Allergies • Aromatherapy • Beauty • Bone Health • Cancer • Caregiving
Children's Health • Colds & Flu • Complementary & Alternative Medicine
Cooking Tips • Dental Health • Detoxification • Diabetes • Digestive Health
Environmental Concerns • Exercise • Eye Health • Food Storage
Headaches & Migraines • Healthy Foods • Heart Health • Herbal Medicine
High Blood Pressure • Immune Protection • Inflammation • Menopause
Music Therapy • Organic Living • Pain • Pet Health • Prostate Health
Shakes • Sinus Troubles • Sleep • Stroke • Supplements
Tea • Weight Gain • Weight Loss • Women's Health
Make War on Mold
Anywhere you find high humidity you might find mold, a major allergen. If you have a damp basement, be sure to run a dehumidifier and thoroughly air out rooms that can become humid, such as bathrooms and kitchens, on a regular basis. Also check around pipe fittings for leaks, and vigorously scrub or replace any moldy surfaces.
Look for Supplemental Help
Some nutrients and herbs may help keep allergy symptoms under control. They include quercetin, a bioflavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables; stinging nettles, often used for hay fever; omega-3 fatty acids, which help control inflammation; and MSM, another potent anti-inflammatory.
Try Dumping the Dairy
Eliminating milk and other dairy products may make breathing easier because dairy foods tend to promote mucus production. (If you really miss milk, look for a dairy-free milk substitute.) Other potential mucus-makers include eggs and chocolate, along with fried and processed foods.
Allergy-Prone? Stay in the Shade
You may have to curtail your fun in the sun if you are subject to itchy eruptions, since allergy-prone skin is often sensitive to Old Sol’s rays. Shades, a wide-brimmed hat, and long-sleeved and -legged outerwear are recommended; before using sunscreen, check with your practitioner and be very careful to test anything on a small patch of skin first.
Keep a Food Diary
What you eat can not only cause intestinal problems but may contribute to breathing difficulties as well. Try to pinpoint the source of your distress by keeping a food diary, noting both everything you eat and any symptoms you experience for a week or so. If you find a link between a food and any discomfort, digestive or respiratory, cut that food out of your diet for the next couple of weeks. If the symptoms remain, you may want to consider either not eating that food at all or, if it’s something you simply love, reserving it for special occasions only.
Watch Your Water
One way to reduce your allergen load is to filter your water. Filters can attach either to the tap or to the main water line into the house; look for a system that tackles a number of potential offenders, including chemicals, heavy metals and infectious micro-organisms. Or take water safety a step further with a water distiller, which steams the impurities out of tap water; the best models employ a post-distillation filter for good measure.
Define a Room with Diffused Scent
One of the best ways to spread essential oils around is to use a diffuser, which can be as simple as a stoneware platform over a votive candle, as elaborate as a piece of artfully executed glassware or as high-tech as an ultrasonic nebulizer. No matter which diffuser you choose the principle is the same—to let your nose delight in your favorite aromas.
Find a Pro
One big advantage to aromatherapy is that it can combine with a do-it-yourself approach to health. However, if you are facing a significant health challenge and would like some help, visit the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy at www.naha.org (membership directory link) to find an aromatherapist in your area.
Scents to Chase Away Stress
Chronic stress can take its toll on the adrenal glands, two organs that sit atop the kidneys and produce stress-response hormones. Aromatherapist Kathi Keville, author of Aromatherapy for Dummies (Wiley, www.wiley.com/WileyCDA), uses the following essential oil mixture to help perk up tired adrenals: To 2 ounces almond or other vegetable oil, add 8 drops lavender, 4 drops geranium, 2 drops clary sage and 2 drops spruce. You can diffuse it in the air or use it as a body or massage oil.
Baby Your Eyes
The tender skin around your eyes needs special pampering, especially if it’s swollen from too little sleep or too much pollen (or a cathartic cry). “I have always found the use of a good clay- or mud-based mask to be very effective in reducing under-eye swelling,” says beauty expert Rachel Perry, author of Reverse the Aging Process of Your Face (Avery/Penguin). Perry also favors eye gels or creams that feature such nourishing nutrients as calendula, beta-glucan, elastin, sea algae and sage. And don’t forget the moisturizer!
Brighten Bloodshot Eyes Herbally
Have too many late nights left your peepers looking bleary and bloodshot? Try taking tea in compress form: Brew up some eyebright or raspberry leaf tea, letting it steep at least 10 minutes. After it cools, dip in a cotton ball, place between two pieces of cloth and place on your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes. Here’s looking at you clearly!
Feed Your Skin Olive Oil
Not only is olive oil beneficial for the skin when taken internally, applying it externally after sun exposure may help provide protection. Extra virgin olive oil contains strong antioxidants that combat the oxidizing effects of the sun on skin, reducing the signs of damage and aging.
Give Your Skin Ginkgo
Ginkgo biloba is a Chinese plant best known in the West for its ability to sharpen cognition. But now it turns out that this ancient herb may help your skin look its best as well. Ginkgo’s antioxidant compounds can help protect against inflammation provoked by free radicals, the toxic molecules generated by the sun’s damaging UV rays among other sources. And early studies have indicated that it may help even out skin tone.
Invite Your Skin to a Tea Party
If you really want to reap the benefits of green tea in your skincare regimen, try the following trick recommended by Kat James, author of The Truth About Beauty (Beyond Words Publishing): After making a cup or pot of green tea in the morning, save the tea bags in a closed glass container in your refrigerator and use them as cleansing pads for your face the next morning. James says they’re perfect for exfoliating the skin, and the tea has anti-inflammatory properties.
A flattering haircut can go a long way to completing your look. But strenuous styling—such as dyeing, perming and excessive teasing—can harm your hair and make it more susceptible to weather damage. So stick to simple cuts; if you must color, try one of the plant-based solutions available at your health food store.
Protect Your Skin from the Inside Out
Defending your skin from the sun’s harsh rays means more than just using sunscreen regularly—you also need to fortify yourself with skin-pampering nutrients. Among the most notable are beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A; vitamin C, essential for the creation of the skin protein collagen; the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which serve as an internal sunscreen (and sunglasses as well); and astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant.
Veg Out to Build Bone
To strengthen your skeleton, load your plate with vegetables and fruits. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women from teens to seniors who ate the most produce had the densest bones. Upping intake is especially important for the younger set, who are also the most apt to avoid veggies.
