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The unseen mental health effects of the Pandemic: Eating disorders on the rise

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(Family Features) Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, increases in mental health issues have been widely documented. While diagnoses like anxiety and depression are more common, other problems, such as eating disorders, have not been discussed as frequently.

Eating disorders have also increased in the past two years and can be life threatening, especially if left untreated. Today there are more treatment options available and more access to care for those who need help.

“Eating disorders are on the rise, and medical science is advancing in this area to continually improve treatment outcomes,” said Dr. Margherita Mascolo, chief medical officer at Alsana, a leading eating recovery community and treatment provider. “Our patients consistently report a decrease in eating disorder symptoms after treatment, and just as importantly, our survey data shows they also report a much better quality of life post-treatment. This data is very encouraging for patients and their families.”

Eating disorders affect people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, races and socioeconomic statuses. An estimated 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States have an eating disorder, and by 2030, there will be a 5% increase in the number of people with eating disorders, according to the Academy for Eating Disorders.

One of the challenges in treating eating disorders is finding treatment options and models of care that work with individual needs and schedules. For example, college athletes, young mothers and women with careers all have distinctly different lifestyles, so a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment is impractical and unlikely to succeed.

One potential solution is an approach that treats the whole person, such as The Adaptive Care Model at Alsana, which meets clients where they are in recovery. This holistic approach strives to create an inspiring healing experience that focuses on the patient’s total health. Creating a compassionate community of care is key to this treatment model. The program is based on five core areas:

Medical Treatment

Someone working to overcome an eating disorder must build health resilience and establish a physical foundation for recovery. A collaborative and compassionate approach allows for your medical issues to be monitored and addressed by specialty-trained physicians. The medical dimension seeks to empower you by educating you on the organic causes of your symptoms and how to overcome them.

Relational

Exploring and growing your own sense of purpose and self-expression can empower you to connect on a deeper level with yourself, others and your sense of purpose or true calling. This means rediscovering your true self, feeling confident in expressing your potential and working toward your goals. Instilling hope, inspiration and motivation along your healing journey can provide you with the tools and knowledge to thrive long after completing treatment so you have a positive outlook for the future.

Nutrition

Proper nutrition plays an important role in recovery, as you must learn to balance nourishment and pleasure on a physical and emotional level to restore a nurturing relationship between food and your body. Guidance and exposure to balanced food choices and real-life eating experiences helps build confidence and promotes enjoyment of meal experiences, not just the food itself.

Movement

Physical activity can be healing for both the mind and body. Listening and responding to the body creates a strong foundation of body awareness. Movement is an avenue toward achieving optimal health, but it’s also a way to learn to appreciate and connect with your body on a deeper level.

Therapeutic

Through therapy, you can work to heal from trauma, negative feelings, fears, and challenges that may be standing in the way of recovery. Practices that treat the person (not the disorder) can prove effective.

No treatment plan is one-size-fits all, and finding the right care is essential to recovery.  

“Focusing on the patient’s total health is an innovative treatment model that is proving effective,” Mascolo said. “Our caregivers provide personalized care, compassion and support to complement the medical, nutritional and psychological therapies in a holistic treatment model.”

Find more information about eating disorders and available treatments at alsana.com.

How to Identify an Eating Disorder

The first step in effective treatment is identifying a problem. Discussing the answers to these questions with your doctor may help you pinpoint an eating disorder and get you on the path toward recovery. Take the survey to find out if you may have an eating disorder at alsana.com/survey.

  1. Do you attempt to restrict calories or foods?
  2. Do you make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
  3. Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?
  4. Have you recently lost more than one stone in a three-month period?
  5. Do you believe yourself to be “fat” when others say you are too thin?
  6. Would you say food dominates your life?

Photos courtesy of Getty Images


SOURCE:
Alsana

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5 heart health tips for the holidays

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(Family Features) Food, drinks, gifts and time with family make the holidays a merry occasion for people across the country. However, all that celebrating can sometimes become a distraction from maintaining heart health.

