ll learn to use healthy moderation
  • Your dietician will show you that you don’t have to settle for boring food; in fact, you’ll still be able to enjoy loads of foods with ethnic and regional flavors
  • Realistically some foods may have to be prepared differently
  • But amazingly, many of your old favorite treats, like ice cream, chocolate or granola will probably still fit into your healthy new regimen.
  • Apparently it’s not so much about the sugar, as it is about something called the “glycemic index” which measures how fast a food is likely to raise your blood sugar.

Your Dietician Can Best Advise You on Your Situation

Everyone’s specific situation is different, and diabetes is not to be ignored, so this post does not attempt to provide medical advice. But just to prove that you probably will be able to enjoy some of your old favorite foods – in appropriate moderation, of course – here are a handful of diabetic diet-approved recipes for granola. For help with your dietary calculations, all of them come complete with nutritional information.

Remember, Granola isn’t Just for Breakfast (or Hippies) Anymore… Never Was, Actually

You can also enjoy it as an appetizer, a snack, or pack it with you on a hike. The hiking-take-along concept is important; since you’ll most certainly be looking for ways to get more exercise, and a brisk hike accented at the end with a snack like one of these crunchy and naturally sweet granolas can be extremely satisfying!

What a Delicious Way to Reward Yourself for Working Up a Healthy Sweat!

  • Granny’s Old Fashioned Apple Granola
  • Eight Great Recipes for Low Fat Homemade granola

Why not plan to enjoy one of these delicious and nutritional recipes today!

The Shocking Truth About Hip Hop Dancing: Who Knew It’s Actually A Hellaciously Fun, Heart-Healthy Workout That Also Benefits Your Brain?

September 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Health & Fitness, Memory Loss, Wellness

If you’re like many Baby Boomers, you’re always planning to get to the gym “next week” when you life won’t be quite so busy. (Yeah, right.) You probably already know that what you really need to do is to find an exercise program that is so much fun you can’t wait to get back to it. (And of course, it’d be even better if you could do it wherever you find yourself – at home, at work or on the road – without having to buy any expensive equipment). Otherwise, with your “busy-busy-busy” lifestyle, fitting in a trip to the gym falls to the bottom of your to-do list

Maybe the Beijing Olympics Inspired You a Bit?

No doubt watching 42-year old Dara Torres anchor the U.S. women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay to a silver medal finish encouraged you to find time to get back into a fitness routine. Dara’s certainly a testament to dedication, passion and willpower. Doubtless she motivated millions of Boomers who’ve slipped away from the health benefits of a regular exercise routine.  But for fitness-challenged Boomers, Dara may not have been the most inspirational presence at the recent Beijing Olympics. Nor were the 20 other older Olympians – motivational as they were — who represented other sports, including:

  • John Dane, a 58 year old sailor, whose pursuit for an Olympic berth began 40 years ago in 1968. Dane has teamed with his son-in-law to make the team in the Star event.
  • Libby Callahan, 56 year old pistol shooter and retired Washington, DC police officer, who competed in her fourth Games.
  • Hiroshi Hoketsu, Beijing’s oldest Olympian at 67, who competed on the Japanese equestrian team.

No, For Pure Fitness Inspiration, Nothing Could Possibly Beat Beijing’s “Hip Hop Grannies” – Who Weren’t Even IOC-Sanctioned Olympians!

Did catch the Hip Hop Dancing exhibition led by Wu Ying, a 70 year old Chinese grandmother from Beijing? Her troupe, the Hip-Hop Grannies,” performed on set of the Today show, and were truly amazing. Check it out for true inspiration!!

For The Hip-Hop Grannies, Dancing Proves “50 Is the New 30”

Wu Ying is from a generation that lived through some of modern China’s most tumultuous decades, including the stifling Cultural Revolution era, when western cultural thought and influences were banned. She probably never heard of the Boomer slogan “50 is the new 30,” but she does know the benefits she’s gained from her fun exercise program that she can practice anywhere. And she plans to dance for as long as she physically can, noting:

“I think that dancing hip-hop has made me younger, happier, [and] improved my memory.”

Dancing Also Benefits Mental Health

The physical health payoff from dancing might appear obvious, but there’s more: Regular physical exercise also staves off dementia and improves mental acuity. Just ask the “Grannies:”

  • Liu Jian Zhu, a 59-year-old former pharmacist with the Chinese air force, said dancing hip-hop has been “a breakthrough” for her. “Since I was in the military, my life had been required to be serious and intense,” Liu explained. “It has really changed my life and personality.”
  • Wen Di, 55, used to work as a railroad construction technician, but after retiring just last year she wanted to find something to fill what she called the emptiness in her life. “I saw Wu’s dancing on TV and thought that it was very inspiring.”
  • Says Wu: “We represent a new image, a new fashion for Chinese grandmothers. We develop with time and connect with the world. We don’t just learn our own Chinese culture. We learn cultures from other countries to enrich ourselves and our lives to lead a more colorful and high-quality life.”

How the Chinese Dancing Grannies Got Started

Wu Ying began performing hip-hop routines in 2003, after catching the first National Hip-Hop Dancing Competition on Chinese television:

  • “The competitors were all young people, wearing headscarves, headdresses, hats, and various clothes,” recounted Wu, a retired accountant who was 66 at the time. “I thought that was very fresh.”
  • Inspired by “the look they had in their eyes, the way they moved their fingers, heads and bodies,” Wu thought hip-hop dancing would be perfect for herself and China’s aged and infirm.
  • Wu set out to learn hip-hop dancing at a local gym.
  • She also began looking to put together a five-member troupe to promote hip-hop dancing by touring the country and by performing on Chinese TV.

The Hip-Hop Granny Dance Team soon formed and the Grannies – whose average age was 60 – made their debut in August of 2004 at the Beijing qualifier for the National Hip-Hop Dancing Competition.

  • They faced off against people several decades younger.
  • “They (the younger competition) were professionals.”
  • “We seniors didn’t know much so we were very nervous.”

But their daily rehearsal routines paid off; the women walked off with third prize.

So Now It’s Your Turn to Get Up Off Your Couch and Started Dancing!

Here’s how to start hip-hop dancing in your neighborhood!

  • Download your free Hip Hop Radio toolbar, and start dancing to the hip hop beat from the comfort of your home.
  • Find out if there’s a dance studio near you offering adult hip-hop and sign up. Do it now. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet! (They really wanna be dancing!)
  • Check out this great list of hip hop dancing videos which you can order online and start learning in the comfort of your own home.

And one last parting thought: Wu Ying says the next dance she plans to tackle is break dancing! Think you can keep up with this spry septuagenarian Chinese grandmother?