Don’t Depend on Calcium Alone
Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is what gives bones their strength and density. However, building bone isn’t just a matter of taking calcium by itself. Look for a bone-support supplement that includes vitamins D and K2, which help the body use calcium wisely. The type of calcium makes a difference, too; cutting-edge supplements use a readily absorbable algae-based form called AlgaeCal.
Go Easy on Alcohol
Raising the occasional glass is one thing. However, consuming excessive alcohol on a regular basis can leave you prone to osteoporosis by interfering with calcium absorption. If you can’t see yourself becoming a teetotaler, then at least limit your daily alcohol consumption to two drinks or less.
Make Your Bones Move
Weight-bearing exercise places healthy stress on your skeleton, forcing it to become stronger. While weight lifting qualifies, so do walking, jogging and aerobics—any activity in which your body bears your own weight. Swimming and biking, healthy as they are, don’t count.
Consider Radon Testing
Radon, a colorless, odorless gas released by some underground rock formations, can concentrate to hazardous levels indoors; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that it causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually. Not every locality is subject to radon buildup, though. Before having your home tested, visit the EPA’s website (which includes a county-by-county radon map) at www.epa.gov/radon, or call the Indoor Environments Division at 202-343-9370.
Keep the Kids Covered
It’s excess sun exposure in youth that’s the most hazardous. Your kids, of course, don’t really care about all that, but they’ll be sorry when all those UV-fueled creases and crevices—to say nothing of potentially hazardous growths—show up years from now. So get them into the habit of slathering on the sun protection every time they head out the door. They’ll thank you later.
Keep the Kids Covered. It’s excess sun exposure in youth that’s the most hazardous.
Know Your Colorectal Cancer Risk
Although screening for the general population is recommended to start at age 50, those with an elevated risk need to start testing earlier. High-risk people are those with either a parent, child or sibling who have had colorectal cancer or polyps before age 60, or who have had two or more first-degree relatives diagnosed with colorectal cancer or polyps at any age. If you believe you may be high risk, ask your healthcare practitioner when you should start screening.
Protect Your Breasts by Not Lighting Up
It’s not like you really need another reason to not smoke, but here’s one anyway: Studies have tied smoking to breast cancer, especially if you start early. Canadian researchers have found that women who started smoking within five years of their first menstrual cycle run an 80% higher risk of developing breast cancer by age 50. And avoid breathing in other people’s tobacco fumes, which, according to the California Air Resources Board, may also fuel cancer development.
Concentrate on the Crucifers
Cruciferous veggies—cabbage, broccoli and the like—are anti-cancer superstars. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (www.aicr.org), these vegetables help regulate bodily enzymes that help protect against cancer development. Unfortunately, the beneficial sulfurous compounds these vegetables contain are often the same ones that can put people off their bold flavors, particularly that of broccoli; try oven-roasting crucifers with olive oil and sea salt to make them more palate-friendly (or turn shredded cabbage into your own coleslaw or home-fermented sauerkraut).
Get Some Help
If you feel ill-equipped to tackle the challenge of caring for someone who is seriously ill, getting some formal instruction may help you feel less stressed. The American Red Cross (202-303-4498, www.redcross.org) has developed training programs for family caregivers; check with your local chapter to find out if there are classes in your area. Other community-based resources that may offer classes include your local hospital, home care agencies, area agency on aging, county and state departments of health and organizations for specific diseases.
Find Caregiving Buddies On Line
Caring for someone with a chronic illness, especially a progressive dementia such as Alzheimer’s, can make you feel isolated. The Alzheimer’s Association maintains message boards for caregivers as well as patients; for more information, visit www.alz.org and click the Living with Alzheimer’s tab.
Take a Break
Respite services can give provide caregivers with the time needed to run errands or attend to their own needs. Options include in-home care and adult day care centers; you can find suitable resources through the following sites: www.alz.org (click the In My Community tab), www.eldercare.gov and www.respitelocator.org.
Find a Holistic Pediatrician
If you want to care for your children naturally, your first stop for information should be the Holistic Pediatrics Association (www.hpakids.org). Among the many useful features of the HPA site is a health professional directory that lists the nearest affiliated doctors and a page dedicated to upcoming pediatric seminars.
Help Your Child Avoid Diabetes
The best way to protect your kids from obesity and the diabetes it fosters is by teaching them how to stay in shape for a lifetime. Modeling beneficial eating and exercise patterns at home is only a beginning; since much of your child’s day is spent at school, become an involved parent as well. Urge administrators to offer wholesome options in the lunchroom instead of letting students graze out of vending machines (for more information visit www.healthyschoollunches.org) and to emphasize fitness-based activities in gym class instead of competitive sports (that’s what varsity teams are for).
Use Multis for Nutrition Insurance
Despite all your best efforts, it isn’t always easy to ensure that your kids meet all their nutritional requirements through diet alone. That’s where a good multivitamin comes in; look for one that combines nutrient amounts carefully tailored to a child’s needs with a taste that will make youngsters look forward to their daily supplement.
Don’t Be an Office Hero
So you wake up achy, miserable and running a fever...and head to work anyway. Well, don’t. You not only won’t get much done—staring blankly at the computer does not qualify as being productive—but you’ll infect your colleagues to boot. For their sakes and yours, stay home!
Make Thyme to Calm a Cough
Are you plagued by coughing fits? Then reach for thyme, which has been used as an expectorant for centuries. Just crush some leaves of this pungent herb, mix into a rich vegetable or chicken broth and enjoy!
Know When a Sore Throat Needs Professional Help
Most of the time, the scratchy pain of a sore throat is caused by a viral infection, the kind that’s best treated at home. However, white pus, problems in swallowing or talking, swollen tonsils, high fever, nausea and constant, severe pain may be caused by strep throat, which can lead to serious complications. If you experience any of these strep symptoms, call your healthcare practitioner for help.
Be Honest with Your Practitioners
If you’re among the 40% of all US adults who use complementary and alternative therapies (CAM), then the government wants to make you talk—to your healthcare provider. That’s the idea behind Time to Talk, a new program designed to foster an open dialogue about CAM usage between patients and practitioners. Visit http://nccam.nih.gov/timetotalk or call 888-644-6226.
Keep Current on CAM Research
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health, conducts and supports research in a variety of complementary medicine modalities. To learn more, visit them at http://nccam.nih.gov.
Get Saucy with Tomatoes
Good old tomato sauce is actually good for you. That’s because tomatoes contain lycopene, which helps support prostate health, and cooking tomatoes with a little olive oil helps release the lycopene, making it more available to the body. Of course, if you want to make your pizza or pasta really healthy, go for a whole-wheat variety—and be sure to include some veggies.
Don’t let childhood memories of boiled-to-death veggies keep you from serving green stuff to your kids. Be creative: call broccoli “little trees,” invite them to watch spinach practically melt into spaghetti sauce—anything that makes these superfoods easier for young palates to accept.
Know Your Chili Peppers
Unless you’re a hardcore chilihead, you might want to build your tolerance to capsaicin, the stuff that gives chilies their zing. Habaneros and Scotch bonnets are among the hottest, jalapeños and cayennes less so. Removing the inner ribs along with the seeds will tone down the heat somewhat.
Savor Succulent Sweet Spuds
If you love potatoes, switch from white to sweet—the latter contain more age-fighting nutrients and are less likely to rile your blood sugar. Don’t be fooled by terminology; the moist, orangy tubers often labeled “yams” and the drier, yellower ones generally called “sweet potatoes” are both varieties of the same plant. Don’t douse your sweets in syrupy concoctions, either; noted alternative practitioner Andrew Weil, MD suggests baking the moister varieties in a 350° oven until fork-tender, or pan-frying them in a spot of olive oil. He says both types can be oven-roasted—just peel, cube, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, spread in a baking pan and roast in a 450° oven (stirring every 10 minutes) until nicely browned. Enjoy!
Select Fresh Fish
For quality, shop for fish the day you cook it. Among signs that the fish you’re selecting is truly a fresh catch are a shiny luster and moist surface; sturdy flesh with a little bounce; scales that are clear, bright, intact and attached to the fish; and bright, not-sunken eyes. Oh, and a fresh, mild odor, naturally.
Spice Up Your Diet
How do you flavor your food without a ton of butter, mayo and other high-fat items? The answer is as close as your spice rack. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), many common spices—including oregano, rosemary and turmeric—contain health-enhancing phytonutrients. When using fresh herbs, be sure to choose healthy-looking leaves and store them in the fridge for four days, tops. The AICR website contains a wealth of well-spiced recipes, in addition to tons of other terrific nutritional advice; see for yourself at www.aicr.org or call 800-843-8114.
Unfry Your Chicken
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be made as tasty as fried chicken, but without all the oil and fat, says Wilbert Jones, author of The New Soul Food Cookbook (Citadel Press). Coat the chicken with a mix of flour, seasoning and nonstick cooking spray, bake, and the result is a chicken dish just as crunchy and tasty as the old favorite.
When Buying Olive Oil, Go for the Cold.
The best olive oil for salads is extra virgin, taken from the first pressing. Look for a cold-pressed variety, which will retain the oil’s full taste and health benefits.
De-Stress Your Teeth
Stress can contribute to dental disease because it depletes the body of precious nutrients and lowers immunity. Oral health problems associated with anxiety disorders include bruxism (teeth grinding) canker sores, dry mouth, mouth ulcers and burning mouth syndrome. Be sure to tell your dentist if you have an anxiety disorder and what medications you may be taking.
Find a Holistic Dentist
Some dental professionals see oral care in terms of overall health. To find such a practitioner visit the Holistic Dental Association at www.holisticdental.org, which, according to its website, believes in “awareness of dental care as it relates to the entire person.”
Healthy Teeth, Healthier Heart
A number of studies have shown an association between poor oral health and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Scientists are still trying to explain exactly why; one of the current theories is that untreated gum disease leads to the kind of chronic, low-level inflammation that has been implicated in the development of arterial plaque. So if it’s been a while since you’ve seen a dentist, make that appointment—and don’t forget such oral-health basics as brushing and flossing on a daily basis.
Drink to Detoxify
Cleansing tonics can help rid your body of toxins and take undue stress off of your liver. A good one to try, courtesy of Esme Floyd, author of 1001 Little Health Miracles: Shortcuts to Feeling Good, Looking Great and Living Healthy (Ulysses Press): 7 ounces of spring water, a lemon’s worth of fresh squeezed juice, a pinch of powdered ginger, 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds and 1 teaspoon of psyllium powder. Salud!
When doing a detox, it helps to know exactly what you’re up against. A number of labs test blood, saliva, hair and other bodily products for toxins; one of the best known is Geneva Diagnostics (formerly Great Smokies) in Ashville, North Carolina: 1-800-522-4762, www.gdx.net.
Detox to Shed Pounds
When the body is overloaded with toxins, it starts storing them in body fat—which then creates a hormonal havoc that slows your metabolism. If you can’t seem to lose weight, try going on a juice fast; whole-food juice concentrates have been found to help reduce inflammation. (See your practitioner for guidance if you need to lose a significant amount of weight or have other health issues.)
Many insurance companies will cover visits to a certified diabetes educator (CDE) if you obtain a referral from your doctor. To find one in your area, contact the American Association of Diabetes Educators at www.diabeteseducator.org or call 800-338-3633.
Get Thee to a Dentist
Do you keep putting off your time in the dentist’s chair? Stop procrastinating—especially if you have blood-sugar issues. High glucose levels can hamper the immune system, which can lead to tooth-threatening periodontal disease...which can turn right around and play havoc with glucose control. Also make sure to brush and floss on a daily basis, using a toothpaste that employs herbs like tea tree and neem for their anti-microbial activity. (Your mother would be so pleased.)
Go to Glycemic College
To learn more about the glycemic index, which rates foods on how they affect blood sugar, visit www.glycemicindex.com. In addition to an extensive database, this site allows you to access a valuable newsletter and to find helpful books on the subject.
Keep Your Feet Happy
Diabetic nerve and circulation damage can leave your feet prone to infection. Always wear well-fitted shoes and nonbinding socks. Thoroughly dry between your toes after showering and report skin changes to your practitioner pronto.
Send Your Child to Diabetes Camp
If your child has diabetes, you know how difficult it is to find a camp that can meet his or her special needs. That’s why you should check out the program run by the American Diabetes Association, which allows your child to have all the fun you remember from your own childhood in medically supervised safety. To learn more, go to www.diabetes.org and enter “camp” into the search engine or call 800-342-2383.
Energize Digestion with Enzymes
A wide variety of supplemental enzymes are available, including plant-based helpers such as papain and bromelain along with animal-sourced pancreatic enzymes. Take them with meals to promote proper digestion and between meals to take advantage of their inflammation-fighting properties.
Don’t Race Through Meals
Does your stomach trouble you after you’ve eaten? You may be eating too quickly, a habit among many people in these perpetually harried times. Besides slowing down, pay more attention to your surroundings—taking your meals while standing in a hectic kitchen, television blaring, is a recipe for indigestion. So sit down at a table and substitute soothing music for CNN. Don’t you feel better already?
Put Probiotics to Work for You
Your intestines harbor a variety of micro-organisms including probiotics, which promote healthy digestion and a strong immune system in return for shelter and a steady food supply. Probiotics are found naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt. You can also take probiotic supplements; look for products that contain multiple strains (and don’t rely on just one or two types) and a guarantee that the microbes will be viable at the time of purchase.
Stay Regular with Fiber—and Water
Adding more fiber to your diet is standard advice for constipation, but fiber isn’t going to help—and may actually be problematic—if you don’t drink extra water along with it. If using supplemental fiber, always drink a full glass of water with it; try for six to eight glasses a day in total.
Bag the Use of Plastic Bags
Did you know there’s so much plastic in the ocean that it kills 100,000 sea mammals—and 10 times that number of seabirds—each year? Fortunately, one way to help cut the carnage is also one of the simplest: Stop taking plastic bags from retailers. You can also take part in beach cleanups; visit Ocean Conservancy at www.oceanconservancy.org or call 800-519-1541.
Clean Without Chlorine
Chlorine, a common ingredient in bleach and other cleansers, is bad business as far as water purity is concerned. Use greener cleaners, including bleaches based on oxygen or hydrogen peroxide. To get involved in clean water activism, visit Food & Water Watch at www.foodandwaterwatch.org or call 202-683-2500.
Green Your Household Energy
Fossil fuels energize not only our cars but our lives in general—more than 70% of all electricity generated in this country comes from coal, gas or oil. Fight the fossil power by buying green energy, such as that generated via wind or solar. You can also look into renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset your usage; visit www.epa.gov/greenpower/gpmarket/rec.htm.
Look Up Your Local Air Quality
Keeping track of what pollutants are passing through your skies is easier with the Pollution Outlook Map. This interactive service from the Environmental Protection Agency provides the Air Quality Index (AQI) daily for five major pollutants: carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulates and sulfur dioxide. See it for yourself at http://cfpub.epa.gov/airnow.
You know you should exercise, but there’s so many reasons not to (“I need to pay the bills/mop the floor/wash the dog/etc.”). Stop with the excuses and get on board the American Heart Association’s Start! program, which will let you track your progress, find “sole-mates”...and finally achieve that 30-minutes-a-day goal. For more information, visit www.heart.org/start.
Start a Walking Club
If your job keeps you nailed to your chair eight hours a day, form a lunchtime walking club. Walking with an officemate or two not only makes that daily trek more pleasant, but having a walking partner can also motivate you to get out and move.
Visit a Virtual Ballroom
Gotta dance for fitness but don’t got a partner? Then let your fingers boogie over the keyboard to www.ballroomdancers.com (800-357-5358), where you can find someone to samba with in addition to learning new steps, buying a CD of hot tunes...even browsing the classifieds for that perfect steppin’-out outfit.
Bust Some New Moves
If your pushup-situp-toe touch routine is getting stale, it’s time to find additional exercises; visit the American Council of Exercise at www.acefitness.org and click on the ACE GetFit tab.
Ease Your Aching Eyes
If your eyes suffer from all those hours staring at a screen, take a refreshing mini-break: Rub your palms together until they’re nice and warm, then place them over your closed eyes for 30 seconds. Repeat as needed during the day.
You Gotta Wear Shades!
If you are at risk for cataracts, protect your eyes from UVA and UVB sun radiation. But not just any pair of sunglasses will do the job. Special-purpose shades (which should carry the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal) block at least 99% of UVB and at least 60% of UVA rays. They should wrap around the head and deflect light coming from above, below and both sides of the glasses.
Defend Your Sight with Proper Nutrition
Beta carotene, the substance that makes carrots orange, is known for improving night vision. But it isn’t the only food for the eyes; other key nutrients include lutein and zeaxanthin, which help forestall the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration; bilberry, a flavonoid that helps lessen ARMD’s effects; alpha lipoic acid, which helps reduce diabetic eye complications; and vitamins C and E, both of which fight cataract development.
Ease Dry Eyes with Edible Oils
Evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help spur proper eye lubrication; fish oil and flax seed oil are the two main forms of supplemental omega-3. And it wouldn’t hurt to add more fish to your diet.
Store Chocolate Properly
You don’t want to eat that entire box of chocolate at once, now do you? The good news is that chocolate never spoils. However, old chocolate can taste dry and chalky due to repetitive heating and cooling. Keep your quality dark chocolate in an airtight container at a consistent temperature of no more than 68 degrees F. Chocolate can also be kept in a cellar with wine.
Keep Olive Oil Fresh
All olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to six months; it can also be refrigerated, in which case it can last up to a year. Take note that chilled olive oil becomes cloudy and too thick to pour, but will clear and become liquid again when brought to room temperature.
Depict Your Migraine Pain
While there’s no tested connection between susceptibility to migraines and an artistic temperament, it’s true that many creative people—including poet Emily Dickinson, painter Salvador Dali and composer Gustav Mahler—have suffered from them. In fact, the excruciating pain and odd sensations associated with these excruciating headaches has given rise to striking creative output (for examples, visit www.migrainepage.com and click on the Art & Poetry link). If you are so inclined, take pen or brush (or computer mouse) in hand to express how you feel—it may help your loved ones understand what you’re going through.
Massage Away Headaches
Before you take another aspirin, try this tip from Healing Massage by Daphne Roubini (Cico Books): Add two drops of either bergamot (if irritable), lavender (if frazzled) or rosemary (if exhausted) oil to a carrier oil such as sunflower or sweet almond and massage into your head and neck. Ahh!
