Category Archives: Heart & Vascular Health

Men’s Health Month Ends BUT Men’s Health Challenges Persist

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Happy father and son isolated on white backgroundA lot of men are “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of guys and believe they can fix anything by themselves. This is true many times in life. But when it comes to health conditions, it could be a dangerous misconception.

Today, I’m going to highlight how men’s masculinity or “toughness” and emotional restraint may impede them from seeking medical or professional help, consequently having a negative or even grave effect on their health.

The Cover-Ups & Attitude

Sometimes, those “annoying” symptoms (e.g., snoring, bad breath, enlarged prostate, and unexplained weight gain or loss) show up and even persist; but a lot of guys would rather tough it out or put off a visit to the doctor with various excuses. I get that. But do you know – a quiet health crisis may be underway?

How about in the workplace? Masculinity may influence workplace health and safety particularly in male-dominated skilled trades as injured workers return to work too early and “tough” workers then reinforce dominant masculine norms. Results of a joint study from the University of Toronto showed, “A desire to be viewed as a strong, responsible, resilient worker may intersect with concerns about job loss, to influence participants’ decisions to not report safety issues and workplace accidents, to not disclose post-injury work challenges, and to not request workplace supports” (Stergiou-Kita et al., Work; 2016). Certainly, institutional identification and practices play a role too.

How about social or psychosocial beliefs? Some folks believe that cancer will inevitably lead to death (so-called cancer fatalism). A study by Mitchell et al. (Res. Aging; 2016) reported that among 1,666 African American males enrolled in Medicare, 76.5% felt helpless, 44.2% confused, and 40.7% pessimistic about the ability to prevent cancer. Despite a couple of limitations, the study reveals a challenging factor for cancer prevention and screening detection. Important to note, although African American males remain at greatest risk for dying from prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers compared to men of other races, early detection and treatment save lives.

The Facts & Evidence

Men are more vulnerable to various disorders at all ages across the lifespan. Also, men’s average life expectancy stays largely behind that of women’s. Primary physical health risks that are leading causes of death or are burdens for men include cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), cancer (especially prostate and lung cancer), diabetes, depression, and suicide. Fortunately, many of the top causes of death are preventable and can be treated, if found early.

Finally, here is a list of Strategic Actions you or your loved ones can take for men’s health:

  • Check out critical numbers such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar; keep them in normal ranges.
  • Schedule recommended screenings for prostate and colon cancer, and a routine testicle exam.
  • Schedule a routine medical care or physical examination.
  • Ladies, accompany your man to his doctor visit. This can be a great help with eliminating potential communication barrier(s) to disclosing a real problem or filling in a missing note.
  • Keep mentally active; for example, take new classes, play brain games, or learn something new.
  • Forge a close relationship with a circle of friends.
  • Never ignore some seemingly common symptoms such as snoring, bad breath, and enlarged prostate. Take note of it. If the problem persists, consult your physician to rule out any medical conditions.
  • Consult professional help if you (or your man) have symptoms of depression.

In summary, to prevent a quiet health crisis in men, we all need to step in by advancing men’s mental health, strengthening men’s workplace safety, and caring about men’s overall well-being, in addition to monitoring men’s physical health.

Saving His life—men’s lives—is one of the best things to do throughout the year!

Image credit: www.communitycarechemist.com.au/category/mens-health

Cheering You on to Immune-beneficial Exercises

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Exercise n Immune_Trainer.aeWe are at the beginning of March. If you made a New Year’s resolution about health and have made some progress, cheers! If you don’t have a resolution or it fell off the wagon by the end of February, it’s time to get back on track. I’m here to help you by breaking down how a few types of exercise may boost your immune function.

Note that we are not talking about strenuous physical exercise (e.g., an Ironman race) performed by well-trained athletes. We will examine doable exercises for ordinary folks like you and me. The key is that you need to choose types of exercise that are appropriate for your particular situation.

Let’s start with moderate regular exercises.

This can be walking 20-30 minutes a day, yoga or pilates, stretching, dancing, and even badminton—physical activities that can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Moderate, regular physical exercise is considered to be associated with many health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, reduced weight gain, improved glucose tolerance, better sleep, and increased immunity to fight infection.

A few studies by the Kagawa group showed that walking at a forest park increased human “natural killer” cell activity and the level of anti-cancer proteins, with the effect lasting at least seven days. Because “natural killer” cells are a part of the immune response to cancer, the research provided an intriguing perspective despite the small samplings of human subjects in the studies.

Resistance exercise (weight training)

Resistance training ranges from push-ups and squats to weight lifting and weight machines in order to build strength. Maximal resistance exercise increases the acute immune response, which is measured by changes in circulating levels of leukocytes and inflammatory molecules (i.e. cytokines).

To avoid impairing the immune system, allow your body and your immune system the time to recover. For instance, give your muscles 48-72 hours to rest between resistance trainings.

Endurance exercise (aerobic, cardio training)

Aerobic exercise can stimulate the immune system. At the cellular level, research reveals that acute aerobic exercise greatly enhances a cellular signaling protein (G protein-coupled receptor kinase 2) that is involved in the regulation of hypertension and heart failure. The protein also regulates an inflammatory response, measured by activities of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (e.g. lymphocytes, a critical component of immune system), which was also stimulated by the aerobic exercise.

In a human study, eight weeks of endurance exercise also changed the blood levels of some inflammatory cytokines in a beneficial way in an elderly population and people with certain inflammatory diseases. In contrast, poor exercise capacity in patients even without heart failure is independently associated with markers of chronic inflammation, which may lead to infections following surgery.

Overall, how exercises improve immune function can be explained in the following ways: 1) Exercise may facilitate to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, which may help prevent upper respiratory tract infection (e.g. cold). 2) Exercise may make disease-fighting antibodies and immune system cells circulate faster so that they could detect illnesses earlier. And 3) Exercise may reduce the release of stress-related hormones, by which the power of immunity is enhanced and the chance of illness, lowered.

Study note:

The issue of exercise and its benefits in regard to alteration of the immune system is a complex one and a matter of delicate balance. It depends on whether the population is healthy or diseased, and even within unhealthy groups, the effect on cancer patients may differ from that on diabetic individuals. It also depends on types and workloads of exercise, parameters measured (e.g., hormonal, chemical factors, or proteins), transient versus sustained change, age groups studied, size of sampling, time-bound periods, and other factors.

To sum up –

Despite the fact that too much exercise can have a contrary effect and reduce immunity, exercises in various proper forms at all ages are AAA (triple A) – Actionable, Advantageous, and Awesome!! Therefore, keep doing exercise or getting more physically active one day at a time, and you’ll reap the benefits toward transforming your health and life.

 

Image credit: www.trainer.ae

Care for Deadly Diseases: 10 Strategies to Help You Embrace Your Role

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Did you know …

Patient_involve_scripps.orgMore than 560,000 Americans die from cancer each year – more than 1,500 Americans each day.

More than 2,150 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day – 1 death every 40 seconds.

Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer from a new or recurrent stroke annually – someone has a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every 4 minutes.

Imagine if you or your loved one had one of these deadly diseases, what kind of care and outcome would you desire?

The Good news is that much effort has been shifting to patient-centered care, with its focus on individual needs. This is different from evidence-based practice that tends to focus on populations. Therefore, high-quality care and a good outcome must now be defined in terms of what is meaningful and valuable to the individual patient.

The Institute of Medicine has identified six areas for quality of care: safety, effectiveness, efficiency, patient-centered care, timely care, and equitable care. As a patient, you are the center of care. That means you need to take an active role in prevention and get involved in your care.

Because we’ve previously covered a great deal about prevention, today I’ll touch on a patient’s role in a high-quality care. And these strategies can extend to many other diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity and rare diseases.

Here are 10 strategies for getting involved in your healthcare:

1.      Know your critical numbers and results of your screening tests.

These important results include checks for blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, mammogram, colonoscopy, bone density scan, and even genetic analysis. These results are valuable for your primary care doctor too.

2.      Tell your story.

Inform the doctor what’s going on with you, in addition to simply answering probing questions from the doctor. Some details of your pain or discomfort may shed light for a correct diagnosis.

3.      Obtain a good primary doctor and a specialist.

Find doctors who have not only reputable professional expertise but also compassion, and who take time to listen to you instead of rushing through routines.

4.      Always have a list of questions in hand when visiting your physician or specialist.

In case you don’t know where to start, WebMD provides essential questions about different conditions. You can also use Question Builder (by Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality) to generate your own questions at http://www.ahrq.gov/apps/qb/  – an excellent tool!

During your visit, if you don’t understand why a particular question is relevant to your situation, ask about it or let a family member do so. You may find that the doctor is only asking the question out of routine. Conversely, you may find out that issues you ignored might actually be very important to your case.

5.      Avoid medical errors, misdiagnoses, and unnecessary tests.

Hospital infections and medical errors kill 400 people each day. So, take safety initiatives to avoid being a victim. Communicate with your doctor if you have questions or concerns. Understand why your procedures or medications are necessary, and understand what will happen if you need surgery. Always keep with you a list of medications you are taking.

6.      Personalized medicine starts with individuals and reflects the patient’s needs, preferences and values.

Let’s face it – different cancers need different treatments; likewise, different patients have different needs. Personalized medicine is characterized as the right treatment for the right person at the right time. It may also encompass a biological therapy that targets specific cells or an interactive approach that requires patients and their physicians to develop customized diet plans and exercise regimes or change unhealthful habits. Remember, you play a key role in transforming your health. So make sure to have proper preventative care.

7.      Be vigilant for new symptoms or concerns, e.g., the occurrence of fever, fall, pain, or swelling.  If you suffer from a serious chronic illness like cancer and have a weak immune system, you are very vulnerable to any infections or inflammations that may worsen your situation. So, take care of your immunizations, and of food and hand hygiene.

8.      Be proactive and active.

This includes choosing a cost-effective health insurance plan and understanding your coverage. It could also be checking out where the nearest Primary Stroke Center is in town in case of a stroke emergency, because time is critical for surviving a stroke! Or volunteer to enroll a clinical trial.

9.      Self-educate, but be mindful of information sources and respect the opinions of your medical team.

Reliable and accurate medical advice can be difficult to determine sometimes on the Internet. Medical issues can involve life and death! Respect and trust your physicians, because as in life, sometimes what you think you want may not be what you really need. For instance, maybe what you want is an unnecessary drug, but what you really need is the right information or modification of your behavior. So, don’t measure good care by merely meeting your desires.

10.  Get family and friends involved.

Remember: Your health care is teamwork. Although you need to take ownership and get in the “driver’s seat,” you are not alone; your physicians, care professionals and care givers, the healthcare system, and your loved ones all take the ride with you.

Finally, being empowered with these principles and embracing your active role will facilitate the high-quality, patient-centered care that your medical professionals strive for. And they will help you achieve a desirable clinical outcome, leading to better health and more happiness for you and your family.

 

Image credit: scripps.org

How do you integrate vascular health and cancer prevention?

PAD_leg artery_by CDCBy Hui Xie-Zukauskas

For those who may be unaware of what cancer and heart disease share in common, today I wish to remind you of why I talk about cardiovascular diseases. When I started this website, with its focus on cancer prevention, I had a well thought-out approach to maximize your benefits for heart health as well. To put it simply, there are many practices that will help you “kill two birds with one stone”—both cancer and heart disease.

So today, let me elaborate on cardiovascular risk factors that a cancer-prevention lifestyle can help allay.

First, let me ask you, Do you know if you have peripheral vascular diseases (PVD) or not? About 20 million of people in the United States are suffering from PVD, yet they don’t even know it. What does that have to do with cancer prevention? Please read on.

What is PVD, and what is PAD?

Almost everyone knows about atherosclerosis. Well, PVD is one of the major clinical complications of atherosclerosis. It affects blood vessels outside of the heart and brain, e.g. those of your body’s extremities.

