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Ways to Relieve Stress

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When things get to be too much, exercise, sleep, deep breathing or going out can help, experts say.

While not every stress reduction technique suits everyone, any incremental change — a little more exercise, a little more sleep, a little deep breathing and a few more nights out with friends — will help.

Evolution has conditioned us to respond to stress as a physical threat, which is why our bodies produce hormones that prepare us to flee from trouble or fight back physically. However, running or punching usually isn’t appropriate in our daily routines, so those hormones accumulate. This is where exercise comes in.

Initially, an intense workout is a stressor, boosting the heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline. But regular exercise leads to lower baseline heart rates, lower blood pressure and lower stress hormone levels when at rest. This makes occasional surges of stress easier to handle.

Vigorous exercise also increases the body’s core temperature, meaning the body has to dilate its blood vessels (which stress hormones restrict) to let heat escape. That dilation lowers blood pressure and creates more capacity to circulate oxygen-rich blood.

Regular exercise will bring resting adrenaline rates down so the body has more room for the next flood of stress hormones, says Seattle-based preventive cardiologist Dr. Sarah Speck. Strong evidence also indicates that exercise helps reduce depression, which can accompany long-term stress.

Sleep on it
Here’s the paradox: When you’re stressed, sleep often suffers. Yet a good night’s sleep helps guard against the ravages of stress.

Even one night of tossing and turning raises the level of inflammatory cytokines, says Michael Irwin, director of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. Cytokines are chemical messengers, or proteins, that send messages between immune cells, and nerve and brain cells. Some promote inflammation; others are anti-inflammatory. A wide spectrum of conditions, including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, certain cancers, obesity and functional decline, are linked to an increase in inflammatory cytokines. Experimental sleep deprivation has been found to alter immune responses and increase inflammation.

A study conducted at UCLA in 2006 looked at 30 healthy volunteers who spent four nights in a sleep lab. The first three, they slept from 11 p.m to 7 a.m., to establish their baseline for inflammatory markers in their blood. The fourth, they stayed awake between 3 and 7 a.m. Just that one night of interrupted sleep induced a three-fold increase in inflammatory markers, the study found.

“High levels of inflammation are markers for an aging immune system. People who are chronically stressed and don’t get enough sleep have a greater mortality risk and experience accelerated aging,” Irwin says.

The prescription: six to eight hours of sleep a night. Fewer than 5 1/2 hours and inflammation markers rise along with associated health risks.

Get out more
If you feel socially isolated and lack the emotional support of people around you, you’re at an increased risk of mortality, illness and coronary disease.

In a paper published last year in the journal Genome Biology, biologists at UCLA found that the immune system’s inflammatory response was much higher in cells from people who perceived themselves as socially isolated and lonely. Researchers studied gene expression in 14 individuals. Half the group had previously scored in the top 15% of the loneliness scale; the other half scored in the bottom 15. Across the board, the genes of the lonely group’s members expressed higher inflammatory responses, and lower anti-inflammatory responses than those in the more social group.

“Genes can either be turned on or turned off,” says Irwin. “In socially isolated people, genes that turn on inflammation were more likely to be on, and those that suppressed inflammation were more likely off.”

Social networks also help people cope with disaster. Researchers in Louisiana looked at how people’s networks reduced the stressful effects after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005. “People who had better social support fared much better,” says Jeanne Hurlbert, lead investigator and professor of sociology at Louisiana State University.

In telephone interviews conducted right after Katrina with residents of two New Orleans-area parishes, 49% of those who said they had enough people to help them only some of the time reported a high level of distress. (High distress was defined as experiencing each day at least two of several symptoms: such as feeling that you couldn’t get going, feeling sad, having trouble sleeping, feeling that everything was an effort, feeling that you couldn’t shake the blues or having trouble focusing on a task.) Of those who said they had enough people to help them most of the time, 23% reported high distress. Yet, of those who said they had enough people to help them all the time, only 19% reported high stress, says Hurlbert.

Chill out
The counterpoint to intense physical activity — deliberate relaxation — also mitigates stress. That’s because the nervous system has two arms, one sympathetic and one parasympathetic. Stress excites the sympathetic arm, which makes heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones rise. The parasympathetic arm is the relaxing one. It begins its work when people do calming activities such as meditation, deep breathing or enjoying a sunset.

