Category Archives: Health

Good News Monday: Mammo Mia!

There’s a fascinating article in October Vogue magazine about a new device that could change the way health care workers perform breast exams.

Imagine — something faster and more pleasant than squashing your boobs in a giant panini press!

iBreastExam is a handheld cancer screening tool about the size of a travel-sized clothing steamer.  Using Cloud technology rather than radiation, the padded electronic sensor can detect abnormal lumps as small as five millimeters. And it only takes a few minutes to assess multiple quadrants in each breast and then store the info.

Already in use across developing countries where access to radiology and conventional mammograms is limited at best, iBreast Exam is now becoming available to primary care physicians and gynecologists in the U.S.

Despite some limitations — e.g., it’s unable to detect tiny amounts of calcium that may indicate precancerous cells — the tool’s sensitivity is equivalent to a mammogram. For women showing early warning signs, the standard (and proven) mammo would likely be the next step.  But for women with healthy indicators, this might be all that’s needed.

Good news indeed for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

awareness cancer design pink

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Good News Monday: Flu Fighters

 

Cold and flu season is upon us.  And although experts note that “strengthening your immune system” isn’t a quick fix — after all, it is a system with multiple components — there are common sense things that can help.

  1. Get your flu shot.  It’s never a guarantee, but studies have shown it can lessen the severity of illness if you do get sick.
  2. Wash your hands often, and use antibacterial wipes when you’re out and about.
  3. Regular chiropractic adjustments can relieve compression in nerve pathways.
  4. Reduce your intake of sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods.
  5. Eat plenty of colorful fruits and veggies to boost vitamin C and other nutrients.
  6. Get extra sleep.
  7. Identify causes of chronic stress in your life, and try to address them.
  8. Drink plenty of water, more than normal.
  9. Take in more Vitamin D. 15 minutes of daily sun exposure on unprotected skin is all you need; then apply that sunblock!
  10. Apple cider vinegar thins out mucus in the throat, moving it out of your respiratory system. Hate the taste, or worry about direct contact of acid with your teeth? It’s available in capsules (Amazon has a lot of options) and may help with weight loss.
  11. Exercise regularly.
  12. Don’t smoke. (Did you really need another reason?!)
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TGIF! How To Have A Stress-Free Weekend

If I won the lottery, one of the first things I’d do is put a massage therapist on retainer to come de-kink my muscles daily.  (Of course, if I won the lottery I’d probably be a lot less tense in the first place!)

Being on a less luxurious budget, though, I can only manage this monthly at the most. So after several days of traveling last week– always stressful, even when things run smoothly — I enjoyed a much-needed, long massage session yesterday. Which got me thinking about the benefits of massage therapy and why I need to do this more often.

Manipulating the body’s muscles, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and skin does many good things, including a few that aren’t immediately obvious.

Reduces stress. Relaxation is probably the #1 reason people get massages, but there are real health benefits to reducing stress. When you’re tense, you instinctively breathe faster to quickly increase levels of oxygen in your blood. But this also raises your blood pressure. As a result, frequent or chronic stress makes your heart work too hard for too long.

Elevates your mood. Research has shown that massage has a direct impact on lowering the levels of stress hormones adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine that cause the “fight-or-flight” response. At the same time, it helps release “feel good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin.

Improves circulation. As the therapist presses down, blood moves through congested areas. And the release of this same pressure causes new blood to flow in. That helps get oxygen to all your body’s cells.

Boosts energy. Since massage aids blood flow, it delivers oxygen to all your body’s cells, which we need for energy.

Soothes anxiety.  If you’re not in a relationship or you spend a lot of time alone, it’s especially important to stay literally “in touch” with others. Human touch is a basic need, as long as it’s safe and comfortable.

Encourages restful sleep. Especially if you have your massage later in the day, and keep that relaxed feeling going by taking a warm – not hot – bath before bed.

Reduces muscle tension and pain. By relaxing tight spots throughout your body, massage is an effective way to reduce pain, even for people with chronic conditions. A 2011 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that massage therapy was as effective as other treatments for chronic back pain.

Counteracts too much sitting.  Got an office job? Chances are, your posture is suffering and your neck and shoulders are taking a hit. Postural stress can also manifest as pain, soreness or weakness in your lower back and gluteal muscles, aka your butt.

Helps you cope with the pain and stress of chronic conditions and disease, such as stomach problems, fibromyalgia, cancer, and heart disease. Interestingly, women diagnosed with breast cancer who received massage therapy three times a week reported feeling less depressed and less angry, according to a 2005 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience. That’s pretty amazing, I think.

Eliminates toxins (or does it?) Your therapist may tell you to drink a lot of water to flush out toxins after your massage. But what are toxins anyway? They’ve become a scary buzzword for the buildup of nasty environmental substances that are wreaking havoc in our bodies.

While there are situations that are truly dangerous (e.g., chronic exposure to radon, asbestos and cigarette smoke), it seems that a lot of “detoxing” is more money-making hype than true science, and is at best a temporary “fix”.

Our lungs, kidneys and pancreas are already designed to remove harmful substances. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to drink water and rehydrate after a massage,

Improves flexibility and range of motion by loosening up your muscles.

Relieves headaches. According to researchers at the University of Granada in Spain, a single 30-minute trigger point massage decreased tension, anger status and perceived pain in patients with chronic tension-type headaches.

Boosts immunity. By decreasing levels of cortisol, massage can contribute to stress reduction and management. Massage therapy also increases the activity level of the body’s white blood cells that work to combat viruses. According to research from Cedars-Sinai, participants in a Swedish massage group experienced significant changes in lymphocytes, which play a large role in defending the body from disease.

Helps you lose weight.  Sorry, massage doesn’t directly cause weight loss. But it helps release endorphins in the body that make us feel happy. And by doing healthy things for our bodies, we build a better relationship with ourselves. Which may make us less likely to use food as a stress reliever.

Have a great weekend! xx, Alisa

adult alternative medicine care comfort

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Good News Monday: 5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Bones

Despite alarming statistics (during their lifetimes, 50% of women over 50 in the US will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture), there’s a lot we can do.

  1. Lift weights. In addition to your usual strength training regimen, try HiRIT (High Intensity Resistance and Impact Training) twice a week for 30 minutes, lifting heavier weights more slowly in a variety of moves.
  2. Eat Mediterranean. The general rules of this diet: high amounts of fruits, veggies, grains and olive oil; moderate fish and wine; low meat and dairy. In research, postmenopausal women who ate this way were less likely to have lower bone mass.
  3. Go probiotic. Increasing “good” bacteria in your gut reduces intestinal inflammation, which is linked to bone degrading activity.
  4. Say hello to yoga. It improves overall strength, coordination, balance and range of motion. And in a 2016 two-year study of women whose average age was 68 when they started, daily yoga was more effective at improving spinal bone density than medication.
  5. Step to it. In another study, adding 1,415 extra steps a day increased bone density, especially in the hip.  And just a minute or two of daily weight-bearing activity triggers the release of chemicals that rebuild bone. Dance, run, jump rope or climb stairs to boost your heart rate as well as your bone density.
    selective focus photography of skeleton

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    (Adapted from September O magazine article by Karen Asp)

Good News Monday: Ailing Orchids

Admittedly, this is not everyone’s #1 healthcare priority, but I was amused to read about Chadwick’s orchid “hospital”, which restores problematic plants to their former glory.

For a $2.00 per month boarding fee, the Richmond, VA shop will nurture your sick orchid in their greenhouse until it blooms again. Each flower receives a “physical” when it arrives, and is checked for conditions such as excess sun exposure and overhydration. Repotting, if needed, may cost a bit more.

Chadwick’s top tip: Keep plants in indirect light and water them only with warm water. They are tropical, after all.

pink and white orchids

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Good News Monday: Even One Exercise Session Has Benefits

color colour fitness health

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A single exercise session that ups your heart rate can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, reduce anxiety and improve insulin sensitivity on the day you do it.

The big benefits such as lowering your risk of many chronic diseases and cancers start adding up within days or weeks of starting regular physical activity.  The current guidelines are:

  • Move more, sit less. Some physical activity is better than none.
  • Spread aerobic activity through the week. Aim for at least 2.5 -5 hours of moderate intensity or 1.25 – 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity.
  • Strength train at least twice a week. Your bones, joints and muscles need love!
  • Add balance training as you get older.  Yoga, tai chi and other activities help prevent falls.
  • Anyone with chronic conditions should be as physically active as
    their abilities and conditions allow.
  • Pregnant? Stay moderately active, per your doctor’s advice.

What’s moderate vs. what’s vigorous? Per the guidelines, moderate activity means you’re breathing hard and can hold a conversation, but you can’t sing. (OK, some of us can’t sing no matter what.) “Vigorous” means you can’t get more than a couple of words out without a breath.

Exercise with others and live longer! A recent Mayo Clinic study of more than 8500 participants found that playing team and partner sports added years to their lives vs exercising alone:

  • Tennis: +9.7 yrs
  • Badminton +6.2 yrs  (I am not making this up)
  • Soccer +4.7 yrs
  • Jogging +3.2 yrs
  • Gym +1.5 yrs
  • Group exercise classes or clubs also boost longevity
panoramic view of people in bicycles

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