Dr Akilah El – Celestial Healing Wellness Center

The Natural Health and Holistic World According to Dr Akilah El

Category Archives: Men’s Health

9 Steps to Achieving a Healthy Lifestyle

healthy_lifestyleBy Michelle Jones-Nelson

Think you’re leading a healthy lifestyle? Aside from occasionally veering off the path, most of us think we do a fair job of maintaining our health with good (or at least OK) eating habits and physical activity whenever we manage to fit it in. But is that enough to be considered “healthy?”

According to a recent study, very few adults actually meet the criteria for a healthy lifestyle. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that only 3% of American adults got a perfect score on what the authors say are the four basic criteria for healthy living. Just 13.8% met three of the criteria; 34.2% met only two criteria. Women scored slightly better than men.

While those four habits are indisputably important for a healthy lifestyle, some may argue that more factors should be taken into consideration. What would be on your list?

Just for fun, I came up with my own personal top 10 list of healthy behaviors (beyond the four basics) that contribute to wellness and satisfaction with one’s lifestyle:

  1. • Brush and floss daily to keep your teeth and gums healthy and free of disease. 
  2. • Get a good night’s rest. Well-rested people not only cope better with stress, but may also have better control of their appetites. Research has shown that a lack of sleep can put our “hunger hormones” out of balance — and possibly trigger overeating. 
  3. • Enjoy regular family meals. This allows parents to serve as good role models, can promote more nutritious eating, and sets the stage for lively conversations. Being connected to family and/or friends is a powerful aspect of a healthy life. 
  4. • Smile and laugh out loud several times a day. It keeps you grounded, and helps you cope with situations that would otherwise make you crazy. Read the comics, watch a sitcom, or tell jokes to bring out those happy feelings. 
  5. • Meditate, pray, or otherwise find solace for at least 10-20 minutes each day. Contemplation is good for your soul, helps you cope with the demands of daily life, and may even help lower your blood pressure. 
  6. • Get a pedometer and let it motivate you to walk, walk, walk. Forget about how many minutes of activity you need; just do everything you can to fit more steps into your day. No matter how you get it, physical activity can help defuse stress, burn calories, and boost self-esteem. 
  7. • Stand up straight. You’ll look 5 pounds lighter if you stand tall and tighten your abdominal muscles. Whenever you walk, think “tall and tight” to get the most out of the movement. 
  8. • Try yoga. The poses help increase strength and flexibility and improve balance. These are critical areas for older folks especially, and both men and women can benefit. 
  9. • Last but not least, have a positive attitude. Do your best to look at life as if “the glass is half full.” You must believe in yourself, have good support systems, and think positively (“I think I can, I think I can?”) to succeed.


It’s All about You
Your list of healthy lifestyle behaviors may be different from mine. The most important thing to remember is that you can make a difference in your health and well-being. Take charge of your life, and be mindful of small behavior changes that can make your lifestyle a
healthier one.
 

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The World’s Most Natural First Aid Kit

bodyPressurePointsAcupressure, an alternative therapy based on Chinese acupuncture, is gaining cred: It’s now practiced at hospitals around the United States. Use this pressure points chart to guide you through your pain, naturally.

“To target pain, press a specific point on your body with your fingers for a minute,” says Janet Shaffer, a licensed acupuncturist at Duke Integrative Medicine, in Durham, NC. “You’re in the right spot if the tissue feels a bit tougher or sore.” (But get your doc’s okay if you’re pregnant–some points can bring on contractions.) 

For nausea: Press on the middle of your forearm, about three finger widths from your wrist crease. (This is the point motion-sickness bracelets press as well.) 

For headache: Pinch the web of flesh between your thumb and forefinger. 

For heartburn/indigestion: Press down in the middle of your torso, about six finger widths above your belly button and two below the bottom of your rib cage. 

For menstrual cramps and period bloat: Press on the inside of your leg, just below and slightly behind the knee joint. 

For neck pain: With your thumbs, press the hollows at the back base of your skull. 

For gas or constipation: Rub your abdomen clockwise, 150 to 300 times. 

For insomnia: Press down on the crease between the palm and wrist, in line with the pinky finger–daily, for best results. 

For all-over water retention: Press on the inside of your leg, about a hand’s width up from the ankle bone, just behind the tibia. 

 

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Three Simple Tests That Can Predict Your Risk of Dementia or Stroke

If you want to know what your risk of dementia and stroke will be down the line, new research finds that surprisingly simple tests today could give you the answer. 

