Clearing Up Your Brain Fog

Feeling like your head is full of fuzz is not high on my list of desirable experiences, and I’m betting it’s not at the top of yours, either!

Dragging your way out of bed and through your day during allergy season can seem like a momentous effort, and it’s even worse when you can’t remember why, exactly, you got out of bed in the first place. Millions of people suffer from allergies in the US all year round, but not all of them know what allergies can do to your brain.

The brain drain

Allergies have more of an effect on your brain than you may think. When your body encounters an allergen, it reacts in a series of steps that causes many different symptoms, including inflammation. If, for example, your middle ear can’t drain properly because of the swelling, you could end up dizzy or with brain fog. Allergies can cause a lack of proper sleep, which takes its toll on your brain, too.

Research has also shown that allergies can really impair your cognitive function. A study published in the Journal of The British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that people who had seasonal allergies experienced problems in cognitive function areas such as short- and long-term memory, attention span and the speed at which their brain processed information (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=19226277).

Another study, reported in the Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, discovered that a reaction to ragweed pollen makes some people experience mood changes and become very tired, causing the researchers to theorize that allergic reactions may be behind biochemical changes that have a direct impact on the nervous system (https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2002/07000/Effects_of_Seasonal_Allergic_Rhinitis_on_Fatigue.19.aspx).

Now that you know that your slower mind during allergy season isn’t just “all in your head,” it’s time to learn what you can do to reduce the symptoms. The first step you can take is to reduce your exposure to what you’re allergic to. Avoid synthetic clothing as static electricity can make pollen stick to you. Use gloves and a mask when you garden to reduce pollen exposure, and vacuum your house regularly with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. A HEPA filter air purifier can help weed out pollen in your home, too.

Last but certainly not least is the neti pot. Rinsing your sinuses out with this salt water delivery system can help ease your nasal passages and rinse away lingering pollen you’ve breathed in during the day!

Opioid Addictions Actually Causing Life Expectancy to Drop

If I told you I had the secret to the legendary fountain of youth, the first thing you’d ask me is what you could do to get it for yourself, your friends and everyone else you love. That’s only natural; we all want to live as long as possible, and we want the same for the people who enrich our lives.

But what if I told you the age you can expect to reach in the US is dropping, and it is not because of some mysterious disease?

Just a few years ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that there was an unexpected drop in the US life expectancy for the first time in two decades (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db267.htm). This happened again a year later in 2016, and the data for more recent years isn’t looking much better. In 2017, the life expectancy overall in the IS was 78.6 years, which was down one-tenth of a percent from the year before. Overall, the life expectancy has dropped by fourth months between 2015 and 2018.

CDC Mortality Statistics Chief Robert Anderson said this simply isn’t right for a developed, wealthy nation like the US, and other countries of similar status are not seeing the same effect.

The drug dependency dilemma

Both the 2015 and 2016 declines were primarily attributed to the opioid crisis in the US, which was also a factor in 2017 along with a rising suicide rate. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, in particular was behind many deaths in 2017. The Washington Post reports that deaths related to fentanyl nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017, going from 19,413 in 2016 to a staggering 28,466 in 2017 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/us-life-expectancy-declines-again-a-dismal-trend-not-seen-since-world-war-i/2018/11/28/ae58bc8c-f28c-11e8-bc79-68604ed88993_story.html).

If you fear you may be addicted to opioids, please get help from a professional immediately. Should your doctor suggest opioids for pain management, ask what alternatives may be available for you to try instead.

Keep in mind that you can also take some steps to stay healthy when dealing with any chronic condition so you feel better and reduce the risk of having to use any opioids for treatment in the first place. Reducing or eliminating grains and sugars from your diet, increasing your consumption of omega-3 fats, optimizing your body’s vitamin D production, and reducing how much processed food you eat are all dietary changes that can improve your health dramatically.

Why Your Brain Doesn’t Want You To Exercise Hard

What’s up, brainiacs!

Did you know that your beautiful mind does more than just keep your whole body working; it can also tell your body to cut it out, too?

If you’ve ever been planning work out hard but suddenly find yourself too mentally exhausted to even step foot in the gym, it’s not just you. The type of brain drain you get from hard mental tasks, such as the longest day at work ever, can dent your motivation to exercise and your performance. This effect is even worse if your brain neurons aren’t transmitting signals to your brain at the fastest rate because of fatty acid deficiencies; if the neurotransmitters responsible for motivation are lower because you’re not producing enough acetylcholine; or if your mind just isn’t used to handling complex tasks.

Luckily, it’s not all bad news. There are some things you can do to pass this motivational wall that your brain has decided to put up.

Look at the light

When you note an afternoon dive in focus and alertness, you may have too much melatonin, which causes sleepiness. The type of interruption to your circadian rhythm that causes you to product too much melatonin at the wrong time of the day is usually due to a disruption in your rhythm earlier on in the day or the night before.

To fix this, move the heaviest part of your melatonin cycle so that it happens before you get up in the morning by limiting your light exposure at night. Use glasses that block blue light, place blue light-blocking filters on your TVs and devices, dim the lights in your home, limit or avoid TV or device exposure in the bedroom, and expose yourself to real sunlight as soon as you can when you get up.

Cut back on caffeine

Caffeine is great for a boost, but over time, you get used to it and it no longer has the same effect it once had. To combat this, limit yourself to 8 to 12 ounces of coffee at strategic times during the day, and try to skip coffee entirely at least two days a week.

Move to the music

Who hasn’t been motivated by a great tune during a workout? The right song at the right time can boost your performance and give you the energy surge you need to keep it up.

Don’t let your brain get in the way of a good workout. Be mindful of your daily habits and add some music to your routine so you can beat the brain block!

A Better Drug for Bones?

Today in my lecture series, I’m going to talk about bones… you know, those creaky things that get you up and walking in the morning.

As we get older, our bones, unfortunately, grow older with us. But it’s not like those wrinkles in the mirror that we can easily see; this is something we feel, and oh boy, I can tell you it doesn’t feel good!

Some of us may be unfortunate enough to develop a condition called osteoporosis, in which bones become porous and more fragile, leaving us open to fractures and other problems. There are some medications for this, including the relatively new kid on the block, Boniva.

Part of the bisphosphonates drug class, Boniva was made for osteoporosis treatment and is similar to other drugs for the same condition, such as Actonel and Fosamax. Those drugs had to be taken every day or once a week, but Boniva only has to be taken once a month. All three of these medications work by stopping or slowing down the activity of the cells that are breaking down the bones, known as osteoclasts. Your bones are constantly being built up and torn down your whole life, but once you pass 30, you’re losing more than you gain and your bones become less dense over time. In women, this process can get worse after menopause, leading to osteoporosis.

Boniva’s side effects are similar to those of Actonel and Fosamax and include joint and muscle pain, headache and gastrointestinal problems, according to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/ibandronate-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20068079). Some people taking this class of drugs have also experienced degeneration of the jawbone, but this is a newly discovered possible side effect and we don’t yet know how common it is.

Keep in mind that medicine isn’t your only route for getting your bones into better shape. If you smoke, it’s time to quit. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says smoking increases your risk of bone issues (https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/conditions-behaviors/bone-smoking). Strength training and weight-bearing exercises can help you keep your bone mass, and you can also take 500 to 700 mg of calcium citrate and 2,000 IU of Vitamin D daily to help promote your absorption of calcium; be sure to speak to your doctor before taking any new supplements. Reduce your soda consumption, caffeine and excessive protein in your diet; all of these can make calcium loss worse.

You can’t turn back the hands of time on your bones, but you can take steps to minimize its effects!

Is Not Sleeping the New Smoking?

Sleep is one of those things that we have to do, but who among us gets enough of it? It doesn’t help that for a long time, we were acting as if needing to sleep was some sign of laziness!

The truth is that everyone needs sleep. Adults are supposed to get at least seven hours and teens need eight, according to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898). But most of us aren’t getting that, and a lack of sleep can really be a drag on our physical and mental health.

What a lack of sleep can do to you

Sleep deprivation can do everything from making you more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease–the plaques associated with it drain from your brain while you sleep–to dinging your immune system and lowering your protection against cancer.

Even driving while you are low on sleep can be as bad as being drunk behind the wheel in terms of your mental state and behavior. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that driving while fatigued makes you less attentive, hurts your ability to make decisions and slows your reaction time (https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/drowsy_driving.html).

On top of all this, the West has some cultural problems when it comes to sleep. We push “sleep less, do more” pretty often. Even if the words “don’t sleep” are never said, self-help gurus, business leaders and other influential people often offer advice that simply doesn’t leave room for enough sleep time.

Matthew Walker, a sleep neurologist with the University of California at Berkeley, recently said in a podcast that we are now with sleeping where we were with smoking decades ago (https://www.sleepdiplomat.com/). Despite all the evidence we had that smoking was bad for you, the public was still not aware and continued to smoke because the message had not been made clear.

As you work throughout the night with your phone in one hand and a cup of coffee in another, you’re probably struggling against the urge to sleep without realizing that you are already in a mental slumber due to the effects of sleep deprivation. It’s not lazy to make sure you sleep eight hours each night, but it is irresponsible to ignore your personal health and try to tackle important things while you are sleep-deprived.

Changing your sleep habits can be difficult, but it’s well worth it given the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Start making more time for your bed–and your health–by adjusting your routine today!

