Have you ever heard the word proprioception? Me neither. Well, not until a few minutes ago. I went skiing today and when looking online for health benefits of skiing (seemed like a good topic), I came upon this wonderful vocabulary word (better topic!).

Simply, proprioception can be described as reflexive movement intelligence. It’s the body’s ability to sense stimuli within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium…and immediately turn all that stimuli into a physical reaction. Downhill skiing is a good example of a proprioceptive activity. Without thinking, your body needs to sense the position of your arms and legs in relation to the rest of your body, the position of your body relative to the ground, the fact that your feet are attached to skis, and that gravity is propelling you downward over unpredictable and varied terrain. Good proprioception is what enables you to make it safely to the bottom of the mountain…hopefully with a little grace.

Although proprioception is an unconscious response, it can be enhanced with training and use. By improving proprioception, you will improve balance, stability, coordination, agility, and accuracy while reducing your risk of injury. Cool new word, huh?

In health,

Red Thumb Ring?

Have you seen people with the red thumb[nail] reminder? Have you seen anyone with the red Adam Levine/Nissan thumb ring? Me either. But I applaud any efforts to increase awareness of texting and driving. Did you know that:

  • Texting and driving causes 6,000 deaths per year
  • Texting and driving causes 330,000 injuries per year
  • Texting and driving is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds
  • 11 teens die every day from texting and driving
  • Texting while driving makes you 23x more likely to have an accident

The statistics are scary, yet every day I see people staring at phones while they drive. I am not perfect — I’m often the one you have to beep at when the red light turns green — and I have no intention of standing on a soapbox, grandstanding, or lecturing you. Rather, as we start a new year I thought it would be nice to write something that may make you pause and consider what you do, or could do…

I’m not suggesting you paint your nails, hide your phone in the glove compartment (Did people really keep gloves there?), or do anything that doesn’t make sense you you. I’m a fan of creativity. What do I do? I point out people texting and driving to my kids whenever I can, and tell them how dangerous it is. As a result, if I even pick up my phone in the car one of them will pipe up, “You aren’t texting, are you?” They are like cute little alarms. As a bonus, if I keep this up for the next 8-12 years then maybe by the time they are driving the risks will be so ingrained in their brains that they won’t even consider texting and driving. By then it will probably be voice texting or something I can’t even imagine, but it still makes me feel better to imagine them making the right choice.

Oh, and I apologize if I’m ever in front of you at a red light.

May your 2015 be healthy and safe,

How Pets Improve Your Health

I have been visiting animal shelters and looking online for the past few weeks in search of a cat that would make a good family pet. My eight year old has been asking for a cat for months, and we finally said yes — hoping a furry friend would be a comforting companion that helps him handle anxiety and other stresses. Did you know that a cat could do that? By providing unconditional love and physical contact, cats and dogs can actually help improve health and well being. In fact, studies show that animals can help you:

  • Improve overall mood
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decrease loneliness
  • Establish a healthy routine

It’s kind of ironic that the process of searching and preparing for a cat has been completely stressful!!! It has been a lot of work, it’s hard to see so many dogs and cats in need, and trying to make quick decisions about whether or not to adopt an animal that will live with me for the next 20 years isn’t easy. Hopefully we will find our kitty soon so he can help me relax!

In health,

Brighten Up

A new year is a great time for resolutions, but even those with the best intentions often have trouble following through. To be honest, I think the middle of the winter — especially in New England — is probably the worst time of year to try to make changes, especially ones that involves increasing energy output or overcoming fears and obstacles. For many of us, the lack of sunlight decreases energy and motivation and can even cause depression. Not really a great combination to promote success. By the time we get more sunlight, more energy, and more motivation…New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten.

In an effort to help decrease winter blues, I did something I have considered doing for 20 years. I purchased a “SAD light.” SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder, and is a term often used to describe the conditions created by decreased sunlight in the winter months. The wide spectrum light is supposed to mimic the sun rays and wake me up! There are scientific explanations, but it basically tricks your body into thinking it woke up on a bright sunny morning rather than a dark and dreary one. (Yes, that is way oversimplified. If you want the science behind it, it’s easy to find online.)

Does it work? I’ll know for sure soon enough. I have enjoyed using it for the last few days — I put it on the table next to me for 15 or 20 minutes in the morning while I eat breakfast or check email — and I am optimistic. Maybe it will be a new way to kick the winter blues and give me the energy I need to work on those resolutions.

In health,

Don’t Throw Away Old Produce

I always find it sad when I discover my carrots have started growing hair, or the clementines got mushy because we didn’t eat a crate of them soon enough. I have [gulp] thrown away aged produce in the past, but as often as I can I am trying to repurpose it…into juice! Yes, I have dug my old-school juicer out from the back of that cabinet and I’m so glad I did!

This week, I gave all my hairy carrots and mushy clemmies to five year old, set him up in front of the juicer, and let him go. He peeled the clementines (wonderful for a young child’s dexterity) and shoved them in one by one mesmerized by the fact that they came out as juice. When he finished with those he watched the machine swallow carrots whole (I peeled them to remove the hair but that probably wasn’t necessary), and put in some apples, too. He had so much fun and ended up with lots of juice. As a bonus, it was kind of educational.

After a taste test he was done with the project and went off to play. I took all the cups, poured them into one container, and I had about 24 oz amazingly delicious, healthy, fresh juice waiting for me over the next 24 hours. So I got healthy juice, kept my kid busy, didn’t throw away food, and saved money by not buying expensive mini bottles of juice at the store. Brilliant!

The next time you go to throw that seemingly expired food away, maybe see if you can turn it into something else.

In health,

What Is CFS?

It’s not easy to have an invisible illness that few have ever heard of, and it’s even more difficult when the primary symptom is fatigue. There are many conditions that ignite fatigue and most people would say they are often tired. But the more than one million people in the US suffering from Chronic Fatigue Symptom (CFS) are more than just tired.

CFS is an auto immune disorder characterized by debilitating fatigue along with many other symptoms. There is no known cause or cure, and according to the CDC (using 1994 case definition), to be diagnosed with CFS a person must meet three criteria:

  1. The individual has had severe chronic fatigue for 6 or more consecutive months and the fatigue is not due to ongoing exertion or other medical conditions associated with fatigue (these other conditions need to be ruled out by a doctor after diagnostic tests have been conducted)
  2. The fatigue significantly interferes with daily activities and work
  3. The individual concurrently has 4 or more of the following 8 symptoms:
    – significant impairment of short-term memory or concentration
    – muscle pain
    – pain in the joints without swelling or redness
    – headaches of a new type, pattern, or severity
    – tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpit
    – a sore throat that is frequent or recurring

CFS was once known as the “yuppie flu” and many believed it was imaginary. I can tell you, it’s real. I got sick my senior year of college and it took a year and a half, 12 doctors/specialists, and countless uninformative blood tests before I was diagnosed. After three awful years I found my way out of the throes of the illness, but I will never live like I did before CFS.

Despite the fact that there are several notable figures that have it, including author Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit and Unbroken) and Michelle Akers (Olympic soccer player), it is still a pretty unknown condition. I like that a few more people know about it now. Thanks for reading.

In health,

Do Nothing Together

Nine adults, three teenagers, four kids, and a dog in one house for 48 hours – that was my Thanksgiving and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We all went to my brother’s house on Long Island, and spent two days eating, drinking, lounging, and laughing. Honestly, there were at least a half dozen times where people laughed until they cried. I can’t even remember what was so funny, but I can tell you that if felt good to laugh that hard. I think that most of us don’t laugh that hard very often anymore. I highly recommend it.
I also recommend finding the time to do nothing with the ones you love the most. Life gets busy, for all of us, and I think that sometimes we forget to stop everything and just be together for the sake of being together. We had a more than wonderful Thanksgiving meal, but for me the best part came when the dishes were done and everyone plopped down on the couches and looked at each other with an, “OK, what’s next?” sort of vibe. Nothing was next. We were just there. And that was perfect.

