Friday, May 21, 2010

Living Longer Starts in Your Head

Want to live longer? Then you better have a really good idea of what you're living for.

In a study of older adults, those who lived a goal-driven life were 57 percent less likely to die during the 5-year study period -- compared with those who didn't have much direction or purpose.

How a Purpose Protects

Are you making plans for the future? Is there something that you're actively trying to achieve? Does your life have meaning? A resounding yes to these questions could mean you get more time on earth to accomplish things. Having a purpose in life was so helpful in a recent study that it even appeared to improve the longevity of people with depression, disabilities, chronic medical conditions, or financial difficulties.

Having a purpose in life can boost your emotional well-being -- which in turn may lower the risk for chronic disease. Taking care of your emotional health and well-being can add up to 16 years to your life.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nonmedicinal Treatments for ADHD Children

When parents learn their child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, they often find themselves facing a mountain of treatment approaches to improve their child's well-being. Most parents will find an element of control in one or more of the many psychosocial, behavioral or pharmaceutical treatments available for ADHD. Dr. Eugenia Chan, director of the ADHD program at Children's Hospital Boston says there's no "instant fix" for ADHD.

"It takes a sustained effort by a team of people, including parents, teachers, doctors, and other health professionals," she says.

There are as many approaches to changing a child's behavior as there are cable channels. Finding the right ones will require some creative strategizing and some trial and error before you are able to tune in to a few effective methods.

While many children and their families have found solace and support in drug treatments for ADHD, other parents would prefer to not medicate their child and turn to nonmedicinal treatments instead.

Here are seven med-free strategies that might help kids with ADHD gain focus and control. (Be sure to discuss any new treatment approaches with your health-care provider before trying them with your kids.)

Get Beyond the Time-Out -- Be very clear and specific about what is expected from the outset. For example, instead of saying, "Clean your room," say, "Straighten your bed blankets and pillows." Working with just a few small, reachable goals is more manageable. And let your child help devise goals.

Use charts, checklists and reminders to keep track of the progress and to look for patterns -- both negative and positive.

Send in the Reinforcements -- Who doesn't want to be rewarded for doing good work? If the result is a good one, show praise for the behavior by recognizing it with a reward -- a gold star, well-deserved privilege or other mutually agreed-upon prize. Chan says it is just as important to actively (and selectively) ignore undesirable behaviors as it is to recognize and reward the good ones.

"One of the core problems in children with ADHD is the inability to keep themselves from doing something even though they know it's wrong, says Chan. Some things are clearly not OK, such as aggression and threats to safety -- but other things can wait."

Start Moving -- Sounds counterintuitive to tell a child with ADHD to move more, but exercise has wide-reaching benefits to brain function. While straightforward exercise, such as walking or cycling, helps to flood the brain with focus-sharpening neurochemicals, programmed exercise turns on higher centers of the brain that promote organizational functioning.

Physical activities that require kids to pay close attention to where their bodies are in space are better at sustaining focus and concentration. Martial arts, ballet or gymnastics are good choices. And yoga is especially good because it incorporates controlled breathing techniques, posture and meditation that all work to improve concentration and reduce stress. Don't dissuade a physical activity that your child likes, even if she doesn't excel at it.

Go Green -- Kids with ADHD often spend a lot of time indoors receiving therapy and extra help. But a few studies tout the benefits of exposing children with ADHD to natural environments and open space as a way to reduce "attention fatigue" that kids with ADHD experience after long periods of time spent concentrating indoors. A University of Illinois study published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders found that children with attention deficits concentrate better after a short 20-minute walk in a green park.

Watch What They Eat -- When looking for reasons to explain behavior changes, diet is often in the line of fire. Sugar is the most maligned, but food coloring, preservatives and natural and artificial salicylates in foods have also been implicated. While the scientific evidence linking these foods and behavior is thin, eliminating foods with a high potential for allergies -- dairy products, wheat, corn, yeast, soy, citrus, eggs, chocolate and nuts -- might reduce ADHD symptoms in certain highly sensitive children.

If you are planning to alter your child's nutritional intake, consider working with a registered dietician to assure you maintain a well-balanced diet during the process of elimination. Keep a detailed food diary to see if there are any positive behavioral changes associated with removing or adding certain foods.

Get Wired -- In biofeedback sessions, which are led by a trained practitioner, your child would wear a cap connected to sensors that measure brain activity while she is engaged in a focus-promoting game displayed on a computer screen. If she loses focus, the game stops, encouraging her to regain focus in order to continue playing the game. The hope is that children will practice focused activity for increasing periods and will learn to sustain their attention outside of therapy.

Put Them to Work -- Finding something that a child with ADHD enjoys and takes pride in can give him a sense of purpose and self-control while diffusing some negative behaviors and tension.

"A lot of kids with ADHD have poor coordination, so finding a creative or service-oriented activity they genuinely enjoy is important for building self-esteem and self-confidence, says Chan. "And the child does not necessarily have to do the activity well for it to be effective."

And while doing chores is, well, a chore, performing household tasks can be good work, too. Be specific about what is expected, give a deadline and tell them how they will be compensated -- extra TV time or other recognition of service.

