Over 50 million Americans deal with chronic pain. Chronic pain is recurring pain each day or most days for a significant amount of months and longer. Unlike an acute pain that happens because of a direct injury or illness, chronic pain is a persistent pain many adults live with every day. Advances in the health industry are improving the future of those with chronic pain. With the opioid epidemic, it is now time to treat chronic pain wholly and not just with medication. Some of these advances are studies that have determined what can make chronic pain worse, therefore realizing certain lifestyle changes can improve pain management of chronic pain.
In the 2008 Health Psychology, a study was published with findings showing among individuals with chronic pain, high levels of anger are often associated with greater muscle tension, pain severity, and pain behaviors. Just as with fear, anger starts the ‘fight or flight’ response in our bodies. This preparation consists of the adrenal glands secreting adrenaline and cortisol and an increase in body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Blood is also pumped to the muscles for possible exertion. Because anger affects much of the body physically, it results in more pain. From tension to inflammation, chronic pain is made worse.
Since anger worsens chronic pain, it must be managed. First, it might be time to recognize signs of uncontrolled anger…being impatient, agitation, verbal outbursts, sleep issues, eating problems, slamming or hitting, poor concentration, the feeling of losing control, and obsession over a situation. Once someone becomes aware of anger, the next step is to realize what triggers the anger. And when these are recognized, the 3rd step is to learn new behaviors to control the anger and better communicate feelings. This change will help to eliminate unnecessary worsening of chronic pain.
The inflammation resulting from anger causes worse pain. With chronic pain patients, the inflammation must be regulated or controlled. Another source of inflammation comes from a poor diet. A healthy diet will support a healthy immune system while a poor diet will cause the immune system to act abnormally, causing consistent inflammation. The immune system is essentially reacting to the poor diet as it would an infection. But more important than avoiding all foods that cause inflammation is maintaining a balanced plate that is made of half whole grains and healthy proteins and the other half with mostly vegetables and some fruit.
Chronic pain, poor sleep, depression and/or anxiety can be a cycle that just continuously results in the next issue. The cycle must be broken to improve pain management.
Healthy sleep should be a goal. Healthy sleep is at around 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Those with chronic pain however, have difficulty being comfortable enough to fall asleep or perhaps waking because of pain. Healthy sleep can relax tension and sleep is time for the body to regenerate and heal.
Besides reducing inflammation from working on anger and diet, there are habits to begin/stop doing that helps sleep. First, eliminate caffeine intake altogether, but if you do consume caffeine make sure no later than 6 hours before bedtime. Also, stop drinking fluids 4 hours before bedtime, unless in the smallest, necessary amount.
Next, keep the same bed time each day, this routine is very important with our ‘internal clocks.’ Our bodies are designed to rest and when it is not consistent, the body reacts to the confusion.
Finally, change your routine by creating a calm environment for sleeping. No loud sounds, low or no lights, and no electronics. And invest in learning and implementing relaxation techniques. This relaxation or meditation will calm the central nervous system.
At this time in history, we are witnessing a generation that is less healthy than the generation before them. According to a study by Blue Cross Blue Shield, millennials have larger numbers with many health issues than Generation X did at that same age. A generation that is known for healthy practices such as exercise and good diet should be healthier than Gen X, so what is happening?
What Are The Health Concerns?
In the study, there were health concerns more prevalent with the millennial group…major depression, substance abuse, Diabetes Type II, alcohol use, psychotic conditions, high cholesterol, hyperactivity, Crohn’s disease, hypertension, and tobacco use. With 8 of these 10, older millennials had higher numbers than Generation X did when they were that age.
There were surprises with the health issues. First, such use of alcohol, substances, and tobacco, are surprising from a generation that cares so much about a healthy lifestyle. Though, this may be in connection somehow with the depression.
Another surprise was the high cholesterol and hypertension, along with Diabetes Type II. These are conditions for older adults. The concern with this is the possible result from obesity. Are millennials truly living healthy or are there factors such as busier lives and stress that are contributing to decline in health?
What Are We Facing?
There are 73 million millennials with the younger ones just finished with college and the older ones having families. This group also represents 1/3 of the workforce.
The worst discovery was millennials’ health is starting to decline at age 27. This is a much younger age than the other recent generations. Also, women from the millennial group are 20% less healthy than the men.
These findings are discouraging. An entire generation that is more aware of a healthy lifestyle is facing more health problems and some conditions are happening earlier than normal. With more medical advances now than ever, health should be bettering, not getting worse.
This change in health needs to be addressed. A start, is only 68% of millennials report having a primary care physician. A primary care physician and annual checkups should be as important to millennials as their workout at the gym.
Also, now having this information, there needs to be guideline changes and awareness made. This group should be informed and addressing possible health concerns.
Over half of older women have a health issue that they feel they don’t need to discuss with their healthcare provider because of the belief that it is a normal part of the aging process. This health problem is urinary incontinence and it should be discussed. If your daily routine is affected by continuous bathroom trips or loss of control, your healthcare provider is there to help with treatments and lifestyle changes that will improve or eliminate this health issue. Because this topic is often embarrassing to discuss and has been virtually ignored as a widespread need, we are here to help.
There are different types of urinary incontinence that are not due to physical or mental impairment. The first type is Stress Incontinence. This type of incontinence is the loss of small amounts of urine when you exert pressure on your abdomen and bladder while coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects. This happens because the muscle that keeps the bladder closed has weakened over time. In women, this is usually due to pregnancy, childbirth, and loss of collagen.
Another type is Urgency Incontinence, or what is also referred by some as ‘overactive bladder’. This type is the loss of larger amounts of urine with little or no warning. This type of incontinence causes a rush to the bathroom because of the urge sensation being more than normal. Often though, this type is caused by infections, or other irritants.
Changes To Be Made
When there is a medical issue such as infection, tests can be performed to determine what medication is needed to end that infection.
But if there is no underlying infection, there may be changes that should be made to help with the incontinence. First, medications should be evaluated that could be causing complications such as overactive bladder. Also, hygiene products and habits will be discussed for optimal vaginal and bladder health. And finally, caffeine is a stimulant that should be rarely consumed if there is urinary incontinence.
The Latest Technology Is Here
But what if the problem is more than simple lifestyle changes? Stress Incontinence is due to loss of collagen and increasing laxity. Lifestyle changes cannot help the sudden loss due to exerted pressure on the bladder or abdomen. There is a new technology though that is helping with laxity. We now have Viveve, a non-surgical, 45 minute treatment that rebuilds collagen where it’s needed to help with incontinence. The procedure has no downtime and changes are seen within 30 days, with maximum results in 90 days.
Urinary incontinence should not only be discussed, but also helped. We provide full evaluations, medical care when needed, and now this new solution for incontinence.
Women’s health has been at the forefront for decades, improving prevention, but men face health issues also. Women, on average, are living 5 years longer than men. Is male prevention of screening and exams being dismissed? It is just as important for men to know their risks for disease and commit to self exams and provider screenings. Here is a guideline to keep in mind for optimal health.
It is suggested women give themselves self exams for better breast health. This is also suggested for men. While the chances for male breast cancer are significantly lower, occasional self exams are advised.
Another self examination is for the testes. Testicular cancer, although rare, is the most common cancer for males, ages 15-34.
Also, skin should be regularly examined to watch for any changes. This requires mirrors or partner to examine. Remember to follow the A,B,C,D,E guide for any spots. This guide is to check for possible skin cancer. A-asymmetry, half of the ‘mole’ does not match the other. B-border, look for a jagged border. C-color, the color could be mixed with shades of brown, black, white, pink, red or blue. D-diameter, the size is 5mm across. E-evolving, there are changes in shape, size, or color.
It is important to know these self examinations are not a substitute for provider examinations and testing, they are only a possible early detection.
Both men and women should do an annual checkup with their provider. Not only is this a perfect time to discuss any concerns with your provider, it is the time to record your different ranges, numbers, or levels.
Checkups consist of checking weight, pulse, blood pressure, and a blood pull if desired to measure your cholesterol and other levels.
The goal is to stay in the healthy range for all of these. Especially with blood pressure, a change night not be noticed until a checkup with your provider. Approximately 28% of men have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. But with heart disease being the number 1 killer of both men and women, many men are going undiagnosed. There sometimes no signs, so ab annual checkup is necessary to stay aware of your numbers.
On top of regular self exams and checkups with providers, certain screenings need to be done.
If there is a history in the family of conditions or disease, regular screenings will start early and be continued for prevention.
Also, if you are overweight, additional screenings may be needed. These should include testing for Diabetes. And even if weight is in the healthy range, as we age, the chances increase, so a test should be done regularly after the age of 45.
Another age to keep in mind is age 50. At that time, it is advised that there is screening for colorectal and prostate cancer.
Please keep these in mind and we are here to discuss all healthy prevention.
We have all heard of the ‘stress’ hormone, cortisol. It is necessary for certain functions in the body. But, when too much is produced, the cortisol must be rerouted to other places in the body. When this happens, the effects can be harmful. The United States has been seeing significant increases in obesity, diabetes Type 2, and heart disease. Could cortisol be the link? And are we fighting a losing battle?
The Recent Trends
Americans are busier than ever. Our schedules are not only full with appointments and events, but Americans are working more. The productivity of the American worker has increased 400% since 1950, according to the U.S, Bureau of Labor. And here in the U.S., over 85% of males work more than 40 hours per week and over 65% of females do. Also, Americans are working more, on average, than most other countries.
One of the reasons productivity has been able to increase in certain areas, is technology and its advancement. While the technology has been introduced to make our lives easier, there is usually a substantial amount of time that is spent learning the technology. Even our car manuals are larger today because of all the technology included. This technology has also aided in Americans bringing work home, with email, smart phones, and laptops. So while technology is helping in some facets, our time with technology and the devices has increased.
What Can Help?
Our schedules more than likely will remain busy and the stress will continue. But there are some things that can be done so cortisol can be at safer levels. The first suggestion is to relax. But how do you relax if you’re stressed? It’s difficult, so here are some suggestions. Deep breathing showed a 50% decrease of cortisol in a study for women. It’s easy to say ‘relax’ but what does that mean to that stressed individual? The deep breathing helps in that it makes relaxing a physical activity, rather than a concept of the mind. Another help is listening to music. The study of male and female college students showed 30 minutes of listening to music relaxes more than 30 minutes of silence.
And in the age of stressful schedules, it is helpful to maintain healthy relationships. These healthy relationships can be a great source of happiness to counter that stress. And the relationships don’t only mean humans. Some people showed contact with a dog was more beneficial in decreasing cortisol, than interaction with a human friend. And more importantly, healthy relationships also includes with ourselves. Shame, guilt, and negative thinking about ourselves raises cortisol levels. These levels were decreased 23% after a group learned when to identify such habits and rather learned coping mechanisms.
There are some days where getting in your daily steps is more than challenging. Routine tasks for the day and working in an office can make your step goal seem unattainable. Try these tips to make reaching that goal easier!
Try A Challenge
Competition can be good when it comes to fitness and weight loss. Consider purchasing a few pedometers for family members or friends. With a few people tracking steps, challenges can be set daily to achieve step goals. Nothing motivates like a little friendly competition. With the recording of the steps there is also an added benefit of accountability. Accountability has proven to be a successful practice with weight loss.
