Sunday, February 26, 2012

"You may delay, but time will not." Ben Franklin

An article in the business section of the New York Times discusses the implications of procrastination in the workplace. Many of the points raised about achieving more in the one’s career can be parlayed into a discussion about taking charge of one’s health.

People know that procrastination (losing weight, making the colonoscopy appointment) is a bad idea, but the reason that it occurs is that they are overwhelmed. Breaking down a project into small steps can be helpful. “The most productive people tend to focus on progress over perfection,” states Rory Vaden, author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success.

Reward yourself when you achieve an incremental goal. Have a massage when you reach your first 10% weight loss goal. Take a break for a couple of weeks (maintain, don’t gain!) and then move onto the next 10% goal. Do a fun activity after spending time on the phone scheduling the colonoscopy, mammogram, dentist and eye check. Don’t be afraid to commit – if something comes up, you will reschedule; the appointment will stay on your calendar.

People who procrastinate are often plagued with guilt. Rather than beating yourself up, figure out the steps that you need to take to achieve a specific goal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – buddy up with a friend to swap rides for colonoscopies. Schedule a shared girls lunch after your mammograms.

Some people need more expert help in figuring out why they are chronic procrastinators. Time spent with a psychologist focusing on cognitive behavior therapy would be time well spent.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Turn Back the Clock

It’s true! You can turn back the clock! Be younger in only 90 days!

A healthful dietary pattern can have a dramatic effect on aging arteries and blunts the dramatic age-related rise in the prevalence of hypertension seen in the United States. Dr. Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at Harvard, states that, “the DASH diet and low sodium [intake] abolishes 30 years of blood pressure aging in four weeks.” These benefits are independent of the weight loss seen with the DASH diet.

The DASH diet emphasizes poultry, fish, nuts, and beans instead of red meat. It also makes extensive use of low and non-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The traditional Mediterranean diet is very similar.

The benefits of the DASH diet are much greater in older people as compared to younger people – many experts believe it to be twice as effective. 

A user-friendly way to start: Dash for Health

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It Might Be The Flu

It appears that the flu has arrived - this week’s FluView reports the national percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza was 15.5 percent. This is the second consecutive week this number has been above 10 percent; generally a marker to indicate that flu season is beginning.

In Connecticut, the percentage of total emergency department visits attributed to the “fever/flu” syndrome category has increased above 5% statewide during the past week after four consecutive weeks with statewide “fever/flu” visits below 5%. The percentage of pneumonia admissions among all statewide hospital admissions increased during the past two weeks and now exceeds 5% (more than 375 pneumonia admissions statewide) after decreasing the previous three weeks.

There is still time to get a flu shot, since a late start to the season may indicate that it may extend well into the spring.           

 Click on map to launch interactive tool
P.S. Be sure to wash hands well if visiting Missouri.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sodium in Our Diet

Excessive sodium consumption raises blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the nation's first and fourth leading causes of death. Approximately nine of 10 persons in the United States consume more sodium than recommended.

Recommended daily sodium consumption for all persons is <2,300 mg, and is 1,500 mg for specific groups, including non-Hispanic blacks, persons aged ≥51 years, and persons with hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.

The leading sources of overall sodium consumption are bread and rolls, cold cuts/cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches such as cheeseburgers, cheese, pasta mixed dishes such as spaghetti with meat sauce, meat mixed dishes such as meatloaf with tomato sauce, and savory snacks like chips and pretzels. Together, these account for more than 40% of sodium consumption. The category of food that contributes the most sodium? The surprising answer is bread. It ‘s not that bread is so salty; it’s just that we eat so much of it.

Two thirds of dietary sodium from foods and drinks comes from supermarkets, convenience stores, or other stores. One fourth comes from restaurant food, which has the highest per-calorie dietary sodium.

Reducing the sodium content of the 10 leading sources by one fourth would reduce total dietary sodium by more than 10%. This could prevent an estimated 28,000 deaths and $7 billion in health-care expenditures annually. Thirty-one percent of adults in the United States have hypertension, and fewer than half of them have their blood pressure under control.

More details this week's MMWR from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Green Shoots

I usually see the tops of the daffodil poke through on the south side of the house at the end of February. This winter has been mild and the green shoots are already at least two inches high. The seed catalogues are arriving and the days are noticeably longer. It’s time to think about gardening.

Aside from the psychic satisfaction and the widely accepted mental health benefits of gardening, there are physical benefits as well. Gardening can offer enough moderate exercise to keep older adults in shape. Spending 30 minutes a day doing tasks of moderate intensity for several days per week is enough to be considered good physical activity. Even breaking up the sessions into at least 8 minute segments, several times a day can be beneficial.

Researchers at Kansas State published a study in HortScience that assessed 15 areas of health in older adults, from both those who garden and those who don't. The researchers looked at measurements like bone mineral density, sleep quality, physical fitness, hand strength and psychological well-being, all of which improved with gardening. Gardening also lends itself to strength training and improved flexibility if done regularly, which in turn helps to prevent osteoporosis. 

A key health benefit was keeping hands strong and nimble. Gardeners have better hand strength and pinch force. Activities such as raking offer the most exercise benefit, while mixing soil and transplanting seedlings benefit the upper body.

A not inconsequential byproduct of gardening can be fresh fruits and vegetables. There are many reports on the benefits of urban horticulture, both for individuals and the entire community. There is no such thing as a black thumb – with minimal materials anyone can enjoy flowers, greens and vegetables.

 From the UK: