Tag Archives: Anxiety and depression

How Can Yoga Help You?

YogaSusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor

Those of us have seen photos of yogis performing the ultimate in yoga poses may be intimidated to try a class. Many may be interested in yoga but think of themselves as unable to do the poses for a variety of reasons. The truth is, you don’t have to be an expert, young, physically fit, or an ideal weight to experience the many mental, physical and relaxation benefits of a regular yoga practice. All yoga poses are adaptable to different skill levels and a good instructor will know how to use the right props that enable you to get the most benefit out of each pose. Unlike a ballet studio, a typical yoga studio will not have mirrors, as the class is not about comparing yourself to others or being part of a troupe. It’s about improving your own flexibility, strength and balance, reducing stress and centering on your own mindfulness, health and wellbeing. The idea is to explore your own limits to challenge yourself physically without feeling overwhelmed. Poses are intended to align your body and the practice helps you to get in touch with your inner self.

If the idea of a class is too overwhelming, there are numerous tools available that make it easy to practice in the comfort of your own home. It’s okay to start slowly, as adding just a few simple poses to your daily routine can provide some health boosting benefits. While there are many branches of yoga, most sessions typically include breathing exercises (pranayamas), getting into and holding poses (asanas), and finishing with a restful meditation period (savasana). Whatever type you choose should provide relaxation benefits without causing stress or pain. For sure, yoga is not like running on the treadmill or lifting weights at the gym. Yoga is mind/body exercise that can help with reducing anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain, while providing a respite from our everyday overly busy lives.

Yoga has been practiced for 5,000 years, and is widely accepted as a safe and effective alternative therapeutic exercise. It may only take a few months before you begin to see the benefits of daily practice. Regular practice will indeed strengthen and lengthen the muscles, lower heart rate and blood pressure, increase endurance and improve the quality of life for everyone. Yoga has been shown to have a positive impact on those suffering with depression, chronic illness, arthritis or back pain.

Positive body image – Because yoga promotes an inner awareness rather than outward appearance, those who practice yoga regularly are found to be more satisfied with and are less critical of their bodies. Yoga has become part of the treatment for eating disorders and programs that are designed to promote self-esteem and positive body image.

Back Pain – Numerous studies have found that yoga is often effective in reducing chronic back pain, improving back function and creating greater spinal flexibility. Many yoga postures strengthen the back and the abdominal muscles, essential components of the muscular network of the spine. Conditioning these muscles can help to greatly reduce back pain. The stretching and relaxation techniques promote flexibility in muscles and joints, increasing blood flow and allowing nutrients to flow into the area, while letting toxins flow out.

Anxiety and Depression – Studies have shown that healthy people who practice yoga can achieve a more positive outlook on life and develop coping skills. While other physical activities play a role in physical and psychological health, stretching, balancing and strengthening our body’s core muscles all contribute to optimal wellbeing. Researchers have found that yoga is an effective way to alleviate depression and anxiety. Anxiety disorders and depression, the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., are typically treated with pharmaceuticals which treat the symptoms but can have negative side effects. Research on yoga as a therapeutic tool shows evidence that yoga can help treat depression and anxiety though accessing the mind-body connection and changing the patterns of negative self-talk and obsessions.

Cardiovascular benefits – Several studies have found that yoga has a positive effect on blood pressure for people who have hypertension and may also help to improve lipid profiles. Yoga’s stress relieving benefits contribute to good overall and cardiac health, and may offer tremendous benefits in the management of acute emotional distress after a cardiac incident.  The breathing exercises are also thought to improve cardio-respiratory fitness. The American Heart Association recommends continued yoga practice as a preventative measure for long term heart health, and for recovery from cardiac arrest.

Weight loss and maintenance – Researchers have found that those who practice yoga have lower BMI’s, which may be attributed to a state of mindfulness that carries over to a more positive relationship with food and healthy eating. Those who begin at a healthy weight are more likely to maintain their weight. The surprising thing is that the poses don’t have to be difficult to aid weight management. Not surprisingly, yoga helps to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, positively affecting belly fat.

Stress management – By incorporating meditation and mindful breathing, yoga helps to improve metal wellbeing, increase calmness, relieve chronic stress, relax the mind, and improve mental clarity. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, yoga has a demonstrated ability to lower cortisol levels. Similar to the way an adaptogen works, yoga brings the body into balance and can help to normalize cortisol levels that are either too high or too low. Yoga reduces muscle tension and relaxes the mind, helping to deactivate the stress response.

11 Unexpected Health-Promoting Benefits of Yoga. http://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness-pictures/10-surprising-health-perks-of-yoga.aspx
What Yoga Can and Can’t Do for You. http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/1230what-yoga-can-and-cant-do-for-you.aspx
Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat
Yoga and Heart Health. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Yoga-and-Heart-Health_UCM_434966_Article.jsp
Yoga for anxiety and depression. http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
Destress with Yoga. http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/beginner-s-bliss/

Now Where Did I Put My Keys?

Where_KeysJacquie Eubanks RN BSN



Forgetfulness happens to all of us. We walk into a room and can’t remember what we were looking for, or we’re late getting out the door in the morning and have no idea where we put the car keys. We forget names, where we left our glasses, an appointment, an item at the grocery store or some of the seemingly millions of other little details we are tasked to remember every day. As we age, these incidents may occur more frequently and most of the time are simply a part of normal aging and not a cause for concern. It can be frustrating, worrying or annoying, but small memory lapses or forgetfulness do not necessarily indicate more serious cognitive impairment. The majority of the time, when we stop to think for just a moment longer, we find what we were looking for, remember the name of the person we recently met or realize that, yes, we did turn off the coffee pot or lock the door before we left the house.