We relaxed, we talked, we laughed, the kids taught their grandparents how to play Catch-a-Phrase. I got to actually have conversations with people that lasted more than two minutes because we weren’t rushing off to whatever was next. Nothing was next. And over the course of the night, the next day, the next night, and the next morning I got to watch my oldest brother (who lives in NY) and my kids really get to know each other. I realized how funny my college-aged nephew is, and saw the happiness in my parents’ eyes as they watched what they had created. My cousin did my nails (along with my 16-year old niece and cousin) by blow-drying stickers onto them (huh?), the big kids jumped on trampolines with the little ones, and we even just sat around and watched TV together like it was something we do every day. It was the kind of time that we don’t get…or don’t take often enough. When I look back at my life years from now I know it’s times like these that will stand out in my memory and make me smile.

It’s important to make space in life to simply be with those you love. Take the time to relax together, laugh together, and do nothing together. You’ll be glad you did.

In health,

Eye Opener: Sugar

Keven sent me a link to a Fox News article about a man who ate a sugar-heavy diet for 60 days — and it wasn’t a soda and candy sort of diet. He was eating foods that many believe are healthy, including yogurt, cereals, and granola bars. After 60 days, this man added 4″ of fat around his waist, felt sluggish, experienced moodiness, was often hungry, started developing fatty liver disease, and was on his way to obesity. And as we know, there are many more negative health implications to ingesting too much sugar, including diabetes and heart disease. So just how much sugar is OK?

According to the American Heart Association, women should have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and men should have no more than 9 teaspoons. Kids should have much less. (These numbers aren’t reflecting natural sugars in fruit, vegetables, etc.) When reading nutritional information labels, sugar is usually measured in grams. There are four grams in one teaspoon. So a woman should have a maximum of 24 grams of sugar and a man no more than 36 grams. Kids should average no more than 12-16 grams a day depending on age/size.

Let’s look in my kitchen…
Honey Nut Cheerios: 9g sugar per 3/4 cup
Kashi Crunchy Granola & Seed Bars: 9g sugar per serving
Post Great Grains (raisins, dates, pecans): 13g sugar per 3/4 cup
Stonyfield Organic Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt: 29g sugar per cup
Powerade (sports drink): 34g sugar per 20 fl oz bottle
Minute Maid Pink Lemonade: 67g sugar per 20 fl oz bottle!!!
It’s amazing how quickly one can surpass the recommended limit, and I almost fell over when I looked at the sugar content of the drinks my kids were having today. HOLY COW! My eyes have been opened. Maybe check around your kitchen and see what you find…

In health,

Still a Party Animal at 94

I went to my grandmother’s 94th birthday yesterday. She doesn’t hear so well and she doesn’t see so well, but she is still moving and shaking better than some people half her age. Yes, I said moving and shaking. My grandmother has always been a bit of a hot ticket (What a funny phrase!). If she were on Golden Girls, she definitely would have been Blanche. I’m pretty sure she has spent most of the last 40 years playing golf and mahjong, enjoying late afternoon cocktails, and having dinner parties with friends.

Somehow, despite sun overexposure and general overindulgence, she has lived a long and healthy life. Why? Some might say it’s because she had fun. Almost everything she did was with the intention of having fun, which left very little time for overwork or stress. It definitely gives me pause for thought. How high is fun on my priority list? Could I live longer by having more fun? It’s worth a try!

In health,

Do Spicy Foods Increase Metabolism?

Yes, yes they do! For a little while, anyway. Foods like chili peppers, jalapeños, habaneros, and cayenne have a heat-generating compound called capsaicin in them, and studies have shown that eating these spicy foods can burn extra calories by temporarily boosting metabolism.

If that’s not reason enough to add a little spice to your life, people generally eat smaller portions when having spicy meals because they feel satisfied sooner. PLUS, the brain responds to the burning sensation by releasing endorphins that elicit very pleasurable or euphoric feelings. Excellent!

In health,

Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.