Combat Cold and Flu Season with Echinacea!

Believe it or not, many people are unaware of what Echinacea is, and all the benefits of this powerful little herb.  Echinacea is native to various areas east of the Rocky Mountain Range, but is also grown in more western parts of the United States, Canada, and Europe.  There are several types of Echinacea grown.  The leaves, flowers, and roots of this herb were first used by the Great Plains Indian Tribes for medicine and to make herbal remedies.  Settlers later on began using this herb for medicinal purposes as well.  And, for a little trivia that I didn’t even know about…from 1916-1950, Echinacea was listed in the US National Formulary, and fell out of favor in the US when antibiotics were discovered. Boo!!!

Good news though…more people are becoming re-engaged in the use and benefits of Echinacea, because more and more antibiotics are becoming more resistant to certain strains of bacteria.   It seems that Echinacea contains some types of chemicals that can directly flight yeast and certain kinds of fungi.  Echinacea activates chemicals in the body to help reduce inflammation, and laboratory research also shows that it can stimulate the body’s immune system. Echinacea is largely used to combat infections, including the common cold, flu, and many upper respiratory infections.  There are various ways people use Echinacea to combat these infections.  Some people will take Echinacea at the first signs of a cold, and some people will use the herbal remedy after their symptoms have started to help minimize the severity of the infection.

Echinacea can be used to fight many other infections such as tonsillitis, strep throat, ear infections, swine flu, malaria, typhoid, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, indigestion, anxiety and rheumatoid arthritis.  If not taking this herb orally, Echinacea can be applied to the skin to treat boils, gum disease, skin wounds, ulcers, burns, bee stings, hemorrhoids, herpes simplex, and the list goes on. And, believe it or not, Echinacea can be injected to treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections as well.  WOW! I had no idea until researching this little herb, that Echinacea could be used to treat so many things.

Echinacea comes in many forms nowadays.  Tablets, juice and tea seem to be among the more popular choices in the US.  However, in the US particularly, there are more concerns about the quality of some of the Echinacea products being sold commercially.  It seems as though some types of Echinacea products are being mislabeled, and don’t actually even contain Echinacea in them! Really?  Just because the label reads “standardized”, it doesn’t always mean much. Some of the Echinacea products are even contaminated with lead, arsenic, and selenium.  YUM!

With that being said, it is very important that you make sure you are purchasing all supplements, herbal or not, from a reputable source.  If you are unsure of which brand to purchase, be sure to ask your health care professional which brand they would recommend.  During the cold and flu season I take one capsule/pill in the morning and one at night.  If you are feeling well, you can just take one a day with your other vitamins, and at the first signs or symptoms of getting sick or coming down with something, you can take 2-3 capsulses 2-3 times a day as needed.  At our office, we carry the brand, Metagenics, as many of you know.  Many doctor’s offices carry this brand as it is one of the most reputable, and what is listed on the label is actually what is in the bottle!  Should any of you have any questions about Echinacea, or any of the other supplements we carry at PHC, feel free to ask me when you are in the office for a visit, or email me at: drv@performancehealthcenter.com.

Multitasking Is Hazardous to Your Health

I have recently been reading a lot about multitasking and how it can be bad for your health.  We all know that you cannot really do a good job of multiple things at the same time (think the ultimate no-no: texting while driving!) Many people believe in our too fast paced world that they need to try to multitask whenever possible in hopes that they can actually get more done than is humanly possible.  Turns out not only is it a bad idea, but it can be bad for you and others around you as well.

We all know texting while driving is not only dangerous to you but everyone else on the road with you!  Did you also know that multitasking is actually bad for your brain?

I recently read an excellent article by Dr. Travis Bradberry (the Coauthor of EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0 & President at Talent Smart) His article is titled:

Why Successful People Don’t Multitask.  I will share the best parts of that article here:

You may have heard that multitasking is bad for you, but new studies show that it kills your performance and may even damage your brain. Every time you multitask you aren’t just harming your performance in the moment; you may very well be damaging an area of your brain that’s critical to your future success at work.

Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

A Special Skill?

But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another.

Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

Multitasking Lowers IQ

Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.

Brain Damage From Multitasking?

It was long believed that cognitive impairment from multitasking was temporary, but new research suggests otherwise. Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. They found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.

While more research is needed to determine if multitasking is physically damaging the brain (versus existing brain damage that predisposes people to multitask), it’s clear that multitasking has negative effects.

The EQ Connection

Nothing turns people off quite like fiddling with your phone or tablet during a conversation. Multitasking in meetings and other social settings indicates low Self- and Social Awareness, two emotional intelligence (EQ) skills that are critical to success at work. TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that 90% of top performers have high EQs. If multitasking does indeed damage the anterior cingulate cortex (a key brain region for EQ) as current research suggests, doing so will lower your EQ while it alienates your coworkers.

Bringing It All Together

If you’re prone to multitasking, this is not a habit you’ll want to indulge—it clearly slows you down and decreases the quality of your work. Even if it doesn’t cause brain damage, allowing yourself to multitask will fuel any existing difficulties you have with concentration, organization, and attention to detail.

So, if you really want to do something well, focus on the task at hand and try not to let your mind wander.  I know that when I am racing and in the middle of the swim and I start thinking of the upcoming bike course my swim stroke mechanics deteriorate and I slow way down.  Change your mind set; focusing on one thing at a time is actually more efficient, give it a try.

Your brain is also part of your central nervous system which includes the spinal cord and all your spinal nerves- so remember to take care of your whole central nervous system with regular chiropractic adjustments.

If you have any questions about this blog or your health in general please feel free to contact me at: drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

 

 

Fall Sports Season Is Here, BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!! Dynamic Stretching, the “Pre-workout”

I wouldn’t be doing my job at Performance Heatlh Center, if I wasn’t trying to educate all my athletes how to prevent injury and showing up to my office “all banged up”.  I know I have touched on this before, but I cannot stress the importance of stretching, and when training, dynamic stretching!

If you look up Wikipedia’s definition of dynamic stretching, this is what comes up, “Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching beneficial in sports utilizing momentum from form, and the momentum from static-active stretching strength, in an effort to propel the muscle into an extended range of motion not exceeding one’s static passive stretching ability”.

Performing dynamic stretches in a “pre-workout” or warmup are a series of active stretches will help move the muscles through their range of motion, help improve range of motion surrounding the joints, help elevate core body temperature, and help to stimulate the nervous system so it is better prepared for activity.

Dynamic stretching primes the muscle to be ready to contract and relax, just as they would need to be ready to function during a sprint, run or jumping motion etc.  Being dynamic stretching is an active movement, it helps to prevent over-stretching, which can also fatigue the muscles.  Fatiguing the muscles prior to a workout can provoke injury or unfavorable symptoms to the area.  That is one of the main reasons coaching have gotten away from prescribing static stretching before a workout.  In fact, many coaches suggest athletes do a dynamic warm up every day to help keep muscles limber and ready to move at all times.

Dynamic stretching also helps to mentally prepare the athlete before the workout or competition.  Static stretching can be more relaxing, and while there is definitely a place for it, static stretching can almost trick one’s body into relaxation mode and make it more difficult to transition to “competitor” or “beast mode”.

Dynamic stretches target major muscle groups when warming up.  For example, when running, dynamic stretches target hamstrings, quads, glutes, hip flexors and calves to help prime these areas for movement.  Usually a couple of minutes of light jogging is recommended first to get the blood flowing before getting into a 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching.  Walking butt kicks (heel to butt), knee hugs (walking knee the chest), walking toe touches, walking lunges with an overhead reach, glute bridges, heel and toe walks, are just a handful of great dynamic stretches to get one warmed up and the muscle groups prepared for the intensity of the workout that follows.   It really is something so easy to work into a warm up, and would most likely replace a more static routine one is doing, so it would not add much time on to one’s routine either.    Some of you reading this may find that you are already doing some type of dynamic stretching prior to a workout without even knowing it, which is great!  Gold stars for you!

