Healthy Alternatives to: Finding Happiness in Exercise and Meditation

Addictions, Healthy Living

Meditation

by Brooke Faulkner

The end of October signaled a crisis in our country when Trump was forced to declare a state of emergency because the opioid epidemic claimed so many lives. Dependency on medical grade prescriptions has led to tens of thousands of overdoses on dangerous prescription medication like fentanyl. This emergency calls for a shift in the way Americans, and frankly the world, are treating their pain and thinking about treatment for their illnesses.

Prescription medication can be dangerous for a number of reasons aside from its addictive qualities. For example, narcotic medications like Xanax have been proven to contribute to the symptoms of depression in some patients. This makes supplementing with alternative treatment options even more necessary for your overall health and wellness. If you do plan to make changes or additions to your treatment plans, it is always advisable to consult a medical professional before making those adjustments.

Why We Choose Medication In The First Place

There are many reasons why people choose to begin a medication treatment plan. Symptoms like chronic pain and anxiety can be challenging to live with. People living with depression often don’t understand everything about their diagnosis and rely on medication to feel better. Others take medication to help with chronic pain developed over the course of their lives.

Whatever the reason you take medication, you have most likely grown somewhat dependent on it and its ability to make you feel better and make your day a little easier. This makes giving up unhealthy medication even more challenging.

But what if you could find a healthy alternative to your medication without feeling like you’re giving something up? There are so many different options for people considering trading in their medication for something potentially healthier.

Alternative Treatments for Depression and Anxiety

When you begin to feel like your depression medication is no longer working for you, there are some healthy routines you can incorporate into your daily regimen to increase the likelihood of its success.

Exercise

Exercise can be extremely beneficial to your body and mind if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. To begin, exercise helps reduce inflammation in your brain that can lead to anxiety and nervousness as well as promote neurological growth.

Exercise also helps decrease stress caused by the challenges of life. When you begin to feel stressed, your body responds by tightening up, which causes neck and shoulder tension as well as painful headaches. Exercising releases endorphins that help relieve tension in the body and make you feel happy.

Meditation

There is a common misconception about meditation that you have to be spiritually devout in order to experience it more perfectly. This is definitely a myth. Meditation is absolutely practiced by spiritual monks and gurus, but they are certainly not the only ones.

Meditation is not solely a means of connecting to your spirit. Meditation is a means of connecting your body and your mind. When your mind and your body are connected and working in unison, the health benefits are extremely notable.

For example, the calm, zen-like state that your body goes into when you are meditating can help reduce anxiety and stress by quieting the loud, disruptive things in life. Meditation has also proved to be useful for your immune function and decrease inflammation at the cellular level.

Going the Extra Mile

 

Many people who have found success in alternative medication have chosen to give back to their community and help others find alternative methods for treating their depression or anxiety by pursuing careers in psychiatric care, opening yoga studios or studying chiropractic. These people have truly gone the extra mile in their recovery process by facing their fears and choosing to do something to combat those same fears in other people rather than let the fear rule them.

If you are someone who is not having success with your medication regimen, consider doing some research on alternative options. Not only can prescription medications be extremely dangerous to your health. Perhaps now is the time to find a new routine that is more beneficial for your overall wellness.

10 Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease, Infographics

Alzheimer's Disease Signs and Symptoms
Alzheimer’s Disease Signs and Symptoms, courtesy of GeriatricNursing.org

 

Taking Mental Health into Your Own Hands

Mental Fitness

by Brooke Faulkner

Mental health doesn’t behave the same way other physical illnesses do. While they all have a list of possible symptoms that lead doctors and other health practitioners to solving any riddle, because of the way mental illnesses behave in different people, sometimes true diagnoses can go too long without a solution.

Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illnesses all manifest differently in different people, depending on many outstanding factors, like personality, upbringing, current environment, and more. It’s not as easy as checking a list of boxes and realizing, oh, this person has the flu, or has a cold — and because of that, many people suffer without proper treatment.

There are many ways to get your doctor to listen up, especially if they are a little less than motivated when it comes to giving you a proper diagnosis. And perhaps they aren’t hesitating on purpose; it might be that you aren’t able to describe your symptoms in a way that they understand — in which case, the solution is a simple fix to doctor-patient communication.

Helping Your Doctor Understand

Many people suffering from mental illnesses are also burdened with other, less pervasive illnesses that can have a negative effect on the their attempts to find help. For example, imposter syndrome applies to more than the work you get done in the office — if you’ve never been properly diagnosed with depression, going to your doctor might become a stressful event.

You wonder if you’re really suffering enough to justify it, if perhaps you’re wasting the doctor’s time, maybe there’s nothing wrong at all and you just need to “buck up” — but all of those thoughts and feelings are symptoms of the hard-hitting self-esteem bombs that come hand in hand with depression and imposter’s syndrome.

The first step to finding proper treatment for mental illness is accepting that you’re suffering and that you deserve to seek help. Once you’ve accepted that, then comes the challenge of approaching a doctor with your fears and concerns, and being thorough enough with your symptoms that they’ll understand and come to the correct conclusion.

Don’t be afraid to get personal with your doctor about the ways you feel, the negative thoughts you have regularly, and how it affects your day to day life, whether positive or negative. Emphasize the things that have the biggest effect — do you struggle focusing at work? Do you have a difficult time getting to work in the first place, let alone getting anything done? Don’t be embarrassed, and allow yourself to be completely honest about everything you say and all of the answers you give to questions. This is the first step to taking control of your illness, rather than it taking control of you.

You do not need to protect it or be ashamed of it, and being honest about the ways it affects you is the first step to getting there and proving to yourself that not only is it possible, but you deserve to be treated.

Keeping Records of Visits

Whether you consult a family practitioner, a therapist, a school counselor, or another professional, it’s smart to be taking notes while you’re in the discussion. You should also consider taking notes with you to the meeting. Days before the appointment, begin writing down instances where your illness has impeded your regular day-to-day, write down the feelings you have and the thoughts that plague you. That way, when faced with questions, you won’t have to struggle with descriptions or forgetting that you’ll miss mentioning anything.

The notes will come in handy after the appointment as well, not only in helping to boost your own research into self-care and other options, but they will be valuable if you decide to seek another opinion. Even if you feel confident in the diagnosis the doctor gave you, there will never be any harm in seeking out another professional’s assessment, both to ensure you cover all your bases, but to also find other possible treatment options.

Some people prefer to take medication, while others might prefer something more holistic or natural — neither is more noble than the other, neither deserves more praise than the other, but one might work better than the other depending on you and your lifestyle.

Embracing Self-Care

Medication and other professional guidance on treating your mental illness is important, but so are the little things you do for yourself on the daily to boost your confidence, self esteem, and all-around mood when you need it most.

For example, things like tending to a small, indoor garden are proven to not only provide you with a healthy veggie harvest to cook delicious meals with, but taking care of plants, adopting a pet, and picking up other similar hobbies help to boost a person’s sense of worth.

Pampering your body also does wonders for mental health, whether that be through things like treating yourself to a massage or getting into the habit of working out regularly, the endorphins released during increased heart rate and blood flow help to boost your day just a little bit. While for many these endorphins aren’t enough to cure any symptoms, they certainly don’t do anything to make them worse, either!

Just like you deserve to find relief from symptoms of mental illness, you deserve to treat yourself to things that make you happy throughout the journey. Some days you may feel too tired, too stressed, too depressed, and for some of those days it’s OK — and healthy! — to stay in bed and rest, but otherwise, showing your mental illness who’s really in control can be more freeing than anything a doctor can prescribe.


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Stress Management Tips and Techniques for the Rest of Us

Relaxation, Stress

Relaxed Cat!

by Brooke Faulkner

Although some people have well-established yoga and meditation routines for dealing with stress, the rest of us sometimes struggle to find the time to fit preventative wellness practices into our daily routines. Though many of us would like to find the time to practice yoga and meditation every day, we may not have the inclination.

However, no matter how we look at it, eventually the avoidance of dealing with underlying problems related to stress will catch up to us unless we are willing to not only find physical outlets for stress, like vigorous cardiovascular exercise, but also to uncover the root of the problem — or problems.

