Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Meditation

There is a Zen statement: “If you don’t have half an hour to spare every day to meditate, then meditate for an hour.” While many of us can agree that we need to create breaks in our schedule to relax, the idea of dedicating thirty to sixty minutes of our already overly busy day may scare us away from even trying. The good news is that we do not have to be a master yogi or spend hours meditating. Anyone can do it and benefits can be seen after just a few minutes.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About The Health Benefits of Meditation

What is meditation?  It is a mind-body practice that increases mental and physical relaxation. In doing so, it can enhance our overall well-being; creative thinking; perspective; and ability to cope with stressful situations.

Specifically, the goal is to refocus our attention away from everything else. There is a saying that: “Meditation is like a gym in which you develop the powerful mental muscles of calm and insight.”

Are there different types of meditation? Yes. In fact, meditation has been described as “an umbrella term” for the many ways to achieve a relaxed state of being, inner peace and balance. While there are many types, most share these elements: a quiet location with minimal distractions; a comfortable position (e.g. sitting with legs crossed, lying down, or within  our home or garden or favorite chair); concentrating in order to cut out all distractions (e.g. focusing on a word, a key teaching or saying, an object, our breathing).

Can meditation help me decrease the stress I deal with?  Yes! We all know that when stress becomes chronic and is not properly managed, it can wreak havoc on our minds, body and spirit. We also know that relaxation is the opposite of stress. As a result, meditation decreases the release of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol) and changes the frequency and amplitude of our brain waves. Meditation helps to provide perspective, calm – and aids against those storms of life on the outside from coming inside.  In doing so, it can have a number of health benefits.  

What are some of the health benefits of meditation? While we need to understand that it may not replace many proven treatment modalities, meditation can be used as part of a multi-faceted approach for a number of ailments with compelling benefits.

  • Decreased blood pressure. The American Heart Association has released a statement that meditation may be considered by clinicians as a form of treatment for high blood pressure.
  • Better sleep. When our minds are racing, it makes it difficult to drift off to sleep and stay asleep. By quieting our thoughts we are more likely to wake up feeling refreshed.
  • Decreased depression and anxiety. Meditation has been shown to change not only our brain waves, but also the way our brain cells make connections, its actual structures (thickening some areas while making others less dense), and even molecules that send signals.
  • Dealing with chronic pain. While it is not clear how meditation decreases the suffering of people who experience chronic pain, studies have shown some surprising results: relief can be achieved by beginners and much quicker than expected.
  • Improved immune function. When our bodies relax, our immune system has the opportunity to prepare for battle against germs, foreign invaders, and cancer.

When is a good time to meditate? One of the beauties of mediation is that we can make it as formal or informal as we like, and thereby adapt it to our needs. There are centers, groups, and classes that are led by trained instructors to teach us advanced techniques. And because meditation does not require equipment or formal training, it can be done on our own, at any time. So, whether we are at work, sitting on an airplane or train, ready to go to sleep, or just feeling anxious or stressed, all we need is a few minutes to achieve our inner peace.

How can I meditate in just a few minutes? If we are seated, sit up straight, plant our feet on the ground, close our eyes, and repeat a mantra. A mantra can be a word or phrase that is religious or secular, such as “Om,” “I am at peace,” or “I love myself.” It helps to tune into our breathing as well. Take a deep and slow breath in from our nostrils and exhale gently either through our nostrils or mouth.

If we are on the go, slow down the pace and focus on each movement of our legs or feet, forget about our destination, and repeat a mantra.

If we have a faith we follow, consider engaging in prayer, praise or a spiritual precept, the most widely practiced example of meditation. It can be saying or reading our own words or verses, or listening to sacred music.

Meditation is a rich moment or collection of moments that we escape the noise and demands of our world to focus fully in the wonder of stillness and a knowing.  There are healthy benefits in “being still” and meditating that will have positive affect on our body, our thoughts and feelings, and our behavior.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:

Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

imageNotice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.

