For the month of March…Wellness for the Body
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Avocados are not just for eating! A good source of biotin, avocados help to prevent dry skin and brittle hair and nails. When applied topically, they can hydrate parched skin. Create a moisturizing mask. Pit the fruit, puree the pulp, and pat it on your face. The oil acts as an emollient. It also contains beneficial vitamin E.
Sip your way to healthy skin. Green tea’s high on the list of skin-friendly beverages thanks to its impressive storehouse of polyphenols. Aim for four cups throughout your day.
Reach for tomatoes. A German study found that lycopene-rich tomato paste helped participants prevent sunburn when they combined it with olive oil, daily for ten weeks. Besides being a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes are considered a high-carotenoid fruit. These nutrients may help slow down cellular damage from free radicals.
Slow down aging with salmon. Salmon contains astaxanthin, a carotenoid that improves skin elasticity, so you’ll have fewer fine lines.
Crack open some eggs, but poach or boil them. Protein helps repair cells that have suffered free radical damage. Eggs, a complete source of protein, also contain biotin, an essential vitamin that protects against dry skin.
Build better skin with beans. Another protein source, legumes help repair cells that have suffered free radical damage. During digestion, protein breaks down into amino acids, the building blocks of cells. Amino acids help to speed the repair and regeneration of skin cells and collagen.
Put pomegranate on your list. When applied topically, this antioxidant-rich fruit may help skin create more collagen, while speeding healing.
Try walnuts. Walnuts are a rich source of Omega-3s, which help put shine in your hair and aid in making skin smoother and younger looking.
7 Anti-Aging Tips to Keep Your Brain Young
1. Move It
What’s the No. 1 thing you can do for your brain’s health? Differential calculus, you say? Chess? Chaos theory? Nope, the best brain sharpener may be … sneakers? Yup. The best advice I can give to keep your brain healthy and young is aerobic exercise! I would suggest a combined program of aerobics and weight training. Studies show the best outcomes for those engaged in both types of exercise.”
As we age, our brain cells, called neurons, lose the tree-branch-like connections between them. These connections, or synapses, are essential to thought. Perhaps the most striking brain research today is the strong evidence we now have that “exercise may forestall some kinds of mental decline and it may even restore memory. Among other brain benefits, aerobic exercise increases capillary development in the brain, meaning more blood supply, more nutrients and — a big requirement for brain health — more oxygen.
The preeminent exercise and brain-health researcher in humans is Arthur Kramer his colleagues have proved two critical findings: Fit people have sharper brains, and people who are out of shape, but then get into shape, sharpen up their brains. This second finding is vital. There’s no question that working out makes you smarter, and it does so, Kramer notes, at all stages of life. Just as important, exercise staves off heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other maladies that increase the risk of brain problems as we age.
2. Feed It
Another path to a better brain is through your stomach. We’ve all heard about antioxidants as cancer fighters. Eating foods that contain these molecules, which neutralize harmful free radicals, may be especially good for your brain too. More important, though, is overall nutrition. The best things you can eat for your body are also the best things you can eat for your brain. Your brain is in your body, after all.
3. Speed It Up
Sorry to say, our brains naturally start slowing down at the cruelly young age of 30 (yes, 30). It used to be thought that this couldn’t be helped, but a barrage of new studies show that people of any age can train their brains to be faster and, in effect, younger. Your brain is a learning machine and given the right tools, we can train our brains to act like they did when we were younger. All that’s required is dedicated practice: exercises for the mind.
Here is a computer-based training regimen to speed up how the brain processes information at positscience.com. Since much of the data we receive comes through speech, the Brain Fitness Program works with language and hearing to improve both speed and accuracy. Over the course of your training, the program starts asking you to distinguish sounds (between “dog” and “bog,” for instance) at an increasingly faster rate. It’s a bit like a tennis instructor shooting balls at you faster and faster.
