ANR Health: October 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Social Health

My husband says if it weren't for me, he would be a hermit.  Probably true.  I make all our social engagements.  On the way home from going to the theater with friends he'll comment what a good time he had and THANK me for making the arrangements. We usually take one trip a year with friends and he again thanks me for making it happen, admitting he never would.

A Harvard Health Publications in July, 2010, reported that  "a major survey of 127,545 American adults found that married men are healthier than men who were never married or whose marriages ended in divorce or widowhood." 

A good marriage promotes the health of men on three levels. 

  1. Biologically, happily married men have less stress which means lower blood pressure and less inflammation of the heart leading to cardiac risks. 
  2. Behaviorally, these men tend to eat better, exercise more, smoke and drink less and get regular medical checkups. 
  3. Psychologically, happily married men are not likely to be depressed, lonely or socially isolated.
A study by The New England Research Institute  found 66% of men rely on their wives for their primary social contacts, 21% rely on other people and 10% have no social supports. Wives are providing a life sustaining service for their husbands!

Social isolation is not just a risk for men.  Lisa Berkman, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, has research showing that isolated people are at a risk for mortality three times as high as those people who are married, have many friends and relatives and/or belong to voluntary or religious groups.

I am not a social butterfly and I don't need a packed calendar to be happy, but rather I know the importance of being socially connected. Our kids complain that I'm too busy.  My answer is would you rather I am busy with friends, volunteering, and being active or sitting in the house watching soaps and eating bon bons?  By nature I am shy, hate to "work a room" at parties and would be perfectly happy just puttering in my garden everyday.  But when I do that, I find myself feeling isolated, down, and tired.

Being socially connected takes work to establish. Just like any healthy routine, you have to be proactive. As I tell my husband, you call your friends, don't wait for them to call.

Be socially engaged:
  • Call a friend for lunch, a walk, or shopping.
  • As a couple, call other couples to play golf, tennis or cards.
  • Volunteer (Studies show that people who volunteer are mentally and physically healthier)
  • Join a group - a book club, church group.

 It doesn't matter what you do, it just matters that you are interacting with other people in positive ways. 
Get out of the house, off the couch, have a conversation with another being other than the cat.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Whether you are trying to lose weight or get healthier, routine is the secret.  As boring as it sounds, a rut is necessary.

Allowing ourselves to sometimes take a walk, sometimes eat a piece of fruit, sometimes go to the gym, sometimes take vitamins, will not make us healthy. It puts our bodies on a roller coaster and always on the look out for what's coming next, will it be a candy bar or a carrot? Should the body go into starvation mode or allow those fat calories to pack on to the hips?

Our bodies love routine, schedule, dependability.  And by setting up a routine we are more likely to stick to healthy habits.

Eating breakfast is a key to losing weight. People who do not eat breakfast binge eat later in the day. It's best to eat within 45 minutes of rising. Eat a low fat breakfast not laden with bacon and potatoes.  Eggs scrambled with veggies accompanied with fruit is a great way to start the day.

Taking vitamins and supplements at the same time everyday allows the body to be regular. Since we'll be eating breakfast at about the same time everyday, put the vitamins next to the cereal or toaster.  Too many taken at once can feel heavy in the stomach, so take some at night.  Put the calcium next to the toothpaste as a reminder.

Walk for at least 30 minutes a day The Mayo Clinic reports daily brisk walking can prevent or manage various conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.  Make this a routine by setting a time to walk.  Put it in your calendar. Block the time out.  Walk.

Prepare for a routine

While cleaning up after dinner, cut up veggies for an omelet in the morning. 

Order your vitamins to be shipped routinely so you never run out.

Lay out your walking shoes and clothes the night before or pack them in a bag if walking after work.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Take Stock of Your Stock

The gap in postings is because my 85 year old mother had a knee replacement and I am her go-to caregiver.  During her two hour surgery I kept quite busy answering emails, catching up on other blogs, and off course playing Solitaire.  After Recovery I was sent to see her in her room.  Wow, a pale, tiny, woman without her glasses was lying in the bed with a big bulge around her knee.   Who was this woman who looked old and vulnerable?
My mom drives, keeps her own house, volunteers and belongs to several groups. She is active.   She doesn't lie in hospital beds. 

Each nurse during my mom's three day stay commented on her strength and what great stock I come from.  Darn straight!  My grandmother on that side lived to be 95 and my other grandmother into her late 80's.  Both were living in their own homes when they passed.  That's when I realized, I may come from strong stock and think I have well over 30 more years in me, but I need to stop abusing my body and improve it.

Genetics gives us potential, but what are we doing with it?
Take stock of your stock
I was given brown eyes that are nearsighted and are becoming dryer lately.  Rather than abuse my eyes, I look up from the computer every few minutes and focus on something further away.  I take Omega 3 (Fish oil) as my ophthalmologist recommended for dryness.  And I get yearly check ups.
My knees don't give me any problems (thanks, Dad), but I don't aggravate them either.  I'm trying to get my weight down so they don't have to carry around so much.  I walk rather than run.
I get a yearly physical so I know my numbers.  Blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI are critical indicators of our health.  Know these numbers as well as you know your credit score (you do monitor that, too, don't you?) and figure out how to keep them in the healthy range.
Think about your parents and their health. Do they stand straight or are they hunched?  Are they on oxygen or able to walk freely? Do they have Type 2 Diabetes?

What have you inherited from them? 

Whatever it is, are you improving upon it? 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Plan for Success

True success doesn't just drop into our laps.  It usually follows a great deal of hard work which is why we need to admire those who can run marathons or wear a size 6 or stand tall at age 86 rather than stoop. Admittedly those are the people I sneer at and secretly hate - well, not the 86 year old.  That person I honestly admire for having good posture for their entire life and now looking  at the world rather than the pavement.

Health success does not come out of a bottle, as much as we at ANR would like you to believe.  Supplements are called that for a reason.  They are supplementing what we should already be doing not substituting for poor eating.  While building successful health practices, supplements will offer strong support. The key, however, is planning for successful health practices.

Every coach, be it weight loss or basketball, has a plan for winning.  Most of the plans are similar, be observant, plan and practice.  A player watches the game film and notices a flaw in delivery. He and the coach come up with a plan to correct the flaw and then the player practices all week to correct and improve.

Be observant.   We often don't know ourselves as well as we think. We think we only ate 10 M&M's, but actually the bowl is almost empty. It feels like we walked 5 miles today, but what would a pedometer say?  Whatever is your Big Picture (refer to yesterday's blog), take notes about things that are impeding your success.
  • Carry a small notebook or use a smartphone to record what you eat, when, who you are with, and how you are feeling.
  • Using a pedometer or gps, write down how far you truly walked/ran.
  • Put a large calendar in your bathroom and every night jot in that day's square whether you worked out/how far you walked/how many veggies you ate/whether you flossed.  Whatever healthy behavior you are working on, make a note. We are gathering data.

Plan for success.   Look over the gathered data and figure out the triggers.  When do I overeat? Why do I roll over and skip the gym?  Do I not floss at 10pm because I'm too tired?  These are obstacles to health success.  Now identify what to do when faced with those obstacles by designing if-then statements.

  • If watching tv is a trigger for overeating, then I change what I eat.  Instead of buttery popcorn, I'll have air popped popcorn lightly seasoned with olive oil.
  • If I'm too tired to floss at 10pm, then I will floss at 8pm and eat nothing more.
  • If I roll over and skip the gym, I'll find a workout buddy who is expecting me to show.
Practice.   By practicing healthy behaviors we can build healthy habits. The routine of the Little Steps (again, yesterday's blog) such as flossing at 8pm every night will eventually become habitual and our bodies will miss it if skipped.  We just won't be able to sleep with grit between our teeth. Trust me when I say that after a year of air popped popcorn lightly covered in olive oil, I cannot eat movie theater popcorn.
Identify behaviors and triggers, plan for them and then practice. 

