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Tips for Rest and Sleep

Rest is as important as physical activity for general health. Identify periods during the day when you can be passive, without stimulation, doing nothing, and make time for them. Consider the following when planning rest into your schedule:

  1. Try to get into the habit of napping: ten to twenty minutes in the afternoon, preferably lying down in a darkened room.
  2. Spend some time outdoors as often as you can to get exposure to bright, natural light. If you are concerned about harmful effects of solar radiation, do it before ten in the morning or after three in the afternoon and use sunscreen.
  3. Try to give yourself about an hour in dim light before you go to sleep at night. Lower the lighting in your house and bedroom. If other members of the household object, wear sunglasses.
  4. Pay attention to sleep hygiene: all the details of lifestyle, including intake of caffeine and bedroom design, that affect the quality of sleep. When you are ready to go to sleep, try to keep your bedroom completely dark.
  5. To minimize early waking, try to postpone the evening meal until after dusk and schedule some kind of stimulating activity in the early evening.
  6. If your mind is too active when you get into bed, you will not be able to fall asleep - no matter how tired you are. Learn and practice one or more relaxation techniques that can help you disengage from thoughts.
  7. Consider natural sleep aids. Valerian and melatonin are both effective remedies for insomnia.
  8. Determine how much sleep is optimal for you. People vary in their need for sleep, from as little as four hours a night to as much as ten. Most require seven to eight hours, but ideal amounts can change over time. You can adjust your bedtime and see how you feel after sleeping for various amounts of time, or simply note how much you slept on days that feel right.
  9. If you do wake early, try to use the time productively. Read or write for an hour, then try to go back to sleep until morning. Think of the yin-yang symbol, which symbolizes harmony with a small dot of white on a black background and vice versa. Seen in from this perspective, a period of nighttime wakefulness complements your daytime nap.

3 Tips for Gardening Allergies

If you love to garden but hate seasonal allergies, there are some simple steps you can take:

  1. Garden later in the day. Pollen is released in the early morning hours, and by early evening, pollen is less likely to be near the ground.
  2. Garden in the rain. On wet and humid days, pollen counts tend to be low.
  3. Weed early and often. Pull weeds from your garden before they mature and produce pollen. Weekly light hoeing between plants can keep weeds from getting started in the first place.

Here are some additional natural health tips on seasonal allergies.


Desk-Job Weight Gain

Sitting at a desk all day is part of the problem - too many office workers get no on-the-job exercise. Also to blame are the lack of workplace facilities to store and eat food, the absence of on-site gyms, work related stress and overtime. These conclusions came from a study of obesity and workplace conditions conducted in Europe by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Cyprus International Institute for the Environment and Public Health. The researchers found that 19 percent of Dutch citizens and 31 percent of Irish citizens get no exercise at work. Worse, 55 percent of Greeks and Croatians and 61 percent of French people do no exercise at all. Switching from traditional diets to fast food high in saturated fats is also part of the trend, the researchers said. The solution? Fitness incentives for employees and a break from desk-bound routines, the investigators suggested. But first both employers and employees have to recognize how serious the issue is: by 2015 2 billion people worldwide will be overweight and 700 million will be obese, the researchers said.


Health News About Broccoli Sprouts

The active constituent is sulforaphane, a component of broccoli sprouts that interferes with the activity of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). These bugs live in the gastrointestinal tract and can cause stomach ulcers (which are treated with antibiotics) and gastritis, two conditions that are associated with stomach cancer. In a small study in Japan, researchers from Johns Hopkins gave 25 subjects infected with H. pylori two and a half ounces of broccoli sprouts daily for two months. Another 25 infected individuals received alfalfa sprouts instead. The study subjects were monitored with breath, blood and stool sample tests before, during and after the study to check the severity of their H. pylori infections, colonization by the bacteria and the degree of inflammation in the stomach lining. After two months, levels of a substance that indicates the presence of H. pylori had dropped 40 percent in the broccoli group, but remained unchanged in the subjects eating alfalfa sprouts. Eight weeks after the study ended H. pylori levels returned to where they had been in the first place, suggesting that the sulforaphane they contain reduces H. pylori colonization but doesn’t eliminate it. The study was published in the April 6, 2009 issue of Cancer Prevention Research.


