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Health Optimization Strategies

23 Nov

Though some element of our overall wellbeing is defined by our genetics, there is a  lot you can do to live a long and healthy life. Here’s a short list:

  • Get enough sleep. While the average adult needs only seven to nine hours of sleep a night to feel rested, younger age groups usually require much more: infants (0-3 months): 14-17 hours/day; 4-11 months: 12-15 hours/day; toddlers: (1-2 years old) 11-14 hours/day; pre-school (3-5 years old): 10-13 hours/day; school age (6-13 years old): 9-11 hours/day; and teenagers (14-17 years old): 8-10 hours/day. An expectant mother may need additional sleep, especially early in the pregnancy.
  • Exercise at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes a day (brisk walk, bike ride, jog, yoga, tai chi, etc.). Federal guidelines also recommend strength training the major muscle groups twice a week.
  • Avoid added sugars, sugary drinks, and processed foods. Eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Not only will it help you maintain a healthier body weight, but you’ll also improve the make-up of your gut microbiota, which can bolster your immune system.
  • Consider supplementation if your diet is deficient in important vitamins and minerals. For example, a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients reported that vitamin C can enhance the production of B- and T-cells, which are related to the body’s ability to fight off infections. Moreover, the study noted that vitamin C deficiency is associated with impaired immunity resulting in higher susceptibility to infection.
  • When (not if) stress hits, take five slow, deep breaths (in your nose and out of your mouth). Consider mindful meditation or schedule relaxing activities into your day.
  • Engage in social networks (senior centers, church, and book clubs or go to plays, music events, and art galleries with a friend), preferably in person but virtually (phone or video chat) if that’s not feasible.
  • Laughing reduces stress hormones, boosts white blood cells, and keeps you healthy.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, use hand sanitizer regularly (if it’s not possible to wash your hands), don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth; cover your mouth with your arm when you sneeze, and stay home when you’re ill.
  • Spend time in the sun or take a vitamin D supplement. Studies show that individuals with poor vitamin D status may be at an increased risk for upper respiratory infection and impaired immune response.

Of course, if you experience musculoskeletal pain, like neck or back pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor of chiropractic. Typically, the sooner you seek care, the faster you’ll be able to return to your daily activities without pain.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

The Benefits of Blocking Blue Light

22 Oct

The electromagnetic spectrum spans from gamma rays—which can be deadly—to the radio waves that flow in the air all around us without any effect. Between the ultraviolet and infrared sections of the spectrum is the most important wavelength for our eyes: visible light. But research indicates that blue light can be problematic in high doses—especially with our increasing use of electronic devices.

Both the sun and incandescent bulbs emits light in a broad range that our eyes have evolved to see. The light that emanates from our electronic devices may appear similar, but it’s concentrated in three main peaks of blue, green, and red. When using a phone or tablet, that means a greater than average amount of more energetic blue light is being sent to your eyes at a short distance and for (often) a prolonged period of time. Researchers have observed that this can cause the eyes to grow tired and dry out, which can lead to discomfort. Exposure to blue light at night can slow the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, resulting in sleep difficulties and the negative health effects associated with it.

To reduce the consequences of excessive blue light exposure, several tech companies have created blue light and nighttime filter settings that reduce the amount of blue light that comes from devices. Many websites and programs also offer a dark mode that reduces the amount of white on the screen, which means less light is emitted by the diodes. Users often report that these features are easier on the eyes.

While there is debate on the topic, excessive exposure to blue light may also lead to an increased risk for macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss associated with damage to the photoreceptor cells in the retina. In laboratory studies, researchers have observed that when blue light interacts with the molecule retinal, it can lead to cell damage and even cell death. This effect did not occur with other forms of visible light. However, it’s important to note that this study was conducted in a laboratory setting and not on eyes themselves, so although the authors found a mechanism by which blue light plus retinal can cause cell damage, they’re not sure if this occurs in the eye itself.

Nonetheless, given the effect that prolonged screen use can have on eye fatigue and possible sleep interruption, it’s important to take breaks to rest the eyes and use filters or modes that reduce blue light (or wear glasses that block blue light).

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Energy Boosting Tips

28 Sep

When fatigue hits during the day, many people will reach for a sugary snack or a caffeinated beverage. While these practices may lead to a quick, short burst of energy, the crash afterwards can leave one feeling even more tired. Let’s look at healthier methods to improve energy levels.

1) EAT BREAKFAST: Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast have less fatigue and stress than those who skip it. Avoid white flour/sugary options, like donuts. Instead try fruit and fiber-rich foods, like oatmeal, which help maintain satiety longer.

2) EXERCISE: A simple 5- to 10-minute walk or any quick bout of exercise can increase blood flow to the brain and enhance cognitive function.

3) SING/TALK: Singing opens specific brain pathways that can both elevate emotions and reduce stress hormone levels. Try it while driving or anytime you feel those eyelids dropping, but perhaps NOT at an office meeting! Like singing, talking stimulates areas of the brain to make us more alert.  

4) DRINK WATER: Feeling lethargic is a common symptom of dehydration. Consider drinking water throughout the day (such as eight 8-oz. glasses per day) as some experts have stated that by the time you feel thirsty, you may already be in a state of mild dehydration, which can also impair cognitive function and increase the risk for headache.

5) SUNSHINE: Spending time in the sun stimulates the production of energy-boosting vitamin D. A recent study showed that exposure to sunlight throughout the workday not only led to better sleep but also improved performance on cognitive tests.

6) SNACK: Try eating almonds and peanuts, which are high in magnesium and folic acid and essential for energy and cell production. Consuming protein and slow-burning carbs like bananas, peanut butter, or granola with fresh berries can also help maintain blood sugar levels. A scented spice, like cinnamon or peppermint, can also fight fatigue and make us more alert.

7) LAUGH: Listen to comedy or think of a recent funny experience and laugh out loud, if possible—it’s amazing how that stimulates certain centers in the brain to give you an energy boost.

8) GET MORE SLEEP: It seems obvious but sleeping less than seven hours a night is unhealthy and reduces the energy you have available during the day. Quality of sleep is important as well, so if you toss and turn or wake up a lot at night, consider a sleep study to assess for sleep apnea.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

The Reason Blood Pressure May Rise in the Winter

24 Aug

A 2009 study that monitored over 8,800 elderly French adults found that an individual’s blood pressure can fluctuate with the seasons. In particular, the researchers observed that as temperatures fell, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure could rise to unhealthy levels, but they were unable to determine why.

However, a study published just five years later may have solved the mystery. The solution has to do with the molecule nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning that it causes the walls of blood vessels to relax and expand, with a resulting reduction in blood pressure.

Researchers have discovered that nitric oxide is stored in the dermal vasculature at levels much greater than are found circulating in the bloodstream. When exposed to long-wave ultraviolet (UVA) rays, the skin releases some of that stored nitric oxide into the bloodstream. Because individuals tend to spend less time in the sun during the winter months, there are fewer opportunities for the skin to release nitric oxide into the blood, dilate blood vessels, and moderate blood pressure. This may also help to explain why stroke and blood vessel rupture (aneurism) are more common in the winter months among the elderly.

How can one maintain healthier levels of nitric oxide in their bloodstream when it’s not convenient to spend time in the sunshine? The answers may be found in diet and exercise.

A 2018 study found that eating leafy greens and root vegetables and drinking beetroot juice effectively increased nitrate plasma (blood) levels for the purpose of enhancing exercise performance.

In 2020, researchers observed that schoolteachers in South Africa with greater physical fitness levels had higher levels of nitric oxide in their blood, as well as lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings. The research team concluded, “These results may suggest that even moderate physical activity could increase nitric oxide synthesis capacity, which in turn may mitigate the development of cardiovascular disease in this population.” 

The take home message is that to maintain a healthier blood pressure, consider getting plenty of sunshine, eating leafy green and root vegetables (or drink beetroot juice), and exercising!

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Lowering the Risk for Chronic Disease

30 Jul

It’s common for the elderly to have multiple chronic conditions, all of which can impact their ability to live a vibrant, independent lifestyle. While it may not be possible to avoid adverse health conditions in our later years, it appears there are steps we can take now to give ourselves the best possible chance to maintain good health for as long as possible.

In an April 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 32 researchers from around the world collaborated to investigate the association of a healthy lifestyle with years lived free of major chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The data set for the study included 116,043 adults (average age 43.7 year) whom researchers followed for an average of 12.5 years.

At baseline, the investigators looked at four lifestyle factors (smoking, body mass index, physical activity, and alcohol consumption) and assigned a scoring system for each factor (0=poor; 1=intermediate; 2=optimal) for a total score of 8.

During the course of the study, 15% of participants developed at least one chronic disease. The research team’s analysis showed that every one-point increase in an individual’s healthy lifestyle score translated to an increase of .96 chronic disease-free years in men and .89 chronic disease-free years in women.

Compared to individuals with a score of 0, those with a score of 16 benefited from an average of 9.4-9.9 additional chronic disease-free years!

The findings showed that maintaining a healthy weight (BMI or body mass index of ~25), not smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and getting regular exercise dramatically increased the odds of reaching age 70 without chronic disease.

Doctors of chiropractic frequently encourage patients to live a healthy lifestyle because not only can it add years to your life, as this study suggests, it can add life to your years.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Sleep and Chiropractic Care

27 Feb

The American Sleep Association reports that 50-70 million adults in the United States (US) have a sleep disorder. Poor sleep is associated with several adverse health outcomes, including an elevated risk for musculoskeletal pain.

Though the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, the current research suggests the relationship between musculoskeletal pain and sleep disturbance is bi-directional. That is, individuals with a sleep disorder are more likely to develop a pain condition and people with pain are more likely to have trouble sleeping.

Chiropractic care has been studied in many populations where sleep deprivation is common—particularly in patients with fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by sleep disturbance, fatigue, and pain in several sites across the body. One such study published in 2000 reported that fibromyalgia patients who received 30 chiropractic treatments experienced substantial improvements with respect to pain intensity, fatigue, and sleep quality.

In a systematic review, researchers identified 15 studies that associated chiropractic care with benefits for patients with insomnia. For low back pain and neck pain, which are two of the most common sleep interfering chronic conditions, chiropractic management not only helps but it is RECOMMENDED as a first levels of care in clinical guidelines worldwide.

Chiropractic offers the following to help with sleep troubles: manual therapies such as manipulation, mobilization, and soft-tissue work that can help relax the nervous system; nutritional approaches, including the use of supplements like melatonin, L-theanine, 5-HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan), and valerian root; weight management (obesity is a risk factor for insomnia); and education/advice on sleeping position, napping, relaxation methods (breathing exercises, mindful meditation), no “screen-time” prior to bed, pillow placement and size, and more. TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Chiropractic care helps manage pain arising from MANY conditions. Pain interferes with sleep. Sleep is NECESSARY to avoid chronic, disabling conditions (like FM) and maintain a high quality of life, so seek chiropractic care FIRST and sleep well tonight!

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.