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Category Archives: Health

Tips to Utilize Your Creativity

1. Break Out of the Nine-to-Five

Studies show that the mind is often more creative at so-called suboptimal times. If you’re unable to put your feet up at the office, consider working late-or better still, rising before dawn. It worked for Hemingway and Mozart.

2. Break Up Your Work Schedule

Creativity comes in fits and starts, and some of the best breakthroughs happen when the mind is distracted. (Google employees are known to play Ping-Pong and foosball at the office.) Even menial tasks, like cleaning your desk or getting your files in order, can give your mind the respite it needs to function at peak capacity.

3. Cultivate a Safe Space

Studies show that people do their best work when they’re not worrying about imminent deadlines or their boss’s frustrations. Get started early, give your mind time to wander and don’t beat yourself up about missteps along the way.

4. Know Your Stuff

A creative mind is a knowledgeable one. The more you master your subject matter, the better your chances of doing something new with it.

5. Take Time for Catnaps

REM sleep has been shown to help the brain overcome creative challenges. Even 20 minutes of shut-eye is a worthwhile investment in productivity.

The Ways the Body Deals with the Cold Weather

1. Your Blood Vessels Constrict

Your body is built to always maintain a stable core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (that’s 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). When the temperature in your environment drops, thermoreceptors in your skin sound the alarm, alerting an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which acts like a thermostat dedicated to maintaining that 37 degree equilibrium, according to Robert Kenefick, PhD, research physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. One of the first actions the hypothalamus takes: It tightens the blood vessels in your arms, hands, feet, and legs. “Blood delivers heat to the skin,” says Gordon Giesbrecht, PhD, professor of thermophysiology at the University of Manitoba in Canada. “If you decrease blood flow to the skin, you decrease heat loss from the skin.”

2. You Have to Urinate

All that vasoconstriction forces fluid to concentrate in your core. This causes volume receptors that talk to your hypothalamus to say, “Hey, maybe you should get rid of some of that fluid-maybe you should pee.” It’s common, say, on the ski slopes for people to use the bathroom right before they head outdoors and then to feel like they need to go again shortly after being outside.

3. You Shiver

Of course you shiver when it’s cold-duh. But the reason you do is utterly interesting. “When vasoconstriction isn’t doing enough to warm you, the hypothalamus tells your muscles to start contracting. One of the byproducts of muscle contraction is heat.” Garden-variety shivering produces about 100 watts of heat, says Giesbrecht. If you get cold enough to enter into mild hypothermia, you can produce 400 to 600 watts of heat through shivering.

4. You Freeze Much Faster if Wet

Why do little kids still shiver when they get out of a heated swimming pool in 80-degree weather? “Water carries heat away from the body 25 times faster than air, so you can lose a great amount of heat very quickly when you’re wet,” says Kenefick. “Shivering is one way your body is trying to raise your core temperature back up.”

5. You Make Things Worse if You Drink Alcohol

hink a flask filled with the strong stuff can keep you toasty? You might be dead wrong. The body’s first major reaction to cold is to constrict blood vessels, but  “alcohol does the opposite-it causes peripheral vasodilation,” explains Kenefick. “Those blood vessels widen and dump all this heat to the environment.” Your skin will feel warm, but that provides a false sense of security, because this really causes your core temperature to drop, which can lead in extreme cases to hypothermia.

6. You Can Become too Cold if You Dress too Warmly

How’s this scenario for ironic? You’re outside in very cold weather shoveling snow, which is a lot of physical work. You’re contracting muscles and generating a lot of heat, so your core temperature actually goes up. “In this situation, your blood vessels dilate instead of constrict, and you start sweating. If that sweat then gets trapped in your clothing, then it can start sucking heat away from your body. That’s a recipe for hypothermia right there,” says Kenefick. The lesson: Don’t overdress if you know you’re going to be exercising vigorously.

7. You Scrunch Down and Huddle With Others

When your body has constricted your blood vessels and made your muscles start shivering, you might also instinctually engage in social behaviors that help conserve heat. When you scrunch down and make yourself smaller, you lose less heat to the environment because you decrease your own surface area.