The Best Walking Pace

The benefits of moderate physical activity to general health and well-being have been widely publicized, but what, exactly, constitutes moderate activity? Now, researchers have a specific answer: walking at a rate of at least 100 steps per minute.

This means that a simple pedometer-based recommendation of workouts consisting of 3,000 steps in 30 minutes can get people started on a meaningful, moderate exercise program. The study reaching this conclusion was published in the May 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The researchers monitored oxygen intakes as a study group of 58 woman and 39 men completed four six-minute sessions at different treadmill speeds of between 65 and 110 meters per minute. All wore pedometers and their heart rates were recorded. Using 3 METs, or metabolic equivalents, as the minimum level of oxygen demand which approximates moderate exercise, participants were monitored to determine whether, and when, participants had reached the moderate-exercise level. The researchers found that for men, step counts associated with walking at 3 METs were between 92 and 102 steps per minute. For women, the range was between 91 and 115 steps per minute.

This is very useful information. Too often, people put off starting an exercise program because they simply don’t know how much they should do, or how vigorously they should do it. Now, an inexpensive pedometer and a wristwatch are all you need to begin walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, confident that you are meeting the minimum requirement. You can, as I do, vary your walking regime with swimming, biking or even vigorous yard work for equivalent periods of time, but many people find that walking fits into their lifestyle most comfortably. Enjoy!


Insomnia Can Raise Your Blood Pressure

Tossing and turning through the night is bad enough, but a new study published in the April 1, 2009 issue of SLEEP showed that getting inadequate sleep at night can have more serious consequences than daytime tiredness. The researchers demonstrated that insomnia can raise the risk of high blood pressure 500 percent higher in individuals who got less than five hours sleep compared to study participants who slept more than six hours and didn't suffer from insomnia. The investigators also found that insomniacs who slept five to six hours a night had a risk for high blood pressure 350 percent higher than normal sleepers. But insomniacs who slept for six hours or more had no higher risk for hypertension, nor did individuals who slept less than six hours but didn't complain about insomnia. The researchers, from Penn State's College of Medicine, emphasized that you can't judge your risk based on the amount of sleep you think you get - as that belief doesn’t necessarily conform to actual sleep time as measured scientifically in a sleep center. But the researchers said that if you have persistent insomnia with short sleep duration, you should discuss your blood pressure and general health with your physician.

Read more about insomnia treatment.


Omega-3s Battle Tumors

Add this to the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids: Egyptian researchers have found that docosahexanoic acid (DHA), one of the primary omega-3s, reduced the size of solid tumors in mice and increased the efficacy of a chemotherapy drug. The new findings, published in the April 2, 2009 issue of Cell Division, may lead to the use of DHA combined with chemo in treating solid tumors. DHA may also work against tumors by itself, the researchers said. More specifically, the Egyptian team reported that at the molecular level, DHA reduces the accumulation of white blood cells, moderated systemic inflammation and also helped check oxidative stress, all of which have been linked to tumor growth. The investigators further noted that DHA reduced toxicity and damage to the kidney caused by cisplatin, the chemotherapy drug used against tumors in mice. Omega-3s are found in salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines as well as plant-derived foods such as walnuts. The Egyptian findings came just after U.S. researchers reported that a diet high in omega-3s protected against advanced prostate cancer, even in men at high risk.


14 Ingredients to Avoid

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Tape this list to your fridge!

An important step in creating a healthy kitchen is to read and understand food labels. When you begin restocking your pantry, food labels are your best resource to assess what to keep and what to toss. This practice will also give you an overview of your choices in the supermarket, and is a good starting point to modify your shopping habits. Use the list below to determine which items to discard. Many of these ingredients are considered pro-inflammatory and therefore unfavorable to healthy aging. If the list of ingredients contains one or more of these undesirables, toss and don't buy again!

  1. Animal fat, such as lard
  2. Artificial sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners
  3. Coconut oil
  4. Corn oil
  5. Cottonseed oil
  6. Fractionated oil
  7. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  8. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening
  9. Margarine
  10. Palm or palm kernel oil
  11. Blended vegetable oils
  12. Safflower oil
  13. Soybean oil
  14. Sunflower oil

Note: High-oleic versions of sunflower or safflower oils are acceptable, as they have fatty acid profiles closer to that of olive oil. 

Learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet.