Monday, December 27, 2010

Obesity: Hereditary or Not?

In an old issue of HR Magazine, there appeared an article, entitled, "Obesity is not hereditary."

"The problem of the 'fat' person has become paramount importance in the last few years, with the trend towards physical fitness as evidenced by the jogging craze," says the article.

"Physical fitness is always linked with health. The aim of any physical fitness program is not merely to make a person physically fit, but healthy as well, since health, physical as well as mental, is very important.

"Hence, an overweight person cannot be physically fit because excess fat is unhealthy. What should one do, then?

"Many reducing clinics attempt to cure obesity by curing only the symptoms, and never bother to look at the cause, " continues the article.

And that cause is food.

There are factors which may be held responsible for obesity, such as hormonal imbalance and physical inactivity, but the root cause is still food.

No one was ever born overweight.

Every overweight person must learn correct eating habits, create a new lifestyle based on wise food choice, and have enough physical activity.

To further explain the obesity syndrome, bariatric experts (those specially trained in weight control) suggest behavior modification techniques to control obesity.

Psychology defines behavior modification as the correction of disorders in human behavior by the application of the principle of learning. It contends that an individual, throughout his lifetime, develops a distinct mode of behavior or habit.

Habits, good or bad, are the products of learning and are embedded in one's subconscious. In the same manner that computers can be programmed and de-programmed, so habits can be learned and unlearned.

A healthier, longer life to all in 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Meditation Promotes Health

Practitioners of various relaxation methods have long accepted meditation can have beneficial health effects by reducing blood pressure, heartbeat and respiratory rate.
Blood pressure rises in response to our emotions, say researchers, suggesting that it may be possible to lower blood pressure with good thoughts.

On the contrary, we can raise our blood pressure just by thinking of a traumatic experience.
Therefore it seems reasonable that calming thoughts can also lower blood pressure. But it was not until the advent of biofeedback training that these claims were scientifically validated.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects a very large percentage of the adult population.
It can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and hardening of the arteries.
It is our emotional reaction to various pressures in life which creates stress. Our body responds to any threat, physical or psychological: muscles tense, blood pressure rises, and heart rate increases.

Like primitive warriors, we are prepared for any battle. But we --modern "hunter-warriors"-- are desk-bound. We have little or no opportunity to react physically to the threat and release the pressure. We are therefore left with a pounding heart and soaring blood pressure.

But each time we get angry, frustrated or excited and our blood pressure rises, it fails to return down to normal. Bit by bit, millimeter by millimeter, our normal pressure at rest creeps upward until we have essential (not caused by disease) hypertension.

Dr. Herbert Benson, who conducted studies with Transcendental Meditation (TM) at Harvard and Beth Israel Hospital in 1968, emphatically stated that essential high blood pressure can be lowered by a simple form of Transcendental Meditation (TM). He describes the technique in his book, The Relaxation Response. He writes:
"Our hypotheses is that the 'relaxation response' decreases and counteracts the increased sympathetic nervous system activity that accompanies the arousal of the fight-or-flight response. This sympathetic nervous system activity is reflected in the measures...of oxygen consumption, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure which increase with the fight-or-flight response and decrease with the elicitation of the relaxation response."

Results of TM were demonstrated by a study of 36 volunteers with high blood pressure. The subjects were monitored for six weeks with special test machines to verify their high blood pressure readings. After the six-week period the volunteers were instructed in TM and began meditating daily. Their blood pressure was measured every two weeks at random times of the day, "but never while meditating."

After several weeks of meditation, their average systolic (upper) blood pressure dropped 10 millimeters, and their average diastolic (lower) reading lowered 4.6 millimeters. Although meditation had not cured them, as long as it continued, their blood pressure remained normal. When seven of the subjects stopped practicing TM, their blood pressure returned to pre-meditation hypertensive levels within four weeks.

Here are the four steps to Dr. Benson's relaxation response which laboratory tests at Harvard showed produces the same physiological changes as TM:

1. Sit comfortably in a quiet place.
2. Close eyes and relax all muscles.
3. Breathe easily and naturally through your nose. Inhale, then as you exhale say in your mind the word "one." Repeat the word "one" silently each time you breathe out.
4. "One" is a mantra, a mental device to anchor your thoughts. Your thoughts will wander--your mind will tend to reflect on problems, events and desires. Do not wrestle with these thoughts, just replace them with the thought of "one" and your steady rhythm of breathing.
Meditate for 10 to 20 minutes, twice daily. When the time is up--you may check a clock but do not use an alarm--remain quiet for a few moments, first with eyes closed, then opened.
Do not practice within two hours after a meal because digestive processes will interfere with the technique. And do not worry if the technique doesn't seem to work for you at first. It has worked for thousands of other subjects and, given time, it will work for you.

Here's to a Happy Yuletide Season--and a healthier you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stressed? Run!

Yes, running can diffuse negative emotions--and more.

Dr. George Sheehan, a medical practitioner who has written for Runner's World and Physician and Sports Medicine magazines, considers the running life as mental as well as physical.

Speaking from experience, Dr. Sheehan further claims that running has the effect of defusing anger, fear and anxiety. Like music, it soothes the savagery in us that lies so close to the surface. It is the ultimate tranquilizer.

But why is this so? What is it about running that blocks these negative, destructive feelings?

Here are Dr. Sheehan's own words: "The best explanation, it seems to me, lies in the James-Lange theory of emotions. It is one of psychology's most unlikely hypotheses and one that has been given little credence. Yet, like most ideas espoused by James, the passage of time seems to be giving it the support it has always deserved."

"According to James, I do not first get angry and then exhibit that anger in my body. The actual process is the reverse: My body gets angry, and then I get angry. My body perceives the object or idea that angers me, reacts with the usual physiological phenomena--rapid pulse, flushing of the face, and so on--and only then do I feel the emotion of anger.

"If the usual signs and symptoms of rage are blocked, I will not feel rage in my mind. Such blocking can occur two ways. The first is by flooding the various systems of the body with activity, so that there is no reserve to utilize for creating the reaction identified with emotion. The second is to substitute some positive emotion in its place. Act happy, look happy, speak happy, said James, and you will be happy.

SQUEEZE IT OUT. Persons can slow down a dangerously racing heartbeat by squeezing one of their ears; angina sufferers can relieve their chest pain the same way, said Dr. Mohan Kataria of King's College Hospital.

The squeezing action, he said, slows the heartbeat and reduces blood flow by stimulating the vagus nerve, which begins in the brain and branches to both the ears and heart.

Dr. Kataria outlined the proper technique for squeezing the ear: Cover one ear with the open palm of your strongest hand, press your fingertips behind your neck and squeeze the whole ear for 10 to 20 seconds -- firmly but not till it hurts. It's as simple as squeezing a sponge.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Principles of Exercise

A basic principle of exercise for individuals over forty years of age, according to Glenn Swengros, an American authority on physical fitness who has served as Director of Program Development for the President's Council on Physical Fitness, is to avoid incurring a large oxygen debt. An oxygen debt is brought on during the performance of anaerobic (without oxygen) exercise.

In this type of work, the exercise is so intense that the body is just not able to supply itself with sufficient oxygen. The oxygen must be repaid quickly, and to do that, the activity must stop or slow down considerably until the debt is repaid.

Anaerobic exercises are necessary for athletic training, but are of lesser value in a personal physical fitness program. In fact, if you have been sedentary or if the heart is damaged, this type of exercise could be harmful.

Most experts would suggest that you should concentrate on aerobic exercise (activities that do not develop an oxygen debt) to improve cardio-respiratory fitness, the most important type of fitness for adults.

The same principle applies to warm-ups. Perform a warm-up of 5-10 minutes before engaging in an all-out muscular activity, especially if your workout takes place first thing in the morning.

ISOMETRICS - USE CAUTION. If you have a heart condition, check with your physician. Then run and walk--but don't use isometric exercises.

According to researchers at the University of Texas Medical School, isometric exercises--the ones that pit muscles against other muscles or an immovable object--can cause blood pressure to rise.

Jogging, on the other hand, increases the oxygen uptake while maintaining a much lower blood pressure.