Posts Tagged ‘high blood pressure’

The Many Benefits of Yoga & How It Changed My Life

Benefits of YogaTwo years ago if you would have told me yoga was one of the best kept secrets around, I would have laughed at that notion. Fast forward two years later, and I am here to tell you yoga is in fact ONE of the greatest hidden treasures of our time. Not only has it taken my fitness to an all-time high, it has taken my mental calm to an existence of peace.

During my research while writing this article, I came across an eye opening and awe inspiring story of Dr. Dilip Sarkar, a healthy 51 year old Vascular Surgeon from Virgina. In 2001, Dr. Sarkar found himself undergoing emergency cardiac bypass surgery. After recovering from this near-fatal event, Dr. Sarkar turned to Ayurvedic medicine and yoga therapy as a way to improve his health. Retired from his private medical practice, Dr. Sarkar is now a yoga teacher and clinical researcher focusing on yoga’s many life-saving benefits.

“What I’ve found through studying yoga therapy is that people who have a daily practice have effortlessly and automatically changed their lifestyle. They eat better, sleep better, their lifestyle is more regulated,” says Dr. Sarkar, who also serves as chairman of the School of Integrative Medicine at Taksha University in Hampton, Virginia.

I know it is very overwhelming to know where to even begin understanding all the various yoga forms. Figuring out which form of yoga you jive with comes from experiencing the various types. But the health benefits and mental reprieve of any of the asanas is unmistakable. This article will help answer some of those questions and explain the incredible health benefits of establishing a regular yoga practice.

Benefits of Yoga:

Improves cardiovascular health.  “Hypertension is due to a constriction of blood vessels, and heart disease is due to blockage in the coronary arteries. When relaxation sets in, yoga therapy relaxes blood vessels and reduces blood pressure while increasing the blood flow to the heart muscle.” A study published in the journal Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome showed researchers followed 182 middle-aged Chinese adults who suffered from metabolic syndrome who practiced yoga for a year. The conclusion was lower blood pressure and increased weight loss.

Improves muscular pain. Postures are the backbone of yoga. “Herniated discs and spinal stenosis don’t cause pain. They cause an irritation of a nerve which cause a contraction of the muscle. The muscle tightness or spasm then causes the pain. In yoga therapy, when you hold a pose, your muscles contract and then slowly relax as you breath in and out. When relaxation sets in, back pain starts to go away,” says Dr. Sarkar.

Improves cognitive function.  “Focused breath equals maximizing oxygenation and movement increases blood flow to brain and body,” says registered nurse Graham McDougall Jr., Ph.D., the lead researcher of the report published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing. Participants of the study saw significant gains memory performance and fewer depressive symptoms.

Regulates blood sugar. “The practice of yoga increases your digestive fire called agni,” Sarkar says. “So the yogic way of looking at diabetes is that the body cannot digest sugar, which is why blood-sugar levels are high. If you can improve your digestion, you can improve your blood sugar, which is great for both diabetes prevention and control,” he says. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research showed 30 males with Type 2 diabetes who practiced yoga for six months saw a significant decrease in their blood glucose levels.

Controls stress and anxiety. There is nothing like visiting a yoga studio filled with low dim lighting, fragrant aroma of lavender and mood music to calm even the most stressed out nerves.  A report presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) Conference 2015 linked yoga to lowering levels of cortisol, especially in women at risk for mental health problems. In the study of 52 women, ages 25 to 45, who had mildly elevated anxiety, moderate depression or high stress, those who performed Bikram twice a week felt better, looked better and had better control over their anxiety.

Decreases depression. In the Indian Journal of Palliative Care, breast cancer patients who practiced 60 minutes of yoga daily over a 24-week period, which included surgery and radiotherapy or chemotherapy reported a significant improvement in depressive symptoms compared to the non-yoga group.

Decreases risk of cancer.  “If cancer runs in your family, you may want to pick up a regular yoga practice, which has shown to prevent the genetic mutation from expressing,” states Dr. Sarkar. A study published last January in Journal of Clinical Oncology found that performing yoga twice a week for as little as three months could lower inflammation, boost energy, and lift the mood of female cancer patients.

Improves self-esteem. In a study from Brazil published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, university students reported improvement in self-control, self-perception, well-being, body awareness, balance, mind-body and reflexivity. “The word yoga itself means union. It unites your mind, body and spirit. During yoga practice, we inhale positive emotions and exhale negative emotions,” explains Sarkar.

Promotes a healthy and long life. A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine analyzed the effects that 90 days of yoga had on an obese 31-year-old man. The results showed dramatic reduction in oxidative stress hormones and inflammation, which goes a long way in preventing life -long diseases.

Helps control hormones. Who wouldn’t feel relaxed in Savasana? Conscious breathing helps regulate cortisol balance which helps maintain estrogen-progesterone-thyroid homeostasis.

The benefits continue to span miles long. I will be the first to admit that it took me a couple of months complaining and whining through class to realize what I had been missing all of these years.

Go outside of your comfort zone! Experience the wonder of conscious breathing. Experience the steadiness of mind-body alignment. Above all, experience the truly miraculous gifts yoga can bring into your life!

Namaste

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Give The Gift of Health

give the gift of healthWhy not consider giving the gift of health this year? We all know that the spirit of the holiday is anchoring into gratitude but nevertheless, the gifts that need to be purchased can sometimes weigh down our spirits. While keeping true to the idea of getting healthy, I thought it would be fun to combine the spirit of the holidays with the inspiration of mind, body, and the soul connection.

Even if your family or friends don’t have health gadgets at the top of their wish list, it may serve them well for you to open the possibilities of healthy living.

Here is a list of possible fun gift ideas that could ignite their interest in achieving the perfect mind, body, and soul connection:

    1. Personal Training Sessions. Don’t be afraid to approach personal trainers to see if they would be willing to offer packages of 3 or 5 sessions. All it takes is one wow workout and they are hooked.
    2. Heart Rate Monitor. Even though this maybe on the higher price range, the investment is well worth it. Some great reputable brands include Polar (my personal favorite), Garmin, Timex, FitBit. Many more are available and really comes down to ease of use and personal preference. Don’t underestimate the power of what a heart rate can indicate. It is so much more than how many calories are burned.
    3. Group Yoga Sessions. Approach your local yoga studios to see if they would be willing to do a semi-private class with your closest kith and kin. Perfect gift that comes with the perfect opportunity for bonding time. To add a little flavor to this, consider a monogramed yoga mat.
    4. Cooking Lessons. Whether it be at your local grocery store or with independent chefs, learning to cook healthy can be exactly the experience needed to get a taste of how easy and how wonderful healthy living can be. A great local place that offers healthy eating/cooking classes is Kitchen Conservatory.
    5. Healing Energy Sessions. This absolutely has to be my favorite gift to give and receive this season. There are some incredible healers, with Catherine Millman being one of my favorite. Energy Healers can be masters in the art of emotional and physical therapies for the mind, body, and Soul. It is truly amazing how the body recovers/heals when it is understood, nurtured, and loved. A truly unique and personal gift with an all-encompassing bow around the package!
    6. Meditation Workshops. Let’s face it, sitting for any length of time with your eyes closed with nothing to do is hard for anyone, but the power of silence is astonishing for the health when done collectively as a group. The healing energy  not only has been shown to stabilize physical ailments, but it also contributes to recovery. There are many meditation centers locally to considering asking.
    7. Home Made Recipe Book. Compile all of your favorite recipes, tips and techniques into a “What’s What of Healthy Living.” Adding that extra personal touch adds a little extra bit of holiday cheer.
    8. Fitness Flash Cards. Genius idea for any family or friend who feel they don’t have time to work out. Now they have no excuses! These flash cards are available online. Each card has a description of an exercise, how many reps etc. They can pull random cards from the deck or create a designated workout. How easy and useful of a gift is that!

These are only a sprinkle of the possibilities that can be considered to draw others into healthy living. With the endless confusion of deciding which gift is appropriate, I invite each of you to change the thought process and gift others with the inspiration and choices you have made to live a healthier more fulfilling life.

As 2016 comes to a close, my well wishes that 2017 may open with the highest and purest intentions of health and healing.

Happy Holidays to you and your families!

How Much Sleep Should I Be Getting?

how much sleep should I be gettingA common question I get in my practice is “How much sleep should I be getting?” This is a very important question. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control called insufficient sleep a public epidemic. It is estimated that nearly half of all American adults get less than the minimum recommendation of seven hours of sleep per night. With that many people operating on inadequate sleep, fatigue is so common that it’s easy to overlook the serious nature of the issue. However, with insufficient sleep being cited for auto and industrial accidents and increasing a person’s risk of chronic disease, the case for getting enough sleep should be heard.

Sleep and Reaction Time

Sleep studies have consistently shown that “function” (identified by reaction time measured in a variety of tests) is almost 100 percent impacted by sleep. In fact, a NASA-funded study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that people who self-identify as being able to fully function on less sleep actually experienced more substantial delays in reaction time than people who self-identified as needing (and finding a way to get) eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

While these reduced reaction time results on controlled tests are alarming, the reality is even worse. Lack of sleep by key personnel has been cited in nuclear power plant disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Maybe your job doesn’t require intense focus, but a lack of sleep can impact the results of everyday activities just as drastically. Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. consider driving a car under the effect of extreme fatigue identical to driving while drunk.

Sleep Habits and Risks for Disease

Lack of sleep’s effect on overall health is also of great concern. Inadequate sleep is known to increase the risk for the following:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Colon cancer

There also seems to be a link between lack of sleep and a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Reduced testosterone levels have been measured in men who reported getting six hours of sleep per night or less.

Not getting enough sleep also negatively affects the immune system. That’s why a person might find oneself coming down with a cold or flu after an extended period of reduced sleep. Studies have shown that T-cell count (which is often used to measure immune system function) is relative to a person’s average amount of sleep. Likewise, there’s a reason your doctor recommends rest when you’re ill: fever response is better while we sleep.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to muscle loss and fat gain. With too little sleep, the body is also more likely to produce the stress-response hormone, cortisol. After sleep deprivation, subjects in several studies had higher levels of cortisol later in the day, a time when it should be tapering off to prepare the body for rest. Heightened cortisol prompts the body to store more fat and be more inclined to use other soft tissue, such as muscle, as energy which means that sleep-deprived dieters lose more muscle and gain more fat than do those who are well rested. One study found that after two weeks of minor calorie restriction (10 percent less than their daily energy expenditure), subjects who were getting 5.5 hours in bed a night lost just 0.6 kilogram of fat but 2.4 kilograms of other tissue, such as muscle. Subjects who got 8.5 hours slumber each night lost 1.4 kilograms of fat and 1.5 kilograms of other tissue. “Some of these metabolic effects occur pretty quickly,” Dr. Mehra – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Oversleeping: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Just as not getting enough sleep is unhealthy, getting too much sleep isn’t a good thing either. There may be times (such as with illness or during periods of excess stress) when your body may feel an increased need for sleep, and this is normal. However, oversleeping on a regular basis should be watched carefully. Researchers acknowledge a strong association between frequent oversleeping and depression and/or other underlying health concerns like heart disease.

Sleep Recommendations

Children up to age 12 should aim for about 10 hours of sleep per night, teens should get 9-10 hours per night and adults should get 7-8 hours per night. Naps can occasionally supplement shortened overnight sleep, but sleep cycles depend on a specific chunk of time, so it’s still important to focus on getting a good night’s sleep.

Discuss Your Concerns with a Trusted Physician

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each patient with comprehensive, individualized treatment options and health programs.  Our office is committed to helping find the best solutions for you and your particular needs.

Like many other conditions, sleep disorders affect each person differently and require a very personalized approach to care. For more information on healthy sleep habits, please contact us today or schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman.

Don’t Fight Depression Alone

depressionDepression has been labeled “a hush hush” diagnosis. The stigma of being called “depressed” has somehow placed a Scarlet Letter on those affected. Everyone reading this understands at some point what it feels like to be down. Let me tell you, we have ALL been there, continue to be there, or will be there. There is nothing wrong in admitting that we can’t do it all. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us that much stronger for having the courage to say what everyone else may be thinking. I have talked about the effects of hormonal imbalances in my previous blogs. This month, I would like to focus on breaking through the silent conversations of depression.

While depression is known to have genetic links, it does not mean we are destined to that fate. With the convoluted ways of our world and the minute to minute emotional roller coaster we face from our home life, work place or just by turning on the news, there is no doubt we have all been plagued on some spectrum of depressive symptoms.

So why am I writing on this topic? I am writing because it is time to start having REAL conversations on what is happening within our psyche.

While depression has earned its own DSM code, all depression is not treated equally. Each degree of symptoms is just as important as the other. It must be acknowledged and accepted so that healing may begin.

How does depression affect the physical body beyond the obvious?

“The most frequently occurring endocrine abnormality in depressed subjects is hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Depression also affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-GH (HPGH) and -thyroid (HPT) axes. Alterations in the reproductive system may also play a role in the pathology of depression. In addition, there is increasing evidence that leptin and neurosteroids, such as DHEA, are implicated in mood disorders.” J Endocrinol Invest. 2005 Jan;28(1):89-99.

So what does this mean? Exactly what we think it means. When neurotransmitters are imbalanced or depleted, it drives cortisol into over production to compensate for the deficit. This puts an extra burden on the organ systems leading to the development of diseases we are too often familiar with.

