Category Archives: Stop Smoking

5 Lifestyle Factors that Can Hurt Your Brain

The way you live your life either contributes to brain health or causes a decline in brain functions such as memory, cognitive ability and focus.

There are five lifestyle factors that can hurt your brain by diminishing its function. To make matters worse, these factors typically become a bigger problem as you age.

The good news is that they are all things over which you have either complete or partial control – and can manage to some degree.

So pay attention . . .

Factors that Can Hurt Your Brain

  1. Poor Eating Habits

Unhealthy Diet
Image by Syda Productions

You know – I know – everyone knows that poor eating habits will cause you to gain weight. But, even more important is the fact that poor eating habits rob you of the nutrients your brain needs to fight free radicals that cause inflammation and deterioration of brain functions.

A healthy diet is critical to brain health. Indulging in a consistently poor diet is asking for trouble!

You are at a much greater risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s when you struggle with obesity, diabetes, and other health issues that result from a poor diet.

Eating healthy foods keeps the oxygen flowing freely through the brain and provides the nutrients needed to sustain its functions.

Finding a healthy diet that keeps your food intake as close to nature as possible is a step on the road to a heathier brain and better life

  1. Lack of exercise

A sedentary lifestyle (couch potato) puts you at risk for a decline in your general health and a decline in brain function.

The fact is – health is a package deal! When your body rarely moves, your brain also suffers because of a lack of stimulation that produces healthy endorphins.

Research shows that physical activity is directly connected to mental alertness because it creates a healthy flow of blood through the entire circulatory system, including the brain. Without it, the opposite happens.

  1. Lack of sleep

As you age, getting enough sleep can become a problem.

Sleep deprivation seriously affects your brain function. It creates irritability, fatigue, the inability to focus and concentrate, and memory loss.

Lack of sleep can be caused by a number of things:

  • Responsibilities to your job and family that keep you up late and physically exhaust you
  • Stress created by life events (loss of job, divorce, moving, financial worries, etc.)
  • Poor physical health
  • Mental and/or emotional distress.

You may not have full control over some of the above factors, but it is important to control them to the degree possible and find ways to control your response to them.

It is critical that you develop behaviors that will support better sleep habits. Seek help from your doctor or mental health specialists, if necessary. It is worth it.

  1. Lack of socialization and feelings of isolation

These are two lifestyle factors that go hand-in-hand.

If you isolate yourself, you will not be socializing with friends and family members.

It is fairly easy for this to happen as you age, if you are not careful.

Factors that contribute to isolation:

  • Retirement
  • Family members move away or drift away
  • Death takes friends and loved ones
  • Personal health issues

Regardless of the cause, isolation will cause the brain to deteriorate.

Even though it may be very challenging, the health of your brain (and body) depends on regular interaction with others.  Find a way to socialize on a regular basis starting today!

  1. Stress Overload

Stress is part of life. It comes in many forms and cannot be avoided. BUT, if it lasts too long, is continual, or extremely severe, it can cause both physical and mental problems.

Be honest with yourself. Take a close look at your life and the stressors that are weighing you down.

Do whatever is necessary to alter your lifestyle in order to eliminate some of the stress in your life – and do it now.

A good first step is to make time to get away from it all – to allow your brain to rest and rejuvenate itself.

You will find that your concentration and cognitive powers improve significantly – and your brain will have the sustainable energy to function as it should.

Two More . . .

Those are the big five . . . but, there are two other lifestyle factors that also contribute to declining brain function:  smoking and excessive use of alcohol.

If either of those are part of your lifestyle, all I can say is STOP! No good has ever come from either habit. The havoc those habits wreak on your body is horrible and comes slowly, but surely.

Don’t Let This Happen to You

Contributing to Dementia
Image by Lightsource

What can you do today to change the 5 lifestyle factors that can hurt your brain (and overall health)?

Take care of yourself – live well – be happier and healthier!

10 Crucial Practices for a Healthy Life

We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control the choices we make that help or harm our health.

Today, I want to share 10 crucial practices for a healthy life.

1.    Eat Healthy Food

Image by klenova
Image by klenova

This is the foundation of a healthy life and a no-brainer, yet many people ignore this one completely.