When PVD only develops in the arteries, it is usually called peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which results in reduced blood flow to the lower extremities. PAD is predominantly caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in small arteries, resulting in the narrowing of those arteries, blocking blood flow from the heart to the legs. Consequently, the hallmark of PAD is extreme pain or painful cramping in the legs.

However, many folks with PAD experience no symptoms. That is why it is important to raise public awareness.

PAD and aging

PAD is neither a men’s nor a women’s disease—it is more of an aging disease. According to the NIH and CDC, one in every 20 Americans over age 50 has PAD, and approximately 12-20% of people older than age 60 have it. By age 80, 20-25% of Americans have PAD.

What are the risk factors for PAD?

So far, we have covered two already:

  •      Atherosclerosis
  •      Aging

Other risk factors include:

  •     Smoking
  •     Diabetes
  •     High blood pressure
  •     High cholesterol or abnormal cholesterol – too much “bad” LDL cholesterol and too little “good” HDL cholesterol
  •     Being overweight or obese
  •     Family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease (stroke, coronary artery disease, or PVD).
  •     Stress

What does learning about PAD have to do with cancer prevention?

The table below shows the risk factors that cancer and PAD have in common.

Risk Factors

Cancer

PAD

 Aging

 Tobacco use / Smoking

 Obesity

 Being physically inactive

 Inflammation

indirectly, because it’s linked to atherosclerosis

 Stress

 Diabetes

 Junk diet (high fats, high sugar, excessive salt)

may lead to other risk factors above

 Hormonal imbalance

Without distracting from today’s focus, I have addressed each of risk factors in previous CancerPreventionDaily Summer Health Education Series, and you can learn more by visiting CancerPreventionDaily.com

What’s the take-away message?

  1. PAD is under-diagnosed and lacking in public awareness, yet its incidence increases with age disturbingly.
  2. Make a cancer-prevention lifestyle your priority. Lifestyle modification is one of the keys to controlling and preventing PAD as well as cancer.
  3. Take action using the “Five Seconds Rule”—meaning that whether you consult with your physician or change one unhealthy lifestyle habit, take one small step at a time and do it now!

 

Image credit: CDC

Take Actions and Steps to Reduce Air Pollution

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Air pollution full_1358341713BillBishopjan10-14Beijing1Are you concerned or scared about breathing in smoggy, hazy air in some big cities in China? Do you really consider the air in the United State is dirt-free? This post helps you realize the pressing need to control air pollution.

Air pollution has become the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, linked to around 7 millionor nearly one in eight deaths in 2012” – according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Generally speaking, there are two types of air pollution. Outdoor pollution comes from car exhaust fumes, industrial fumes and coal-burning, while indoor pollution comes from tobacco smoking, wood or coal stoves, and other sources from paint fumes, hair spray, air fresheners, cleaners to mold and dust.

Most people are well aware of lung diseases and lung cancer as major health risks of air pollution. Actually, air pollution has also been associated with deaths due to cardiovascular causes; particularly, a big indoor pollution-related killer is stroke. Moreover, WHO’s cancer agency classified air pollution as a carcinogen last year.

Although the government should invest in research and technology renovation to use renewable and non-polluting energy sources, we all can contribute our own part to promoting clear air and a healthy environment. Here are 12 things you can do:

  1. Plant trees.
  2. Support mass transit system or bike to reduce the use of single-passenger vehicles.
  3. Check and maintain your car to ensure minimal or lower exhaust fumes.
  4. Keep your lawn well-maintained, and try to use non-gasoline-powered landscaping and gardening equipment.
  5. Recycle, recycle and recycle to conserve energy and reduce production emissions.
  6. Do chemical-free house cleaning; avoid using chemical pesticides and fertilizers in your yard or garden.
  7. Reduce paper documents, and avoid junk mail.
  8. Save electricity. Less electricity consumed means less power produced and fewer air pollutants resulting from burning of fossil fuels.
  9. Use energy-saving or energy-efficiency appliances and heating/cooling systems at home.
  10. Reduce landfills by taking care of waste treatment and taking responsibility for a green community.
  11. Change the air filters from time to time as recommended, vacuum often, and get fresh air frequently to minimize certain indoor pollutants.
  12. Go for local produce!

