Category Archives: Life

Wellness & Fun Tips for End of the Summer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

kids-chase-a-bubble-at-a-family-picnic-397582-mLabor Day can really make you feel like the end of the summer. As you know, after this weekend various popular summertime attractions will close, including pools. For some people, summer is a relaxing break from work and a happy time with their families. For others, they may have struggled with hectic schedules and unusual stressful workloads.

From a health and wellness perspective, how can you take advantage of Labor Day weekend to relax, renew and recharge? I’ll offer these cancer prevention strategies and tips as a farewell to summer:

  1. Go to book or music festivals, food and wine festivals, as well as an outdoor event in town. It can relax your mind, foster your joy, and promote your fitness as you walk and move around.
  2. Enjoy healthy meals and family picnics. This is the time when you can pack some antioxidant-rich foods, try out some healthy recipes, cook and share delicious food with your family and friends.
  3. Have a fun for fitness. Have you heard anything like Family Backyard Triathlon? What a creative idea and a marvelous way to get everyone move more! Certainly, you can do it at a local park too. Whether it’s a jump rope, push-ups, run or holding a yoga pose, these challenges are more beneficial than TV and internet times. Also pleasurable are team sports.
  4. Head for the beach or lake. In addition to those on the road trip already, if you live nearby the beach, there is always something for everybody, for a family fun activity. Yet again, be mindful for sun safe and sun protection.
  5. Practice your well-deserved stress-relieve treatment. This long weekend is a great opportunity to de-stress, hence to strengthen your immune function. Enjoy a peaceful time for yourself, a treat, a walk, or anyway that works for you.

Whatever you do, wish you the most happy, healthy, and adventurous Labor Day Holiday ever!

 

Image credit: by hortongrou

How to Foster and Practice Gratitude

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Gratitude_Bird-w-quoteHoliday seasons are a wonderful time for love and appreciation, but one could be so easily wrapped up with materials and hectic activities that the individual may forget about gratitude, leading to stress, depression or other negative emotions. A key ingredient for a happy holiday season is gratitude.

Gratitude implies both the thankfulness for help from others and a conscious, habitual focus on all positive aspects of life. Counting blessings has a proven effect on the well-being of humans.

Today, I’m going to emphasize the power of gratitude, and show you top 10 ways to cultivate gratitude.

Power and Benefits generated from gratitude:

  1. Gratitude helps us appreciate the world and connect the people around us.
  2. Gratitude helps us put things or situations into new, different perspectives.
  3. Gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack.
  4. Gratitude helps us reduce stress, increase healing and improve well-being.
  5. Gratitude makes us happier and healthier.

Remember: “It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.” So, there is no reason not to find something you are grateful for on a daily basis. Here is how you do it.

My name tagTop 10 ways to foster and practice gratitude:

  1. Do it the first thing in the morning. That’s a part of my daily routine. It can set a positive mood or mentality for the day ahead. Pray and thank God regardless of any form of religion.
  2. Use visual or decorative reminders, such as photos, famous quotes, cards or posts.
  3. Apply all your senses and appreciate what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel and touch. One of my favorite analogues is – Only when you’ve lost an arm (just one of the two) can you realize how precious it is.
  4. Count blessings with your family. This gives each member the opportunity to express appreciation for Three Blessings that he/she experienced during the day, week or month. This is also an effective way to sow gratitude seeds in your kid’s mind. I gave my parents credits for their influence on this.
  5. Write “Thank You” note (via cards, emails, or text messages) to people who helped or inspired you and those with whom you enjoyed time.
  6. Say “Thank You” more often and sincerely. Do not take any small, simple things that others do to make your life easier for granted.
  7. Keep a gratitude journal. There are plenty of tips on how to do so, but the key is to take notes regularly and consistently, if not daily.
  8. Practice meditation or yoga. These activities involve concentration on the present moment without judgment and expectation. You can also focus on what you are grateful for, e.g. pleasant sound, beautiful view, comfortable posture, etc.
  9. Replace complains with thanks. Whenever you encounter a tough situation in life, even unfairness, be thankful for the learning opportunity. Recalling difficulties in the past, you’ll discover how satisfied you are with what you have.
  10. Act on appreciation by doing someone a favor or supporting a great cause. Hey, we all know that actions are louder than words.

At the end, gratitude is strongly associated with well-being. Therefore, let’s promote wellness through fostering gratitude with simple practices regularly.

 

Image credit: By BK

Proven Strategies for Prevention of Age-Associated Chronic Illnesses

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Aging_4C91926C-FDEB-4B37-903B0611D64C202DDo you know that 2 billion people will be (aged) 60 and older by 2050? According to statistics, between 2000 and 2050, the world’s population of 60+ years old will double from about 11% to 22%.

Aging is inevitable. Aging is a complex process too, which has a negative impact on various body systems and their functions. As you age, accumulated damage to the cells, increased burden of the immune response, and chronically stimulated inflammation, along with genetic and environmental risk factors, all intensify in your body.

Aging is the major risk factor for the predominant killer diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, especially in developed countries or in the population living a sedentary lifestyle and eating a Western diet.

The good news: Age-associated chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes are largely preventable! The prevention can be achieved mostly by lifestyle modification. How well we age depends on many factors, including what we eat, how physically active we are, and how much, how long we are exposed to health risks such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, or harmful, toxic chemicals/substances.

Taking care of yourself should be a top priority and it’s never too late to do so. Here are some key strategies:

1.      Maintain a healthy weight and avoid abdominal obesity. Excessive calorie intake and a sedentary lifestyle cause abdominal obesity, as we discussed previously.
2.      Have a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
3.      Avoid or limit high-fat, high-sugar foodstuff and excessive salt intake from packaged or processed foods.
4.      Participate in physical activities regularly.
5.      Watch your numbers (cholesterol, blood sugar, etc), keep your blood pressure normal, and schedule routine cancer screening.
6.      Remember a good night’s sleep.

Let’s face it. You cannot help getting old, but you don’t have to get old. Fortunately, new technologies can make you look and feel young. However, if you want to age gracefully and brilliantly, place a strong focus on the following areas:

  • Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the key to happiness, so keep counting your blessings. “There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.” I like this quote from the Unknown. Studies show that people who are always grateful and practice gratitude in their lives tend to have more peaceful and harmonious existences than those who do not.
  • Learn, learn and learn. It’s never too old to learn. Learning keeps you mentally sharp and spiritually young. Try to learn something every day and every year, whether it is from reading or from doing, whether it is a skill or a sport. Purposefully challenge your mental ability in fun ways (e.g. puzzles and games).
  • Maintain friendship. It helps your mental and emotional well-being. Keep a circle of people who are positive, uplifting and wise. Also, a connection with your friend(s) from high school or college can kindle a younger spirit.
  • Love, love and love. Love your age. In addition to your love to your family and relationship, there are many ways to show your love, such as pursuing your passion, giving to your community, caring and helping others, etc.

Exercising the physical, mental and spiritual areas outlined above can have additional health benefits in the prevention of a variety of age-associated chronic diseases. At the end, one of humanity’s greatest dreams is to have a long, productive life in a healthy, youthful body.

Image credit: By mealsonwheelspeople

Let the Season Joys Boost Your Immune System, Not Stress Ruin Your Happiness

Holiday Season is approaching! Are you excited? Or stressed out? The primary cancer risk factors during holidays are diet and stress. We covered the diet factor in our Newsletter December issue, and focus on coping stress here.

Holiday realities

The holidays are both a wonderful and stressful time of the year. Besides the usual work loads and family commitments, we have new functions, as we rush around trying to meet looming deadlines. Parties and social events, holiday shopping, decorating, trips, holiday meals, going to the new movie releases, entertaining guests, … see how much we try to cram into the festive season! It gives me a headache just naming all the things.

The key danger of stress

Now imagine doing all that. It’s certainly a recipe for stress. Holiday stress normally falls into categories of financial, physical, psychological/emotional drains. Stress has a negative effect on your health. This is not just a theory. Many studies have found key mechanistic evidence at the cellular level. Chronic stress and/or depression can increase the body production of cytokines, that is, immune-modulating substances. One of them is called interleukin-6 (IL-6). High serum levels of IL-6 have been linked to risks for several adverse conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health complications, and some cancers.

The relationship between stress and cancer is complex. Many factors may come into play. However, research has demonstrated that stress factors (e.g., the death of a spouse, divorce, social isolation, and medical school examinations) alter some white blood cell functions and promote immune dysfunction. Taken together, stress reduction is of importance for many health reasons.

Win control over stress with top 8 effective tips:

Since stress can translate into negative changes in the body, this year I challenge you to have the least holiday stress ever, and let the joyful spirit of the season boost your immune system! I’m here to help you achieve that.

1. The keywords are Prioritize, Be realistic, and Simplify (PBS). So, plan ahead based on PBS.

2.      Take it easy. Make the holidays enjoyable rather than perfect. If a card cannot get to its destiny on time, give the person a surprise call on that holiday morning! If you don’t feel like cooking or baking, buy some packaged prepared meals as an alternative, or go without one or two “traditions”. Instead of spending hours in the malls or sitting in the traffic, shop online for gifts to save time and get good deals.

3.      Tap the resources within your family, from neighbors and friends. Do what you enjoy, and make it fun for everyone. If you love decorating trees and hate shopping or dishwashing, trade chores within the family, so everyone picks up their favorite task.

4.      Create a budget within your means to avoid “New Year Depression” on debt. Folk wisdom tells us to shop ahead of time for bargains. However, we all can be creative and spend less, believe it or not. If your budget doesn’t allow you to buy expensive gifts, buy a small one. Everyone appreciates a gift regardless of its size. If it’s too costly to attend a fancy party, organize a new, fun activity to celebrate at home or go to a movie.

5.      Listen to your body and take care of it. If you are tired, acknowledge it; if you need a treat or massage, get it; and if exercises or physical activities make you feel good, go for it.  Also, be sure to get enough sleep.

6.      Practice stress-relieving techniques, particularly those that work for you. Breathe deeply, meditate freely, visualize a peaceful scene, or listen to soothing music. Enjoy some quiet time or “down” time for yourself, especially when you feel over-stressed or under uncomfortable conditions. Caution! Just because the letters in desserts can be used to spell stressed, it doesn’t mean you need to relieve stress with desserts. Avoid over-eating, particularly high sugar and/or high calorie foods.

7.      Laugh, laugh, and laugh! Laughter is an effective medicine.

And perhaps the most important tip of all is:

 

8. The holiday season is a time of Family, Friends and Fun! Connecting with others for laughter and love is the best stress-reliever and most effective immune-booster. And remember, for some, this is a time of loneliness and depression. Invite them to your home; show kindness to them. If you are alone during the holidays, reaching out to help others can benefit your own physical and psychological well-being.

If you like this post, please share it.  Sharing is caring and giving.

 

Photo Credits: By dtweney; By Just a Temporary Measure

 

 

A Special Memory of Martha

We lost Martha Anne Thornburg, 52, recently. I was always inspired by her smile and gratitude even during those difficult days of fighting cancer. Her loving husband of 27 years, Jon E. Thornburg wrote a touching and beautiful letter to Martha at her funeral service. I sincerely appreciate his sharing this special memory here.

“For my dear Martha,

On our first date, we came across a dog hit by a car, lying on the side of the road. We decided to pick it up and take it to the vet clinic at Purdue. That was one of the first clues of Martha’s love for strays; dogs, cats, and later on she even agreed to take me in and give my life purpose. She had a boundless love for family and friends and heaven help those that ever tried to hurt someone she loved.

Martha had a personality and a smile that was contagious. That smile, given often, given freely, and given genuinely; you just had to love her. She was diligent and loved puzzles and to solve problems. When presented a problem she would jump into it and find a dozen ways to solve it while making it seem so simple. As many know, anyone who received teasing by Martha knew another side of her personality. She loved to laugh, joke and tease; and she could keep a straight face through the punch line of a prank or joke.

Martha loved to give and to share. She gave of herself; and what she had without limits, usually as long as nobody knew she was the one giving. I do not believe she ever took a bow or showed off anything, even though she had volumes of accomplishments to show and brag on, but that wasn’t her way, except for her kids. She was forever proud of Jessica, Andrea, and Jimmy. She raised three children who have kind and tender hearts, giving and forgiving, polite and a strong sense of family and friendship. She loved and was proud of her babies.

Martha loved to sing, she could be walking along, sitting, and reading or watching a show; or doing almost anything, and a song would come to her and she would start singing. Sometimes when driving she would have to stay in the car a little longer when stopped so the song on the radio could finish, and she was usually singing along with it.

Martha grew daily in her spirituality in her love of Christ and her awe and fear of GOD. She studied the word, questioned and sought answers, and had the faith of no one else I know. When the Holy Spirit came to her, she accepted and was whole-heartedly grateful, and she knew her life had really begun. She truly put her love, trust and soul in God’s hands.

I am going to miss her. I don’t know why Martha loved me, or ever agreed to be my bride, but I’m eternally grateful and proud she did. I loved her and always will.”

Our deepest condolences to Martha’s family.

How to Smile

Smile – Is it easy or not?

Everybody can smile, it’s an ability we’re born with — no need for training. Yet, in our modern world, it’s amazing how many people walk around with frowns.

In addition to allowing us to spread our happiness, smiling stimulates our immune system and relieves stress. When one’s life is overwhelmed with stress and negativity, it’s hard to smile.

Practicing these S-M-I-L-E tips will make smiling easy.

S- is for serve.  When you serve, give, or help others, you feel good inside and out, and end up smiling.

M- is for manage. Manage stress and control negativity, which will make you relax and smile.

I- is for inspire. Are we all inspired by people who are upbeat, positive, and passionate? Be the one!

L- is for love. Love people and lighten up the world. What comes back to you is mostly based on what you give out.

E- is for enjoy. Life is short, enjoy the moment, and enjoy whatever you do — read, play, or work.

S-M-I-L-E and you will end up smiling, gaining all the benefits— socially, mentally, emotionally, and physically. You will be on the road to health and happiness.

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” – Dale Carnegie

Can you smile to ten people tomorrow?

Photo credit: By Nanagyei

Small Lifestyle Changes Can Promote Longevity

Longevity_1085754525_88f695837e_mDuring a recent family crisis, I had the opportunity to get to know several respected elderly individuals in their 90s and listen to their inspiring stories about their longevity. It has been a very valuable experience. What we’ve been advocating for cancer prevention is actually reflected in the practices or habits of real people who have managed to outlive many around them. Through my informal conversations, I learned that small lifestyle changes can go a long way to boosting longevity.

There is a wealth of information about longevity out there. You may have read some of it. However, I’d like to share what I learned from the real folks by briefly summing up these 7 tips:

1. Be physically active. Exercise, walk around, enjoy gardening, keep moving, and get involved in church, social groups and the community. Simply put, find things to do.
2. Eat healthy and properly. Make sure to eat more fruits and vegetables and don’t over-eat. Taking care of your body is crucial to longevity.
3. Be positive; keep your eye on the big picture and the purpose of life. Why do you get up in the morning? Helping others can be rewarding. Both my father and my father-in-law always made time for others; they helped a lot of people.
4. Work at creating a happy marriage. Happy marriages can positively impact your life expectancy, for sure. I personally know several folks in their 80s and 90s whose marriage lasted over 50 or 60 years.
5. Take a nap and sleep well. In today’s rush to get everything done and an emphasis on healthy eating and exercise, we often forget about the huge benefits of sleep. Taking a midday nap is one of the best ways to lower stress from work and stress on your heart. Lack of sleep weakens the immune system and adversely affects health, especially mental health. People I know who have lived a long life make time to take a nap now and then, and some almost everyday.
6. Relax and reduce stress from life. Peace of mind adds to your longevity.
7. See you doctor regularly. If you are experiencing what may be a medical issue, don’t put off seeing a medical professional. Most of the elderly folks I have had the privilege to meet have had their bouts with health complications, such as bypass surgery, cancer, or other illnesses, but they overcame the challenges and lived well by being proactive and taking preventative measures.

A Final Word from the Wise

Clearly, people living a simple, healthy lifestyle — not smoking or consuming alcohol, engaging in physical activity, eating healthy and staying happy experience longevity. Again, living a healthy lifestyle is a simple matter.

Photo Credit: by M@rg

Seasonal Beauty Clears the Mind and Benefits the Body

If you live around the Washington, DC area, you may have seen the cherry trees in full bloom around the Tidal Basin. If not, have a peek of these wonderful shots taken at the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry Blosm_4495310685_cb11c3bc83_mJ.Memorial Blosm_4495277343_b1f87ae2e6_mBack to our topic on spring cleaning. This is a great time to de-clutter not only our spaces but also our minds. The winter doldrums have passed, and spring speaks of new beginnings. Human emotions and/or thoughts, negative and positive, influence our bodies and can be reflected in physiological and immune interactions. It has become abundantly clear that positive emotions and psychological well-being have beneficial effects on physical health. Conversely, negative emotions or attitudes, as well as stress, appear to weaken one’s natural resistance to carcinogenic attacks. So if anything needs clearing, it’s our mind.

There are many ways to clear your mind, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, going outdoors, writing journals, or simply doing less. Let’s just talk about the joy of seasonal beauty like cherry blossom viewing in America’s capital. I’m sure that folks outside DC can also enjoy their own variety of nature’s splendor during spring time.