Jay Winner, a family practice physician and director of the stress management program at Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, teaches classes that help people relax through mindfulness, breathing techniques and meditation.

“Stress often causes problems because you let it,” says Winner, also the author of “Take the Stress Out of Your Life.” “You control your thoughts. But too many of us let our thoughts control us.”

Mindfulness is the ability to deliberately focus on the present moment and to appreciate it. When people are mindful, they feel less urgency.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation trains the brain to focus — whether on a mantra or a moment, says Irwin. That conscious activity improves the brain’s attention span. People who know how to rein in distracting thoughts, which are often worries, and concentrate on the task at hand have a powerful defense against stress.

Studies have shown that during meditation, heart rates, blood pressure and stress hormones drop, and that people who meditate regularly have lower baselines of stress.

“Breathing is underrated,” says Speck. People who do breathing exercises religiously produce fewer stress hormones, trigger fewer inflammatory cytokines and lower their blood pressure and heart rates. When we get stressed, we use only the upper third of our lungs, and breathing gets shallow. We don’t give our bodies enough oxygen, which causes it to produce more stress hormones and makes the heart beat faster to circulate what little oxygen there is.

To reverse that, Speck recommends pausing for two to five minutes twice a day and breathing four counts in, four counts out.

Find love
Love is a powerful force. It works on the parasympathetic arm of the nervous system and has a relaxing effect. The idea that you’re connected in a deep, intimate way buffers your response to stress. As proof, studies show that adrenaline and cortisol levels are lower in married people, and that married people live longer than single people. “Married people are at less risk, but if you’re in a marriage filled with conflict, that’s worse than being single,” says Irwin.

In a study of 90 newlywed couples, researchers at Ohio State University had couples fill out a questionnaire to determine what they disagreed about. Then they put the couples in a lab, got them to talk about these issues and took blood samples. Stress hormones rose during the arguments, but less so in couples who could laugh at their situations and not get hostile.

“When the interaction was positive, cortisol levels were lower,” says Ohio State University psychiatry professor Janice Kiecolt-Glaser.

Change perspective
Because stress is what you perceive to be a threat, changing your perceptions — or reframing — can keep stress levels down.

Kiecolt-Glaser teaches reframing to patients in cognitive behavioral training. “The ability to keep in mind that something won’t matter in 24 hours or in one month keeps people from overreacting, or catastrophizing events.”

The financial setbacks and job insecurities many are feeling right now are causing widespread angst. However, say experts, you control how you let that affect you. You can either perceive your losses as catastrophic, or use the situation to reframe your priorities, take stock of your nonfinancial assets, and focus instead on what you’re grateful for.

Click to see:->How to manage your Stress

Job stress & your health

25 Ways to Relieve Anxiety

Stress-reduction therapy eases home, workplace pressure

Stress explained

Stress reduction: Why you need to get a grip and how

What methods don’t work to reduce stress

Sources: Los Angles Times

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The Unfolding Mystery of Scleroderma

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Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease, tends to afflict middle-age women and can affect many parts of the body, inside and out.

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Lung disease, the biggest killer of scleroderma patients, is the main focus of research today..

Doctors have a growing arsenal of proven and potential treatments, some of which are risky and the subjects of current research, including stem cell transplants and powerful but toxic cancer drugs.

Like many autoimmune ailments, scleroderma remains a great unknown. Despite decades of research, the cause of this rare and complicated disease has yet to be discovered. But the good news is that doctors have a pretty clear understanding of how scleroderma progresses — a natural history, they call it — and are better than ever at extending and easing their patients’ lives.

“Lots of patients and lots of doctors used to consider it a ‘black box’ disease, a complete mystery, with little that could be done,” said Dr. Philip J. Clements of the University of California, Los Angeles, who is a scleroderma specialist. “Now there’s a body of evidence that tells us what to watch out for, and when.”

Experts now know, for example, that the gradual hardening of tissues and blood vessels that is a hallmark of scleroderma usually starts on the hands and face, with skin thickening, pitted scars and cool, pale fingertips among the earliest symptoms. Damage can then progress inward to internal organs, though the course varies widely from patient to patient. Of the 10,000 cases diagnosed among Americans each year, mainly women, a small subset will die quickly. But many others are able to manage their condition with a variety of treatments and have normal life expectancies.

Doctors also now know that if a patient’s internal organs are going to be affected as well as the skin, that is likely to happen in the first four or five years of the disease. So early diagnosis and close monitoring of the heart, lungs and kidneys are vitally important.

They have also learned that steroids, once viewed as a cure-all for immune disorders, can worsen the effects of scleroderma, especially in the kidneys, and should be used with caution.

“Learning which drugs to avoid was itself a big step,” said Dr. John Varga, the Gallagher Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University and chairman of the Medical Advisory Board for the Scleroderma Foundation, a nonprofit group that sponsors research and support for patients and families.

Kidney disease used to cause 90 percent of scleroderma-related deaths until the advent of a class of blood pressure drugs called angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors in the 1980s. ACE inhibitors prevent kidney damage by slowing down the chemicals that cause the muscles surrounding blood vessels to contract. Complications in the kidneys now account for only 14 percent of scleroderma deaths, Dr. Steen said.

The lungs are still a challenge. About 80 percent of scleroderma patients develop some form of lung problem — either pulmonary hypertension, due to hardening of the veins and arteries in the lung, or pulmonary fibrosis, in which the lung tissue becomes inflamed and then thickened with scarring. Some patients develop both. Either way, breathing becomes more difficult as the lungs become less pliable.

“If you die of a scleroderma-related problem, half of those deaths are from lung disease,” said Dr. Virginia Steen, a professor at Georgetown University and director of the Rheumatology Fellowship Program there. She wrote a seminal 2007 article that documented the shift from kidney disease to pulmonary disease as the biggest cause of death among scleroderma patients.

One successful remedy called Revatio, routinely prescribed since 2005, came from an unexpected source: Viagra. Repackaged from a little blue diamond to a round white tablet and renamed for marketing, dosage and insurance purposes, the drug works by relaxing the blood vessels and improving blood flow, whether for erectile or lung dysfunction.

“No one could understand why all these women were taking it four times a day,” said Frannie Waldron, chief executive of the Scleroderma Foundation.

Doctors also have a growing arsenal of experimental treatments and potential cures, some of which are risky.

Among them is cyclophosphamide, or Cytoxan, a powerful but highly toxic cancer drug that acts on the immune system. The drug decreases the inflammation that causes pulmonary fibrosis and has been used on scleroderma patients for the last 10 years.

But cytoxan has dangerous side effects, including an increased risk of bladder cancer, and usually is not given for more than a year. Moreover, the fibrosis seems to start again once drug treatments stop. Several studies involving the medication are under way, as well as efforts to find alternative treatments, many of them sponsored by drug companies.

Another big push involves stem cell transplant, an extremely risky process in which doctors try to reset the patient’s immune system and bypass the glitch that causes scleroderma. The procedure is the subject of a National Institutes of Health study called the SCOT trial, for Scleroderma: Cyclophosphamides or Transplantation?

Similar to a bone marrow transplant, doctors first draw the patient’s blood and extract the stem cells, the highly malleable building blocks that are thought to be free of the seeds of scleroderma. The patient is then subjected to high doses of radiation or chemotherapy with Cytoxan to kill the bone marrow. The last step is to reinfuse the stem cells, in the hopes that they replicate themselves in a healthy form free of disease.

The study will compare the benefits of the stem cell transplant with giving patients just monthly doses, but high ones, of Cytoxan. Preliminary results have been promising, several experts said.

“You’d think you’d have trouble recruiting for this,” said Dr. Arthur C. Theodore of Boston University, one of the investigators in the project. “But scleroderma patients are desperate.”

Sources
: The New York Times

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The Quiet Cancers

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Three big dangers your doctor may not talk about and how to stay safe:

Your doctor has given you the lowdown on how to protect yourself against breast, colon, and lung cancer: Get yearly mammograms (check) and regular colonoscopies (check), and don’t smoke (double check).

But when was the last time she asked if you had any persistent mouth sores, unexplained fevers or joint pain, or discomfort during sex? These can be symptoms of three cancers—oral, leukemia, and endometrial—that don’t get the attention they deserve. Even though they are among the most common cancers affecting women over age 55, these diseases can fall through the cracks as doctors focus on the biggest killers hogging the health headlines, says Elmer Huerta, M.D., president of the American Cancer Society.

Oral Cancer

Your Risk:
1 in 98, with diagnoses peaking between the ages of 55 and 65. Oral cancer is lethal more often than it needs to be because people tend to ignore symptoms (it’s typically caught in late stages).

Stay healthy: Watch your mouth—see a dentist or doctor about any sore in your mouth or on your lips that doesn’t clear up in two weeks. A change in color or persistent pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in your mouth or on your lips should also prompt a fast visit.

Curb your vices: About 75 percent of oral cancers are caused by smoking and drinking alcohol. When such habits were considered unladylike, men with oral cancer outnumbered women 6 to 1, says Sol Silverman Jr., D.D.S., a professor of oral medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry. “But in the last 50 years, the incidence in women has soared—now the ratio is two men to every woman.” Limit your intake to one drink per day.

Guard your lips: They need protection, too. Sunscreen isn’t exactly tasty, so choose a balm with SPF and then apply your favorite gloss or lipstick.

…………….

The good news: Researchers at Ohio State University recently found that phytochemicals extracted from Hass avocados could kill or stop the growth of oral cancer cells. The study was done in test tubes, but there’s no need to wait for confirmation—bring on the guacamole!

Leukemia

Your Risk: Many think of it as a children’s disease, but the biggest jump in cases occurs between ages 55 and 74.

Stay healthy: Note any symptoms If you find yourself extremely pale or bruising easily, or if your gums bleed (more than is normal if you neglect to floss), it’s time to get checked out. Extreme fatigue, unexplained fevers, and bone or joint pain are other common symptoms.

Avoid unnecessary scans: CT scans are a great diagnostic tool, but they deliver much more radiation than X-rays and may be overused, says Barton Kamen, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer for theLeukemia & Lymphoma Societyociety. In fact, researchers suggest that one-third of CT scans could be unnecessary. High doses of radiation can trigger leukemia, so make sure scans are not repeated if you see multiple doctors, and ask if another test, such as an ultrasound or MRI, could substitute.

The good news: The five-year survival rate for all people with leukemia has more than tripled in recent decades, from about 14 percent in the 1960s to about 65 percent today. “New advancements now help us determine who is a good candidate for a bone marrow transplant and who might respond better to other therapies,” says Kamen. “The result is more targeted treatment and better outcomes.”

Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer

Your Risk: 1 in 40. This is the fourth most common type of cancer in women—90 percent of cases occur in women over age 50. You’re more vulnerable if you’re toting extra weight: Obese women are two to three times as likely to develop the disease. “Fat acts like another gland, which increases the levels of estrogen and other hormones in your system. That stimulates the growth of abnormal tissues,” says Huerta.

Stay healthy: Mention any unusual bleeding. More than 80 percent of endometrial cancers are found in the earliest, most treatable stages because this symptom tends to send women promptly to their doctors. If you notice any vaginal bleeding after menopause or bleeding between your periods, or if you experience pelvic pain, especially during intercourse, tell your doctor immediately.

Know your family history: “The same genetic mutation that puts people at increased risk of colon cancer also ups their odds of getting endometrial cancer,” says Edward L. Trimble, MD, MPH, head of Gynecologic Cancer Therapeutics at the National Cancer Institute. If you have a parent or sibling with that disease, get screened yearly for endometrial cancer starting at 30.

Move more all day: In a recent report on more than 250,000 women, those who exercised several hours daily reduced their risk of endometrial cancer by up to 52 percent, probably because staying active reduces estrogen levels while helping you maintain a healthy weight. Exercise frequency mattered more than intensity—light housework, gardening, and walking are enough. Avoid iron: A Swedish study has found that taking iron supplements after menopause raises the risk of endometrial cancer by 70 percent. After age 50, the daily recommendation for iron drops from 18 mg per day to 8 mg, an amount easily obtained from food.

The good news: In the same study, calcium supplements halved endometrial cancer risk. (Researchers aren’t sure why, but eating high-calcium dairy products didn’t provide the same benefit.) Experts recommend that postmenopausal women consume up to 1,000 mg of calcium a day, and 1,200 mg after age 70.

Click to see Your Anti-Cancer Guide: -> prevention.com/cancer.

Sources: msn health & fitness

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A Home Remedy for Migraine Attacks

: A team of British researchers has developed a “brain stimulation” method that can be used at home to short-circuit migraines before they become disabling.

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Professor Vince Walsh of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Queen Square has revealed that his system will soon be tested on migraine sufferers around the country.

A research team at Ohio State University recently showed that zapping the brain with a magnetic field, with the help of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) could abort attacks as they start to develop.

However, that effect could be achieved only if the coil was applied to precisely the right part of the brain.

Professor Walsh says that his brain stimulators called DC machines offer a simpler method to perform the same task.

“We need to get brain stimulation into the home – you can’t nip off to see your neurologist when you know you’re going to have a migraine,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

Professor Walsh has revealed that his DC machine simply requires two electrodes, colour coded pink and yellow.

When the electrodes are put on a patient’s head, the current passes between them, through the brain.

It promises to have long lasting results for up to 90 minutes, says Professor Walsh. He even says that the same technique may help people cope with the aftermath of a stroke too.

Professor Walsh has revealed that recent trials have shown that his method is capable of improving speech and the ability to make arm and hand movements by making the brain more plastic, so that areas spared by the stroke are co-opted to take over from those that have been damaged.

“Patients can be helped to learn to grip cutlery, turn water taps, pout things – simple everyday abilities they may have lost after a stroke. The method helps the brain find new solutions. There is a wholly convincing study of the benefits with stroke in a trial at the National Institutes of Health in America,” he says.

He will make a presentation on his method at the end of the month at a major conference of 300 researchers from around the world in London.

You may click to see:->Yoga & medition  can help to reduce migrain   click to see the pictures

Migrain Treatment Approach

Home Remedy For Migrain

Sources: The Times Of India

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Stop Bad-Mouthing Yourself

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Stop Bad-Mouthing Yourself
Neglect daily care of your mouth and you put yourself at risk for real oral health issues.

YOU MAY CLICK TO SEE THE PICTURE

Your regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing routine is a good foundation for a healthy mouth, but some areas need more love than others. Target these top problem spots to safeguard your smile — and your life.

Cavities:

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Problem Spot: Between your back teeth (top and bottom)

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Reason: It’s where you do most of your chewing.

Quick Fix: Instead of a straight up-and-down flossing motion, wrap the floss around each tooth, slide it just under the gum, and then floss like you would shine a shoe, says Craig Valentine, D.M.D., of the Academy of General Dentistry.

Canker sores:

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Problem Spot: The inside of your bottom lip

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Reason:
Nervous lip biting may trigger canker sores, but the cause is usually viral.

Quick Fix: Use Colgate’s Orabase with benzocaine, which was voted the best treatment by members of the American Pharmacists Association.

Receding Gums:

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Problem Spot: The gum that surrounds both your top left canine tooth and the premolar behind it…click & see

Reason:
The top canines are your most prominent teeth, so they take extra abuse from brushing. (Righties will do more harm to the left tooth.)

Quick Fix:
Brush gently and in only one direction — from the gum down to the bottom of the tooth.

Oral Cancer


Problem Spot:
Your tongue

click  & see

Reason: Its location makes it more susceptible to toxins such as cigarette smoke.

Quick Fix: Ban smoke from your body and eat more avocados. Ohio State University researchers found that chemical compounds in avocados may reduce the risk of oral cancer.

Plaque

Problem Spot: The two bottom teeth in the front and center.

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Reason:
They’re closest to your salivary glands, and a protein in saliva has been shown to promote plaque buildup.

Quick Fix:
Snack on raisins; they contain phytochemicals that block plaque from latching onto your teeth, say researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Do more for your mouth:
Researchers from Case Western University found that regular exercise and a healthful diet may cut your risk of gum disease by up to 29 percent.

Sources:MSN’S HEALTH

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