In fact, the joys of the season can become marred for many as research shows an uptick in cardiac events and heart attack deaths during the final week of December. According to a study published in the American Heart Association journal, “Circulation,” more cardiac deaths occur on Dec. 25 than any other day of the year, followed by the second largest number on Dec. 26 and third largest on Jan. 1.

“The holidays are a busy, often stressful time for many of us,” said American Heart Association Chief Clinical Science Officer Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., M.S., FAHA. “Routines are disrupted. We may tend to eat and drink more and exercise and relax less. We’re getting too little sleep and experiencing too much stress. While we don’t know exactly why there are more deadly heart attacks during this time, it’s important to be aware that these factors can snowball, increasing the risk for a deadly cardiac event.”

Being aware of this annual phenomenon and taking a few important, heart-healthy steps can help save lives. Consider these tips from Dr. Elkind and the experts at the American Heart Association.

  • Know symptoms and take action. Heart attack signs vary in men and women, but it’s important to recognize them early and call 9-1-1 for help. The sooner medical treatment begins, the better chances of survival and preventing heart damage.
  • Celebrate in moderation. Eating healthfully during the holidays doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself. There are ways to eat smart, such as by limiting sodium intake and looking for small, healthy swaps so you continue to feel your best while eating and drinking in moderation.
  • Practice goodwill toward yourself. Make time to take care of yourself during this busy season. Reading a favorite book, meditating or even playing with pets are productive ways to reduce stress from the family interactions, strained finances, hectic schedules, traveling and other stressors that can be brought on by the holidays.
  • Keep moving. The hustle and bustle of holiday preparation often pushes exercise to the side, but it’s important to stay active as much as possible. Get creative to keep moving by going for a family walk or playing physically active games with loved ones.
  • Stick to your medications. Busy schedules can cause some people to skip medications, sometimes even forgetting them at home or not getting refills in a timely manner. Try using a medication chart as a reminder, and be sure to keep tabs on your blood pressure numbers.

Discover more ways to live heart-healthy during the holidays and throughout the year at heart.org.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
 


SOURCE:
American Heart Association

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Navigating the vast world of mental health apps

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(BPT) – This article is sponsored by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc.

Mental illness is a growing crisis in America that has been compounded by the pandemic1,2. In fact, more than 52 million adult Americans reported experiencing a mental illness in 2020 alone, according to the National Institute of Mental Health3. The silver lining is people are talking about their mental health and there are more options for getting help than ever before4.

“As conversations around mental health are normalized around the world, many people are exploring new and different management tools and resources to combat their condition,” said Dr. Stephen Schueller, associate professor of Psychological Science and Informatics at the University of California. Schueller continues, “In fact, one of the more common tools people are turning to are mental health apps.”

It’s estimated that more than 10,000 mental health apps are currently available in major apps stores5. With so many apps to choose from, it can be overwhelming to navigate through the options, prompting questions such as “what’s the difference between these apps?” or “which app is best for me?”

Understanding the Differences Between Apps

So, what are the differences between mental health apps and what features should potential users consider? As this is a relatively new and fast-growing area of healthcare, it’s important to understand that there are different categories of mental health apps designed to address specific objectives.

These include overall wellness apps and digital therapeutics:

  • Wellness Apps

Wellness apps are software intended to promote healthy behaviors and wellness through things like teaching meditation skills, helping users stick to healthy habits, and providing general information and tips. They are not treatments for mental health conditions. These apps are generally not supported by evidence-based research and are not regulated6,7,8.

“There are a wide range of wellness apps available to patients as well as clinicians, but these apps have little to no oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and many of them have not been reviewed or studied in a clinical trial to support claims of efficacy or safety,” according to Schueller.

  • Digital Therapeutics

Unlike wellness apps, digital therapeutics are defined as high-quality software applications that help prevent, manage or treat a medical condition. These are often recommended and used under the care of a physician9.

Digital therapeutics help empower patients and clinicians with intelligent and accessible tools for addressing a wide range of conditions through high-quality, safe and effective data-driven interventions9. According to Schueller, these apps must meet certain core principles regarding user privacy, security and clinical evidence9.