What are causes of depressive symptoms?

  1. Hormonal imbalances
  2. Decreased levels of neurotransmitters
  3. Endocrine disorders (Hypothyroidism,Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes etc)
  4. Autoimmune disease (Thyroid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus etc)
  5. Food or environmental allergies
  6. Environmental stressors or trauma
  7. Medication side effects

By no means is this a complete list, but it is evident most anything can cause symptoms.

How many of these sound familiar?

  • Physical pain
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Decreased concentration
  • Fleeting thoughts
  • Indecisiveness
  • Weight changes
  • GI disturbances
  • Sleep disturbances (too little or too much)
  • Increase in alcohol consumption
  • Spending increased time on social media or online (who would have thought?)
  • Not keeping up with grooming or hygiene

Don’t give up!! There are many ways to treat these symptoms and come out on top!

How can I get well?

  1. Therapists/Healers. They are your BEST and #1 resource. There is nothing like being able to sit in a room for an hour talking about yourself with someone listening to your every word. They are trained to listen and they are trained to help. No, they can’t change the situation, but they do know how to give objective insight and perspective. We all at some point should experience the awesomeness of seeing a therapist.
  1. Breathe. If we block oxygen from entering our cells, then nothing can heal, including our emotions. Pick your favorite breathing technique and start inhaling power and exhaling doubt.
  1. Stay present. Easier said than done, I know! Learn to control your mind from re- visiting the past or jumping to the future. Both are out of your control, so begin accepting the gift of the present.
  1. Mindful eating. YES, everything comes back to the GI tract! When we eat clean, the body stays clean. Don’t hoard toxins that only spin you further out of control. Hydrate – 90 oz water/day. Even if you have to force yourself to get the water down, it is worth it.
  1. Exercise. Moving the body has been proven to release endorphins that stimulate release of neurotransmitters. Higher levels of hormones means happy you. Move, move, move.
  1. Buddy up. Nothing like being in the company of friends whose energy can give you a boost. Relish and cherish the bonds of friendships. BFF’s are the best antidepressant in the world.
  1. Explore your creativity. Color, paint, write, choreograph a dance, compose music, cook, sew….whatever brings out the Martha Stewart in you, do it. Stimulating our creative forces causes increase blood flow to different parts of the brain thereby increasing levels of the neurotransmitters.
  1. Get a pet. Now, I know this maybe a little bit of work so don’t panic on me. Just think of the love, energy, unconditional compassion they bring into the home. That is enough to take away anybody’s down days. Just consider it.
  1. Herbal supplements. I have included this on the list, but I am not a strong advocate of herbs. There is some evidence that certain natural supplements help lift minor depressive symptoms, but it has not been evaluated in long term studies. Be cautious! It is only a temporary solution.
  1. Antidepressants. Let me clear up one thing. Antidepressants are very effective in treatment of depressive symptoms and I am in favor of using them, BUT only in conjunction with other treatment modalities. Think of antidepressants as a crutch to help you walk on this rocky road. It doesn’t mean you are unable to handle the situation without the use of meds. It only means they help protect your physical body from the effects of depression. It doesn’t have to be a permanent treatment, but only to be used only until the storm passes. Whatever your reason may be for resisting them, don’t. They truly can help ease the passage into brighter days.

There are many more advanced treatments, remedies and therapy techniques on the treatment of depression and its associated symptoms.

The courage must lie within you to find the voice of your feelings. Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t make them go away. It only makes the magnitude of the situation seem worse.

We are all human beings. And part of being human is the glory of having feelings. Some feelings make us feel good and others don’t. It is about identifying those that don’t and making things alright. Because at the end of the day, it will be alright!

“People cry not because they are weak. It’s because they have been strong for so long.” — Johnny Depp

You are not alone!!

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieveing and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Tips For Eating Healthy While Eating Out

eating healthy while eating outEating out is fun, and with a little planing, you can still be eating healthy while eating out. And why wouldn’t you? Gathering around for a meal has long brought families together for hours of conversation over endless bowls of our favorite dishes. Once in a while it is nice to shut down the kitchen and give Mom and Dad a break from chopping, stirring and cleaning.

Trying out great new restaurants or visiting your old favorites is no doubt exciting, relaxing and rejuvenating. However, what we don’t often realize is how excited our palates become when these tasty treats in their most perfect presentation are brought out in front of us. Before we know it, we have devoured the last bite consuming more calories than imagined.

Enjoying good food is a must. Enjoying new food is a necessity.

So if you are one that loves restaurant hopping, keep at it!! Life is too short not to enjoy the simple pleasures! To avoid spiraling down an unhealthy lifestyle, plan ahead!

The following may seem like simple suggestions, but I assure you simplicity will bring about longevity!

  1. Decide the restaurant early. Knowing what type of food will be ordered will help you be aware of the amount of carb, protein, and fat in that item. If you anticipate a great Italian Bistro where carbs are in very selection, plan to decrease carb intake couple days prior to the outing. Most restaurants offer apps that allow you to search the menu as well as nutritional values. Making good choices comes from being educated.
  1. Hydrate.This should be your staple even when you don’t plan to go out. 90 oz of water /day helps keep cellular function performing at optimal levels. Avoid any water substitutes and go for the plain H2O.
  1. Eat a small protein snack one-two hours before anticipated meal time. Protein intake helps keep the balance of insulin and glucose. This results in longer satiety and decreased cravings. Good examples are almonds, string cheese, fruit, slice of meat, peanut butter, hummus etc.
  1. Check out the menu beforehand. If you know you will not be leaving that table until you have had that favorite 1000 calorie dessert, then scale back on appetizers and entrée. Yes you can have your cake and eat it too, but only in moderation. You don’t want to wake up the next morning with a sugar laden hangover.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask the server. Ask the server how the food is being prepared. Ask them if they use butter, cream or any other high fat substitutes to give it that rich mouthwatering flavor. Ask to speak to the chef if you are not satisfied with the answer. Even if they think you are one of “those” customers, it doesn’t matter because ultimately, you are only accountable to yourself. So take ownership and be ok asking!
  1. Avoid “low carb” options and high carb temptations. Anything that claims “free or low carb,” STAY AWAY! To take something out and still have it taste so good, means something else has to be put in. That something else is likely to be highly processed ingredients that do you no good. Better to go for the real stuff in smaller quantities. Also skip the bread basket. It’s not worth it!
  1. Double the veggies. Just because it doesn’t say it on the menu, doesn’t mean you can’t ask. Ask for double quantity of veggies-steamed or broiled, NOT FRIED. Even if it costs a few pennies more, it is well worth it.
  1. Watch out for the salad temptation. Of course the vegetables in the salad are healthy, but the croutons, cheese, dressing, not so much. Salad toppings may seem insignificant, but what we may not realize is that these innocent munchies turn out to be the biggest culprits of our weight gain. Have you seen how many grams of fat are in ONE tablespoon of dressing? A LOT! You know they don’t stop at one tablespoon. So is it really worth ruining all of your hard work with something that is not even the main meal? Ask for dressing on the side.
  1. Skip the alcohol. Alcohol consumption causes an increase appetite and not to mention increase in empty calories. If you absolutely must have a drink with your meal, choose red or white wine limited to 1x glass. For every one sip of wine, take 3-5 large gulps of water. Chances are you won’t even be able to finish that one glass. Avoid the fruity cocktails. Choose your calories wisely.
  1. Dress up nicely. Who would have thought right? Research has shown when you take the time and effort to dress nicely and are happy with what you see in the mirror, you will be less likely to make poor dietary choices. If dressing up is a time consuming process for you, you may not be keen to put in the effort just for going out. And in the long run, less eating out means less consumption of unwanted calories.
  1. Walk off the guilt. If your willpower happened to get the best of you, don’t sweat it. We are all human. We all have cravings. It’s ok! If you still can’t shake the guilt, take a brisk walk outside and breathe knowing you can start over with the next meal. We ALL go through these times when we know better, but we choose otherwise. Following the 80-20 rule can help with any feelings of guilt. Focus on mindful eating 80% of the time and look forward to the other 20% when you know you’ve earned it!

Indulgences are part of life’s greatest joys. Don’t deprive yourself of a little happiness. Eating out is more than just about watching calories. It is the opportunity to kindle relationships and foster new ones.

Food is nourishment. It is our greatest ally, not our worst enemy. Savor each bite because you know you have earned it. And when you have taken that last bite, set yourself back on that right path until you can look forward to it again!

How To Come Off A Sugar Addiction

sugar addictionSugar addiction is really prevalent in the news right now. Sugar – we can’t live with it, we can’t imagine life without it. Could removing sugar from your diet be that one magic answer to our weight loss battle?

Let’s start at the beginning. Why do we thrive on it? The more we have, the more we want. The answer may be simpler than we once thought.

