Monday, March 25, 2013

Living Well And Healthy, Part 1

Donald W. Kemper, MPH, author of Kaiser Permanente Healthwise Handbook, shares the following information on living a healthy life: 
  • Stay up to date with immunization and health screenings.  This helps your immune system recognize and attack diseases before they can cause problems.
  • Be physically active.  Along with a positive attitude and a healthful diet, your fitness level plays a major role in how well you feel and how much you enjoy life.  Regular physical activity gives the following benefits:
    1. Lowers your risk of premature death and death caused by heart disease.
    2. Reduces your risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and osteoporosis.
    3. Helps lower high cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
    4. Improves your mood, relieves stress, and promotes a sense of well-being.
    5. Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
    6. Helps you maintain a healthful body weight.     
          The latest research shows that exercise doesn’t have to be
          vigorous to improve your health.

          Many everyday activities raise your heart rate and – if done 
          regularly – will keep your heart and lungs healthy, make
          your muscles stronger, and improve your flexibility.
  • Eat right.  How and what you choose to eat affects your health.  Your diet plays an important role in helping you:
    1. Meet your nutritional needs and maintain a healthful weight.
    2. Have regular bowel movements.
    3. Prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
    4. Treat diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
          Another important aspect of your diet is how carefully you 
          prepare and handle foods.  You need good food preparation
          and food handling habits in order to avoid food-borne
  • Maintain a healthful body weight.  Healthy bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Weight is not the only measurement of health.  In fact, your weight may say very little about your health.  No matter what your shape or body size, you can improve your health by eating a balanced diet, getting regular physical activity, and learning to feel good about your body.

(We are most grateful to Kaiser Permanente led by Dr. Francis J. Crosson, M.D., Exec. Director and Donald W. Kemper, M.P.H. for permission to quote from its publication, Healthwise Handbook.  Visit for more information. – J.P.) 

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Anatomy of Stress, Part 2

Dr. Shaffer also maintains that you should examine your personality style and attitude at work.  Are you active or passive? Do you delegate assignments or feel you must have your fingers in everything?

If you don’t like what you see, try changing your management approach to improve your efficiency and attitude toward work.  This might require some assistance from an efficiency expert or a psychotherapist, Dr. Shaffer notes.

Learn to recognize that not all of your work demands equal quality.  Before beginning each task, determine which quality standards are necessary over those that might be desired.  You’ll know how your own quality standards either interfere with or facilitate your work flow.

These suggestions can help you reduce existing problems.  However, it is also possible to prevent others before they actually occur, Dr. Shaffer emphasizes.

Your own positive work atmosphere can be contagious, thereby enabling you and your colleagues to share more pleasurable and enjoyable interactions.

This can be achieved by giving immediate and concrete feedback to your employees.  When they do a good job, say so.  And be specific – “that report was well organized” – instead of “nice job.”

Encourage your workers to perform well.  “Tell, but don’t dwell” on failure or poor performance, Dr. Shaffer says.  You’ll soon see real behavioral changes through feedback as employee self-esteem increases.

In addition, “if you want your employees or co-workers to be on your side, be on their side first,” he writes.  “Recognize their strengths and tell them specifically what you recognize and value in them.”  This technique indicates that you understand and respect their perspectives.

Dr. Shaffer adds that to be stress-resilient, you must embrace life with a real will to live.  Develop an optimistic attitude and view yourself as the master of your fate.

Look at alternatives to troublesome situations and view stressful changes as opportunities for growth and challenge.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Anatomy of Stress, Part 1

It’s one thing to treat the symptoms of stress through relaxation, exercise and a healthy diet.  But it’s another to get to the heart of the problem – the “why” behind stress.

A good start is to know your “stress patterns,” claims Martin Shaffer, Ph.D,. in his book, Life After Stress (Plenum Press, N.Y.).  This can be achieved by sensitizing yourself to what triggers your stress response.

Once you’ve experienced stress, try keeping a journal or notebook to record daily accounts of when and where stress appears in your life, he suggests.

Not only will the journal enable you to detect your stress patterns, but it provides the raw material for a personal stress analysis in which you systematically evaluate and interpret the information.

Such analysis can serve as a basis for developing a comprehensive stress management program, Dr. Shaffer maintains.

First you should closely examine your work environment to see whether it poses potential stressors.

For instance, he recommends that you start by focusing on noise levels, air pollution, lighting, overcrowding, negative personal interactions, and adverse work conditions to see what triggers your negative feelings.

Also, determine whether you’re eating regularly and properly, getting enough exercise, and taking enough time to indulge in the activities you enjoy most.

Once you’ve detected problem areas, address ways to reduce or prevent them.  If time pressures unnerve you at the office, try to arrange “to set your own time limits to match your own rhythms so you can flow from task to task and relax while working,” Dr. Shaffer suggests.

When you feel rushed and flustered at work, review your priorities.  This way, you can properly pace yourself so the day progresses in an orderly and efficient way.

(Part 2 will appear next week, Monday, 18 March 2013 – J.P.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hug To Lessen Stress

Do you know that hugging someone you care for can reduce stress?

That’s what David Niven, Ph.D. says in his book, The 100 Simple Secrets of Healthy People: “The small acts that comfort us and show us our connection to other people are not trivial.  A hug is a means of giving and receiving affection – as well as a significant source of stress relief and comfort to our bodies.”

Laura Johnson, M.D., has studied the effects of personal contacts, including the amount of time family members and nurses spend with a patient.  She says that a daily dose of affection is needed by everyone for emotional well-being.

A University of North Carolina study also confirms that a brief hug with a loved one reduced the effects of stress on blood pressure and heart rate by half.

Having a very high estimation of ourselves, including disrespect for other, is another source of stress.  The effect: more stress and anger for us.  “Thinking that we’re always right is neither a helpful social trait nor a sound health habit,” emphasizes Dr. Niven.

“Feeling that you are better than anybody else, or feeling that you are always right, might seem empowering.  But really it’s mostly isolating.  It leads to a tremendous amount of tension,” concurs Dr. James Coyne, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Coyne and his colleagues videotaped heart patients’ arguments and grouped them according to the negativity of their interactions.  Those who were more negative toward the other person in arguments were 1-8 times as likely to die within four years as those who were given less negative ratings.

Researchers at the University of Bradford in England found that 62 percent of absolutist thinkers – people with a very high opinion of themselves and a low tolerance for compromise – suffered from high levels of anger and stress, which depressed the functioning of their immune systems.

Dr. Niven shares more relaxation tips:
  • Let your stress out.  Keeping our problems within us only serves to isolate us from people who care about us.
  • The less willing you are to share your problems with friends and loved ones, the more problems will overwhelm you – and the greater effect those problems will have on your health. 

(Our sincere thanks to Dr. Niven for permitting us to quote from his book; visit him at