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations,
if you live near him."  
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Habit Forming

Being healthy is having good eating and exercise habits and not having bad habits such as smoking and excessive drinking.  So how does one obtain these good habits?

The myth is that it takes 21 days to form a habit.  Totally bogus. 
It is based on very faulty, unsupportable and unreproducible research. Each individual has a different internal clock for forming habits that is effected by many variables such as environment, emotion, etc.

A recent University College London study found it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit.  The data was collected from self-reporting participants, so completely truthful reporting is skeptical. Therefore it may take less or more time, again depending on the individual.

What does work is to distinguish between the Big Picture and the Little Steps.  Identifying the habit to be formed is the Big Picture: snack less, floss, eat healthy. Breaking the Big Picture into specific actions is the Little Steps part.

Big Picture: Snack less
Little Steps:
  • Throw out or donate all junk food in the house.
  • Only stock the house with healthy snacks like baby carrots, cheese sticks, apples, etc.
  • Divide the baby carrots into baggies that are easy to grab when going to work or getting in the car.
  • Put a glass of water on the desk or end table and drink it all before reaching for a snack.

The above Little Steps are specific and achievable. Keep consciously following those little steps until one day you realize you automatically take a glass of water with you to check emails, rather than a handful of chips (which just get the keys greasy). It may take 16 days, 66 days or 360 days, but it will become a part of your routine and thus a good habit was formed!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Vacation Walking

Walk While Away

Last week we were in Chicago – what a great walking city!  We stayed downtown, so a car was unnecessary.  Every attraction on our list was doable by foot. This was important because it’s so discouraging to come home from a fabulous trip only to step on the scale and be up 5 pounds.  Yikes!  Was that deep dish pizza really worth it?  Of course!  So plan to enjoy it and walk it off.

Often walking a city or even a small town is the only way to truly appreciate it.  Stop and look in the windows, admire the architectural details of the buildings, peek through fences at hidden gardens.  Then on the way back to the hotel, pick up the pace so it’s difficult to carry on a conversation.  Now your heart is working and the muscles are burning.  It takes some planning to incorporate walking into a vacation.

Look over tourist info and websites to decide what you want to see.  Then choose a place to stay that is in the heart of the most of those sites.  If going to Vegas and planning to spend most of the time on the strip, choose a hotel central to most of the things you are going to or off a block or two. 

Not staying in one place, then how do you get your walking in? A road trip is a wonderful way to see the country.  Before leaving, plan on visiting some sites that require walking, not just cruising by.  You can’t say you went to Mount Rushmore, unless you park the car, walk up to the visitor’s center and around the trails.  Get off the interstate when crossing the country and explore a small town.  Hays, Kansas has a university, 3 museums and several hiking trails.

Walking on vacation is vital for three reasons:

1.       Sitting on planes and in cars is hard on leg circulation.  At the minimum, walk 5 minutes after sitting for an hour.  This staves off DVT – deep vein thrombosis. Exercise lowers the risk of blood clots.

2.       Eating out on vacation is necessary, fun and often excessive.  Pounds creep on because we think calories consumed on vacation don’t count.  Wrong – those wine tastings in Napa Valley, cheese in Tillamook and tapas in Cabo do count. Walking may not burn off everything consumed, but it sure helps.

3.       Lapsing from a regular exercise program while away only makes it more difficult to get back on track when returning home.  Most hotels have a workout room, pool or at least a parking lot to walk around.  Your body actually responds better when exercise is mixed up and not routine, so try something different;  lift light weights, walk further or faster than usual, swim a couple of laps.

Time away from home can rejuvenate and reinvigorate us mentally, but we must be wary to not let it undermine the healthy habits we are developing.  Walk!  See the sites!  Walk part of Route 66, don’t just drive it.  Put your feet on the pavement!