Healthy Byte: Mental Health Awareness Month

“The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.”

Glenn Close


May is mental health awareness month and with as with anything, many fails to acknowledge that there is a range in severity of symptoms.

Not everyone who has a mental illness is disenfranchised homeless on the street. Many are very high functioning and successful.  So it’s important for us all to not only be aware of the reality of mental illness among our family, friends, and coworkers, but to understand that similar to diabetes or high cholesterol or hypertension just because we can’t see the physical symptoms, that it doesn’t exist.

Here are a list of startling Mental Illness factoids from National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI):

Prevalence of Mental Illness

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.7 million, or 18.6%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—13.6 million, or 4.1%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.2
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3
  • 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.4
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.5
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.6
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.7
  • Among the 20.7 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 40.7%—8.4 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.8

Social Stats

  • An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.9
  • Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.10
  • 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.11
  • Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.8
  • Just over half (50.6%) of children aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year.12
  • African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans in the past year and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.13
  • Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.14

Consequences of Lack of Treatment

  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.15
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.16
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.17 Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.18
  • Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition age 14­–21 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.19
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.,20 the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–2421 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.22
  • More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.23
  • Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.24

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Food Journaling without Counting Calories

I am a total MFP fangirl because it worked & continues to work for me. But I also understand that tracking calories may not work for everyone. So I came across this little gem which will give an alternative to food jounaling which maybe less intense for some. Hope you’ll find it useful.

Illustrations by Elliot Salazar

There’s not a lot I miss about dieting, but one thing I secretly, whine-ily pine for on a regular basis are the tricks. For most of my life, I snatched them up everywhere, like a hungry pickpocket: Drink a big glass of water before a meal to trick your body into feeling full! (I read that classic in numerous diet books.) A friend-of-a-friend of a famous actress once told me she would eat half her meal, and then dump salt all over the rest to stop herself from finishing. Or this lunacy I picked up in an old O feature: If you’re still hungry after dinner, just chew on an orange peel!

I’m glad I’m no longer sitting around chewing on orange peels. But I miss the simple promise of diet tips, even if none of them actually delivered. With intuitive eating, there are no magic tricks or shortcuts. But there are some great tools. And one, in particular, has been more effective at changing my relationship to food than any orange peel: my food journal.

Food journals, of course, are also a staple of many diets. But, with this journaling method, I’m not tracking calories, points, or carbs. Instead, I’m tracking things like hunger, fullness, cravings, satisfaction, emotions, and any judgments I find my mind making about my meal. Yes, as ever, it’s a lot more complex than a diet food journal. But though it’s not a “trick,” this method works like magic. This is how I learned to be curious — not critical — about the way I eat. And that’s when my eating habits really began to change.

I began this practice back at the start of The Anti-Diet Project, at the urging of my eating coach, Theresa Kinsella. Each week, we’d go over my eating record together and note any patterns that emerged or any reactions that needed addressing. If I found myself flinching over a piece of pizza or boasting about my spinach salad, we talked about it. We talked about it until I was able to admit that maybe I had some lingering stress over eating pizza — and also that I found spinach brag-worthy.

Eventually, these conversations became more of an internal habit, and I no longer needed the journal. And that was the end of all my problems with food, forever! End of story — see you next week!

Just kidding (but can you imagine?).

As I wrote a few weeks back, I’m in the midst of my own “fresh start.” Having spent the past year and a half occupied with writing my book, a lot of those healthy, new, internal habits got shaken loose by the stress (and time-suckage) of maintaining two full-time jobs at once (plus, like, my life). So, when I finally got back some bandwidth to devote to my fitness and eating practices, the food journal was one of the first things I reached for.

This time around, I decided to simplify things even further and download an app that would suit my purposes. I wound up using the Rise Up + Recover app (not because anyone pitched or paid me to do so, FYI; it was simply the first app I found that suited my needs). The app is full of tools and resources, but all I use is the Log Meal feature, which has designated fields where I enter what I eat, when/where I eat it, and whom I’m eating with. It also has a seemingly endless list of feelings I can check off to gauge my emotional state — and a big, blank “notes” section where I can detail all those key observations about the meal. Here’s an example of a meal I journaled during my first week with the app:

Time: 7:40 p.m.
Where: Restaurant
With: Friends
Meal: Grilled salmon with mashed potatoes. Side salad.
Feelings: Tired, happy, stressed.
Notes: Worried over the mashed potatoes a little bit, thinking I should maybe ask for a different side that wasn’t a starch. I ordered the side salad because I was worried about not getting enough greens in today, and also because it made me feel better about the potatoes. I reminded myself I have permission to eat potatoes, but I still didn’t want to finish them. Then, I finished the potatoes really fast. Am I still weird about potatoes?

The answer was, uh, yes, I’m obviously still a little weird about potatoes. Consciously, I may recognize that they’re a totally acceptable, normal food to eat, but somewhere in my mind, there’s a diet-addled maniac who sees potatoes as the bad guy. Good to know.

This entire entire entry took about three minutes to thumb-type out on the subway ride home from dinner. Thanks to the journal, I now had super-helpful intel on my relationship to food, and I could use that the next time I encountered potatoes. It gave me the opportunity to remind myself of important intuitive eating axioms, like Permission To Eat. Furthermore, it gave me the boost of knowing I was actively reinforcing the healthy mentality I wanted to cultivate.

I won’t say it was effortless — or as simple as drinking a glass of water before a meal. Doing this food journal meant creating a new habit, and that requires a modicum of energy. But it’s a modicum worth spending. I didn’t do it perfectly; sometimes I didn’t remember to track my meals until hours later, or even the next day. But this was a promise I made myself, and so I did my best to keep it up as consistently as possible. And lo and behold: It was worth it.

I’ll spare you the weeks of food-based navel-gazing entries that followed and instead cut to one revealing meal the following month:

Time: 2 p.m.
Where: Work
With: Alone
Meal: Roasted chicken thigh with vegetables. Side of roasted potatoes.
Feelings: Content, tired, stressed.
Notes: Felt good. Was satisfying. Didn’t quite finish, so put leftovers in fridge for later if hungry again. 

Not only is there zero Potato Panic in my notes, but there’s no panic, period. According to my “feelings” list, I was still tired and stressed (issues unto themselves, I realize, but honestly — who isn’t?). But when it comes to my food, I’m pretty much stress-free, at least in this moment. I didn’t even bother with full sentences, let alone the starch soliloquies I wrote during the first week.

Just food journaling alone won’t cure your food anxieties any more than just talking about your problems will make them go away. But if you want to solve a problem, you have to be able to see it. This kind of record gets your unconscious behavior out onto the page where you can see it — and understand it, and, if need be, get someone to help you figure it out.

It also takes your inner critic and turns it into an explorer. That’s not an easy change to make on your own. If you have the ability to say, “Oh, I’m just going to stop criticizing myself and, while I’m at it, have an entirely neutral relationship with food,” and actually do it, then great. (Can you email me? Are you a wizard?) But most of us need help to get there. Most of us don’t have magic, so we need our tools.

I now keep up with my food journal regularly (if not perfectly — I am “tired” and “stressed,” after all). It’s helped me reconnect with my healthy eating habits in a natural way. It’s kept me in touch with my physical response to food and has gently guided me back toward all those old, unhelpful issues I still have left over from my dieting days. Because they’re there. That diet-addled maniac shrieking over potatoes is still hanging out in my head, somewhere. Maybe she always will be, on some level. All I know for sure is that if I leave her to her own devices, she’ll run around like a crazy person, and I’ll never be comfortable with a plate of potatoes again. The only alternative is to sit down and face her — let her vent her worries as I tap them out into my phone. Then, I can see them for what they are: old nonsense I no longer need, as useful as chewing on an orange peel.

Then, I put away my phone and get on with my day.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Waistline Matters

Regardless if someone is normal weight or over, new research suggests where a person carries fat may increase their risk Leave the belly to pot belly pigs … it looks much cuter on them anyways. New research suggests normal-weight people who carry their fat at their waistlines may be at higher risk of death over the years than overweight or obese people whose fat is more concentrated on the hips and thighs.

Monday’s study signals the distribution of fat matters whatever the scale says.

“If the waist is larger than your hips, you’re at increased risk for disease,” said Dr. Samuel Klein, an obesity specialist at Washington University School of Medicine at St. Louis, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

It also has implications for advising patients whose body mass index or BMI, the standard measure for weight and height, puts them in the normal range despite a belly bulge.

“We see this with patients every day: ‘My weight is fine, I can eat whatever I want,’” said study senior author Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, preventive cardiology chief at the Mayo Clinic. “These results really challenge that.”

Abdominal fat — an apple-shaped figure — has long been considered more worrisome than fat that settles on the hips and below, the so-called pear shape. Risk increases for men if their waist circumference is larger than 40 inches, and 35 inches for women. Still, doctors typically focus more on BMI than waistlines; after all, girth tends to increase as weight does.

But a BMI in the normal range may not give the full story for people who are thin but not fit, with more body fat than muscle, or who change shape as they get older and lose muscle, Lopez-Jimenez said.

His study analyzed what’s called waist-to-hip ratio, dividing the waist circumference by the hip measurement. There are different cutoffs, but a ratio greater than 1 means a bigger middle.

Researchers checked a government survey that tracked about 15,000 men and women with different BMIs — normal weight, overweight and obese. More than 3,200 died over 14 years.

At every BMI level, people with thicker middles had a higher risk of death than those with trimmer waists, the researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study, 11 percent of men and 3 percent of women were normal weight but had an elevated waist-to-hip ratio. Surprisingly, they were at greater risk — for men, roughly twice the risk — than more pear-shaped overweight or obese people.

Fat that builds around the abdominal organs is particularly linked to diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic abnormalities than fat that lies under the skin, said obesity expert Dr. Lisa Neff of Northwestern University, who wasn’t involved the study.

Blood tests typically show higher blood sugar and triglyceride levels in people with a belly bulge, so doctors might spot their risk without a tape measure, Klein noted.

Genetics plays a role in apple shapes and waistlines tend to increase with age, so Neff and Klein advised even normal-weight people to pay attention if belts are getting tighter.

Sorry, sit-ups aren’t the solution, they said: Like all weight loss, it requires a healthier diet and general physical activity to burn calories.

Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Essential Squat Variations

Add a little spice to your boring squats. (GIFs: Demand Media)

Without a doubt, squats are the best exercise to build lower-body strength and establish functional movement patterns. When done properly, they target your glutes, hamstrings and quads and incorporate core stability. And there’s no exercise that will make you look as good from behind as squats will. But squats – just like any other exercise – can get repetitive, and if you don’t vary the way you’re doing them by adding weight, changing your leg position, adding additional movements, etc., your body will adapt to that movement pattern and you’ll stop seeing results.

To prevent that, here are six essential squat variations you can incorporate into your strength-training routine. Master proper form on the basic body-weight squat first, then move on to more challenging variations as you build your strength. Your quads and glutes might be burning by the end (not to mention the potential soreness the next day), but your posterior will thank you.

1. Pistol Squat
As one of the most advanced squat variations, you’ll need to make sure you’ve built up enough single-leg strength and core stability to master the pistol squat. It’s even more advanced than the single-leg squat, since you’ll bend deeper as you hold one leg out in front of you. Start with the single-leg squat and build up to the pistol squat.

HOW TO DO THEM: Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Slowly shift your weight to your right leg as you extend your left leg out in front of you. Raise your arms in front of you at chest level to help you balance. Engage your core and hinge from your hips to squat down, maintaining your balance on your right leg. Go as low as you can without touching the floor. Then drive through your heel to stand back up.

2. Plie Squats
Channel your inner ballet dancer for a more challenging squat. This variation changes your footing and widens your stance to target more of the muscles along your inner and outer thighs while still recruiting glutes, quads and hamstrings.

HOW TO DO THEM: Stand with your feet several inches wider than hip distance and your toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle. You can either place your hands on your hips, raise and lower your arms like a standard squat or hold your hands in a fist in the middle of your chest. Bend your knees and your hips to lower toward the floor. This time your back will stay perpendicular to the floor instead of bending slightly forward. Drive through your feet to return to standing.

3. Jump Squats
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that squatting can improve your jump height. So why not take that a step further and incorporate jumping into your squat routine? This plyometric variation is a bit more advanced, so make sure you’ve completely mastered basic squats and have healthy knees before attempting.

HOW TO DO THEM: Assume the same stance as a regular squat – feet slightly wider than hip distance and feet turned slightly out. Squat back and down from your hips and bring your arms back behind you for momentum. Really drive through your feet and jump straight up into the air from the bottom of your squat, arms swinging up overhead as you do. Land with knees bent to absorb the shock and go straight into your next squat jump.

4. Split Squat
A split squat may look more like a lunge than a squat, but the principles of the squat still apply here. For an added stability challenge and more single-leg work, you can elevate your back foot on a box or a bench as you go through the range of motion.

HOW TO DO THEM: Begin holding a barbell across the back of your shoulders and your feet several feet apart, one in front of the other. Keeping the barbell in place and your back straight, bend both knees and lower down until your back knee almost touches the ground. Both knees should be at 90 degrees and your front knee shouldn’t extend over your front toes. Hold for a moment before returning to standing. Complete your reps on one leg before switching legs.

5. Dumbbell Sumo Squat
The trick here is to recruit abdominal and back muscles to keep your chest from being pulled forward by your dumbbells. HOW TO DO THEM: Start standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your feet turned out at 45 degrees. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang directly in front of you between your legs. Bend both of your knees and lower yourself down so that the weights almost touch the floor (without bending your chest forward). You’ll look (and probably feel) a bit like a sumo wrestler. Drive through your heels and return to standing.

6. Single-Leg Squat
Single-leg work can be very challenging for most people, but it’s also very beneficial because it can correct any imbalances you might have. For example, if your right leg is stronger than your left leg, your right leg might compensate for the left in a traditional squat. But in a single-leg squat, you’re balancing on only one leg at a time, so that leg must do all the work.

HOW TO DO THEM: Start standing with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointed forward. Slowly shift your weight to your right foot until your left foot is completely off the ground. You can let your left foot hover there or extend your left leg slightly out in front of you. Hinge at your hips and bend your knees to squat down, keeping all your weight in your right leg. Keep your arms in front of you for balance. Press through your right foot and return to standing. Make sure you do the same number of reps on both sides.


Originally Posted HERE

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Healthy Byte: Blood Pressure Guidelines Maybe Changing

Details were revealed Monday from a landmark federal study that challenges decades of thinking on blood pressure, giving a clearer picture of plusses and minuses of more aggressive treatment.

The study was stopped in September 2015, nearly two years early, when it became clear that lower pressure for most people over 50 helps prevent heart problems and deaths, but side effects and other key details were not disclosed.

Full results came Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Orlando and were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, along with a dozen commentaries in three science journals.

“Overall, we deemed that the benefits far outweigh the risks” of aiming lower, said one study leader, Dr. Paul Whelton of Tulane University.

One in 3 U.S. adults has high blood pressure, a reading of 140 over 90 or more. Normal is under 120 over 80. Detailed data unveiled at the AHA meeting showed additional benefits of intensive lowering of systolic pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — to 120 or below, despite the commonly used medical target of simply below 140 over 90.

“We thought 140 was good enough,” study co-author George Thomas, MD, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Hypertension and Blood Pressure Disorders, told Yahoo Health. He says that the results are surprising given that they’re so different from the current recommended guidelines.

“What we’ve been aiming for was 140,” he says. “We didn’t have any evidence to suggest otherwise.” Thomas notes that 120 is considered a “normal” systolic blood pressure for most people, but the goal has always been to get people with high blood pressure to 140.

The findings are so significant because high blood pressure is a leading risk factor for various health issues, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. According to the NIH, an estimated one in three people in the U.S. has high blood pressure.

Nicole Weinberg, MD, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., told Yahoo Health that the new findings are “wonderful” because many clinicians have noticed better results in heart muscle and artery function when high blood pressure patients can get closer to 120.

“But when the guidelines say that it’s 140, you’re always fighting an uphill battle with patients,” she says.


More than 9,300 people were enrolled. Half got two medicines, on average, to get their top blood pressure reading below 140. The rest got three drugs and aimed for under 120.

One complication is that study enrolled people with a systolic blood pressure of 130 or more, somewhat muddying the notion of who needs treatment.


After one year, 1.65 percent of the lower pressure group had suffered a major heart problem or heart-related death, compared to 2.2 percent of the others, a 25 percent lower risk. About 3.3 percent of the lower pressure group died, versus 4.5 percent of the others, a 27 percent lower risk.


Too-low blood pressure, fainting episodes and more worrisome, kidney problems were 1 percent to 2 percent higher in the lower pressure group. Yet falls that cause injury due to lightheadedness were not more common, as had been feared especially for older people.

The risks were considered well worth the benefits of a lower risk of heart trouble and death.


The study involved people over 50 whose top reading was over 130. People with diabetes were excluded, so the results do not apply to them. The results also may not apply to people with previous strokes, the very old, those with severe kidney disease or people already taking a lot of different drugs, said Dr. James Stein, who heads the high blood pressure program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

People who start with a high top reading, such as 170 or 200, also may not do well trying to drop so low so suddenly, Dr. Murray Esler of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, wrote in a commentary in the journal Hypertension.


The new study “makes sense and is a major advance,” Stein said. “Time to fix the guidelines,” which come from many groups and aim for a top number of 130 to 150, depending on age and other factors, such as whether the patient has diabetes.


Only half who know they have high blood pressure have it under control now. From a public health standpoint, improving that situation may be more important than having a new number as a target.

“If we lower the goal … you’ll see more and more people getting to lower pressure,” said Dr. Daniel Jones of the University of Mississippi, a heart association spokesman.

Originally Posted HERE

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