Monday, November 25, 2013

When We’re Old and Gray

When we grow old, we expect our hair to turn gray and eventually white.  This is common since at a certain age, our hair follicles stop producing melanin, which results in white hair.

According to research, our bodies produce a natural pigment called melanin. Melanin is regulated by a cell called melanocyte. These cells push the natural pigments into the keratin, which is a natural protein that makes up our hair, skin and nails. Melanocytes work for a specific time frame, which differs from person to person. Hair that has lost most of its natural pigment turns gray, and hair that has completely lost all its melanin is white hair.

White hair happens when these melanocytes stop functioning. This is caused by several factors:

Genetics play a big factor in the graying of our hair. By inheriting the chromosome from a parent who is genetically programmed to have white hair, then naturally, you will get white hair too.

Vitamin B Deficiency
Vitamin B deficiency may result in white hair at an early age. If you have poor nutrition and unbalanced diet, certain vitamin deficiencies can come across. When you lack vitamin B6 and B12, specifically, the percentage of you having gray hair is higher. Vitamin B6 is good for preventing hair loss and creating melanin while vitamin B12 is good for preventing gray hair.

Chemical Exposure
Products like shampoo and hair colors that you use directly on your hair may lead to gray hair. Hair products that contain hydrogen peroxide help destroy your hair’s natural color, turning your hair to white.

David Fisher, Director of Melanoma Program and Chief of the Department of Dermatology, Harvard Medical School, noted that stress hormones could impact the survival or activity of melanocytes, but no clear link has been discovered between stress and gray hair yet.

Dr. Ralj Paus, a dermatologist from the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, uncovered that gray hair can be caused by free radicals (unstable molecules that damage cells), which stress hormones help produce. 

Next week, December 2, 2013, we shall discuss how to prevent gray or white hair. – J.P.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Emotional Wellness: Winter Blues

We have discussed how to combat grief last week. Let us discuss another emotional issue especially now that Christmas Season is fast-approaching.  Many people, specially in countries with Winter Season, start to feel depressed in November and continue to feel dreary until the spring thaw.  Scientists call this Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  According to Dr. Don Powell, daylight is needed to prompt the brain to release chemicals that spark feelings of energy. Since daylight is shorter during winter, some people suffer from this disorder during these months.  Other contributing factors, continues Dr. Powell, include:

  • Family members who live far away
  • Memories of a loved one who has passed away
  • Financial problems
  • Fatigue and feelings of being overwhelmed by tasks and obligation associated with the holidays
  • Idealistic expectations

Some ways to prevent or combat winter blues:

  • Get outside as much as possible.  SAD sufferers report they benefit more by exposure to early morning light than light later in the day.
  • Keep the drapes in your house open and the window shades raised during daylight hours.
  • On cloudy days, turn on bright lights.
  • Begin holiday preparations well in advance, to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
  • Delegate chores like writing greeting cards or baking cookies, to other members of the household.
  • Don't drink alcohol if it makes you moody and depressed.
  • Don't expect everything - food, decorations, family get-togethers - to be perfect for the holidays. 
  • Don't spend beyond your budget.
  • If keeping old holiday traditions is painful, start new ones.
  • If you expect to be alone for the holidays, don't wait to be invited somewhere; invite people over.

Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Emotional Health: Combatting Grief and Depression

Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) just recently hit the Philippines. Many have lost their homes, property, and worst, their loved ones.  Those people and almost everyone on this planet have or will experience grief and depression with the death of a loved one, a debilitating illness or injury, a divorce, or a catastrophic event.

Grief, according to the book 365 Health Hints, usually consists of five stages: shock, denial, anger, depression, and finally acceptance.  Recovery varies from person to person; it takes some people longer than others to recover, so grief shouldn't be ignored or rushed.

The following, continues the article, can help overcome grief:
  • Don't hide your emotions or feel embarrassed about grief.
  • Turn to supportive friends and family members for help and understanding.
  • Cope with anger over your loss by writing in a journal, pursuing a physical activity, or otherwise venting your feelings in a constructive way.
  • Substitute a positive thought for every negative thought that pops in your head.
  • Do not overeat or use alcohol and drugs in response to grief.
  • Be sure to eat a well-planned, nutritious diet and get enough rest and exercise, to boost your resistance to disease during your period of despair.
  • Avoid spending birthdays, holidays, or other momentous occasions alone.
  • Put off major decisions or changes until your grief has passed, since your judgment will be cloudy at this time.
  • To focus your attention away from yourself, do something to help someone else.
  • If you feel overwhelmed and unable to function, seek professional counselling.  
Lastly, it's best to keep in mind that whatever happens in our lives, happens for a reason. We may not know or see it yet, but each breath, each leaf that falls from a tree has a purpose.

Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.

Monday, November 4, 2013


I’m sure many of us have experienced or are experiencing back pains. It can be caused by many factors such as muscle strain, misaligned disks, arthritis, osteoporosis, or other skeletal irregularities.

According to Dr. Don Powell, most backaches are caused by muscular strain of the lower back.  Below are some of his suggestions on how to relieve backaches:

Bed Rest.  Bed rest is one of the oldest and most effective treatment for back pain because lying down takes pressure off the back.  Once pressure is reduced, healing can begin.  Inflammation and swelling have an opportunity to subside, too. Generally, 2 or 3 days of bed rest is best.

Medication.  Painkillers can relieve back pain temporarily, but can’t correct back problems.  Muscle relaxants relieve painful muscle spasms and make bed rest more tolerable.

Cold pack therapy. Injury to the back can cause blood vessels to tear, producing a bruise.  Cold inhibits swelling and numbs pain, so cold packs (like crushed ice wrapped in a towel) can help relieve the pain.  Apply for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for 2 to 3 hours a day for three to four days right after a back strain.

Heat treatment. Unlike cold, heat increases blood flow which promotes healing.  But you shouldn’t apply heat until three or four days after the initial strain; if heat is used sooner, the increased blood flow can add to swelling and inflammation. As with cold therapy, alternate 20-minute periods of gentle heat with 20-minute periods without heat, for up to 3 hours a day.

Massage. A massage won’t cure a back problem but it will increase blood flow to tight muscles and loosen them.

Braces. Braces support the back and protect the spine by restricting movement, serving as substitute for strong back muscles.

Once the acute pain is relieved, exercise programs and physical therapy designed to strengthen back muscles are recommended. Also, don’t sit for prolonged periods of time – it puts strain on the lower back. Make sure to sleep on extra firm mattress. It’s always best to sleep on your back.
Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010.