Split It Up
Unfortunately, not every lifestyle consists of regular activity. This is what is good about a pedometer because it is a reminder of the need for activity. We have all read 10,000 steps a day is a goal. This is a good number but don’t forget to adjust for your weight and loss goals. Such a high number of steps can be frustrating when there is little time to walk. Try splitting up the large number into smaller goals and watch the steps add up quickly. Don’t get discouraged with such a hefty number, but rather set alarms for smaller increments each hour. This splitting up of steps will also help maintain your metabolism.
Change Your Routine
Changing up daily chores and tasks can help to reach your step goal. At home, goals can be helped by ADDING steps that you wouldn’t normally do. For example, while watching television, make it a habit to get up and walk during commercial breaks. With a few hours of television, the extra time will add up. Also, when on the phone, walk and talk! Keeping active is the goal and you will soon be surprised how normal these changes will become.
Another change can be to park further away. Whether it is an errand, for fun, or for work, extra steps will increase quickly with this change. Because of our busy lives, we have made everything easier, taking away the extra exercise.
The biggest challenge, perhaps though, is working in an office. Parking further away will help, but what to do once in the building? If there are stairs, opt for those instead of an elevator. And consider using a restroom on another floor. Try walking each hour and during lunch.
Every bit helps and after a week, you will see a huge improvement in your numbers!
Most people have heard of the Keto diet. Because of its popularity, you or your friends may have looked into or tried this diet. The primary goal for most people is to lose weight with Keto, however, this regimen is not safe for everyone. As expected, pregnant women and nursing mothers should not use this eating plan. And because of health concerns, there are other people who should choose other options besides Keto.
The Keto diet involves consuming about 70 to 80 percent of calories from fat, 5 to 10 percent from carbohydrates and 10 to 20 percent from protein. By restricting almost all carbohydrate intake and even limiting protein intake, the ketogenic diet forces your liver to start producing substances called ketone bodies to supply the brain and body with the energy it needs to function.
Many people following the Keto diet will deal with bouts of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, at least initially. This can become dangerous if your blood sugar is not stable to begin with and/or you’re taking medication to control diabetes. It is better to follow a low glycemic index diet instead.
If you or any family member has a history with any kidney problems, a discussion with your health provider is suggested BEFORE taking on the Keto plan.
There is a risk of kidney stones with this diet. Even if your health professional approves the use of this diet, it is important to stay monitored with calcium levels in the kidneys by simple urine analysis.
The Ketogenic diet was found to reduce epileptic seizures in young people. It has been around a very long time. Because of the low carbohydrates in the plan, the body reaches a state of ketosis.
This state can worsen thyroid-related symptoms such as brain fog, healthy sleeping, changes in mood, and digestion problems. All of these should be discussed before attempting the diet. And it is suggested, anyone on thyroid medication be regularly monitored and checked for worsening symptoms. Sometimes, the increase of carbohydrates can fix this but this will go against the Keto plan, so we can discuss all other options with you.
The craving to eat food can be as specific as smells and certain flavors or as general as sweet or salty. Unfortunately, the common thread is the craving is usually for sugar or unhealthy carbs. Giving into the cravings can cause weight gain, inadequate sleep, and even worse, lead to diabetes and other serious health conditions. Besides drinking water before meals and when a craving happens, there are other dietary changes you can implement to curb those cravings.
Eating proteins will help with cravings. Proteins are rich in macronutrients so they will stabilize blood sugar, helping to decrease cravings. It also takes more work from the body to digest proteins. This helps to make you feel fuller, longer.
Healthy proteins to add or keep in your diet are lean meats, salmon, tuna, eggs, and nuts.
Decreasing your appetite and reducing cravings, fiber also makes you feel fuller, longer. This is because dietary fiber slows the rate at which food enters the bloodstream. This also aids in regulating blood sugar levels.
Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds. Remember cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, are best. Higher fiber in fruit choices are raspberries, blackberries, pears, and apples.
