Daily Archives: November 15, 2010

Devotional for Men – Healthy Through and Through – Part 1 – Introduction

Here’s the first of an eight-part devotional for men. It’s based upon a chapter on physical health that I wrote for Coach Joe Gibbs’ best-selling book, Gameplan for Life. The devotional series was featured by the Men of Integrity ministry of Christianity Today. That chapter, and this series, are based upon my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy.

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I hope you enjoy the series. Here’s Part 1 of 8. I’ll be posting a new part each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the end of November:

Taking good care of our bodies should be important to the serious Christ-follower. After all, the believer’s body is God’s temple (1 Cor. 6:19) and God shouldn’t have to live in a shabby, unkempt shack. But as we’ll see in this week’s readings by Dr. Walt Larimore, good health isn’t simply about how well we take care of our physical bodies—as important as that is.

“The Bible focuses on pursing physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, and healthy relationships with our family and others,” says Dr. Larimore. “I call these elements the four wheels of health, the importance of which has been confirmed by thousands of scientific studies.”

This series focuses on these four wheels of health—and how to keep our lives rolling along more smoothly.

Here’s the entire series:

Also … check out these featured Men of Integrity Bible studies:

  • Letting Christ Transform Us: The apostle John moved from being known as a fiery “Son of Thunder” to “the disciple Jesus loved.” Why the big change and what does it mean for your own identity as a transformed man of God? This study of select passages from John and 1 John offers answers.
  • Caring Commitment: Here are insights from Scripture on what it means to be a truly loving Christian husband.

Adapted from Game Plan for Life (Tyndale, 2009) by permission. All rights reserved by the copyright holder and/or the publisher. May not be reproduced.

Six doctor-recommended sleep aids

Tired of counting sheep? Consider one of these remedies for the possibility of getting a good night’s sleep when you have occasional insomnia. These tips were posted on Health.com and are from RealSimple.com:

1) Aromatherapy

Try it: When you’re drowsy but slightly tense.

How to use it: Massage a dab of aromatherapeutic balm or oil into the back of your neck and shoulders (and inhale deeply) before you hit the sack. Certain fragrances, including lavender and lemon balm, promote snooze-inducing relaxation, says Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, in Tucson. (Try Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Night Health Bedtime Balm, which contains lavender; $25, origins.com.)

Good to know: You don’t have to stick to traditional aromatherapeutic scents — any fragrance that makes you feel good can be calming, says Dr. Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology and the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern University, in Chicago.

2) Valerian tea

Try it: If you are getting a full night’s sleep but still feel tired in the a.m.

How to use it: Sip a brew made from the flowering plant an hour or so before bedtime. (Try the Republic of Tea Get Some Zzz’s; $10.50 for 36 bags, republicoftea.com.) Some studies have shown that valerian can help increase sleep quality (it’s packed with antioxidants, too). You may have to drink it for several nights in a row before it works, says Naiman.

Good to know: Valerian shouldn’t be taken for more than two weeks at a time, since prolonged use can lead to dependency. And it can interfere with some prescription medications, including cholesterol drugs, so check with your doctor before steeping.

3) GABA-enhanced drink

Try it: When your head is racing with worries.

How to use it: Down a shot of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) right before bed. (Try Arizona P.M. Relax FastShot; $3, drinkarizona.com for stores.) “GABA, an amino acid found in your body, has been shown to quiet the mind when taken orally,” says Naiman.

Good to know: Certain foods, including brown rice, bananas, and mackerel, contain GABA. Consuming them during the day may help you sleep better at night.

4) Melatonin supplement

Try it: If you don’t feel tired until way past bedtime.

How to use it: Take a three-milligram tablet 15 to 20 minutes before bed. (Try GNC Melatonin 3; $5 for 60 tablets, gnc.com.) Your brain makes this neurohormone naturally to “tell the body that it’s time for sleep,” says Naiman. “But many people have suppressed melatonin production because they’re overexposed to light in the evening.” Naiman has been using it nightly for 20 years.

Good to know: Consult with your doctor before taking melatonin. It is not recommended for pregnant women, women trying to conceive, children, and adolescent boys (it can affect testosterone levels in maturing males).

5) Over-the-counter sleeping pill

Try it: When you’re going through a short period of sleeplessness, like during a stressful time at work.

How to use it: At bedtime, take two tablets that contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that makes you feel sleepy (research shows that an excess of histamine in the body may cause insomnia). “The less often you take these pills, the better,” says Dr. Lisa Shives, M.D., a sleep specialist in Evanston, Illinois. “You can build up a tolerance, and then they won’t work as well.” (Try Unisom SleepGels; $10 for 32 gel tabs, at drugstores.) Note: Never mix alcohol and sleeping pills.

Good to know: “The older you are, the slower you metabolize this type of drug,” says Shives. That means you may experience lingering sleepiness in the morning.

6) Prescription medication

Try it: When insomnia becomes a chronic problem.

How to use it: Work with your doctor to figure out which medication is best for you. Shives’s favorite is Rozerem (rozerem.com). It acts on the melatonin receptors in the brain that help you fall and stay asleep (other aids act only as a sedative). However, only Lunesta (eszopiclone) and Silenor (doxepin) are approved by the FDA for long-term use. Take a tablet about 30 minutes before bed.

Good to know: Finding the right medication may require trial and error: Some can make you more wired and awake. Side effects are common, says Shives, and range from the annoying (headaches, grogginess) to the serious, like unconscious nighttime binge eating and driving. Pregnant women may want to avoid these aids, even though they have not been proven to be dangerous.

Insomnia is considered chronic when it lasts most nights for a few weeks or more. This longer-term condition deserves professional attention, says Tom Roth, Ph.D., head of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. If you’re unsure about whether you have chronic insomnia, Roth suggests looking at it like a headache. “If it goes on day after day and nothing you do makes it go away, then you should see a doctor,” he says. “Ask yourself: Do you know the cause?”

Study Shows Risks for Kids Who Watch TV or Use Computers More Than 2 Hours a Day

New research is documenting some of the risks I’ve told you about in previous blogs for kids who utilize screen time (TV, computers, video games) more than 2 hours a day. Specifically, children who watch television or use computers for more than two hours a day are more likely to experience psychological problems than kids who don’t, even if they are physically active, according to this new study. Here are the details from WebMD:

The study, which involved 1,013 children ages 10-11, found that those who spent more than two hours in front of a screen, whether watching TV, using a computer, or a combination, also were more likely to say they had trouble relating to friends and peer groups and to report feelings of unhappiness.

The children were told to wear accelerometers, devices attached to their waists that recorded their activities every 10 seconds during waking hours for seven straight days.

Working on a computerized questionnaire, the children then were asked about how much time daily they usually spent watching TV or using a computer for reasons other than doing homework. They also were asked questions such as whether they often felt unhappy, down-hearted, tearful, or lonely.

Scores were based on a “Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire,” a well-known inventory designed to provide insights into the psychological well-being of young people.

The answers “combined to produce an overall score that indicates whether the child/young person is likely to have a significant problem,” study researcher Angie S. Page, PhD, of the University of Bristol in England, tells WebMD in an email. “It has five sections that cover details of emotional difficulties — conduct problems, hyperactivity or inattention,” and trouble relating to friends and peers.

The questionnaire “is only a screening tool that will provide predictions about how likely it is that a child or young person has significant mental health problems.”

Role of Physical Activity

Page tells WebMD that the study found “no evidence that sedentary time — time spent not moving or [engaging in] minimal movement — is related to negative psychological well-being. It seems more like what you are doing in that sedentary time that is important, [for example] if you choose to spend large numbers of hours screen viewing for entertainment then this is associated with negative mental well-being.”

Page tells WebMD that while low levels of screen viewing may “not be problematic, we cannot rely on physical activity to ‘compensate’ for long hours of screen viewing.”

She says “watching TV or playing computer games for more than two hours a day is related to greater psychological difficulties, irrespective of how active children are.”

Parents, she says, should encourage physical activity for their children and take steps to reduce their time in front of a screen.

What’s seems clear from the study, she tells WebMD, is that children who spend longer than two hours in front of a computer or TV screen may suffer detrimental consequences, physically and mentally.

Children who engaged in more moderate physical activity fared better in certain measures of psychological health, she says.

Screen Time May Consume Nearly 1/3 of Day for U.S. Kids

Child experts have issued an updated policy statement on use of electronic media for entertainment by kids. This is critical because children and teens in the United States spend an average of seven hours A DAY using television, computers, phones and other electronic devices for entertainment (compare this to the average of three hours a day watching TV in 1999). Parents, physicians, and educators need to understand the effects of this increasing exposure to media and educate youngsters about media use according to the American Academy of Pediatrics in the updated policy statement. Here are more details from HealthDay News:

The AAP statement lists several concerns:

  • Excessive time spent using electronic media leaves less time for physical activity or creative and social pursuits.
  • Violent or sexual content can have harmful effects, as can movies or programs that glamorize alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Research has shown that high levels of media use are associated with school problems, attention difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.
  • The Internet and cell phones have become major new sources and platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.

However, educating children about media can help reduce harmful effects, and careful selection of media can help children learn, the AAP said. Along with longstanding advice about limiting, planning and supervising children’s media use, the group’s updated policy statement includes a number of new recommendations:

At each office visit, doctors who care for children should ask at least two media-related questions:

  1. Is there a TV set or Internet access in the child’s room?
  2. How much entertainment media is the child watching?

The AAP recommends children have less than two hours of screen time per day. Before 2 years old, viewing should be avoided altogether, it says. Parents need to be good media-user role models, encourage alternate activities, and make children’s bedrooms electronic media-free areas.

Schools should offer media education and Congress should consider funding media education in schools. The federal government and private foundations should boost their funding for media research.

The statement authors concluded that “a media-educated person will be able to limit his or her use of media; make positive media choices; select creative alternatives to media consumption; develop critical thinking and viewing skills; and understand the political, social, economic and emotional implications of all forms of media. Results of recent research suggest that media education may make young people less vulnerable to negative aspects of media exposure.”

In addition, the experts added, “simply reducing children’s and adolescents’ screen media use has been shown conclusively to have beneficial health effects.”