- 10 Slimming Foods to Eat If You Sit All Day
- 5 Powerful Mantras to Help You Quiet Anxiety and Beat Stress
- Exercise Helps Slow Down Memory Decline
- What Is Nitrogen Narcosis? Explaining the ‘Martini Effect’
Posted: 20 Oct 2016 07:34 AM PDT
“Wanna take a sit break?” said no desk-bound employee, ever. Most of corporate America is already sitting for eight to 10 hours daily, so instead, we stretch our legs, step out for air, or take a walk around the block. Basically, we do anything we can to get the blood moving, because sitting all day leaves us feeling lethargic and just plain bad. Which makes a lot of sense considering being glued to a chair is slowly, but surely, eroding our health—and making us sick and fat in the process.
Science backs this up: Prolonged sitting has been linked to everything from increased hunger and inflammation (which both lead to obesity and belly fat) to high blood pressure and high blood sugar. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking,” now you know where it stems from. But the damage doesn’t stop there. In addition to these preventable diseases, spending too much time on your behind can also result in tight hip flexors, back pain, weak glutes, and rounded, sore shoulders which are all things that can decrease the effectiveness of your workout or lead to a disabling injury, says Piya Tony Vacharasanee, NASM, ACSM, of Body Space Fitness in New York City. All that from an innocent-looking swivel chair.
Getting off your tush and moving around is a vital part of the puzzle. Whether you’re at the office or on your couch, Vacharasanee suggests taking a “walk break” every half hour. Head to the bathroom, grab a green tea, go wherever you want (except for maybe the vending machine)—just move. Even fidgeting and stretching your arms and legs in your seat helps improve the tissue quality of tight muscles, returning them to their natural state,Vacharasanee says.
But tweaking your diet may also help diminish some of the health risks associated with sitting. A number of nutrients have been shown to fight inflammation by “turning off” inflammatory genes. Add these recommended foods that follow into your diet to help ease some of the damage of your 9-to-5 and you’ll be on your way to a leaner, healthier you.
Regularly eating berries has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition. That’s because they contain powerful flavonoids called anthocyanins that “turn off” inflammatory genes and give the fruit their deep, rich hues. Blueberries, which have more anthocyanins than any other berry, are also rich in vitamin C and resveratrol, both of which have been shown to knock-out inflammatory free radicals. To reap the benefits, add berries to your morning smoothie, pair it with other fruits to make a salad, or add them to your overnight oats with some crunchy almonds for a simple yet wholesome breakfast.
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They may not be as powerful as animal-based omega-3s (which are found in fatty fish), but nuts are a great source of a plant-based anti-inflammatory omega-3 known as ALA. While walnuts have more ALA than any other nut, almonds are one of the best sources of antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect cells from oxidative damage (a byproduct of inflammation). Since each nut has their own special attributes and healthy benefits, Vacharasanee suggests making a homemade trail mix with a variety of unsalted nuts and seeds.
Pineapple contains powerful anti-inflammatory called bromelain. Though every part of the fruit is sprinkled with the stuff, most of it resides in the stem, which tends to be a little on the tough side. Try blending the core with the sweeter flesh to reap the inflammation-reducing benefits. Try it in our Pina Colada Smoothie, one of our 15 Healthy, 5-Ingredient Breakfast Ideas.
4. Olive Oil
Like ibuprofen, olive oil fights inflammation by preventing the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. It can also slash the risk of cardiovascular disease and aid weight loss which is why it’s one of these 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss. Reap the benefits by making olive oil your cooking fat of choice and using it when preparing dressings and sauces.
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You can thank curcumin for turmeric’s beautifully bright, yellow-orange color—but that’s not all it’s good for. This active compound has been found to contain potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which is why Vacharasanee recommends that you fit it into your diet. “Curcumin wards off inflammation by shutting off the production of pro-inflammatory enzymes,” he explains. Not sure how to use the stuff in your cooking? Check out these 21 Winning Turmeric Recipes for some culinary inspiration.
Flavorful, pungent garlic does more than make your roasted vegetables taste a million times better, it may also ward off inflammation, according to a review in the journal Medicinal Chemistry. Taking an aged-garlic supplement provides the highest concentration of bioavailable compounds, but studies have also shown that fresh garlic can provide benefits. Just be sure to crush the garlic first to kickstart production of the bioactive allicin compound. More good news in garlic-ville: Recent studies have shown that garlic supports blood-sugar metabolism and helps control fat levels in the blood.
7. Green Tea
There are some really blow-your-mind good reasons Vacharasanee recommends sipping green tea. (And no, the sugary green tea lattes at Starbucks don’t count.) The humble drink that’s been cherished as a health miracle for centuries can now add “counteracting inflammation and weight gain” to its long and impressive resume. Thanks to its high epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and polyphenol content, green tea is a stronger anti-inflammatory elixir than any other type of tea, suggests a Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research report.
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If you love extra guacamole, this is the anti-inflammatory food for you. Packed with inflammation-quelling oleic fatty acids, avocados can ward off and help reduce the inflammation in muscle cells, suppresses insulin resistance, and even help reduce belly fat. A study in the journal Diabetes Care discovered that a diet rich in monounsaturated fat may actually prevent body fat distribution around the belly by down regulating the expression of certain fat genes. Add some slices to a salad or sandwich or peruse on these tasty avocado recipes for some creative ways to see the fruit to your diet. (Yes, that’s right, avocados are considered to be a fruit!)
9. Fatty Fish
Many manufactured foods are made with dangerous trans fats or vegetable oils (soy, corn, sunflower, safflower, palm oil, etc.) which have a high concentration of inflammatory omega-6s and are low in anti-inflammatory omega-3s. That’s why Vacharasanee recommends steering clear. In fact, Americans are eating so many vegetable-oil-laden products that the average person has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of around 20:1 when it should be 1:1. To increase the ratio of good to bad fats in your body, Vacharasanee suggests dialing back on your consumption of junk foods and low-quality oils and increasing the omega-3s to your weekly diet. Fatty fish, like wild salmon, is one of the most potent sources of the nutrient in the grocery store.
Flaxseed is another potent source of inflammation-fighting ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. In fact, it carries more of the nutrient than any other fat source. Know this, though: Flaxseed is highly sensitive and easily oxidized, so to reap the health benefits, buy whole flaxseed and grind it just before you want to eat it. Still not convinced flax is worth your time? Consider this: A recent study found that regularly consuming omega-3s like flax and flaxseed oil can improve the body’s ability to metabolize fat. Sounds like a good reason to stock up if you ask us!
Posted: 20 Oct 2016 07:15 AM PDT
What if you could stop worrying (or feel more confident, or less stressed) with just a few simple words? That’s the premise behind Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals ($16, amazon.com), a powerful little book filled with one-line mantras meant to help you reprogram your brain.
Inspired by a Tibetan Buddhist mind training practice called Lojong, author and executive coach M.J. Ryan has been using simple slogans with her clients to interrupt the habitual thought processes that hold them back. The mantras work, she writes, because they override the brain’s automatic response, “help you become consciously aware of what you’re doing—and serve as a reminder of what it is that you want to do.”
Below are five of these simple but profound phrases, adapted from Ryan’s book Habit Changers. Choose the mantras that resonate most with you, and recite as needed.
To gather courage: “Handshake your fear”
Whether you’re generally anxious or find yourself afraid in particular circumstances—like public speaking or when expressing opinions to important stakeholders at work—fear can be debilitating. Not only can it keep you from realizing your goals, but it can also prevent you from simply enjoying your day to day life. I know because I was ruled by fear for decades—and I’m not alone.
This is an issue many people talk to me about. Part of the problem is that in Western culture fear is something we’re generally taught to ignore or suppress; when we can’t, we get even more overwhelmed.
The Buddhists have a different approach. They suggest you befriend your fear, turn toward it as you would toward someone you loved who was feeling afraid: “Oh, you poor thing, I see you are afraid. You’re not alone. I’m right here with you.”
In saying this you give your fear attention, neither ignoring it nor making more out of it than there is. It sounds backward, but oftentimes, paying attention to a feeling can make it lessen or even disappear. These words can also help you to see that you’re more than your fear. Yes, there is the scared person inside you. But there is also the bold, wise part of you. Getting in touch with that wiser, braver self helps you act from confidence rather than fear—act not out of fear but in spite of it.
