Life Lesson

Statin Facts and Dementia Risk?

Brain-picture

This report is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. Never diagnose or treat yourself or a family member. See your doctor. Use your voice. Ask questions and share prescription concerns, if any, with your physician. 

Recently, whether enjoying conversation in a social setting or small talk among acquaintances (including the recent friendly exchange with a car salesperson during a vehicle test drive!) the subject about statin drugs and its increased risk of dementia frequently comes up. Knowing enough people who are on statin drugs, I decided to research this topic to unveil the facts and connection between memory loss and cholesterol lowering prescription drugs. Do statins cause memory loss? Read below for information about statins and why the short answer to this question is “NO”.

What are statins and when are they prescribed?

Statins are prescription drugs that can lower cholesterol in patients who have been diagnosed with heart disease, at high risk of a heart attack/stroke or whose cholesterol levels (results shown from a blood test) are higher than the norm of below 200 mg/dL, combined LDL and HDL. Prescription statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver, can flush cholesterol already formed within artery walls and reduce blood vessel inflammation lowering risk of blood clots.

LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) is the bad cholesterol that sticks to artery walls contributing to blockage (heart attacks) and clots (strokes). The ideal level is below 130 mg/dl and for those who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, the recommendation is to keep LDL below 100 mg/dl. High risk for heart attack or stroke? Your physician may be looking for LDL below 70 mg/dl.

HDL (high-density lipoproteins) is the good cholesterol that acts as a garbage collector, carrying cholesterol from all parts of your body to dispose/process through your liver. A good HDL level is 60 mg/dl or higher. An HDL level that is 40 mg/dl or less is consider low. Medical and environmental factors can negatively impact HDL levels, such as smoking, obesity, Diabetes II and inflammation. High alcohol consumption especially hard liquor, dessert liquors, mixed drinks high in sugar, beer, and excess wine, can have negative effects; “drinking more than what is considered moderate (daily women 1 glass and men 2 glasses), however, has an opposite effect, because it can raise both cholesterol and triglyceride levels.” Can Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Cholesterol Levels? Healthline

To keep HDL high, choose foods with unsaturated fats, low carbs and low sugar and enjoy a healthy lifestyle that reflects regular exercise, moderate alcohol consumption and smoke free. 11 Foods To Increase Your HDL, Healthline, offers great suggestions. There are some prescribed medications that can effect and lower good cholesterol so especially be mindful of your diet if taking these drugs.

Medication that can effect/decrease HDL…Beta blockers, a type of blood pressure medicine, Anabolic steroids, including testosterone, a male hormone Progestins, which are female hormones that are in some birth control pills and Hormone replacement therapy, Benzodiazepines, sedatives that are often used for anxiety and insomnia. HDL The Good Cholesterol, Medline Plus.

Statins are available in fat-soluble or water-soluble. Noted below is a list of such statin prescriptions available in the USA. How are they different? In a study conducted between the two types of statins… No difference was observed between various clinical coronary artery disease settings. Fats Vs Water Soluble Statins by Gerti Tashko, MD.  

Lipid Statins (fat-soluble) pass through the liver with a greater chance of being absorbed in muscle tissue. There is, therefore, an increased risk of liver damage as well as muscle and joint aches with fat-soluble statins.

Lipid Statins/Fat Soluble – pass through the liver

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor) – most potent of statins
  • Lovastatin (Altoprev)
  • Pitavastatin (Livalo)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol)

Hydrophilic/Water Soluble – pass through the body and not the liver

  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor)

Side effects: headaches, nausea, and muscle and joint aches. More serious side effects include: increase blood sugar/diabetes 2, muscle cell damage, cognitive memory loss, liver damage.

What is the connection between statins and cognitive memory loss?

As a result of reports from some consumers claiming cognitive memory loss while taking statins, the FDA (2012) required all statin drug labels to include a warning about the risk of memory problems with short-term statin use. Studies conducted (as shown in the quotes below) reveal no direct link between memory loss and statin use. Other considerations could effect memory, such as; patient age, drug interactions, quantity of daily prescription drugs taken and perhaps taking some prescription drugs that are in fact linked to higher dementia risk reported by conducted studies. If you or a family member of whom you advocate are experiencing noticeable loss in memory, speak to your physician.

A study conducted out of John Hopkins in 2013, Statin Medications May Prevent Dementia and Memory Loss With Longer Use, While Not Posing Any Short-Term Cognition Problems,  concluded “no threat to short-term memory, and that they may even protect against dementia when taken for more than one year.” The study also reveals…”In contrast, they say that when the drugs are taken for more than one year, the risk of dementia is reduced by 29 percent.”

While statin users have reported memory loss to the FDA, studies haven’t found evidence to support these claims. Research has actually suggested the opposite — that statins may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Healthline, Statins and Memory Loss: Is There A Link? 

Conclusion –  In patients without baseline cognitive dysfunction, short-term data are most compatible with no adverse effect of statins on cognition, and long-term data may support a beneficial role for statins in the prevention of dementia. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, November 2013

How can a statin actually decease the risk of memory loss? Dementia/cognitive memory loss can be the result of blockages in small blood vessels that could prevent blood flow and oxygen to certain areas of the brain. The effect of statins to reduce plaque and inflammation would therefore remove blockages and increase blood flow, reducing memory loss risk. John Hopkins, Statin Medications May Prevent Dementia and Memory Loss With Longer Use, While Not Posing Any Short-Term Cognition Problems

Although memory loss/confusion warnings are listed on the label of statin drugs, studies conducted to date do not support a higher risk of dementia when taking these drugs. The next time you attend a social gathering or are talking with an acquaintance and the concern about statins and memory loss comes up, you have some facts to share. Eliminate fears and enjoy the party!!

Next week’s blog post will discuss common prescription drugs that have been associated with higher risk of memory loss. The drug listing has been compiled after conducted studies and conclusion of risk factors.

Resources

Life Lesson

Gut Health and Antibiotics…what you might want to know

This report is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. Never diagnose or treat yourself or a family member. See your doctor. Use your voice. Ask questions and share prescription concerns, if any, with your physician. 

The purpose of this blog post is to reveal the reality of antibiotic overuse and misuse. This writing is to also encourage communication with your doctor when antibiotics are prescribed to you or the family member you advocate/share in health care responsibility.

Recently someone dear to me, “Barbara” was tested for a UTI. Barbara did not have UTI symptoms. Her bladder, however, appeared to be on a nighttime schedule with the inability to urinate during the day. The initial urinalysis revealed bacteria in the urine and her doctor insisted she be put on antibiotics ASAP, that day.

