December 2011

Time For New Year’s Resolutions

It is inevitable that as the New Year approaches most morning talk shows, magazine articles and radio shows are urging us to make our New Year’s resolutions. My lists were quite extensive in the past. As I have gotten older and wiser (I think) my lists have gotten shorter and much more realistic. It is a good idea to look back on the previous year and find ways to improve. I worry, however, that most of us set ourselves up for failure. So, here is my advice:

*If weight loss is your goal estimate the possibility of losing one pound a week. Thinking you can lose a tremendous amount of weight over a short period of time is unrealistic. Try for five to ten pounds at a time.

*For exercise, if you have been sedentary, start slow. Walk one block a day and add blocks from there. Get your doctor to help with an exercise program.

*If you are looking to become healthier, find a doctor or provider who can help you come up with a reasonable plan. Going to the vitamin counter of the local health food store without guidance is not a good idea. Natural is not necessarily safe.

*Plan out your health care goals by mapping out the preventive studies that you need and get them scheduled. Eye exams, blood pressure checks, BMI calculations, vaccines, and pap smears and mammograms for women, PSA’s and digital rectal exams for men, cholesterol profiles and fasting blood sugars are a good start.

*For fun: smile and laugh more, love more, give more of yourself by paying it forward, and eat chocolate on occasion in moderation of course!

The key is to put yourself first on the list. If you do not take care of yourself then you cannot take care of anyone else. Keep your list short, sweet and something that you can follow and achieve in 2012. Happy Healthy New Year!

Build Memory And Forget The GPS

Do you ever wonder if the new modern technologies are rotting your brain? Are you dependent on your car or cellphone GPS to get you where you want to go? You may want to re-think that.

Scientists have found that when you use your brain to navigate your route in your car or on foot that you use a map in your head or you find your way on autopilot. Either way you are using the hippocampus area of your brain. If you depend on the GPS you are not.

When scientists have examined the brains of taxi cab drivers in London where they are always looking for shortcuts, they found that their hippocampus was larger than those of non-taxi cab drivers. Older adults who do not use GPS and use maps to navigate have more grey matter than those who don’t.

It is possible by activating this part of the brain that we may be able to prevent dementia. This is one instance where it might make sense to do things the old fashioned way. If you need to find a new route to work or go to a place you have not been to in awhile, use a map and navigate on your own.

Another thing that can help is to start calling people the old-fashioned way. Remember their numbers and call them. Do not rely on your smart phone for directions or phone numbers. It can make you stupid!

Pay It Forward And Get A Huge Dividend

We are living in tumultuous times. We have so many things that tend to pop up and cause worry. Finances, health, emotional and family problems are all common issues. Many people start to get a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. This impacts their health causing pain, disease, fatigue and depression. I care for many patients where this is the case.

In trying to help them, I have found something that works. That thing is becoming a helper. It costs no money and it improves their health by boosting the immune system and improving brain function. Doing something for others is the key to feeling better.

Studies have found that those who give of themselves experience joy and happiness. It can be something as simple as volunteering for the SMART program and reading to children or working at a food bank. The hospitals and many clinics welcome volunteers. For those who want to donate money there are infinite worthy causes.

People who help others have been studied. Researchers have found that they experience a surge in their endorphins similar to the high that runners experience. Giving to others in need decreases the intensity and awareness of pain, relieves stress, and activates positive emotions. All these things help to improve health. The results of a study done in 2700 men in Michigan found that those men who worked as regular volunteers had a two and a half times lower death rate than those who did not.

Amazing things happen when one goes from being the one who is helped to being the helper. It is nothing short of a miracle. Over and over I see people heal and feel good about themselves and what they are doing. It is easy to get wrapped up in our lives and ourselves, but stepping out of it and realizing that we each have something valuable to give can be good for us as well as others.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

When I was growing up, my grandmother had a huge, heavy handbag. The reason I know this is because I was the designated shlepper of that handbag. Since that time, handbags have become purses and have gone through many size changes. We have seen the tiny purses; the medium purses, the backpack purses and we are now all lugging around the huge, heavy purses or handbags (which are really shoulder bags!) again. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Designers are combining purses with computer bags, which can weigh up to ten pounds. As a result, doctors have been diagnosing women with shoulder strain because they are schlepping these bags. This can cause permanent shoulder damage and chronic pain. If women can keep their posture aligned while carrying their heavy bags, they have fewer problems. Those that do have shoulder pain may find relief with the use of anti-inflammatory medication, massage and physical therapy.

If you are a busy woman who keeps her closet, computer, and spare shoes in her purse, the best way to prevent this problem is to change things up. Keep your purse light and change the weight and size of the purse frequently. Be sensible and prevent “shlepper shoulder” today!


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