5 easy and effective ways to boost your energy

Battery With Energy Progress Bar Loading

Have you ever feel like the Energizer Bunny with a weak battery? In the mid-afternoon you already feeling you are having such a long day.

Here are some tips from Harvard medical Publications, to battle against fatigue. Presuming you do not have medical conditions for persistent fatigue.

Pace yourself. Instead of burning though all your battery life in two hours, spread it out between morning tasks, afternoon tasks, and evening activities — with rest and meals in between. Consider these strategies to get the most mileage from your battery.

Take a walk or a nap. A short power nap can restore energy, but if you struggle to get enough sleep at night, napping can make insomnia worse. Rather than take a siesta, get moving. Get up and walk around the block, or just move around. If you are not an insomniac, though, enjoy that 20- to 30-minute power nap.

Skip most supplements. There is no evidence that energy-boosting or “anti-aging” supplements work. In particular:

  • DHEA. There is absolutely no evidence that that DHEA provides any benefit. And you especially shouldn’t be buying it from ads in the back of a magazine, because you don’t know what’s in it.
  • Iron. Iron is only beneficial if you are clearly deficient, which a doctor can check with a blood test. Unless you are low in iron, you don’t need to take it, and getting too much iron can be harmful.
  • B vitamins. It is true that B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, B12) help the body convert food into the form of energy that cells can burn, but it’s a myth that taking in more B vitamins supercharges your cells.

Eat long-lasting fuel. Your body burns through sugars and highly processed carbohydrates, like white bread, white rice, or prepared bakery goods, more rapidly than protein and the carbohydrates in whole grains. Instead, try yogurt with a sprinkling of nuts, raisins, and honey. Your body will take in the carb-fiber-protein mix more gradually. To really sustain yourself over the course of the day, eat a breakfast and a lunch that include complex carbohydrates and protein.

Don’t skip meals. It’s better to evenly space your meals out so your body gets the nourishment it needs all through the day.

original article: Want more energy? Here’s what really helps

Ibuprofen inducing kidney damage

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A new study published in the July 2017 edition of Emergency Medicine Journal —— Ibuprofen versus placebo effect on acute kidney injury in ultramarathons: a randomised controlled trial

The findings are:

  • Kidney injury was quite common. About 44% of these ultramarathoners experienced significantly reduced kidney function by the end of the race.
  • Kidney injury was more common among those taking ibuprofen. Just over half of the NSAID-takers had reduced kidney function, while about one-third of those in the placebo group did. Despite these findings, the differences in rates of kidney injury were not statistically significant.
  • The severity of kidney injury was greater in the ibuprofen group.
  • A faster finish and greater weight loss during the race (likely due to greater dehydration) increased the likelihood of kidney injury.

Ibuprofen and related medications (called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs) are used for a number of conditions, including arthritis, back pain, and headache.

More than a dozen different NSAIDs are available, including naproxen (as in Naprosyn or Aleve), celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren) and indomethacin (Indocin). Aspirin is also an NSAID, though it is usually taken in small doses for its blood thinning effects (to prevent heart attack or stroke) rather than for pain.

The safety profile of NSAIDs is generally quite good,  but still they can cause trouble.

  • Upset stomach
  • intestinal bleeding
  • cardiovascular problems
  • The risk of heart attack may be increased among users of NSAIDs, especially among those at increased risk (such as those who have had a previous heart attack).
  • Plus, kidney injury.

So what?

If you are taking an NSAID regularly, you should be having regular blood monitoring, including measures of kidney function. And if you have significant kidney disease, you should probably avoid non-aspirin NSAIDs altogether. Ask your doctor whether you are a good candidate for NSAID use. They can be quite helpful, and many of their side effects can be avoided with proper precautions.

from Harvard Health Publications —— Is it safe to take ibuprofen for the aches and pains of exercise?

Is gluten-free diet necessary for you or not?

Gluten Free

Gluten is found in many grains like wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease can’t tolerate gluten, not even small amounts. Gluten triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine. This can interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food, cause many symptoms. A related condition called gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can generate symptoms similar to celiac disease but without the intestinal damage.

Gluten-free foods now show up everywhere. An increasing number of people have been switching to gluten-free diets to lose weight, boost energy, treat autism, or generally feel healthier.