You must be sure that your body gets adequate amounts of the nutients it needs in order to function correctly

When your diet is made up primarily of fast food, junk food, and heavily processed foods that are filled with sugar, sodium, fat and additives, you are essentially starving your body.  Your organs cannot function well over time when you live on a diet of empty calories.

The human body is miraculous, but it must have the proper fuel (healthy food as close to nature as possible) in order to do its job and keep you healthy.

Eating a healthy diet is critical and it is also important to watch your portions.

Overeating (gluttony) is not good for the body – especially your heart.  Many Americans eat far more than is necessary.

Folow the rule: Eat all foods (even healthy foods) in moderation

2.    Get Plenty of Rest

Without adequate rest (7 to 9 hours/night for the average person), your body will not function as it was meant to function. It will eventually tire out – opening to door to illness and disease.

Adequate rest and quality sleep time enhances bodily functions, reduces tension and anxiety, and sharpens the mind.

Establish a good rest routine. Listen to your body and figure out how much sleep you need. Everyone’s body is different; but, no matter who you are – less than 6-7 hours a night is not good.

A 20-30 minute power nap during the day is good for everyone – whether you are working or not. It will make your late afternoon and evening hours more productive. These are critical if you get less than 6 hours of sleep each night.

3.    Get Some Exercise Every Day

The human body is meant to be active. Continual, long-term inactivity weakens the body in multiple ways and saps your energy. Inactivity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

Exercise is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle. If you tend to be a couch potato (or desk-chair potato), now is the time to change. Get up and get moving.

The heart is a muscle. As with all muscles, it becomes stronger as a result of exercise. It works more efficiently as it pumps blood through the body with every beat. Exercise helps the heart work at maximum capacity with less strain.

When you get some daily exercise (at least 15-20 minutes a day) you will be protecting your heart and doing your part to prevent brittle bones and stiff joints as you get older.

Long strenuous workouts are not necessary. In fact, definitely do not start there. Begin with where you currently are physically and gradually increase as your body adapts.

Some options are:

  • Take a 15 – 20 minute walk each day.
  • Stretch when you get up in the morning with some easy arm and leg lifts.
  • Walk up and down stairs rather than take the elevator. Walking stairs a few times a day, even slowly is helpful.
  • Dance to your favorite music in your living room

Work with your body, not against it.

Find a type of exercise that appeals to you and do it. After a week or two with one type of exercise, introduce something new.

Take your time – but EXERCISE regularly.

4.    Drink Water

The human body ranges from 50-75% water with the average adult being 50-65% water. As a result, staying hydrated is critical for good health.

Water flushes germs, toxins and waste from the body. Fluids in general are good, but water is the only fluid that will flush your system adequately. So, drink at least 64 fluid ounces every day.

If you are thirsty, drink water instead of a soda, coffee, or energy drinks. The sugar, sodium, caffeine, and additives found in bottled drinks are NOT good for your health. Even bottled juice is not a good choice. It is primarily sugar water.

Making this simple change will save you money and your health will benefit tremendously.

5.    Be Smart – Be Safe

Imge by iofoto
Imge by iofoto

Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Wear a helmet and leathers when riding a motorcycle. Use good safety goggles when using hazardous tools. Have someone stabilize the ladder when hanging Christmas lights.  Need I say more? I think not.

Follow all safety rules for every activity – driving, riding motor cycles or bicycles, cooking, using tools, climbing ladders, cleaning windows, etc. (You get the idea, I’m sure.)

Protect your body and your brain at all times.

6.    Protect Your Skin

Men and women alike should utilize good moisturizers and lotions to protect the skin from too much sun. This is particularly true in the Sun Belt where skin cancers are far too common.

Lotions and moisturizers will help keep skin healthy over the long-term.

As the body matures, skin begins to break down and thin, which requires even more protection (long-sleeved shirts and a hat) when you plan to be in the sun for extended periods of time.

7.    Manage Your Stress

Image by B-D-S
Image by B-D-S

Stress is a silent killer. It not only drags you down emotionally, making it difficult to maintain a positive outlook on life; it also affects you physically, especially your heart and blood pressure.

Find ways to manage your stress, or it will take a serious toll on your health.

Exercise, practice relaxation techniques (e.g. deep breathing), socialize (have fun), enjoy the arts (draw, paint, write), take long nature walks, and daily meditation are just a few things that can help you with de-stressing.

If you are continually worried, short-tempered, rarely laugh, wish everyone would leave you alone, have trouble sleeping, or are constantly exhausted, there is a good chance you are living with extreme stress.

Do something about it!

Look at your life and find ways to relax, let go of stress, and be healthier.

8.    Stop Smoking

This is not news and very little needs to be said. It is an unhealthy, disgusting habit. It has no redeeming graces.  And . . . it is extremely bad for your heart and your lungs.

9.    Limit Your Alcohol Intake (or abstain)

10. Take Advantage of Modern Medicine

Image by wavebreak_media
Image by wavebreak_media

At a minimum, have an annual checkup.  Talk to your doctor and follow his advice.

I am not saying to take pills for every pain or minor problem that appears, but follow the basics to protect your body from illness and disease.

Pay attention to your body. It will give you signals when things are not as they should be.

For example, watch your blood pressure and have your blood tested regularly for signs of conditions such as high blood sugar that can be treated effectively when caught early.

For seniors, it is wise to have a shingles and pneumonia shot when advised, etc.

When potentially serious problems are identified early, they can often be resolved before any long-lasting damage is done.

The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” carries as much wisdom today as it did when it was first uttered.

It is never too late to start living a healthier life. The practices listed above are all within your control.

Is long-term health important enough to you

that you will  do what you must in order to make it a reality? 


The Social Factor of Quitting Smoking

It is not easy to stop smoking because you have to deal with the addiction on two fronts – physical and psychological. You not only have to suffer with physical withdrawal symptoms, you also have to face psychological withdrawal. If that is not enough, you are faced with the social factor of quitting smoking, as well

There are a number of positive social outcomes that motivate people to quit smoking. Among them are: most relationships improve, and being a non-smoker can help when seeking a job or securing promotions at work. Unfortunately, there is one potential negative social outcome – resistance from your smoker friends.

Image by John Benson
Image by John Benson

Why Your Smoker Friends Do Not Support You

Almost every smoker has said at one time or another that they want to quit. As a result, it seems that friends would support your decision and cheer you on as you fight the addiction.

Unfortunately, for many people, their experience is just the opposite – sometimes to the extreme. Friends may give you a hard-time, encourage you to smoke again, or even turn their backs on you. That kind of peer pressure can be difficult to withstand.

Smoking is what smokers do together. It creates a bond. Asking for a light or offering a cigarette is a way to break the ice when people come into your group. It is an integral part of your social persona. When you quit smoking, you are breaking a long-standing social custom.

Some may interpret your choice to quit as a criticism of their behavior. You may have said that you are quitting because it is an unhealthy, costly, disgusting habit; so, their decision to continue smoking reflects badly on them.

When you demonstrate the willpower to quit, it may make your smoker friends insecure. They have probably talked about quitting, but you are actually doing it. No matter what they say to your face, they may actually want you to fail. Your failing would make them feel better about their smoking.

Quitting at Work

As noted above, one reason for quitting is that you will have better job prospects, but your current job situation may make quitting impossible. Many people start smoking because everyone smokes where they work. Smoke breaks are a normal part of the day and provide a chance to relax and chat. If you quit, what will you do during smoke breaks?

You can still join the group and have coffee instead; but, it is tough to sit around while everyone else smokes. You are already fighting the battle of your addiction and trying to resist the temptation to smoke. Sustaining your commitment when everyone else is lighting up can prove to be nearly impossible.

Smoking and Drinking – A Match Made in Heaven

If you like to party with friends – smoking and drinking are typically part of that activity. Luckily, many states no longer allow smoking in bars, which helps with this scenario. But, the reality is that tobacco and alcohol is a match made in heaven (or hell, if you are trying to quit).

Strategies to Resist the Urge to Smoke

When you are in the process of quitting, it will be much better to avoid situations that tempt you to smoke. For example: stay out of bars, stop hanging out with the non-smokers at work, and take a social break from some of your smoker friends. All of these can be painful; but, remember they are only temporary measures. It usually works best if you let friends and co-workers know what is going on, and ask for their support.

