Although they aren’t meant to replace prescribed medication or doctor-approved therapies, herbal supplements can be good additions to your care plan. Here are three that are worth knowing about.
The leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree have been used for medicinal purposes since as far back as 2600 BC. The ginkgo leaf extract we use today has been shown, notably, to improve blood circulation, which allows the brain, eyes, ears and legs to function better.
On top of being a sleep and digestive aid, this herb that’s part of the mint family has calming effects that make it useful for treating anxiety and restlessness. The oil or extract from lemon balm can be added to food and beverages.
A type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega-3 has a long list of potential health benefits, including relieving stiffness and joint pain, and lowering triglyceride levels—which translates to a decreased risk of heart disease. This fatty acid occurs naturally in plant sources such as nuts and seeds and in certain fish.
These and countless other health-promoting products, not to mention a huge stock of nutritional food and beverages, can be found at your local health food store.
Note that any product — natural or otherwise — strong enough to produce a positive effect, such as alleviating stress or pain, also comes with its risks and side effects. Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking herbal supplements, especially if you take medications, are pregnant or breast-feeding or have chronic health problems.
Superfoods: worth the cost?
What do chia seeds, kale, goji berries, coconut oil and quinoa have in common? They’ve all been branded “superfoods” because they’re rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants thought to be especially beneficial to your health. Over the last decade, superfoods have been widely acclaimed for their supposedly miraculous benefits. According to nutrition experts, however, these trendy health foods aren’t worth the cost.
First, it’s important to understand that there’s no scientific definition of a superfood. It’s purely a marketing term that was coined in the natural foods industry to sell certain foods and products.
Most dietitians and nutrition scientists dispute the concept of superfoods. While they’re certainly good for you, in most cases their benefits have been overstated. Goji berries may be rich in antioxidants, but so are blueberries and most other berries. Similarly, kale isn’t better for you than spinach or other leafy greens, and coconut oil isn’t healthier than regular olive oil.
What’s more, marketers often rely on the exoticism of superfoods — acai berries from the Amazon, goji berries from the Himalayas, etc. — to suggest that they have more health benefits than common staples. This is untrue and causes people to spend lots of money on foods that are expensive. Plus, the spike in popularity in some of these foods can negatively affect the environments where they’re grown. For instance, Bolivian farming communities that have grown quinoa for centuries are often unable to afford to buy the grain for themselves.
The truth is, adding a superfood to your diet won’t positively affect your health unless you’re already eating a balanced diet. Focus instead on eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains.
Three tips to make living with arthritis easier
Arthritis can make it difficult to perform a variety of tasks, from getting dressed in the morning to washing dishes at night. Here are three ways you can improve your quality of life if you have arthritis.
1. Keep moving. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining joint function and bone density and can help relieve arthritis symptoms. Plus, exercise promotes better sleep and helps with weight management.
2. Maintain a healthy diet. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet — which involves replacing sugary, refined foods with fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats and whole grains rich in antioxidants — has been shown to help reduce arthritic pain caused by joint inflammation. If you’re overweight, a low-calorie diet is essential for shedding pounds; weight loss can reduce pressure on your joints.
3. Make your home accessible. Small adjustments made to your home — such as using a shower stool or keeping items on lower shelves — can ease pain and stress. Look for ergonomic equipment and assistive devices that can be used at home to improve your grip and avoid unnecessary bending or reaching.
Finally, ask for help from family members and friends if you need it and continue to meet with your doctor regularly to address ongoing health concerns.
Your nutritional needs at different stages of life
Did you know that your nutritional needs change as you get older? Here’s a brief guide to some of the nutritional requirements at different life stages.
At the beginning of their lives, babies get all the nutrients they need from breast milk or infant formula. Around six months of age, solid foods should be introduced, prepared so they’re safe for infants to consume. These solid foods should be rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals and in particular, iron. Infant cereals, puréed beans and finely minced fish and meat are all good sources of iron for babies.
To grow and develop, kids require a wide variety of nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes and lean meats. The more they’re encouraged to try new foods, the more likely they’ll be to maintain a balanced diet later in life.
Around puberty, children start to require more energy, which should come from nutrient-dense foods like wholegrain breads, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and lean meats. Teens, especially girls, should also make sure to get enough calcium through dairy products like low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
As people begin their adult lives, it’s important that they develop good eating habits by consuming a variety of nutritious foods. They should limit their intake of fat, sugar and salt and make sure to eat plenty of foods that are rich in iron and calcium.