Remember: it’s important to quit tobacco smoking and test radon gas at home. Also, check out EPA site for more guidance.

Collectively, these small daily choices we make often impact our lives and earth in big ways in the long-term. These conscious practices and efforts can keep our air cleaner, our environment greener, and our bodies healthier.

 

Image credit: By http://www.eastasianrc.org/

Coffee or No Coffee: Is Coffee a Cardiovascular and Cancer Risk?

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

coffee-4-1-1418496-mDo you drink coffee? Are you a heavy coffee drinker? As for me, I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.

Some folks consider coffee the best thing ever on the planet, in contrast to those who see it as “black-brown water” and can pass it up. Well, let’s have an update on what’s in coffee and what it does to our bodies, with an emphasis on heart disease and cancer concerns.

What’s in coffee?

coffee-1084158-m_heartCoffee is a mixture of multiple chemicals. The main ingredient is caffeine, a so-called psycho-stimulant drug. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, alleviates fatigue, and increases mental alertness by blocking the effects of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine. Coffee also contains antioxidants and some vitamins and minerals that are health beneficial. However, cafestol and kahweol, found in unfiltered coffee, are cholesterol-raising substances.

Hmm, so far coffee seems not so bad overall, right?

Does coffee contribute to heart disease or cancer?

To date, coffee consumption has not been found to be associated with a significantly increased risk for cardiovascular disease. However, coffee consumption is associated with increases in several cardiovascular disease risk factors, including blood pressure and blood homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a common amino acid (one of the building blocks that make up proteins), and a high level of homocysteine in the blood is linked to early development of cardiovascular disease.

Most studies investigating the issue have showed no link between coffee consumption and cancer risk, but controversy exists. After analyzing 40 cohort studies on this subject, Yu et al. (BMC Cancer. 2011) suggest that coffee consumption may reduce total cancer incidence. Their analysis revealed that coffee drinking was associated with a reduced risk of bladder, breast, pharyngeal, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, hepatocellular, leukemic, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

How much coffee is too much?

For adults consuming moderate amounts of coffee (2-4 cups/day, providing a maximum of 300-400 mg/day of caffeine), there is little evidence of health risks; instead, there is some evidence of health benefits, including lowering the risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as Type-2 diabetes.

How much coffee intake is suitable can vary greatly among individuals, depending on

-          Age: Children, adolescents, and the elderly may be more vulnerable to coffee, particularly its adverse effects.

-          Current health condition: People with hypertension certainly should take precaution not to drink too much coffee.

-          How quickly you metabolize coffee. If you are sensitive to just a small amount of it, coffee may prompt unwanted or negative effects on you.

-          Pregnancy: If you are pregnant, be cautious and limit caffeine consumption to less than 300 mg/day (or <3 cups of coffee) to exclude any probability of spontaneous abortion or impaired fetal growth.

-          Medication(s) you take: Consult with your doctor about whether your prescription may negatively interact with caffeine, as some medications do.

-          Other issues: If you have difficulty sleeping at night, it may be best to stop drinking coffee after your morning cup, or at least have no more coffee after 2 pm.

Heavy daily caffeine consumption (i.e. more than 500 to 600 mg/day, equivalent to 4 to 7 cups of coffee) can cause insomnia, fast or irregular heartbeat, restlessness, muscle tremors, headache, and gastrointestinal problems.

Are there any alternatives to coffee?

Yes. If all you need from coffee is to wake you up and keep you going, here are some alternatives to coffee.

-          Tea, a healthier approach.

-          Chewing gum, as long as it’s not sugar-loaded.

-          Aromas around you.

-          A fan to cool the air.

In sum, taken as a whole, moderation is the key to coffee just like anything else. Although moderate coffee intake isn’t likely harmful, too much can clearly affect your health.

 

Image credits: By ChIandra4U and nkzs

How to Love Your Heart

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

pink-ribbon-1380887-mFebruary is the month we celebrate and show our love, whether it’s to our sweetheart, a favorite football team at the Super Bowl, or someone else we care about.

