Yoga: There’s No Place Like “OMMMM”

Today’s entry is from CWH nurse practitioner Kathy Bornhoeft:

Balance Your Life; Breathe, Relax and Be Still…………………

A recent study founded that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, an increase of almost 30% in just four years!

Yoga is a mind and body meditative movement practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy.  Yoga typically combines physical postures and positions with breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation.  There are numerous styles of yoga, but Hatha yoga is commonly practiced in the United States.  Most people practice yoga to maintain and improve their health and well-being and enhance their quality of life.  Research shows that practicing yoga can help reduce pain, lower heart rate and blood pressure, increase lung capacity, boost circulation and muscle tone, and may also help relieve anxiety and depression.  Yoga has been shown to improve balance in stroke survivors according to the American Heart Association journal Stroke.  Yoga is generally low-impact and safe for most people when practiced under the guidance of a well-trained instructor

According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, yoga is the sixth most commonly used complementary practice among adults.  That adds up to more than 13 million adults practicing yoga in one year.  That same survey found that more than 1.5 million children also practiced yoga in that same year.  Recent research also suggests that the addition of yoga or mindfulness meditation practices may be associated with promoting weight loss and healthier eating habits.

Equally important as the exploration of its potential health benefits is research on the safety of yoga. Yoga is often promoted as a safe and effective exercise program, and although the risk of serious injury from yoga is thought to be quite low, that’s not always the case.  Some poses may place too much strain on certain joints, particularly if they’re not being done properly or modified appropriately for the individual.  In fact, the physical demands and safety of yoga have not been well studied, particularly in older adults.

 Considering Practicing Yoga?

  • If you have a medical condition, talk to your health care provider before starting yoga.  Women who are pregnant should always check with their health care provider before starting yoga.
  • Yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities.
  • Ask about the physical demands of the type of yoga in which you are interested and inform your yoga instructor about any medical issues you have.
  • Be sure to drink water before, during, and after a yoga practice and wear suitable clothing.

The Center for Women’s Health has ongoing Yoga classes, with new classes to be added Fall 2014:  www.capitalhealth.org/classes-events

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Happy Mother’s Day: Words of Wisdom

Today’s entry inspired and compiled by our staff physician Dr. Sarah Wistreich:

This year for Mother’s Day, we have chosen to pay homage to OUR moms through our blog. We each interviewed the mother figure in our lives. Hopefully you will learn something from all of their advice and answered questions. We certainly did! Take some time with your mom this year and ask them some questions. The answers may surprise you!

If you had to do one thing differently as a mom, what would it have been?

DL- “Keep more diaries of our family trips and adventures. I love reading my mother’s diaries and those that I kept when I was younger.”

AM- “Stay calm when talking to my kids”

NM- “Have more children”

JP- “I wouldn’t have disciplined as much.”

How did you pick my father?

DL- “At first site, he was handsome. We dated for four years. I prayed about him and felt that he was the man chosen for me.”

AM- “When I met him, he was a nice, calm person who I knew would be a good father.”

NM- “He picked me. He followed me around a party. I would send him to get a drink and I would move, but he would find me again with the drink.”

JP- “We met at a resort. He was sweet and laid back.”

Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents?

DL- “I wish I knew more about their childhoods. I have some diaries from my mother, but I want to know about their early years.”

AM- “I wish I knew my father better. He was always working and distant. He passed away when I was 19.”

NM- “ I wish I got more family history, especially about family stories when they came to the US from Poland and Lithuania.”

JP- “I wish I knew more about the genealogy. I should have tried to find out more about family history. My parents were immigrants and didn’t talk about the home country.”

What’s the best thing I can do for you right now?

DL- “Keep including me as a part of your life. You are doing a great job!”

AM- “Call me more and tell me what’s going on in your life.”

NM- “Call me more often.”

JP- “Keep doing everything you do right now. You help with everything!”

When did you realize you were no longer a child?

DL- “I haven’t yet! Teaching 6th grade kept me young for years, and now my children and grandson keeps me young.”

AM- “ When I was 19 and my father passed away suddenly.”

NM- “When I got into nursing school I realized I would have to be on my own soon, especially when I was working on the floors and taking care of patients.”

JP- “When I was working in my parent’s candy store at age 13-14. I had to work.”

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

DL- “My mother. She taught me family values, gardening, canning, cooking. She modeled how to journal and encouraged me to become a teacher.”

AM- “My husband and all three of my children.”

NM- “A lot of people around me inspire me, especially my children.”

JP- “My husband (now deceased). He was so good with my son.”

What’s the best gift you ever received?

DL- “I received a piano when I was pregnant with you from your father. I played throughout both my pregnancies. Both you and your brother took lessons and we spent so much time playing together. It has brought me so much joy through the years.”

AM- “When I receive a greeting card and someone writes their own message in it. It makes me cry tears of joy.”

NM- “Some of my best gifts were made by my kids in school. I’m thinking of a pin my son John made me of all different colored rocks. I still have it!”

JP- “My son Glenn.  He is so good.”

What was the hardest thing about being a mom? What was the most rewarding thing?