On the surface, following through with the physician’s request may appear as the only and best option for the patient. However, digging dipper, this was not the case. Barbara recently had C-DIFF (C. difficile/C-DIFF is a toxin-producing bacteria that causes antibiotic-associated colitis, Mayo Clinic…Antibiotic Associated Diarrheafollowing surgery, which extended her stay at a skilled nursing facility by 3 weeks. She experienced horrific symptoms of both, C-DIFF and the necessary antibiotic treatment. There is a HIGH probability of C-DIFF reoccurring when a patient is prescribed antibiotics, in this case treating a possible UTI. Question to the doctor…Knowing Barbara had C-DIFF a few months ago, can we wait for the full culture results before considering antibiotics??” It is not uncommon for some bacteria to appear in urine, especially in the population 75 years old+. The doctor agreed, stating, “I think that it’s reasonable to wait until the cultures come back, but it looks like a real infection based on the cell counts.” Three days later the culture results indicate…NO UTI.  The doctor emailed…The final urine cultures are back and surprisingly did not grow out any specific bacteria. So I would not give her the antibiotics. I would continue to monitor her symptoms. I would only recheck her urine if she is having symptoms.” If Barbara had a reoccurrence of C-DIFF, a high risk “serious symptom infection” possibly triggered by taking the prescribed antibiotic, she would have had to leave the comfort and familiarity of assisted living (very contagious). The C-DIFF treatment administered would have required admittance to either a hospital or skilled nursing facility, in contact isolation. Life would not have been pleasant for Barbara or her family, the aftermath of being treated for a UTI she didn’t have.

A key lesson from Barbara’s experience, communicate with your doctor. Express concerns by using your voice and take ownership to know options in order to make wise decisions for you and your family. The following shares antibiotic facts, its impact on the elderly and what you can do nutritionally to be “gut healthy” reducing side effects from antibiotics as well as some non-antibiotic drugs, to help prevent superbugs and antibiotic resistance (CDC: About Antimicrobial Resistance).

Full Culture Results 

Whenever possible and with physician agreement, request a full culture before taking prescribed antibiotics.

Antibiotics –How They Work, Classifications, When Administered 

Antibiotics are pharmaceutical prescribed medications administered to heal or slow down the growth of bacteria resulting in infections. Click this link for a complete antibiotic guide and their use…Antibiotics Guide, Medically reviewed on Aug 23, 2016 by L. Anderson, PharmD.

Antibiotics are known by these classes: Penicillins, Tetracyclines, Cephalosporins, Quinolones, Lincomycins, Masrolides, Sulfonamides, Glycopeptides, Aminoglycosides, Carbapenems.

Antibiotics are used to treat these top 10 common infections: Acne, bronchitis, Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye), Otitis Media (Ear Infection), Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s), Skin or Soft Tissue Infections, Streptococcal Pharyngitis (Strep Throat), Traveler’s Diarrhea, Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).

Additional details and supporting information can also be found at… Antibiotics: All You Need to Know by Medical News Today, By Christian Nordqvist, Jan. 2017. Article highlights…

  • Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the first natural antibiotic, in 1928.
  • Antibiotics cannot fight viral infections.
  • Fleming predicted the rise of antibiotic resistance we see today.
  • If antibiotics are overused or used incorrectly, there is a risk that the bacteria will become resistant
  • Antibiotics either kill bacteria or slow its growth.
  • Side effects can include diarrhea and feeling sick.
  • In some cases, antibiotics may be given to prevent rather than treat an infection, as might be the case before surgery. This is called ‘prophylactic’ use of antibiotics. They are commonly used before bowel and orthopedic surgery.

Before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, the body’s immune system can usually kill them. Our white blood cells attack harmful bacteria and, even if symptoms do occur, our immune system can usually cope and fight off the infection. 

Antibiotic Side effects and FDA Warnings

What are common antibiotic side effects?

Common side effects of antibiotics include rash, soft stools, diarrhea, upset stomach, fungal (yeast) infections (like thrush). Contact your doctor immediately if  you are experiencing; severe allergic reaction that includes difficulty breathing, facial swelling (lips, tongue, throat, face), severe watery or bloody diarrhea or stomach cramps, vaginal yeast infection with white discharge and severe itching, mouth sores or white patches in mouth or on tongue. Common Side Effects from Antibiotics, and Allergies and Reactions Medically reviewed on Mar 5, 2017 by L. Anderson, PharmD.

Your intestines contain about 100 trillion bacterial cells and up to 2,000 different kinds of bacteria, many of which help protect your body from infection. When you take an antibiotic to treat an infection, these drugs tend to destroy some of the normal, helpful bacteria in addition to the bacteria causing the infection. Without enough healthy bacteria to keep it in check, C. difficile can quickly grow out of control. The antibiotics that most often lead to C. difficile infections include fluoroquinolones, cephalosporins, penicillins and clindamycinC. Difficile Infection by Mayo Clinic

Which Antibiotics Are Most Associated with Causing Clostridium Difficile Diarrhea? On the basis of the available data, clindamycin should absolutely be avoided among patients who are at risk for C difficile infection, particularly in elderly patients and those with frequent antibiotic exposure or hospitalizations. Given the available data, it’s clear that clindamycin is a well-deserving candidate of its boxed warning specifically for C difficile risk. Box Warning can be read by clicking this LINK.

Clindamycin is prescribed most often to treat medical conditions as listed in …What Conditions Does Clindamycin Hcl treat?  Other options that have a reduced risk of triggering C-difficile?

For community-acquired pneumonia, it has been suggested that a tetracycline may be substituted in place of azithromycin (or another macrolide) among elderly patients at higher risk for C difficile infection. In fact, data suggests that tetracyclines may NOT increase risk of C difficile infection at all, with a non-significant odd ratio of 0.9 versus no antibiotic exposure.
 
In patients hospitalized with severe infections who require anti-Pseudomonal coverage, the available data suggests that penicillins (such as piperacillin/tazobactam) may have a lower risk of C difficile infection versus cephalosporins (such as cefepime) or carbapenems (such as meropenem). While this risk is certainly relevant to the selection of antimicrobials, local resistance patterns should also be considered when selecting an agent.
 
Knowledge of high-risk and lower-risk antibiotics for C difficile infection is important, particularly in patients who are already at a higher risk for C difficile infection, such as elderly patients. Avoidance of these high-risk antibiotics when other first-line alternatives exist in certain patient populations should be an antimicrobial stewardship intervention for pharmacists to reduce the risk of C difficile infection both in the inpatient and outpatient settings.

Antibiotic Warnings

Fluoroquinolones are antibiotics that kill or stop the growth of bacteria. While these drugs are effective in treating serious bacterial infections, an FDA safety review found that both oral and injectable fluroquinolones are associated with disabling side effects involving tendons, muscles, joints, nerves and the central nervous system. These side effects can occur hours to weeks after exposure to fluoroquinolones and may potentially be permanent.