Canada’s New Food Guide Rooted in Research, Not Food Industry Lobby

Who doesn’t love food? I certainly do, and I bet you all do too!

As awesome as it is to have a ton of food choices, we still have to watch what we eat if we want to feel and look as good as we possibly can. Lucky for us, Canada has just released a new food guide that doesn’t include studies backed by the food industry lobby. Remember being told we should drink two glasses of milk every day? Guess where that came from!

The guide, which has a handy visual representation in the form of a plate, is pushing dairy and protein to the side and letting plant-based diets take center stage. Shown as a colorful dish, the new guide has fruits and veggies taking up one half, one-fourth devoted to plant-based proteins such as tofu, beans and nuts, and one-fourth earmarked for whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice. Instead of milk, a glass of water is shown next to the plate as the beverage of choice.

Although the new Canada guide is mainly about dietary recommendations, it does offer more than just food advice. On Canada’s official food guide, there are many new eating habit recommendations, including: (https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/)

  • Be more aware of your eating habits.
  • Cook for yourself more often. Going with take-out food is more likely to lead to bad food choices.
  • Enjoy what you eat. Take the time to slowly chew and taste your food.
  • Eat some meals with other people. It makes meal time more pleasant, and you may end up eating less.
  • Read food labels carefully so you make better choices when you’re out and about.
  • Limit foods that are high in sugar, sodium or saturated fat.
  • Be aware of how food marketing may try to influence what you buy and eat. Some marketing forms, such as on social media, are less obvious that traditional tactics.

Of course, this isn’t some radical, off-the-wall advice. We have been hearing for years that you need to eat more fruits and veggies. However, what Canada has done is make it simple for people to see what they need to do, and they’ve really honed in on ways of getting protein from sources beyond animals.

Consider Canada’s new food recommendations, which are based on research and not on studies paid for by the highest bidder, as you change your current diet to a healthier one.

Huge Study Confirms Purpose and Meaning Add Years to Life

Huge Study Confirms Purpose and Meaning Add Years to Life

Having a purpose in life is more that just a good idea, my friends: it turns out it’s absolutely vital if you want to live as long as you possibly can.

A new study has shown that when you’ve got a sense of purpose, you live longer and you’re more on the ball. This gives a whole new meaning to “finding yourself”!

One 2014 study, spearheaded by the first National Institute on Aging director, Dr. Robert Butler, found that people who had a clear reason to get out of bed each morning were mentally sharper and lived longer than people who did not have a reason (https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/54/6/1064/565962).

Now, a newer study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association has confirmed these findings and taken it a step further (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2734064). This study looked at 7,000 adults aged 50 and older, all of whom were interviewed via a questionnaire to rank the purpose of their lives.

Researchers assigned a score for life purpose based on the answers they received and followed up with the participants five years later. After five years had passed, the researchers found that the people who had the lowest scores for life purpose were twice as likely to have died than the people with the highest scores.

It’s time to find your purpose

Finding your purpose is obviously important for your lifespan and your overall sense of well-being, as studies have now shown. But it can seem like an impossible task and a question with no satisfying answer. If you have ever found yourself feeling envious of those people who seem to know exactly what they were put on Earth to do, you’re certainly not alone. Many people struggle to uncover what drives them underneath the hood.

The good news is that your sense of purpose won’t necessarily come from your career, and if that’s where you’re looking, it could be why you don’t recognize yours yet. People find their purpose in a variety of ways, from their hobbies to volunteer work or even just watching their grandchildren grow up. In short, your purpose is uniquely yours, and it doesn’t have to be something grand or vital to society. It just needs to be something that is fulfilling to you, motivating you to keep going when things are tough and getting you out of bed on days when you’d rather just stay under the covers.

Low Back Pain

Does your lower back ever hurt? Is it hurting right now?

If so, you’re certainly not alone. The mouthful that is the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes says that 80 percent of adults have to deal with this at least once in their lives. If this isn’t you yet, it probably will be at one point (sorry!), so now’s the time to learn a bit about it and what you can do.

What causes lower back pain?

Lower back pain, whether it’s acute or chronic (lasts more than three months), can be caused by many factors, including spine ligament, muscle or bone sprain. It can also come from more serious issues, such as cancer or problems with the spine’s structure. In some cases, this condition comes from a herniated disk in the spine.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic cure-all for lower back pain. What will help you will depend largely on the cause of your pain, so it’s important to try to identify that first. Lifting objects properly, having good posture and doing exercises that tone the back can go a long way for many people suffering from lower back pain and aches.

The conventional treatment for this type of pain is usually medications to reduce inflammation and over-the-counter pain relievers for the discomfort. In some more severe cases, prescription drugs are used. A more serious lower back problem might require physical therapy, surgery or both.

There are other, less conventional methods you can use to treat your low back pain. A relaxation technique, such as meditation, can help some people, and therapeutic yoga can help you ease muscle tension, promote flexibility and strengthen your back.

Exercise, as long as your form is correct and you don’t overdo it, is always good, and both aerobic and strength training can help boost your back. There’s also chiropractic care, acupuncture and therapeutic massage to consider. All three have been shown to help ease pain in numerous studies conducted over the years. To find a qualified massage therapist in your area, visit the official website of the American Massage Therapy Association.

If you have low back pain, you don’t have to just sit there and take it or pop another Advil and hope it all goes away. Take action now so you can start living a life where you are free of pain and feel better than ever!

Brain Boosting Strategy

Brain Boosting Strategy

Hello, fellow brain-boosters! Are you ready to give your brain a much-needed workout?

Our brain is still mysterious in some ways, but we can all agree on one thing: it’s very, very important. This organ is the most complex one in your body, and it’s the conductor of your body’s symphony. Having it in top form is vital at all ages, and it becomes very important as you grow older. So if you’re ready to get the most out of your mind and keep yourself protected from age-related conditions that can affect it, keep reading!

A lot of research has found that mental and physical exercise can help your brain as you age. According to Scientific American, everything from aerobics to yoga has a positive effect on the brain (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-exercise-affects-your-brain/). A more recent study out of the University of Canberra in Australia demonstrated brain improvement in people over 50 who did a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise, and this was true regardless of the state of the participant’s brain when the study started (https://www.canberra.edu.au/about-uc/media/newsroom/2017/april/uc-research-exercise-delivers-brain-boost-for-over-50s).

In the study, UC researchers took a look at 39 studies to gauge the impact of various types of exercise in varying degrees of duration and intensity on the brain health of people aged 50 and older. In addition to strength exercises in the form of resistance training and aerobics, the researchers examined studies that combined both exercise types and also those that evaluate activities such as tai chi and yoga.

They found that aerobics enhanced a person’s cognitive abilities, while resistance training boosted executive function, which is the brain process people use to set and reach goals. Resistance training also improved memory overall and working memory (or short-term memory). It was also found that tai chi appears to boost cognitive abilities, but so few studies have been done in this area that a larger trial would be needed to confirm the theory.

If you’re ready to boost your brain health, each session of your chosen exercise routine should last at least 45 minutes, be done as many days as possible, and include moderate to vigorous exertion on your part. UC study leader Joe Northey said that just exercising once or twice a week will help your brain, but exercising more often is better.

The brain you have today is the only one you’ll ever get, so devote some time to giving it a little love, and you’ll be much better off for it.

What Happens to Your Body When You Smoke?

Are there any smokers in the room? Raise your hands and try not to cough (kidding!)

I want to talk directly to you today because I’ve got some information you need to know.

I’m not here to point fingers and make you feel bad or embarrassed for being a smoker. No one likes being addicted to something, and it can happen pretty easily.

What I want to do is tell you what is going on in your body every time you light up a cigarette. You have the right to know what your favorite smokes could be doing to you beyond leaving a bad smell on your clothes, hair and breath.

The short-term impact

Over the short term, smoking causes staining on your teeth and can lead to tooth problems, gum loss and a bad taste in your mouth. The Center for Substance Abuse Research also says that smoking, in the short term, can cause asthma and other respiratory problems, decrease your lung capacity and leave you with a cough that just won’t go away (http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/tobacco.asp).

The long-term game

As time goes on and you continue to light up, the damage toll on your body continues to get worse. You may not even realize it; the more severe health consequences of smoking often don’t start to produce symptoms until some damage has been done, and you may not be able to turn back the clock on that damage, either – even if you quit.

When you smoke, it damages your heart and interferes with how your blood vessels work. The vessels in your heart, for example, can thicken, which means pathways narrow and you’re now at a much higher risk of heart disease than a non-smoker, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/smoking-and-your-heart). It also makes your heart beat at a faster pace, boosts your blood pressure and causes your blood to clot, which can impact blood flow to your heart.

You’ve probably already experienced how smoking can mess with your respiratory system, whether it’s that weird cold that keeps coming back or that time you got winded trying to go up the stairs. Your lungs have a protective layer that guards them from the things you inhale, and that layer has small hairs known as “cilia” whose job is to wipe off your lungs, like car window blades clear a windshield. However, when you smoke, your cilia stop working like they should, leaving your lungs unable to clear themselves out correctly. Smoking can also trigger asthma or make it worse and cause respiratory diseases such as COPD and chronic bronchitis.

Regardless of gender, smoking can harm your reproductive system. Other organs may be affected because of the over 7,000 potentially cancer-causing chemicals cigarettes have been known to contain.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it is possible and it is worth it. Don’t be chained to your smokes a second later than you have to – take back control over your health today!