Should anyone reading this little article have any questions in regarding dynamic stretching and incorporating this into their pre-workout routine coming into the fall sports season, please feel free to contact me at: drv@performanacehealthcenter.com

Now that Summer is Here: Get Outside!

Here are a few health benefits of getting outside:

Eye Health– Getting outside can improve your eye health   Do you work on a computer for a living?  Do you watch TV when you’re not working?  If so, you’re at risk of developing the symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). CVS can be caused by staring at a screen close to your face for prolonged periods.  Symptoms include: blurred vision, double vision, red eyes, eye irritation, headaches, and neck or back pain.  Getting outside and focusing on objects that are more than two feet from your face can help to prevent and even reverse these symptoms.

Artificial Light may contribute to Nearsightedness.  New research is showing that our increased exposure to artificial light may be having a negative impact on nearsightedness.  A 2007 study of children of nearsighted parents that spent at least two hours per day outdoors were four times less likely to be nearsighted than those who spent less than one hour per day outside.  Artificial light is the problem, natural light is the solution.

If your eye sight is starting to get worse, get outside.

Improve Sleep–  Our sleep patterns are regulated by an internal body clock called the circadian rhythm.  Our circadian rhythms are naturally tied to the sun’s schedule.  Spending too much time inside – away from natural light and with increased exposure to artificial light, can alter our circadian rhythms and disrupt our sleep

Those who perform shift-work or travel frequently are also subject to having their natural circadian rhythms disrupted. Early morning exposure to sunlight has been shown to help recalibrate these sleep cycles

If you are not sleeping well, get outside!

Grounding or “Earthing”, which results from bare skin contact on a natural surface (dirt, sand, grass).  The theory states that because the earth is negatively charged- and has a greater negative charge than your body- we absorb earth’s electrons.  The rubber soles of our shoes prevent this absorption of electrons from occurring.  According to a study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, grounding can have an intense anti-inflammatory and energizing effect on the body.

If you want to feel the energy of earth, get outside and walk in the grass barefoot.

Exercise– Most people enjoy exercising outside more than inside- and if you enjoy it more, you are more likely to keep doing it on a regular basis. Even a light walk has immense health benefits, especially contrasted with sitting- which has been referred to as the smoking of our generation.  Sitting too much results in impaired fat burning capacity, decreased bone density, increased blood pressure, and a shortened life span.  Conversely, exercise can help prevent or improve heart disease, strokes, type II diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and a host of psychological disorders.

If you want to live longer, get outside.

Mental Health– there are many beneficial effects getting outside can have on our mental wellbeing.  Spending time in nature has been linked to improved attention spans, and boosts in serotonin- which makes us feel better mentally. Being outside also increases activity in the sections of the brain responsible for empathy, emotional stability, and love.

If you’re feeling down, get outside.

Immune System– Get outside for more natural Vitamin D, which is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system.  Those who don’t get enough Vitamin D are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.  Getting enough sunlight has also been linked with the prevention of diabetes, auto immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease.

If you want your body to function properly, get outside.

Remember to keep your regularly scheduled Chiropractic appointments as well. Regular spinal adjustments are also good for your immune system.  One of my previous blogs was about just that: https://www.performancehealthcenter.com/?s=immune+system&submit=Search

If you have any questions about this blog or about your health in general, please feel free to contact me at: drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

Does Chiropractic Help with Allergies?

It appears that spring is finally here.  The temperature is rising, the days are getting longer and the flowers and trees are budding. Along with all these great things is an increase in pollen and the start of spring-time allergies for many people.

Many people are hypersensitive to pollen and other environmental substances. This condi­tion causes a number of irritating symptoms that can make life miserable.  An allergy is a hypersensitivity that can surface in many ways: Skin reactions, breathing difficulty and irritations to the sinuses are some of the most frequent allergy symptoms. If you have a food allergy, then problems like bloating, indigestion and diarrhea may result.