  • Prescription Digital Therapeutics

Within digital therapeutics, there are prescription digital therapeutics, or PDTs9. “PDTs require more rigorous and additional testing in clinical studies and ultimately must gain clearance from the FDA, demonstrating they can treat a condition safely and effectively,” said Schueller. “Importantly, PDTs can only be prescribed by a clinician.”

Having a foundational understanding of available apps and the difference between app categories is the first step, but there are also a few key questions to ask while navigating the vast world of mental health apps, including:

  • Are there data or studies showing this app is e­ffective at what it claims to do?
  • Who is the app developer and what experience do they have in mental health?
  • How will personal data be protected? Will data be shared with third parties?
  • What do trusted sources (like clinicians, regulators or independent rating groups) say about this product?

“Taking the time to do the research and ask the critical questions is an important step before using any health app,” said Dr. Schueller, adding, “However, if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, don’t try to rely on an app alone, talk to a doctor about a treatment plan that is right for you.”

For more information on navigating the vast world of mental health apps click here.

References

  1. Kearney, A., Hamel, L., & Brodie, M. (2021, April 14). Mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: An update. KFF. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/poll-finding/mental-health-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/
  2. Mental health – A Workforce Crisis. American Heart Association CEO Roundtable. (2019, March 5). https://ceoroundtable.heart.org/mental-health-a-workforce-crisis-report/
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Mental illness. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness
  4. Naslund, J. A., & Aschbrenner, K. A. (2021, September 12). Technology use and interest in digital apps for Mental Health Promotion and lifestyle intervention among young adults with serious mental illness. Journal of Affective Disorders Reports. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadr.2021.100227
  5. Clay, R. A. (2021, January 1). Mental health apps are gaining traction. Monitor on Psychology. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/01/trends-mental-health-apps
  6. Stoyanov, S. R., et al. (2015, November 3). Mobile app rating scale: A new tool for assessing the quality of Health Mobile Apps. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. https://mhealth.jmir.org/2015/1/e27/
  7. Bakker, D., Kazantzis, N., Rickwood, D., & Rickard, N. (2016). Mental Health Smartphone Apps: Review and Evidence-Based Recommendations for Future Developments. JMIR mental health, 3(1), e7. https://doi.org/10.2196/mental.4984
  8. Torous, J., Luo, J., & Chan, S. R. (2018, March). Mental health apps: What to tell patients. Current Psychiatry. https://www.mdedge.com/psychiatry/article/159127/depression/mental-health-apps-what-tell-patients
  9. Digital Therapeutics Alliance. Digital Therapeutics: Combining Technology and Evidence-based Medicine to Transform Personalized Patient Care. (2018, October). https://www.dtxalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/DTA-Report_DTx-IndustryFoundations.pdf

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HEALTHY LIVING

Support brain health: Simple ways to add to your wellness routine

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(Family Features) When most people think of wellness, diet and exercise are the first things that come to mind. Brain health is another essential element of your overall wellness because it affects your quality of life in many ways.

Brain health is the foundation of your ability to live a productive and successful life by communicating and solving problems. It’s the driving force behind your daily function.

Give your brain extra support with these tips:

Stimulate Your Mind

Like any muscle, your brain needs exercise. Your workout equipment for your brain can include activities like puzzles, reading, learning an instrument, taking up a new hobby or learning a new language.

Focus on Brain-Supporting Foods
What you eat doesn’t just affect your physical health; it affects your brain health, too. One example is the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, which is the result of more than 20 years of data collected by researchers at Rush University Medical Center and Harvard School of Public Health.

It follows the Mediterranean style of eating whole foods with minimal processing and includes an emphasis on plant-based foods, including leafy greens, whole grains and heart-healthy legumes along with some fish and smaller amounts of poultry. The MIND diet aims to build on these principles and emphasizes antioxidant-rich berries, dark leafy greens and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring or sardines.

A dish like Kale and Quinoa Bowl with Salmon reflects the MIND diet guidelines and is a delicious and smart way to support your brain with good nutrition.