[By Tina Pavane]

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Advice for Husbands

Trust me, the following is a partial list of what many wives want and need. This list is not complete and your wife has specific needs. But, this may give you some valuable insight.

Lend a hand -- Frankly, what your wife wants (like a marriage proposal?) is you getting down on your hands and knees! Now, after the "I do's"- getting plain old down and dirty. Literally- sweaty and … scrubbing the grout in the bathroom. Man up when it comes to household duties; it pays off.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T -- Behave respectfully to your in-laws. It may be your opinion that they don't deserve it, but make no mistake: your wife does. Do it for her.

Hold her hand -- Often.

Work at your marriage -- "Marriage is not a noun; it's a verb. It isn't something you get. It's something you do. It's the way you love your partner every day." —Ann Landers

Confide your thoughts and feelings - carefully -- Sometimes when times are tough, you've got to talk to someone, anyone other than your wife, just to get perspective. But keep in mind that your friends are there to support you, not provide perspective, and don't say anything you can't take back once these troubles are behind you.

Surprise her -- Do something nice for your wife, with no provocation, no less than once a week. If you have to put it on your calendar, if you have to tattoo it on your forehead, make it happen. Your life will be longer and happier for it.

Don't write off counseling -- Everyone should be in marriage counseling because marriage is hard. If your car is having problems, you take it to a mechanic. Don't give up on a relationship you value without exploring every possible avenue for healing first.

Make time for your relationship -- Never underestimate the importance of closeness to each other in your marriage.

Apologize -- Be the first one to say "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong," even when you're not sorry and you weren't wrong.

Give her a hug -- Hug her. We all love hugging- here, I'll say it: no doubt, your wife does.

Don't try to change her -- Every new young married thinks he or she can change their spouse. Every experienced husband wishes he could have back all the time and energy he spent trying to do so. Men, feel free to share this rule with your wife.

Fight fairly -- When you fight — and you will — fight fairly. The causes of a quarrel will fade from memory, but cruel words are remembered for years, as well as the lingering heartache.

Be open to change -- Yours; hers... While it is true that in our heart of hearts, people basically do not change, be aware of the truth that people do change in some ways, as years go by, and so do marriages. Be flexible.

Remind yourself why you love her -- Marriage is a choice you make every day, not just at the altar. Once in a while, it's important to remind yourself why you chose this woman, and why you still choose her. Then be sure your wife knows you remember.

The golden rule, adapted for marriage: Treat her right -- Put her above all others. It's not always possible, of course, but when you are able, make her your #1. That includes your parents, your children, and yourself.

[From Glamour magazine]

The Importance of Sleep and Dreams

Scientists have long wondered why we sleep and why we dream. A new study provides evidence for some long-held notions that sleep and dreams boost learning and help us to make sense of the real world. Even naps can help, the researchers found.

Test subjects who dreamed about a challenging task performed it better than those who didn't have such dreams.

This newly discovered link between dreaming and learning gives insight into why humans bother sleeping at all. The study is thought to be the first to show "the relationship between dreaming and function in the outside world," said senior researcher Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School.

While dreams have always mystified mankind, scientists have been equally curious about sleep. Speaking in terms of evolution and an uncivilized culture hundreds of years ago, "It is dangerous to go to sleep," Stickgold says. Unconscious beings lying flat on their backs are especially prone to attack, he pointed out.

So why have we evolved to spend a third of our lives sleeping?

Previous research has shown that sleep benefits the immune and endocrine systems, but it hasn't been clear that sleep, in and of itself, is necessary. Resting quietly may be enough to meet these needs, Stickgold told LiveScience's Robin Nixon.

Sleep, however, might affect the brain in a way that no other state can equal, suggests the study published in the most recent issue of the journal Current Biology. The effect is likely critical for learning and making sense of life -- skills worth sleeping for, scientists think.

During the study, 99 participants were taught to navigate a virtual maze on a computer screen. Half were then allowed to nap for two hours, while the other half remained awake. Later that day, all participants were re-tested on the maze task.

Those who reported dreaming about the maze significantly improved their performance. They did better than people who had slept, but did not dream. And better than those who stayed awake rehearsing the task in their minds. Specifically, the dreamers bettered their performance more than six times the improvements of all other participants.

Instead of simply rehashing the maze experience, participants described dreams that made broad associations between mazes and other aspects of their lives -- like recalling an experience exploring bat caves or seeing their future job application process depicted with maze-like features.

"Every day, we are gathering and encountering tremendous amounts of information and new experiences," said lead researcher Erin Wamsley, also of Harvard Medical School, in a press statement. "It would seem that our dreams are asking the question, 'How do I use this information to inform my life?'"

Sleeping essentially lets the chaos of life sink in so we can make sense of it. A study earlier this year found that even naps boost learning.

Stickgold explains that we can't really process one stream of information at the same time taking in another one, making sleep necessary. He says, "It may be that for every two hours we are awake, it takes our brain an hour to process that information, so we need eight hours of sleep a night."