But don’t forget to love your own heart, because February is American Heart Month and we still face a sober reality – that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States.

You have only one heart. The following 8 practices can help you keep it healthy and young.

  1. Quit smoking. Never start smoking or using any other tobacco product if you are not a smoker. Tobacco smoke can harm not only anyone who smokes but also others who breathe it.
  2. Know your critical numbers. Get screened or tested for your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar. Don’t wait until any symptoms show up.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Your weight is one of the important risk factors for heart disease. You need to calculate your body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height). A BMI under 25 is healthy; a value between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher means obesity. There are several online resources you can use.
  4. Keep a heart-healthy diet. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and other plant-based food, along with a balance of lean meat, especially poultry and fish.
  5. Exercise, exercise, and exercise. Being physically active is doable and enjoyable, and it leads to many health benefits.
  6. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats; limit sugar and sodium/salt intake.
  7. Know your family history and other risk factors. While you cannot control your race, age, or family history, you do have control over your lifestyle and other important risk factors.
  8. Recognize common signals of heart trouble and do not ignore these warnings. Ask for a ride to a local hospital and get checked if you experience pain in your chest, back, shoulders or arms; shortness of breath; irregular heartbeat; or any other signs of heart trouble. Also be aware that the symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person.

Fortunately, lifestyle factors are mostly modifiable. Although it’s optimal to start building healthy habits and a healthy cardiovascular system at an early age, it’s never too late or too early to love your heart and safeguard it.

As a final point, the greater your risk for heart disease, the greater risk you likely have for cancer, because both diseases share several common risk factors. Protecting your heart can help you prevent cancer, which is a double-gain!

Let’s go RED, wear RED today, and spread the word!

 

Image credit: By Gioradi

10 Strategies to Keep a New Year’s Resolution: Staying Active

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Yoga-1199543-mDid you make any New Year’s health resolutions? I assume many people have by now. A new commitment to being healthy can mean different things to different people – quit smoking, lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, or something else that will make for a healthier lifestyle.

Keeping up with your New Year’s resolutions once they are made can be the hard part. Having an ambitious New Year’s resolution but then falling off the wagon can be like getting in the car and driving along without a roadmap, then ending nowhere you want to be.

Today, I want to help you achieve your health goals by making one important change – Become More Physically Active. The following 10 strategies show you how to stick to a New Year’s resolution of doing just that.

1.      Be clear why you are doing it.

Sedentary behavior is an important risk factor for cancer and other serious chronic diseases. Why is staying active important to you? Is it because of an effort to lose weight? A measure to prevent obesity, heart disease, and cancer? A way to boost energy? Or a therapy to reduce stress? Knowing why you are doing something means you will more likely stick to it.

Evening Jogger_4488221416_fe9be2eb7a_n2.      Set a realistic, attainable goal.

One physical activity guideline for adults is to aim for moderate exercise or activity 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  If you are rarely physically active, you may start with breaking it down to 10 minutes each time, 3 times throughout the day. You should choose activities that fit your abilities. If you cannot run, consider jogging or walking faster when you are going somewhere on foot.

3.      Set a time for it. Make it your priority.

If it’s hard for you to find time, do it the first thing in the morning before the rest of your day starts. Then you’ll feel good when you are done.

4.      Have a system and make it work.

It could be “walk 20 minutes a day, do it after dinner, repeat it each day, reward myself at the end of month”. Or it could be “sign up a fitness program or a yoga class AM or PM, walk up-and-down stairs more during the day, and garden during the weekend, then repeat.” You get the idea.

5.      Little moves add up and small steps count.

With modern technologies and today’s lifestyle, we sit more and move less, as I have discussed in previous blogs. You can incorporate “sit less, move more” choices into your everyday life with little effort. For example, you can:

  • get off the bus or train a stop or two earlier to walk home or to work.
  • walk up stairs without using the elevator or escalator.
  • park the car farther away from stores, malls, or buildings you are going to.
  • spend more time on active interests, such as gardening or golfing.
  • walk to nearby stores instead of driving.
  • clean the car yourself.
  • do more chores such as vacuuming the house.
  • play more with the kids.

6.      Do it as much as you can and as often as you can.

There is no such thing as exercising too much as long as your health condition allows it. The opportunities are endless.

7.      Try something new and make it fun.

Whether it’s learning a dance, practicing yoga, or joining a community sport team, find something that motivates you and excites you. Make it fun, not a burden.

8.      Exercise with the season.

You can plan monthly or quarterly actions or activities. With the Winter Olympic Games around the corner, enjoy ice skating, skiing, and other outdoor activities. With cold weather in winter, you can choose some indoor exercises, fitness program(s) at the gym, walking in the malls, or visiting museums. In the spring and fall, hike and/or bike while getting pleasure from nature’s beauty. In summer, swim at the local Y or go to the ocean and do beach activities.

9.      Review, Revise, and Reward.

Having a written goal and taking action toward it are initial steps. Re-examine your goal from time to time to see if it is effective and the steps toward it are attainable. If not, revise it. If you’ve made progress, celebrate it and reward yourself.

10.  Get support from family members, friends, fitness buddies, classmates, and even online pals or social media.

Share your plan with people. Letting others know your goal publicly can increase the chance that you stick on it.

Conclusion

Overall, you don’t need to struggle or make a huge change in your lifestyle in order to boost your physical activity. Consistently following these strategies, you’ll see the results. To become a healthier, fitter, happier, and better you, also integrate more fruits and vegetables into your diet and drink a lot of water. In due course, you can reap considerable benefits.

 

Image credit: By shed; and Thoursie

Coping with the Holiday Stress

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Family-unity_istock-photo-17507571Here we are in this festive Holiday Season full of beauty, joy, love, and cheer. But do you know that medical research shows that one of the clinical triggers for heart attack is holidays like Christmas and New Year’s day? Evidence also indicates that stress management can reduce the risk.

Holiday stress can come in various forms and levels, and from a wide range of activities, including gift shopping, cooking or baking, entertaining, partying, and traveling. Today, I’ll provide 30 strategies that can help you cope with stress during the Holidays and into the New Year.

First, understand stress versus your needs

Stress is a fact of life, even during the Holidays. It occurs when things seem to be going wrong or there’s too much to do and not enough time. One basic way to deal with things when you feel overwhelmed and stressed out is to set priorities and put things in perspective. Keep these points in mind this Holiday season:

  • Materials or gifts might bring you a moment of sensation or joy, but cannot fulfill your inner happiness.
  • Meeting outside social obligations and expectations might seem important, but it can’t replace time for family, friends, and fun.
  • Adjust your standards and any unrealistic desires so as to find happiness or contentment through satisfactory alternatives. Refocus on the “haves” instead of the “have-nots.”

Here are 30 easy ways to reduce holiday stress and change your mood:

  1. Have a dinner with your friend(s).
  2. Go for a long walk on a new route.
  3. Delegate family duties, such as cleaning or baking, to make it a teamwork time.
  4. Give yourself a time-out period. Just take a break.
  5. Go on a tour to see Christmas lighting decorations.
  6. Buy yourself a treat. It could be flowers, a delicious dinner, or whatever makes you feel special.
  7. Take a hot bath.
  8. Laugh, laugh, and laugh! You can easily find reasons to laugh and lighten up by going out to a bookstore and locating a humorous book, finding humorous pages online, or watching a funny video. Or, you can just laugh for no reason other than it makes you feel good.
  9. Watch an inspirational movie.
  10. Meditate.
  11. Start a gratitude journal.
  12. Take a yoga class. It surely reduces stress.
  13. Listen to music and dance with the beat. “Dance like nobody is watching.”
  14. Get a massage or spa treatment, a manicure or a pedicure, whatever you prefer.
  15. Breathe deeper, taking long, slow, deep breaths.
  16. Write a letter to an old friend.
  17. Call up an old friend out of blue to catch up or tell a joke.
  18. Read a magazine.
  19. Take a trip down memory lane by looking through those old photos.
  20. Try a new fitness movement or a new class at the gym.
  21. Go for a bike ride (by yourself or with your family).
  22. Work in your garden, decorate with a signature plant.
  23. Re-arrange your surroundings (a room or the office) and keep it clutter free.
  24. Go shopping or window-shopping to see what’s new in the marketplace.
  25. Visit a pet store or maybe buy a new pet for yourself.
  26. Create or try a new recipe.
  27. Volunteer to help a neighbor, a friend, or your community.
  28. Take a nap
  29. Have a good night’s sleep.
  30. Go outside and gaze at the sky or stars at night.