Avoid Migraine Trigger Foods
Certain foods have been shown to increase your risk of having a migraine attack. Known potential trigger foods include dairy, especially sour cream and ripened cheeses; processed meats; liver and bacon; sourdough bread; broad, fava and lima beans; figs, raisins and papayas; avocados; chocolate; nuts and peanut butter; such fermented foods as pickles and sauerkraut; soy sauce; and foods containing MSG. However, not everyone reacts to these foods, and some migraine sufferers may react to foods not on this list. The best way to discover your own sensitivities is to keep track of what you eat over several weeks in a food diary.
Pick Your Berries
Berries, nature’s smallest fruits, pack a huge health wallop: In studies, these tiny marvels have battled the oxidative stress that researchers believe plays a key role in chronic disease development. Add fresh or frozen berries freely to your meals and for extra protection turn to berry-based supplements and drink mixes.
Start Your Day With Soy.
Many folks have a real problem with breakfast—not the concept, but finding the time for it. Soy can help. Here’s some suggestions:
Splash some soymilk over a whole-grain breakfast cereal.
Stack soy yogurt and sliced fresh fruit in a parfait glass.
Scramble some soy “sausage” together with an organic egg or two.
Whip up a meal-to-go soy shake, using ice to add a creamy texture.
Go Against the (Standard) Grain
Even if you aren’t sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains, you may want to expand your palate by consuming grains that seem novel in the US but are standard fare in other parts of the world. These include buckwheat (not related to standard wheat), often available as “buckwheat groats”; millet, a small-seeded cereal eaten as porridge in China and Russia; quinoa, a high-protein grain native to the Andes; and teff, an Ethiopian grain used to make a sourdough-like flatbread.
As if you needed another reason to reduce your stress load: Scientists now think that stress, in addition to increasing heart rate, can also increase your LDL levels. The risk is especially high if you’re one of those folks who overreact to pressure (you know who you are). Find a way to unwind and stick with it.
Raise Female Heart Awareness
The American Heart Association is attempting to make women aware of their heart disease risk through their Go Red For Women campaign. For more information, and a red dress pin, call 800-242-8721 or visit www.goredforwomen.org. You can also find those stylish pins—along with news, support groups and advocacy opportunities—at WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease; visit www.womenheart.org or call 202-728-7199.
Take an East/West Approach to Heart Failure
Heart failure, a condition which hampers the heart’s pumping capacity, is generally treated with prescription medications. However, Chinese medicine can help make such medications more effective and take the edge off of their side effects. To find a practitioner, contact the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at www.aaaomonline.org.
Consume Some CoQ10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) helps cells create energy, and no cells work harder than those that make up the heart. Not surprisingly, cardiac cells contain enormous amounts of this crucial nutrient. Supplemental CoQ10 is best taken in the form of ubiquinol, which is more readily utilized by the body.
Find an Herbalist
Some herbs—chamomile and mint come to mind—are time-trusted home remedies for relatively simple ailments. But if you want to use herbs to help you face a significant health challenge it’s best to consult a trained herbalist. To find one, contact the American Herbalists Guild at www.americanherbalistsguild.com or 203-272-6731.
Take an Herbal Time Trip—Online.
One of the few herbal manuals from the first half of the 20th century, A Modern Herbal was published in 1931 by Maude Grieve, a fellow of Britian’s Royal Horticultural Society. You can read Mrs. Grieve’s opus by visiting www.botanical.com.
Take an Herbal Time Trip. You can access a 1931 herb manual online.
Stick to Standards
Traditionally, herbal remedies have consisted of the herbs themselves brewed into tea; today herbs are also available in both capsule and extract forms. Many of these remedies are standardized through careful production practices and the inclusion of a minimum amount of the herb’s main active ingredient. This lets you know you’re getting a consistent product from dose to dose.
Stay Connected to Your Spouse.
If you figured that job stress is the biggest driver of high blood pressure, guess again: A rocky relationship can really send your pressure climbing, while a good marriage can help ease the effects of work strain. In a hectic world, keeping lines of communication open at home can be tough. But it’s crucial for both your happiness and your health.
Hypertension’s silent, asymptomatic nature makes regular blood pressure readings a necessity. Your healthcare practitioner should check your pressure at each visit; if you know you have hypertension or are at significant risk for it, you may also want to get blood-pressure monitor for home use.
DASH Towards a Healthy Pressure
Diet—specifically one that emphasizes fresh produce and whole grains—plays a big role in keeping your blood pressure within healthy limits. That’s the idea behind the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. To learn how to do the DASH, visit http://dashdiet.org.
Be a Social Butterfly
If you know more about what’s going on in Oprah’s life than in the lives of your family and friends, it’s time to get out more: Scientists have found that the lonelier you are the weaker your immune system becomes. So don’t vegetate in front of the tube again tonight. Whether you prefer to play poker or sing hymns, an active social life can help give your immunity a lift.
Replenish Your Probiotics
Most of your immune cells reside in your digestive tract, which means that the beneficial microbes called probiotics can help bolster your immune defenses. Make plain yogurt that contains live cultures a regular part of your diet and consider taking a supplement that contains not only intestinal probiotics but also S. salivarius K12, which occupies the mouth and nose.
Stay Hydrated—Inside and Out
Plenty of pure water will help keep your immune system in top shape. (If you don’t do bottled water, make sure you filter what comes out of the tap.) In addition you should run a humidifier in the winter, when heated indoor air can dry out your mucous membranes, the body’s first line of defense against germs.
Skirt Past Secondhand Smoke
All sorts of environmental stressors can get inflammation going—and tobacco smoke, with its slew of immune response-provoking irritants, is right near the top of the list. Not only should you not be smoking yourself, but it’s also a good idea to avoid other folks’ smoke as well.
Look for Food Allergies
Allergic reactions to often-consumed foods can spark low-level inflammation. “I believe they are incredibly common and nobody has a clue,” says Nancy Appleton, PhD, nutritionist and author of Stopping Inflammation (Square One, www.squareonepublishers.com). Talk to your practitioner about allergy testing and about keeping a food diary, in which you record the foods you eat and any symptoms—including digestive or respiratory difficulties as well as fatigue, headaches and skin problems—that occur over several weeks.
Swear Off Sugar
When it comes to chronic inflammation, the sweet stuff is pure poison. Not only does sugar promote obesity, itself an inflammatory condition, but it also has a directly harmful effect on the body. Start reading the Nutrition Facts label required by law on all packaged foods and stay away from anything with more than 6 grams of sugar per serving.
Breathe Yourself Cool
Slow, deliberate deep breathing may take the edge off of hot flashes. The next time Mother Nature turns up the thermostat, try lying down in a quiet room with your hands over your abdomen. Inhale slowly, feeling your hands rise, hold for a few seconds, then exhale slowly, feeling your hands fall. Repeat for five minutes or so.
Cool Off with Herbal Tea
If you’re bothered by hot flashes, try this herbal tea from registered herbalist Amanda McQuade Crawford, author of The Natural Menopause Handbook (Crossing Press, www.randomhouse.com/crown/tenspeed). Mix together 2 ounces each of linden flower (Tilia species), borage flower, stem and leaf (Borago officinalis) and hibiscus flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa); add 1 ounces each marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) and chamomile flower (Matricaria recutita). Combine 1 ounces of this mixture with 3 cups of boiling water in a teapot and let stand for 15 minutes, then strain, place in a covered container and allow to reach room temperature. For daytime flashes, drink 1 cup as needed, or sip 1 cup throughout the day. Drink 1/2 to 3 cups after night sweats (empty your bladder before going back to bed).
Exercise Your Pelvic Floor
The changes your body undergoes during menopause can often lead to poor muscle tone in the pelvic region, which can in turn cause you to leak urine when laughing, coughing, etc. To avoid this embarrassing problem, exercise the pelvic floor muscles (known as the pubococcygeus and the coccygeus). You can find them by stopping your urine stream and then starting it again. Once you’ve identified the correct muscles, you can exercise them whenever you wish—such as while driving, talking on the phone or making dinner—by contracting and relaxing them in sets of 10 or 15 several times a day. In addition, pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegels) can promote sexual well-being by improving circulation to the genitals.
Find a Music Therapist
Music hath charms to help ease a number of physical and emotional conditions. If you think a music therapist might be able to help with what ails you, call the American Music Therapy Association at 301-589-3300 or go to their website at www.musictherapy.org.
Get the Gunk Out of Your Water
A simple way to get healthier tap water is to use a filter. Options abound, from a standalone pitcher to a unit integrated into the main line. You also have a choice of technologies, including carbon filtration and reverse osmosis.
Look for the Organic Label
Attention shoppers: The USDA’s green-and-white seal ensures that what you’re getting meets the government’s organic standards. For updates and other information on the National Organic Program, call the USDA at 202-720-3252 or visit www.ams.usda.gov/NOP.
Go Back to the Future with a Root Cellar
Get the most out of your organic garden (or of your local farmers market) by installing a root cellar. Today’s models go far beyond the dirt-floor basement space great-Grandma used; to learn how to build your own, check out The Complete Root Cellar Book by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie (www.amazon.com).
Sniff Out Sweet Relief
Aromatherapy’s delicate botanical scents can help ease aching joints. Use wintergreen to cool off inflammation, either clove or cinnamon to provide a warming reprieve in damp, drafty weather and rose to lift a pain-weary spirit. Essential oils can be dispersed through a room diffuser, but are even more effective against arthritis when blended into massage oil, added to bathwater or used directly in a hot compress. Ahh!
Deal with Depression
It’s hard to keep your spirits up in the face of chronic pain. “As it gets harder and harder to cope, as the pain limits your participation in pleasurable activities, mood-related problems such as depression, anxiety and anger can set in,” says Michael Lewandowski, PhD, author of The Chronic Pain Care Workbook (New Harbinger, www.newharbinger.com), who adds that up to 65% of people in chronic pain are or will become depressed. If you think you may be one of them, try taking a 27-item questionnaire called My Mood Monitor (M-3) at www.mymoodmonitor.com. A number of nutrients have been found helpful for depression, including vitamins B and D; omega-3 fatty acids; the minerals calcium, chromium, iodine, iron and magnesium; the amino acid tryptophan, available as milk protein concentrate; a substance called SAM-e; and the herb St. John’s wort. (Consult a healthcare practitioner if you are currently taking prescription medications, including antidepressants.)
Go Deeper Into Massage
A surface rubdown may feel nice, but it won’t address the root causes of pain. Medical or orthopedic massage combines standard strokes with deep-tissue bodywork to address underlying issues. The best way to find someone who specializes in this type of work is to ask several physical therapists in your area for a recommendation.
Find a Holistic Vet
If you’re looking for a veterinarian who employs alternative therapies, look into the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The vet finder on their website (www.ahvma.org; 410-569-0795) lets you search by state and type of treatment (Chinese herbs, for example); you can also find someone who specializes in birds or exotics—even a vet who makes house calls (who knew?).
Get Your Pets Moving
Becoming a classic couch potato is no better for your pooch or kitty than it is for you. If you don’t have a big yard, take Bowser to the local park for a brisk game of fetch or Frisbee. And stimulate Fluffy’s play instincts with any of the many stick-string-ball toys on the market.
Soothe Your Pet Naturally
Pets have troublesome feelings just like we do—but they can’t go to therapy or a support group. What you can do for your stressed-out or nervous companions is give them Bach Flower Essence Rescue Remedy, a combination of five essences that has been known to keep both people and their pets cool, calm and collected. Try it before taking your dog or kitty to the veterinarian, or after a trauma or accident to help your loved one (and you) stay on an even keel.
Needle Your Pal
Acupuncture isn’t just for humans; dogs, cats and other animals also respond to this ancient healing technique. To find an animal acupuncturist near you, visit the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture at www.aava.org.
Pump Up Prostate Health with Yoga
One way to help your prostate stay out of trouble is by striking a pose—a yoga pose, that is. Yoga experts say certain poses, or asanas, help promote circulation and support healthy pelvic muscles. The best prostate-aiding poses include the Boat, Bow, Hero and Widespread Plow. If this all sounds like Sanskrit to you, find a local yoga studio and check it out for yourself.
Let Your Prostate See Red
Lycopene, a phytonutrient that lends its ruddy color to tomatoes and other produce, has shown prostate-protective capacities. The best way to access lycopene in tomatoes is to cook them in a little oil, which makes this substance more readily available to the body.
Men: Think Zinc
Zinc is crucial to not only prostate health but also testosterone production, making it the ultimate male mineral. Good sources include beef, chicken, lobster oysters and pumpkin seeds. Testosterone-support supplements often combine zinc with nutrients and herbs such as calcium, fenugreek and Tribulus terrestris; always follow dosage instructions whenever taking supplemental zinc.