DL- “The hardest thing was discipline. I hated doing that. The most rewarding, though, was seeing the rewards later on from the hard work. My kids are wonderful people.”

AM- “The hardest thing was patience. I needed more of it and prayed for it often. The most rewarding part was seeing my children grown up with their own families.

NM- “The hardest part was not having enough time for me and trying to give everyone the attention they needed. The most rewarding part was watching my kids excel. Little things, like when they brought home a test with a good grade.”

JP- “The hardest part was not knowing whether you are right or wrong, wondering if you are harming your children emotionally or mentally, and regretting what you think you did wrong. The most rewarding part is seeing the final product- how my son lives his life and how well he turned out. “

What is your wish for your future generations?

DL- “A world without crime, anger, and stress.”

AM- “To have more patience and to enjoy children and grandchildren.”

NM- “No more wars.”

JP- “That they can have a fruitful life like I did, that they have prospects like I did. My generation was very lucky.”

Can you recall one memorable thing that each of your children said?

DL- “I remember when you were 12 and told me you wanted to be a doctor when your brother was sick. I remember when your brother was 4 and told me that he wanted to build a house next door to ours and paint it red with pink shutters and live there forever.”

AM-“ I remember when my daughter asked us to move in with her. It made me so happy to know we weren’t considered a burden. Being told I was a great mother. Being thanked for helping my kids through rough times. “

NM- (skipped this question)

JP-“ No!”

When did you feel the prettiest? (Special day, outfit, time in your life)?

DL-“I have a picture of my husband and I when I was in my late 30s, after having two kids. I think I look beautiful in this picture. I have it framed”

AM- “On my wedding day.”

NM- “My wedding day.”

JP- “The day I got married. We went to the Rabbi’s study. I wore a short wedding dress and we went out to lunch. We didn’t bother with a big wedding.”

What’s the nicest thing you have ever done for yourself?

DL- “Two things: 1) exercise every day to keep myself active 2) travel as much as possible. Which I can do because I’m still so active!”

AM- “Shopping and treating myself to new clothes. I love to buy pretty things!”

NM- “Getting regular manicures and pedicures.”

JP- “Marrying my husband.”

What are you most proud of in your life?

DL- “My family, the most important thing of all.”

AM- “My children”

NM- “My children”

JP- “I am most proud of my son and his wife, of having survived all my years, of my family, children, and grandchildren.”

“DONNA LEGG is a retired teacher, mother of two, and grandmother to her grandson. She grew up in a family of eight children in upstate New York on her family farm. My mom received her master’s degree in education from Potsdam State University of New York.  For 34 years, she has been happily married to my father, Kevin. She loves to travel, read, knit, cook, garden, and spend time with her family. My mom is a devoted church attendee and member of the music ministry. Our family and all around her admire her energy, enthusiasm, faith, and joy for life. I am blessed to call her my mother, my role model, and my friend.  ” -Sarah Wistreich

“ANTONETTE MICAI is a wonderful mother of three and grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of two. She grew up in a family of six children in Trenton, NJ. She loves to knit, read, and enjoys her family. She loves to be at the beach. She has been a devoted wife for 58 years. Her children feel blessed to have learned about the importance of the little things in life: “stop and smell the roses.”” –Kathy Woods

“NANCY MRAVCAK, mother of three and grandmother of two, was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre, PA, but lived most of her adult life in New Jersey.  She enjoyed a successful career as a nurse and is the epitome of the woman who could do it all.  She seemed to effortlessly care for her family, excel in her career, and further her education.  Nancy, now retired at the Jersey Shore with her husband of 55 years, enjoys being a painter, baker, bridge-player, and yoga-mat-slinging line dancer.  She is a woman who visualizes the best and will always gracefully survive the worst.  A gentle soul, Nancy will always be the first to congratulate or console and I am thankful that she is my mother.” –Sally Mravcak

“JEAN PROTTER is the daughter of immigrants.  She was born and raised in New York City.  Despite many obstacles, she went to college, received a bachelor degree in education, later received a master’s degree, and became an elementary school teacher. She was married to her husband for over 50 years and together they had one (awesome) son.  Jean is the matriarch of our family – mother, mother-in-law, grandmother.  She is kind, steadfast, wise without judgment, an extraordinary individual, and a role model for me in this world as a woman and a human being.” – Randi Protter

 

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Birds, Bees, Sneeze!

April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring pollen (not pilgrims), and pollen brings itchy/watery eyes, clogged ears, runny noses, sneezing and general misery for many.  Springtime is not a magical time for all.

Springtime allergies are typically triggered by inhaled pollen.  Pollen is a tiny particle released by grasses, trees, and the like.  For those who are sensitive, pollen triggers a series of reactions that lead to the release of a chemical called histamine.  Histamines cause inflammation and irritation of tissues that ultimately causes symptoms in the eyes/ears/nose/throat and sometimes lungs.

Several strategies can be helpful for seasonal allergies:

-Pollen counts tend to be higher on dry/windy days as pollen is carried through the air.  Try to minimize your time outside when counts are high.  You can get up-to-the-minute information on your desktop or mobile device here.

-Keep your home and car windows closed on high pollen count days.  Consider an air conditioner rather than a fan

-Avoid early morning outdoor activities – that is when pollen counts tend to be highest

-Avoid grass cutting and gardening.  If you do, make sure you remove your clothes and wash them as soon as possible

-Medications:

  -Oral medications – These medications are best for people with multiple allergy symptoms.  Most allergy tablets – once only available by prescription – are now available over –the-counter (otc).  Loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra) are available plain and with a decongestant.  They are all considered non-sedating, but can still cause drowsiness.  Those with a decongestant can sometimes cause jitteriness or insomnia.  There is no one tablet that is better than another.  There are a handful of prescription antihistamines, but they do not have an advantage over the otc products.  One prescription medication, montelukast (Singulair), typically used for asthma, can sometimes be beneficial for allergies as well.

 - Nasal sprays – These medications are best for sinus/nasal symptoms. The nasal steroid triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ) is now available without a prescription as is the non-steroid spray cromolyn sodium (Nasalcrom).  Prescription medications include nasal steroids and nasal antihistamines.  Nasal sprays tend to work best when taken several weeks before allergy symptoms begin.

-Eye drops – These are best for eye only issues, or when using a different product and still having eye symptoms.  Most over-the-counter eye drops for allergies have ketotifen as the active ingredient, and there are many brands to choose from.  There are several different varieties of prescription eye drops which can be quite effective.

All medications have side effects.  Check with your health care provider to find the one that is right for you. 

If do not have relief from otc products, or, if your symptoms are severe, you should seek medical attention.

Enjoy the sunshine!

 

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My Week of Mindfulness

Today’s relaxation blog is via CWH’s  Dr. Sally Mravcak:

Mindfulness meditation: the type of meditation where you sit quietly, in stillness, and pay attention to your breath as it flows in and out.  No thinking about your to-do list, no checking face-book/instagram/twitter/pinterest, no running around…you get the point. 

 I am the last person you would think of as a “meditator.”   I’m not good at sitting and I need to move.   But, when I started reading about all the potential benefits of meditation, I decided to get myself a cushion, download a mindfulness audio track, and get into a comfortable position. 

 In the last fifteen years a growing body of scientific data has shown that meditation has the potential to affect mental and physical health in a positive way.  Who doesn’t want that? 

Research has shown that mindfulness meditation can: 

  • Reduce anxiety, depression, and chronic pain
  • Increase activity in the area of the brain responsible for learning and emotional control
  • Improve mental resilience (a recent study with Marines found that attention and working memory were better when they meditated for as little as 12 minutes a day!)
  • Improve multitasking
  • Help smokers quit
  • Reduce hot flashes
  • Help with weight loss 

So what was my experience with 12 minutes of meditation a day for one week?  Well, there’s no way to know if I grew my gray matter or if my war zone function improved.   I definitely experienced “monkey mind” – the term meditators use to describe unsettled, restless, and uncontrollable thoughts that happen during meditation.  (Think: drunken monkey screeching, carrying on and jumping from tree-limb to tree-limb.)  But, despite the drunken monkeys, I did notice that, overall, I felt calmer, more patient, and generally happier.  And, a most amazing thing happened – my eleven year old daughter became very interested in the meditation corner and we did one 5 minute session together where I sat on the cushion and she sat on my lap.  It was a most peaceful and memorable moment.  So, it’s on to week two of taming my monkey mind and one more week closer to Nirvana (and I don’t mean the grunge band).  

Here are some tips on how to get started, yourself.

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Love and Health

Today’s entry via CWH’s Dr. Sarah Wistreich:

Given that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, love is in the air! You may be looking forward to flowers, a box of chocolates, or a fancy dinner. But what about the other benefits of love?

A recent study looked at the health benefits of love on the body and compared this to stress. Chronic stress had a direct effect on the nervous system and led to outcomes like worsening of cardiovascular function, poor memory, weaker immune response, and an increase in depression and anxiety.  In comparison, love worked in the limbic system and affects emotional responses. Love was shown to increase immune response for fighting diseases and decrease depression and anxiety. Love leads to a release of a variety of neurotransmitters (endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine) that act to increase bonding and decrease stress reactions. The overall outcome is a feeling of well being with deep feelings of motivation, pleasure and reward. Being in close proximity with a partner has been shown to decrease cortisol levels and reduce stress.  People in love have also been shown to have fewer doctors’ visits, lower blood pressure, less alcohol and substance abuse, fewer colds and a longer overall lifespan. 

Who needs candy and flowers when your partner has given you all of these wonderful aspects of health? Make plans to spend time together doing an activity that you both love, whether it is cooking a healthy meal together or a fun physical activity. Focus not on the gifts and commercialism, but the actual love you have for each other and bask in your dopamine bliss!

Don’t feel down if you are single this Valentine’s day. Many studies have shown similar benefits from a strong connection to family and friends. Make plans with those you love around you and boost your health in the meantime with a group activity or a family gathering.  Get your physical contact through bear hugs from your nearest and dearest. Frequent hugs alone have been proven to be beneficial to your health!

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Center for Women’s Health!

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