The handshake test How’s your grip? Not only is a firm handshake a sign of confidence, but doctors say it may be a barometer of your health, too. Researchers followed nearly 2,500 men and women for more than a decade, according to new research presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting, and linked the risk of dementia and stroke to how strong their handshakes were at the beginning of the study. Having a stronger grip was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of stroke in people over age 65 compared with other study participants with flimsier grasps. What’s the connection? “Vascular problems in the brain manifest themselves in a wide variety of ways,” says study author Erica Camargo, MD, of the Boston Medical Center. The suspicion is that if your grip is particularly weak, it could be a sign that your overall cardiovascular health isn’t in the best shape, she says. 

The walking report Are you a speed demon or more of a stroller? If people think you’re a New Yorker simply by the speed of your stride, you’re in luck. The same study found that those who walked at a brisk clip had a much lower risk of developing dementia than their tortoise-paced counterparts. Those with a slower walking speed in middle age were one and a half times more likely to develop dementia. “Walking speed can be a great test of general frailty, and since walking is not exactly simple (you have to look where you’re going and plan ahead) the time it takes you to process this information can be a measurement of how damaged the brain is,” says Dr. Camargo. 


The sleeping quiz Snooze with one eye open? You could be at risk for memory problems later on. According to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, people who wake up more than five times per hour are more likely to have amyloid plaque build up in their brain, which is thought to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Even if you think you get in a full eight hours every night, don’t be so sure: Although most study participants were physically in bed for eight hours, the average amount of sleep people actually got was closer to six and a half hours-and 25 percent of the participants had evidence of amyloid plaques. 

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Rev Up Your Willpower–The Easy Way

By Jim Healthy

Making New Year’s resolutions is the easy part.Keeping them … well, that’s another story, isn’t it?

 Many of the health and financial troubles we get ourselves into are because we either can’t control our impulses to overeat, overspend, or overindulge – or we’re unable to stick with a plan to reverse the damage.

 That’s why most New Year’s resolutions are about exercising more self-control and self-discipline, two of our least favorite words. (Interestingly, when researchers asked people what their major weakness is, they said “not enough willpower.”)

Today I want to tell you about an ingenious technique that can help you succeed at anything you want to accomplish, whether it’s losing weight, changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or improving your health.

Is there a shortcut to self-discipline?

 While human beings are naturally resistant to change, I’ve discovered an ancient Japanese technique that outsmarts this innate stubbornness and actually makes breaking any bad habit easy .

 In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, UCLA Medical School psychologist Dr. Robert Maurer describes his success in changing unhealthy behaviors in his patients and helping to break their bad habits using the Zen principle of kaizen (literally, “continuous slow improvement”).

Why we resist change (even if it’s good for us)

 We humans are creatures of habit. Anything we do with regularity takes on a force of its own and doesn’t require much energy to continually repeat. This “force of habit” makes it easy for us keep doing the same thing (even if it’s bad for us).

 Faced with the prospect of changing any comfortable routine, our brain rebels by triggering the “fight or flight” response. We actually experience fear at having to give up the familiar activity.

 The results of this reaction are all-too-familiar. We find ways to “excuse” ourselves from our new diet, from our exercise program, or from our plans to quit smoking or drinking. Psychologists refer to this as “self-sabotage.”

 Our best intentions to change our ways frequently fail because the rational part of brain (“I want to lose weight”) is battling the emotional part (“I’m afraid to give up my favorite foods”).

 When this happens, you’re usually doomed because the emotional brain creates physical sensations which feel more real, more important, and more urgent than the rational reasons to change.

How kaizen outsmarts your brain

 The genius of the kaizen approach is that it completely avoids this inner conflict by never threatening your comfort zone.

 Say you want to start a walking program. The conventional strategy is to choose a regular walking time, select your route and duration, pick a start date, and then “just do it,” as the Nike ads urge.

 But most people never make it to Day One because all this feels too overwhelming and threatening.

 And of those who actually start this program, very few stick with it long enough for the force of habit to kick in so that the going gets easier.

“The least you can do”

 Kaizen asks you to imagine the smallest part of a new activity that you know you can commit to. In other words, something so non-threatening that your “fight or flight” center isn’t aroused at all.

 Maybe this is merely putting on your walking shoes after dinner. Nothing more.

 Or simply walking to the front door and opening it. That’s it.

 Don’t laugh. Performing this one simple action over time will accomplish two powerful goals.

 First, it will interrupt your old habit of climbing onto the couch for some after-dinner TV. And second, it will plant the seed of a new habit (a healthful, post-dinner stroll) in your brain.

 After doing this regularly for a while, you’ll notice the force of habit taking hold. Your new activity will become easier. This is when you can up the ante and walk out the front door and perhaps down to the curb.

The power of small actions

 The most important benefit of the kaizen approach is that it strengthens self-confidence – and this will give you a new sense of belief in yourself.

 You see, what really keeps us stuck in old, self-defeating behaviors is the self-doubt fostered by continually failing in the past efforts. It doesn’t take long for us to become discouraged and believe we are “weak-willed” and “a loser.”

 We forget that willpower works like a muscle that must be trained into strength.

 A new scientific understanding of this is described in the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by psychologist Roy Baumeister and New York Times health writer John Tierney.

 Expecting to shed 100 pounds of excess weight without first having honed your will on smaller accomplishments is as unrealistic as expecting to bench press 300 pounds or runn a 4-minute mile without any prior training.

Train your willpower for success

 I’ve spent my entire life as an athlete, so I know what I’m talking about here.

 Having exercised for six decades, my force of habit is so strong that I’m physically uncomfortable if I miss a day or two.

 I never have to “talk myself into” exercise. And while I don’t always have the greatest workouts, my exercise habit gets me to the gym. My muscle memory takes it from there.

Build your willpower the kaizen way

 We didn’t get soft of sick overnight, so we shouldn’t expect to develop super-willpower in a weekend.

 The key is to start with one small task and build on our success.

 According to Baumeister and Tierney, it’s nearly impossible to make a change in more than one area of your life at a time.

 Why? Because willpower is like money – you only have a certain amount to spend each day. If you try to make 20 changes in your life, you’re multiplying your willpower exertion by 20 times.

 We’ve been raised to believe that willpower is a virtue, but it’s really more like a muscle. If you overtax it before it becomes strong, it merely gets exhausted from overuse – and you end up failing.

 Choose the one behavior you want to change first, and conserve your willpower for that priority. After that goal is achieved, you’ll be able to tackle something new and different – and you’ll be in even better shape to succeed.

Now it’s your turn

 What is the one behavior you’d most like to change?

 What has worked for you in the past – and what seems to always trip you up?

 What is the simplest kaizen action you can take that you know you can stick with?

 Please “go public” with your personal declaration of independence by leaving your comment.

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Alcohol and its effect on nutrients

By Simone Austin

Many people enjoy a drink or two with friends. Most of us are familiar with the immediate effects alcohol has on the brain and central nervous system. However, we may not be as familiar with the impact that consuming alcohol on a regular basis has on the nutrient intake we require.

Folate

Essential for cell production and maintenance. Alcohol interferes with folate’s absorption, its transport to tissues and its storage and release by the liver.

Vitamin B12

Needed to maintain healthy nerve and red blood cells. Even moderate drinking levels can decreases serum vitamin B12 levels.

Thiamin (B1)

Particularly important for energy production reactions and nerve function. It is important for nearly every cellular reaction in the body, and it is needed for alcohol metabolism.

Vitamin A

Alcohol consumption can promote a deficiency in Vitamin A, which is needed for vision, to regulate the immune system, bone growth, reproduction and cell health.

Calcium

Important for blood vessel and muscle contraction and expansion, hormone and enzyme secretion and bone health and nerve conduction. Alcohol can cause calcium losses through urinary excretion.

Weight Control

The consumption of alcohol is often accompanied by poor dietary choices that lead to reduced nutrient intake. These foods are often said to contain empty calories/kilojoules. Alcohol is also said to contain empty calories/kilojoules as it is empty of beneficial nutrients.

Alcohol does, however, provide many calories/kilojoules that contribute to weight gain, as it is a source of excess energy.

Studies have shown that, in the short term, alcohol stimulates hunger, which is typically followed by food intake. This can contribute to unwanted weight gain.

Sensible Drinking

The National Health and Medical Research Council Department of Health and Ageing’s updated guidelines for alcohol consumption recommends: Up to two standard drinks per day for low-risk drinking. *

Everyone should have at least two alcohol free days a week.

Liver

A small amount of alcohol is lost through sweat, breath and urine, but most is left to our liver to break down. The liver’s enzymes oxidise alcohol at the rate of about one standard drink per hour. Nothing can speed this process up. Alcohol is toxic and therefore cannot be stored by the body, so breaking it down becomes a priority for the liver, interrupting normal processes.

Excessive drinking can cause permanent damage to the liver and other organs.

Health benefits of alcohol?

Any health benefits to alcohol consumption are generally related to cardiovascular disease and only at levels of one drink or less per day for women and two or less for men.

Any level of alcohol consumption may be associated with increased risk of some diseases. It is safer to obtain beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants from your diet or appropriate supplements than from alcohol.

* Thanks to commenter Cate for pointing out that the Department of Health and Ageing’s updated guidelines for alcohol consumption recommends that men should also limit alcohol consumption to two standard drinks – not four – on any one day.

Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

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