Ingesting sugar causes a dopamine release in the Nucleus Accumbens. When we consume sugar often and in large quantities, dopamine is released in excess causing a down regulation and blunting of the receptor sites. Therefore, in order to get that “feel-good” response, the body requires even MORE sugar to produce the same response.

“The reviewed evidence supports the theory that, in some circumstances, intermittent access to sugar can lead to behavior and neurochemical changes that resemble the effects of a substance of abuse. According to the evidence in rats, intermittent access to sugar and chow is capable of producing a “dependency”. This was operationally defined by tests for bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitization to amphetamine and alcohol. The correspondence to some people with binge eating disorder or bulimia is striking, but whether or not it is a good idea to call this a “food addiction” in people is both a scientific and societal question that has yet to be answered. What this review demonstrates is that rats with intermittent access to food and a sugar solution can show both a constellation of behaviors and parallel brain changes that are characteristic of rats that voluntarily self-administer addictive drugs. In the aggregrate, this is evidence that sugar can be addictive.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral ReviewsVolume 32, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 20–39

The compelling evidence and research on sugar addiction proves the effects on the brain mimics those of cocaine and heroin abuse. But how do we get away from it when it lurks in the shadows of every ingredient we consume?

How Do I Take The First Step?

We must first accept that this change will be gradual. Don’t expect to have immediate results. Sugar is a “drug.” It will be hard before it gets easy. Taking the first step will be the hardest. We didn’t get here overnight, so don’t expect the body to revert just the same. This is a marathon, not a sprint!!

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to this. Here are few things that help the process.

  1. LEARN INGREDIENTS. I am not talking about memorizing the chemical makeup of every ingredient you eat. Understand the common names and abbreviations. Ingredients are hidden under different names including high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose (or any word ending in “-ose”), brown rice syrup, honey, and maple syrup. There are many lists available. The goal is to become educated. Click here for one such list.

  2. KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL. It’s not so important at this stage to worry about calorie counting. While consuming the correct amount of calories plays a key role, it is more important to really know WHAT types of food you are eating. Chances are, like most of us, you are eating things thinking they are healthy. The food industry has made its way into every aspect of our health. FIGHTING THE GIANTS, MEANS BEING ARMED WITH THE POWER OF KNOWLEDGE.
  1. HYDRATE. I can’t emphasize this enough. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF WATER. It has always been our ally long before flavored drinks entered the picture. I understand water may not taste good. This is because our palate and taste buds have been conditioned to the sweetness of drinks that claim to give us instant energy. What it has also conditioned us to is the crash that comes with the sugar laden beverages. Flavored waters (8 tsp/bottle), bottled iced teas (>9 tsp/bottle), energy drinks (7 tsp/can), bottled coffee drinks (8 tsp/bottle), and store-bought smoothies (>12 tsp/small) all contain way too much sugar. Strive to consume 90 oz of pure water/day. If you are not a water drinker, you may need to start with only 8 oz and work up slowly. However you do it, WALK AROUND WITH A WATER BOTTLE.
  1. TIME YOUR MEALS. Sugar thrives on messing with not only dopamine, but also insulin. Its very essence is to disrupt our insulin regulation and response. Timing of meals is crucial to stabilizing the insulin surges and decrease sugar cravings, especially in the initial phases of removing sugar from your diet and your life. Increase protein and healthy fats in your diet to help maintain steady release and uptake of glucose. Most important take home message: YOUR EVENING MEAL SHOULD BE FINISHED BY 7:30PM.
  1. KEEP MOVING. Two parts to this: First, move your body-in whatever capacity that can circulate blood. Walk, workout, lift weight, dance, swim, clean…it doesn’t matter. Just move. Don’t worry about how much you move….just move. Second, keep moving forward. Don’t become discouraged because your body is not responding the way you THINK it should. Your body is here to protect you. It won’t always give you what you want. But it will always give you what you need. Changing life long habits is a process. Be kind to it. It was kind to you when you weren’t so nice to it. THE BODY IS ON OUR SIDE.
  1. MAINTAIN HEALTHY GUT. Sugar undoubtedly alters pH throughout the body. The shift in acid base balance triggers more chemical disruptions that worsen the down regulated neurotransmitter receptors. One of the largest target organs is our GI tract. I have talked in extensive detail in previous blogs about the crucial importance of maintaining a healthy GI tract. Studies have shown the desensitization process that happens with sugar consumption also occurs with other foods. In other words, our weakened immune system sets us up for chemical attacks from other food groups (even the healthiest of foods). HEAL THY GUT.
  1. AVOID THE FAKE STUFF. This is worse than consuming the real stuff. Anything that reads “sugar-free” is a blaring warning label. Stay away!! Dangerous chemicals are added to sugar free substitutes that lead to whole other set of problems. According to a review in the 2010 Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, when you eat something sweet, your body expects calories and nutrition, but artificial sugars don’t give your body those things. That may be why fake sugars are associated with weight gain. According to a meta-analysis in the Journal of Medicinal Food, sprinkling on cinnamon has been shown to naturally regulate blood sugar, which helps control your appetite. DON’T GO FOR THE FAKE STUFF.
  1. RELAX. Just take a deep breath. There is no finish line in this race. This is about a life style change. This is about taking back control of what you lost. This is about being the best version of yourself. Don’t make it about the weight. The weight is only your body’s way of telling you that it is not feeling good. Don’t let the 3 little numbers on the scale define your worth. The body is a glorious vehicle that will take you where you want to go if you nurture and love it the way it is. Make these changes gradually. Cut back slowly and enjoy the process of getting healthy. You will learn so much about what your body has been trying to tell you for years. If you want to enjoy that chocolate cake, by all means, do so. This is about finding the body, mind and soul connection. If you totally give up all of your favorites, your body will fight you with the cravings and then then mind will be consumed with the thought of wanting that cake and the soul will become restless watching these two go at it. Take the bite of the cake when you want to and listen when the body tells you to stop.

Mindful eating is truly becoming an entity of its own in the medical field. The next few years will uncover some of the greatest mysteries of the human body. My thought is that the answer has been with us all along: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!

Let’s all become empowered and walk this journey of discovery together.

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieveing and maintaining OPTIMAL health,  CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Explaining the Hypertension Link in Women

2015_aug27_life1Did you know that “hypertension” and high blood pressure, often used interchangeably, is really the same thing? Patients often misunderstand the truth about hypertension, thinking it is brought on by stress, anxiety or other emotional occurrences in one’s life. In reality, hypertension is a physiological dysfunction that researchers have found can turn into a chronic disease if left alone and untreated.

A simple blood pressure test, which usually happens as soon as you sit on the doctor’s table prior to a check-up, tells your physician what your systolic pressure is as the heart pumps blood out as well as the diastolic pressure while your heart relaxes and refills with blood. This is measured in mercury millimeters (mmHg). Making your weekly trip to the grocery store? Most pharmacies and groceries also offer reliable and free testing stations to make sure your blood pressure is what it should be based on normal blood pressure ranges. Normal blood pressure ranges are below 120 systolic and 80 diastolic. 120 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 diastolic are deemed “pre-hypertension”, increasing your risk of hypertension without intervention. Above 140 and 90? Hypertension has occurred.

A recent study that appeared in the Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease Journal found that 1 in 3 adults in the US have high blood pressure. Previous studies thought that high blood pressure and hypertension was the same whether the test subject was a man or a woman. This most recent study discovered that women, compared with men who had the same level of blood pressure, had increased vascular disease…in the whereabouts of 30-40%! One reason researchers believe hypertension in women can be more severe is the fact that there are physiologic differences in the cardiovascular system to include types of hormone levels that help regulate a woman’s blood pressure.

So, what can you do to stay healthy and prevent stroke and heart disease?

Because hypertension can build up for years without showing symptoms, it’s important to get regular check-ups. It’s a growing epidemic and researchers believe that diet and lifestyle changes need to be made to combat this deadly trend. Excessive alcohol, salt intake in the foods American’s eat as well as lack of exercise all leads to higher blood pressure and hypertension. Smoking is also detrimental to a healthy lifestyle and keeping your blood pressure under control. Women during the menopausal years will also see a rise in their blood pressure as a result of hormonal imbalances. In some circumstances, balancing the hormonal levels can normalize blood pressure. It also seems that younger adults are battling with high blood pressure, getting diagnosed as early as their 20s and 30s. Starting a wellness plan early, exercising and eating right, will decrease your chances of developing high blood pressure and vascular disease.

With the new findings, women need to make sure they are combining regular check-ups with regular physical activity. Many times, women are focused on taking care of the other family members, often neglecting their own health. Because hypertension can creep up silently and without warning symptoms, it’s important to take the new research “to heart”. Treatment of hypertension in women may require earlier diagnosis as well as more aggressive management than what was previously thought to be acceptable. Heart disease, unfortunately, is now the leading cause of death in women.

If you want to learn more about hypertension in women or have questions, Dr. Raman can help.

Dr. Raman is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. Patients at her Concierge Medical Practice may benefit from bioidentical hormone therapy and a medically supervised weight management program to help ease the symptoms associated with progesterone and estrogen changes.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please CONTACT our office today! You can also learn more by connecting with Dr. Raman on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Sleep and Your Health: The Importance of Getting the Right Amount

”Frenzied corporate cultures still confuse sleeplessness with vitality and high performance. An ambitious manager logs 80-hour work weeks, surviving on five or six hours of sleep a night and eight cups of coffee (the world’s second-most widely sold commodity, after oil) a day. A Wall Street trader goes to bed at 11 or midnight and wakes to his BlackBerry buzz at 2:30 am to track opening activity on the DAX. A road warrior lives out of a suitcase while traveling to Tokyo, St. Louis, Miami, and Zurich, conducting business in a cloud of caffeinated jet lag. A negotiator takes a red-eye flight, hops into a rental car, and zooms through an unfamiliar city to make a delicate M&A meeting at 8 in the morning.” — Harvard Business Review

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control called insufficient sleep a public epidemic. It is estimated that nearly half of all American adults get less than the minimum recommendation of seven hours of sleep per night. With that many people operating on inadequate sleep, fatigue is so common that it’s easy to overlook the serious nature of the issue. However, with insufficient sleep being cited for auto and industrial accidents and increasing a person’s risk of chronic disease, the case for getting enough sleep should be heard.

Sleep and Reaction Timesleeping-couple-1-700x400

Sleep studies have consistently shown that “function” (identified by reaction time measured in a variety of tests) is almost 100 percent impacted by sleep. In fact, a NASA-funded study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that people who self-identify as being able to fully function on less sleep actually experienced more substantial delays in reaction time than people who self-identified as needing (and finding a way to get) eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

While these reduced reaction time results on controlled tests are alarming, the reality is even worse. Lack of sleep by key personnel has been cited in nuclear power plant disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Maybe your job doesn’t require intense focus, but a lack of sleep can impact the results of everyday activities just as drastically. Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. consider driving a car under the effect of extreme fatigue identical to driving while drunk.

Sleep Habits and Risks for Disease

Lack of sleep’s effect on overall health is also of great concern. Inadequate sleep is known to increase the risk for the following:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Colon cancer

There also seems to be a link between lack of sleep and a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Reduced testosterone levels have been measured in men who reported getting six hours of sleep per night or less.

Not getting enough sleep also negatively affects the immune system. That’s why a person might find oneself coming down with a cold or flu after an extended period of reduced sleep. Studies have shown that T-cell count (which is often used to measure immune system function) is relative to a person’s average amount of sleep. Likewise, there’s a reason your doctor recommends rest when you’re ill: fever response is better while we sleep.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to muscle loss and fat gain. With too little sleep, the body is also more likely to produce the stress-response hormone, cortisol. After sleep deprivation, subjects in several studies had higher levels of cortisol later in the day, a time when it should be tapering off to prepare the body for rest. Heightened cortisol prompts the body to store more fat and be more inclined to use other soft tissue, such as muscle, as energy which means that sleep-deprived dieters lose more muscle and gain more fat than do those who are well rested. One study found that after two weeks of minor calorie restriction (10 percent less than their daily energy expenditure), subjects who were getting 5.5 hours in bed a night lost just 0.6 kilogram of fat but 2.4 kilograms of other tissue, such as muscle. Subjects who got 8.5 hours slumber each night lost 1.4 kilograms of fat and 1.5 kilograms of other tissue. “Some of these metabolic effects occur pretty quickly,” Dr. Mehra – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Oversleeping: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Just as not getting enough sleep is unhealthy, getting too much sleep isn’t a good thing either. There may be times (such as with illness or during periods of excess stress) when your body may feel an increased need for sleep, and this is normal. However, oversleeping on a regular basis should be watched carefully. Researchers acknowledge a strong association between frequent oversleeping and depression and/or other underlying health concerns like heart disease.

Sleep Recommendations

Children up to age 12 should aim for about 10 hours of sleep per night, teens should get 9-10 hours per night and adults should get 7-8 hours per night. Naps can occasionally supplement shortened overnight sleep, but sleep cycles depend on a specific chunk of time, so it’s still important to focus on getting a good night’s sleep.

Discuss Your Concerns with a Trusted Physician

Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each patient with comprehensive, individualized treatment options and health programs.   Our office is committed to helping find the best solutions for you and your particular needs.

Like many other conditions, sleep disorders affect each person differently and require a very personalized approach to care. For more information on healthy sleep habits, please contact us today or schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman.