April 2013

To Be Or Not To Be Fit!

Today I was looking at a picture of my mother that she sent me last year when she was traveling in Cambodia. She looked fit and happy. It got me thinking about the fact that as we age we have many choices. The major one is to be or not to be fit. I saw what happens both ways in my family. Let me start with my father.

My dad was brilliant but stubborn. He smoked, ate a fat-filled, high sugar diet, and was totally opposed to exercise. He had to quit smoking when he developed bladder cancer and his urologist told him that if he continued to smoke he would not see him in his practice, because a cancer recurrence would be inevitable.

He started eating healthier when his brother developed type 2 diabetes and he realized that he might end up with the same thing. However, he refused to get regular check-ups until he was in his mid 60’s. He did not realize that for most of his adult life he had high blood pressure, because he did not feel it. But, it took its toll on his kidneys in a big way.

By the time he was being seen on a regular basis he was in renal failure. Despite treatment for his hypertension, his kidneys finally failed completely. He made it to 84. He was alert and with-it till the end. Had he been treated for his high blood pressure early on he would still be here. It was amazing that he made it into his 80’s, but his quality of life suffered, especially the last 10 years.

My mother on the other hand has always been a health nut. She was exercising and eating healthy before it was fashionable. She quit eating red meat when she was in her 40’s. She has been walking and going to exercise classes most of her adult life. She now does Pilates, yoga, and is an avid tennis player. She started playing doubles a couple of years ago because her knee was acting up and she couldn’t run as fast in her singles games. She plays bridge, goes to lectures at the local university, and is now traveling around the world.

I cannot say how old she is because she would kill me, but I am 58 and she was not a teen mom so you can kind of guess her age. To look at her you would think that she was in her 60’s. She is committed to keeping her brain and body healthy and has been for most of her life. Fortunately my siblings and I have followed her example.

We have no control over what goes on in the world, but we can control how we treat our bodies. Life can get crazy, but there are choices we can make. You can choose to ignore your health as my father did (and please say hello to him when you see him) or you can follow the path that my mother is on and be well!

“To resist the frigidity of old age, one must combine the body, the mind, and the heart. And to keep these in parallel vigor one must exercise, study, and love.”
Alan Bleasdale

Encore! Music Really Does Soothe The Soul

If I told you there is something that could improve your mood, decrease blood pressure, keep your blood flowing, lower your heart rate, calm you down, boost your immunity, and enhance your ability to learn, would you be interested?

What if I told you that it is free and does not involve medication? Now I have your interest! There is something that will do all of the above and is also quite enjoyable.

It is music!

Studies in England have found that patients who were taught to play music as part of a study for the treatment of depression experienced a reduction in their symptoms by 25%. Research in Italy revealed that listening to Celtic, classical, or Indian (raga) music for 30 minutes a day can significantly lower blood pressure. Researchers in the US found that relaxing music can dilate blood vessels in the body and improve general blood flow. Music that was perceived as stressful (heavy metal as an example) caused the blood vessels to contract and decrease blood flow to the body.

When students were studied by having them listen to six types of music, researchers found their heart rate synced up to the speed of the music regardless of the style and their interest. If the music was lively, their hearts sped up. If the music slowed down, so did their heart rates. It produces an additional calming, immune, and mood boosting effect by lowering cortisol levels, increasing hormones that improve the immune response and raise endorphin levels.

Finally, you have probably heard about the Mozart effect, where listening to Mozart’s music enhances learning. Baroque music, with a 60 beat per minute pattern, particularly activates both the right and left side of the brain. This enables the brain to process information more easily. It also improves recall of information when a particular tune is used during studying and then replayed.

Music is the universal language appealing to all of us while enhancing learning and healing. As medical costs continue to skyrocket, it is nice to know that there is something enjoyable and therapeutic we can do (in addition to your regular preventive evaluation and treatments) to improve our health!

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” ~ Billy Joel

What music helps you to feel better and heal?

Flowers Can Help You Feel Fantastic

I thought that sharing this blog from a year ago may help everyone get ready for spring!

At my house next to our front door there is a beautiful bush filled with Daphne flowers. It smells wonderful and makes me smile on my way in and out of the house. That got me thinking. Can flowers make us happy? I did a little research and found several studies that do indeed show that flowers can affect our mood in a positive way.

At Rutgers University a behavioral research study has found that flowers elicit a universal reaction that can help people feel happiness. Those who received flowers felt less depressed and anxious after receiving them, and the flowers led to more frequent contact with friends and family.

A study done at Harvard found that when people had freshly cut flowers around the house, they were less anxious. They were happier at work and also expressed more compassion and kindness towards others.

A study done at Texas A&M found that when both men and women were exposed to cut flowers at work, they both had an increase in ideas and solutions to office problems. Men generated more ideas than women, but women had more innovative and creative solutions to problems when flowers were nearby.

Flowers have certain meanings according to those who specialize in that sort of thing (Taken from The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh). If you want to say something specific you might try these: Gerber daisies represent cheerfulness, baby’s breath reveal everlasting love, bird of paradise say magnificence, hyacinth communicate beauty, and jonquils represent desire.

It is spring and flowers are blooming everywhere. If you want to brighten your day or someone else’s bring in some flowers or visit your local flower shop. It will help you to be more productive, tell people how much you appreciate them and keep a smile on your face!


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