“Fueling your brain starts with your plate,” said Melissa Halas, MA, RDN. “This tasty kale, quinoa and salmon recipe by Alton Brown has smart ingredients that match the MIND diet. Plus, the results are delicious. It’s so important to support your brain with the right nutrients.”

Sleep Well
While you catch up on your rest, your body is hard at work rejuvenating all your systems, and your brain is no exception. Getting plenty of sleep each night gives your brain time to repair itself so you wake feeling sharp and focused.

Add a Supplement to Your Daily Routine
Most people fall short of reaching recommended nutrient levels with their diets alone. Supplements can help fill the gap. An option like Neuriva Plus can help support the key indicators of brain health: reasoning (think and understand things in a logical way), focus (zoom in and filter out distractions), accuracy (react with greater speed and precision), memory (record and recall stored information), learning (retain new information) and concentration (concentrating on tasks for longer periods).*

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Available in capsules and gummies, the Neuriva brain health supplements include naturally sourced ingredients like Neurofactor™ (coffee cherry extract) and plant-sourced phosphatidylserine (PS), as well as B vitamins to support brain health.

“I recently turned 60 and over the past couple of decades, I’ve been very focused on taking care of my health from the inside out – first with my food, and now taking action to support my brain health,” said Alton Brown, award-winning chef and food geek. “Neuriva fits perfectly into my holistic regimen, which for me, is just simple life practices, like exercising, eating a balanced diet and getting a good night’s sleep.”  

Manage Stress
Keeping your stress in check is good for your mental well-being, but it also affects your physical and cognitive health. Practicing yoga, meditation or listening to music are some ways to reduce stress while improving your cognitive function and performance.

Connect with Others
Personal interaction also sharpens your brain, as it encourages you to practice communication and other cognitive skills. You can protect and improve your brain health by creating and nurturing connections with friends and family.

Keep Moving
Your brain needs plenty of oxygen for good function. Physical activity burns calories and builds muscle while increasing oxygen flow and stimulating nerve cell growth.

For more ideas to support brain health and wellness, visit Neuriva.com and download the Neuriva Brain Gym app.

Kale and Quinoa Bowl with Salmon

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown on behalf of Neuriva
Servings: 4

Kale and Quinoa Bowl:

  • 1 bunch lacinato or “dinosaur” kale, stems removed and cut into ribbons (about 4 ounces, stemmed)
  • 1 bunch (1 1/2 ounces) flat leaf parsley, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice only
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt
  • 4 ounces firm feta cheese, divided
  • 1cup (3 1/2 ounces) walnuts, toasted and lightly crushed, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups cooked white quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • freshly ground black pepper

Salmon:

  • 2 skin-on salmon fillets (around 1-inch thick and 5 ounces each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  1. To make kale and quinoa bowls: In large bowl, toss kale, parsley and shallots with 2 tablespoons olive oil; set aside 10 minutes.
  2. In bowl of food processor, puree remaining olive oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, yogurt, 2 ounces feta, 1/3 of the walnuts and salt.
  3. Pour dressing over greens then fold in quinoa, remaining walnuts, cherries and remaining feta.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving with several grinds of black pepper.
  5. To make salmon: Wrap fillets in paper towels then heat large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes.
  6. When skillet is hot, season fillets with salt. Add oil to skillet and carefully tilt to evenly cover bottom. When oil shimmers, slide fillets in, skin-side down, pressing each fillet firmly down with spatula.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 3 minutes then cover and cook 2 minutes.
  8. Carefully flip fillets, cover and cook 1 minute, or until fillets reach desired doneness or internal temperature of at least 130 F** on thermometer inserted into centers.
    **The United States Department of Agriculture recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. To serve, separate kale and quinoa mixture into four bowls. Slice each fillet in half and place on top of kale and quinoa.

Content courtesy of Neuriva

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (woman eating at laptop)
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (woman doing a puzzle)
Photo courtesy of Lynne Calamia (Kale and Quinoa Bowl with Salmon)


SOURCE:
Neuriva

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