Archive for September, 2012

Caretaker Fatigue

The numbers are in but, few people know the statistics and it’s probable that even fewer can explain what they mean except on a profoundly personal level.

Somewhere around 39.8 million Americans over age 15 are providing unpaid care to someone over 65 “because of a condition related to aging,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And, perhaps to some, an even greater surprise: between 22 and 23 percent of those ages 45 to 64 identify themselves as elder care providers; add to that 16 percent of those over 65. To achieve a fuller understanding of the emotional and physical drain of such care, consider that almost one third of these elder care providers are taking care of two or more older people and 23 percent of them have a minor child in their households; 85 percent of caregivers and their elders maintain separate households.
The statistics are drawn from the BLS American Time Use Survey. Every day BLS interviewers ask Americans how they spent their time during the previous 24 hours, examining everything from shopping to child care to phone calls. The time use survey began in 2003 and the most recent results were released on June 22, 2012; they reflect time expenditures in the civilian, non-institutionalized population.
Among the surprise statistics was the fact that a majority – 56 percent – of those providing elder care are women – not a surprise; but that’s a smaller percentage than found in previous studies – a surprise. Sons and husbands are catching up to daughters, wives and daughters-in-law. Approximately one-in-five care providers do so on a daily basis; one-in-four – 24 percent several times a week, and a final 20 percent once a week. On average, care takers offer three hours of service on the days they provide care; however, women spend an hour more on elder care on those days than men do.
To qualify as “care giving” in the survey it must be unpaid and might be as simple as providing companionship or “being available to assist when needed” and it must have been provided more than once in the three months before questioning – regardless of how much time was spent in the task. Recipients of care included a parent (42 percent), a grandparent (19 percent) or another relative (21 percent); only 4 percent reported caring for a spouse or unmarried partner.
“In today’s economy with all of the other pressures facing so many families, and especially when care providers tell themselves that they are ‘only doing what is right’ or what they ‘have to do,’ these caretakers may significantly be undercutting their own emotional/psychological/physical health,” observes Francis (Skip) Flynn, Psy.D., CAP of the Brain Training Centers of Florida. “When circumstances conspire to require that such care be given for extended periods – especially for years and years – people begin living as though they are on auto-pilot. They either cannot allow themselves to recognize or they are almost afraid to admit to themselves how exhausted they have become. In the end, they experience a long-term form of caretaker fatigue that is similar in many ways to many of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Flynn uses the example of caretaker spouses and children who “sleep with one eye open and one ear listening to the breathing or for the cries of their sick or elderly relatives.
“If you do that for long enough, you can become as stressed and emotionally bruised and broken as a soldier or Marine who’s been on combat patrols for months on end,” observed Flynn. “It’s really critical that such care providers seek their own professional help – an open and non-judgmental ear and someone who’s able and willing to provide some insight into this PTSD.“
A press release summarizing all of the results of the American Time Use Survey can be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Brain Training Centers of Florida are very successful in helping individuals suffering from Caretaker Fatigue. The Centers are open 7 days per week from 8:00 AM ti 10:00 PM for the convenience of our clients. For further information, call (305) 412-5050.

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Meditation

Buddhism, Taoism. Islam and animism. Protestant, Orthodox – Russian and Greek – and Roman and Uniate Catholic Christianity. Prayer in tongues and silence. Incense and holy water or megachurches with rock bands and secluded mountain-top monasteries.

So many types of religious experiences and expressions. Because one size does not fit all.

And now we know that one form of meditation doesn’t fit all.

Adam Burke, professor of Health Education at San Francisco State University and the director of SFS’s Institute for Holistic Health Studies has highlighted the importance of ensuring that new meditators select methods with which they are most comfortable, rather than what is most popular at the moment.

Meditators who select the “best fit” are most likely to stick with the practice, argues Burke, in a new study published online July 7, 2012 in Explore: the Journal of Science and Healing

Burke argues that the wrong fit may cause new meditators to abandon the practice, losing out on its myriad of personal and medical benefits. “Because of the increase in both general and clinical use of meditation, you want to make sure you find the right method for each person,” reported Burke, noting that there have been very few studies comparing different meditation techniques on a head to head basis to examine individual preferences or specific clinical benefits.

Burke studied 247 participants and four popular meditation methods – Mantra, Mindfulness, Zen and Qigong Visualization – to see if novice meditators favored one over the others. Participants were taught each technique and asked to practice at home and, at the end of the study, evaluate which they preferred.

The two simpler methods – Mantra and Mindfulness – were preferred by 31 percent of participants; Zen and Qigong were preferred by 22 and 14.8 percent respectively. While the results make it clear that no one technique is best for everyone and even less common methods – Zen and Qigong – are preferred by some, there is value in introducing new meditators to a simpler, more accessible method. Of note is the fact that older participants, who grew up when Zen was becoming one of the first meditation techniques to gain attention in the U.S., were more likely to prefer that method.

Burke observed that Mindfullness is the most recent technique to gain popularity and is often the only one with which novices and/or healthcare professionals are familiar. Not surprisingly, Mindfulness was most preferred by the youngest study participants.

He noted that simply because a particular form of meditation is popular at the moment does not mean that it is “best” for everyone. “In truth, different people like different things. One size does not fit all.” Burke noted that if an individual is not comfortable with the first form of meditation he/she uses, that individual may be less likely to continue meditating and would lose out on the benefits of meditation including reduced stress, lower blood pressure and enhanced performance in a wide range of activities.

Burke called for continued research to determine if particular methods are more effective in addressing specific health issues, such as addiction and, thereby, allowing professionals to guide patients toward the techniques that would be most effective for each individual.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Brain training through brain wave optimization using real time balancing is also a very effective tool for treatment of many health issues. The Brain Training Centers of Florida offices are open 7 days per week from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM for the convenience of our clients. For further information call (305) 412-5050

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Menopausal Hot Flashes

Despite all of the Edith-directed menopause-related laugh lines of All In The Family (a reference many readers may be too young to understand), menopausal symptoms are no joke – especially when they are severe. And, now there’s evidence that exercise might help to limit them for some women.

In fact, evidence appears to indicate that women who are relatively inactive or are overweight or obese tend to have an increased risk of symptoms perceived as “hot flashes,” according to Steriani Elavsky, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Penn State University.

While some readers will object, “There’s nothing perceived about them; they’re as real as can be,” “perceived hot flashes” do not always correspond to actual hot flashes.

And Professor Elavsky’s research may be the first study to look at “objective” versus “subjective” hot flashes.

The Penn State researchers studied 92 menopausal women for 15 days. “Our sample included women with mild to moderate symptoms and they were recruited for a study of physical activity, not of menopause,” noted Elavsky. The researchers recruited women – ages 40 to 59 years old, with an average of two children, who were not on hormone therapy – from the community through a variety of outlets frequented by women – libraries, gyms and advertisements in local newspapers.

In the analysis process, participants were divided into normal weight and overweight/obese categories and higher fit and lower fit categories; the categories were not mutually exclusive. Participants wore accelerometers to measure their physical activity and monitors that measured skin conductance, which varies with the moisture level of the skin. Using personal digital assistants, participants recorded the individual hot flashes they experienced throughout the 15-day period. This data collecting combination allowed researchers to study the frequency of objective – recorded by the monitors – and subjective – reported by the individual — hot flashes. When a recorded and a reported hot flash occurred within five minutes of each other it was considered a “true positive.”

Contrary to the popular false myth that performing physical activity could increase hot flashes because it acutely increases body core temperature, researchers found that on average women in the study experienced fewer hot flash symptoms after exercising.

The researchers noted that it is not yet possible to determine if a woman could use diet and exercise and become more physically fit as a means of experiencing fewer hot flashes; that remains a topic for future studies.

However, “For women with mild to moderate hot flashes, there is no reason to avoid physical activity for the fear of making symptoms worse,” noted Elavsky. “In fact, physical activity may be helpful and is certainly the best way to maximize health as women age. Becoming and staying active on a regular basis as part of your lifestyle is the best way to ensure healthy aging and well-being, regardless of whether you experience hot flashes or not.”

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Brain Training Centers of Florida, through brain wave optimization with real time balancing, can be very helpful to individuals experiencing hot flash issues. Our Centers are open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM for the convenience of our clients. For further information, please call (305) 412-5050.

Posted in: Brain Wave Optimization, Health & Exercise

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Male Overweight Issues

There’s two ways to think about all those extra pounds an overweight 50 or 55 year old man is carrying around.

In high school physics class you learned about “foot pounds.” In simple terms, if you’re 45 pounds overweight, that’s like stealing one of those big iron plates from the gym – we call ‘em “Cadillacs” – and carrying it around with you 24-7-365. Pretty dumb, huh?

In even more personal terms, if you’re a 55 year old man, you’ve already experienced a fairly significant decrease in your testosterone levels from what they were in your late teens and 20s. It’s called maturing. And, (Here’s the really bad news.) being overweight can lower your test levels even more.

But there’s some good news from The Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston in late June: Weight loss can reduce the prevalence of low testosterone levels in overweight, middle-aged men with pre-diabetes by almost 50 percent.

A new study that involved nearly 900 men with impaired glucose tolerance (pre-diabetes) showed that people at high risk of Type 2 diabetes could delay or avoid developing the disease through weight loss. And, because overweight men are more likely to have low testosterone levels, Frances Hayes, MD, professor at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, and her colleagues studied the effect of weight loss on men’s testosterone levels.

Symptoms of low testosterone can include reduced libido (sex drive), poor erections, enlarged breasts and low sperm counts. The researchers eliminated from their study men with a known diagnosis of hypogonadism – a condition characterized by low testosterone levels – and/or men who were taking medications that could interfere with testosterone levels.

Participants (average age 54) were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: lifestyle modification (exercising for 150 minutes a week and eating less fat and fewer calories), the diabetes medication metformin or an inactive placebo.

Research results showed that low testosterone levels are common in overweight men with pre-diabetes, according to Dr. Hayes. At the onset of the study, nearly one in four men had low testosterone levels – below 300 nanograms per deciliter. For lifestyle modification participants, the prevalence of low testosterone levels decreased from about 20 percent to 11 percent in one year – a 46 percent decrease. The prevalence levels of low testosterone were essentially unchanged for the group on medication (24.8 versus 23.8 percent) and the placebo group (25.6 versus 24.6 percent) after one year.

The men in the lifestyle modification group lost an average of about 17 pounds during the course of the year-long study and the increase in testosterone levels in that group correlated with decreasing body weight and waist size. “Losing weight not only reduces the risk of pre-diabetic men progressing to diabetes but also appears to increase their bodies’ production of testosterone,” noted Dr. Hayes.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.

Helping overweight individuals is an area in which the Brain Training Centers of Florida can be very helpful. The Centers are open 7 days per week from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM for the convenience of our customers. For further information call (305) 412-5050.

Posted in: Brain Training, Weight Issues

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