Types of Fluoroquinolones that are FDA approved but which fall into this warning include levofloxacin (Levaquin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), ciprofloxacin extended-release tablets, moxifloxacin (Avelox), ofloxacin and gemifloxacin (Factive). FDA updates warnings for fluoroquinolone antibiotics

Non-Antibiotic Drugs and Similar Antibiotic Side Effects

Antibiotics are known to trigger digestive issues and diarrhea, eliminating both the good and bad bacteria in our guts. There are also prescription non-antibiotic drugs that share similar harsh gut symptoms (as antibiotics) such as anti-diabetics (metformin), proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and atypical antipsychotics (AAPs). Use the hyperlinks to see the listing of medications that fall within each category.

Non-antibiotics with antibiotic effects – Some non-antibiotic drugs have been associated with changes in gut microbiome composition, but the extent of this phenomenon is unknown. Athanasios Typas and colleagues screened more than 1,000 marketed drugs and observed that a quarter of them inhibited the growth of at least one bacterial strain in vitro. Scrutiny of previous human cohort studies showed that human-targeted drugs with anticommensal activity have antibiotic-like side effects in humans. The new data provide a resource for future drug-therapy research.  Extensive impact of non-antibiotic drugs on human gut bacteria, Published: 19 March 2018

The Elderly and Antibiotics 

UTIs are known to be common among the elderly and often the symptoms are not as visible making it difficult to know when a UTI exists. However, there appears to be a growing problem with over prescribed use of antibiotics especially for UTIs.

Consensus guidelines have been published to assist clinicians with diagnosis and treatment of urinary tract infection; however, a single evidence-based approach to diagnosis of urinary tract infection does not exist. In the absence of a gold standard definition of urinary tract infection that clinicians agree upon, overtreatment with antibiotics for suspected urinary tract infection remains a significant problem, and leads to a variety of negative consequences including the development of multidrug-resistant organisms. Urinary tract infection in older adults, NCBI 

The elderly are prone to UTIs and other infections but are they being treated more often than not when an infection is actually not present? Antibiotics do not treat frequent urination nor does this infer a UTI. Antibiotics can cause serious symptoms in elderly, weakening those that are already frail; fever, rash, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, tendon ruptures, and nerve damage. Information above about clindamycin specifically refers to the elderly, along with alternative options for infection treatment.

Elderly have an increased risk to antibiotic resistant bacteria, superbugs. 

Antibiotics may help “drug-resistant” bacteria grow, causing illnesses that are harder to cure and more costly to treat. Your doctor may have to try several antibiotics for treatment. This increases the risk of complications. The resistant bacteria can also be highly contagious/passed on to caregivers, family members and others. Antibiotics for urinary tract infections in older people When you need them—and when you don’t 

A study conducted by The Ottawa Hospital Regional Geriatric Program of Eastern Ontario Geriatric Refresher Day, Rosemary Zvor, Antimicrobial Pharmacy Specialist, (Research on Elder infections with charts zvonar_use_of_antibiotics) found an increase exposure within the healthcare system, antimicrobials, along with decreased immune system and functional status resulting in poor hygiene, as well as the increase use of invasive devices and close contact with other residents and medical staff that could be carriers.

Some antibiotics carry specific risks to the elderly. The article Adverse effects of Antibiotics in the Geriatric Patient Population lists precautions to consider, which you might share the elderly patient’s physician, of whom you advocate.

“Elderly patients have several unique issues related to antibiotic therapy. In addition to age-associated physiological changes and drug-drug interactions, adverse drug reactions are also a noteworthy concern specific to this population. 

  • Aminoglycosides-renal and auditory toxicity 
  • Trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole-induced hyperkalemia and blood dyscrasias
  • Fluoroquinolone-related seizures and QT prolongation 
  • Doxycycline-related esophageal ulcerations & strictures 
  • Acute liver injury secondary to prolonged amoxicillin/clavulanate therapy”

Antibiotics – Impact On Brain Function 

This article, Link Between Antibiotics and Delirium Strengthened by Tim Newman, February 18, 2016, Medical News Today, explores an interesting discovery that “antibiotics are known to cause neurological issues in some cases, but the interaction has not attracted much study in the past.” Among the neurologic issues is delirium, which can include hallucinations, agitation and confusion, especially among the elderly. Since infection and antibiotics both can trigger delirium, more work and research is needed to measure and understand this relationship but something to discuss with physicians. Delirium can increase the risk of death in critical care cases.

“The antibiotics react not only against the bacteria but also have ‘off-target’ effects by interfering with normal signaling within the brain. Different antibiotics affect the brain differently, hence causing varying patterns of toxicity.”

“Dr. Shamik Bhattacharyya, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, conducted a retrospective review using historical patient data. He found that links between antibiotics and delirium might be stronger than previously thought.”

Cranberry Supplements – Heal Or Prevent UTIs?

The Mayo clinic gives good advice about cranberry and UTI prevention in the article… Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

“Many people drink cranberry juice to prevent UTIs. There’s some indication that cranberry products, in either juice or tablet form, may have infection-fighting properties. Researchers continue to study the ability of cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, but results are not conclusive. If you enjoy drinking cranberry juice and feel it helps you prevent UTIs, there’s little harm in it, but watch the calories. For most people, drinking cranberry juice is safe, but some people report an upset stomach or diarrhea. However, don’t drink cranberry juice if you’re taking blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin.”

Good Gut Health! Building a good gut…prebiotics and probiotic rich foods.

Be proactive and select foods that are high in probiotics and prebiotics for good gut health. The more good bacteria in your gut the less chance of bad bacteria that can cause irritating digestive system issues or trigger uncomfortable symptoms often experienced with autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis as well as irritable bowel syndrome. Can you take a probiotic supplement? Yes. Supplements, however, are not FDA regulated and you can’t be certain that what is listed on the label is actually in the capsule. I choose to follow wise advice given many years ago when I attend a Celiac Disease conference led by Dr. Peter Green. He shared that the body better absorbs whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals and in this case probiotics and prebiotics rather than taking capsules. If you eat right and skip processed foods, you won’t need to spend the extra dollars on supplements. As we get older and appetites wane, supplements may be needed and this is a conversation reserved to take place with your doctor or a clinical certified nutritionist. Also, probiotic dietary supplements may not be safe, as noted in What are Probiotics?, which may pose risks if you…

  • Get infections often
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Are allergic or sensitive to the sources of the probiotics (dairy, for example)

What are prebiotics? 

Prebiotics, simply put, are food for probiotics. “They’re necessary in order for the good flora to flourish,” says Kristi King, R.D., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 6 Foods That Are Good for Gut Health 

Prebiotics encourage the growth of good and healthy bacteria in your gut. Prebiotic foods include fruits and vegetables that are loaded with complex carbohydrates, fiber and resistant starch that pass through the digestive system, which feed good bacteria and other micorbes. Prebiotic foods include: legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, navy beans; raspberries and blackberries; barley, bran and bulgar (being gluten free I search for whole grain gluten-free breads). 6 Foods That Are Good for Gut Health, Consumer Reports

The lining of your gut, like every surface of your body, is covered in microscopic creatures, mostly bacteria. These organisms create a micro-ecosystem called the microbiome. And though we don’t really notice it’s there, it plays an oversized role in your health and can even affect your mood and behaviorPrebiotics, probiotics and your health

Vegetables offer the best impact for your gut when uncooked to preserve fiber. Cooking transforms the fiber, lowering fiber content. Prebiotic Food List

What are probiotics? 

Probiotics are live culture bacteria which are found in foods or supplements that promote microorganisms for our guts known to benefit our health, body and brain. Probiotics could also benefit immune function and suggested as an aid for digestive issues, reducing the risk of diarrhea with antibiotic use, lessens risk of C-DIFF infection, and aids in food poisoning and stomach virus. Yogurt, such as non-flavored Greek yogurt, is a great source of probiotics and contains on average per serving 100 million probiotics. Simple… eat a serving of yogurt per day! Some yogurts are marked specifically to contain probiotics, such as Activa. Watch sugar levels in fruit flavored yogurts. Other fermented food products known to contain probiotics; kefer, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha, pickles, traditional buttermilk, nato and certain cheeses. Click Probiotic Food List for information on probiotic rich foods. Some fermented foods do have gluten, so for GF readers…read the labels.

NOTE: Kombucha bottles are not always well labeled to instruct recommended use, at least on the bottle I purchased. Internet checking I’ve seen serving recommendations at 4 oz and not to be consumed daily. The health benefits claimed have not been proven. Many brands contain alcohol and caffeine since it is fermented tea, therefore not for CHILDREN. There have been resulting health issues reported, such as liver damage, and the recommendation is to purchase from reputable sources and pass on homemade Kombucha. Not all Kombucha is created equal so if specifically looking for the benefits of probiotic and live cultures, look for labels with these ingredients noted. Some Kombucha can be high in sugar or use alternative sweeteners such as stevia. Check the label and choose those low in natural sugar. This video by Dr. Oz that aired Feb 2018 is a great resource about Kombucha in a comparison study to other food products rich in probiotics, titled, The Hype Behind Probiotics and Gut FoodsAnother good resource…What is kombucha tea? Does it have any health benefits? Mayo Clinic, Answers from Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

Conclusion 

Antibiotics rank as one of the greatest discoveries of our time, healing bacterial infections and saving lives. Fast forward 90 years and we are the generation experiencing repercussions of antibiotic overuse and misuse, especially within the elder populous leading to severe side effects, life threatening antibiotic resistant bacteria and superbugs. Failing to complete prescribed antibiotics and its dose recommendation, taking the wrong antibiotics for the wrong infection, borrowing another’s medication when feeling ill, or being prescribed antibiotics when an infection doesn’t exist, can lead to unwelcomed side affects and serious health issues. What can you do? Prepare now and be gut healthy choosing foods naturally rich in prebiotics and probiotics. Communicate prescription concerns with your healthcare provider and explore alternative options when possible. Use your voice and be an advocate for elderly family members. Antibiotic drugs can still be effective and the preferred drug to treat bacterial infections. The responsibility lies with you to know the facts, use your voice, and be proactive by feeding your gut well!

Resources 

inspiration

Summer Refresh!

On Vacation for Blog

Summer is here and it’s time to rest and refresh, which I’ll be doing as well!! Modify posts will return on Tuesday, July 10th.

Summer offers a great opportunity to soak-in information for healthier living. During this time I encourage you to watch Wellness Changer summer videos by Jeanne Wisniewski, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. These brief yet impactful summer videos are packed with information sharing simple modifications you can make to your daily living, food and exercise, for a healthier YOU! Some of the videos already published include the truth behind probiotics, gut health and vision through nutrition.

Be intentional and schedule time to plan and accomplish the changes you want to achieve this summer…rest, have fun, read, plan, eat well and exercise!

Let’s reconnect July 10th!!

Best wishes,

Debra

Resources

Life Lesson

Living Your Story

Living Your story

This past week, on my private Facebook page, I posted a daily quote about gratitude. Life is not perfect and gratefulness sharpens a focus on blessings. Such gratitude reminds me of the gift of life and the people who bring beauty to it. I find this especially beneficial during the week leading to my birthday, which offers an opportunity to adjust my perspective to focus on what is right with the world. This gratitude exercise has encouraged the desire to know my story, a process of which I thought would be a great share with Modify readers. If we know our story and are able to articulate it well, we have a better grip on “self-confidence” to be who we are, comfortable in our own skin in order to live intentionally. Otherwise, we can feel like drifters across the sea of life, allowing shifting winds to set our sail. This post will share how to define your story by becoming well acquainted with who you are, embracing natural giftedness and communicating your story that includes gratefulness. If we know our life story, we can live it!

Creating and telling a story that resonates also helps us believe in ourselves.What is your story? HBR – Herminia Ibarra Kent Lineback JANUARY 2005 ISSUE

Defining Your Story – Getting Acquainted With Yourself

accept-no-ones-definition-of-your-life-define-yourselfThe first step… to define your story is to define YOU. The most difficult part of this first step is to guard against accepting a definition others assume of you that may not align with your thoughts of self, plans to be a better you or the reality of who you really are. This statement goes both ways…those who may critically judge you and those who may overly praise you. The focus here is articulating a personal, deeply introspective, perspective of SELF.

The second step…honestly identify positive behaviors/actions that support the first step as well as negative behaviors that do not validate the person you are or striving to be. “Is the story we are telling ourselves match the story others are witnessing.”Life’s Stories, The Atlantic

The third step…further explore those negative behaviors/actions, which are not mirroring the essence of the person you believe or want yourself to be. This step is about making necessary changes in order to be authentic. We may think incongruent actions are not a big deal, yet they are visible and the message the world receives and reflects back to you appears as… Do as I say and not as I do, which doesn’t bode well for shaping a person of integrity.

Using the Life-Scope

Does your story say you have suffered loss or been hurt so deeply that you will never get over it? Or does your story say, “Life is hard sometimes, but I am resourceful, not to mention still breathing, and I have free choice and the ability to change patterns that don’t work for me.” Defining Yourself: What’s your life story? 

Experiences… shape us, teach us, and guide us. Experiences are our credentials when fullsizeoutput_4db9
properly channeled. Throughout life we have those significant experiences that greatly impact… to strengthen or break us. Experiences that strengthen build character, kindness and compassion, victory over our circumstances. The Oyster and the Pearl is a perfect analogy shared recently by a friend of mine in bible study about the irritating grain of sand that the oyster uses to create a stunning pearl. Experiences that break accumulate anger and form a thick root of bitterness, greatly impacting a story’s sentiment, reflecting a victim instead of a victor. Don’t we all want to be victors in our story?? Which life experiences, both good and not so good, have shaped the person you defined in step one? Take a moment and be grateful for your life experiences, especially those that have been hard and hurtful. Try and see how challenging times and perhaps difficult people allowed you to rise above, step by step, modeling a person of strength and perseverance. Take time to reflect on these experiences and release any bitterness that may still be tied to a difficult situation or person(s) to move forward.

Victors produce choices and don’t live in regret over what might have been or what happened yesterday. Victims obsess on past failures and hurts, feeding a growing cancer of bitterness. As bitterness grows, the obsession with the past dominates and the ability to make choices in the present fades. Victims lose the potential to generate success.Victors and Victims…Are you being held back by a victim mentality? By K. R. Harrison.

Embracing YOUR Giftedness

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. Galatians 6:4-5 The Bible – The Message

Photo Your Story.jpegWe are all born with natural gifts. Unfortunately, it is human nature that we don’t always follow through with the giftedness we have and often times work hard to attain the gifts others possess. Deep joy and life fulfillment come from nurturing the gifts given to us as our birthright. There are many surveys that reveal natural gifts through algorithm assessments. However, that pure blissful feeling of joy is an accurate indication when we accomplish certain tasks or lose track of time fully absorbed in a project or working and serving alongside others. And, the value of this giftedness and JOY most certainly is not limited to monetary rewards or income status. The responsibility lies with you to disengage from “noise” that might lead you to believe otherwise. Successfully using natural giftedness can be accomplished through employment or volunteer work or BOTH. Value is measured by thriving through personal joy and happiness and being a positive influence to those around you. The following are some simple questions that can guide you to living life on purpose and not by accident.

What you are is God’s gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God. Danish Proverb shared in The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  

  • What do I enjoy doing the most? The least?
  • What do I feel I’m best at? Not very good at? Do other people see me the same way?
  • When did I experience pure joy from the fruits of my labor?
  • When do I feel I’m of most value?
  • What brings me sadness? What brings me frustration?
  • What makes me feel triumph? What makes me feel defeat?
  • What do I need to feel balanced? If feeling deprived, even when using our natural skills and talents, we can be robbed of joy. Example…I need minimum 8 hours of sleep, exercise 3 x per week, and prayer time, which must be scheduled in my calendar.
  • Is there any trait(s) I’m currently refusing to accept about myself?
  • If I can change anything about my life what would it be?
  • Describe my ideal life 5 years from now, what I would like to be doing, where I’ll be living and who are the people that will be in my life?
  • Where can I improve…words and actions?
  • A question to those of whom you respect and know well…What do you feel is one of my strengths and one of my weaknesses?

After identifying your natural skills and talents, explore the many ways they can be used in various environments, experimenting to find your deepest joy. Be creative and be open to all avenues of application! Expect that your plans may be met with naysayers, opposition, discouragement, and perhaps also unexpected circumstances that could circumvent short-term goals. Therefore, when making plans to use these gifts in a new and different way in your life, be careful with whom you share your story. As I have quoted in previous postings, my favorite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don’t consent. Trust is earned. Know with confidence those within your circle of relationships who are encouragers and qualified to offer solid, constructive and respected advice.

 “A life story is written in chalk, not ink, and it can be changed. “You’re both the narrator and the main character of your story,” Adler says. “That can sometimes be a revelation—‘Oh, I’m not just living out this story, I am actually in charge of this story.” Life’s Stories, The Atlantic 

Always let kindness be reflected in your story. And, if this is not the case for you, take time to find out why. Difficult people are often a reflection of their own insecurities and unhappiness. Is this the storyline you want?

Your own capacity for kindness. It can be hard to feel gratitude for the people in your life at times when you feel hurt, betrayed, or abandoned by them. People can be cruel, and often there is little we can do about it. But we can control our own behavior. We can choose to treat others with kindness, to be the person who brightens someone else’s day or eases their pain. This capacity for kindness is a valuable gift for others, but also for ourselves—research shows that giving compassion and support to others (link is external) can increase our own happiness too.  10 Things You Can Be Thankful For No Matter What Is Going OnPsychology Today

Fully applying your natural skills and talents will shape an authentic story, mirroring in life the totality of your person. Your story is complete when the essence of who you are is able to shine through. The natural giftedness that shapes you becomes like vivid images/illustrations to your story or the seasoning that flavors you to be exceptional!

Sharing your story

Sharing your story is meant to empower others and to continue to empower yourself. Your story can be modified to your audience, for example, to those you are meeting for the first time (getting acquainted) compared to those you have known for many years, where a solid bridge of trust has been constructed. What is most important about your story… is the impact it has on you, living it out consistently and sharing it to inspire others

This is where control comes into play. You must decide the information you share and who you share this information with. In telling these pieces, be certain to take ownership. If you want your story to have significance, do not shy away from what you share out of fear of being judged. Instead take complete power over your story. There are pieces of your story that you may not want to share, but figure out how to share them in a manner that is constructive and if nothing else, will inspire those around you. Defining Your Story, The Only One Worth Telling by Tim Mousseau

Are you ready to create your story and share it? Knowing your story feeds meaning to your life. Your story should be unique to reflect the essence of YOU and your life mission. Our lives reflect the sum of our core beliefs and best intentions to enjoy a full and joy-filled life. What we perceive through the lens of gratitude will fill our story with grace, love, and all that is beautiful. We are to guard against becoming the sum of other people; their passions, judgments, struggles, and weaknesses. Identify and embrace giftedness, which brings a vibrant energy to your story. And, share your story to be inspired and to inspire others to create and share their own!

Resources

Additional Resources

Food & Drink

Pass The Coconuts, Please!

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DRY living and thin air is a reality residing in a semi-arid climate at 6000 ft elevation! Everything dries fast. Fruits spoil quickly. Plants always need water. So I hate to imagine what all this dryness is doing to my body!! Now and then, I get an annoying headache, which is the body’s way of telling me…you need fluids!! Drinking water has never been a favorite and playing catch-up to hydrate, often makes me feel bloated and nauseas. About a year ago my husband read about the benefits of coconut water. He bought a case and stocked the refrigerator. Initially, I wasn’t a fan but we did have a case, which offered many opportunities to establish that acquired taste. We now LOVE coconut water! It appears to hydrate faster than water and offers health benefits that plain drinking water does not. This post will share a few facts about coconuts, the health benefits of drinking coconut water, as well as suggestions on how to prepare this refreshing alternative with a tasty twist! Planning for HOT summer days…you might consider giving coconut water a try!!

Is it a fruit or is it a nut??

Coconuts come from the coconut palm tree and are considered a fruit. The seed is called a drupe and it is not a nut. The scientific name is Cocos Nucifera. However, “in the U.S. coconut is classed as a tree nut by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for labeling purposes.” The Coconut Allergy Guide In Europe, coconuts are classified as fruit. Although allergic reactions are not common, if you or any one of your family members suffer with food allergies or are allergic to tree nuts, as a precaution, you may consult with your physician. Reported coconut allergy symptoms from The Coconut Allergy Guide include the following, contact dermatitis being the most common. However, anaphylaxis to coconut is extremely rare.

  • Skin reactions such as rash, hives or eczema.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Airway symptoms including wheezing, coughing, or a runny nose.
  • Swelling, also known as angioedema, of the lips, tongue, or face.
  • Severe reactions, called anaphylaxis, may occur, affecting multiple organ systems.

Coconut water (clear fluid inside the coconut) is harvested while the fruit is not yet ripe (still green), about 5-7 months in maturity. It takes about 10-12 months for a coconut to fully mature. As the coconut continues to age and ripen, the fluid transforms to the white meaty inner lining of the fruit.

Tropical countries, where coconuts are grown, have used this fruit to treat health issues for centuries and for this reason, the tree from which the fruit is grown is known as the tree that gives life.

Health Benefits

Coconut water is a good source of fiber, vitamin C and several important minerals. 8 Science-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Water

  • Carbs:9 grams
  • Fiber:3 grams
  • Protein:2 grams
  • Vitamin C:10% of the RDI
  • Magnesium:15% of the RDI
  • Manganese:17% of the RDI
  • Potassium:17% of the RDI
  • Sodium:11% of the RDI
  • Calcium:6% of the RDI

11 Surprising Benefits Of Coconut Water states… The mineral content includes calciumironmagnesium, phosphorous, potassiumsodiumzinccoppermanganese, and selenium. The vitamins found in coconut water include vitamin B6vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavinniacinpantothenic acid, and folate.

Below is a health benefit summary combining reported findings from two online articles, Is Coconut Water Good For You, by Dr. Draxe and  GO NUTS: 55 COCONUT WATER BENEFITS TO KEEP YOU SIPPING To date I have found most all studies conducted about coconut water benefits have been performed on animals, and such studies have yet to be conducted on humans.

  • It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink.
  • Great electrolyte replacement.
  • Can lower blood pressure because of the high potassium that neutralizes the effects of sodium in the body.
  • Can aid in weight loss.
  • Boost energy and therefore, increased athletic performance.
  • Reduce cellulite.
  • Relax muscle tension because of its high amounts of calcium and magnesium.
  • Coconut water contains antioxidants that protect cells from damaging free radicals
  • Good for fighting infections.
  • Shown to lower sugar levels in diabetic animal testing. Also a good source of magnesium, benefiting (lowering blood sugar levels) to those with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes.
  • In animal testing reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels at the same effectiveness as statin drugs and further research is needed in human study.
  • Treats Cholera.
  • Protects the liver helping to cleanse and reduce toxins.
  • Beneficial for postmenopausal symptoms or hormone replacement therapy
  • Wound healing properties.
  • It has a unique chemical composition of sugars, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and cytokinines – which have shown anti-aging and anti-cancer effects in research studies. GO NUTS: 55 COCONUT WATER BENEFITS TO KEEP YOU SIPPING

When compared to regular water and sport drinks, coconut water was one of the 3 drinks that did not produce a feeling of nausea and fullness, often experienced when drinking large amounts of fluid after rigorous exercise or participating in a sporting event. And, for this reason, more coconut water was consumed for lasting hydration.

I am now drinking coconut water regularly; consuming  2 – 3 each 11.1 oz cartons daily, an amount I never consumed with regular water. Headaches are now rare and chronic leg and foot cramps are gone. My skin looks so much better, too! The best health proof of coconut water is how YOU feel and the benefits YOU notice after regularly consuming this natural fruit water.

Coconut Water RecipesjBo38dvxTJStCzIMKEZ82w

Coconut water is good on its own merit, cold from the fridge. For added flavor and perhaps as a summer refreshing drink without alcohol, below are some suggestions. If you are wondering what brand is best, it’s truly personal preferences because pure coconut water should all be the same (no added ingredients). My favorite is Vita Coco. At the grocery store the cost is $1.99 for the small 11.1 oz carton. A 12 pack of this same size at Sam’s Club is $13.98…BIG price difference!!

Coconut Lemon Water– pure and simple

qht2dRKiQoqdaHEG1HW2GwCoconut water taste best served cold. The other day I added freshly squeezed lemon juice, ½ lemon. Oh my gosh…a lemonade flavor without having that sugar after taste! This is a thirst quencher, unlike some drinks that actually make you feel more thirsty after the initial feeling of being refreshed! Adding just lime juice didn’t work as well for me. Another option is to make ice-cubes using raspberries or blueberries, grated fresh ginger root, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and coconut water for each cube, in an ice tray. I added a few cubes to my coconut water, letting it sit for about 5 minutes. SO refreshing!!  The only recipe I found online that isn’t filled with sugar or alcohol, is noted below.

Lemon Lime Coconut Quench by Meghan Telpner 

  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1½ cups coconut water
  • ½ cup water (or more depending on desired concentration)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp grated ginger root
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions

  1. Add lemon and lime juice to blender.
  2. Add coconut water, water, honey, ginger and sea salt into blender.
  3. Drink up with a smile or keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.

You can stay wonderfully hydrated with added minerals and vitamins simply by including coconut water to your daily regiment. This mega-electrolyte and natural alternative to regular water offers potential health benefits ranging from anti-aging to heart health, digestion aid and fighting infections! When drinking coconut water, keep it simple without adding surgery syrups or alcohol. Coconut water has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and I am grateful this tree of life has made its way from the tropical islands to our grocery store shelves. This summer, stay hydrated, grab this healthy alternative, and pass the coconuts sharing this awesome find to friends and family, while you enjoy a refreshing glass, too!

Resources

Food & Drink

It’s A Polenta Day!

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When someone in my family says, “it’s a polenta day”, I can precisely describe the weather without leaving the house or peaking out the window! Polenta has been the perfect comfort food in our home since my youth, growing up in San Francisco. At that time, this dish was usually reserved for cold, cloudy and drizzle filled days, which didn’t just occur during the winter months.

The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent Was a Summer in San Francisco Author Unknown

This is a popular quote about San Francisco. Although credit has been given to Mark Twain, he actually didn’t say this about San Francisco but did share his disappointment about the weather he experienced in Paris. Quote Investigator

Serving polenta always triggers fond memories, watching my mom cooking at the stove on drizzle cold days. I still LOVE polenta traditional style with Parmesan cheese, either stirred with butter or topped with marinara sauce. Polenta recipes have definitely become quite sophisticated today, with different serving styles and flavor options. We now enjoy this dish on cold days or warm summer nights, served as a side starch or as a gourmet first course for formal dining. An added benefit…it’s Gluten Free!

Today of course, polenta is one of the most glamorous players in the high, international interest in Italian eating. Perhaps we’re entering another golden age of polenta. Polenta, Past and Present, by Zingerman’s Food Tours

As we transition to long summer days and beautiful warm summer nights, below are some great recipes you can enjoy!

Polenta Recipes

Traditional Polenta – side dish – serving for 4 or entree serving for 2

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup corn meal

Corn meal works great. It is not necessary to purchase pricey boxes of polenta meal. I use Aunt Jemima Corn Meal.

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Optional – 2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese, if you want a creamier texture

Add 3 cups water and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. In a bowl add one-cup corn meal and 1 cup cold water. Stir until it forms a paste mixture. Add ¼ cup of the corn meal mixture to the boiling water. Stir until fully dissolved before adding additional ¼ cups. When the corn mixture has been incorporated, cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally  (option…add mascarpone cheese for a creamier texture), until thickened.

Butter and Parmesan  Add two tablespoons of butter and stir. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Marinara and Parmesan  Top with your favorite marinara sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Chili and Polenta  My husband’s favorite – top with your favorite chili and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Butter and Gorgonzola Cheese  Add 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoon mascarpone cheese (if not previously added) and ¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese – a distinctive creamy texture and rich flavor.

Baked Polenta Pizza

  • Follow Traditional Polenta Recipe.
  • Pour into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan lightly sprayed with Pam. Spread the mixture evenly throughout the pan. Let it cool for about 30 minutes. Or, place in the fridge until you are ready to add toppings and bake.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Brush lightly with olive oil, add your toppings such as; favorite pizza sauce, sundried tomatoes, baby Portobello mushrooms, Kalamata olives, sliced fresh Mozzarella cheese (or use the mini fresh Mozzarella balls). Add a light layer of  shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until all cheese has melted, turning slightly golden.
  • Let sit for 10-15 minutes, to become firm, before cutting.
  • Option: Place in the fridge and cut up in smaller squares for a great cold appetizer.

Enjoy! As shown in the photos – before bake and after bake. I lightly brushed the top before baking with olive oil and Barilla Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, adding Kalamata olives, fresh sliced Mozzarella cheese, fresh chopped basil and shredded parmesan. Excellent!!

Grilled Polenta with prawns, roasted peppers and Gorgonzola – Serving for 4

  • Polenta rounds, homemade or store purchased
  • 1 each red, yellow, and orange peppers, to roast
  • 20 prawns 21-25 count size
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic diced
  • Ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon (dash)
  • Dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes

You can make polenta and form your own polenta rounds by pouring the mixture in a baking ban for 1/2 inch thickness and then put in the fridge. When cool and firm, use press the top of a round glass into the firm mixture to form round circles. Or, purchase polenta Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 12.12.22 PMpackaged rolls available at most grocery stores, such as this Sun Dried Tomato Garlic Polenta product by Food Merchants.

Roasting peppers. Purchase a jar of roasted peppers or make your own. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds and wash. Dry each half and place cut-side down on a Pam sprayed cookie sheet or roasting pan. Roast peppers for one hour or until blackened and charred on the top. Remove from the oven. Place peppers in a gallon size baggie and refrigerate for 1/2 hour+.  Once cooled, remove from baggy, peel skin off and thinly slice.

Making the sauce. You can use your own favorite sauce, homemade or purchased. This is my simple recipe. Coat and heat skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 3 cloves diced garlic, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil and 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro and sauté a few minutes. Add a dash of ground ginger, salt, pepper. Add 14 oz can of diced roasted tomatoes. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of Marsala wine and 16 – 20 peeled and cleaned uncooked prawns, 21-25-count size. Stir, cooking shrimp until they are done.

To serve.  Add a tablespoon or two of sauce, on each plate. Place one grilled polenta round on top of the sauce. Top each round with 2-3 pawns with sauce. Top with a few roasted sliced peppers and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Option: Grill shrimp instead of cooking in the sauce. Add sauté Portobello mushrooms. Serve immediately.

Grilling polenta rounds.

  • Slice to 1/2 inch rounds and brush with olive oil.
  • Pam Spray your grill BEFORE turning it on.
  • Place the rounds on the grill (about 350 degrees) and grill about 5 minutes on each side. You can also do this stove top or broil for a few minutes in your oven.

Summer Grilling

Polenta seasoned rolls are great to simply slice (1/2 inch) and grill. When grilling is almost done, add bruschetta or brush with pesto and sprinkle Parmesan cheese while still on the grill, until cheese melts. This makes for a great summer appetizer paired with a buttery chardonnay.

Additional Polenta Recipes

I’ve bookmarked the following recipes that look amazing!

If you haven’t yet experienced the uniqueness of polenta and its versatility, give it a try!! There are so many ways to prepare this dish; polenta as a meal in itself, an appetizer, or a side dish, served throughout the year – rain or sunshine!! Maybe today… is your polenta day!

Resources

  • Polenta, Past and Present, by Zingerman’s Food Tours, if you are interested in reading the history of polenta.
  • Recipes – all recipes noted in the post are hyperlinked.
inspiration

Be Inspired…Read To Good Health!

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I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten, even so, they have made me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

When was the last time you enjoyed a great read? It had been a while since I was absorbed in a fictional novel and not for a lack of incredible books. Last week a friend of mine finished The Immigrants By Howard Fast. She LOVED the book and lent it to me. WOW! Following each time set aside for reading, I felt different, as in that “great” way of getting lost in someone else’s story!! It’s refreshing to step out of one’s own life and to be “imagination” present in another world of characters, drama, history, victory/defeat…fully immersed and desperately wanting the story to continue as the last few pages signify the end. At some point during this past year my daily reading habit (novels) slipped out of my life and so did the relaxing benefits that can be refreshing to the mind, body and soul. After conducting a quick Internet search I came across some interesting and thoughtful Sweeny Reading Quotescomments describing the soothing lingering benefits of a good read… “serenely reposed in mellowing afterthoughts, a deep emotional state of nostalgic, the sensation of having a friend whose memory will remain, awe and inspiration, rewarding to be part of someone’s journey, a literary afterglowhope, assurance, promise, warm pleasure, compassion and empathy. Quora And, it some cases there is a feeling of grief that the story is over; profound melancholicand the feeling of profound loss that deep down in your heart you know you couldn’t have related better with anyone!” Quora

When I finished reading The Immigrants, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement as if I time-traveled through the years 1888 -1933! Reading can add layers of life experiences, all through an adventure in literature.

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man [person] who never reads lives only one. George R. R. Martin

The following shares health benefits of reading books, affecting adults and children physically, mentally, and emotionally. After reading this post you will want to start searching for your next novel!

General Health Benefits of Reading

What you choose to read is important. Focus on “feel good” inspirational stories, even though the novel may include hardships and tragedies. A good novel releases our attachment to daily stressful triggers. After a time of reading, there is a feeling of being refreshed “resting” in someone else’s story.

“Reading can be a wonderful (and healthy) escape from the stress of everyday life. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors. Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. It works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea. This is because your mind is invited into a literary world that is free from the stressors that plague your daily lifeTaking Charge of Your Health and Well Being, University of Minnesota  – Reading for Stress Relief

According to a new study, reading books could extend lifespan by up to 2 years, and the more often you read, the better. Reading Books Can Increase Your Lifespan, Huffington Post, August 2017

Rowling dfa878cd9f3bc3220f4956ad8fa4fcf8Reading that inspires imagination is good food for the brain. As we age, mental agility and the ability to recall short-term and long-term memories can be more challenging, the result of our brains getting older. Novels require a deeper concentration, which activates brain cells protecting mental agility as opposed to skimming magazines and newspapers. Reading also works on emotional health, working and stimulating cognitive processes which impacts empathy, emotional intelligence, and social perceptions.

Unlike, say, skimming a page of headlines, reading a book (of any genre) forces your brain to think critically and make connections from one chapter to another, and to the outside world. When you make connections, so does your brain, literally forging new pathways between regions in all four lobes and both hemispheres. Over time, these neural networks can promote quicker thinking and may provide a greater defense against the worst effects of cognitive decay. Reader’s Digest Here’s Why Your Brain Needs You to Read Every Single Day, by Brandon Spector

First, it [reading novels] promotes “deep reading,” which is a slow, immersive process; this cognitive engagement occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented. Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books. Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival. Better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process NCBI Study – Soc Sci Med. – A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading with Longevity. 2016 Sep;164:44-48. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.014. Epub 2016 Jul 18.

Audio Books vs Traditional Books?

Whether reading or listening to novels, both require focus and imagination. Audio books are just as effective on our physical, mental and emotional well being as reading traditional books, for adults. Multitasking when the hands are free is the only audio book caveat, making it easier to become distracted when listening rather than reading a book. Listening to poetry through audio books, however, has been found to be more profound for comprehension and understanding…”because an audio book pre-determines an aspect of language called prosody, or the musicality of words. “Someone who knows the meaning can convey a lot through prosody,” Willingham said. “If you’re listening to a poem, the prosody might help you.” Is Listening To Audio Books Really The Same As Reading, Forbes, Olga Khazan

As science writer Olga Khazan noted in 2011, a “1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension — suggesting that those who read books well would listen to them well. In a 1977 study, college students who listened to a short story were able to summarize it with equal accuracy as those who read it.” Listeners and readers retain about equal understanding of the passages they’ve consumed, in other words. Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading? Forbes Olga Khazan

Is it best for children to read books instead of audio books? Until children reach middle school, the brain’s decoding process through reading requires development that comes through visual practice. There are exceptions for those students whose learning abilities thrive only through auditory means. Decoding, by contrast, is specific to reading, Willingham said; this is indeed one more step your mind has to take when reading a print book as compared to listening to the audiobook version. But by about late elementary school, decoding becomes so second-nature that it isn’t any additional “work” for your brain. It happens automatically.” To Your Brain Listening to a Books is Pretty Much Like Reading It. The Cut, By Melissa Dahl

Impact Reading has on Children

I began reading aloud to my son while he was in the womb and continued until he was independently reading books on his own. Stimulating the brain through story telling encourages the development of brain cells in infants and toddlers. As children progress through school, daily and consistent reading for pleasure has multiple long lasting benefits in these 5 areas as noted in Benefits of Early Reading by Teach Reading Early“Neurological, Educational, Psychological, Social, Linguistic.”

And, if novels can de-stress adults, they can de-stress children as well. This is especially true in a world where kids have become overcommitted and expectations to achieve perfection have become more prevalent than ever before, affecting students in younger age groups with each passing year.

Born with about 100 billion neurons (the cells that receive, process and transmit information in our brains), babies are actively working to make sense of the world around them. These neurons have the ability to connect with each other and form neural pathways – the foundation for learning. Reading aloud to babies, and using language promotes the development of these pathways, and the more pathways a child develops, the more they will be able to learn as time passes by. Three Ways Early Reading Benefits Infants Development by FirstBook.org, Gavin McGuire January 2018

Five Physical Benefits of Reading covers the following benefits of reading: They Help Kids See, Books Sharpen The Senses, They Get Kids Moving, Books Grow Brain Cells, and They Make The Heart Bigger. 

Books grow brain cells Struggling readers have fewer cells in some regions. But a study found that after six months of daily reading, the weak spots beefed up so much that the kids’ brains looked the same as those of kids with stronger reading skills. Five Physical Benefits of Reading, Parent & Child Magazine by By Jennifer Abasi

Discover Your Genre and Select Your Next Read 

The New York Times best-seller list is a great place for book recommendations, however, many fantastic reads never make this list. I’ve read incredible stories through KINDLE FREE books as well as recommendations from Goodreads.com, book clubs, and through friends. Most all online resources filter by genre for selections and updates on books that interest you, making the journey of finding your next novel far easier to navigate! Below are resources to finding your next novel. In addition, get acquainted with your local library and open an online account to access e-books and audiobooks for the whole family.

Busy living, social media, and technological advances compete for our attention today. These modern day temptations can become a wedge to settling-in to an adventurous novel…book or an audio book. You can change this! Make time! There are health advantages that come from reading novels (inspirational biographies, too) when we are able to escape the routine of our own lives and enter into someone else’s story! Romain Rokand, eloquently describes this get-a-way… “No one ever reads a book. He reads himself through books.” You, too, can experience afterglows, awe, adventure, and inspiration when immersed in a good story. If it’s been a while since you read a book, consider finding or reconnecting to a favorite genre. Highlight time in your calendar to de-stress!! Studies support that reading triggers brain cell development in infants, aids in the learning abilities of children and adults, and increases longevity among the elderly protecting against cognitive decay. Who would have known reading books could rank as one of the best “supplements” for good and healthy living, whatever your age! Be inspired! Read to good health!

Resources