News Roundup: Stress Reduction

Image credit: http://blog.dougdvorak.com/use-mindfulness-for-sustained-motivation/

Whether it’s over money or health problems, many Americans feel stressed out on a daily basis. Stress seems to be a normal part of life. Unfortunately, if it goes too long unchecked, it can get out of hand and lead to new or worsened health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Fortunately, there are many free resources available for those who want to learn how to reduce stress levels.

This week’s news roundup brings to you a collection of articles and blog posts related to stress reduction.

Stress management. Mayo Clinic. “Without stress management, all too often your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems. Don't wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life. Start practicing a range of stress management techniques today.”

20 Scientifically Backed Ways to De-Stress Right Now. Huffington Post. “While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins (which, in turn, reduces stress hormones), consider walking in a park or other green space, which can actually put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.”

10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Reduce Your Stress. Inc.com. “Countless studies prove the myriad health benefits of working out, including recent research that found strengthening your muscles releases enzymes that detoxify a substance called kynurenine, a byproduct of stress and inflammation.”

Four Ways to Deal with Stress. American Heart Association. “Negative self-talk increases stress. Positive self-talk helps you calm down and control stress. With practice, you can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones.”

Superfood Series: Part 6

 

Blueberries can thank their high flavonoid/anthocyanin content which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects for helping them earn their superfood status.  Blueberries are also low in calories and high in nutrients and water content which make them a good snack choice. Here are 7 more reasons to love blueberries.     

*RDA= Recommended Daily Allowance

1 serving blueberries= 1 cup fresh blueberries

Digestion and Weight LossFiber aids in digestion and one serving of blueberries has 4g of fiber. That’s 14% of the DRA for fiber.  Fiber is not fully digested by the body, so it cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through.  Fiber also helps increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied), which can aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance plans.

Lower Blood Pressure.  Blueberries contain anthocyanins and flavonoids which may contribute to the prevention of high blood pressure.  Anthocyanins have a beneficial effect on blood flow and blood vessels.  One study found that compared to those who did not eat blueberries, those eating at least one serving per week reduced their risk of high blood pressure by 10%.

Metabolism Efficiency.  Back to the anthocyanins.  Some research studies have shown they can prevent growth of fat cells while at the same time, encouraging the release of a hormone that helps reduce inflammation and blood sugar, which can help reverse insulin resistance.  Fresh or frozen blueberries will provide you with the highest amount of anthocyanins per serving.

Lower LDL cholesterol.  Blueberries can help reduce the buildup of LDL (low-density, “bad”) cholesterol which consequently reduces risk for heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis.  Normally, dietary cholesterol is reabsorbed by the body as it is digested.  Blueberries impact the digestive process by reducing reabsorption of cholesterol into the body, therefore, aiding in removal of cholesterol via the digestive tract.

Reduced Breast Cancer.  The anthocyanins in blueberries have been shown to prevent or stop cancerous cell growth. The results of one study indicated that mice which were fed blueberry extract had tumors that were 70% smaller and less likely to migrate to other areas of the body than mice that were not given the extract.

Graceful Aging. Due to their flavonoid production, blueberries appear to reduce rates of cognitive decline in older adults.  One study found that participants who drank wild blueberry juice daily for 12 weeks experienced such benefits as improved learning, memory recall, reduced depressive symptoms, and lower glucose levels. This preliminary research supports the idea that blueberries can improve memory in older adults.

Versatility.  Blueberries are eaten fresh or frozen. Raw or baked into your favorite dessert. The frozen ones are great raw or thrown into a smoothie.  They can easily be kept at room temp, which makes them a great option for an on the go snack. Bonus: they are naturally very sweet, so they are a great healthier snack for people trying to reduce their sugar intake (in moderation, of course).

Sources:

http://reedir.arsnet.usda.gov/codesearchwebapp/(2m31cz45hr1lqdv2vl0xv055)/measures.aspx?id=63203010

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/93/2/338.long

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981005074625.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862148/?tool=pubmed

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20047325/  

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535616

Superfood Series: Part 1

bananas

There’s a lot of information floating around the web which boasts the fantastic, heroic-like powers of bananas. But, what does the research say? We’ve looked through the literature and done the work for you. The verdict? Bananas pack a healthy food punch!

Here are 7 reasons why bananas are superfood all-stars:

  1. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease. Just one medium size banana provides 12% of the recommended amount of daily fiber (20-35 g/day). Approximately 1/3 of the fiber in bananas is soluble fiber which is the type of fiber associated with decreased risk of heart disease. High in potassium and low in salt, bananas are officially recognized by the FDA as being able to lower blood pressure, and protect against heart attack and stroke.
  2. Healthy Weight. Soluble fiber also provides us with the feeling of fullness, which helps promote weight loss. For a fiber-full breakfast or snack, throw in a whole, ripened banana with 1 cup of cooked steel cut oats. This combination provides around 12 grams of fiber which can help you in reaching your weight loss goals!
  3. Digestion. Bananas digest more slowly than other foods due to their fiber and pectins which causes a slower absorption into the blood stream.
  4. This means bananas are also good for people with Diabetes. Bananas have a relatively low glycemic load value (16) because they digest slowly which leads to a slow and steady rise of blood sugar.  As bananas ripen, their starch is broken down into sugar, which means the greener the banana, the lower the glycemic load.     
  5. Constipation. Stopped up? Research indicates that bananas can help you. The fiber in bananas acts as a sort of “scrub brush” of the intestines, which aids in digestion and helps prompt regular bowel movements. The key is to eat a ripe banana.  Green tinted bananas contain a considerable amount of starch, which can be hard to digest and lead to constipation. As bananas ripen, their starch is broken down into sugar, and they become easier to digest.  Bonus: as bananas turn from green to yellow, levels of cancer and heart disease fighting antioxidants increase! 
  6. Athletic Performance. The unique combination of vitamins and minerals in bananas in conjunction with their low glycemic load, makes them a great fruit for athletes. Did we mention that bananas are a good source of potassium which helps prevent muscle cramps? Their portability also makes them a perfect snack for travel games.
  7. Happy Thoughts. Some nutrients in bananas are known to be able to help fight against depressive symptoms. That’s right; bananas play a small role in overcoming depression due to high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin -- the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120529113258.htm
http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods.htm
http://www.personal.psu.edu/afr3/blogs/SIOW/2011/09/a-banana-a-day-keeps-depression-away.html
http://columbusclinical.com/blog/five-foods-that-cause-constipation
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7
http://www.naturalnews.com/036771_bananas_digestion_health_benefits.html
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp 

Depression

 

Mental health and well-being in the military are critical areas that must be addressed with understanding and compassion. Today, our focus is depression.

Some Facts

Suicide rates among the military population used to be less prevalent than in the civilian population. However, in 2005 suicide within the military, particularly the Army, steadily began increasing to record levels every year, until in 2008 it exceeded the civilian matched population rates. Defense Department officials are hopeful those rates are in a state of decline.

Contrary to the popular belief that mental illness and suicide in the military is largely attributed to stressors from deployment, the largest study of mental health risk and resilience ever conducted among U.S. military personnel found that approximately one-third of post-enlistment suicide attempts tied back to pre-enlistment mental disorders.

The results of the same research study also indicated that pre- and post-enlistment mental disorders accounted for 60% of first suicide attempts in the Army. This further highlights the importance of addressing the current status of mental health present in today’s military service member population.

Active Duty: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among U.S. military personnel, according to data from the Department of Defense. In 2012, a record 350 service members took their own lives. That total was twice as many as the decade before and surpassed not only the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan but also the number who died in transportation accidents in the same year.

Veterans: Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s 1 suicide every 65 minutes, and that’s not including deaths that occurred in several states such as California and Texas.

National Guard: Suicide rates in the National Guard are higher than for full time troops. In 2012, 34.2 per 100,000 Guard soldiers took their own lives in comparison to 22.7 per 100,000 full time soldiers. At any given time, troops on active-duty rolls include not only full-time soldiers, sailors, Marines and Airmen; but also include National Guard or reservists who are temporarily called up to full duty status. So- while the exact numbers are hard to decipher, more than likely, the numbers are higher.

 

 

As we move toward a better understanding of emotional health, we must remain in compassionate space, refrain from judgment, and never assume that we can adequately contemplate the intensity of the battle that individuals are fighting within themselves.

 

The environment for the Soldier and their family members can be stressful at times. Soldiers are being deployed, leaving their spouse at home to take care of their family and the home.  Soldiers are placed in a situation that can increase rates of anxiety and result in symptoms of depression once they have completed deployment and are trying to reintegrate with their family and adjust to being home.  The family is placed in a situation where they often feel overwhelmed with demands and possibly guilty for feeling any sense of resentment towards the situation. Symptoms of depression are common. Recognizing these symptoms and whether they are interfering with daily life is important in this vulnerable population. It wasn’t too long ago that the Department of Veterans Affairs released data suggesting that rates of veterans taking their own lives are increasing. Learning the symptoms of depression and treating them early is the best way to prevent tragedy from occurring.

Depression is one of the most common and most treatable mental disorders. The problem lies in not knowing how to recognize depression and/or not taking action to treat the depression. At times, there may be perceived stigma associated with being “labeled” with a “mental” problem, and/or with seeking treatment for that problem. This is even more prevalent in the military population. Soldiers may feel that they just need to “be strong” and deal with issues themselves or feel they will be judged for getting mental health treatment. Failing to take appropriate action can result in a downward spiral with symptoms getting worse. A movement towards empowering soldiers to take action on symptoms of depression without repercussion will result in more of those needing help actually getting it. This movement includes family members, peers, and friends getting on board to support individuals seeking appropriate treatment.

What To Look For

Depression includes a variety of symptoms that can vary from one person to the next that continue day to day. If you notice some of these symptoms continuing for more than just a few days, it may be time to think about seeking help. Common symptoms can include but are not limited to:

1) Feeling fatigued or having no energy almost every day

2) Inability to start or finish daily tasks (cleaning the house, basic hygiene, running errands)

3) A feeling of hopelessness…like there is no reason to live, nothing to look forward to

4) Loss of concentration or inability to remember things

5) Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or not enough)

6) Significant changes in weight (weight gain or loss)

7) Thoughts of death or suicide

It is not advised that you or someone you know use this checklist as a way to “diagnose” depression. This checklist should be used as a tool in recognizing when outside help is needed. We have also included several resources for further information on depression and depression in the military.

Resources

434_Courage_hands2012

Service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, along with their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at www.MilitaryCrisisLine.net, or send a text message to 838255 to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  

A hotline has been established specifically for the military called the “Let’s Talk” Deployment Health Helpline: 1-800-796-9699. Available from 7:30-4:30 p.m. EST. 

For additional information, check out Recovery.org, which provides further resources for suicidal thought treatment and recovery.