To find confidence: “Undistort the distortion”
This is an idea that Sheryl Sandberg wrote about in Lean In ($14, Amazon), and it’s based on the fact that, according to many studies across a wide range of disciplines, women are plagued by much lower self-confidence than men. This unfortunate phenomenon shows up in various ways. For instance, women consistently judge their performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their performance as better than it is. And when it comes time to apply for a job, women don’t feel qualified enough to apply unless they match 100% of the criteria, while men through their hats into the ring if there is a 50% match.
Even when we understand this phenomenon is social, not personal, it can be very hard to change. In writing about it, Sandberg noted about herself, “I learned over time that while it was hard to shake feelings of self-doubt, I could understand that there was a distortion. … I learned to undistort the distortion.”
The words jumped off the page at me as fodder for a wonderful habit changer. Since then, women I’ve worked with have used it to recognize when they’re doubting themselves and to act in spite of their self-doubt, knowing that if they waited until they felt self-confident, they would wait forever. As one woman who used it to start her own business put it, “It helps me remember by feeling of unworthiness is a lie so I don’t have to listen to it as much.”
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To manage stress: “This is only a paper tiger”
When you’re stressed out about something, it can feel a bit like a ravenous tiger is about to devour you. The problem seems overwhelmingly daunting and you don’t see how you can are possibly going to cope. But there is a way out—recognizing that what you are facing is only a paper tiger, not a real one.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem, just that it’s not one that threatens your life. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson created this metaphor to illustrate the fact that the stress response was designed to save you from physical danger—like a tiger chasing you. But your amygdala, which is where the stress response originates, can’t differentiate between a tiger and a traffic jam. So it responds as if a tiger were after you when you’re only stuck in line, experiencing a flight delay, or anticipating an important presentation.
Using this habit changer whenever you are stressed reminds your body/mind you’re not in mortal danger so you can clam down and figure out how to deal with that line, delay, or presentation. “This habit changer has been a life saver,” one stressed-out client said to me recently. “It’s made it possible for me to stop, figure out if there even is a problem, solve it when needed, and then proceed with my day more calmly.”
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To quiet anxiety: “Don’t go in your mind where your body is not”
Do you constantly worry about all the terrible thing that might happen? Many of us torture ourselves with this brand of magical thinking: If I worry now, it will help keep the bad thing away.
Actually all you do is make yourself miserable now as you focus on the prospect of misfortune and the unhappiness you will feel if it occurs, which it usually doesn’t! If you’re a chronic worrier, try this habit changer, which comes courtesy of a client of mine.
I was working with her to stop worrying about all the possible future catastrophes that could befall her and suggested that she say to herself, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Soon after that we came to the end of her coaching engagement and she moved on to an overseas work assignment. A couple years later, she called me out of the blue to say how helpful it had been to learn to “not go in her mind where her body is not.” It had completely eliminated her worrying.
I was so delighted with her translation that now I give it to all my worriers. Use it to remind yourself that all worries are in the future and likely will not come to pass. You’re not there yet—it’s all happening in your mind. And if some terrible thing does indeed happen, you can deal with when it arrives.
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To summon strength: “Look how far I’ve come”
This is a strategy long-distance runners use to resist the temptation to give up when they’re tired or in pain. Scientists call it the horizon effect. Rather than focusing on how far they still have to go, they encourage themselves to keep at it based on the progress they’ve already made.
When I have clients with a tendency to focus on their mistakes when they’re learning a new behavior, I give them this habit changer to help them cultivate the resilience to keep at it. Because of the brain’s tendency to be Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive, as Rick Hanson describes our inborn negativity bias, when people encounter a minor setback, they often lose sight of the progress they’ve made.
I’ll never forget the client who called me to say she was a “total failure” at managing her anger because she’d stomped down the hall after a meeting. She was ready to give up on her anger-management efforts altogether. I reminded her that it was the first time she’d lost her temper in three months, whereas before it had been a weekly occurrence. Once she adopted this habit changer, it helped her stick to the techniques she’d found useful. Plus it helped her get back on the horse when she messed up, because she was able to see it as just an occasional slip-up rather than a fundamental failure. Use this mantra when you need help sticking to whatever it is you’re’ working on.
Adapted from Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals by M.J. Ryan, available from Crown Business/Crown Publishing Group.
Posted: 19 Oct 2016 01:00 PM PDT
One of the most feared diseases among Americans is Alzheimer’s, according to surveys. It’s also one of the most mysterious. Despite some promising developments in drugs that may one day treat or slow the development of the disease, there’s not yet a sound way to successfully treat it.
One active area of research into dementia, however, doesn’t involve drugs at all—it involves exercise. In a small new study published in the journal Neurology, a walking program was shown to help elderly people who have early cognitive problems.
The researchers gathered 70 people, all around age 74. Each had a mild form of vascular cognitive impairment, the second most common cause of dementia and one that results from damage to the small vessels that feed deep into the brain, says study author Teresa Liu-Ambrose, associate professor in the department of physical therapy at the University of British Columbia in Canada. People often have vascular cognitive impairment without knowing it, Liu-Ambrose says, and when symptoms show themselves, they often affect the ability to plan or stick with a schedule. Because the condition is so covert, researchers required neuroimaging evidence of these small brain lesions for everyone in the study.
The research team assigned everyone to either get aerobic exercise or their usual care for six months. The exercise group walked outside three times a week, gradually ramping up their intensity. Everyone took tests, at the beginning and end of the study, measuring thinking skills, executive function, memory and competence at daily activities.
Though they didn’t see a difference between the two groups in executive function, the researchers saw a modest yet significant improvement in memory in the walking group. People in that group also had better blood pressure and could walk farther and more efficiently in six minutes.
When the groups were measured again six months after the study had ended, the differences between the groups vanished. “Unless you’re doing the exercise, the benefits do diminish,” Liu-Ambrose says.
Exercise may be stimulating the release of proteins that directly benefit the brain. “It helps neuronal survival and growth and generally what we associate with neuroplasticity,” Liu-Ambrose says. Aerobic exercise also improves high blood pressure and other cardiometabolic risk factors, which are closely linked to the development of vascular cognitive impairment, she says.
“We know it’s a very common cause of dementia, yet there are really very few treatments available for vascular cognitive impairment,” she says, adding that studies of pharmaceutical therapies in similar populations have shown comparable results to those of the current study. “Given how exercise has really minimal side effects, as compared to most pharmaceutical treatments, I think it’s a really sensible choice.”
Posted: 19 Oct 2016 11:32 AM PDT
Two divers died in a dangerous underwater cave in Florida on Sunday, prompting questions about how the men—who were described as very experienced divers—could have failed to resurface at the rendezvous point with a third friend.
The medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death, but people in the diving community have put forth many possible explanations. The site, Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole, was described by one expert as a “Venus fly trap,” with its complicated layout and vast range of things to see. It’s possible that the men lost their lines, struggled with visibility, or had issues with their equipment. But some have speculated that nitrogen narcosis, or the “martini effect,” may have played a role in the tragedy. Here’s how that condition affects divers.
What is nitrogen narcosis?
Nitrogen is a major part of the air we regularly breathe. But when divers breathe from their air supply underwater, it is much more dense, increasing the quantity of nitrogen in the body. This has an outsized effect on the nervous system, so divers’ functioning can become impaired at a depth of about 100 ft. (depending on the person). The sensation has been dubbed “the martini effect” because divers liken it to drinking one martini on an empty stomach for every additional 50 ft.
What does it feel like?
Some divers can experience euphoria, earning nitrogen narcosis another nickname, “Raptures of the Deep.” Others can become anxious, numb or dizzy. The loss of reason can lead some to fail to take the necessary care in navigating, checking the oxygen tank and rising to the surface slowly enough to avoid the bends. Errors like these can result in death.
How can it be avoided?
For deep dives, some people use mixes of oxygen, helium, and nitrogen (a trimix) or of just oxygen and helium (a heliomix) to reduce or eliminate the chance of nitrogen narcosis. Scuba enthusiasts also emphasize the importance of looking out for your dive buddy for signs of impairment, and ascending in the event of these symptoms.
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