Drink Your Superfruit
While you should always keep your kitchen stocked with a tasty variety of fresh fruit, the best way to get the power of the superfruits into your daily diet is through whole-food powdered concentrates. Toss with some ice and soymilk into a blender and voila!—you’ve got a great smoothie.
Green foods—with their rich stores of protein, minerals, fiber and chlorophyll—are a nutritional powerhouse. The problem is that many people a) don’t know how to cook them or b) don’t like the flavor. But throwing them into a juicer along with foods that are a bit more palate-friendly allows you to easily access green nutrition in a concentrated form. Complementary foods, such as watermelon, tomatoes and bananas, can balance out the taste of your shakes while adding valuable nutrients of their own.
Shake It Up
Looking for non-meat sources of protein? Why not try a soy protein shake? Easy to make with just a simple can of protein powder and some soymilk from your local health food store, shakes are a quick, convenient, low-fat way to get your necessary protein. Available in practically any flavor you dream up, you can custom design your protein shake to add more nutritional punch. Throw in your favorite fruits and enjoy some antioxidant benefits, too.
Practice Sinus Self-Healing
Have a sinus headache or blockage that just won’t go away? Try this at-home acupressure tip: Find the small dent at the inner corner of each eyebrow, right next to the bridge of your nose. Then press inward for 30 to 60 seconds two times.
Practice Good Nasal Hygiene
One of the best ways to keep sinus problems at bay is to irrigate your nasal passages with a mild saline solution once or twice a day with a neti pot, a standard Ayurvedic medicine practice. Add 1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon of pure, non-iodized salt (ground kosher salt works well) to about 1 cup of water and pour it into the neti. Then place the spout into one nostril and tilt your head until water runs out the other one; switch sides halfway through. Blow your nose gently afterwards. You can use other irrigation devices—even a large rubber ear syringe will do. (Talk to your practitioner if you have an active infection.)
Save Your Sinuses While Traveling
One of air travel’s hazards for sinusitis sufferers is breathing dry, stale, germ-laden air for hours at a stretch. Robert Ivker, DO recommends having a light meal before you leave for the airport (take 100 mg of grape seed extract at least 20 minutes before eating). Right afterwards, he says to take a multivitamin, 2,000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 100 mg of alpha lipoic acid, 200 mg of garlic extract and another 100 mg of grape seed. If you eat en route repeat the vitamin C and garlic, and take more grape seed on an empty stomach either during or right after your flight. Finally, follow your first post-trip meal with all the supplements you took just before you left home. Bon voyage!
Ease Anxiety for Better Sleep
Perpetual anxiety may be shortchanging your sleep. Researchers have found that a substance called GABA puts the brakes on brain activity and that reduced amounts of GABA have been linked to anxiety and sleeplessness. If you’re plagued by both conditions, speak with a nutritionally aware health practitioner.
Get Some Natural Shuteye
Lying awake night after night doesn’t do your body any favors. If you find sweet sleep to be elusive, try going to bed at the same time every night in a dark, quiet room (no late-night TV!). Need a little extra help in drifting off? Try taking chamomile or passionflower tea before bed to end the evening on a calm note. Supplements that promote relaxation include the herb valerian and lactium, the ingredient in warm milk that helps babies sleep, well, like babies.
Eat to Sleep
Meal composition and timing can significant affect your ability to get a good night’s rest. Include whole-food carbohydrates, such as brown rice, in your dinners while avoiding excess protein. And don’t eat large meals late at night; they promote hormonal changes that can wake you early and make falling back to sleep difficult.
Get Help for Stroke NOW
A lot of long-term stroke damage could be avoided if the victim got medical care within three hours. The American Stroke Association (ASA) describes the warning signs:
If you see someone suffering from such symptoms, ask the person to smile, raise both arms and speak a simple sentence coherently (like, “It is sunny out today”). If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 911 immediately. As the ASA says, time lost is brain lost.
Know Your Blood Pressure
If this idea seems obvious, it is—uncontrolled hypertension is the single biggest risk factor for stroke. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about setting up a schedule of regular pressure checks based on factors such your age and family history. If you already have hypertension, get a home blood pressure gage and learn how to use it correctly, and report any new symptoms, such as periods of dizziness, to your practitioner immediately.
Low potassium has been linked to increased stroke risk, and bananas are a rich source of this key mineral. (Avocadoes, citrus, green leafy vegetables, milk and nuts also contain potassium.) In addition, bananas supply fiber, the mineral manganese and vitamins B6 and C.
Try Brain Training to Recover Lost Speech
A home-based therapy may help stroke victims speak again. Called the Sensory Trigger Method (STM), it employs exercises that combine touch, sight and sound to encourage the development of new learning pathways in the brain. To learn more, visit www.strokefamily.org.
Be Sure to Get Your Bs
Your personal power plant can’t run efficiently without the vitamin B complex, which assists in the enzymatic reactions that create energy within cells. Stay stoked with Bs by eating a wide variety of whole foods, including organic produce, unprocessed grains and lean animal proteins, and by taking a comprehensive B supplement.
Fatten Up CoQ10 Absorption
CoQ10, a supplement used to boost energy production and heart health, is soluble in fats instead of liquids. That’s why you should take supplemental Q10 either with food or with a healthy fat such as flax seed oil, or in a product especially formulated for easy absorption, such as liquid or chewable CoQ10.
Maximize B Team Chemistry
Processing and cooking foods destroys vulnerable, water-soluble B vitamins more than you might think. Vitamin B6 content, for example, is reduced up to 80% in canned vegetables, up to 50% in frozen vegetables and up to 95% in processed grain products. In addition, alcohol, sugar and caffeine all deplete B vitamins in the body, creating an increased need for Bs. Eat more raw, whole foods and supplement with B vitamins to compensate for B-depleting lifestyle and dietary choices.
Pick the Perfect Supplement Form
It’s not a spoonful of sugar, but the right form can indeed make the supplement go down easier. The basic formats are capsules, dried material in gelatin-based containers, and tablets, powder that’s pressed and coated to preserve freshness; a high-quality tablet will be pressed with enough pressure to hold together but still dissolve within the body. Other options include chewables, ideal for bulky dry supplements such as calcium formulations, and softgels, often used for lipids such as vitamin E. More and more supplements are also available in liquid form, which are easy to swallow and mix well into beverages, including smoothies.