An allergic response is when your immune system activates and attempts to remove a substance that is usually considered harmless from the body. Essentially, the allergic reaction is caused not by the substance itself but by your body’s interpretation that the substance is poten­tially harmful. Inflammation, sneezing, cough­ing and vomiting are methods the immune system uses to expel any dangerous substance ingested by you.

When an allergic reaction starts, the body activates special immune cells called mast cells. On the surface of their membranes, these mast cells possess receptors that recognize substances considered either harmful or helpful to the body. When harmful substances are detected, the cells release histamines. This triggers the body to react, often with an increase in swelling, coughing, or sneezing.

An allergic reaction can be considered an interpretation of your environment. In order for your body to interpret, your body must first get information. The nervous system is part of this information-gathering function of the body. If your nervous system is dysfunctional, then the information interpreted will be altered, and this makes you vulnerable to abnormal reactions like allergies.

Many people report that Chiropractic can help with Allergies

Many chiropractic patients report a reduction of allergy symptoms when treated regularly for vertebral subluxations (misalignments and/or dysfunctional movements of the vertebrae).  These misalignments or dysfunctional movements of vertebra can cause a focal irritation in the spine, which then creates an abnormal signal received by the central nervous system.  When this abnormal signal is received by the central nervous system, the body may not interrupt the information correctly.  When this occurs, an allergic reaction can result.

Although scientific research shows chiropractic adjustments do not cause an improvement in all allergy cases, they’re definitely beneficial for some.  The reason for the inconsistency may be because there are a number of different causes for a patient’s hypersensitivity.  Vertebral subluxation is only one of many potential causes.

If you or someone you know suffer from seasonal allergies, consider chiropractic care.  I have many of my patients tell me they have fewer allergy symptoms when they consistently come in for their regular Chiropractic care.

If you have any questions about this blog, or about your health in general, please feel free to contact me at: drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

 

Half Full or Half Empty Matters to Your Health

How you view the world and your place in it affects the quality of your health!  Google optimism and this is how it is defined:  hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.  Do the same for pessimism and this is what you get: a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future

So, are you an optimist or pessimist?  Do you look for the good or the bad in people and situations?  Do you see a silver lining when things aren’t going your way? Do you see the glass as half full or half empty?

If are an optimist you are more likely to have better health, fewer colds, and a lower chance of getting cancer and heart disease.  Study after study has demonstrated that quality of your mental and physical health is better if you are an optimist.

The most recent study was published last month (12/2016) in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It showed a positive relationship between optimism and mortality in more than 70,000 women over a 6 year period.  The optimistic women in this group were 29% less likely to die of any cause!

There are several objective questionnaires that can determine if you are an optimist or pessimist.  You can find them on-line, but I think most people already know what they are.

Both in my personal and professional life I am an optimist and stay as positive as possible.  I am also a realist in that I know conditions I can treat successfully and what I can’t.  Those patients that I can’t help get referred to the correct provider.

I had a learning experience a few years ago when my optimism may have worked again me.  A patient who did not follow my treatment recommendations contacted me.  He stated when I told him he had arthritis in his spine I did not take it seriously and that is why he did not follow through with his treatment plan.  Reflecting back, I think I explained the situation correctly but took it as a learning experience.  Arthritis is degeneration of the spine.  I call it rust. It is not a normal part of aging and is caused by long term dysfunction in the spine.  It needs to be treated correctly and aggressively.  My mistake was that I told him that if we treated his arthritis and he went through my recommended treatment plan, his pain would be relieved, his function would improve and more importantly we could slow down, or even arrest the progression of his spinal arthritis. What I didn’t do, and what he needed to hear from me was that arthritis is a serious diagnosis.

Looking back, I did tell him arthritis was serious, but in a positive way.    Having spinal arthritis is not good news, but it is doesn’t mean you are doomed.  What I should have done, and do now, is tell my patients that arthritis is serious, but 30+ years of clinical experience have given me the confidence to say that if treated correctly arthritis does not have to be debilitating.   I now show before and after x-rays of patients who followed my advice and those who didn’t.  Prior patients who followed through on my recommendations had no progression in their arthritis, and those who did not and returned 5+ years later all showed a progression in their degeneration.   The patients who followed my recommendations and in spite of having arthritis are active and enjoying life!  .  It means you need to treat spinal arthritis correctly and then afterwards maintain that correction like oiling a rusty hinge, or wearing a retainer after your braces come off.

