Is chronic stress leaving you at risk of developing dementia?

According to an article I read in the Aged Care Report Card (HelloCare, 2017). In Australia, one person is diagnosed with dementia every six minutes. Fifty-five percent of these diagnoses affect Australian women. Are you at risk?

Scientists have found a significant link between severe stress in middle age and dementia. In a study done as part of the Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg, Sweden, 800 women participated in the study, from middle age to late life.

The study started in 1968, and the women were quizzed about common stressful situations or events, such as death of a spouse or child, divorce, serious illness, unemployment, abuse and lack of social support.

The women were followed over 38 years and examined for signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. At the end of the study, their findings were that one of of five of the participants had developed dementia (mostly Alzheimer’s).

Experts are starting to believe if you experience prolonged stress it damages your brain, which increases your chances of dementia.  Chronic stress increases the production of the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. When these hormones are increased, your blood pressure and blood sugar rise. While this is okay for a short period of time,  if this happens often, and for sustained periods of time, your brain is affected.

What part of your brain is affected? The hippocampus – which is the part of your brain responsible for memory. The amygdala – which controls your emotional responses. And the prefrontal cortex – which regulates your thinking.

Yes, I hear you say, the brain does create new brain cells. But increased cortisol levels reduce the speed they are created.

So how do you minimise your stress levels when we live in such a stressful world?

You don’t need to get rid of ALL stress – it would impossible anyway. Some stress is actually good for you. But chronic stress is not.

Here are some tips to help you manage your stress levels:

  • You can train your brain to look at the positives, not the negatives, in life.
  • Connection with family and friends is crucial. Strong ties keep us connected, and help us have fun, live in the present and relax
  • Be active! One of the best defences against dementia of any type is regular exercise. Not only does it help maintain normal hormonal balance, exercise releases serotonin and endorphins that help release your body’s natural pain killers and help enhance your mood.
  • Eat whole food, full of nutrition. Junk food isn’t food, it’s just junk. And much of the ‘healthy’ prepackaged food is full of nasties. Cook for yourself. If you don’t know how – learn, it’s pretty simple!
  • Sleep well – your body and your brain need to relax. You can listen to the recording of my Sleep is not a Luxury radio interview here to find out some tips on how to improve your sleep.
  • Keep your brain busy. Crosswords, sudokus, puzzles, learning new things like a language are all great for keeping your brain healthy.
  • The corollary to the above is to let your brain rest. Practising meditation, yoga, tai chi will really help calm the chatter.
  • And of course, LAUGH! You knew if was coming, didn’t you! Laughter does so many wonderful things for your physical, emotional and mental health – but one of the biggest benefits is that it is the best destressor you have. It costs, nothing, and you can do it alone anytime.

 

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine!

You’ve heard laughter is the best medicine right? Well, the science is in and it’s proven to be true!smiley-163510__180

Do you, or does anyone you know, suffer from any of the following?

  • Health concerns such as high blood pressure, heart disease or hypertension?
  • Do you feel blue and want to feel pink (ie happy and positive)?
  • Do you know you need to exercise but the idea of going to the gym is just not for you?
  • Does your brain feel foggy and you wish you could think more clearly? Is this impacting your performance at work, or even at home?
  • Do you shove your feelings down and not let them out for fear of… well, just for fear?
  • Do you feel social isolated but hate the idea of ‘joining’ groups?
  • Do you travel for work and find it hard to connect with anyone outside the office?
  • Do you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks?

Then you may need a regular dose of laughter. Laughter can do amazing things for you, including:

  • Helping you stay RESILIENT in the face of life’s challenges
  • Improving your MIND POWER performance through increased oxygen flow to your brain
  • Gives you HEALTH BENEFITS including strengthening your immune system so you can ward against illness, reduces high blood pressure, helps with anxiety, and even can aid those suffering from depression
  • Helping you to MANAGE STRESS, the number one killer in the western world, and
  • Enhancing your mood by releasing ENDORPHINS 
What would you rather be - yellow, or blue?
What would you rather be – yellow, or blue?

Doesn’t that sound fabulous!!!

So how does this work? You attend a Laughter Yoga class!

Laughter Yoga is about fun, not about turning yourself into a pretzel, or telling bad jokes.

You see, our brains don’t know the difference between something that is real and something we imagine.

That means that even when laughter is forced, your body and mind still get the benefits as if you were laughing for real. Think about that. You can do a fake laugh and still get the benefits.

Here are some other great things about Laughter Yoga:

Who can do Laughter Yoga? Everyone. Well, sick, stressed. Old, young, in the middle. Age doesn’t matter.

Where do people do Laughter Yoga? Laughter Yoga is run in hospitals, aged care facilities and schools. At work in big, medium and small businesses, non-profit groups, community groups, private clubs, senior citizens clubs, men’s sheds. And one-on-one in peoples homes, and by Skype, Zoom or other geographically-overcoming technology.

Why do people do Laughter Yoga? Because of the benefits that I’ve listed above, and more. It can aid connection for those who are socially isolated, it can help people deal with pain better. It’s terrific exercise as it gets your heart rate up. Science has proven that Laughter Yoga can have a positive affect on many health issues, increase innovation and creative thinking, and just adds more laughter to life!

What if I have mobility issues and can’t get on the floor. No problem! The ‘Yoga’ part of Laughter Yoga is the breathing – there is no need to get on the floor in a pretzel shape! In fact, Laughter Yoga can even be practiced sitting down! So if you are mobility challenged, even to the point of being in a wheelchair – you can still participate in Laughter Yoga.

The great news is that:

I am now a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader and am available to run a Laughter Yoga class for YOU!
(this photo is me being presented with my certificate August 2016)

LY cert present(I have been trained by  in the method devleoped by Dr Kataria –
the medical doctor who developed the practice.)

I can take you through a LAUGHTER YOGA class in a big group, a small group, a two-on-one or a one-on-one. We can do this face-to-face (depending on location) or online via Skype, Zoom or other technology.

Laughter Yoga has been around as a practice since 1991 and is now practised by tens of thousands of people in over 100 countries around the world. Isn’t it time you treated yourself to a big laugh?

Giving Thanks Is Not Just For The USA

As you’re probably aware, November is Thanksgiving month in the United States. And it got me to thinking, why not have something similar in other countries as well?p1070138

It doesn’t have to be something formal – a particular day or month. Rather it can be a very personal, private type of thanksgiving.

So I stated to do a bit of research and BAM! Did I find some amazing stuff out there in the multiverse about gratitude, being thankful, showing appreciation – however you want to describe it.

In his book The Last Lecture, Randy Paul said ‘Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.’

There are also some amazing health benefits you can get by being grateful.

  • Physical benefits: People who are grateful seem to be more careful about their own health. They do smart stuff like eat well and exercise regularly.
  • Spouse / Romantic relationship benefits: According to a 2011 study by Kubacka, Finkenauer, Rusbult, and Keijsers reported in Psychology Today, people in a partnership / romantic relationship feel gratitude for their partner when they feel their partner is being responsive to their needs. They then feel motivated to respond in kind – and this develops a positive gratitude cycle over time, increasing caring. Surely that’s got to be a good thing!
  • Stress reduction: According to a WebMD article, gratitude can reduce, or better manage, stress. It is thought that feelings of appreciation have a positive effect in helping people cope with their worries.
  • Sleep benefits: Several studies on the benefits of sleep and gratitude have been conducted over the past few years in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. They have all found that regularly recording why people are grateful helps them sleep better. It seems to have something to do with the participants having more positive thoughts rather than negative ones. (The first of these studies was conducted by Nancy Digdon, Department of Psychology, Grant MacEwan University, City Centre Campus, Edmonton, AB, Canada; another  conducted by University of Manchester).
  • Gratitude just helps you feel happier. By acknowledging the good things you have you can connect with something bigger than yourself. And even if you can’t find too much to be grateful about, some scientists believe that it that act of searching for something to be grateful about is the key.

So how do you go about tapping into this gratitude bug? Here are five ideas – but don’t feel limited to these!

  1. Keep a journal. One study found subjects who wrote down one item that they were grateful for every day reported being 25 percent happier for a full six months after following this practice for just three weeks!
  2. Share your gratitude by saying thanks! Acknowledge what others do for you. Even writing little notes is a lovely way to say thanks to someone. Wouldn’t you like to be recognized for the efforts you are making? Then why would someone else be different.
  3. Look outside yourself. What has made your family and friends happy today? Starting a ‘gratitude chat’ can have wide reaching and positive connections with family, friends, colleagues, team members – the list goes on.
  4. Look inside yourself. Meditating on your thankfulness can calm your mind and help balance out negativity.
  5. Picture it out. You’ve heard of a vision board – well, you could make a gratitude board. Find pictures, sayings, symbols of what you are grateful for – these could be family members, friends, holidays, even your favourite pair of comfy shoes or piece of sports equipment! Just surround yourself of reminders of what you appreciate and this can make a big difference.

So, now you have some ideas – let’s really take the bull by the horns and have a 30 day Gratitude Challenge!

I’ll post on my Enrich Your Energy Facebook page what I’m grateful for – and you share with me what you are grateful for. Let’s get some energy going around this – particularly important coming up to Christmas when people can get a bit stressed out. I write regularly in my Thankful Journal, but this will take it to a new level – and I’m EXCITED!!!!!

In appreciation of you reading my blog….

Meredith

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A Good Night’s Sleep Is Not A Luxury!

cropped-cropped-201507-me-in-green-copy-200-pixel.jpgI usually sleep pretty well. And I know I’m lucky.

I have many friends and family members who sleep poorly, and they’re not the only ones. If you are one of the many people are chronically sleep deprived, this piece of writing is for you, or someone you know who sleeps badly.

This blog is all about:

  • What sleep is and why we need it,
  • What can happen to our health if we don’t get regular, good quality sleep, 
  • What good quality sleep really means,
  • How you can improve your sleep without drugs.

I learned so much while researching this article – I hope you enjoy it and learn something too! I’d love to know if you, or a loved one, get benefit from the tips at the end of my blog.  Sweet dreams!

cheers Meredith 

A Good Night’s Sleep is Not a Luxury

Irish playwright and author Jean Kerr joked:  To begin with, the average, healthy, well-adjusted adult gets up at seven-thirty in the morning, feeling just plain terrible.

And although we may laugh, continued poor sleep is not a laughing matter.

How do you wake up? Refreshed, alive, ready to take on the day with optimism and energy?

Or do you hit the snooze button until you can’t possibly put off rising any longer?

Is this because you’ve slept poorly? Or maybe it took an age for you to go to sleep. Or perhaps your bladder is insistent throughout the night, waking you up just as you’re getting stuck into a good dream.

Maybe you wake yourself with a snore, a pain or reflux.woman-and-can't sleep

Perhaps you just can’t turn your mind off and it goes around and around, replaying events of the day when you think of all the brilliant ripostes  you wish you’d said to that smart alec in the tea room, or that rude sales assistant at the supermarket.

There are a myriad of reasons we find ourselves deprived of sleep. And although the occasional bad night is considered relatively harmless, regular or constant sleep deprivation is cause for greater concern.

In the real dark night of the soul it is always 3 o’clock in the morning – said F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If I can’t sleep, it’s because I can’t turn off my mind. I call it monster o’clock, when all the bad thoughts come out to play. They gang up on me and I am helpless against their relentlessness and malice.

I’m like William Faulker, who said, …Night is nothing but one long sleepless wrestle with yesterday’s omission and regrets.

Fortunately, I have found some good non-medical strategies which I use to quell these monsters of the dark. I will share these with you later.

First, I want to just talk about how good quality sleep is supposed to work. 

The Cycles of Sleep

For thousands of years scientists have been perplexed about our need for sleep. And to some degree they still are, and really serious and interesting research continues. But one thing they do know is that we absolutely need good quality sleep, every night.

Sleep provides a space for a number of essential biological functions to take place.

It’s the time our skin replenishes itself, it’s vital in balancing our hormones, emotional and psychiatric health, supporting our immune system, enabling learning and memory to be bedded down, and cleaning toxins from the brain.

In fact, if you don’t sleep for months on end, you will die.

The average person needs between 7-9 hours every night. And this sleep needs to follow a pattern.

Scientists call this ‘Sleep Architecture’.  Sleep can be divided into two main categories – REM and non-REM sleep. REM means rapid eye movement, and it’s what we do when we dream.

Non-REM sleep has four stages:

  • Stage 1 – you move from wakefulness into drowsiness to falling asleep. If you fall asleep in front of the ballet or at the movies, you are in this category!
  • Stage 2 – eye movement stops, brain slows down, heart rate slows and body temperature drops.
  • Stages 3 and 4 are called slow wave sleep – the ‘dead to the world’ phase. This is where your body temperature and blood pressure drop further and your breathing slows.

Then you enter REM – where you dream.

These five stages form a 90-110min cycle – and a robust sleep would see you enjoying this cycle between four and six times a night.

But not everyone does.

And this can be dangerous.

 

The physical risks of sleep deprivation

Without your body getting the sleep it needs, you are at risk of a number of health conditions.

Diabetes – Studies have shown a sharp increase in the risk of Type 2 Diabetes for people with chronic insomnia. This is for a number of reasons, including impact on your hunger hormones, insulin resistance and weight gain.

hypertension-867855_1920High Blood Pressure – As reported in the journal Sleep, researchers found the risk of high blood pressure increased by three and a half times among insomniacs who routinely sleep less than 6 hours a night.

Heart Disease – People who don’t sleep well consistently have higher blood levels of stress hormones and substances that indicate inflammation, a major factor in cardiovascular disease.

Sleep Apnoea is also an issue. Obstructed breathing during sleep raises heart disease risk, and stress hormones. People with untreated moderate to severe sleep apnoea have three times the risk of stroke as those without it.

thick-373064_1920Weight management – Health issues such as weight gain and obesity can be a big problem. A study at the University of Chicago showed that those who slept only 4 hours a night had a 28 percent increase in ghrelin, the body’s hunger hormone. The study participants also noted a 24 percent increase in appetite, with a preference for foods high in sugar, salt and starch – all the foods that help with weight gain.

Immune system – when we sleep poorly, our T-cells go down and inflammation rises. This results in our reduced ability to fight off viruses, leaving us at a greater risk of getting sick.

Ethics and morality – In their study, the Universities of Washington and Oregon found a link between the amount of sleep we get and our morality. Sleep deprived participants scored lower on a moral awareness decision making scale the the control group.

dependent-765179_1920Alzheimer’s Disease: During sleep, our brains do a big toxic clean out. In particular, a neurotoxin called beta-amyloid can collect in your brain if your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs.

Beta-amyloid, which is a protein, has been found in clumps in some parts of the brain of those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a bit of a catch 22 – because the more beta-amyloid you have in parts of your brain, the harder it will be for you to enjoy deep sleep; and the harder it is for you to enjoy deep sleep, the harder it is for your body to clear out the beta-amyloid, and other neurotoxins.

Mental Health and Sleep

A study at the University of California, Berkeley looked at how a night of sleep deprivation affected the emotional memories that the participants made during the study. The participants were shown a number of words – positive, neutral and negative words like calm, grief or willow, after a sleep deprived night, and were asked to rate them on their emotionality.

pexels-photo-24897After two subsequent nights of normal sleep, they were given a surprise memory test, and asked to look at the words again and categorise them. The study found that the participants had a significant deterioration in their ability to recognise the words they had seen earlier.

Even more astounding, their recognition of positive and neutral words deteriorated by 50 percent, whereas their ability to recognise words with negative connotations deteriorated by only 20 percent.

The study concluded that when you are sleep deprived, it’s possible that you create twice as many negative memories as positive or neutral memories, leading researchers to draw a link between sleep deprivation and depression.

Memory and Sleep

Researchers believe that sleep helps us process the day’s events, and helps us lay down memories of those events for the long term. Scientists in the 19th and 20th centuries believed that sleep helped us consolidate these memories.wood-man-people-men

However studies in the 21st century have found that memories are less set in concrete than that. More recent discoveries indicate that memories can be changed – which means that accurate memories can be corrupted into inaccurate memories, but also that inaccurate memories can change to become accurate.

Scientists now refer to the act of memory work while we sleep as memory evolution. Further studies have indicated that different parts of sleep – or different sections are our sleep architecture – strengthen different memories. More work is being done in this area.

Daniel Schacter of Harvard University argues that we create memories not so we can think about them and look to the past – but to use them to base decision making in the future.

Why don’t you sleep well?

Not being able to sleep is terrible. You have all the misery of having partied all night… without the satisfaction , said Lynn Johnston.

So why do people not sleep well?

The reasons are as varied as there are human beings on the planet – but scientists have identified some patterns and similarities through their research.

Jet lag and shift work are two major contributors to poor sleep, as the body’s circadian rhythms are disrupted and our internal clocks get confused.

anxiety-1337383_1280Anxiety can be a major cause. I know that when I was in the corporate world if I had a big client presentation to make, or an early plane to catch (which was most Monday mornings) I slept poorly the night before.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is being recognised as a contributor to sleep deprivation. Researchers think that people produce too much melatonin, or are extra-sensitive to normal amounts.

Ageing has an affect on our sleep, as we get older we don’t sleep as much, and we don’t sleep as deeply. This is not to be confused with not needing as much sleep – we do need as much sleep as we age, we just don’t always get it.

Movement disorders, such as restless leg syndrome, sleep walking, sleep eating, a constant need to urinate, and sleep terrors are all contributors to sleep deprivation.

Caffeine, alcohol, and heavy or rich meals in the evening can contribute to poor sleep.

And medical conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and depression and anxiety can also interrupt sleep patterns.

As Charlotte Bronte so beautifully said, A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.

If you suffer from any of these or other medical conditions, then see your health professional. This article is not designed to replace quality medical advice!

woman sleeping pexels-photo-46100-mediumHow do you improve sleep?

So that’s the bad news. But don’t worry, there are many non-medical strategies you can employ to try and improve your sleep.

Philiip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which was later turned into the film Bladerunner, said:

Don’t try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.

I agree!

But you could try these tips to help you improve your sleep. I have split them into three categories – preparing your space, preparing your body and preparing your mind, for a good night’s sleep.

Preparing your body

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  1. Keep regular sleep hours: If you are an insomniac try going to bed and rising at the same time every day, even on weekends. This pattern might help reset your circadian rhythms which might in turn help you sleep more soundly.
  2. Eating and sleeping: Give yourself at least 2 hours (but 3 is better) between eating and sleep. Eat a smaller portion at night. That way your body is not trying to digest when you’re wanting to sleep.
  3. And if you suffer from heartburn or reflux, then consider the type of food you are eating, as some foods can contribute to digestive disorders. Also, you could try sleeping on your left side, as there is evidence that sleeping on your right side increases the likelihood of heartburn.
  4. Dim the lights: Start dimming the light about 2 hours before retiring. This will signal to your body that you are getting ready for sleep.
  5. Have a bed readying strategy: Do anything you need to do before bed, like cleaning your teeth, before you start dimming the lights – so you don’t need to get all ready for bed then turn the bright bathroom light on to clean your teeth.
  6. Frequent urination: If you suffer from nocturia, or the need to urinate regularly through the night, try not to drink any liquids within 2 hours of retiring.
  7. IT devices: Don’t read your tablet or phone in bed. The blue backlight tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime by repressing the melatonin release which your body needs to sleep.
  8. Regular exercise: Regular aerobic exercise (although not within two hours of bedtime) is good for helping your body need rest.
  9. Stretching: Stretching and toning exercise that incorporate deep breathing, such as yoga and tai chi, can help your body get ready for rest. You could also lie on the floor with your legs up the wall, a well-recognised relaxation technique.
  10. Mindful drinking: Reduce your alcohol and coffee intake and these can keep you awake.coffee-777612_1920
  11. Warm bath: A warm bath with lavender oil is a well known cure for helping the body relax.
  12. Napping: If you sleep badly, and you need a nap, even a little 10-15 minute shut eye in the middle of the day – then grab it. Even this short period of time can help your brain recharge, improve memory and cleanse itself.

Preparing your space

  1. A Sanctuary: Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Invest in a good mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets or doona. Keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex.bed-1232590_1920
  2. Cool and dark: Keeping your bedroom cool and dark will help your body drop into drowsiness and then into sleep.
  3. Control noise: Keep your bedroom as quiet as possible. If you are in a noisy place, you could try having heavy curtains or double glazing to block sound; use a fan or sleep machine to create ‘white noise’, or have recordings of gentle sounds, like rainfall, playing while you drop off.

Preparing your mind:

  1. Stress can keep you awake – so write down anything that’s worrying you and know you can deal with it in the morning.
  2. IT devices: I’m adding them in this category as well because scientists are linking the electro-radiation from these devices with disrupted sleep, and they also impede your brain from clearing out neurotoxins at night.
    pexels-photo-45718
  3. Sleep Diary: Keeping a sleep diary may be useful in identifying what’s disturbing your sleep. Try it for a month and see if there is a pattern.
  4. Learn and apply some gentle relaxation techniques. These might include deep breathing – which is what I use at monster o’clock. I put my hands on my tummy and breath deeply in and out for a count of 5 – my stomach rises and falls with my breath. I try to do this 20 times but usually fall asleep before I get there
  5. You could try tensing and releasing muscle groups. Start with your toes and clench them, then release them, go onto your calves, then your thighs – you get the idea.
  6. The Cognitive Shuffle developed by Canadian Neuroscientist Luc Beaudoin might be worth giving a go. With this strategy you think about things that don’t make any sense. Picture a random sequence of objects for a few seconds each – say cow, fridge, water bottle, coat.  Or you could think of a word – say Teatime. Start by thinking of all the random words beginning with T, then with E, then with A.
    The thought behind this is that the brain .The thought behind this is that the brain tries to figure out if it’s safe to sleep. If you’re thinking about stuff that makes sense, then your brain may figure it’s not safe to sleep yet. By thinking nonsense, your brain triggers the sleep switch because it knows it’s safe for you to drop off.

Or, as Dale Carnegie recommends, If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. This is usually if you’ve been in bed for about 20 mins with the light out and still can’t sleep.

In the end, there are many causes of sleep deprivation, and many dangers associated with it. But I hope you can try some of the tips I’ve given you and that these will help you improve your sleep.

Thank you, and good night and sweet dreams!

vintage-woman sleeping 1501595__180

References:

Robert Stickgold, Sleep On It!, Scientific American, October 2015

Harvard Medical School, Focus on Sleep, General Ways to Improve Sleep, Issue #1 of 5 email series, September 2015

Harvard Medical School, Healthbeat – Tips for beating anxiety to get a better night’s sleep, email subscriptipon, July 2016

Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, Improving Sleep – A Guide to a Good Night’s Rest, 2015, http://www.health.harvard.edu

Vivian Giang, http://qz.com/424120/our-poor-sleeping-habits-could-be-filling-our-brains-with-neurotoxins

Brian St. Pierre, The Power of Sleep, Precision Nutrition, August 2016, www.precisionnutrition.com/power-of-sleep-infographic

Premature Death Statistic – Are You At Risk?

Another week – how’s yours been?

Last week I posted an entertaining piece about how life has changed over the last hundred years. Things we enjoy now could never even have been dreamed of in the early part of the 20th century.

What I didn’t inlcude was the top five leading causes of death. And I left it out because I wanted to do some research. Well I did, and here it is: Five leading causes of death in 1915 vs 2015

I created this graph to show how our health has changed over a 100 years.

What we see now is really a domination of lifestyle diseases on mortality rates (the 2015 statistics came from the National Health Scheme in the UK and the Australian Bureau of Statistics in Australia.)

Dementia aside (so much is unknown about this condition), our leading causes of illnesses are basically how we treat ourselves. No-one else is doing this to us – but us!

I think that is astounding information. Even more shocking, is that suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.

What can be done about it? The answers are easy to find – but perhaps not so simple to implement.

Here are the top 5 things I do to make sure I don’t end up on this list:

Food – I eat whole foods – farm fresh as often as I can source fruits & vegiesthem. Small amounts of protein (about the size of my palm) and large amounts of plant foods. Lots of nuts and seeds.And I have treats, good quality dark chocolate, and home made things like my paleo mini-muffins are a great way to have something sweet without eating foods laden with highly refined sugars and chemicals. I also make sure I take  good quality pro- and pre-biotics so my gut health is supported.

 

 

SuppNutrisearch independent Comparative Guidelementation – I take a quality nutritional supplement – because no matter how good the quality of my food is, the quality of our soil and modern farming practices have reduced the minerals that are now in our food (more detailed information on this is in my upcoming book – I will certainly let you know when it’s coming out!)

This book on the left here (The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements) is an independent study of the supplements on the market (there is one for North America, and one for Australia/ New Zealand.) It’s what I used to make my choice for pharmaceutical grade, athlete quality supplements.

 

Exercise – I exercise every day so I’m building muscle, strong bones and flexibility. This will help me as I age because I won’t be at the mercy of falling over, breaking bones and ending up sitting in a chair all day (or worse.) I’ve been sharing my progress on this blog so feel free to go into the Archives and check out what I’ve been doing.

As you probably know if you’ve been reading my blog, I have an exercise physiologist who I see every eight weeks or so, and she reviews my routine and makes adjustments. This last visit saw my weights training move up a significant notch – which I find really exciting and challenging! I’ve found having a ‘coach’ really helps keep me on track.

 

Active mind and social connection – I keep my mind active with reading, researching (for my book as well as for my own benefits), crossword puzzles and word games, sudokus. I keep socially connected through memberships so I get to hang out with interesting people, some who may not have the same ideas as me, which challenges my thinking.
newspaper crossword

 

 

Reflection and gratitude – I meditate regularly and keep a gratitude journal. woman meditating
Reflection helps me focus on quiet and silence, and helps me have a place where I can do some dedicated, mindful breathing. This helps my nervous system stay in the calm place, not the being-chased-by-a-tiger place where I lived in my corporate career.

Gratitude because, well, there is so much to be thankful for: my loving husband, the beautiful place where I live, my ability to travel, good friends – the list goes on. I believe it’s really important to acknowledge how thankful I am for the life I live.

 

What are you doing so you don’t become a victim of your lifestyle? I’d love you to share your suggestions and ideas – that way we can all learn from each other!

If you want to see something truly extraordinary, check out my EnrichYourEnergy Facebook page for the post I did on Thursday 24 March about Ernestine Shepherd, the oldest female body builder in the world. Then try to give yourself an excuse for not caring about yourself!!

Until next week,201507 me in green copy 200 pixel

Cheers, Meredith

Update On My Health And Fitness Journey

I shared my measurements with you last time, and I was pretty pleased with the result.

Here is my update, the first lot of figures were from 17 July 2015, the second lot of figures are from last Wednesday, 16 March 2016.

blood pressure                132/84       132/78

oxygen saturation          98                95

Resting Heart rate         84                 73

Body fat                            45.7              34.2    (this is one of the things I’m happiest about!)

Waist                                  102               96      (half of this I achieved over the past 2 months)

Waist to Hip ration        .94                .86

So how am I doing this? (and I say doing, because I don’t intend to stop).

At the gym, 5 times a week. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays I do cardio – bike and treadmill, with a bit of rowing and step machine thrown in.

On Tuesdays and Thursday I do weights – so am building strength – strong bones and denser muscles.

And I do yoga at home. And walk along the beach. And wear a Fitbit to make sure I do my 10,000 steps a day, track my activity, and keep my water intake up.

It doesn’t have to be the gym, but I like the discipline of it, it works for me.

I have an exercise physiologist I see every two months to keep me on track. I have realized that really, it’s impossible to achieve great things without a coach of some sort – whether it’s exercise or business or changing behaviors – a coach or support of some sort really helps make the difference by keeping you accountable.

DSCF3399Think about it!
Until  next time,
Cheers, Meredith

 

 

Some Of The Best Exercises You Can Do To stay Strong And Fit When You Are 45+

Regular exercise is a non-negotiable as we age. If you’re retired, it’s your new job. If you’re still working, it’s your second job! If you don’t want to end up old and frail, then read on….

Five years ago I was strong and fit, a regular gym goer, had a personal trainer once a week and was very careful with my diet.

Then I got lazy. Well, not really lazy, but I married my beloved husband and didn’t take care of myself as well as I had because we were just having too much fun travelling the world and enjoying life together.

And now, five years later, with not doing regular exercise (I was doing some, but I hadn’t made it a daily part of my life) I can really notice the difference between my body then, and my body now.

So I decided that I really needed to change things so I didn’t grow old and frail. I’m at the gym 5-6 times a week. I’ve changed my diet. I am educating myself about aging healthily. And it’s working – my weight is coming off, I sleep well, my skin is glowing. I look healthier than I did when I turned 50!

Me turning 50 in Dec 2012
Me turning 50 in Dec 2012
Me in August 2015
Me in August 2015

This is what I’ve found through my research.

Exercise at least five days a week. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. Just do it at a time that will suit your daily schedule. It’s good if you can do it first thing in the day, as you use stored energy (read fat) instead of what you’ve put in your body, but if you can’t do it until later in the day don’t use that as an excuse not to do it at all!

You don’t have to join a gym like I did, there are lots of exercises you can do that can be done in the privacy and comfort of your home.

Regular exercise has no end of benefits, and I’ve listed these benefits below with some suggested exercises. But the end result really is that you might live to 90, whether you like it or not, so if you do, don’t you want to be able to get around like you do now, meeting with friends, going to events, having a rich and full social life. These are some great exercises for the 45+ who wants to grow older, not frailer.

 

Walking. You don’t need any fancy stuff to walk. It is simple exercise, yet very powerful, so don’t underestimate it.  Walking can help you stay trim, improve cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, keep blood pressure in check, lift your mood and lower your risk for a number of diseases (diabetes and heart disease for example).There are studies that show walking can even improve memory. Make sure you get fitted for a proper pair of walking shoes, as it’s important for your body to be well supported. If you struggle with walking because of bad knees, or too much weight, just start gently, try 10 minutes around the block and gradually increase the time and speed. There are many books and audios around that can help you plan your walking for health.
Benefits of walking include:
– heart health – walking is good for your cardiovascular system
– wards off the lifestyle diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes
– helps keep your weight in check, important for lifestyle diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, stroke
– it can help prevent dementia by warding off brain shrinkage and memory loss
– because it’s a weight bearing activity, it can help ward off osteoporosis
– keeps you toned
– helps raise energy levels
– improves your mood just by being outside in the weather
– can help guard against depression. Even better, walk barefoot on grass, sand, anywhere organic. Known as ‘earthing’, it’s a valuable way to be grounded.

Swimming. It is a brilliant workout. There is no pressure on any of your joints as you are protected by the buoyancy of the water, and so is perfect for people suffering joint pain. Dr I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School says swimming is good for individuals with arthritis because it’s less weight bearing.And if you don’t fancy slogging it up and down the pool, do aquarobics, which will help you tone, use energy (burn calories) and give you social connections as well.If you don’t know how to swim, haven’t done it for years, or are unsure about whether you have the right stroke, you can attend an adult swim class. These have become more popular over the last few years as people understand more and more the benefits of swimming. You don’t have to be Susie Maroney (Australian marathon swimmer), swimming can be done at any age to any level.Benefits of swimming include:
– improved endurance
– breath/lung management
– improved oxygen levels in your system
– building heart strength – meaning the amount of blood pumped with each heart beat – and general cardiovascular fitness
– helping to build muscle mass (see strength building below for why this is important)
– is a social activity – you can swim with friends, or join a swimming group which helps with creating and maintaining social connections (very important, as we age, we lose friends and family. Maintaining social connections is vital to staying young at heart.)
– burning kilojoules (calories)
– can be continued for a lifetime – there is no age in which you need to stop swimming
– providing an all over body workout
– it is a relaxing form of exercise
– helping to alleviate stress
– helping to improve co-ordination and balance
– helping to improve flexibility – very important as we age because we tend to get stiffer

Strength building. As we age, our muscles lose their strength. In fact, it starts about age 30, by 70 years old you’ve lost about 25% of your muscle and by age 90, another 25%. Lack of use plays a huge role in muscle loss – it’s called sarcopenia. Look at any frail older person and you’ll see that they move awkwardly, sometimes relying on canes and walkers to stay mobile. Some need chairs and beds that lift them so they get a headstart on standing up.”The old adage if you don’t use it, you lose it is quite apt. If you don’t keep your muscle tone you won’t be able to walk and get about and enjoy life. In extreme circumstances, you could be stuck in a wheelchair. No-one wants that”, says Patrick Wilson, Managing Director of Active and Ageless PT (Brisbane, Australia. For more information about strength building from Patrick, email him at active.and.ageless01@gmail.com.)You don’t need to be Mr or Ms Universe, just keep using all your muscle groups to maintain muscle and keep your strength.Strong muscle is also helpful for weight management, because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
It would be best to do two things before you start a strength building routine:
1. check with your doctor (particularly if you or your family has a history of heart disease or stroke),
2. engage a personal trainer or exercise physiologist to make sure you are doing the right exercises for your body. If you are attending a gym, they can help you understand how to use the equipment properly. If you don’t want to go to a gym, don’t worry, many personal trainers have a range of equipment that you can use outside the gym. Being a gym member isn’t essential. Maintaining muscle strength is.

Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that is based on both movement and relaxation, so it’s good for your mind, and your body. It’s often referred to as a moving meditation. But really, anything that focuses your mind in the moment can be called that, including swimming.
Tai chi is contains a series of movements, with one transitioning smoothly into the next. There are many different levels of Tai Chi, from beginners to advanced, which makes it accessible to everyone. Even if you are hampered by arthritis, are stuck in a wheelchair or recovering from surgery, you can do Tai Chi, so there’s no excuse not to give it a go. Dr Lee says Tai Chi is particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older. Tai Chi is often run at community centers, senior citizens centres, or community colleges.
Benefits of tai chi include:
– improves muscle strength
– improves flexibility
– improves balance. When we are young, we don’t think about our balance, but to avoid breaking hips, or worse, we need to keep working on our balance to make sure we don’t fall and injure ourselves.
– can assist with sleeping.

Yoga. You would have to have been living in a cave not to have heard about yoga. But did you know there are at least 14 types of yoga, so there is bound to be one that suits you. And there’s no need to worry about there being a spiritual element – yoga is really just stretching.

 Why is yoga good for you? Frankly, there are so many reasons, so include the reasons listed above for all the other types of exercise and then add these for yoga to give you a idea of the breadth of the benefits:
– helps improve posture, important for skeletal strength, breathing and heart health
– help keep joint and cartilage strong
– promotes spine health by keeping vertebrae and disks flexible
– strengthens bones through weight bearing exercise
– increases circulation, particularly to extremities
– drains lymph glands which helps your immune system fight infection
– regulates adrenal glands which can help support your immune system
– lowers blood sugar – which helps, amongst other things, to keep type 2 diabetes away
– improves co-ordination, reaction time and memory through mindful practice and focus on postures
– helps fight against IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), constipation, ulcers etc.. through stress management
– can help ease pain
“The power of yoga is that it can create the flexibility, strength, balance and that mind/body connection that is so vital for health, longevity, glowing skin, healthy joints, a clear mind and lean body. It’s known also as ‘ mindful movement’  as opposed to ‘mindless movement’ because it makes it possible for our brain to make a deeper connection to what’s going on with the body.  In my opinion, along with walking, yoga is an all round beneficial exercise for any age,”  says Anne Noonan, Yoga, Food, Nutrition and Meditation Coach. For more information, or to contact Anne, www.annenoonan.com.au or www.thesisterhoodconnexion.ntpages.com.au.

WRAP UP

Of course there are many other exercises you can incorporate into your life. Keeping moving is the important thing. You might like ballroom dancing, zumba, bike riding , gardening, kayaking, rock climbing, bushwalking or tennis. It doesn’t matter what it is that keeps you moving – just keep moving!

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to exercise, have done it in the past and have slowed down, are recovering from surgery, have weight management issues. Just Start!  At least 30 minutes a day, five days a week minimum, and you can consider yourself an active person, know that you are warding off disease, keeping yourself young, and being your own best friend.

My Interview With eHealth Radio About How Your Gut Health Impacts Your General Health

Hi everyone!

Here is the link for my interview with eHealth Radio. Listen and enjoy, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at meredith.yardley@gmail.com.

http://ehealthradio.podbean.com/e/is-the-state-of-your-gut-making-you-look-unhealthy

Wishing you good health!

cheers Meredith

Hugs!

How many hugs have you shared today? Did you know that hugs can boost oxytocin levels which can diffuse our feelings of loneliness, isolation and anger.

Hugs can lift our serotonin levels, creating an elevated mood.

Hugs can strengthen our immune system, by stimulating the thymus gland – that’s the one that regulates and balances our body’s production of white blood cells. We need white blood cells to help keep us healthy.

Hugs help our muscles to relax, releasing tension in our body. They can take away pain and soothe aches by increasing blood flow around our body.

Hugs help us balance our nervous system by helping balance our parasympathetic nervous system.

To get these benefits, the optimum time for a hug is 20 seconds.

Just 20 seconds!

So do yourself, and someone you care about, a big favour – share a hug today!