We’d never tell you to not eat your veggies, but produce ain’t what it used to be. Biochemists have found that nutrient levels in fruits and vegetables have fallen over the past 50 years, thanks to fast-growing varieties that don’t have time to accumulate such health necessities as vitamins B-2 and C from the soil. That makes downing a high-quality multivitamin every day even more essential.
Enjoy an Herbal Cup
If you’re looking for tea-drinking options other than good old Camellia sinensis, explore the vast world of herbal teas (known technically as tisanes, if you want to get picky). Herbs offer an expanded palate of (mostly caffeine-free) flavors to explore, along with health benefits unique to each. Some of the more popular ones are rooibos, a South African import with a citrusy, vanilla-like taste that’s brimming with vitamin C; chamomile, a gentle-tasting herb that offers calm relaxation; peppermint, a snappy-flavored favorite that soothes the stomach; and yerba maté, a caffeine-containing plant that is a South American staple. Bottoms up!
Expand Your Palate
Bagged black and green teas (and their decaffeinated counterparts) are convenient and cheap. But loose-leaf teas provide a panorama of tea styles and flavors, including genmaicha, a roasted green tea that includes toasted brown rice; matcha, a ground green tea that produces a bright emerald-green brew; tung ting, an oolong with an aroma of caramel and nuts; and Lapsang Souchong, a black tea smoked over pine.
Make the Perfect Food Pairing
Each type of tea goes better with some foods than with others. Most green teas, for example, take well to seafood, fish and lightly cooked vegetables; jasmine also pairs with fresh fruit and curries, while matcha tastes good with cheese. The richer flavor of black tea goes well with meat. Assam is a good pairing for sharp cheese and smoked meats; Darjeeling pairs with fresh fruit and soft cheese; Keemun works with eggs and vanilla; Yunnan takes to chili. The sweet finish of a good oolong cleans the palate when eating spicy foods.
Look for Caloric Liquids
Would-be weight gainers need to hydrate like everyone else. But plain water, with its zero calories, is not your friend and caffeine-containing beverages, which help hasten weight loss, are even worse. Go with sports drinks, shakes and smoothies, milk or fruit juice.
Add Pounds by Building Muscle
Creating lean mass is a healthier way to gain weight than packing on the flab, and the best way to build muscle is through resistance training. While weight lifting is the most common form of resistance training, it isn’t the only one. Resistance bands—basically large rubber bands—use your own body to create the resistance your muscles need to develop properly.
Eating every two to three hours can help you add weight without feeling stuffed. The key, of course, is watching what you put on your plate; shoot for an additional 200 to 500 calories a day by concentrating on healthful, calorie-dense foods such as nut butters, trail mix and avocados.
Find a Weight-Loss Buddy
Eating smart and exercising regularly are much, much easier if you’re not going it alone. That’s why you should find someone who can take this challenge on with you: your spouse, your best friend, even a cooperative co-worker. Having a partner gives you someone to call when temptation strikes or when the couch is calling you away from the gym. Buddy up!
Make It Fun
Not wanting to get sick and die before your time may seem like a good enough reason to eschew fattening foods, but that can only take you so far. Instead, fight off that craving for barbecued wings by concentrating on the good stuff that comes with losing weight: more energy, greater well-being, a better sex life...and feeling damn good about that thinner you in the bathroom mirror.
Sweeten Your Coffee with Stevia
Often it’s what people use to flavor their daily java that makes it so unhealthy, like loads of sugar or synthetic sweeteners. If straight black coffee isn’t your thing, try the herbal sweetener stevia, which has no calories and is 10 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia can have an herbal aftertaste, so use it sparingly or try a flavored variety.
Avoid Emotional Eating
Unhappy emotional states can lead to unhealthy binge eating, which in turn can sabotage weight-loss efforts. Instead of stuffing emotions such as depression, frustration and anger—and diving into a box of cookies as a result—learn how to be aware of them and how they affect you, and then show yourself some love. Psychologist Christopher Germer, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion (Guilford, www.mindfulselfcompassion.org), suggests taking “self-compassion breaks”: Place your hand on your heart and take three deep breaths, then tell yourself that you are in a moment of suffering, that suffering is part of everyone’s life and that you want to be kind to yourself.
Find a Holistic Gynecologist
Holistic gynecology combines the best of both worlds: the latest technological knowledge that conventional medicine has to offer, especially in the area of diagnostics, along with a range of complementary and alternative treatments your average MD is only beginning to learn about. But there’s a catch: There is no one association to which all such practitioners belong. This is where the Internet comes in handy; typing “holistic gynecology” into a search engine will bring up a number of individual doctors’ websites. Be sure to ask about the therapies that each individual is familiar with and if they are board-certified in holistic gynecology. (Getting word-of-mouth referrals from family and friends can’t hurt, either.)
Learn Your Family Medical History
Health practitioners say that one of the most useful diagnostic tools available is a complete medical history, both personal and family. However “as a woman, you may need to do some extra work when compiling your family’s health history,” according to The Savvy Woman Patient by the Society for Women’s Health Research (Capital Books, www.internationalpubmarket.com). For example, Grandma may have died of a heart attack. But if she didn’t have classic symptoms often seen in men—such as severe chest pain and shortness of breath—her death may have been attributed simply to old age. To compile a family health history, the SWHR recommends trying to uncover the following information going back as far as you can: birth and death dates; cause of death; patterns of disease, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes; race and ethnicity; childhood diseases such as cystic fibrosis and type 1 diabetes; environmental and drug allergies; and history of such mental or behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety and addictions.
Encourage Lymph Flow
One way to support breast health is to help lymph circulate freely through the chest. Deborah Davis, author of Women’s Qigong for Health & Longevity (Shambhala, www.shambhala.com), suggests an exercise called the Lymph Pump: Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms hanging at your sides and chin slightly tucked in. As you inhale, open your arms out to your sides so that your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle, forearms at shoulder level and palms facing forward; your back should arch slightly as you look upward. Then, as you exhale, look down, form fists with your hands and move your arms in towards your chest as though you were doing an ab crunch, with your elbows against your sides. Repeat for a minute or so several times a day.
Can’t Shed Pounds? Check for PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, a disorder in which small cysts cover the ovaries, can make it nearly impossible for a woman to lose weight (and render her infertile as well). Getting a definitive diagnosis is crucial; to find an endocrinologist who specializes in PCOS, visit the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists website at www.aace.com.