Here are three concrete ways that the rest of us can deal with everyday stress and anxiety to prevent them from becoming bigger physical and psychological problems.

Go the Doctor

 

Nobody likes to go the doctor, but you should go before physical problems become even bigger lifestyle problems compounded over time. When you’re legitimately sick, good doctors will not only treat you, but use it as an opportunity to offer preventative services that are not required every two years, such as screening for diseases, counseling on smoking cessation and weight loss advice. It’s an opportunity to maximize your trip to the doctor.

Don’t be afraid to get something checked out even if going seems like an annoying inconvenience. For example, if you notice a lump in your neck, would you stress out and wait until it got bigger before going? It could be a matter of life or death if you do, and the compounding stress levels you experience won’t be worth it.

Though many of us avoid going to the doctor because of the inevitably high overhead costs, many hospitals and clinics

now have payment programs and financial aid to help avoid financial strain. If you don’t work out a payment plan, the provider will turn your bill over to collections. Nobody wants to procrastinate to the point of going into medical debt and getting a dreaded collection notice. Instead, save yourself the headache and plan ahead by working out monthly installments with your provider.

Quit smoking

 

Ironically (or perhaps not so ironically), smokers turn to smoking as a way to relax and destress. However, it’s become evident that this habit does more harm than good to your body over time–and the good news is, it’s never too late to quit. You hear stories all the time of smokers who successfully quit after 15, 25 and even 30 years of investing in their habit. If you’re whole life centers around your next nicotine fix, you potentially miss out on a lot of things, such as the taste of food, healthy lungs, and more.

If you happen to smoke, it is definitely in your best interest to quit — even if you do so by replacing cigarettes gradually with the help of stand-ins like e-cigarettes, toothpicks, and other healthier habits.

An estimated 36.5 adults in the U.S. currently smoke cigarettes and more than 16 million live with a smoking-related disease, according to the CDC.  Vaping and e-cigarettes are becoming a popular alternative or tool in helping people quit. Studies have found e-cigarettes to be 95 percent less dangerous to people’s health than cigarette smoking, while still providing a similar stress-relieving function as traditional smoking.

Get Physically and Mentally Healthy

 

A healthy mind and a physically healthy body are intertwined–stress has a nasty habit of occasionally derailing both of these things. Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems, and poor mental health can negatively impact physical health.

Chronic stress can increase your risk for depression. Depression sufferers often have worse physical health, as well as worse self-perceived health, than those without depression. Depression is linked to a 67 percent increased risk of death from heart disease and a 50 percent increased risk of death from cancer. Often this is because people with mental health conditions are less likely to receive the physical healthcare they need and less likely to get routine screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Getting a good dose of cardio may not be fun for everyone, but it definitely helps clear the mind, release endorphins, and produce blood flow and oxygen to the brain. You can also reap those benefits from simply walking 35 minutes a day.  Regular exercise three times a week can even reduce symptoms of mild to moderate depression potentially brought on by various stressors in your life.

With preventative practices, there are many methods to relieve stress and take care of your mind and body. What are some of your best stress management techniques?


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Strength in Body and Mind: How Exercise Can Make You Mentally Healthy

Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

by Jane Sandwood

Living in a rundown home that doesn’t provide for your needs can adversely affect your health, and your brain’s home happens to be your body. Exercise can help you fight off mental afflictions such as dementia, but even if you aren’t at risk of these illnesses, overall mental health can still greatly benefit from regular physical activity. While many factors contribute to mental health, physical fitness is a simple thing that most people can accomplish in just a handful of minutes a day. You don’t have to be a marathon runner or body builder to reap the mental health benefits exercise provides.

The Physical Benefits

Exercise, of course, has a host of physical benefits for your body that also extend to your mind. Stress, lack of sleep, low energy and sickness can all contribute to a decline in mental health, but studies have shown that exercise prevents all of these from happening. Regular physical activity prevents your body from becoming a drain on your brain.