The good news is that not all of your smoker friends will snub you. In fact, the majority will see what you’re doing as a wonderful thing. You may even inspire others to do the same. In other words, the social factor of quitting smoking may not be as bad as it seems.

Photo Credit: Light my fire via photopin (license)

Keep Your Children from Smoking

Keep Your Children from Smoking
Image by James Alby

There are lots of reasons to quit smoking, but the best reason is your children. They want you around! They want you to be healthy, happy, and live a long life. They want you to stop smoking – and I am sure they have told you so. But . . . that is not all. There is another reason that is equally as important.

Recent studies have shown that the children of smokers are much more likely to smoke themselves. A study from the University of Washington found that 12-year-old children of smokers are twice as likely to start smoking at some point from the age of 13 to 21.  So – how do you keep your children from smoking?

Kids learn by example. What you say is a far weaker influence than what you do. Even if you talk to them about the dangers of smoking and emphasize how you wish you had never started, the fact that you are still smoking is a much stronger message. The chance that they will also become smokers is much greater than for children of non-smokers. You are their role model – so model what you want them to follow – not what you DO NOT want them to follow.

I do not want to discourage you from talking to your children, however. It is certainly better than not talking to them about the habit, even if you are a smoker. Even though some children will still smoke, studies show that parents who warn their kids of the dangers of smoking or tell them they wish they hadn’t started decrease the chances their children will smoke.

Why the Children of Smokers Smoke

Smokers smoke all the time, so the behavior is ever-present in the lives of your children. You probably also leave cigarettes lying around the house and in the car. The cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia are normal fixtures of their lives. Smoking as a way of life is part of their enculturation.

The children of smokers aren’t only more likely to smoke, it becomes a gateway drug for other addictions. Research shows they are more likely to drink and use drugs at a young age; and are more likely to have behavioral problems and get into trouble at school.

Other Influencing Factors

Asking your children to get your cigarettes or to light your cigarette greatly increases the chances that they will smoke. Such actions develop a comfort level with the habit. Studies show that the more contact kids have with cigarettes, the more likely they are to try them.

A Good Reason to Quit

The University of Washington study produced all kinds of interesting data on this issue, but the bottom line is: When parents smoke, it is the biggest factor in children choosing to smoke. No peer or societal influence comes close.

If you are a smoker and want to keep your children from smoking, the good news is: The children of parents who quit smoking are less likely to start smoking than children of parents who never smoked. How is  that for a great reason to quit?

photo credit: Kidsss. via photopin (license)

Secondhand Smoke Endangers Children and Pets

Baby with Asthma from Secondhand Smoke
Image by merri

You are probably well aware of the health risks tied to smoking. Unfortunately, that is not where the risks end. Smokers are also putting others at risk from the secondhand smoke. This is the smoke that fills the room when people are smoking and is inhaled by others. If a woman smokes while pregnant, she is exposing her unborn child to secondhand smoke.

When you smoke a cigarette, you know you are taking in nicotine and other toxins. What you may not be taking into consideration is that people around you are also taking in the same toxins. There are many studies that link secondhand smoke to illnesses such as cancer in the brain, larynx, pharynx, and bladder.

Women exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk for breast cancer.

Smoking during  pregnancy increases the risk of liver cancer in the child by five times over  those born to non-smoking parents.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at a greater risk for asthma, wheezing, coughing, pneumonia, and even slowed lung development than those in a non-smoking environment. If they become ill with bronchitis or the flu, there is a greater probability of a hospital stay or long-term treatment.

Your pets are also at risk and are susceptible to diseases related to smoke, such as: cancer of the nose, sinuses, and lungs. If they develop cancer, they will probably not survive because it weakens their entire system and there are limited treatment options..

The only way to minimize the exposure of your children and pets is to  smoke outdoors – never in an enclosed space, such as your home or car.  If you choose to smoke indoors, pick a designated smoking area where you can close the door and open the window. Children and pets should not be allowed to enter. Keep the rest of your home smoke-free.

Obviously, the best choice is to quit smoking. This will insure that your loved ones and pets have zero exposure to secondhand smoke in your home.  PLUS, you will live longer and enjoy better health with an enhanced sense of well-being.

Photo Credit: you gave me asthma via photopin (license)