Monument Blosm 2010_4495311641_78832c8c30_mGorgeous sunshine and spring wind are accompanied by a magnificent show of pink and white flowers at the peak of blooming. Taking a walk along the Tidal Basin, indulging in nature’s beauty and spectacular views — water, trees, and flowers, plus such national treasures as Washington Monument and Thomas Jefferson Memorial — brings with it a positive and relaxed mood, one easily shared with family and loved ones. A good long walk takes energy, yet amazingly such peaceful scenes can create energy as well.

Do you know there are 12 kinds of cherry trees that grow around the Tidal Basin? Well, I can also list more than 12 positive emotions and actions I associate with cherry blossoms: appreciation of nature, time with family and friends, relaxation, happiness, joy, love, energy, positive feelings from walking, positive moods and thoughts, smiling and laughter, de-cluttering of the mind, taking a break from stress, favorite activities, engaging in the present, and letting go of negatives. All of these effects promote physical and psychological well-being.

Do you have similar experiences? Without a doubt, they too benefit your immune system and aid in cancer prevention.

What’s your experience of cherry blossom viewing? What are your favorite ways to clear your mind? If you like this post, please bookmark it or share it. Thanks.

Photo credits: by daveynin

My Memory of Herb

I was so saddened to hear about the passing of Herb McCullough after he lost the battle to cancer.

Cancer took another precious life. And it just happened too quickly for me. Although I experienced how hard it was when my dad passed away from lung cancer, I cannot imagine what this is like for his family.

When I first met Herb at a business meeting about two years ago, I captured his gentlemanly side, plus his not so obvious “joker” side. When I think of Herb, I see a nice man, down to earth, friendly, kind, and helpful. He loved his daughter. He got excited when he came up with a business idea, no matter what it was.

When I think of Herb, I see a good businessman. One thing about him was his punctuality. He was always on time for an appointment or service. Another striking thing about him was his mastery of plumbing. He could spot a problem precisely and solved it efficiently—even his wall cutting was so neat. I was quite impressed with how he fixed our bathroom plumbing system. “This is Herb. He is a master plumber.” That was how I always introduced him to people. Actually, he was quite fun to be around, too.

When I think of Herb, I see his strong faith in God. After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I witnessed his emotional transition from understandable anger to inner peace. I also saw his physical improvement, from a seriously ill condition to getting back to normal and stabilized for several months. In fact, his situation had gotten better to the point where he was able to keep up a part-time business. I talked with him about what inspired and sustained him since he did not take medicine or go through any therapy. He attributed all his recovery to his faith in God, in addition to his daily diet that included nutrient-rich juice. I was concerned about his financial needs in light of his illness and the effects that the economic downturn was having on his part-time business. Yet he expressed amazing gratitude that God had been providing him enough to survive, although it would not be enough for many people.

My heart is heavy. I lost a business associate, and a friend. In Herb, I saw an ordinary person, just one of us, living in peace, kindness, and gratitude, doing his best to survive while serving others.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Life goes on. Let’s win as many battles as we can.

Do Flamingos Celebrate “Valentine’s Day”?

2222367956_66fc2934dd_bPerfectly captured by Kjunstorm, the heart is perfectly created by two beautiful flamingos dancing along the way. Whether the flamingos celebrate “Valentine’s Day” or not, the superb shot reveals that love is elegantly expressed and cherished in the animal kingdom.

While February makes many folks automatically think of “Valentine’s Day” or “Lovers’ Day,” or for some of you guys out there, “Football”, I’d like to share my thoughts about February here.

Love and be loved. Flowers, pinkies, candy, gifts, gourmet dinners, and romance are all wonderful things around for your loved one, or for yourself if you are single, on Valentine’s Day. This is a time of showing special love, and more important, showing appreciation. Love and appreciation are the best gifts with a long lasting effect.

Love is more than just romance. Every day I think of my father, who passed away last summer. His legacy is about kindness and love. He had so much love, not only for my family, but also for others, for what he was doing and for life. The Chinese New Year is approaching, yet this year is going to be tough for my family. I’m passionate about my new endeavor to prevent cancer, and also have cancer friends to care for. And yes I, too, plan on enjoying the festivities of Super Bowl Sunday, accompanied with Super Snow — the winter blizzard 2010 in DC area!

Love your heart and enjoy chocolate! Circle “Your Heart” day on your calendar. Never ignore your own heart health. Fortunately, chocolate is not only for lovers but good for heart too, as scientific studies show that chocolate (dark chocolate >70% cacao) is rich in flavonoids antioxidants. But don’t eat too much!

May your February and your 2010 be filled with LOVE!

What’s your thought? What’s your favorite memory or experience of the month?