He goes on to suggest that in order to remember something in particular, like the lines of a play or formulas for an exam, it might help to study right before dozing, whether that means studying late at night or napping right after a cram session.

And if you can get yourself to dream about the material, you are at a particular advantage. Unfortunately, "dream content is notoriously hard to control," Stickgold said. The non-conscious brain "has its own rules," and focuses on whatever it deems most important, he added.

So your best bet for inducing an exam-acing dream is convincing yourself (and your brain) that the material truly matters, though this type of dream control is easier for some people than others.

While some scientists have previously brushed off theories that dreams have meaning, Stickgold says dreams aren't random. "In dreams, we are seeing the brain's calculation of 'Do I care' and 'Why do I care?'" he explained.

The brain is also making associations between new information and past experiences. Stickgold appreciates the brilliance of the human brain in its ability to take learning in one area and apply it to another. He believes that sleep may be critical for this level of understanding to occur.

By reflecting the brain's effort to prioritize information and make associations, Stickgold said, "dreaming may be part of the process that creates the meaning of our lives."

[Research by John Tesh]

Monday, May 03, 2010

Grief Support Group Meets in Fort Payne, Alabama

The DeKalb Grief Support Group meets the first and third Tuesday of every month at 6:30 PM at the Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce. This is a community service with no cost to attendees. The public is invited.

For more information, CLICK HERE for a PDF document, or CLICK HERE to connect with the Grief Support Group Blog.

The next meeting is Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 6:30 PM. See you there!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Sex Therapy for Women with Low Libido

According to a group of new studies, young women between the ages of 18 and 30 are suffering from low libido at rates never seen before: 43% of women have sexual problems, they say. And 1 in 10 women doesn't want to have sex at all, trumpeted a recent ABC News story.

The weird part isn't the fact that women are reporting what experts like to call "sexual dysfunction," but that women this young are: Usually we think of sexual issues as the stuff that plagues the over-40 set.

But sexperts are now blaming 20-somethings with low libido on everything from stress (we're worried about our jobs/working longer hours) to birth control/antidepressants (both are potent chemical cocktails that can make lust dry up).

We also know that desire tends to decrease in long-term relationships, so you can be young and healthy and fit, but you could still experience a decrease in desire the longer you stay with someone, whether you're a woman or a man. Also, recently, because we have such a focus on desire and so many discussions about low libido, we have a lot more women questioning if their desire is at the right level. We're seeing a lot more distress than we used to.

The entertainment industry could be partly to blame. We see people that are always ready to have sex in movies and television, as if sex is always the number one priority in people's lives. But we know that's just not the case, and it shouldn't be. Worrying about work and school take precedence. Those stresses of life take their toll on sleep and eating and stress -- and also sex.

Is there a link between birth control and low sexual desire?

Some studies have found that a portion of women, not all, do experience lower sexual desire after they start the birth control pill. Unfortunately, a lot of researchers have tried to do more on this but have been unsuccessful in getting funding because, as you can imagine, there hasn't been a lot of interest from pharmaceutical companies to investigate this since they make those products.

What about women who take antidepressants?

We know that for some women on antidepressants, sexual problems are a common side effect, including difficulty with orgasm.

And how much do you think the inability to orgasm is related to low sexual desire?

It can be linked, but there are certainly many women who enjoy sex whether or not they have an orgasm, which is hard for a lot of men to grasp. If you're a woman who is used to having orgasms or for whom orgasms are important, and you don't have one, then desire might be affected next time you have sex. But, also, sex might not be pleasurable if you don't feel connected to your partner. And on average, women have lower sex drives than men, and sometimes that leads to what they feel is 'duty sex' or obligation sex, and it starts this cycle of dread. Overall, there can be lots of reasons why you lose desire.

What advice do you give women who are suffering from low libido?

I often ask women if it is a problem for them or a problem because they think they are disappointing their partner. They should also look at what's changed in their lives: Am I tired? Am I stressed? Did I just have a baby? Often lifestyle behaviors are very strongly related to sex, but we really undervalue that. If you think your partner wants it more than you, talk to your partner. Sometimes he doesn't know, and it's fine. You can do something else together.

As far as what you can do, there's some more research that mindfulness techniques can help. Women are very prone to cognitive distractions -- worrying about the laundry, worrying about the kids, worrying about school, instead of focusing on sex. Instead, you should focus on how the sheets feel on your skin, how your partner's skin and hair smells and how it feels to kiss them and touch them. Really focusing on those things can help you find the desire in sex again.

There's also research on storytelling techniques. Sometimes when our partner's approach us we think, "Oh no, he wants sex again. All he ever wants is sex." And that's a negative story. But if you can replace that with a positive story like, "He thinks I'm so hot, he can't resist himself,' we find that those positive sexy stories can help women feel in the mood.

There's still a lot of talk about the female Viagra. What about taking a drug that claims to increase desire?

For a portion of women, medication might be helpful if nothing else really works. But I think it'd be a mistake if drugs were the first line of treatment because we have decades of knowledge that sex therapy works well and more cognitive techniques can work. Mostly these things are about relationships: If you don't feel loved or desired or special to your partner or they are condescending towards you, a pill is not going to work.