The Wellness initiative we’re focusing on at Pisgah Valley this month is activity. Staying physically and mentally active helps prevent diseases, retain mental alertness and memory and keeps life quality at its best.
Let’s think back on history beginning in the early 1900’s. Rates of obesity were much lower. Life required consistent movement to provide food for ourselves, transport ourselves distances and it was up to humans to build most objects. Life spans were also much lower because we did not have the advances in medicine and technology we have now. These technological advances have been great for communicating, performing research and providing entertainment. However, technology has also been detrimental to our quest for physical and mental activity leading to poor health choices. These poor lifestyle choices have caused more prevalence of diseases such as diabetes in the young and old.
In the Blue Zones of the world the culture is one of constant “natural” activity. Blue Zones are places where there are the most amount of people living to be 100. There is a purpose to each day to get up and move your body. It can be gardening, cleaning, walking to a neighbor’s house or dancing in the village square on a Friday night. People who live in these zones don’t rely on the gym for physical activity. Therefore many don’t suffer from obesity or lifestyle diseases due to inactivity.
In the United States before the late 1900’s, culture was more like blue zones – hardworking in that we used our brains to problem solve and not Google. Life required use of our hands and bodies to perform many different tasks rather than purchasing goods manufactured from big companies like Wal-Mart.
Focus on Staying Active
This month I challenge you to live actively and naturally. Find what your passion was as a young adult and focus on keeping mentally and physically active the “slow” way. Meet up with neighbors to play cards, bocce ball or take a walk. Try going to the library and picking up books or do puzzles to keep the mind sharp rather than watching television. Of course with the first day of summer upon us, now is the time to get those hands dirty by gardening beautiful flowers and nutritional produce. Along with the summer season is the flourishing of native mountain plants. So, if you are a photographer, sculptor or painter now is time to keep the creative part of your brain active-venture outside to make colorful art!
No matter what choice you make to stay active, just remember you don’t have to do it in a gym. Take advantage of natural environment that surrounds you and you will in turn be inspired.
Submitted by Abby Landry: Wellness Director
As stewards of this planet, it is our responsibility to take care of the plants, soil, air, and every being that exists. We are the top of the food chain and the most developed creatures. We have the ability to take care of the Earth; it is whether or not you have the desire to do so.
This month, I would like to challenge you to take one small step each day to take care of your direct environment as well as the environment outside.
Your direct environment includes where you live, where you work, the vehicle you drive and where you spend the most amount of time. You can take care of your immediate environment by maintaining an organized and clutter free space as well as keeping the space clean from dust and dander. Chaotic, unclean areas create chaos in the mind which then can be detrimental to our bodies physically. You can take small steps by not leaving dirty dishes in the sink to pile up, or leaving mail and paper piled up on the counter and so forth.
Taking care of your outside environment is another way to connect with the Earth and the creatures that live on this planet with us. You may not realize it but this planet was designed for the humans and the plants, animals and insects to coincide together. It is up to us to take care of these creatures because they take care of us! Without pollinating insects we would not have fruits and vegetables. Without trees and plants we would not be able to breathe!!! This June, focus on using the appropriate fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides in your courtyard and stray away from lethal products such as Roundup. Not to mention, this summer we have new residents on campus that flew in to help eat some bugs for us. Have you noticed the flock of geese hanging out? These guys will help eat bugs and other weeds that we don’t want so let them take care of it and they can get a delicious meal at the same time!
As caretakers of this planet, we’ve discovered a special healing relationship between people and nature. There is a therapeutic aspect to gardening or taking a walk in the woods. We can find healing in a bird’s song, by lying on a blanket and watching clouds or sitting on a rock and watching the waves crash. If nature is going to provide us with this healing then we should do our part to bring healing to our environment as well. It’s up to us and ONLY us!
Submitted by : Abby Landry, Wellness Director
Nutritionists and registered dietitians make the recommendation to use more herbs and spices rather than salt, sugar and fats to add flavor to dishes. Herbs and spices have been used throughout all of history and have been proven to have many health benefits. Here are a few herbs and their health benefits that you can add to your grocery list next time you shop, in case you aren’t using them now.
Cinnamon. One of the most well-known spices used around the world. Cinnamon’s health benefits include regulating blood sugar levels appropriately as well as reducing triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in type II diabetes sufferers.
Peppermint. This spice can provide relief to people who suffer from IBS symptoms. Peppermint also contains chemicals that help aid in reducing nausea. One of the best qualities peppermint oil can provide is relief to skin burns, whether it is a sunburn or burn from cooking.