Increasing memory loss or memory lapses that interfere with normal life are indeed a cause for concern and a good reason to check in with your doctor. However, worrying and fretting about occasional memory slips can actually make matters worse. Stress, anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation are the major causes of forgetfulness in aging brains. Distraction, inattentiveness, fatigue, medications and trying to juggle our overly busy lives can also affect how well we remember. The ability to immediately recall names or faces may actually begin to slow years before we notice, as the ability to recall information ebbs and flows over a lifespan. And while reaction times and certain memory abilities may slow with age, other skills such as increased vocabulary, the ability to use both sides of our brains simultaneously and a heightened ability to reconcile our thoughts with our feelings may not peak until our mid-sixties.

Let’s consider some of the more likely causes of memory slips:

Chronic stress – While some stress is unavoidable, chronic stress can cause damage to both bodily and brain functions. Constant exposure to the stress hormone cortisol can cause our brain to lose synapses and can reduce neurotransmitter receptors. Basically, overexposure to cortisol temporarily interferes with normal brain cell communication, making it more difficult to learn new concepts and retrieve information.

Sleep deprivation – While we sleep, our brains are busy sorting and storing memories. Those with impaired sleep and sleep disorders can experience symptoms of impaired memory and concentration, reduced reaction time, anxiety and fatigue.

Thyroid dysfunction – The thyroid is critical to many metabolic functions, including energy metabolism. An underactive thyroid, not uncommon in older adults, can cause difficulty with memory and attention span and leave you unable to think clearly. Although not generally considered to be the root cause of memory lapses, if you are experiencing cognitive problems along with sensitivity to cold, fatigue or depression and these symptoms persist, a simple blood test can confirm if the thyroid hormone level is inadequate for normal function.  

Anxiety and depression – There’s strong evidence indicating mood disorders can disrupt our brain’s neural circuitry involved in storing and retrieving memories. Severe depression may also bring about equally severe memory loss. Often times, when depression lifts, memory loss improves along with mood.

Menopausal symptoms – Women who experience hot flashes know that feeling of “brain fog,” which actually may worsen the ability to remember names and experiences. Although the symptoms are temporary, other menopausal symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, can also contribute to memory issues.

Certain medications – Some commonly prescribed medications, including antidepressants, anxiety meds, painkillers and sleep aids, can cause forgetfulness or confusion by interfering with the brain processes that move short-term memories to long-term storage.

Vitamin B12 deficiency – Commonly found in older adults, an unrecognized vitamin B12 deficiency can not only negatively affect memory, it can cause severe neurological problems. Fortunately, a severe deficiency can be corrected with weekly vitamin B12 injections or daily high dose vitamin B12 supplements. A mild deficiency can be corrected with a daily high quality B complex or multivitamin.  

As we age, it can become more difficult to maintain a high level of concentration when attempting to multitask, leading us to believe we are having memory problems when we simply need to divide our tasks into more manageable portions. This doesn’t mean that we should just accept or ignore any memory impairment. Fortunately, our brains are malleable and we can boost our brain power with simple but powerful interventions. Begin by getting better sleep, cleaning up your diet and getting some all important daily exercise. Everything that is good for heart and overall health is also good for boosting brain health. To help maintain a mental edge, give your brain a daily workout by consciously acquiring new skills and challenging your brain to learn something new.

Remember, unless memory lapses become extreme or persistent, forgetfulness is within the scope of normal aging. Abnormal forgetfulness is more complex than just failing to remember. Loss of abilities, deteriorating functions and negative changes in behavior patterns all indicate a need to seek a medical diagnosis. Generally speaking, if you are aware of your memory lapses and those close to you are not worried, it’s likely annoying but not necessarily an indication of a more serious condition. However, if family members are concerned or the forgetfulness is interfering with normal everyday tasks or your ability to care for yourself and is happening whether you are stressed or not, sleeping well or poorly, it may be a sign of early cognitive impairment that should be addressed sooner rather than later.

Supplements to support healthy cognitive function include:

PhosphatidylCholine 420mgPhosphatidylcholine 420 mg by Designs for Health® – An integral component of every bodily cell, extensively researched Phosphatidylcholine supports mental energy and plays an important role as a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential to learning and memory. Additionally, Phosphatidylcholine helps maintain cell structure and supports fat metabolism, nerve signaling and liver health. Gluten and dairy free. Contains soy.


Alpha-GPCAlpha-GPC by Pure Encapsulations – This product provides a source of choline, a precursor for synthesis of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine. Alpha-GPC supports memory and cognitive and neurological function. Non-GMO formula. Contains soy.


Memoractiv (SF737)Memoractiv by Thorne Research – This comprehensive memory-enhancing formula provides a synergistic blend of widely researched nutrients and botanicals in support of cognitive function and enhanced memory, learning and focus. Gluten and dairy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formula. Contains soy.


ProDHA 1000 mg StrawberryProDHA™ 1000 mg Strawberry by Nordic Naturals – This high potency, omega-3 formula is suitable for children, teenagers and pregnant women. DHA is an essential nutrient for brain health and supports healthy mood and neurological and cognitive functions. ProDHA™ is third party tested for heavy metals, has a natural strawberry flavor and is naturally preserved with rosemary extract. Gluten free, Non-GMO.

The four horsemen of forgetfulness. http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-four-horsemen-of-forgetfulness
Just Forgetful, or Is It Dementia? https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/forgetful-dementia/
12 Unexpected Things that Mess With Your Memory. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20845146_5,00.html
Reversible causes of memory loss. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/memory-loss/art-20046326?pg=2
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780