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At the end of this blog is a link to a Ted-X talk given by a young man who has attempted suicide on more than one occasion.  Please take a few moments to watch this video; it will change how you view suicide.  Share it with your loved ones, for it is a conversation that must be brought out in the open.

Here are some startling statistics about the prevalence of suicide in our country that you might not be aware of:

  • Over 38,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year.
  • Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the United States.
  • Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • A person dies by suicide about every 13.7 minutes in the United States.
  • Every day, approximately 105 Americans take their own life.
  • Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but three times as many females as males attempt suicide.
  • There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every suicide death.

Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression.  If you include depressed alcoholics into the equation, this figure rises to over 75 percent.  This is important because depression is a mental illness that has been proven to respond very well to a variety of therapeutic methods, including, but not limited to, psychotherapy, anti-depressants, nutrition, exercise, and meditation.  {To be clear, nutrition, exercise, & meditation are best utilized in conjunction with psychotherapy (and medication if necessary), not by themselves.}  The bottom line is, if we are taught to recognize the symptoms of depression and it is then properly diagnosed, we will successfully prevent many of these suicides, and attempted suicides, with proper treatment.

One of the issues with depression is that it is a common human experience, which makes it easy to minimize and overlook.  We all get depressed and feel hopeless at times, it’s part of life.  Depression becomes a clinical mental illness when it extends over a long period of time and when it is very intense.  The following are some symptoms of depression to be on the lookout for:

  • Feeling sad, lonely, or down.
  • Feeling excessively self critical, worthless.
  • Loss of self esteem.
  • Unexplained teariness or weeping.
  • Feeling tired, without energy, exhausted.
  • Changes in sleep patterns; i.e., insomnia, wanting to sleep too much or not at all.
  • Changes in eating patterns; i.e., eating too much or loss of appetite.
  • Loss of weight.
  • Feeling empty, hollow, lifeless, dead.
  • Disinterest in everything and anyone.
  • Irritability.
  • Concentration problems.
  • Vague complaints about bodily symptoms, e.g., backaches, headaches.
  • Decrease in communication.
  • Withdrawn behavior.
  • Highly agitated behavior (in an agitated depression).

Sources:  Loneliness, Depression & Suicide by Barry Greenwald, PhD

http://theovernight.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.home

Our bodies were designed to move.  That is how we evolved as a species. It is only very recently with the technological advances of the past century or so that we started living a more sedentary lifestyle, and it’s killing us.  Sitting too much greatly increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Even if you go to the gym four times a week and eat healthy foods, sitting too much will still increase your risk of these deadly diseases.  A recent study published in The Journal of American College Cardiology “indicated that the amount of leisure time spent sitting in front of a screen can have such an overwhelming, seemingly irreparable impact on one’s health that physical activity doesn’t produce much benefit.” In fact, if you sit for more than six hours a day, your risk of heart disease goes up 64%.  The problem is that when we sit down, our body sort of goes into sleep mode like a computer would and, it turns out, too much sleep mode is no good for our bodies.  Our circulation slows down, our metabolism slows down, and the enzymes that help break down fat drop 90%, including the enzyme that breaks down the fats (lipids) in the blood stream, which could be why prolonged sitting is associated with such a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

So, what to do?  The solution is actually not as daunting as one might think.  All you need to do is add more moderate activity into your daily routine and break up your periods of sitting down.  Moderate activity is not equivalent to killing it in the gym, but rather more like a brisk walk.  (For optimal health, you need both, one does not replace the other.)  Some of our sedentary time cannot be helped, like when we are driving.  But time in front of the TV, for instance, is optional and can be shortened.  Also, you don’t have to be sitting the whole time when you do watch it.  You can walk briskly on a treadmill, for instance, while you watch your favorite program.  Alternatively, foam rolling is a great practice you can adopt while watching TV, and it’s much less expensive than a treadmill.  (Foam rollers typically retail between $20 & $40.  It is a great self-massage tool that activates your muscles at the same time.)  You can also periodically stand up and do jumping jacks or squats or lunges.

Many people find that most of their sedentary time is due to their line of work which has them sitting at their desk, in front of the computer for most of the day.  However, that, too, has a pretty easy fix.  All you have to do is get up and move every 20 – 30 minutes.  If it’s helpful, set a timer on your computer to remind you.  It’s not enough to just stand up; you have to move to get the circulation flowing in your body again.  Some other tips for sedentary office work are:

  • If you are doing something in your office that doesn’t require you to be seated, such as talking on the phone for instance, get up out of your chair and pace the room during the conversation.
  • Rather than send an email to your co-worker down the hall, get up and go talk to her.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator if you have one in your building.
  • Take a few 10 minute brisk walks throughout the day.
  • Get a ball chair, which keeps your leg muscles more active, your back more straight, and decreases the risk of getting too comfortable.  (We do not recommend a standing desk, because standing is not moving and prolonged standing without movement carries its own health risks.)

Sources:   NY Times, The Hazards of the Couch by Roni Caryn Rabin

How Sitting All Day is Damaging Your Body and How You Can Counteract It by Thorin Klosowski, Lifehacker

Women’s Health Magazine, Your Body’s Biggest Enemy, by Selene Yeager

America: OD’d on Salt

Let’s be clear.  Salt/sodium is not evil.  In fact, a certain amount is necessary for our bodies to function properly.  It is a key mineral in all our bodily fluids, including our blood, and helps maintain the balance of fluids throughout our bodies.  It also plays an important role in muscle strength and nerve function.  A person can actually be sodium-deficient.  Some symptoms of salt deficiency are lethargy, weariness, low blood pressure, and muscle cramps.

In America, however, most people are suffering from too much sodium in their diet, not a lack of it.  Primarily that is because, on average, Americans consume a lot more processed foods than from-scratch home cooked meals.  According to the American Heart Association, up to 75% of the sodium Americans consume comes from the sodium that is added to processed foods by the manufacturers.

On average, Americans consume 3436 mg of sodium daily.  The recommended amount is no more than 2300 mg (approximately a teaspoon) of salt and, realistically, more than half of Americans should probably be on a low-sodium diet of about 1500 mg a day.  The health risks of a diet high in sodium are serious and fatal.  A high sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.  It has also been shown to greatly increase the risk of gastric cancer.

In 2006, the AMA (American Medical Association) called for a minimum of 50% reduction in sodium in processed foods, fast foods, and non-fast-food restaurant meals within a decade.  That shows how serious a health risk large daily doses of salt is.  The good news is that studies have proven that even a modest reduction of salt intake can greatly lower the risk of heart disease.  A mere 20%-30% reduction will do wonders.  This fact will be a boon to many Americans whose palettes have gotten used to a lot of sodium in their diet and who view cutting out salt as the end of food tasting good.  The truth is that as you lower your salt intake gradually, your palette will adjust and “require” less and less salt.  At the same time, all the health benefits of a lower sodium diet will be kicking in.  It is recommended that as you are lowering your salt intake, you begin to introduce your palette to other flavoring methods like garlic and spices.  This way, your taste buds will never want for flavor and you won’t see the reduction in salt as a sacrifice.  Rather, it will be seen only as the benefit it is.  Plus, you’ll have much more variety in your palette, and food will actually taste better.  With a high salt diet, the only flavor you really taste (and crave) is the salt.  Pretty one-dimensional.

When attempting to decrease sodium intake, be on the lookout for “hidden” sodium culprits.  There are many foods you might not think are high in sodium that actually are quite high.  Jarred tomato sauce, for instance, is usually ridiculously high in sodium, as are many salad dressings and soups.  Read the labels on EVERYTHING.  Pay particular attention to the serving size because even if the sodium per serving is low, the serving size itself might also be really small, meaning you’ll probably eat more and thus, consume more salt.  It’s also important to look for salt pseudonyms on food labels, like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium alginate, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Cut down on fast food altogether.  Fast food is usually not only high in salt, but also in other heart disease producing ingredients like saturated fat, trans fat and sugar (mostly in the form of white, refined carbohydrates).  If you are dining out at a non-fast-food restaurant, you can ask that your meal be prepared without salt.  On a whole, stay away from sauces, as they will most likely have a lot of sodium.  The other thing you can do when eating out is to compensate by eating a diet extremely low in salt the day of, as well as lowering it moderately the day before and the day after.

Finally, one of the biggest steps you can take to help reduce sodium in your diet is to cook more of your own meals.  This is the best way to completely control your sodium intake.  I know many of us lead very busy lives and it is hard to find the time, but if there is any way to incorporate a little more home cooking in your life, it will be beneficial on many different levels.  Some of my friends manage it by cooking a couple different meals on Sunday when they have more time, and then freezing most of them to be re-heated during the week.  Rachael Ray has a show on the Cooking Channel dedicated to just this idea called “Week in a Day”.  I also know people who have created a network of friends to help share in the cooking.  Each week they figure out a menu and then divvy up the meals so that each person is responsible for only one night.  Sure, you have to make a lot more because you’re cooking for quite a few families, but it makes the ingredient list much smaller and the amount of time it takes to cook much shorter.  A final option is to simply pick a few days a week that are less busy for you and cook on those days only.  On the other days, try to do “easy” things you can control the sodium in – like eggs, or sandwich night with low-sodium turkey.  If you ever make soup from scratch, make A LOT so you can freeze it and simply reheat, which is as easy as opening a can.  The slow cooker is a great option as well, as it will cook your meal for you while you are busy doing other things.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/slideshow-salt-shockers

http://factoidz.com/the-health-benefits-and-health-risks-of-salt/

http://www.umm.edu/features/salt_Q&A.html

http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20070419/cut-heart-risk-by-eating-less-salt

http://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/gastric-cancer-prevention-health-professional-information-nci-pdq-evidence-of-benefit

http://hubpages.com/hub/Health_Benefits_of_Sodium

If you have made a New Year’s resolution in the past and were not successful at achieving it, you are not alone.  New Year’s resolutions as a whole do not have a very high success rate.  Yet, many of us still feel compelled to make them.  I, for one, am all for New Year’s resolutions.  Like many others, I consider the New Year an opportunity for a fresh start.  It naturally compels me to take stock of the past year and to set goals for the coming year.  This is not a bad thing for anyone.  It is important to set goals for yourself, which you can do at any time of the year of course, but the start of a new year is the time many of us choose to do so.

Before you feel discouraged by the low success rate of New Year’s resolutions, let me cheer you up with a couple of thoughts.  First, if you never make any resolutions at all because you think you’re bound to fail, then you are 100% guaranteed to fail.  You might as well increase those odds by making one.  One study found that 46 percent of individuals who made resolutions were successful compared to four percent who wanted to achieve a certain goal and considered it but didn’t actually create a resolution.[1] So, no matter what your success rate has been in the past with New Year’s resolutions, my best advice is to go ahead and make another one this year.  You have a much better chance of achieving your goal this way.

Here are some tips to help you succeed with your New Year’s resolution(s) this year:

1.  Be Thoughtful / Mindful in Making Your Resolution

If you are going to make a resolution this year, you might as well make it something that will truly effect positive change in your life.  Don’t just pick something arbitrary like: “I’m going to stop eating candy for 6 months.”  While essentially it is good to cut out candy, it is not a sustainable goal that will substantively change your life for the better.  Rather, it will be a very difficult resolution to adhere to and it will more than likely cause you to go on a candy gorge once you’re done, thus reversing any good the resolution did in the first place.  It’s important to take the time to look at your life with honest eyes and figure out what would be most beneficial to change or improve.  Bare in mind, it might not be the most obvious thing.  Ask yourself why you want to make the change.  If it is a reason that is highly motivating, this will help you stick to your resolve when the going gets tough.

2.  Start with One Thing

Don’t try to take on too much.  You can always add more goals as the year goes on.   We all have many things we’d like to improve about ourselves, but if we try to take them all on at once, we will feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the enormity of the task before us.

3.  Visualize Your Resolution

It will help you achieve your resolution if you take the time to meditate on it regularly and visualize it.  Who are you once you’ve achieved it?  What do you look like?  How do you speak?  How do you carry yourself?  How do you interact with others?  How do you interact with yourself?  What does your life look like?  Imagine an entire day in your life once you have achieved the goal.  The clearer and more detailed you visualize, the better.  Then, as you are working towards achieving your goal, do your best to be, act, speak, think and react like the “you” you visualized who had already achieved the goal.   This will help enormously.

4.  Write Your Resolution Down

Every expert out there on personal transformation and goal achievement speaks of the importance of writing your goals down on paper.  There is great power in doing this and it increases your odds of achieving your goals exponentially.

5.  Have a Plan

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  I don’t know who said that first, but it’s the truth.  A lot of people will tell you to not aim too high with your resolution, but I do not necessarily agree.  I think it is important to think and dream big, but you need to have a plan with small achievable goals and action steps that will lead you to that big dream.  Otherwise, it will remain just that – a dream.

6.  Build In Accountability and Support

Tell EVERYONE your resolution.  You may want to keep it close to your chest for fear of failure and resulting embarrassment, but here’s the thing.  The people you tell, your support system, increase your chances of success by a million trillion – meaning, A LOT!  They will be there to pick you up when you fall down and make a mistake, or get off track.  They will help push you and challenge you to do your best always.  They will be there to help keep your hope up, your heart open, and your courage intact as you move towards your goal, your dream.   If you are someone who has trouble accepting help, I encourage you to be that support system to others also trying to succeed at their New Year’s resolution.  This way, it is a give and take relationship.  Also, it will serve to give you both perspectives, which should help you to be on the receiving end because you will fully understand how much the person helping you wants you to let them help.

7.  Think Outside the Box

Ok, so maybe, for instance, you’d like to lose weight.  And maybe, for instance, this has been your New Year’s resolution for two years running and you’ve only managed to gain weight.  Or, you lost some but gained it all back.  Instead of making the same old resolution, “I will lose X pounds by X date,” think of a different resolution that will help you achieve your ultimate goal – a healthy body at a healthy weight, for LIFE.  Maybe it’s, “I will keep a detailed food journal so I can understand my relationship with food.  I will record everything I consume and how it makes me feel.  I will also educate myself on nutrition, fitness, and the human body.”    This type of resolution will get you much closer to your ultimate goal of a healthy body with a healthy lifestyle than the former.  And it is also a very achievable resolution.

8.  Don’t Be Mean to Yourself

Remember always that the road to success is a journey, with many ups and downs, twists and curves.  Falls, setbacks, and mistakes are a guaranteed part of the journey.  It is extremely important that when these happen, you don’t beat yourself up about it.  Look at each mistake honestly so you can learn from it, but be kind and compassionate to yourself.  If you beat yourself up about your mistakes, it will cause you to lose hope and get discouraged.  Before you know it, you’ll have stopped trying to achieve your resolution because you no longer think you can.

9.  Reward Yourself

As important as it is to not beat yourself up when you make mistakes, it is equally important to reward yourself in some way when you achieve the small, measurable goals you’ve set out for yourself.  This will do a lot to keep your spirit up and keep you on the road to success.

10.  Keep Going No Matter What

YOU CANNOT FAIL.  I’ll say it again.  YOU CANNOT FAIL. You’ll make mistakes, get off track, and have many moments when you feel like you are failing, or have failed, at achieving your resolution.  But – and this is a BIG but – as along as you keep picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, forgiving yourself the fall, and moving forward, YOU CANNOT FAIL. So, KEEP GOING NO MATTER WHAT!


[1] http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/12/28/why-we-make-new-years-resolutions/

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve noticed that there seem to more and more foods containing flaxseed at the grocery store.  It’s in crackers, oatmeal, cereal, bars, waffles and more.  Have you ever noticed those eggs that claim they are rich in omega-3s?  Apparently, the chickens that lay those eggs are fed a special diet rich in flaxseed, which is how those eggs become a source of omega-3 fatty acids.  So, what’s the fuss?   Why is flaxseed called a super food?  Why is it being added to so many different things?

Basically, flaxseed is termed a super food because it contains these three ingredients:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids.  Specifically, ALA, making flaxseed one of the few non-fish sources of this very important nutrient.  (These are the good, heart healthy fats.)
  2. Lignans, known for their antioxidant properties and their cancer-fighting abilities. (More on that later.)
  3. Fiber, both soluble (which helps lower blood cholesterol levels) and insoluble (which aids in digestion and keeps your colon healthy).

The following are some of the health benefits of flaxseed:

  1. Helps with Diabetes:  Flaxseed has been shown in studies to lower blood sugar levels.
  2. Fight/Prevent Cancer:  Particularly breast, prostate, and colon cancer.  Studies show that the ALA in flaxseed inhibits tumor growth.  Also, the lignans in flaxseed help protect against cancers that are sensitive to hormones.  Finally, poor diet is often linked to colon cancer and the fiber in flaxseed is sure to help keep your colon healthy.
  3. Prevent Cardiovascular Disease:  Flaxseed helps our cardiovascular system in a variety of ways including anti-inflammatory actions, normalizing heartbeats, reducing artery plaque build-up, preventing hardening of the arteries, and lowering the LDL levels (bad cholesterol) in your blood.
  4. Help with Inflammatory Issues:  Both the ALA and lignans in flaxseed can help with inflammation associated with some diseases such as Parkinson’s and asthma.
  5. Can Help Balance Hormones:  Lignans are a plant estrogen.  Studies have shown that daily intake of flaxseed can help reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.  Flaxseed has also shown positive effects on menstruating women as well as post-menopausal women.
  6. Ease constipation:  Flaxseed’s fiber is great for regular bowel movements and overall colon health.
  7. Better Immune Function:  The lignans and ALA help prevent inflammation that affects your immune system.

There is more of a chance of whole flaxseed passing through our system undigested, by the way, so it might be better to use ground flaxseed.  Some labels will call it milled flaxseed or flax meal, but it’s all the same.  You can also grind it yourself with a coffee grinder. With ground flaxseed, it is best to store it in the freezer, which will keep it from oxidizing and losing its nutritional value.  The outer shell of whole flaxseed keeps the oil and fatty acids inside well protected, so it can be stored in any dark, cool place.

One of the best things about flaxseed is that it is so easy to add to your diet.  It has a nice, mild and pleasant nutty flavor that goes well with so many different foods.  Flaxseed can be easily added to yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, and soup.  It can also be used in baking.  Web MD recommends substituting ¼ – ½ cup of flour with ground flaxseed in recipes calling for 2 or more cups of flour.  Flaxseed can also be easily added to certain savory dishes like beef stew, shepherds pie, meatloaf, chili, or chicken enchiladas.

Sources:  Web MD, Flax Council of Canada, womenfitness.net, flaxhealth.com

Stress is not good for us.  Most of us know that by now.  We hear it daily from doctors, news reporters, medical journals, health magazines and talk shows.  There is plenty of research about the adverse effects of chronic, unmanaged stress.  They include:  a weakened immune system, heart issues such as high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, blood clots, and hardening of the arteries, muscle pain in your neck, shoulders, or back, stomach issues such as aggravated irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers, reproductive issues such as low fertility, erection problems, problems during pregnancy and painful menstrual cycles, a worsening of certain lung conditions like asthma and COPD, and skin issues such as acne and psoriasis are also made worse by stress.  As if all that is not reason enough to get your stress level under control, there are a myriad of emotional issues linked to chronic stress such as feeling generally cranky all the time, feeling overwhelmed by even the smallest of issues, lack of patience, feelings of frustration, lashing out for no reason, finding it hard to focus, feeling either jumpy or tired all the time, and chronic fear as you imagine all the bad things that can happen.  Bottom line, being stressed out all the time is no way to live.  So where does all the stress come from? Have you ever wondered if there is an external force affecting the stress level of our world?  What can we do to reduce our stress and get back in sync with the world around us?  Please read on and consider this….

Did you know the Earth has a heartbeat?  I’ve recently been reading a fascinating book called Nature’s Secret Messages by Elaine Wilkes, which is where I first learned about it.  The heartbeat is known as the “Schumann Resonance” – named after the German physicist W.O. Schumann who predicted it.  More scientifically speaking, the Schumann Resonances are “quasi-standing electromagnetic waves that exist in the Earth’s ‘electromagnetic’ cavity (the space between the surface of the Earth and the ionosphere).” (1) They are not caused by anything internally in the Earth, rather they are related to electrical activity in the atmosphere, particularly lightning storms.  “In the normal mode descriptions of Schumann resonances, the fundamental mode is a standing wave (also known as a stationary wave because it is a wave that remains in constant position) in the Earth–ionosphere cavity with a wavelength equal to the circumference of the Earth. This lowest-frequency (and highest-intensity) mode of the Schumann resonance occurs at a frequency of approximately 7.83 Hz.” (2)  There are variations in frequency, depending on the electrical activity in the Earth’s ionosphere, but what we do know is that the Schumann Resonances typically stay well below the 50 Hz – 60 Hz frequency most of our technology runs on.

The human race evolved in this frequency, this Schumann Resonance.  It is very important to us.  So important that NASA created a Schumann wave simulator (basically a magnetic-pulse generator that mimics the Earth’s frequency) because they noticed that without it the astronaut’s physical condition severely deteriorated while they were in space, away from Earth’s heartbeat.  There are many people today who believe that all the manmade frequencies of our technology is “polluting” the Earth’s heartbeat, the Schumann Resonance, thereby causing us to feel more stressed, fatigued and out of balance.  If astronauts’ physical condition can deteriorate because of a lack of it, it stands to reason that the general population’s physical condition may also be affected by its distortion.

So, what to do?  We can’t shut off all our power, that’s for sure.  That is not a practical solution.  However, we can get more connected to Earth and to nature by spending more time in it.  I’ve often noticed how the energy changes when I vacation with my family at the Jersey shore.  We cross that bridge into Ocean City and it’s as if all the troubles of normal, everyday life just disappear and I instantly feel more relaxed.  I’m sure it is influenced by the collective energy of all the other people there who are also in “vacation mentality” so to speak, but I wonder if the fact that we spend a majority of our time there barefoot on the beach and in the ocean, connected to nature day after day for hours at a time, also plays a significant role in that collective, more relaxed energy.  Maybe our increased connection to our collective heartbeat is what helps us all feel more relaxed.

Have you ever spent a day hiking in the woods, or just lounging at a park, and felt as if you lost time somehow?  I think that feeling is due to being exposed to Nature’s rhythms, which are so different than our own manmade ones full of alarm clocks and artificial lighting and cell phones that never stop ringing.  The astronauts have shown us how important it is for us to be connected to our Earth, and specifically its heartbeat.  Being in touch with nature can ground us, and help us to feel more centered.  It can take us back to our roots as human beings.  Next time you are feeling stressed out, give it a try.  (Better yet, use Nature as a way to prevent stress by visiting it regularly.)  Take a trip to the nearest piece of nature – even if all you can do that day is simply stand barefoot in your own backyard – and just take in all that nature has to offer.  Breathe deeply.  Feel how Earth’s gravity roots you to the ground.  Look up at the sky and watch the clouds roll by.  Look around and watch the other forms of life sharing your piece of nature – the squirrels, the insects, the birds.  Close your eyes and feel the wind as it moves around you, listening closely to all the sounds of nature that surround you.  Reset your rhythm to Mother Nature’s rhythm.   It may be just the medicine you need.


1.  www.lessemf.com

2.   www.wikipedia.com/Schumann_resonances

Other sources:  Web MD

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