Turmeric. This herb has taken a front row seat this past year in the nutrition world. Turmeric is recommended as one of the best herbs you can intake each day. Turmeric contains the phytochemical curcumin which gives it the yellow color it is most known for. Curcumin can help in weight loss, eliminating cancer cells and control symptoms from metabolic diseases. Scientists have also created a new molecule from curcumin that can help restore brain cells after a stroke.
Oregano. It contains many antioxidants to boost our immune system. Oregano is rich in Vitamin K, iron and manganese. Oregano can kill E.coli and almost any foodborne illness.
Rosemary. Rosemary can block the absorption of carcinogenic compounds found in foods such as grilled meats. Rosemary oil can improve cognitive performance and especially in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s.
Ginger. Ginger contains over 50 antioxidants which can boost the immune system. Ginger also helps increase circulation, calms the digestive system, lowers cholesterol, helps ease arthritis pain, reduce inflammation throughout the body and can help increase insulin sensitivity in diabetics.
Asheville hosts one of the biggest herb festivals in the United States every year at the WNC Farmer’s Market. This year it will take place May 5-7 from 9-5pm on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday from 10-3pm. If nothing else, go speak with the growers and find out what they recommend for your specific needs. It is the perfect opportunity to gain knowledge about growing, preserving and using herbs and spices.
Submitted by Abby Landry: Wellness Director
2017 has begun and a lot of individuals have chosen to take this time to renew themselves by dieting and controlling sugar, high fat or high carb cravings. But, let’s be honest, what is life without a little indulgences from time to time? Especially if you have been in control of your cravings and deserve a little dessert occasionally. Here are some sneaky swaps that will help you indulge and not feel guilty at the same time.
Black beans swapped for flour. I know it sounds crazy, but this is all the rage. Black beans contain more fiber than flour; they have a lower glycemic load which means your blood sugar is better controlled eating black beans than flour. Try substituting black beans in a brownie recipe.
Avocado swapped for butter. I LOVE butter, but everyone knows that it isn’t the healthiest. Butter contains cholesterol, sodium, fat and little nutritious benefits. Spread some avocado on toast or replace equal parts mashed avocado with butter in baked goods.
Rolled oats swapped for breadcrumbs. Oats are a great addition to any dish because they add crunchy texture. Rolled oats have more fiber than breadcrumbs but less sodium per serving. Simply pulse rolled oats in a food processor and use in place of breadcrumbs.
Greek yogurt swapped for mayonnaise. Greek yogurt contains less fat and sodium per serving compared to regular mayonnaise. Replace equal parts Greek yogurt for mayonnaise in salads such as egg salad or chicken salad.
Pumpkin swapped for oil. Pumpkin puree can be substituted for butter and oil in many recipes. Pumpkin contains many nutritious vitamins and minerals compared to any butter or oil. Pumpkin also contains fiber which is not found in oil or butter. Lighten muffins, breads and cakes by substituting equal parts pumpkin for oil or ¾ cup of oil for 1 cup of pumpkin puree. Applesauce can also be a great substitute for oil in these dishes.
Butternut squash swapped for cheese. Macaroni and cheese is a classic dish that is not a healthy option overall. Butternut squash contains less fat, calories and sodium than cheese and it contains more nutrients and fiber. Try roasting and pureeing butternut squash for replacing in mac and cheese. This step may seem more complicated than adding shredded cheese but it makes up for the work in the taste test. Trust me!
Submitted by Abby Landry: Wellness Director
As we begin a new year I am sure many of us have New Years Resolutions. That is not always a bad thing. However must of us set unrealistic goals and set ourselves up for failure.
Here are some helpful easy year round tips from our Wellness Director, Abby Landry.
If you have any questions about wellness or about the Wellness Center on campus please do not hesitate to contact one of our Wellness Associates at 828-418-2330 or email email@example.com for additional information.
At Pisgah Valley we have a campus Wellness Program called “CREATION health.” It is an acronym that we use as a model for achieving whole person health. The letter “I” in the acronym stands for Interpersonal Relationships. Wellness means so much more than nutrition and fitness. This new year, try focusing on the relationships in your life that matter the most. Think back through your life about the people who have taught you, supported you, counted on you and loved you the most. Make a list of those who you have not seen in a long time and try to reconnect with some.
In life we experience constant changes; it is unfortunate that we lose touch with so many over the years. If you have a loved one who you know you could do better at reaching out to, make 2017 the year that you make an effort to reestablish this connection. Here are some ways to find that person and reach out:
Social Media: use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram to find a friend. Many people are on social media these days and this is an effective and efficient way to find someone. If you search the name of the person you are trying to locate and don’t find him/her, try searching a family member’s name instead. Also remember that people get married so last names can change.
High School and College Reunions: attend a reunion if you want to reconnect with friends from school. This is an excellent way to catch up with old friends. Even if you don’t find the friend you have in mind, you will most likely find someone who does know where to find your friend.