Pregnant and nursing women
Pregnant women require increased amounts of folate, iron, vitamin B12 and iodine. They also need to make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin C. When breast-feeding, women should make sure to eat a highly nutritious diet, especially foods rich in folate, iodine, zinc and calcium.
As people age, they need fewer calories but just as many nutrients to stay healthy. Seniors should eat a wide range of foods that are nutrient dense rather than high in calories. They should also make sure to consume plenty of fiber, limit their salt intake and get lots of vitamin D.
Talk to a nutritionist about the recommended diet for someone at your stage of life.
ADHD in girls versus boys: why girls often go undiagnosed
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, girls aren’t less prone to ADHD, rather, their symptoms differ and are less easy to recognize.
Research shows that while boys tend to demonstrate hyperactive behaviors and externalized symptoms of ADHD—running around indoors, acting out, fidgeting, etc.— girls more often exhibit inattentive behaviors and internalized symptoms like anxiety.
Because girls’ symptoms are less noticeable, parents and teachers often don’t recognize them as signs of ADHD. As a result, many girls with ADHD aren’t diagnosed until well into their teens and twenties. In some cases, it’s misdiagnosed as a learning disability or mood disorder.
Undiagnosed ADHD in girls can lead to low self-esteem and mental health issues like depression, anxiety and eating disorders. They’re also more likely to struggle in social situations and personal relationships.
Some common symptoms of ADHD in girls include low self-esteem, appearing withdrawn, anxiety, forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, messiness and a tendency to daydream.
Boys’ symptoms are more likely to include hyperactivity, excessive talking, difficulty sitting still and physical aggression.
(These are just generalizations and some girls with ADHD exhibit hyperactive behaviors while some boys may respond to the disorder by becoming quiet and withdrawn.)
If you’re a parent or teacher, keep in mind that hyperactivity isn’t the only way that ADHD manifests in children. Look out for all possible signs of ADHD and get a professional diagnosis if necessary.
A brief history of National Nutrition Month
Each March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sponsors National Nutrition Month to raise awareness about the importance of developing healthy eating habits. This year, National Nutrition Month will be honored as its own theme to accommodate a diverse range of topics in advocating for the importance of good nutrition.
National Nutrition Month began as National Nutrition Week in 1973. It was started by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) — now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — as
a way to raise awareness about the profession of dietetics while educating the public about good nutrition. Growing public concern about the topic of healthy eating led to the event’s transformation into a month-long event in 1980.
Over the years, National Nutrition Month has covered a variety of health and food-related subjects. The campaign’s first slogan was, “invest in yourself — buy nutrition.”
In the late 1970s, the ADA created a mascot to help promote its messages to children: Nutribird, a cartoon bird with lettuce for a body and a carrot for a beak.
During the 1990s, National Nutrition Month became increasingly focused around calls to action involving the federal dietary guidelines. And, with the emergence of the internet, it became possible to share information about the event more widely than ever before. Today, it’s one of the most celebrated health campaigns in the United States.
A satisfying sex life is possible at any age
Your sexuality doesn’t come with an expiration date, and in fact, many older people enjoy having an active and fulfilling sex life. To join the ranks of sexually satisfied seniors, you already have the tools you need, including the following:
• You know yourself. A lifetime of sexual experimentation has probably taught you what you like and what you don’t like in bed. Don’t be shy to share this information with your partner to ensure that both of you have a good time.
• You’ve got time. Retired (or semi-retired) life leaves you more time for leisure activities. Dedicating more energy into your sex life will make it more pleasurable and rewarding. If you’re not in a relationship, take the time to peruse online dating websites dedicated to older adults in your area.
• You’re desirable. Your body may have changed over the years, but you’re as desirable as ever. Your eyes, smile and personality are fabulous. Take pride in your appearance by pampering your skin, eating well and staying active.
• You have resources. If you need medical assistance to have a more satisfying sex life, there are many health professionals who can help. A sexologist, pharmacist or doctor can help you decide if you’d benefit from sex therapy, hormone treatments or a medication like Viagra or Cialis.
With a little self-confidence and a great partner, you’re sure to have a great time between the sheets. A healthy sex life is good for your health and mental well-being, no matter what your age.