And one more for good measure: Learn to say NO. Don’t let “Yes” and “Yes” overwhelm you. Trust that people around you, at home or work, will understand when you say “No” once a while.

Choose whatever works best for you out of these de-stressing techniques. Think up your own additions to the list. Finally, remember these important “3Fs”:

The Holiday Season is a time for Family, Friends and Fun.

 Have a wonderful and safe Holiday!

 

Image credit: iStock

Alcohol Consumption and Cancer Risk

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Wine-splash-2-1283145-mAlcohol plays a significant role in many people’s lives. There are many excuses for alcohol intake: relaxing from a stressful day, holiday or social drinking, and youth partying are a few. But it’s often not far from “I’ll have one more” to chronic consumption.

To use alcohol wisely, it’s important to know some facts that are hidden behind that “one more drink.”

5 Essential Facts You Need to Know about Alcohol

  1. Alcohol is a carcinogen to humans, a finding that has been confirmed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 1998.
  2. Alcohol is an established risk factor for breast cancer, increasing the risk by 10% for each drink consumed per day.
  3. Chronic alcohol consumption is closely linked to cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, liver, and colorectum.
  4. Women become more quickly intoxicated than men when drinking the same amount of alcohol.
  5. The good news is that alcohol consumption is a modifiable risk factor for cancer, so it’s in your power to control it.

Action modes for alcohol’s contribution to developing cancer

How alcohol causes cancer is not definitely clear, but proposed mechanisms include:

-    Alcohol increases estrogen levels in women, and excessive estrogen increases the risk for breast cancer.

-    Alcohol causes nutritional deficiencies.

-    Alcohol suppresses the immune function, especially cancer surveillance, consequently allowing cancer development.

-    Alcohol facilitates cancer development by either producing more genes that drive cancer growth or slowing down the DNA repair that maintains cell integrity.

-    Alcohol acts as a solvent for carcinogens in tobacco, which explains why alcohol with tobacco smoking together is a deadly combination.

How much alcohol is safe and how much constitutes abuse?

Based on the National Cancer Institute (NCI) definition, moderate use implies no more than two alcoholic beverages per day. It can be argued that moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to benefit cardiovascular health. Then again, human studies have linked even moderate alcohol consumption to an increased risk of breast cancer in women.

Women are more sensitive to alcohol damage than men. Why? First, women have less water in their bodies, and hence higher concentrations of alcohol than men when given the same amount to drink. Second, women have lower levels of enzymes that metabolize alcohol than men do. It is known that alcohol is first metabolized to acetaldehyde, a chemical that has the capacity to cause DNA damage. The metabolism of alcohol can vary individually. Personally, I’m probably deficient in the enzyme that further metabolizes acetaldehyde, because a little alcohol beverage will make my face flush, by which my body is telling me – You’ve accumulated enough acetaldehyde! That’s why I don’t drink. Of course, your body might handle alcohol differently from mine, but harm could be done even if there is no bodily warning.

“There are not enough data to support an actually safe intake of alcohol” concluded Dr. Testino in his review (The burden of cancer attributable to alcohol consumption, 2011). All types of alcoholic beverages are associated with an increased risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. Any amount of alcohol consumption increases the risk, and the level of risk increases in proportion to the amount of consumption. Because of this, the best solution is not to drink alcohol at all. This is made easier by the fact that there are so many tasty non-alcoholic drinks available to enjoy nowadays.

 

Image credit: by robgr85