Thursday, May 31, 2012

Children Can Fight Heart Disease with Fiber

Eating more fiber can mean a healthier heart later in life, researchers find.
Waiting until the Golden Years to worry about cardiovascular disease may be a thing of the past. An estimated 43 percent of US children and teens have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control.
More than one-third of America’s youth are now overweight or obese—while these rates have leveled off over the past decade, disease risk has not. In the last 12 years, cases of prediabetes and diabetes in adolescence have jumped 14 percent (now at 23 percent, up from 9 percent in the year 2000).
Children with obesity are 24 percent more likely to display a risk factor for CVD than normal weight children. The most common risk factor for CVD in youth was elevated LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol that transports fat from the liver to the tissues). The other risk factors include: high total cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and inflammation. Formerly concerns for the aged, these warning signs are now getting causing concern for younger generations.
The progression as well as the prevention of cardiac risks starts in childhood. New research from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that intake of fiber during childhood predicted artery stiffness—a cardiovascular risk factor—in adulthood.
“Lower lifetime intake of fiber during the course of young age is associated with carotid artery stiffness in adulthood,” the authors write. The average differences in fiber intake amounted to about 2 grams per day; however, with time these small quantities made a big impact on health qualities. The researchers explained that the difference in fiber intake amounted to one-half of a portion of broccoli or one apple each day.
A longitudinal cohort study followed the dietary habits of 373 children from the age of 13 to 36. Food frequency questionnaires were collected at eight different follow-ups over the course of the 24-year study and the authors measured arterial stiffness during the last session when the children were approximately 36 years old.
Not only did fiber intake mediate cardiovascular risk, this research provides further evidence that poor dietary habits in youth kick start the damage that may not be found until adulthood. ”The differences in fiber intake between individuals with stiffer compared with those with less stiff arteries were already present during adolescence,” the authors report.
Fruit, vegetables, and whole-grains are known to be high in fiber. While a lower total intake of fiber was associated with risk, these foods have a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that may also deliver the brunt of the benefits. In addition to arterial stiffness, vegetable intake had an inverse relationship to blood pressure, central obesity, and blood lipids—all factors linked to cardiovascular health.
The authors explain that arterial stiffness is linked to higher blood pressure, higher stress on the heart and reduced cardiac function. Conditions in childhood, such as sedentary lifestyle, central body fatness, and higher blood pressure, are known to increase arterial stiffness in adulthood. Adding to the growing list, these authors report that low intake of fiber in childhood may be a precursor to arterial stiffness.
Coupled with the report published in journal Pediatrics, these results are novel and timely. The national survey data suggests that “U.S. adolescents carry a substantial burden of CVD risk factors, especially those who are overweight or obese.” Increasing fiber intake to reduce children’s risk provides a simple solution to improve the health trajectory of the nation.
May AL et al. Provalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among US Adolescents, 1999-2008. Pediatrics 2012; 129(6):1035-41. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-1082
Van de Laar RJJ et al. Lower lifetime dietary fiber intake is associated with carotid artery stiffness: the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Sutyd. Am J Clin Nutr 2012.DOI: 10.3945/​ajcn.111.024703

Friday, May 25, 2012

GPS to a Quiet Mind: 6 Meditative Steps to Freedom

Meditation is simple and transformative, yet it is highly misunderstood. Some people think it is about controlling our mind or stopping our thinking, while others see it as both weird and wacky or boring and meaningless.
Yet meditation really just means being totally present, totally aware with whatever is happening. It is being with ourselves completely as we are. If the mind is thinking, then we are aware of the thinking; if the body is moving, then we are aware of the movement. Hence, we have sitting meditation, sound meditation, walking meditation, even running meditation. It is not purposefully doing anything other than just being here and now.
And just this is transformative. It creates an inner spaciousness in which we become aware of the endless "me-centered" dramas, of our mind that is like a drunken monkey leaping from one scenario to another.
"Meditation can mean really being focused on something, or it can mean letting go of all focus and simply being still," says Gangaji in our book, Be The Change, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World. "It is not a matter of saying, 'I am going to meditate,' it is more like 'I am just going to be here for a moment without doing anything, without following any thought.' And, in that, there is peace, a surrendering the mind's activity to this vast silence and spacious awareness. It is not anti-mind activity; it is simply that usually the mind is spinning round and round, so it is a stopping of that spin."
Meditation is both an experience of oneness as well as the practice that enables us to be aware of this. When we make friends with ourselves we discover a freedom from habitual tendencies, from repetitive behavior, and we experience a great joy, peace, and unconditional happiness. It is, therefore, the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
But the world is like a magnet pulling us outward into all manner of distractions, so we often need help, methods or techniques, to remind us to just be still. We need to be guided inward. Here are six steps that can lead us in that inner direction:
Six Steps to Freedom
1. Create a daily practice, even if it is just for five minutes. Meditation has an accumulative effect, so doing it for a few minutes every day is actually more helpful than an hour once a week.
2. Meditate for the sake of it, without expectations, as it can cause stress and even a sense of failure if you look for results. No appointments, no disappointments!
3. Make friends with your breath. Focusing on the natural flow of your breathing will give your mind something to do and encourages your attention to go inward. In this way you also make friends with your meditation practice.
4. Make friends with your chattering monkey mind. When you are still your mind can seem very busy and distracting. Name this your monkey mind and don't take it too seriously.
5. Commit to your peace. There is nothing more important than your peace; it is the core of your being, so make a commitment to being still and quiet regularly.
6. Do it. Meditation techniques are many and varied, but all that matters in being fully present.
Try this:
Sit comfortably with your back straight.
Take a deep breath and let it go.
Be aware of each breath and silently count at the end of each out breath, up to five: Inhale, exhale, count one... inhale, exhale, count two... and so on for five breaths. Then, start at one again. Just five breaths and back to one, following each breath in and silently counting. So simple.
Do this as many times as you want, breathing normally.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Then and Now: Canada’s Surge in Deadly Fat

Belly fat is on the rise, according to new Canadian Health Report.
In a timely article, Statistics Canada reported findings that abdominal obesity and metabolic risk in Canadians have increased substantially between 1981 and 2009. Waistlines are on an incline in Canada, even in individuals with a normal weight.
Trimming down the discussion of obesity to visceral fat, or the sub-abdominal fat that surrounds the internal organs and contributes to chronic disease, the research confirms that it has risen over the last 28 years.
The standard for classifying healthy body size has historically been BMI (body mass index), a comparison of weight to height. Emphasis has been shifting: first focusing on body weight, then from body fat to abdominal obesity, and now researchers are sub-dividing abdominal obesity to center in on visceral fat—the true risk depot of body fatness. These researchers, in accord with Health Canada, integrated measures of waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, and waist-to height ratios with BMI data to determine the metabolic risk of a growing population.
Greater waist circumference is linked to higher amounts of visceral fat. It is this deadliest fat that has formed the strongest link to impaired blood sugar regulation, abnormal blood lipids, cardiovascular risk, and high fat in the liver. In other words, more mass around the middle serves as a warning sign for serious metabolic abnormalities.
The authors explain that BMI is not specific, therefore a variety of methods are required to truly identify health risk. Someone with a normal BMI may still have too much fat around their midline, just as someone that is categorized as overweight may have a very small amount of fat in their abdomen—it may even be high muscle mass that is tipping the scale. BMI is categorized as underweight, normal, overweight, obese and up through obese class III—a broad range.
From 1981 to 2009 the numbers of Canadian men with a normal BMI dropped from 46.3 percent to 30.5 percent. Women with a normal BMI decreased from 62.2 percent to 44.7 percent. While the men that still remain in the normal weight categories did not have a change in risk, the risk of women at a normal weight in 2009 rose three-fold (about a 4 centimeter increase around the waist) compared to the normal weight women in 1981.
Changes in abdominal obesity were greatest in the people already defined in the highest categories of obesity by BMI. The metabolic risk of overweight men increased from 49 percent to 62 percent in 2009, and the proportion of risk within overweight women sky-rocketed from 17 percent to 54 percent. The waist-to-hip ratio more than doubled in overweight women now, compared to the normal weight women then. Obese men with high abdominal fat rose from 90 to 96 percent, and abdominal obesity in obese women jumped to 75 percent from 48 percent recorded in 1981.
Perhaps the most startling aspect of this report is not that people have gotten bigger, but that more body fat is going toward the mid-section. The authors touch upon this riddle, explaining that, “A shift among normal-weight women meant that a higher percentage of them had waist circumferences that put them in the increased and high-risk ranges.” While risk has increased across both sexes and all BMI categories, the surging threat is not as great in normal-weight men.
Abdominal obesity is perhaps the most detrimental, but also the most readily released fat source in the body. More than making clothes a little snug, abdominal fat is a precursor for the deadly visceral fat. Wreaking havoc on the pancreas, the kidneys, and the liver, centered adiposity sets the stage for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar.
Diet and exercise are the most effective ways to bust this bulge. As mentioned in the HBO feature, The Weight of the Nation, calorie reduction will eliminate almost one-fourth of the fat deposits in the liver within the first two days. This problem by no means has a quick fix, but research shows that the signs of improvement can come about relatively quickly.
Consuming adequate protein, especially from high quality sources like the whey protein found in IsaLean Shakes and Bars, can help tuck the tummy by promoting muscle synthesis and increase resting metabolism. Pairing with high protein, a high fiber snack is ideal for fighting the misfortunes of visceral fat. Combating the concerns for cardiovascular risk, fiber binds fat in the intestine and helps to clear it from the blood stream.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is no longer a simple case of careful indulgence. Bringing conscious consideration to every meal is necessary to fight all of the factors driving up the pant sizes in the population. Stress, sedentary lifestyle, and diet have created a perfect storm for energy imbalance. Abdominal obesity is not an unsolvable problem. Combining a diet and lifestyle plan that offers nutrient dense, high protein, and low calorie options will kick start the journey to slim down. Finally people are paying attention to the problem, now is the time to pay attention to our food.

Friday, May 18, 2012

12 Tips For Kicking The Refined Sugar Habit

There has been even more information in the news lately about how bad sugar is for you. Dr. Sanjay Gupta was interviewed by "60 Minutes," along with several other experts, who linked sugar consumption to everything from the obvious (such as weight gain) to serious diseases like cancer and heart disease.

<p>Why do we eat sugary foods and drinks when we know it's bad for us? One researcher said the desire for fructose is wired into us because in nature, anything with fructose in it isn't poisonous. Another researcher demonstrated with MRI scans how your brain releases dopamine when you eat something sweet. Your body rewards you when you eat sugar by making you feel good.</p> <p>The problem is that you can't stay that way. While I was able to feel those happy hormones racing in my system because I hadn't had much in the way of added sweeteners for a while, I would have had to start eating more and more sugar to get that same response. In other words, sugar is really addicting.</p> <p>I much prefer the glow of good health to the momentary response you get from sugar. But because of both its addicting properties and that it&#8217;s in almost everything in the store, sugar -- and corn syrup and other forms of sugar -- can be hard to leave behind.</p> But it&#8217;s more than possible. Here are some tips if you&#8217;d like to explore that possibility.

Why do we eat sugary foods and drinks when we know it's bad for us? One researcher said the desire for fructose is wired into us because in nature, anything with fructose in it isn't poisonous. Another researcher demonstrated with MRI scans how your brain releases dopamine when you eat something sweet. Your body rewards you when you eat sugar by making you feel good.
The problem is that you can't stay that way. While I was able to feel those happy hormones racing in my system because I hadn't had much in the way of added sweeteners for a while, I would have had to start eating more and more sugar to get that same response. In other words, sugar is really addicting.
I much prefer the glow of good health to the momentary response you get from sugar. But because of both its addicting properties and that it’s in almost everything in the store, sugar -- and corn syrup and other forms of sugar -- can be hard to leave behind.
But it’s more than possible. Here are some tips if you’d like to explore that possibility.

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11 Things You Should Start Doing for Yourself Today

Thank you Purpose Fairy for this great reminder.

“Enjoy everything that happens in your life, but never make your happiness or success dependent on an attachment to any person, place or thing.” Wayne Dyer
You deserve to live a more balanced, harmonious and happier life, starting today and starting now. Today, not tomorrow, nor the day after tomorrow is where your life is, where your life starts. Take good care of yourself, “begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake…” Francis Bacon
Focus more of your attention on yourself and pay close attention to all of these things for they are meant to help you create a more balance and happier life, because you deserve the best life has to offer. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
When was the last time you paid attention to your breathe? Whether you believe it or not, we forgot how to breathe, and what we call breathing is nothing more  than shallow breathing. Take deep breaths throughout the day, pay attention to your breathing and know that by doing so, not only will you improve your health, but you will also train yourself into becoming more present and engaged in the present moment, more present and engaged in your own life and the life of others.
“Shallow breathing is the root of all evil but conscious deep breathing restores and secures our souls.” Desmond Green
Let go of your past. Have a clear image of where you want to go, know how you want your future to look like but live in the present moment, for the present moment is all you ever had, all that you have and all you’ll ever have. Know that every time you identify with your past, you deny yourself  the right to grow and evolve, the right to advance in life.
By referring to previous struggles and using them as reasons for not getting on with your life today, you’re assigning responsibility to the past for why you can’t be successful or happy in the present.” Dr. Wayne Dyer
Find the inner strength and courage to let go of all those things that no longer serve you, of all those things that no longer bring joy and happiness into your life. You and I know that There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind. But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new life.”
It’s okay to make mistakes. If we don’t make mistakes we don’t move, we don’t grow, we are stagnating. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and know that forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself, forgiveness “is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.” Robert Muller
Start forgiving those who have hurt you, because you see, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” Catherine Ponder
Whenever you catch yourself being judgmental towards yourself and others, repeating these words to yourself will help a lot: “Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” Wayne Dyer. I use these words whenever I feel like my mind is getting ready to become judgmental, and I have to admit that they do help me be more open minded and tolerant both toward myself and others.
Expect the best and you will receive the best. Open your eyes and see the beauty that is present all around you, open your eyes and see yourself as the beautiful being you really are. Expect the best from yourself, from those around you and from life, because you see, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho
Love yourself, accept who you are and work on pleasing yourself before pleasing others, nurture yourself first before nurturing others. It is very important to start with yourself and I will give you one example to understand why that is.
You know how when you are on the airplane the flight attendant is giving all the passengers the instructions as to what to do it an emergency and they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first? Well, the same goes here. You will not be able to help others if you don’t help and take care of yourself first. Nurture the relationship you have with yourself so that you can be able to nurture your relationships with others.
Because if you yourself are not being kind and loving towards your own person, you can’t expect others to do som right?. You can’t expect others to do something for you that you yourself are not capable of doing. Start treating yourself in the exact way you would like others to treat you.
“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” Fanny Brice
Work on nurturing your mind, your body, your heart and your soul, because “If you nurture your mind, body, and spirit, your time will expand. You will gain a new perspective that will allow you to accomplish much more.” Brian Koslow
Start developing “an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” Brian Tracy
Know that who you are right now, where you are and what you have is more than enough and appreciate it all.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Meditating Moms: A Silent Revolution

Jeanne Ball

More and more mothers are finding meditation to be an effective way to avoid burnout and exhaustion. Rather than taking time out for a coffee, many moms are squeezing in a few minutes of meditation while the baby is napping or before heading home from work.
Meditation is especially important for mothers because kids are sensitive to their mothers' stress. Studies showthat when a mother is overworked, anxious or depressed, her children have higher stress, too.
If you're a single mom, working mom, or a mother at home, meditation can be an indispensable tool to relieve stress, improve self-esteem and achieve inner happiness. It makes time for itself because of the added efficiency and energy it gives to life.
Although it's easy to meditate on your own, increasing numbers of women are getting together to meditate -- and making it a social event.
Women's Meditation Meet-Up
It's a Saturday afternoon and women are gathering at the Transcendental Meditation Center here in Asheville, N.C., where I teach. Most are moms, some are grandmothers, and some who are not actual mothers (like myself) consider themselves mothers at heart.
A few children have tagged along with their moms, equipped with coloring books and crayons to occupy themselves while mom meditates.
The center is lively with conversation and laughter, until it's time for group meditation. Then the room falls silent -- it's a palpable silence that draws you in. You hardly hear a breath. Each woman is transcending, going beyond thought to contact her own deep universality. Frets and worries melt away. Awareness of body and surroundings seems to fall into the background.
As the meditation ends, no one wants to speak yet because the peaceful silence is so sublime. Their eyes sparkle and they have that familiar meditative glow.
Now, today's topic of discussion: "The power of transcendence for getting things done." These moms can relate.
"When I meditate, I drop everything, forget about everything," says a mother of two. "But after meditation, I can focus better on what I need to get done, and it gets done much easier."
"Meditation anchors me," says another mom. "It steadies me as I dash off to pick up my 5-year-old at school and drop off my-12-year old at football practice."
Scientists, Yogis or Moms?
The discussion goes deeper, into the nature of consciousness and how it relates to brain functioning and the unified field. Are these scientists, yogis or moms? In a sense, they are all three. These meditating moms report experiences that sound identical to those recorded by sages and saints of old, in such texts as the Upanishads or Yoga Sutras. They are directly experiencing that fundamental level of consciousness where everything is interconnected. They feel at home with concepts of quantum physics that express the order and symmetry underlying all of nature.
Getting enlightened is as natural and dharmic for them as changing diapers or helping their kids with homework.
Intuition, patience, wisdom, love -- all the divine qualities associated with motherhood often depend on how rested we are, how aligned we are with our own inner voice and deepest source of nourishment. With regular meditation, we directly experience our spiritual essence, and the happiness and energy that results not only replenishes our depleted reserves but creates vibrant consciousness and a naturally relaxed, more stress-resilient physiology.