Ever notice after eating certain foods, you immediately crave something sweet? Salty foods and foods that are processed, contain a large amount of salt. Our bodies naturally want to counter that with something sweet. The best way to curb the craving for sweets due to salt intake, is eat as natural as possible. This avoids unnecessary added salt. Skip boxed items at the grocery store, if buying packaged canned or frozen vegetables, opt for the ones with no added salt.
And if you are still having a ‘sweet tooth’ after eliminating processed foods, the problem may be a mineral deficiency. Unhealthy magnesium levels increase cravings for sweets. Adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet such as legumes, spinach, nuts, and seeds will help your levels. You can also take a daily supplement to help with magnesium levels.
Menopause and the different stages are a transition in life for women. That’s a fact. But there are misconceptions about menopause. We debunk a few here and further discuss this time in life.
Your menstrual cycle will just stop one day, never to appear again. For most, this is not the case. In fact, your period must not happen each month, for a full year, to be considered menopause. More than likely, your cycle will slow and be sporadic before it disappears completely.
Another thought is a heavier period is an indication of menopause. This is not true. If you are experiencing heavier cycles than normal, it is important to see your health care provider, to rule out any worse conditions. Do not dismiss heavy periods at any stage in life.
It’s all in your head. This one is absolutely false! There are noticeable changes during these stages. Some of the physical changes are drier skin, sleep disturbances, hair thinning, and hot flashes. Some other conditions can also happen with your mental health, such as depression and anxiety. This time in life is when your body changes once again. This means hormonal changes, causing imbalances. Most are temporary, but none of it is imagined AND they can be addressed with proper care in maintaining the healthiest lifestyle and hormone therapy. Some of the conditions can last for a few years, hormone therapy can lessen the changes caused by the imbalance.
Another misconception is not taking hormones has no risk. There are actually risks with low estrogen levels. These low levels can lead to osteoporosis, heart disease, and even dementia. Yes, there are known links with blood clots and stroke with hormone replacement therapy but have been improved upon and a healthy lifestyle helps to remove those risks.
Also, there is the thinking that you must suffer through menopause. This the biggest misconception yet! As your health provider, we can work with you and help ease the symptoms during this transition. It is very important not to ignore this stage and stay the healthiest you.
You have surely read or heard the negative points about technology and health. But have you thought about where we are now and what we have access to? Technology has not only advanced good health with equipment and procedures, but is now being utilized daily by us to better our health.
Many studies have been done linking depression to social media. We do not want to downplay this, but we also want to recognize social media is bringing together people more easily.
Perhaps you are caring for an aging parent or have experienced a loss in the family. Maybe you have a condition and you know no one personally that is experiencing the same. A quick search will reveal many groups available with similar needs. These groups are quick outlets to share ideas and gain support. Even the struggle of addiction or weight loss can be helped with social media groups.
As the saying goes, ‘there is an app for that.’ This includes endless health apps. There are apps to help with healthy eating and recipes, apps that provide workouts, and even apps that remind us to drink water.
Some apps may need to be added but some are already included with our phones, such as Health with the iPhone. This app is a basic app that can help to track your intake of food and exercise. This app can also help you in the time of an emergency with the medical ID feature. List any important information and it will assist providers with your care.
The latest iPhone update is also tracking screen time with an option of regulating that time. This helps us to evaluate if we are on our devices too long. As weird as it sounds, it’s technology to help us with technology.
Technology is also improving the provider/patient relationship. Providers are more accessible with technology. Social media is a way to provide useful tips and to be more interactive.
Waiting time and appointment scheduling are also being improved with technology. Some hospitals will update their waiting time via their site or on their platforms. And your yearly checkup can be easily scheduled with a few inputs on your phone, fitting with our busy schedules.
As long as you use responsibly, technology can be helpful with your health. We are more aware of our health now than ever with more information. This awareness has led us to pursue better health. And technology, thankfully, is making it easier in many ways.