The effects don’t just stop there, however. Besides preventing the negative things from happening to you, exercise brings about positive change that can increase your level of mental health. Increases in mental alertness, interest in sex and stamina are linked to higher levels of positive chemicals in the brain such as dopamine.

The Psychological Benefits

Physical effects of exercise may be an indirect boon to your mental health, but there are also many benefits that are outright psychological. Scientists have observed changes in anxiety, depression and mood not long after starting a basic exercise regime. Even more severe mental health issues such as PTSD can be alleviated with the help of exercise.

Again, exercise is not just mental illness prevention; it can make you a more mentally complete person. Increased memory and a greater capacity for learning are just a couple of the money ways your brain can improve after getting your heart rate up. More abstractly, creativity also sees a significant boost post-workout. And let’s face it, seeing a healthier you in the mirror and knowing what you have accomplished is a huge boost to self-confidence that you can’t get anywhere else.
Don’t Let You Stand in Your Way

It may seem scary starting an exercise program, or getting back to it after being away for so long. But starting off slow is starting off smart, and you don’t have to kill yourself at the gym to see results. Just make sure you do the most important part: get started.


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Using Technology to Improve Mental Wellness

Healthy Living, Mental Fitness, Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Mental wellness can mean so many things. It can mean improving memory, it can mean getting enough sleep, or it can mean finding support for mental health concerns. Each person may have different needs in terms of mental wellness. Fortunately, technology has made mental wellness improvements more attainable. In order to get a brain boost, work on memory, or have access to tools to improve mental health, technology has stepped in to give us a better understanding of the brain as well as tools to improve our mental wellness.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is booming and it seems like everyone has something strapped to them at all times to keep track of their steps or heart rate. Technology is helping promote healthy lifestyle choices by providing their own health awareness right on their wrist. The great thing about wearable technology is that it can also provide data and awareness on our mental wellness as well as our physical wellness. For one, you’ll be able to track your sleep patterns and the type of sleep you’re getting. Sleep can be a big factor in our mental abilities, and if you’re feeling like you’re in a brain fog every day, it may be due to sleep. You’ll also be able to see if more activity helps your mental wellness during the day. It’s no surprise that physical wellness and mental wellness can go hand in hand.

Not only are fitness trackers available, so are other types of trackers meant to help with stress and emotions. These devices are tethered to your mobile device and will not only offer you useful data to help improve mental wellness, in some cases, the technology will tell you when something is amiss.

Brain Stimulators

One way to use technology to improve mental wellness is to give yourself a brain boost with brain stimulators. Memory games, logic puzzles, and problem solving games are all ways to help workout your brain in the same way that you may workout your body. Push-ups are good for your body, and puzzles are great for your brain. There are ways to give your brain a workout by grabbing a crossword puzzle, or playing strategic board games, but you can also use apps on your phone to give your brain a boost. These memory and puzzle games are great for everyone, and can help your brain fight things like Alzheimer’s in the future.

Strategy has become a popular entertainment tool as well with popular experiences like escape rooms popping up. The objective is to grab a group of friends or coworkers and complete puzzles and riddles to escape a room. There are ways to exercise your logic muscles without going to an actual escape room as well. Some breakout puzzles are designed to make you think in the same way.

Mobile Connections

Another way that technology is improving mental wellness is that it’s connecting people in a way that they’ve never been able to connect before. There are apps, forums, technologies, and websites designed for a mobile platform to help people suffering with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, autism, traumatic brain injury, and many other mental health diagnoses. Finding support in a community of likeminded people can be extremely reassuring and helpful for those that can’t relate to their peers as a result of a setback in mental wellness. Technology has made it possible for communities of people to support one another in a way that they never would be able to before. Now, mobile apps are being created with this as their sole purpose: to unite and help those with mental health issues and provide a platform of support and access to help.

An Understanding of the Brain

Technology has given us wearable devices making us more aware of our bodies and brain activity. It’s given us more access to brain stimulating puzzles and activities to give our brain’s a workout. It’s given us mobile connections and access to information to help us cope with mental wellness struggles. And, it’s also given us a deeper understanding of the brain in general. Knowing what causes anxiety and depression leads to a bigger understanding on treatment. Knowing how addiction affects the pleasure centers of the brain can make it easier to treat those suffering through it. Technology that dives into the brain in order to map it out makes all the difference in how to make sure we keep our brains healthy.

Mental wellness is a giant umbrella of a topic that covers so many aspects of our brains and how to keep them healthy. With technology, we have a bigger understanding of our brain now than we ever have before, but there are still so many unknowns. In time, technology will make all the difference in what we know about the brain and, hopefully, how to prevent many of the most detrimental brain and mental health problems out there. For now, technology can help our

Mental wellness can mean so many things. It can mean improving memory, it can mean getting enough sleep, or it can mean finding support for mental health concerns. Each person may have different needs in terms of mental wellness. Fortunately, technology has made mental wellness improvements more attainable. In order to get a brain boost, work on memory, or have access to tools to improve mental health, technology has stepped in to give us a better understanding of the brain as well as tools to improve our mental wellness.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is booming and it seems like everyone has something strapped to them at all times to keep track of their steps or heart rate. Technology is helping promote healthy lifestyle choices by providing their own health awareness right on their wrist. The great thing about wearable technology is that it can also provide data and awareness on our mental wellness as well as our physical wellness. For one, you’ll be able to track your sleep patterns and the type of sleep you’re getting. Sleep can be a big factor in our mental abilities, and if you’re feeling like you’re in a brain fog every day, it may be due to sleep. You’ll also be able to see if more activity helps your mental wellness during the day. It’s no surprise that physical wellness and mental wellness can go hand in hand.

Not only are fitness trackers available, so are other types of trackers meant to help with stress and emotions. These devices are tethered to your mobile device and will not only offer you useful data to help improve mental wellness, in some cases, the technology will tell you when something is amiss.

Brain Stimulators

One way to use technology to improve mental wellness is to give yourself a brain boost with brain stimulators. Memory games, logic puzzles, and problem solving games are all ways to help workout your brain in the same way that you may workout your body. Push-ups are good for your body, and puzzles are great for your brain. There are ways to give your brain a workout by grabbing a crossword puzzle, or playing strategic board games, but you can also use apps on your phone to give your brain a boost. These memory and puzzle games are great for everyone, and can help your brain fight things like Alzheimer’s in the future.

Strategy has become a popular entertainment tool as well with popular experiences like escape rooms popping up. The objective is to grab a group of friends or coworkers and complete puzzles and riddles to escape a room. There are ways to exercise your logic muscles without going to an actual escape room as well. Some breakout puzzles are designed to make you think in the same way.

Mobile Connections

Another way that technology is improving mental wellness is that it’s connecting people in a way that they’ve never been able to connect before. There are apps, forums, technologies, and websites designed for a mobile platform to help people suffering with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, autism, traumatic brain injury, and many other mental health diagnoses. Finding support in a community of likeminded people can be extremely reassuring and helpful for those that can’t relate to their peers as a result of a setback in mental wellness. Technology has made it possible for communities of people to support one another in a way that they never would be able to before. Now, mobile apps are being created with this as their sole purpose: to unite and help those with mental health issues and provide a platform of support and access to help.

An Understanding of the Brain

Technology has given us wearable devices making us more aware of our bodies and brain activity. It’s given us more access to brain stimulating puzzles and activities to give our brain’s a workout. It’s given us mobile connections and access to information to help us cope with mental wellness struggles. And, it’s also given us a deeper understanding of the brain in general. Knowing what causes anxiety and depression leads to a bigger understanding on treatment. Knowing how addiction affects the pleasure centers of the brain can make it easier to treat those suffering through it. Technology that dives into the brain in order to map it out makes all the difference in how to make sure we keep our brains healthy.

Mental wellness is a giant umbrella of a topic that covers so many aspects of our brains and how to keep them healthy. With technology, we have a bigger understanding of our brain now than we ever have before, but there are still so many unknowns. In time, technology will make all the difference in what we know about the brain and, hopefully, how to prevent many of the most detrimental brain and mental health problems out there. For now, technology can help our mental wellness by providing us with wearable technology that gives us mental wellness data, easy access to brain stimulating programs, platforms to connect with others that battle with mental wellness issues, and an understanding of how the brain works.

Lady in pool with Mind & Body Candles by Chesapeake Bay Candle Online Boutique

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How to Prevent Dementia: Exercise and A Healthy Diet Should Be at the Top of Your List

Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Salad - Eat Healthy to Prevent Dementia

Ideal Activities to Help Prevent Dementia

by Jane Sandwood

Leading an active lifestyle is a great way to keep fit, healthy and our brains working well. It’s also a proven way to help delay and even prevent the onset of dementia. While further research and plenty of testing into finding a cure is ongoing, it’s going to take time. So, rather than waiting for the illness to strike, a much better – and more enjoyable – plan, is to get active to prevent being affected by the debilitating disease.

There are a number of ways to help stave off the disease, including activities where you can enjoy the outdoors and fresh air. And, the two most important ways to help defend yourself from dementia are:

Eating a healthy diet

One that’s high in fresh fruit and vegetables, the right oils and omega fatty acids and low in processed carbohydrates like white bread, rice and pasta. Cut down on sugar, drink tea – around 2-4 cups a day – and try to eat more home-cooked food that doesn’t contain additional preservatives or too much salt.

Regular exercise

Exercise challenges our bodies and the co-ordination required helps to maintain the well-worn paths our brain uses to communicate to our limbs exactly what we want them to do. And, if you try a new exercise or activity – adventure golf, bowling or even footgolf – your brain works to build new paths, which is great for dementia prevention. But, take care not to exercise so strenuously that you could damage your body. Brisk walking and swimming both count as exercise too and if you can do that a few times a week, it will quickly become regular exercise.

If you choose to do just two things to help stay fit and healthy in your mind and body, then these are the two you should attempt. Even if you can’t manage a brisk walk at first, just walking a few times a week is a start. Find an outdoor spot you like and is easy to get to and you’re sure to get into the habit of regular walks, allowing you to increase the distance over time. In order to achieve a brisker pace, find a route with a good section of flat and push yourself to walk faster on that part. Over time – and less time than you might think – your fitness will improve, as will the distances you can comfortably walk and the speed you walk too.

The thought of dementia can be scary, but by undertaking some simple, everyday activities, you can work to prevent the condition or limit its effects. To discover more about how to prevent dementia read this guide for some helpful and fun ideas.


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High Blood Pressure and Your Brain

Conditions

Nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States is affected by high blood pressure, or hypertension. Another 1 in 3 has prehypertension, meaning that if changes aren’t made, they’ll soon be joining the first group.

With a condition being so common, you’d think it’s not a big deal — and you’d be wrong.

The effects of uncontrolled hypertension can be serious. While we do have plenty of medications to combat the condition, there are several changes you can make now to avoid high blood pressure in the future.

Effects of High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure may seem like something that primarily affects your heart, and maybe your lungs, but the truth is that high blood pressure can influence organs from the brain down to the kidneys.

The American Heart Association has stated that high blood pressure influences brain health in a number of ways and can lead to vascular cognitive impairment.

Stroke

When blood supply to the brain is blocked or interrupted for some reason, a stroke occurs. This interruption damages and kills brain tissue due to a lack of oxygen, which can result in mental impairments.

High blood pressure can cause small ruptures in stressed vessel walls, inducing a hemorrhagic stroke. The narrowing of blood vessels is also common with high blood pressure, and if vessels get too narrow, regions of the brain might not receive the necessary amount of blood to function properly.

Aneurysm

As blood pressure increases, so does the pressure put on the walls of arteries. Over time, this can cause weak spots to form. If an area gets too weak, it stretches out, creating a bulge outside the normal path of the artery. This bulge is called an aneurysm.

Aneurysms can form anywhere arteries run. Less than 5 percent of the people with an aneurysm experience any sort of internal bleeding, but if an aneurysm bursts, it causes a medical emergency. When this happens in the brain, it creates a hemorrhagic stroke and brain functionality suffers.

Dementia

Vascular dementia occurs when blood flow to the brain decreases, diminishes, or is temporarily blocked. This often happens after someone suffers a stroke or if blood vessels are so constricted that the brain is having trouble with the amount of blood it’s receiving.

Vascular dementia has similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s including problems with fine motor skills, recalling information, and reasoning. People who have Alzheimer’s may have vascular dementia as a contributing factor, and doctors believe the condition is underdiagnosed as a cause of dementia.

Are You At Risk?

So what makes someone prone to high blood pressure? Lifestyle choices, as well as genetic factors, have an impact on your likelihood to develop hypertension.

If you smoke or drink heavily, you put yourself at a higher risk. Both tobacco and alcohol increase your blood pressure temporarily.

High-salt diets increase your risk, as well as diets that are high in sugar or saturated fats. If your lifestyle has led you to be overweight, you are putting additional strain on your heart and circulatory system, which can lead to hypertension.

Genetically speaking, high blood pressure is strongly tied to family history. If your parents have high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop high blood pressure. African Americans are more likely to develop hypertension than any other race.

Age and gender also play a role. As you get older, blood vessels lose their elasticity and don’t stretch out as well, which causes higher pressure in your blood vessels. Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure until about 45, when the chances become about equal for both genders. After age 65, women shoulder more of the risk.

Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

Luckily, there is a lot that can be done to prevent high blood pressure and to manage the condition after it’s diagnosed. High blood pressure can be reversed with lifestyle adjustments that will make the heart, and consequently the brain, happier. You should always consult your doctor before making any significant lifestyle changes, especially in regards to diet and exercise.

1.   Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. If you already have hypertension, losing excess weight can be one of the most effective ways to lower blood pressure. Steps 2 and 3 can help with weight management.

Body mass index (BMI) is often used to determine if you’re at a healthy weight, though the measurement can be inaccurate for people who are exceptionally muscular. Waist measurements may be used with BMI calculations to get a more accurate picture of what healthy weight looks like for you.

2.   Eat Well

The most well-known advice when it comes to lowering blood pressure might be, “eat less salt.” Reducing sodium in your diet is a piece of lowering your blood pressure, but it’s equally important to introduce foods that are high in protein and fiber. Dietary supplements like pea protein can help lower blood pressure, along with calcium and magnesium.

The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, provides guidelines for people trying to optimize their diet for decreasing blood pressure. Recommended servings can be adjusted to fit lower calorie goals if you’re trying to lose weight.

3.   Be Physically Active

Exercise doesn’t need to be as daunting as it sounds. For most people, it only takes 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day to see the benefits. You can obtain this level of activity without having to set foot on a treadmill.

Easy ways to up your physical activity include adding a walk to your evening routine, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or spreading house and yard work out over your week. Washing a car, gardening, and cleaning floors are all considered moderate physical activity — and they’re probably already on your to-do list.

1.   Reduce Stress

Stress releases adrenaline and cortisol into the blood. These hormones regulate your “fight or flight” reflex and cause your blood vessels to constrict and your heart to beat faster. Together, these reactions cause your blood pressure to climb.

While stress can be an effective tool at times, remaining stressed for too long can have damaging effects on the body. Anger and nervousness have similar results, making emotional health paramount to managing hypertension.

Managing stress is different for everyone, so it’s important to find what works for you. Some people like going to counseling to have someone to talk to, while that idea terrifies others. Meditation might suit you better, or taking up a hobby that relieves tension and cultivates joy.

2.   Get Tech on Your Side

Wearable technology is quickly becoming a leader in managing your health. Smart watches and cell phone applications have a slew of options to help you keep a food journal, track your activity, and monitor your heart rate.

76 percent of healthcare providers believe that wearable tech will help people manage chronic conditions like hypertension and obesity. Even if you’re not currently affected, health tracking apps can provide encouragement and make maintaining a healthy lifestyle easier.

Be Empowered

Hypertension may seem like an inevitable, scary beast that leads to horrible things. While it can be, you’re now equipped with information to keep the beast at bay. Make sure to contact your doctor if you have concerns about your health. In the meantime, go forth and relax, take a walk, and eat some fibrous fruits.


Why Good Fats are Good for Your Brain

Brain Food

Avocado
Did you know that your brain is made up of 60 percent fat? Seems like the insult, “fat head” may just apply to all of us.

Because of this high percentage of fat, eating healthy fats is actually very good for our brains. You just have to make sure you’re eating healthy fats and not unhealthy fats. The charts below can help keep you honest.

Healthy Fats:

  • walnuts
  • tuna
  • makarel
  • avocados
  • eggs
  • sunflower seeds
  • anchovies
  • chia seeds
  • flaxseeds
  • salmon
  • sesame seeds
  • pumpkin seeds

Unhealthy Fats:

  • high-dairy foods
  • fatty cuts of red meat and pork
  • shortening
  • vegetable oil

I recently read a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful book by Dr. Joseph Mercola, Fat For Fuel. I’ll be writing more about it on my self help blog, including an upcoming book review. This book details the many ways healthy fats are good for our bodies as well as our minds.

I just noticed on Amazon that, in November, there’ll be a Fat For Fuel Cookbook…. I have every intention of pre-ordering this beauty!

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Helping Somebody with Alzheimer’s Cope with Losing Their Spouse

Mental Fitness

The loss of a spouse is an incredibly difficult process to bear. It’s compounded by the fact that it’s a partner, a best friend, and a lover who is gone. But what happens if the surviving spouse has Alzheimer’s? The grieving process can immediately become more complex.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help the surviving spouse. First, you should understand why this loss impacts that person harder than it can others.

Why This Loss Is Bigger

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. It affects your mind and plays havoc with your memory, thinking, decision-making, and behavior. It also really complicates matters when someone with Alzheimer’s loses their spouse. Here are some of the problems that can come up in these situations:

  • First, know that everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time. That means there will be some variation in how someone with Alzheimer’s will react.
  • Because this disorder affects memory, expect that the survivor may not remember their spouse has passed away.
  • Even if they remember, they may not grasp what the death means. They could just assume the person has gone away and will return, or that the loss is not significant.

 

All of this becomes more problematic when the spouse was the primary caregiver. Not only has the surviving spouse with Alzheimer’s someone they love, they lost the person who took care of them.

How You Can Help

So how can you help the surviving spouse? The Alzheimer’s Society has several ways you can offer support that almost anyone can provide:

  • Make sure you explain the death and that the deceased is gone. Don’t try to “soften the blow” or otherwise hide the truth. Although it will hurt, you need to explain what happened. This can help the person with Alzheimer’s get through the grieving process.
  • Because they have this condition, they might forget about the death. Keep reminders of the funeral on hand to lend credibility to the story as you retell it. Be patient, and again, let them process their feelings.
  • Encourage the person to find creative outlets like art and music. Not only can this help them find some joy in the mourning period, it can be a great way to express their feelings.

If the spouse was the primary caregiver, you also need to find a replacement. The Alzheimer’s Association has great advice in finding a new caregiver, including how to screen for one that will best fit. Make sure they have training, experience, and can provide proof of a background check.

Going Through The Deceased’s Belongings

Once surviving spouse has accepted the death (at least for now) and you have a new caregiver, you have to move onto what could be a rough task: sorting through the belongings of the deceased. This can be stressful for everyone involved. Before you go through anything, consider the four Ps:

  • Participants: Can you get through this by yourself or will you need help? It might be best to leave the person with Alzheimer’s out of this process.
  • People: If the person is not going to be sorting through the belongings with you, ask them ahead of time if there’s anything special they want to be saved.
  • Plan: Decide if any items have particular urgency, like bills or the garage. Then list which rooms or items you’ll sort through first.
  • Pace: Don’t try to do everything in one day or weekend. Pace yourself by doing some each day for a while.

They Can Get Through With Your Help

Getting over the loss of a spouse takes time. Until then, things can be difficult to manage, especially for someone who has Alzheimer’s. That’s why your support is so necessary.

By recognizing the difficulties, making sure your loved one understands their spouse passed away, and helping to sort through the belongings of the deceased, you can provide a stable and comforting presence.


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