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Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About 3 Deadly Medical Emergencies

A dear friend of mine had a small heart attack at the age of 50 years. His only warning sign was a feeling of indigestion. But after two days of unrelenting discomfort, he realized something was wrong and went to the emergency room. Yes, he received a warning sign, but it was atypical for a heart attack. In other words it was dubious. Let’s take a look at some other potentially deadly emergencies so we can better spot warning signs, even when they are dubious.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know About 3 Deadly Medical Emergencies

Pulmonary embolism (PE): blockage of an artery in our lungs by an embolus. This funny sounding word is defined as a substance that has travelled from another part of our body. In most cases, it is usually a blood clot that developed in a leg vein, known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Any type of blockage prevents the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients (e.g. glucose) to an organ and can result in tissue death within minutes.

 Risk Factors for a PE include:

  • Immobility: long plane or car ride; following surgery; extended bed rest
  • After severe injuries, burns, or fractures of the hips or thigh bone
  • Cancer
  • After childbirth

 Potential Warning Signs for PE include:

  • Chest pain, typically under the breastbone or on one side, that is described as sharp/stabbing, burning, aching, or a heavy sensation. It usually worsens with deep breaths.
  • Fast breathing or heart rate
  • Anxiety, light-headedness or feeling dizzy
  • Sudden cough that may be bloody

Stroke. This condition describes the death of brain cells when the blood supply is decreased or interrupted. Acting quickly is key and there is a saying: “time lost, is brain lost.”

Risk Factors for Stroke include:

  • High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity
  • Family history, increased age
  • Smoking, heavy drinking, drug abuse

Potential Warning Signs for Stroke. The American Stroke Association has a useful pneumonic called FAST:

  • Face Drooping: ask the person to smile and see if the smile is uneven
  • Arm Weakness: ask the person to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts downward
  • Speech Difficulty: as the person to say a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue” and see if it is repeated correctly
  • Time to call 9-1-1: even if the symptoms go away.

Suicide. Every year, more people kill themselves than get killed by homicide. And for every suicide, the loved ones left behind are left with tremendous grief.

Risk Factors for Suicide include:

  • Mental disorders (depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders)
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol
  • History of a traumatic event or abuse
  • Previous suicide attempt or family history of suicide
  • Loss of a job, money, or relationship
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide, referred to as suicide contagion

Potential Warning Signs for Suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves (buying a gun, researching);
  • Talking about feeling hopeless, being in unbearable pain or a burden to others, or having no reason to live
  • Increasing the use of drugs or alcohol; behaving recklessly
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves

If only our bodies were as simple as a signal light—red, yellow, and green. However, by learning about these deadly conditions, their risk factors, and warning signs, we may be able to better spot the yellow light before it becomes red; even when it is dubious. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing potential warning signs for these medical emergencies, call 9-1-1.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:

Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

imageNotice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Depression in Men

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We have all heard the saying “men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” I giggle when I hear that the genders come from different planets because there is more than a grain of truth to it. Men and women seem to possess their own unique customs, language, and visions of relationships (as well as many other things). But did you know that when it comes to the way diseases present, gender differences may also exist? The reason for this must lie somewhere on the mystical X and Y chromosome.

Doctors and researchers are starting to pay attention to these “gender specific” presentations to avoid giving one species a bum rap. This is particularly the case for clinical depression. Depression is typically associated with sadness and crying. However, in males, it manifests as anger, irritability, and aggression. Consequently, women are more likely to be diagnosed, and as a result, successfully treated for it. But in reality it affects men almost equally.

Dr. Nina’s – What you Need to Know: Let’s take a look at some of these “gender specific” symptoms of depression in men:

    • Anger. Although this appears to be on the opposite end of the spectrum from sadness, anger and sadness may just be two sides of the same coin. Experts believe that a man who realizes something is wrong may need to compensate by demonstrating that he is in control or capable. Depression in men is more likely to present as hostility or even controlling behavior. In some situations, verbal and physical abuse towards their mates, children, or loved ones can be seen.
    • Reckless behavior. Sudden embarking in dangerous sports, reckless driving, gambling, and substance abuse may be a sign of depression. Alcohol and illicit drugs can become a maladaptive coping mechanism. An interesting point is that alcoholics are more likely to suffer from depression compared to those who do not drink.
    • Irritability. Negative thoughts may manifest as frustration, crankiness, or excessive agitation when provoked. Irritability can also be accompanied by an increased heart rate, breathing, or sweating.
    • Physical pain. Headaches, backaches, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, and digestive problems that are resistant to normal therapy may be a sign of depression in men. When a physical illness or other condition is caused or aggravated by a mental factor, it is referred to as psychosomatic.
    • Stress. It may be more socially acceptable to report symptoms of depression as stress. This may be the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma. It is also well known that prolonged exposure to stress can result in depression.
    • Anxiety. Depression and anxiety often come hand-in-hand. Interestingly, women are more likely to experience anxiety, but men are more likely to talk about it. Experts suggest that it may be easier to put words to worries and fears.

“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than to speak to a loved one that they may be suffering from depression. However, by doing so, you may be the key to, and motivating factor, that can help him get better and maybe even save his life. Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Avoid being critical or judgmental. Stating that “you appear to be having more frequent headaches” or “you seem to be under a tremendous amount of stress” is less of an affront than “you are depressed and need help.” Your chances at success may be increased with the foot in the door technique. Recommending a visit with his primary care physician may encounter less resistance than getting him to initially see a mental health professional. Additionally, his doctor can help rule out other medical causes of depression and then make suggestions for further treatment.

Although men and women may be from different planets, depression affects them both. Proper treatment can allow the person to deal with the condition and regain the joys of life.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:

Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

Read more of her articles on Tonight at Dawn

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About The Health Benefits of Dancing

It is not surprising that Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have taken over the television airwaves. Dancing has always been a part of human culture, rituals and celebrations…almost as if it is wired in our DNA. Today, dancing is mostly a form of self-expression and recreation. However, it also has a surprising number of benefits to our body and mind, regardless of age, gender, dancing ability or size.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About The Health Benefits of Dancing 

  • Heart healthy. Aerobic activity—whether we cha cha cha or hip-hop—has us increasing our heart rates. And in doing so, we are strengthening our heart and allowing it to pump blood more efficiently. One study even showed that waltz training was similarly effective to standard treadmill and cycling activity at improving the cardiac function in patients with congestive heart failure. And that’s not all. The group that waltzed also reported improvement in their sleep quality, mood, and ability to perform hobbies, housework, and have sex compared to the treadmill and cycling group.
  • Shedding pounds. What better way to burn calories than to have fun while we are doing it? Whether it is Zumba, pole dancing, or pairing up with a partner to jive, dancing can help us drop a dress size or two. Don’t believe me? Just look at the transformation of the contestants on Dancing With The Stars at the end of the competition.
  • Memory booster. Learning new skills, or in this case, steps, serves as a means to Fox trot our memory. When it comes to our brain, it is a well-known fact that if we use it, we are less likely to lose it. Learning new dance steps is a mentally engaging activity that can decrease deterioration of the hippocampus—a structure in our brain that controls memory.
  • Stress reduction. A great quote by Vivian Greene tells the story: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain,” both literally and figuratively. Physical activity is a well-known antidote to many of our life’s stressors. By keeping calm and dancing on, we can twirl, spin, step, and strut our way to reducing stress.
  • Increasing our flexibility. Imagine having difficulty with our daily activities such as getting out of bed, dressing ourselves, or playing with our children or grandchildren. Both inactivity and aging can impair our flexibility and worsen joint or back pain. Boogying is a great way to fend these off.
  • Balancing act. Dancing can improve balance as well as the ability to stabilize and control our body. As a result, it can be a useful tool in reducing the risk of falling in the elderly which can result in broken bones, gashes, or life-threatening head injuries.
  • Decreasing depression. Don’t worry, we do not need to be lifted in the air by our dance partner in order to have our spirits lifted. Dancing is not just a great form of physical activity but can also provide the opportunity to socialize. Both are great ways to decrease our risk for developing depression and can even become a part of an overall treatment plan for those who are diagnosed with it.
  • What dance style is right for me? Before choosing, some things to consider are if we want to improve our fitness, flexibility, or coordination; dance on our own, with a partner, or large group; or move fast or slow. And if we realize that the Texas Two-Step is not quite our groove of choice, don’t worry. There are many forms out there that may suit our needs.
  • Where can I learn how to dance? A myriad of options exist. Classes may be offered at a studio, continuing education course, social club, or fitness center. Additionally, private instructors may come to our homes or recreation facility and self-learning may be an option with YouTube or other instructional videos.
  • Some general tips for dancing include: consult with our doctor if we have a medical condition, are overweight, over 40 years of age, or inactive; perform warm-up activities before twirling; know our limits, especially for beginners to avoid injury; and drink plenty of water before, during, and after.

Our bodies were meant to move. Dancing is unique in that it incorporates physical activity with music. As a result, it can also reap a number of body and mind benefits. As Albert Einstein stated: “We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers. We create dreams.” They say he was a genius. Let’s turn up the music and dance on.

 

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know About Food & Depression

Text by Dr. Nina Radcliff/Photos by k. Cecchini

“The food you eat can be either the safest & most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” ~Ann Wigmore. The link between food and our physical health is well known. What we put into our mouths can either help protect us from, or increase our risk for, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke—the number one, two, and three killers in America. But did you know that what we eat and drink can affect our mental health? Studies have proven that a healthy diet can help decrease our risk for depression as well as become an important part of a holistic approach to treat it. In our desire to be healthy, both physically and mentally, let’s revisit the saying “we are what we eat.” And let’s opt for healthy!

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About Food and Depression

Back to basics Studies have shown that people who enjoy diets rich in fruit, veggies, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and lean meats (aka the Mediterranean diet) have lower rates of depression. There are a number of reasons for this. The body requires nutrients, or building blocks, to manufacture many of the “happy” chemicals in our brain; and these foods are nutrient powerhouses. In fact, the term “junk food” implies that the food item has minimal nutritional value. Filling our tummies up with nutrient-poor foods, or empty calories, often prevents us from consuming nutrient-rich foods and can cause a nutrient-deficit.

Eating healthy can also decrease our risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. These illnesses have been linked to higher rates of depression.

Inflammation Our body’s immune system responds to foreign invaders to keep us safe. However, there are triggers that can cause our immune system to run amok and result in inflammation, an abnormal state. Studies have shown that inflammation not only can disrupt circuitry and the transmission of signals within our brain, it can also kill brain cells, leading to depression. The “3 P’s”–Processed, Packaged, and Prepared foods–are rich in harmful oils, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and additives (colors, flavor enhancers, preservatives) that can trigger inflammation. Consuming these items every now and then is unlikely to cause harm; but because they are cheap, fast, and convenient, consumer research shows it has become easier and easier to reach for them.

Antioxidants Our bodies produce a waste product called free radicals that can contribute to aging and a number of disease states including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, arthritis, and diabetes. Fortunately, antioxidants can seize and disarm these harmful molecules. Beta-carotene (broccoli, carrots, peaches), vitamin C (blueberries, oranges, tomatoes), and vitamin E (nuts, spinach) are some well-known antioxidants. Let’s incorporate them into snacks and meals.

Carbohydrates Consuming carbohydrates can boost an important “feel good” chemical called serotonin. Unfortunately, it can also expand our waistlines and pack on the pounds. A good balance is to choose complex carbs (whole grains) and healthy carbs (fruit, veggies, legumes) over simple carbs (cakes, cookies).

Can we eat our way out of depression? No; a new, healthy diet cannot replace other treatments. Additionally, a healthy diet does not provide a bullet proof vest when it comes to preventing depression or other illnesses. However, eating healthy should be incorporated into a holistic treatment plan against depression which includes exercise, improved sleep, counseling, decreasing and dealing with stressors, yearly physicals and, if appropriate, medications.

Reduce alcohol Similar to the age-old question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, the same can be asked about depression and alcohol. People who drink heavily and regularly increase their risk for depression. This may be because alcohol is a depressant, increases inflammation, decreases “happy” chemicals in the brain, or can cause chronic illnesses. Conversely, those who suffer from depression are twice as likely to drink away their sorrows and develop a drinking problem.

Dietary changes cannot cure or completely prevent depression. But because we are what we eat, healthy food choices can help keep us in our best physical and mental health. Every time we put something in our mouth is an opportunity to nourish our body. Food is fuel. And just as we would not expect our cars to run smoothly or efficiently if we were to pump low quality fuel into it, we must apply the same reasoning to our bodies. I want to encourage you to think about what you are consuming and make good choices with what fuels you.

For more news on Dr. Radcliff:
Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrNinaRadcliff
Follow her on Twitter: @DrNinaRadcliff
Visit her official site, http://www.ninaradcliffmd.com

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Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.