Is it because there has been a sudden rise in the number of people with celiac disease? Or is it just the latest diet craze that has turned into a multi-billion-dollar business?

Scientists at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School wanted to find out, so they looked at data on 22,278 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2009 to 2014. They found that while the prevalence of celiac disease remained fairly stable over those five years, the number of people who followed a gluten-free diet without having celiac disease more than tripled.

That means that many people who don’t carry the diagnosis of celiac disease are buying gluten-free products. Is is necessary?

Celiac disease can be identified with a blood test for the presence of antibodies against a protein called tissue transglutaminase. A biopsy of the intestine confirms the diagnosis.

Avoiding gluten means more than giving up traditional breads, cereals, pasta, pizza, and beer. Gluten also lurks in many other products, including frozen vegetables in sauces, soy sauce, some foods made with “natural flavorings,” vitamin and mineral supplements, some medications, and even toothpaste. This makes following a gluten-free diet extremely challenging.

If you’re determined to go gluten free, it’s important to know that it can set you up for some nutritional deficiencies. Fortified breads and cereals is a major source of B vitamins and dietary fiber. Taking a gluten-free multivitamin-multimineral supplement is a good idea for anyone trying to avoid gluten.

If you think you might have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it’s best to see a doctor before you go gluten free. Once a person has avoided gluten for a while, it becomes difficult to establish if he or she has celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or neither.

Source: Going gluten-free just because? Here’s what you need to know —— Holly StrawbridgeFormer Editor, Harvard Health

To gluten or not to gluten? —— Mallika Marshall, MDContributing Editor

 

 

Feeling okay about feeling bad is good for your mental health

Feeling okay about feeling bad is good for your mental health

A unique viewpoint from David R. Topor, PhD, MS-HPEd, Contributor, Harvard Health Blog. 

Face and accept your emotions and thoughts, and then get over them, not deny or judge them. 

When you have a negative emotion, are you upset or disappointed in yourself? Do you feel “bad” or “guilty” about this emotion? If so, you may be at risk for poorer longer-term psychological health.

A study in the July 2017 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology looked at the psychological health of people who accept, rather than negatively judge, their emotional experiences. Researchers found that accepting these experiences led to fewer negative emotions when confronted with daily stressors.

The article reported on three separate, but related, studies that explored how accepting negative emotions, rather than reacting to them, affects a person’s psychological health.

The first study aimed to see whether accepting emotions was associated with greater psychological health, and if this association was moderated by several demographic variables. Undergraduate students at the University of California at Berkley completed evaluations to assess acceptance, stress level, and psychological health. The researchers found that accepting mental health experiences was associated with greater psychological health across a range of demographic variables including gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Further, results indicated that the benefits to psychological health were associated with accepting the emotions associated with a negative event, rather than the situation that triggered those emotions.

In the second study, the authors examined a potential explanation for how the tendency to accept negative emotions is related to psychological health. They explored whether accepting one’s mental experiences helps to decrease negative emotions when experiencing stressors. A consistent reduction in negative emotions should, in time, improve overall psychological health.

Again, a group of undergraduates completed questionnaires related to acceptance and to their emotional responses to a stressful task completed in the lab. Results indicated that by habitually accepting emotions and thoughts, people experienced a lower degree of negative emotion when in stressful situations.

Finally, the authors wanted to see if these results held up for people other than college students. They followed people in a Denver community for a six-month period. These study volunteers completed measures of acceptance, psychological health, and stress, and kept nightly diaries for two weeks identifying the degree of negative emotion felt when experiencing stressors that day.

Results indicated that people who habitually accept their emotional experiences were more likely to report greater psychological health six months later. This was true regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Further, people who accepted these emotions were less likely to respond negatively to stressors. That is, people who routinely accept their emotions and thoughts when under stress, experience less daily negative emotion during these times. This in turn is associated with increased psychological health six months later.

Taken together, these three studies highlight the benefits of accepting emotions and thoughts, rather than judging them, on psychological health. It seems like common sense. When a stressful situation causes negative emotions, accepting feelings of frustration or upset — rather than trying to pretend you’re not upset, or beating yourself up for feeling this way — reduces guilt and negative self-image. Over time, this will in turn lead to increased psychological health.

Origional article: Feeling okay about feeling bad is good for your mental health.

Right brain/left brain myth?

Left and right side of the brain, logic and creativity, vector

Today, we would like to share an interesting article written by Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications. 

If you’re like me, you learned that about 90% of people are right-handed and much of the reason is genetic. And that’s true, although it remains a mystery why our genetic evolution led to so many more righties than lefties).

But for certain tasks, handedness can be “overcome.” For example, right-handed kids learning to play tennis, golf, or baseball can become successful hitting from “the other side.” It may be more a matter of how they are taught and what gets reinforced than about a hard-wired preference for one hand or the other.

According to new research, the idea of people being “left-brained” or “right-brained” may also be less fixed than we’d thought.

Recognize yourself?

According to conventional wisdom, people tend to have a personality, thinking style, or way of doing things that is either right-brained or left-brained.

Those who are right-brained are supposed to be intuitive and creative free thinkers. They are “qualitative,” big-picture thinkers who experience the world in terms that are descriptive or subjective. For example, “The skies are gray and menacing; I wonder if it’s going to rain?”

Meanwhile, left-brained people tend to be more quantitative and analytical. They pay attention to details and are ruled by logic. Their view of the weather is more likely, “The forecast said there was only a 30% chance of rain but those cumulonimbus clouds will probably bring thunder as well as rain.”

A popular book first published in 1979, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, extends this concept. It suggests that regardless of how your brain is wired, getting in touch with your “right brain” will help you see — and draw — things differently.

These notions of “left and right brain-ness” are widespread and widely accepted. But they may also be wrong.

Location matters

There is truth to the idea that some brain functions reside more on one side of the brain than the other. We know this in part from what is lost when a stroke affects a particular part of the brain. For example, it has long been thought that, in most people, control of language resides in the left side of the brain. And there are areas of the right half the brain that control movement of the left arm and leg (and vice versa). Damage to the front part of the brain is linked with reduced motivation, difficulty planning, and impaired creativity. Meanwhile, the back of the brain (the occipital cortex) integrates visual information from the eye. Damage to this area can cause partial or complete blindness. These are just a few examples of how certain parts of the brain appear responsible for specific functions. So, location does matter.

But for more individual personality traits, such as creativity or a tendency toward the rational rather than the intuitive, there has been little or no evidence supporting a residence in one area of the brain. In fact, if you performed a CT scan, MRI scan, or even an autopsy on the brain of a mathematician and compared it to the brain of an artist, it’s unlikely you’d find much difference. And if you did the same for 1,000 mathematicians and artists, it’s unlikely that any clear pattern of difference in brain structure would emerge.

The right-brain/left brain myth?

So, is the idea of “thinking with the left side of your brain” a myth? Maybe. But, the lack of proof does not prove the opposite. For people living thousands of years ago, an inability to prove the earth was round did not prove the earth was flat!

But, the evidence discounting the left/right brain concept is accumulating. According to a 2013 study from the University of Utah, brain scans demonstrate that activity is similar on both sides of the brain regardless of one’s personality.

They looked at the brain scans of more than 1,000 young people between the ages of 7 and 29 and divided different areas of the brain into 7,000 regions to determine whether one side of the brain was more active or connected than the other side. No evidence of “sidedness” was found. The authors concluded that the notion of some people being more left-brained or right-brained is more a figure of speech than an anatomically accurate description.

The bottom line

If you’ve always thought of yourself as a “numbers person” or a creative sort, this research doesn’t change anything. But it’s probably inaccurate to link these traits to one side of your brain. We still don’t know a lot about what determines individual personality; but it seems unlikely that it’s the dominance of one side of the brain or the other that matters.

original article: Right brain/left brain, right? —— From Harvard Health Publications

Get SMART about your goals to stay focused and on track at any age

Smart Goal 22

Today, we would like to share a brilliant article written by Matthew SolanExecutive Editor, Harvard Men’s Health Watch. 

When you were younger, life revolved around goals: college degree, new job, traveling to a foreign country, running a marathon. Having your eyes (and mind) on a prize kept you motivated and engaged.

But as you age that focus tends to wane. What’s left to accomplish? Is it even worth striving for something anymore? Yet you need goals as you age more than ever.

“Goals are crucial to keeping your mental and physical skills sharp,” says Susan Flashner-Fineman, a coach at the Vitality 360 Wellness Coaching Program at Harvard-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife. “You want your remaining years to be good ones, so what do you want them to look like? Goal setting can help you get there.”

A good way to establish new goals is to make them SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. The SMART approach ensures you’ve defined your goals clearly and can attain them. Here is how it breaks down.

  • Specific: Goals need to be clear, detailed, and connected to a meaningful outcome. Instead of “I want to be more active,” try, “I will exercise 30 minutes, five days a week so I can have the strength and stamina to travel to a new country.”
  • Measurable: If you have no way to measure a goal, it’s tough to know when you’ve met it. “I’m going to lose weight” works better with a measurable outcome, such as “I’m going to lose 15 pounds by my birthday in three months.”
  • Achievable: Avoid overly grand goals. “They should be based on what you realistically can do now, and not when you were younger,” says Flashner-Fineman. “If you used to be able to walk five miles without fatigue and now can only do a mile, lower your expectations with a goal of walking three miles without fatigue.”
  • Relevant: Is your goal important to your life right now? “You don’t want to set goals just to have a goal,” says Flashner-Fineman. “It needs to have a purpose, or you may find it difficult to stick with.” For instance, do you want to learn a language because it sounds fun, or do you want to connect with your family’s history or improve your cognitive health?
  • Timely: Is your goal something that you can take on right now — or is it best for later? Also, is the time frame suitable? You probably won’t be able to safely lose 20 pounds in three weeks or master a new skill in a few months. Make sure you give yourself adequate time.

Goal setting also can be a wonderful journey of self-discovery, says Flashner-Fineman. “You might abandon your initial goal or never quite reach it, and that’s just fine. Consider it a learning experience, and try again. Or you may realize that it wasn’t what you really wanted to do and venture into a new direction.”

4 goal-setting tips

  1. Break big goals into smaller ones. They won’t feel so daunting, and you’ll be able to celebrate success along the way. For example, if you want to write your memoirs, focus first on attending a writing class or researching your family history.
  2. Reward yourself. Positive feedback is itself a reward, so share your accomplishments with friends and family or reward yourself with purchases related to your goal.
  3. Change your approach to challenges. For instance, if you want to learn to paint, but don’t think you can because you can’t see well, or can’t hold a small brush, then perhaps switch to another art form that’s better suited to you physically, like sculpting.
  4. Use visual reminders. Keep a photo related to your goal in constant view, like a vacation destination or the sign-up form for a 5K race.

original article: Get SMART about your goals to stay focused and on track at any age          —— From Harvard Health Publications

 

What to do when medication makes you constipated

constipation

Many medications can contribute to constipation, including but are not limited to the following:

  • Antidepressants -“A lot of antidepressants that treat the nerve endings in the brain also affect nerve endings in the gut. That can lead to significant side effects,” says Dr. Braden Kuo, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Opioids -“The narcotic effect can cause nerves in the gut to ‘sleep,’ inhibiting movement,” explains Dr. Kuo.
  • Calcium-channel blockers – relax the smooth muscles in blood vessels to lower blood pressure, also relax the muscles in the gut and may cause constipation.
  • Anticholinergics – block the effects of acetylcholine, a chemical that helps the muscles move. Less movement in the gut can lead to constipation.

Older adults can be more susceptible to the constipation side effect of medications because of a digestive system that’s off balance.

Constipation symptoms include 

  • having bowel movements too infrequently (typically fewer than three times a week);
  • having hard or small, lumpy stools;
  • having stools that are hard to pass;
  • straining;
  • having painful bowel movements;
  • having the sensation of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement.

What you can do

  • Adding more fiber to your diet can ease constipation.
  • using a fiber supplement with psyllium seed or methylcellulose.
  • Long-term treatment options: over-the-counter remedies such as polyethylene glycol 3350 (Miralax),  prescription medications such as linaclotide (Linzess).

Harvard Health Letter

Modern acupuncture is linked to constipation relieft.

Acupuncture for Chronic Severe Functional ConstipationA Randomized Trial 

by Annals of Internal Medicine