8. Over Time, Your Brain Stops Operating on All Cylinders

Once your body goes into a hypothermic state-a core temperature that’s too low-your brain and nervous system have a harder time functioning and maintaining normal thought. “There are stories of hunters or people out in the cold, maybe they fell in water or got lost,” Kenefick says. “The hypothalamus tries all the mechanisms that usually work-and then when those fail, it becomes unclear of what to do next. People have been found in freezing temperatures with all their clothes off, because the hypothalamus said, ‘OK, well, let’s try dumping heat out there-making people feel hot-and see if that will work.” If the hypothermia becomes severe enough, the hypothalamus can get really out of whack.

9. Your Skin Turns White and Hard

These are signs of frostbite, a condition when your exposed skin gets too cold and freezes. Cheeks, nose, and fingers tend to be especially vulnerable because they are getting less blood flow because of the vasoconstriction. Also, your fingers are cylinders, which gives them more surface area relative to their size and makes them more vulnerable to heat loss. Frostbite means the skin tissue has become damaged. If it’s severe enough, says Kenefick, it can turn black and actually fall off. At first you will feel pain; as your skin gets colder and colder, it will feel numb. “When this happens, the thermoreceptors in your skin have stopped working,” Giesbrecht says.

10. Your Skin Gets Rashy and Red

Some people have an allergic reaction to cold-but not necessarily freezing-weather, a condition known as cold urticaria or less formally, “winter bumps.” It’s not a reaction to very cold weather, like frostbite, but rather just dry, cool conditions, which can cause an allergic-type reaction in certain people with sensitive skin.

Ways to Relieve Anxiety

Did You Know?

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders can include difficulty concentrating, restlessness and irritability, feeling twitchy, being quick to startle, muscle tension, insomnia, nausea, dry mouth and dizziness.

Take control of your body with these six anxiety-busting remedies.

1. Cardiovascular Exercise

Nervous people have a lot of adrenaline to burn, so doctors recommend a daily, half-hour cardio workout.

Get your heartbeat racing with these fun cardio ideas.

2. Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle

Getting quality sleep and eating a healthy diet do wonders to promote inner calm.

Discover 12 secrets to a deeper sleep and healthy autumn superfoods.

3. Occupy Your Brain

When anxious thoughts creep up, call a friend, read a book or delve into a craft project to help focus your mind.

Fill your reading list up every month with RD’s best book selections.

4. Meditation

Meditation can create changes in the brain, lifting depression and calming stress.

Seek some inner peace with simple five-minute meditation exercises from Canadian Yoga expert Padma.

5. Therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy trains you to interrupt your cycle of panicky thoughts and halt nervous-system arousal.

Discover eight must-have health apps, including one for easy cognitive-behavioural therapy.

6. Medication

Certain antidepressants work well for anxiety disorders, but it’s important to do your research before agreeing to a prescription.

10 Ways Natural Concentration

1. Put limits on screen time

Keep a track of hours spent on the computer. A Swedish study found unrestrained time on the web-Pathological Internet Use (PIU)-is associated with increased symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), especially in men.

2. Never skip breakfast

Studies show that breakfast eaters score higher on visual searches, accuracy and reaction time. A diet that keeps your blood glucose levels steady throughout the day is best for cognitive performance.

3. Try ginkgo supplements

Placebo-controlled UK research found a 120 mg dose of standardized Ginkgo biloba extract quickened performance on tasks requiring attention.

4. Ginseng

A small placebo-controlled Korean study found 4500 mg of red ginseng a day for two weeks improved participants’ reaction times and brain power.

5. Boost your vitamin B6 intake

Make sure you’re getting enough B6. A Tufts University study linked low vitamin B6 concentrations in the blood to decreased attention and ability to plan.

6. Get a good night’s sleep

One night of sleep deprivation can reduce concentration on a visual tracking exercise by more than 40 per cent.

7. Drink coffee

Compounds in coffee (not just caffeine) stimulate the brain’s innate anti-oxidant system, improving cognitive function and reducing age-related cognitive decline.

8. Eat dark chocolate

Eating dark chocolate has been shown to improve cognitive function and increase driving accuracy and reduce collisions in clinical studies.

9. Meditate

A month of meditation training has been shown to decrease reaction time and increase the ability to concentrate without exerting any extra effort.

10. Sniff peppermint

Sharpen your wits with a sniff of peppermint. A randomized International Journal of Neuroscience study of 144 adults found the scent of peppermint enhanced memory, increased alertness and improved reaction times.

Easy Ways to Boost energy

1. Boost energy with a protein-rich breakfast.

Include protein at breakfast. Our bodies repair during sleep, and this takes energy, which needs replacing. “You’re already waking up at a deficit,” says Debra Basch, a registered holistic nutritionist from Toronto. She suggests including Greek yogurt, flaxseeds or hemp seeds.

2. Snack smart for an energy boost.

Snacking can sustain energy levels, Basch says-provided you’re reaching for nutritious foods. Try apples or nuts; the fibre and protein will help hold you over until you next eat.

3. Boost energy by banishing stress.

Stress is an energy zapper-feeling sluggish might be your body’s response to tension. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests activities like meditation, yoga and tai chi to help with agitation.

4. Don’t look for an energy boost in a bottle.

Skip the nightcap. While alcohol reduces the amount of time it takes to nod off, studies have shown that it interferes with REM sleep, the restorative stage in which memories are stored and dreaming occurs.

5. Fight fatigue with physical activity.

A little workout goes a long way when it comes to boosting your energy. A 2008 study from the University of Georgia revealed that after only 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise on a stationary bike (comparable to a leisurely walk), participants who had initially reported persistent tiredness had 65 per cent lower fatigue scores.

6. Boost your energy with a belly laugh.

Laughter may well be the best medicine. Research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests that exposure to humour-even 12 short minutes of it-can increase your energy. Have a funny online video on standby to get you through that afternoon slump.

7. Stay well hydrated.

Dehydration-severe or mild-leaves us feeling tired. Drink plenty of fluids and eat fresh produce such as cantaloupe, which contains high concentrations of water.

Tips to Cure Insomnia

There’s more to insomnia than merely having trouble falling asleep. Some people fall asleep just fine but wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. Others sleep through the night but wake too early in the morning. And still others appear to sleep through the night with no problem, but never wake rested.

While it’s normal to experience an occasional bad night of sleep, if your sleep problems become chronic, it’s time to do something about them. Lack of sleep interferes with immune function and increases your risk of insulin resistance. Then there are the dangers of trying to get through the day (especially if you have to drive) when you’re overtired.

Not being able to sleep can be extremely frustrating. Getting rid of chronic insomnia will probably involve making some long-term changes to your habits. These seven sleep-promoting strategies are a great place to start.

1. Take a walk.

If you’re suffering from insomnia, regular exercise is critical to your ability to get a good night’s sleep. It doesn’t need to be an intense workout-a brisk 20-minute walk outside in the afternoon is just fine. We want you to walk outside if possible because natural light helps regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle. Just don’t exercise within three or four hours of bedtime because it could increase your metabolism and mental alertness.

2. Take a warm bath.

About two hours before bed, take a warm bath into which you’ve mixed 15 drops lavender essential oil. We recommend adding lavender oil to the bath because lavender promotes relaxation and possibly sleep. The bath will relax tense muscles. And if you take one regularly, it will help form a nighttime ritual that signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Stick to your ritual like glue every night and it will work like a charm.

3. Keep your bedroom cool.

After you get out of the bath, your body temperature will slowly start to drop-a precursor to sleep. A cool bedroom also helps induce sleep, which is why we suggest adjusting the temperature, turning down the thermostat or turning on the air conditioner as required.

4. Do an activity you find relaxing.

Before you climb into bed, spend 20 minutes on some form of relaxation therapy, such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or writing in your journal.

The best natural Antidepresan

1. Ginkgo biloba

If you’re looking to take the natural approach to treating mild depression, you may want to give ginkgo biloba supplements a try. This herb increases blood flow to the brain, which can boost energy and help improve concentration. Research hasn’t yet linked this herb directly with mood, but one study found it improved attention and memory (common problems experienced with depression) in a week. In another study, the herb improved some of the sexual side effects some prescription antidepressants can cause. Take 40 to 80 milligrams of a ginkgo biloba extract standardized to 24% flavonoids and 6% terpene lactones 2 to 3 times a day.

2. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

This molecule increases levels of the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin. Studies find it significantly improves mood compared to a placebo. Take 50 milligrams 3 times daily to fight depression.

3. B vitamins

The B vitamins folate and B12 help the brain convert amino acids into mood-boosting brain chemicals such as serotonin. People older than age 60, whose bodies may poorly absorb these vitamins, and vegetarians, who may not get enough B vitamins through their diets, may benefit most from supplements. To use as part of fighting depression, take 800 micrograms folate and 400 micrograms vitamin B12 daily as part of a B vitamin complex.

4. S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)

Like prescription antidepressants, SAMe boosts levels of brain chemicals involved with mood. It works about as effectively as prescription medications and tends to kick in faster (within 1 to 2 weeks) than prescription drugs, which may take 3 or more weeks to begin working. (Another factor that favours herbs and supplements over prescription drugs is the lower risk of side effects.) Take 200 milligrams twice a day for a week. If you don’t feel better after a week, increase the dosage another 200 milligrams for a week. Continue to increase the dosage by 200 milligrams until you feel better, up to 1,200 daily milligrams.

5. Zinc

Low zinc levels may trigger a drop in immunity that affects your mood. In one study of 14 depressed people, those who took a zinc supplement in addition to a prescription antidepressant were significantly less depressed after 6 weeks than those taking only the antidepressant. If you are experiencing depression, take 25 milligrams daily.

Multivitamins

Our bodies need many different vitamins and minerals to function properly.

Vitamins and minerals also offer us protection against a host of ailments, including heart disease and some cancers, such as colon and cervical cancer.

The good news is that we can get most of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need daily by choosing the right foods and eating a wide variety of them.

Still, many people take a multivitamin daily as an insurance policy — just to be sure they are getting all the vitamins and minerals that their bodies require.

“A multivitamin is a good idea for the trace elements,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill.

“You want a multivitamin for all those little things at the bottom of the ingredients list. The ones at the top of the list are familiar and the ones we can’t avoid if we’re eating enriched foods. It’s the trace elements at the bottom that are the ones often missing.”

Trace elements include chromium, folic acid, potassium, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc.

Daily Vitamin: Our Needs Change With Age

Vitamin supplements can be particularly important during certain stages of our lives, Dr. Novey says. For example, women in their childbearing years can benefit from folic acid, which decreases the risk of some birth defects. A pregnant woman needs a multivitamin, starting in the first trimester, to ensure that the baby receives proper nutrition. Active and older women can benefit from increased calcium, which can help prevent bone loss and fractures. Vegetarians also can benefit from taking extra calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and D.

Does it matter what time of day you take a multivitamin? Not really, says Stephen Bickston, MD, AGAF, professor of internal medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond. However, he says, some people find it helpful to take vitamins at the same time every day. If it becomes part of their routine, they are less likely to forget. Also, he says, some people feel that if they take their vitamin with food, it is less likely to cause stomach upset. “I often recommend that people take a chewable vitamin,” Dr. Bickston says, “because they seem to be well tolerated, even in people who have serious digestive conditions, which is what I deal with in my practice.”

Daily Vitamin: Tips for Shopping for the Right Multivitamin

Do you need to buy brand name vitamins? Novey says vitamins are like any other consumer product: “You get what you pay for.” He suggests shopping for vitamins in health food or natural food stores. Read the label and make sure its expiration date is at least a few months away. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advice on how much to take — or the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) — is often written as “% DV” for percentage of daily value on the label. However, be careful because the DVs on the label may not take into consideration the different requirements for age and gender as RDAs do.

Multivitamins can be beneficial, but doctors warn not to be suckered by “mega” vitamins. The amount of vitamins in a standard multi is generally what you need for health benefits. Rarely do people need more than the RDA of any vitamin. When it comes to vitamins, the too-much-of-a-good-thing rule can apply, Bickston says.

Daily Vitamin: Ensuring Good Health

Clearly, eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats and poultry, and low-fat dairy products is the best way to get your daily dose of vitamins and nutrients to keep your body functioning properly and to ward off illnesses. But taking a multivitamin daily is a good backup plan, and an easy way to fill in any gaps in your diet.

5 Quick Health Facts for the Body

1. Skipping Breakfast Won’t Help You Lose Weight.

A health study from the University of Bath in the U.K. compared two groups of obese subjects over six weeks – one group ate every morning and the other fasted until noon. The fasting group tended to take in more food later in the day, meaning that both groups got about the same amount of calories overall. Neither group lost weight, but those who ate breakfast were more active in the the morning and could control their blood-sugar levels better.

2. Wearable Health Devices are Not Solutions.

Smartwatches, bands and other consumer gadgets that track health indicators like heart rate and sleeping patterns are popular these days. However, researchers at three British universities – Lancaster, West of England and Nottingham Trent – said that not all devices on the market provide reliable measurements. Two recent studies found error margins of up to 25 per cent between devices’ estimates and the actual number of steps taken or calories burned. If you want an accurate smartwatch, proceed with caution.

3. Quitting Driving Can be Bad for You.

For a variety of reasons ranging from Parkinson’s to poor vision, many seniors give up driving. Even when it’s the right decision, leaving your car behind can contribute to health problems like cognitive decline and depression, since driving often enables social interactions and personal freedom. A review published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society emphasized that people who anticipate they’ll have to stop driving should plan other ways to get around and keep connected.

4. Irrational Fears About Chemicals are Common.

According to a recent paper in Human and Experimental Toxicology, we spend too much time worrying about human-made chemicals. Investigating how synthetic substances affect our bodies is important, but making assumptions can lead to unhealthy choices. For instance, someone who is worried about the amount of pesticides on produce might not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

5. You Should Be Drinking More Water Than You Think.

The amount of water we need to be healthy varies according to factors like physical-activity levels, physiology and climate. As a rough guideline, the Dieticians of Canada suggest nine cups per day for women and 12 cups for men.

Compared to younger people, seniors must take extra care to get enough fluids. Older people also tend to have modest appetites, meaning they receive less fluid from food. And because of declining kidney function, their bodies aren’t as good at conserving the water they do get.

Things that You Don’t Know about Germs

1. Water temperature doesn’t matter to germs.

Scrubbing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is your simplest defence against harmful germs. But no need to bother with the hot faucet-warm water is no more effective than cold in removing bacteria from your hands.

2. Hand sanitizer is the next best thing to washing.

If water and soap aren’t available, use alcohol-based sanitizer. Jason Tetro, a Toronto-based microbiologist and the author of The Germ Code, says as long as the product contains 62 to 70 per cent alcohol, it will kill most of the germs on your skin.

3. Some germs are worth nurturing.

Tetro suggests consuming prebiotic-rich foods like bananas and asparagus. Unlike probiotics-live bacteria that improve digestion-prebiotics help nourish the good bacteria already present in your gut.

4. It pays to keep your fridge organized.

Harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, can be spread when ready-to-eat foods, like washed fruits and veggies, come into contact with potentially hazardous ones, like raw meats and their juices. Toronto Public Health’s Owen Chong suggests organizing your fridge with raw meats at the bottom, unwashed produce in the middle and ready-to-eat foods at the top in order to avoid cross-contamination.

5. Don’t wash your chicken before cooking.

If you rinse raw poultry, the bacteria can be carried by the water. To avoid food-borne illnesses during prep, use a separate cutting board and utensils for uncooked poultry, says Chong.

6. Reach for paper towels in public restrooms.

They may be eco-friendly, but hand dryers have one major drawback-they blast germs everywhere. In a 2014 University of Leeds study in England, microbiologists found that the concentration of airborne bacteria around jet air dispensers was 27 times higher than that found near paper towel dispensers.

7. Toilets aren’t the most dangerous thing in public bathroom.

The toilets in public washrooms aren’t necessarily where you’ll find the most germs. “The door handle and sink basin are more dangerous than the toilet itself,” says Tetro. He suggests using paper towel when opening bathroom doors.

8. Germs love toothbrushes.

If you can’t remember when you last changed your toothbrush, it’s time to toss it. An open toilet bowl can allow a biofilm of fecal coliforms to grow on your brush, says Tetro. Keep your lid down and rinse your toothbrush with hot water for five seconds before use.