October 7, 2013

October 7, 2013
How to Feel Better Every Day

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Monday and I hope you are having a beary safe and great start to your week. It was another very busy weekend for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Yesterday, I started blogging on things to help you feel better. So today I will finish on the topic...

Take a Hike

A walk outside is more than just exercise: Research from the University of Michigan has found that being in nature can improve cognitive function. In one study, an hour-long trek in a woody park improved subjects’ performances on memory and attention tests by as much as 20 percent, compared with a walk in an urban environment. Furthermore, some Japanese research shows that a day spent in the forest can improve immune function and decrease concentrations of adrenaline and cortisol for as long as a week.

Create an “Electronic Sundown”

Curling up with a book on your tablet is the perfect way to end a busy day, right? Not if you want to sleep well, experts say. The short wavelengths of light emitted by electronics can help suppress melatonin. That’s the hormone that signals to the body that the sun has gone down and helps it get ready for sleep.

An hour or two before going to bed, switch off all electronic devices. It’s possible that the closer you hold a device to your face, the more likely it is that the emitted light can interfere with your sleep, which is why tablets may be especially disruptive. And research published in the Journal of Applied Ergonomics found that spending two hours or more in front of a backlit display can suppress melatonin production by about 22 percent. What to do with the time after you pull the plugs? One good option: Relax your body and quiet your mind with a calming yoga pose.

Ditch the Dust Ruffle

Unless you’re committed to washing it regularly (and who is?), a dust ruffle tends to collect, well, dust. And bedroom dust is made of little bits of sloughed off skin (delightful), so it’s a magnet for allergy causing dust mites. The resulting congestion could keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Also, introduce new pillows frequently. Research has found that a pillow can double its weight in three years due to (brace yourself) dust from you, plus dust mites and their, um, dust. Many pillows can’t be easily washed, so they should be changed every 12 to 14 months. People with dust mite allergies need to replace their pillows as often as every six months. (If you’re bothered by persistent sniffles or itchy eyes, it’s worth checking with your doctor to see if you’re allergic.) A cheaper idea: Use pillow covers, and wash them in hot water once a week.

Go Sweet on Maple Syrup

For better health, you might want to tune out the buzz on agave and reach for good old maple syrup. Some brands of agave are composed of as much as 90 percent fructose; by comparison, table sugar and maple syrup are 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. What’s the trouble with fructose? When University of California, Davis, researchers gave volunteers beverages sweetened with either pure fructose or just glucose, the fructose consumers put on more belly fat, the type of fat that scientists now suspect raises the risk of heart disease. (For more info, see No. 19.) In addition, the fructose consuming group had decreased insulin sensitivity, which may be a precursor to diabetes. If you want to stick with agave, use it sparingly.

Buy the Prettier Tissue Box

Choosing a product that you find attractive can improve how you feel about yourself, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. We see the products we choose as a reflection of who we are. Moreover, there is an inherent bias to see beautiful things as good. So by associating ourselves with good looking products, we see ourselves in a better light.

Eat Some Berries

Snacking on a mix of strawberries and blueberries may lower your risk of a heart attack. In a study published in the journal Circulation, researchers found that women between the ages of 25 and 42 who ate three or more servings a week reduced their risk of the number one killer by 34 percent, compared with women who ate them once a month or less. Here’s another reason to smile: Strawberries may make your teeth whiter, says Irwin Smigel, D.D.S., the president of the American Society of Aesthetic Dentists. They contain malic acid, which acts as a natural astringent, removing surface stains from teeth and lightening mild discoloration.

Focus on the Negative (Just This Once)

If you want to get more bang for your exercise buck, concentrate on the “negative” phase of a weight lifting routine, which is when you’re lowering the weight back to the starting position. We build more strength when we’re lowering a weight than when we’re lifting it. So pay special attention to your form during the lowering phase, and take it slow. Not a weights person? This modified push up can give you the same rewards: Hold the top (or plank position) for 10 seconds, then lower as slowly as you can. When you get to the floor, push up onto your knees to get back into plank position.

Use Your Head When Eating

Watching what you eat could diminish your risk of a migraine: Many people know that aged cheeses and red wines trigger migraines. But the substances in some fruits like tyramine in citrus and tannin in red skinned apples can trigger them as well. You don’t have to go fruit free. Just stick to those outside the citrus family, and consider staying away from cranberries, persimmons, and mangoes, which also contain tannins. Or at least don’t eat them until they’re ripe. The more fruit ripens, the lower the tannin levels become.

Watch Out for “Waisted” Energy

Being exhausted after work might have less to do with your job than it does with your waistline. A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that otherwise healthy workers, ages 23 to 56, with high waist circumferences had 1.8 times the risk of being fatigued after work compared with their peers. More research is needed to determine why central obesity added up to more fatigue, but if you’re flagging, reducing your waist size may help restore energy. Shrinking your waist can also improve your overall health: Fat that gathers around your middle (giving you an apple shape) is believed to be more dangerous to your heart than the fat that clings to your thighs (causing a pear shape), because it releases more hormones, fatty acids, and other compounds that can contribute to high cholesterol and blood pressure. For women, the risk of disease increases with a waist size of 35 inches or more; for men, it’s 40 inches or more.

Don’t Sweat It

If you’re often in the hot seat, you may need a deodorant switch. When you’re stressed, you sweat 30 times more than you do at rest. On top of that, stress sweat is composed of different chemicals than workout sweat, and it’s prone to smelling worse. To keep your cool, you may need to switch to a clinical strength product, such as Secret Clinical Strength Stress Response Antiperspirant. This type contains higher amounts of aluminum, which prolongs the antiperspirant’s effect and can possibly even shrink the sweat glands so they produce less sweat.

Pull on Some Socks at Bedtime

Swiss researchers found that people fall asleep faster when their hands and feet are warmer than the ambient temperature of the bedroom. Warming the feet dilates the blood vessels, which is a physiological cue for the rapid onset of sleep. All hail the tube sock!

Hope these tips lead to a healthier and happier you and that you have a beary safe and great Monday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab