June 10, 2008 [Volume 2, Issue 14]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Stress: America's Great Headache
5 Strength Training Tips for Women
Alzheimer's, Cholesterol and Vitamin E

Stress: America's Great Headache

Stress is our body's response to the world. Our body responds with biochemical responses of the adrenal and nervous system, which affect every other part of our body. The "fight or flight" sympathetic response, joined by other chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, are released in response to a perceived stressor. Let's review how these chemicals and stress reactions affect our entire body.

Reactions to stress decrease the immune system. With a lower immune system, organisms can grow in the stomach and intestines. Other bacteria, viruses and yeast (such as Candida albicans) can grow in the intestines when the immune system is suppressed. This causes irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and gas.

People with suppressed immune systems get fewer colds. This seems paradoxical, but it's true. Many people with constant high stress in their life avoid healthy immune responses for years on end. It's when they go on vacation or the stress load diminishes that they get a cold. This is due to the decreased stress response and allows the immune system to function again. The bacteria or virus that has been unchecked in the body is then attacked, and we experience the symptoms of fever, malaise, cough, rhinitis and swollen lymph glands. These are all healthy immune responses, and although uncomfortable, they are the body's way of removing foreign organisms.

Cardiac health is worsened with constant high levels of stress. Electrolyte depletion of heart cells, along with vascular inflammation from stress and elevated homocysteine levels, increase the risk for heart attacks and atherosclerosis, which are all worsened by chronic stress response. Insomnia is directly related to perceived stress. Melatonin secretion, elevated neurotransmitter levels and nocturnal cortisol spikes are chemical reasons we can't stay asleep. Many cases of hypothyroid actually are misdiagnosed. When our stress chemicals rise, our thyroid levels decrease (similar to suppression of immune response). Many people take thyroid medications, but don't feel 100 percent better. This is because the problem is in the adrenal hormones, and the thyroid is not the root of the problem.

Getting your adrenal hormones tested is essential. Adrenal cortisol (one of the major stress hormones) fluctuates throughout the day on a diurnal cycle. It should be high when we wake up to give us energy, and low when we go to sleep. Normally, four salivary samples are taken during one day. The results of an adrenal test will show elevations or suppressions of our stress response. Different therapies can modulate and regulate adrenal hormones. Herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, and vitamin, mineral and glandular therapies are all possible options to heal your body. The correct treatment is better selected from adrenal test results.

You can combat the symptoms of stress by exercising regularly, choosing the right foods (no soda, coffee, sugar, processed foods), and learning to balance your response to stress. By developing a better stress response, we can choose to live a happier, healthier life and just let the little stuff go.

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5 Strength Training Tips for Women

These days, many women have jumped on the cardio bandwagon and are making a point of hitting the treadmill or the elliptical machine a few times a week. Not a bad idea, considering government guidelines for heart health recommend engaging in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise three to four days per week.

However, not enough women emphasize strength training in their workout routines. Perhaps it's a fear of getting hurt or doing it "wrong," but many women avoid weights altogether and think of the free-weight section of the gym as the area where the bodybuilders hang out. The following five tips will help educate and encourage you to venture into that muscle-bound area of the gym to get the most out of your weekly workout routines.

1. Vary your workout with an interval program. This means that instead of working at the same pace on the treadmill or stationary bike for an hour or more, you should alternate quick bursts of speed with a recovery period. Combine this with a strength training regimen and you're on your way to fitting into those skinny jeans.
2. Make it a priority to lift weights three times a week. Beginning a lifting routine once a week is better than not lifting at all, but you aren't going to notice too many changes. Twice a week is better, but still isn't going to give you the results you want. However, any more than three times a week and your muscles won't have enough time to recover between workouts.
3. Increase the weight you lift over time and lift enough weight to make a difference. It's important to find the right balance between going for the heaviest weight in the room and going for the lightest. You want to make sure you are lifting enough to make a significant difference. Experts advise choosing a weight you can lift for at least 8-10 reps. Once you can lift a particular weight consistently for 12 reps, go to the next highest weight and go back to lifting it at 8-10 reps and so on. (Note: To learn more about how much weight you should be lifting, read Chelsea Cooper's exercise series, "A Total-Body Workout in Five Easy Steps," online at www.toyourhealth.com. The five-part series began in July 2007.)
4. Exercises that work smaller muscles won't necessarily get you the best results. Small and large muscles need to work together, as part of a larger complex system, to get you the results you want. That means you need to work the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and legs. Remember, it's about getting your entire body in shape, not just specific areas or muscle groups.
5. Traditional crunches aren't the answer. It's hard to find the motivation to do crunches in the first place, but having to lie flat on the hard floor to perform this exercise would make even the most die-hard workout junkie come up with an excuse. An alternative to traditional crunches is to perform the same motion on an exercise ball. This will help provide some cushion for your back and allow you to work all of your abdominal muscles by providing a complete range of motion.

Now that you've got the basics down, it's important to remember that just getting started is half the battle. There isn't necessarily a one-size-fits-all strength training regimen for women. Start off slowly and build up your stamina. Remember, the first rep and the last rep should look the same, even if you start to slow down toward the end.

A simple strength training routine will help you tone your body so you can wear that new summer bathing suit with confidence and tone up those hips and thighs for your skinny jeans. It doesn't necessarily mean you'll make the cover of a fitness magazine, but you'll sure look great at that summer wedding or barbeque, and you'll feel great about yourself.

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Alzheimer's, Cholesterol and Vitamin E

Researchers at Finland's University of Kuopio and Baylor College of Medicine may have uncovered a link between Alzheimer's disease and high cholesterol – and vitamin E supplementation just might be the answer.

According to the study, conducted by researchers from Finland, Sweden and California, people in their early 40s with cholesterol levels between 249 and 500 milligrams per deciliter are about one and a half times more likely to develop Alzheimer's later in life as those individuals whose levels are below 198 milligrams per deciliter. What's even more interesting is that these findings appear to be independent of other risk factors for high cholesterol like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

At Baylor College of Medicine, researchers discovered that Alzheimer's patients who took high doses of vitamin E – high levels of which are also found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fruits and some eggs – had mortality rates 26 percent lower than those taking no supplements. There is also evidence that a diet rich in vitamin E may lower the risk of getting Alzheimer's in the first place.

Just the latest example of how proper diet can help you avoid some serious health issues later in life.

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The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. MPA Media is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.