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Practicing Healthy Living by Getting a Physical Exam

18 Jun

After reading my blog for 30 seconds, any genius could tell that I’m a huge fan of healthy living. I follow a healthy diet and exercise like a lunatic. I think this alone is pretty good, but I recently decided to take my healthy living one step further and get a physical exam from an actual primary care physician. (Don’t hide it, I know you’re impressed with my very adult-like responsibility).

I guess you could say I get a mini physical exam in the conference room at work each year, to save money on health insurance premiums (way less creepy than it sounds, but yes, I really will do anything to save money). In this annual screening, health stats such as cholesterol, blood pressure, height and weight are checked to make sure you’re generally in good shape. My love for this service is typically perceived as odd, but whatever, I’m not ashamed to admit it, I love a good free health checkup.

Anyways, until recently I haven’t had a primary care physician since high school. I’m fortunate enough not to get sick very often and when I do I either go to MedExpress or just ride the wave until it passes. My boyfriend recently did a little research to find a good primary care physician in our area and went in for a checkup. Hearing about his visit inspired me to find a primary care physician too, because although worksite wellness screenings are cool, they really don’t take the place of having an actual primary care physician check you out. And in order to retain my self-described designation of the queen of healthy living, I felt it was necessary to actually have a doctor.

The Physical Exam

Since I haven’t had a primary care physician for like 10 years, I was pretty nervous before my physical exam. You might say I’m a bit of a hypochondriac (during the winter I had itchy legs for a few days, consulted Dr. Google and afterwards was genuinely afraid for a good half a day that I had Hodgkin’s Disease or Lymphoma), so I came up with all sorts of crazy scenarios in my head of what would be involved in this process.

So as it turns out, a physical exam is not a big deal at all, especially compared with a trip to the lady doc. My new primary care physician, that’s right I have a doctor now, was super nice. We discussed my family medical history, he asked me a bunch of questions, felt me up in a few places and a little blood was drawn. It was that simple. This may not be normal, but I swear, I actually had a good time at my physical exam! And I was diagnosed as being in perfect health! Yay!

Moral of the Story

You should follow a healthy diet. You should exercise regularly. And you should go get a physical exam at least once every few years. This is a great preventative health measure to ensure that you’re really doing everything you can to promote your own wellbeing.

Battling Cancer through Exercise

14 Jun

Maintaining a regular exercise schedule isn’t about just looking great in a bikini (although it doesn’t hurt). David Haas, a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, wrote a fantastic guest post for The Jerp today on using exercise as a way to battle cancer. So now you have it, spending quality time with the gym really is good for your health…

“Many people don’t like the idea of exercise. They have convinced themselves that it is uncomfortable, boring and overly strenuous. However, it is one of the most important things that can be done to promote good health, especially for people suffering or recovering from cancer. 

Scientific studies have revealed that people who exercised regularly were 50 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer, even with patients who were obese, ate a poor diet, and smoked tobacco. Similar studies showed that exercise also reduced breast cancer risk in women of all ages. Furthermore, people who are in remission will reduce the chances of their cancer returning and enjoy a longer lifespan simply by exercising.

Besides possessing great preventative power, exercise has much to offer people who are already battling the disease. According to the University of Missouri at Columbia, regular exercise reduced the number and severity of side effects that typically follow treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Some of these side effects included nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue and pain.

Exercise also helps to boost immunity, which is a critical advantage in the body’s fight against cancer. This is especially important for people whose immune systems are weakened due to cancer treatments in order to help avoid potentially life-threatening infections.

Another benefit of increased physical activity is better oxygen efficiency, which can be of particular benefit to people with mesothelioma. Over time, exercise strengthens the lungs and reduces blood pressure and heart rate, making breathing an easier task.

For people suffering from hormone dependent cancers such as the breast, prostate or ovarian types, the benefits of exercise should not be underestimated. Regular physical activity has a profound influence on the endocrine system and helps to keep levels of estrogen and testosterone balanced.

Weight is another issue where exercise is known to be helpful. People who are obese are far more likely to develop certain types of cancer or to have their cancer return. Furthermore, obesity contributes to inflammation, poor hormonal balance, decreased oxygen efficiency, and immune suppression. By losing excess weight, cancer patients can make the treatment and recovery processes easier and more effective.

Staying physically fit during and after cancer doesn’t have to be strenuous chore. Studies have demonstrated that even forms of incidental exercise such as gardening, walking to the store, and swimming provide great benefit. Yoga is also a popular form of exercise for people with cancer because it improves flexibility, range of motion, and helps to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

Depending on the type, severity, and location of a patient’s cancer, it may be necessary to take special precautions regarding limitations and abilities. Patients are encouraged to consult their oncologist or general practitioner prior to beginning an exercise regimen.”

Thanks David!

Torture on the Massage Table

24 Feb

There's nothing like a nice relaxing massage.

I love spa treatments, but then again who doesn’t?! A nice relaxing massage is good for your health, as it loosens up your muscles, helps you to relax and relieves stress. Except when you have a massage therapist with killer body odor and some strange massage techniques.

I have a monthly membership at a national massage and facial establishment. I always look forward to getting monthly spa treatments, so last Saturday my boyfriend and I went in for our February appointments. I’m well aware that I could request the same massage therapist each time, but I’ve always like everyone, and it makes it lot easier to just book an appointment with whoever is free. I learned the hard way this past weekend that going with a grab bag massage therapist might not be such an intelligent move.

I don’t remember the name of last weekend’s massage therapist, so we’re going to refer to him a Theodore. In the initial seconds of meeting Theodore, all was well, as I had no idea what the next hour would bring. Fast forward, now I’m lying on the massage table, and Theodore is hovering over me. I know for sure that he’d been working up a sweat all day, rubbing people and such, because the body odor emulating from his arm pits was rampant. It wafted down and just punched me right in the nose. It was so bad that I had to hold my breath when he would saunter up to the end of the massage table where my head was. Yikes. I mean I understand that no one smells like roses at the end of a long workday, but c’mon, a massage is supposed to be relaxing, so how am I supposed to relax when I’m holding my breath for dear life. Strike one, Theodore, strike one.

Now, I don’t have long hair by any means, it’s about shoulder length, but I didn’t pull it back. It’s never seemed to bother the  massage therapist in the past if I leave it down. So I’m lying there on the massage table, and I notice Theodore tugging on my hair. I didn’t think anything of it at first, I figured it was just in his way. Then he kept doing it. I know everyone has different massage techniques, but c’mon Theodore, no one finds it relaxing to have their hair pulled. Sicko. Strike two, Theodore, strike two.

No one's pulling this dude's hair on the massage table.

It seemed as if Theodore got his strange massage techniques out of his way at the beginning, and later on he moved far enough down the table so I couldn’t smell him. All was well. I began to forgive Theodore, as he was finally giving me the nice relaxing massage that I wanted. Then he returned to the top of the massage table. Right where my head was. At this point, I was lying on my stomach, yet I was still getting intermittent reminders that Theodore forgot to put his deodorant on that morning. Then the hair pulling started back up. Strike three, Theodore, strike three.

During a nice relaxing massage, time flies. You get to the end of your session, and it seems like only mere minutes have passed since you initially hopped onto the massage table. That was certainly not the case this time. While I’m still a firm believer in the health benefits of a good relaxing massage, I would now advise you to find a massage therapist or two that you really like and stick with them. After all, you don’t want to get rubbed the wrong way…

Will Less Quality Time With Your Computer Help You Sleep Better?

28 Jan

I spend eight hours a day sitting at my desk, staring at a computer screen. At the end of the workday, I go home, go to the gym, then eventually end up sitting on the couch, browsing the Internet on my laptop until bedtime. I’ve never found having this much computer time to be an issue, until I read an article saying that using electronics within an hour before bedtime can keep you awake at night. Coincidentally I’m always trying to figure out how to sleep better, and often find myself lying in bed awake way past my bedtime, simply because I just can’t fall asleep.

I’ve been thinking about limiting my computer time before bed for awhile now, but of course I never got around to it, because I’m too “busy” doing nothing on the Internet. Spending too much time on the computer would be more acceptable if I was doing homework or work I was getting paid to do, but that’s not the case. I’m more likely to be found doing something completely weird and pointless like looking for mansions in Southern California, searching for flights out of Pittsburgh to well, anywhere, or looking for Groupon deals in cool cities that I do not live in.

This week I finally decided to buckle down and see if limiting my computer time before bed would help me to sleep better. Here’s how it went:

Day One (Sunday):

I’ve been trying to figure out how to sleep better on Sunday nights forever. Since I get up later than I do on weekdays and typically don’t exert a whole lot of energy during the day, I always find myself having trouble sleeping on Sunday evenings. So I decided to limit my computer time tonight, which will hopefully help me to sleep better… Despite my good intentions, I actually ended up sitting on the couch, staring at my computer screen until it was time to go to bed. Epic fail.

Day Two (Monday):

Today I was exhausted because I couldn’t fall asleep last night, since I was busy driving down the streets of Skid Row on Google Maps (I’ve always had a weirdo fascination with the ghetto, don’t ask) right up until it was time to go to bed. While there is no intelligent explanation for this one, it did motivate me to limit my computer time tonight. And I did just that. I turned my computer off around 9pm, lay down on the couch and watched television with my boyfriend.

Day Three (Tuesday):

I woke up feeling great today! It’s amazing how much better the alarm clock sounds when you’re not completely exhausted. I was so well rested that I didn’t even need coffee to keep me awake at work this afternoon! I had a super busy evening, which meant I got home later, but still managed to force myself to turn my computer off an hour before bed. Instead of watching The Bachelor over the glare of my laptop, I lay down on the couch and just watched it. I must admit, it was way more relaxing. I actually noticed that I was more relaxed when I headed upstairs to bed, which helped me to fall asleep easily.

Grant yourself sweet dreams by putting your computer to bed early.

Day Four (Wednesday)

Again, I woke up feeling great today after another good night’s sleep! Personally, I’d say I was much more pleasant this morning (pre-coffee) than usual. I’ll admit I did milk the coffee cow this afternoon, but only because my dad bought it for me, translation = it was free. (My boyfriend calls me “El Cheapo” and says my motto is “If it’s free, it’s for me!”) Anyways, I ended up having a pretty busy night tonight, and didn’t get the chance to cuddle up with my laptop until about 9pm, meaning I was not able to pry it out of my paws a full hour before I headed off to bed. Read: My inability to get off the computer was due to the pressing matter of needing to randomly check Southwest flight prices to anywhere out of Pittsburgh between February and September. I shut my computer off 30 minutes before bedtime, so that counts for something, right? I still fell asleep decently quickly, but didn’t feel as relaxed as the previous two nights.

Day Five (Thursday)

Ugh, I’m so tired today! It probably doesn’t help that it’s been dark and rainy outside all day today, but still, I have myself to blame for this one. I was so tired that I took a little mid-evening nap, which we all know is never a good idea, as it makes it difficult to fall asleep when you actually go to bed. On the plus side, since I was busy napping, I wasn’t on the computer very much. I actually turned it off about an hour and a half before bed!  Thankfully it ended up not being too difficult to go to sleep either.

Final  Verdict Friday

Not surprisingly, after spending significantly less time staring at my computer screen last night I feel great today! Figuring out how to sleep better really makes you feel like a different person. My experiment this week has definitely taught me the valuable lesson that too much quality time with my laptop is not a good thing. Therefore I’m going to try my best to keep pulling myself away from the bright lights of my laptop at least an hour before bed every evening.

Tips on How to Fall Asleep When the Sandman Skips Your House

3 Jan

Having trouble sleeping can really ruin your day (and that of those around you).

You expect to suffer from a lack of sleep when you’re out late doing fun, crazy things the next before. Or even if you just can’t pull yourself away from the Jersey Shore marathon on MTV until midnight. This lack of sleep is at least justified. However, there’s nothing more annoying than when your lack of sleep is simply because you can’t sleep. When you find yourself trying to figure out how to fall asleep, you know it’s going to be a long night.

I’m not an insomniac by any means, but sometimes I have trouble sleeping. And when I have trouble sleeping, it’s a problem for everyone in my path the next day, as a lack of sleep makes me somewhat of a tired, crazy monster. A crazy monster who eats like hogzilla. That’s right, one of the lovely side effects of a lack of sleep is an overactive appetite.

Anyone who’s ever had trouble sleeping knows that after a few consecutive nights where you can’t sleep, you’re feeling pretty sluggish. You have no energy, you behave like a raging rottweiler, and you walk around in a bleary-eyed daze. This is not a good feeling. After a few days of this you’ll do anything to figure out how to fall asleep.

I decided to try different ways to relax myself before bed and figure out how to fall asleep at a normal hour. I don’t think there’s a no fail way to cure a case of having trouble sleeping, but I’ve found a few ways that really help the situation out.

How to Fall Asleep When Sleep Won’t Come Naturally:

  • Take a relaxing bubble bath before bed.
  • Get a good book and read yourself to sleep.
  • Stay away from afternoon and evening caffeine.
  • Tire yourself out with a good workout a few hours before bed, but not right before as that might actually wake you up.
  • Get off the computer an hour before you want to fall asleep.
  • Put a relaxing “sounds of the ocean” cd on as background noise in your bedroom.
  • Get a comfy pillow. Sounds obvious, but I was trying to sleep on a pillow as thin as my bedsheets, and shockingly it wasn’t working so well for me. I got a normal pillow and have had sweet dreams ever since.

How to Deal with Stress This Holiday Season

20 Dec

Don't get all stressed out during the Christmas season.

There’s a million little things that make the holiday season special. That’s right, you need to do one million little things to successfully survive the Christmas season. So it’s really no wonder that every normal person on the planet experiences some form of stress and anxiety during this time of year.

You have to do all of your holiday shopping, gift wrapping, baking, party planning/attending, decorating, sending Christmas cards, planning and cooking a feast for the big day, and countless other “little” tasks. And for most of us, all of this madness takes place during a span of less than one month. If you don’t experience at least a little stress and anxiety during this mad rush, you need to be put in a cage and studied.

The holiday season does only come once a year though, so it’s important to figure out how to deal with stress and not let it put a damper on your festive mood. No one can do everything, so strive for excellence on the festive obligations that fit your fancy, and then openly half-arse the ones that don’t. If anyone dares berate you for this wise little tactic, deck them in the brow with a stick of holly.

Tips for Managing Stress During the Holiday Season:

  • Admit Defeat. If you’ve noticed people feeding your Christmas cookies to their dog, take this as a sign that your baked goods taste like dog treats. Surrender your spatula and purchase any baked goods you plan to serve during the Christmas season from an actual bakery. Why waste your precious time baking if your efforts aren’t appreciated?
  • Send New Year’s Cards. Somewhere, at some point-in-time, some moron made a rule that cards sent during the holiday season had to arrive before Christmas day. If not, you’re supposed to feel ashamed that you were busy enjoying the Christmas season, thus resulting in the tardy arrival of your cards. Make your own rules and buy New Year’s cards instead. They will stand out with their fashionably late arrival, and people might actually have the time to read them.
  • Act like a VIP. Everyone you know wants to hang out during the holiday season. Your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and etc. all have holiday parties, gift exchanges, happy hours, and other random events they expect you to attend. Unless you’re some kind of ninja, you can’t attend all of these events at once. Or at all. Especially with all of the other tasks you have to complete during the holiday season. Say ‘yes’ to the events you genuinely want to go and politely decline the others. They’ll get over it.
  • Get on the List. Everything is easier when you’re organized. Work on managing stress this holiday season by making lists of things that need to be done. Create a plan to dominate your Christmas season tasks, so you’re not running around like crazy old fruit cake.

Check out this great post, “5 Simple Ways to Keep Holiday Stress at Bay,” to find more ways to reduce stress during the Christmas season.

Don’t Let the Effects of Stress Get You Down

2 Dec

Healthy living includes more than just exercising and following a balanced diet. Coping with stress and learning how to relax are important ingredients in behaving like a normal person, and not a mentally-off psychopath. Of course, with the holidays and everything going on during this time of year, everyone is experiencing the effects of stress and perhaps behaving a bit erratically. Maybe you were rushing around the house this morning and accidentally went to work bra-less, or perhaps you introduced your date by the wrong name at the office Christmas party, or if you’re me you may have driven into a concrete wall in your neighborhood… Whatever.

Regardless of whatever dumb-arsed thing you’ve done today, it’s important to be able to look at it from the bright side, and then just mock yourself mercilessly about it. Before anyone else can. For example, I really did accidentally drive my car into a concrete wall today. There’s no defending that one, I’m kind of an idiot. I didn’t really think it was funny until about an hour after my car accident with myself, but then I mean c’mon, I managed to drive into a concrete wall while going 2 miles per hour in my own neighborhood! No one was hurt (excluding my car, my bank account, and the wall) and I didn’t have any pride to begin with, so there’s really nothing left to do besides take this for what it is, a really funny story.

Apparently my Mazda doesn't double as a bulldozer.

So next time you’re coping with stress, or you’ve just done something really stupid, do your best to laugh it off. Don’t let the effects of stress get you down, instead get back up and slap it the face!