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ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES FOR BONE DENSITY: MIND-BODY MEDICINE

Holistic medicine means paying attention to the mind and spirit as well as the body. Stress reduction, meditation, and faith or spiritual focus are all proven risk-factor reducers for a range of health concerns, and despite a lack of specific studies on the topic, I see no reason why bone density wouldn’t be among them. One study showed that women in their 40s (when they should still be near peak bone mass) with clinical depression had bones that looked like they belonged to 70-year-olds. It was a small study, but the dramatic results at least hint at the powerful interconnection between your bones and your brain. It should be no surprise, after all we’ve learned about the role of emotions, stress, social support, faith, prayer, beliefs, and attitude toward heart disease and cancer, and a host of other disorders. Bones are no different from any other part of your body when it comes to being affected by whatever is going on anywhere in the body.
Stress triggers the release of stressor hormones that (among other things) greatly accelerate bone loss. The unrelenting nature of chronic stress makes it particularly important to reduce the constant stresses we’ve come to think of as almost normal, as well as the intermittent, specific stresses that are bound to come into your life. The emotions stirred up by your car’s breaking down, for example, are stressful, and you’ll feel better in general if you find a way to manage them effectively. But constant worry about whether your old clunker will make it all the way to the office each morning, and about how you’ll pay the bill next time it does give out, are more serious in the long run. By all means, switch to public transportation or get a more reliable car if you can, and set aside some money out of each paycheck to cover any necessary repairs to try to set your mind at ease. But beyond that, try some of the techniques here to ease the inevitable stresses of day-to-day living. Do away with as many sources of stress as you can, but learn how to manage what does come your way.
You (and in all likelihood your bones) will benefit from guided imagery, meditation, focused walking, and anything that elicits “the relaxation response”—the term coined by Harvard scientist Herbert Benson, M.D., to describe the calm state of the body without the rush of “fight or flight” messages stress-crazed Americans seem to subsist on. Stress raises hormone levels that can interfere with bone remodeling, so lowering stress takes one more obstacle out of the way of healthy bones.
The simplest approach is simply being present in the moment. Unless you are a Zen monk, you’ll probably find this difficult to do in the midst of your daily life (though that is the ultimate goal), so start by taking some time out specifically to practice it.
Relax in a comfortable position, breathing slowly and quietly. As you listen to your breath go in and out, pay attention to your inner self as well as your immediate surroundings. Focus on how you feel. If you notice tension anywhere in the body, focus on it and what it represents. Focus your breath and thoughts in the tense area, maintaining your focus until you can let the tension go. Relax and breathe and focus on any other tense spots. Keep going until you find no more tension. End quietly.
Benson provides a simple two-step process to help you achieve the relaxation response. First, select a word, short phrase, or sound, and repeat it to yourself. Choosing something meaningful to you is a good idea. For example, you might pick one line of a favorite prayer (“the Lord is my shepherd”), or something from an affirmation you’ve used (“I am healing”), or just a positive thought (“peace”). (For believers, prayers seem to be an especially powerful entree to the relaxation response, and spiritual feelings on their own have been associated with being healthier overall.) Even just repeating a number (like “one”) will work. Dr. Benson jokes that some of his studies were done with Harvard medical students who couldn’t handle anything more complicated than that! A repetitive physical activity, including walking or even knitting, can serve a similar purpose, on its own or together with a repetitive phrase. The second step is to determinedly let go of any other thoughts trying to horn in on your quiet mind, going back to focusing on your repetition. Pausing once or twice a day to do this for ten to twenty minutes will undo the harmful effects of essentially living in a constant state of “fight or flight” arousal. Even five minutes will help, so don’t discard this idea if you feel you don’t have enough time. The continual presence of stress-induced hormones is itself a stressor, and one we would all be better off without.
Focused walking, also known as prayer walking or walking meditation, is a concept rapidly gaining in popularity, and an excellent practice for mind, body, and spirit all in one. It may be finally the vehicle that brings meditation into the mainstream, since Americans already recognize the importance of exercise and like the feeling of being busy—not “just sitting there.” Here the benefit to your bones is more obvious: if meditation doesn’t help you out, you can be sure walking does.
This is basically the relaxation response in motion. Walking outdoors is ideal, as it gives you more immediate access to a sense of the divine than, say, a treadmill facing a blank wall in the gym with the television blaring. As you walk, notice your breath, counting how many steps fill the time of each inhalation and exhalation. Label them with numbers or phrases (“one, two, three” or “breathe, breathe, breathe,” for example) to keep time. As you get more advanced, you’ll be able to use any calming, repetitive phrase you like, as above, but keep it simple for starters. Again, your goal is to stay in the present moment and let any intruding thoughts of the past or future slip right on by. Keep breathing consciously, even if you pause to admire the scenery. As long as you feel calm and centered, you’re doing it right.
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WEIGHT LOSS: IF I EAT PERFECTLY ON THIS PLAN, WILL I NEED TO TAKE DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS?

Answer: Although this plan is beautifully balanced among the macronutrients, there is no way you can receive the amount of micronutrients you need on a diet that is less than several thousand calories a day. Obviously this menu plan does not fit that category. More and more studies are proving what many of us have known for years: We need supplemental nutrition, given our stress levels, our poor dietary history (past deficiencies), the diminished quality of the food items we purchase in the supermarkets, environmental pollutants, and the other side effects of civilization.
This is particularly true for those individuals who have dieted frequently over the years. Reducing diets are so lacking in the micronutrients that are essential for human health that significant health challenges accompany those long-standing deficiencies. They simply will not be resolved by wishful thinking or adding a synthetic one-a-day vitamin.
I put all my clients on a comprehensive supplement program to meet their current needs and to correct past deficiencies. When I meet face-to-face with a client, I can write a program that is specific to his or her needs, but in this forum I will need to make some generalizations. Please keep in mind that this program may need to be fine-tuned to meet your personal needs.
You’re probably saying, “I’m going to be spending a lot of money on supplements!” Yes, you will. I wish there were an easier, cheaper way to bring your body into nutritional balance, but there isn’t. The truth is grim: Most Americans are seriously undernourished, and no group is at greater risk than dieters. You have been slowly starving your body to death over the years; you cannot recuperate overnight, even with the most perfect diet and the most perfect lifestyle.
You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars per month in supplements, however. Some inferior products are extremely expensive; others are extremely inexpensive. However, follow this one rule: High-quality supplements can seldom be found in a grocery, drugstore, discount store, or mail-order house. They are seldom found in the multilevel market industry. You will be told from time to time: “Just buy the cheapest vitamin on the market; they’re all the same.” That simply isn’t true. While you don’t need to pay megabucks, you can’t pay microbucks either. You need to educate yourself on the subject of supplemental nutrition. Use the recommendations in this section to evaluate your products. Develop a relationship with the staff at your local health food store, and read, read, read! Purchase some reference books on nutrition and study the subject. Learn how to nourish your body!
*64\319\2*

GENDER ROLES: ANDROGYNY

While reading this chapter, you may have decided that your own personality reflects certain traits socially labeled as “masculine” and others viewed as “feminine.” If so, you are like many other people; relatively few individuals are 100 percent one or the other.
In the recent past, as psychologists have discarded some older assumptions about the nature of masculinity and femininity, the concept of androgyny has attracted considerable attention. Androgyny refers to the combined presence of both stereotypical feminine and masculine characteristics in one person. The word itself comes from two Greek roots: andro-, meaning male, and gyn-, meaning female.
Just what does it mean to say a person is androgynous? There is no firm agreement on this point among researchers. First, masculine and feminine traits could coexist but be expressed at different times. Kaplan and Sedney explain this dualistic model of androgyny as follows: “She or he might disagree forcefully and assertively with a colleague on a major issue of program development, but act comfortably and caringly toward that same person’s distress over a personal problem.” In other words, he or she acts typically male, then female. Or, feminine and masculine traits may exist in a fully integrated way within a person. Instead of alternating between feminine and masculine characteristics, the individual blends the two together. For example, an androgynous woman may initiate sexual activity (traditionally regarded as a “masculine” role) but do so in a style that is warm and sensitive (traditionally viewed as “feminine” traits). Thus, becoming androgynous does not imply losing the qualities associated with one’s gender and taking on those associated with the opposite sex. It involves developing those opposite-sex qualities that already exist within us and manifesting them in ways determined by our own-sex qualities.
Several recent studies by psychologists show that about one-third of college and high school students are androgynous. Spence and Helmreich found that androgynous individuals display more self-esteem, achievement orientation, and social competence than people who are strong in either masculinity or femininity, or those who have low scores in both areas. Furthermore, Bern’s research has shown that androgynous individuals seem to have more flexible behavior than people with more traditional masculine or feminine patterns. Likewise, there is evidence that androgynous females may have fewer psychological problem than masculine- or feminine-stereotyped persons.
However, androgyny may also have some disadvantages. A recent study of college assistant professors found that being androgynous was associated with greater personal satisfaction but an increased amount of work stress. Other researchers found that masculine males, rather than androgynous males, showed better overall emotional adjustment. Androgynous males had more drinking problems, while masculine males were more creative, less introverted, more politically aware, and felt more /in control of their behavior. Furthermore, androgyny does not necessarily lead to more effective behavior or problem-solving. In fact, a recent study of 236 college students found that androgyny does not help a person to be more versatile or adaptable; instead, it was found that for both sexes, the presence of “masculine personality characteristics, rather than the integration of masculinity and femininity, appears to be critical”
Confusing the issue even more is the fact that depending on how one measures self-esteem, different results may be obtained in studies of androgyny. With this research still in its infancy, it is too early to know if androgyny is a desirable goal for the future or a potential source of trouble. However, it does provoke many interesting questions about “traditional” male/female roles.
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SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE: PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGES

Our hormones certainly have a powerful impact on the way we feel. Anyone who has suffered pre-menstrual tension, and that includes most women at one time or another, don’t need to be told that. In fact the list of so-called ‘menopausal’ symptoms bears a remarkable similarity to those associated with PMS.
•   lack of self-esteem,
•   less energy and motivation,
•   lack of self-confidence,
•   mood swings,
•   irritability,
•   forgetfulness,
•   depression,
•   anxiety,
•   feeling of losing control,
•   feeling unable to cope,
•   loss of sex drive,
•   feeling close to tears,
•   vulnerability,
•   lack of concentration.
These symptoms can be due to a hormonal imbalance, which can be experienced by women at any point in their lives from the time they have their first period. They can also be due to stress, for example, as both men and women can suffer equally from them. There is nothing specifically ‘menopausal’ about them at all. It reminds me of one patient who had suffered several of these symptoms quite severely all her life. When she was young she was told that everything would be all right once she had babies. After that she was told that things would sort themselves out once she had the menopause…
Women who suffer from PMS can find their symptoms getting much worse at the time of the menopause. Others who have not had PMS may suddenly find they have some of these symptoms. Some of the emotional changes may simply be due to broken sleep caused by night sweats. Experiencing even a few of these would be enough to turn most of us into a caricature of an emotional woman, driving her family mad with depression and mood swings. There is of course an entire industry devoted to convincing middle-aged women that they are suffering from the menopause – and that taking HRT to ‘top up’ their hormones is the best solution to the problem. Middle-aged women suffering these symptoms may also be prescribed anti-depressants and tranquillizers by their doctors, which are rarely beneficial. Most of these drugs are potentially addictive. The correct way to look at these psychological symptoms is as a continuum of hormonal imbalance, not as something directly caused by the menopause. And the correct way to cope with them is to restore the proper balance of mind as well as body through the natural measures.
*8/101/5*

HYPERTENSION: WHAT DO THE NUMBERS MEAN?

160/95. 120/80. Systolic. Diastolic. What does it all mean?
Essentially, blood pressure is the force that blood exerts against the walls of your arteries as it is being pumped by the heart to the different parts of the body. The two numbers in a blood pressure reading are recordings of two different kinds of pressure that your doctor takes using an inflatable cuff wrapped around your arm. One is taken when the heart is pushing blood out into the body through its two major arteries (the pulmonary artery and the aorta) and they are fully distended while the  heart itself contracts. This is the maximum pressure of the heartbeat (or “systolic” pressure as it is called) — the higher number in the reading.
The second reading is taken when the heart relaxes between beats. This is the minimum (or “diastolic”) pressure — the lower number in the reading. Blood pressure, in other words, is expressed as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure.
What is a normal reading? Though it is not possible to have a fixed, immutable number that’s “normal” for everybody, some kind of standard is obviously needed. For young and middle-aged persons, a reading of 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) is considered ideal. High blood pressure, requiring treatment, is generally defined as starting at 140/90. That leaves a large grey area in between that doctors call “borderline hypertension”.
The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk. However, one high reading does not make you a hypertensive. That is because blood pressure can vary from hour to hour even in healthy people. So most doctors will not make the diagnosis of hypertension unless your blood pressure is high on at least three separate occasions.
Is your doctor’s clinic the best place to have your blood pressure measured? Possibly not. Some people’s b.p. readings go up perhaps because they’re anxious in a medical environment —a phenomenon known as “white-coat hypertension”. Today do-it-yourself kits are available, which enable you to measure your blood pressure at home. If your doctor agrees that’s a good idea in your case, ask what type of equipment to buy. And be sure that you and a family member are both taught how to take your blood pressure; a doctor or nurse is usually the best person to show you.
*57\332\2*

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