Similarly, Nintendo was inspired by the research of a Japanese doctor to develop a handheld game called Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, which has sold more than two million copies in Japan. No software out there has yet been approved by the FDA as a treatment for cognitive impairment, but an increasing number of reputable scientific studies suggest these programs could help slow down typical brain aging, or even treat dementia. The biggest finding in brain research in the last ten years is that the brain at any age is highly adaptable, or “plastic,” as neurologists put it. If you ask your brain to learn, it will learn. And it may speed up in the process.
To keep your brain young and supple, you can do one of a million new activities that challenge and excite you: playing Ping-Pong or contract bridge, doing jigsaw puzzles, learning a new language or the tango, taking accordion lessons, building a kit airplane, mastering bonsai technique, discovering the subtleties of beer-brewing and, sure, relearning differential calculus. Anything that closely engages your focus and is strongly rewarding will kick your brain into learning mode and necessarily notch it up.
4. Stay Calm
So you may be saying to yourself, I have to sign up right now for Swahili and calculus and accordion lessons before my brain withers away! Stop! Breathe. Relax. Good.
While challenging your brain is very important, remaining calm is equally so. Stress is bad for your brain cells. Stress disturbs cognitive processes such as learning and memory and consequently limits the quality of human life. One example is a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is a primary locus of memory formation, but which can be seriously debilitated by chronic stress.
5. Give It a Rest
Perhaps the most extreme example of the mental power of staying calm is the creative benefit of sleep. Next time you’re working on a complex problem it really pays to “sleep on it.”
Researchers at Harvard Medical School, in a study involving math problems, found that a good night’s rest doubled participants’ chances of finding a creative solution to the problems the next day. The sleeping brain, they theorize, is vastly capable of synthesizing complex information.
6. Laugh a Little
Humor stimulates the parts of our brain that use the “feel good” chemical messenger dopamine. That puts laughter in the category of activities you want to do over and over again, such as eating chocolate or having sex. Laughter is pleasurable, perhaps even “addictive,” to the brain. But can humor make us smarter? The jury is still out and more studies are needed, but the initial results are encouraging.
7. Get Better With Age
In our youth-obsessed culture some things still require time and the natural “aging” process like the wisdom and judgment of older people! Scientists are starting to understand how wisdom works on a neurological level.
As you age, you have recorded in your brain millions and millions of little social scenarios and facts that you can call upon at any time and you are also a much better synthesizer and integrator of that information. Older people are better at solving problems, because they have more mental information to draw upon than younger people do. It’s nice to know some things get better with age.
Approximately two-thirds of adults in the United States will begin to develop atherosclerosis — plaque buildup in the heart’s arteries — before they reach age 35, the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association reports. Atherosclerosis is an underlying cause of leading killers, including heart disease and stroke. Calcium may play a role in the development and progression of atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a buildup of fatty plaque on the arteries that supply your heart with blood. In Greek, atherosclerosis literally means “hard paste,” according to the American Heart Association. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include obesity, physical inactivity, a high saturated and trans-fat-rich diet, tobacco use and old age. If atherosclerosis is allowed to progress, it can lead to serious medical conditions such as blood clots and heart attacks. Like many nutrients, calcium can influence atherosclerosis.
A study published in the July 2010 “British Medical Journal” investigated the link between calcium supplementation and the risk of heart attacks in a group of more than 11, 000 volunteers. The researchers found that supplementing with calcium increased risk of a heart attack by approximately 30 percent. They found no link between calcium intake and stroke. Another study published in the February 2008 “British Medical Journal” found that taking calcium supplements boosted heart attack risk in a group of older women.
Calcium is a component of arterial plaque. Supplementing with calcium or a high intake of calcium-rich foods can increase blood calcium, which may increase the formation of plaque. Additionally, high calcium intakes can cause abnormalities of the thyroid, particularly primary hyperparathyroidism. Individuals with primary hyperparathyroidism are at heightened risk of heart disease, according to the 2010 “British Medical Journal” study.
While implicated as an atherosclerosis risk factor, calcium is just one piece of the atherosclerosis puzzle. You can further decrease your atherosclerosis risk by exercising regularly, eating a heart-healthy diet and maintaining a healthy body weight.
The Calcium Controversy Continues: Does calcium really do what you think it does?
For several years now, research has been showing that calcium supplements don’t work the way you think.
For example, Americans are the highest consumers of calcium products and supplements world-wide, earning the calcium supplement industry a whopping $2 billion dollars in revenue. Buy, Americans also have one of the highest rates of weak bones, low bone density and osteoporosis in the world.
Obviously, something doesn’t make sense here. Scientific research and biological truths have been overshadowed, not only leaving the public operating in the medical dark ages, but also a lot of the doctors in the medical community.
Some Basic Bone Biology
Calcium is one of the main minerals that make up your bones, and is a major player in organ and nerve functions. If these organs need more calcium than what your body’s getting, they’ll steal what they need from your bones. If this continues, it can eventually leave your bones depleted, lower in density, and could lead to osteoporosis. Here’s where many doctors whip out the nearest calcium pill bottle and hand it over to their patients. But calcium is NOT the only mineral in the picture here. Bones are made up of dozens of minerals. Exclusively focusing on calcium is getting us into serious trouble; it’s actually worsening bone density and increasing rates of osteoporosis.
An infamous Harvard study, that followed 78,000 women for 12 years, found that the women consuming the most calcium were 45% more likely to break a bone than the women consuming the least amount of calcium! The Women’s Health Initiative, that followed 36,282 post-menopausal women’s use of calcium over a period of 7 years, found that the calcium-users in the group experienced no reduction in hip fractures when compared to the women not taking calcium – but they certainly experienced an increase risk of kidney stones!
Here’s another clincher – insufficient dietary consumption of calcium isn’t even the leading cause of osteoporosis. More common causes include estrogen deficiency, parathyroid and growth hormone imbalances, thyroid conditions, insufficient magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, or vitamin K, medications, chronic illnesses, over-consumption of alcohol and cigarettes, etc. All of these situations can lead to weakened bones because they affect the way your body uses calcium; this means that the majority of risk factors for osteoporosis have little to do with the actual amount of dietary calcium you’re getting.
Calcium Mega-Dosing is Not the Answer
So where is all that extra calcium going? It starts getting deposited all over your body, hardening and blocking up essential pathways where it could lead to extremely serious health conditions. These include:
- Heart Disease & Atherosclerosis
- Dental Plaque & Gum Disease
- Obesity & Diabetes
- Breast Cancer & Cysts
- Kidney stones
- Stiff joints, bone spurs and Osteoarthritis
- Colon Cancer & Crohn’s Disease
- Ovarian Cysts
A study, published in the scientific journal Heart, followed 24,000 subjects over 11 years and found that calcium supplement takers were actually 86% more likely to have a heart attack.
And is this really so surprising? Just take a look at how hard water – water high in calcium – affects your shower heads and pipes. Slowly scaling up your tub, it thickens and hardens in the pipes, eventually clogging up the water stream through your shower head to an annoyingly reduced, bare-minimum trickle. Calcium deposits in your arteries behave the same way. The only difference is, instead of leaving you with a plumbing problem, they could be leading you to a full-fledged heart attack.
But don’t stop there – keep looking at the real world. Have the citizens of Japan and China – who consume less than one third of the calcium us North Americans are consuming – crumpled into heaps of broken bones and osteoporosis? Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Japanese experience half the fractures that Americans do, and the Chinese have even lower rates. Even the British population has 40% fewer fractures than we do.
The Bare-Bones Truth
The current research is indisputable – blasting your body with high doses of calcium supplements has demonstrated little benefit. In fact, it may be doing you more harm than good.
For the most part, North Americans are getting more than enough calcium from food and natural sources, and ramping up the volume to artificial doses that far exceed anything you’d find in nature not only makes little practical sense, but is also having disastrous effects on us. The evidence is all there in front of us.
This doesn’t mean you should throw your hands up in the air and become complacent about your bone health. But there are tons of other, more natural approaches you can take to protect yourself from weak bones and bone disease. These include: Performing weight bearing exercises and eating a low acid diet high in vegetables.
There are also a number of natural products that help strengthen bones without throwing the rest of your body out of balance. If you’d like some more information about them, feel free to watch my video.
At the end of the day, your health is in your hands. So make your choices wisely.