Filed under: Healthy behaviors
The American Heart Association recently reduced the recommended daily intake of sodium, or salt, to 1500 mg or less per day. High salt intake is associated with increased risk of blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease and many Americans are at risk. Read about daily recommendations and the benefits of consuming less salt by clicking here.
The optimal number of hours of sleep individuals need varies from person to person and changes over time. Some may need as little as four hours of sleep, while others need as much as nine. These individual differences depend on factors such as age, sex, and previous sleep habits, as well as genetic and physiologic factors.
Nonetheless, amount of the time spent sleeping is decreasing: the average amount of sleep reported for middle-aged people in the late 1050s—around eight to nine hours—has decreased in recent times to about seven or eight hours. And the number of individuals who sleep less than six hours each night has significantly increased. These changes in sleep patterns may be indicative of sleep deprivation in society at large. This is not surprising, as the modern society seems to offer twice as much work (on the job, at home, etc.) and half as much time to complete it. Consequently, we are awake for extended periods of time, thus reducing the amount of time we spend sleeping.
However, we all know that sleep is essential! Sleep is vital to restore and renew many body systems; and sleep deprivation may result in poor performance, increased sleepiness, reduced alertness, delayed response time, difficulty maintaining attention, decreased positive mood, and increased long-term health risks. Some research studies have even shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased risk of death.
So adequate sleep is vital for everyone to optimally perform the activities of daily living. But you may wonder, “How can I determine how much sleep I need to function at my best?” Dr. Michael Bonnet, director of the Sleep Laboratory at the Dayton. Ohio, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center provides a very simple but practical test you can use to determine how much sleep you need. According to him, if you need an alarm clock to wake up, try going to bed a little earlier the following night (e.g., 15 minutes earlier). If you still need an alarm clock to wake up the next morning, push your bedtime a little earlier again (i.e., another 15 minutes). Continue doing this until you no longer need an alarm to wake up.
I actually tried this test and found out I was not the “night owl” I thought I was. It looks like I function at my best if I retire for the night a couple of hours earlier than I used to. Sleep is important! It significantly affects your performance, health, and quality of life. And it is especially important to Warfighters, who can rarely get enough when deployed. So in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, try to get enough sleep each night whenever your situation makes it possible.
Your body needs calcium for optimal bone health and a number of other functions essential to daily life. Good food sources include: fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt; leafy greens such as spinach and kale; and broccoli, and pinto and red beans. Many other foods such as high fiber cereal, soy beverages, and orange juice are fortified with added calcium. Adding these foods to your diet will improve not only your calcium intake, but many other nutrients as well!
Being in stressful situations activates the body’s physiologic stress response, which is what allows Warfighters the ability to respond to any threat at any time. In the sports world, the stress response is associated with the adrenaline rush that pumps athletes up during competitions, and gives them the edge to win.
Unlike athletes, however, Warfighters are a select group who operate in stressful situations day in and day out. Prolonged exposure to stressful situations has been found to be harmful both physically and psychologically, unless one learns how to successfully manage one’s internal response. To that end, there are programs throughout the uniformed services that teach Warfighters combat stress management techniques. Many use a stoplight system—utlizing the colors green, yellow, and red—to teach Warfighters how to calm the stress response and bring the body back into balance, in order to give it a reprieve. Successful warfighters learn these skills and apply them in theater.
These same skills, which allow one to calm the body’s physiologic response to stress, can also be applied to other areas—most notably, in one’s relationships. The stress response triggered by external threats is the same stress response that is activated during emotionally-charged conflicts with someone you care about (although the degree of stress is different). Conflict between two people creates the same internal stress, coupled with a flood of negative emotions. The techniques learned to manage combat stress are techniques that can also help Warfighters in their personal relationships.
A recent study examined 149 couples in a 15-minute discussion about a marital conflict found that positive emotions helped couples regulate, or calm, their physiologic responses after the conversation. Interestingly, how happy the individual was with their relationship did not impact this finding. This indicates that positive emotions seem to have the ability to “undo” the physiologic arousal of conflict.
The next time you get in a fight with someone you care about, try this: stop, take yourself out of the situation, and start thinking positive thoughts—either about yourself, something else, or your partner. Notice whether you feel calmer, if your body temperature decreased, if your heart rate slowed down, and if your body moved less (we tend to move more when we are upset). You might find this to be an excellent addition not only to your combat stress strategies, but also to your positive relationship strategies.
Source: Yuan, J., McCarthy, M., Holley, S. & Levenson, R. (2010). Physiologic down-regulation and positive emotion in marital interaction. Emotion, 10(4), 467-474.
Foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, can make you feel as if you have the flu! Symptoms often include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. It’s caused by consuming foods or beverages contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or viruses. To prevent, wash your hands and surfaces; cook foods to proper temperatures; and refrigerate cooked foods promptly. For more helpful tips, click here.
Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDShub.net) has an article on the obesity epidemic - which is a major problem in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The article reports that bad eating habits affect both civilians and military members and provides information on how service members can improve their eating habits.
Click below to access the article.
Fiber has amazing health benefits: it aids digestion, helps lower cholesterol, and protects against some cancers. There are two types of fibers: soluble and insoluble. Both are good for your body. Choose oatmeal, oat bran, barley, beans, dried peas, nuts and citrus fruits for soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is found in whole-wheat products, vegetables, and fruits. Eat a variety of fiber-rich foods to help your body work better. Click here for more information.
Experts from MedicineNet, the American Dietetic Association, and the Cleveland Clinic developed a heart-healthy food pictures slideshow. Besides pictures, the slideshow also includes menu ideas to help you easily use these foods in your daily diet. The foods that protect against heart disease include: salmon, flaxseed, oatmeal, black or kidney beans, almonds, walnuts, red wine, tuna, tofu, brown rice, soy milk, blueberries, carrots, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus, oranges, tomatoes, acorn squash, cantaloupe, papaya, dark chocolate, and squash.
To keep your cholesterol in check, eat smaller portions, include more fruits and vegetables in your diet, and eat more fish. Consider starting your day with whole grains. Include nuts as snacks or in your meals. Use olive or canola oil rather than butter. Include more beans and fewer potatoes. Exercise, manage your stress, and follow your doctor’s advice. Check out the Lowering Cholesterol Slideshow for more details.
Although salt is an essential nutrient, very little is needed in the diet. High-salt diets are associated with increased blood pressure and higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Reduce your intake by using fresh or frozen vegetables not canned; cooking with fresh meat, fish, and poultry rather than processed or canned; and using salt-free seasonings, spices, and herbs. Avoid instant and prepackaged foods. If you do eat canned foods, rinse the contents to wash off excess salt. Read these links for more ideas: HealthDay News and American Heart Association.