Google Search: try simply entering the person’s name into the search bar and see what comes up. Or try searching the person’s name and the school that he/she graduated from or the town that he/she is from.
Contact mutual acquaintances: if you can’t find a friend, someone else will. Call a mutual acquaintance such as an old teacher or boss and ask if they know how to contact your friend. Even if these people don’t know how to get in touch with your old friend, they may be able to get you on the right track by giving you your friend’s last known whereabouts.
Contact your school or alumni organization: many of schools keep a database of old students for soliciting donations and informing of upcoming events. Try contacting your friend’s old school and asking if they would be willing to give you any information at all. Some schools will not for privacy purposes.
Reconnecting old friendships can be beneficial for our health in many ways. It usually brings forth laughter and reminiscing of the old days which can signal our brains to release feel good hormones and endorphins. We use our brain to reminisce which connects neurological pathways to help our memories. We can sit with a meal and enjoy some nutritious food while catching up. No matter what age you are, social connectedness is powerful, so be sure this New Year to love the ones you have close by and keep in touch!
Submitted by Abby Landry: Wellness Director
As we age, muscle cramps can become either more frequent or more painfully intense. In older age, many things in our bodies including our muscles and nerves wear out and become less functional.
Cramps are caused by a muscle spasm which contracts too hard. It usually occurs in a calf muscle, below and behind a knee, and in the small muscles of the feet. When the muscle spasms and squeezes all the little nerve endings inside the muscle this creates pain. If you have ever experienced a cramp, you know the pain will not go away until you make the move to do something about it.
Unfortunately no scientific research has been conducted that proves any tried and true method for either preventing muscle cramps or getting them to go away quickly.
An article on NPR.org tells the story of a 71 year old man named Holladay who was waking up between 2 and 6am every morning with severe cramping in his toes. One morning it was so bad, he stood up and broke his toenail off as well as the big toe itself. This was his wake up call to do some research and find out what he could do to make these painful cramps stop and thus, get a restful night of sleep.
He set up an appointment to meet his family doctor who first ruled out any chance that he could have some type of degenerative disease which could cause cramps such as ALS. Once that was determined, the doctor advised trying acupuncture and a prescription for quinine. Quinine is no longer on the market for treatment due to its bad side effects. Holladay had no good results with acupuncture, so he decided to meet with a neurologist.
At the neurology clinic at Stanford University, doctors and colleagues had just finished an evidence-based review of treatments for muscle cramps. Unfortunately, they turned up very little. There were hundreds of studies but not one showed that any particular treatment would work for all or even most patients. Some treatments did hold some promise such as including a type of calcium channel blocker used to treat blood pressure as well as a Vitamin B complex. However, even with those, results showed that they did not work for a lot of the participants.
According to University of California at San Francisco’s neurologist, Dr. Robert Miller, “older people are at greater risk for cramps simply because of their age. Nerves control muscles, and nerves just wear out.”
Here are some things you can do to ease the pain once you have a cramp:
There’s one thing we have no choice over in life and that’s our parents. With that come various illnesses and diseases that we are genetically exposed to. Unfortunately, we cannot control what we are born with, but we can control other lifestyle factors that can have a large impact on our future and quality of life.
It probably comes to no one’s surprise that diet has a huge impact on the quality of life you have as well as life span. Keeping your weight in check can add years to your life. All of us are made differently. Find what weight is appropriate for your body type and activity level and maintain that. Speak with your physician to get some help on what that weight should be. People who are overweight due to overeating will lose years off of their life expectancy. Here are a few pointers for following a diet focused on longevity:
Exercise is the fountain of youth…..so they say. They are right! No matter what type of exercise, all movement is beneficial to the human body. Yoga and tai ji can help you become more intimate with your body as well as flexible. Interval training can be most effective, but more intense on your joints and muscles. It provides an excellent aerobic workout and is excellent for the body. Speak with a fitness professional if you are interested in learning about interval training.
Supplements and herbs have been shown to be very beneficial for some adults. From the perspective of a nutritionist, you cannot possibly take in the amount of food you need to get the recommended amounts of nutrients and minerals we need in a day. A multivitamin supplement would be most beneficial for this. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before trying any supplements and herbs for any reason at all.
The final and most important habit that creates longevity is social connectedness. People who are engaged in helping or supporting others have an enormous advantage in life expectancy. Caring for others is one reason why we’re alive. Living an engaged life is a choice we make day to day and even hour to hour. Social connections are what make us feel alive, and maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that they are also what help keep us alive. Take time out of your day to speak with a neighbor or help a stranger open the door with a smile, it really warms the heart.