Maybe I was too positive, or maybe this patient was too pessimistic.  I don’t know.  Now I ask questions during my consultations to see if a patient leans more to being an optimist or pessimist and give my explanations accordingly.  I always discuss the seriousness of the diagnosis and offer hope with a detailed recommendation to get them out of pain and on with life.

So what are you, an optimist or pessimist?  If you want to live a long, healthy life, being an optimist improves your odds.   If you are a pessimist how do you become an optimist?

I can tell you all the things you heard before and you dismissed including: avoid other pessimists;  count your blessing; be positive; forgive others; smile more and frown less; exercise regularly; eat healthy and to stop blaming others.  Which are proven strategies to be more optimistic.

My favorite method is to write down 3 things every day that you are grateful for.  Try it!  It’s a New Year!  Start a new habit.  It can take less than a minute to do. Look at the brighter side of life! If you want to live a long healthy life, being more optimistic has been proven to make you healthier!

I wish all of my patients and friends a Healthy New Year!  At Performance Health Center we are committed to getting and keeping you healthy in a positive, supportive and caring atmosphere!

Continue with Sunscreen into the Fall Months

Happy September!  September in New England usually has amazingly nice weather; cooler nights and warm and sunny days with lower humidity- which makes outdoor activities even more pleasant.  Just remember even though the days are starting to get shorter and the temperature is starting to drop somewhat you still need protection from the sun.  The President of The Skin Cancer Foundation Dr. Perry Robins warns us… “It’s not just the sunburns that usually occur during the summer or on summer vacations that are associated with skin cancer, it is all of your lifetime sun exposure that adds to your risk of skin cancer.”

Remember that clouds filter out the light from the sun, but not the UV rays from the sun. Ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) light are the cancer causing wavelengths. UVA is present year round, at all times of day, and is unaffected by a cloudy day.

UVA:

Most of us are exposed to large amounts of UVA throughout our lifetime. UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. Although they are less intense than UVB, UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more prevalent. They are present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year, and can penetrate clouds and glass.

UVA, which penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, has long been known to play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging), but until recently scientists believed it did not cause significant damage in areas of the epidermis (outermost skin layer) where most skin cancers occur. Studies over the past two decades, however, show that UVA damages skin cells called keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis, where most skin cancers occur. (Basal and squamous cells are types of keratinocytes.) UVA contributes to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers.

UVA is the dominant tanning ray, and we now know that tanning, whether outdoors or in a salon, cause cumulative damage over time. A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. These imperfections, or mutations, can lead to skin cancer.

Tanning booths primarily emit UVA. The high-pressure sunlamps used in tanning salons emit doses of UVA as much as 12 times that of the sun. Not surprisingly, people who use tanning salons are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. According to recent research, first exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent.

UVB:

UVB, the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn, tends to damage the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and a contributory role in tanning and photo aging. Its intensity varies by season, location, and time of day. The most significant amount of UVB hits the U.S. between 10 AM and 4 PM from April to October. However, UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice, which bounce back up to 80 percent of the rays so that they hit the skin twice. UVB rays do not significantly penetrate glass.

Preventative Measures:

Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Do not burn.  Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.

Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.

For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB)

sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your entire body

30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after

swimming or excessive sweating.  Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be

used on babies over the age of six months. Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.

See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

I definitely recommend that you do get outside and enjoy the great fall weather New England has to offer, just do not forget to continue to use your sunscreen.

If you have any questions about this Blog, or about your health in general, please feel free to contact me at:  drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

A Split Second & the Road to Recovery, Part 4

I had my 10 week post-surgical orthopedic consult with Dr. McKeon & Jason (his PA) on June 22.  The conclusion is that the rehabilitation of my ACL allograph is going very well, probably ahead of schedule.  I was given the green light to play golf, ( though I hit a bucket of balls the day before).  I was also given permission to start running.  I’m not a runner, per say, and prefer chasing tennis balls.  I did my 1st run over the July 4th weekend.  It was a walk/run and my knee felt great during and after!  I will be gradually building up speed and distance which is the best way to build up my Vastus Medialis Oblique muscle (VMO), which was the 1st to atrophy after my injury.

Special thanks to my PT, Steve Crowell of Rebound Physical Therapy who has pushed me and gotten me to this point.  There seems to be at least 2 ACL Rehab patient’s in the office whenever I have an appointment, though at my last appointment there were 4.  I remember how at my 1st few appointments I was inspired by seeing how patients a few months ahead of me were doing.  Now I am able to inspire the others since I was furthest along.

I continue to do my daily exercises which are progressively more challenging. One of the reasons this Blog and newsletter are late is because my whole life these days are revolving around my rehab exercises.  It takes up a lot of my time, but it needs to be done if I want to resume the active lifestyle I had before my injury, and I do!

A big part of my rehab is cycling.  In the beginning of June I got the ok to cycle outside.  Inside cycling allowed me to watch more TV and Netflix then I have in the last decade but am now caught up too many movies & series.  Being outside is much nicer.  My preference is mountain biking, but I’m not ready to hit the single track trails I enjoy.  Surprisingly I am enjoying the cycling I am doing.  I’ve been exploring all the wonderful bike paths in the area including the Wellesley Aqueduct and both banks of the Charles River.  We live in beautiful area and it is nice to explore many of the communities that make up Greater Boston Proper.  I look forward to getting back into the woods, but until then look forward to exploring more bike paths.

This August I will be getting Biodex testing on my leg.  Biodex provides a high-tech evaluation of my muscle strengths and imbalances which will help drive my rehabilitation exercises.  Dr. McKeon also encouraged a stem cell injection to stimulate and promote healing.  He is finding it to be very beneficial to post-surgical rehab and is building a suite in his clinic dedicated to stem cells.  I’ll keep you posted.

Please enjoy your summers, get outside as much as possible, be active and remember to stretch before and after your activities!

The Health Benefits of Being Thankful

I am writing this month’s Blog two days after Thanksgiving- that time of year where many people begin thinking about everything they have to be thankful for. Although it’s nice to count your blessings on Thanksgiving, being thankful throughout the year could have tremendous benefits on your quality of life.  I am intrigued by the physiological changes that occur in our bodies, when we tap into the cognitive and emotional expressions of gratitude.

More and more researchers are finding that gratitude doesn’t just make you feel like a better person, it’s actually good for your health.

“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” says Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.”

One recent study from the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine found that people who were more grateful actually had better heart health, specifically less inflammation and healthier heart rhythms.

“Gratitude works because, as a way of perceiving and interpreting life, it recruits other positive emotions that have direct physical benefits, most likely through the immune system or endocrine system.”

Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin – the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good.

Perhaps you have a hard time expressing your thankfulness, not to worry as experts say gratitude is something you can learn.

Medical contributor Dr. David Agus explained the findings of a study in which one group of people were asked to write down what they were thankful for every week, while others wrote about their hassles and a third group wrote about neutral topics. “At the end of 10 weeks, the people who had gratitude, who wrote down the gratitude, actually had better self-esteem and they felt better about themselves and their lives. So it works. All of us can improve by just writing down what we care about.”

In fact, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous.

Be happy for who you are and what you currently have, and smile- when you do this your whole body changes, you release endorphins and not only do you feel better, you function better as well.

So smile and be thankful, and share your smile and thankfulness with others… it will benefit both of you at the same time.

If you have any questions about this blog or your health in general, please feel free to contact me at:  drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

Prolonged Sitting is Hazardous to Your Health!

Recent research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and “metabolic syndrome” — which is a combination of several conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excess body fat around the waist. Too much sitting is also linked to an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

One study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV or other screen-based entertainment with those who logged more than four hours a day of recreational screen time. Those with greater screen time had:  A nearly 50 % increased risk of death from any cause, and about a 125% increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain or heart attack.

Sitting in front of the TV isn’t the only concern. Any extended sitting, such as behind a desk at work or driving your car can be detrimental. These detrimental effects are not easily offset by spending a few hours a week at the gym or otherwise engaged in moderate or vigorous activity a few times per week.

The solution seems to be less sitting and more moving overall. You might start by simply standing rather than sitting whenever you have the chance, and remember to take frequent breaks from your sitting position.  Do yourself a favor and get up and walk around every 20-30 minutes.

The impact of movement, even leisurely movement, can be profound. For starters, you’ll burn more calories. This might lead to weight loss and increased energy. Even better, the muscle activity needed for standing and other movements seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of sugars and fats within the body. When you sit for long periods of time, these processes stall and your health risks increase. When you’re standing or actively moving these processes are kicked back into action.

Decreased Brain Function:

When we are active our body pumps blood and oxygen to the brain which releases several brain and mood enhancing chemicals.  When we are sedentary for prolonged periods everything slows down including brain function.

Strained Neck:

If most of your sitting is at your desk, craning your head forward toward your keyboard or worse yet craning your head down to text, you are putting excess strain on the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your neck.  This will aggravate your cervical vertebrae and can cause pain and vertebral misalignments.

Sore Upper Back and Shoulders;

Forward head posture also affects the upper back and shoulder muscles as well, which can also lead to pain and muscle imbalances.

Inflexible Back:

Repeated bouts of prolonged sitting can lead to an inflexible spine, which in turn can leave you susceptible to spinal injury when doing ordinary things like tying your shoes.  Regular movement keeps our spines healthy as the movement of the vertebrae allows the soft discs between them to expand and contract like sponges which in turn pumps blood and nutrients into the discs to keep them healthy.  Prolonged sitting leads to collagen hardening and lack of sponginess in the discs, and research shows that people who frequently sit for long periods are at a much greater risk for herniated discs.

Weak Abdominals:

Slumping in your chair not only strains your back, but it also leads to weak abdominals.  When we stand or move our abdominal muscles are engaged, but they are essentially dormant when we slump forward in a chair.  In order to stand or to sit up straight you need to counteract gravity and engage your abdominal muscles.

Tight Hips:

Prolonged sitting can directly affect the mobility of your hips.  The sitting position puts your deep hip flexors (Psoas) in a shortened state, and these deep hip flexors actually attach to your lumbar spine.  Tight hip flexors can cause low back pain and very tight hips, and tight hip flexors will significantly shorten your stride length.

Poor Circulation:

Prolonged sitting can also decrease your circulation and cause blood to pool in your legs.  This can lead to varicose veins, swollen ankles and make you more susceptible to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis.

 

Soft Bones:

To maintain good bone density we need to do daily weight bearing activity, and prolonged sitting and/or lack of activity is directly related to an increased incidence of early osteoporosis.

 

So what can you do?

KEEP MOVING!

If you do need to sit for your work, try sitting on a stability ball or a backless chair that requires you to engage your core muscles.  If you do prolonged driving or you are “stuck at your desk” for prolonged periods of time, make sure to take regular breaks to get up to stretch and walk around on a regular basis.  Ask your employer to install an adjustable work station so you can alternate between standing and sitting.  Let them know that this will improve your productivity.

Stretch on a regular basis.

Physiologists have determined that we lose our strength and flexibility much faster than our endurance, and flexibility is the easiest to maintain as we age, it just takes a little time and effort to stretch daily.

Posture

 

When sitting, remember to maintain good posture: Your ear, shoulder, elbow and hip should all be aligned.  When you stand make sure to maintain good standing posture as well.

If you have questions on how you can improve your posture please feel free to contact me at:  drtomball@performanchealthcenter.com

Or better yet- attend my next Postural Restoration Workshop to be held from 6:30- 7:30 pm on Tuesday October 27, 2015.