GERD (Chronic Acid Reflux) – Finding Relief

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a common gastrointestinal disorder where the contents of the stomach backwash into the esophagus. This occurs when the sphincter that closes the stomach off from the esophagus relaxes or weakens and opens up inappropriately. In normal digestion, this sphincter opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and closes to prevent food and acidic stomach juices from flowing back into the esophagus. The continual backwash of stomach acid irritates the lining of the esophagus and can cause it to become inflamed.

Causes

Anyone can develop GERD, some for unknown reasons. You can be more likely to have GERD if you are pregnant, taking certain medications or a smoker. According to the National Institutes of Health GERD affects about 20 percent of the U.S. population. It is believed that our modern, highly processed western diet and high rates of obesity are contributing factors.

Common Symptoms

The most common symptoms of GERD are heartburn or acid regurgitation. GERD symptoms most often occur after eating and in many cases adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle can lessen symptoms. In more severe cases medication or more chronic therapy may be warranted. GERD may increase your chance of developing Barrett’s esophagus which affects the lining of your esophagus and is precancerous. It is important to follow the direction of your gastroenterologist (a doctor who specializes in the digestive system).

Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain, painful burning sensations in the throat or chest
  • Difficulty in swallowing or a sensation of a lump in your throat
  • Persistent dry cough, hoarseness or sore throat
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux)

Finding Relief

  • Anything that relaxes the sphincter can worsen symptoms therefore avoidance is helpful to prevent these symptoms. Foods to avoid include fatty foods (fried foods and fatty meats), soda (carbonated drinks), alcoholic beverages, cheese (red wine and cheese), excessive coffee (caffeine), chocolate, citrus foods and peppermint. Also avoid cigarette smoking.
  • Nutrition: It is important to eat small, frequent meals and slow down when you eat or drink. Choose whole foods and avoid processed foods such as processed meats and refined grain products, including packaged snacks such as cookies and chips. Focus on nutrient rich plant-based foods with a lower fat content, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Choose healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and nuts and seeds. Include probiotic foods such as fermented vegetables, yogurt or kefir. Ensure adequate daily water intake. Aim for one-half your ideal body weight in ounces.
  • Lying down too close to eating time can worsen symptoms for some people. Have a small dinner and try to have your last meal several hours before going to bed for the night.
  • Get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise benefits digestive health, helps with managing stress, improving sleep quality and lowering inflammation.
  • Speak with your doctor about whether any medications you currently take may be making your symptoms worse. It is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations. In the short-term, antacids and acid blockers can be helpful toward healing but long-term treatment with these medications is not usually encouraged. They can impact proper digestion as well as impede proper absorption of vitamins and minerals such as B12, Calcium and Vitamin D.
  • It is important to manage stress because stress can greatly interfere with digestion and can worsen symptoms because it opens our esophageal sphincter. Techniques that help calm stress and anxiety may help reduce symptoms of GERD. Incorporate relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, prayer, or guided imagery. We can also manage stress through using anti-anxiety essential oils such as lavender and frankincense, exercising, practicing yoga or tai chi, and getting more rest.  
  • Incorporate good sleep hygiene habits and aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night. In addition, it may help to elevate the head of your bed about 6 – 12 inches when sleeping.

By working with your doctor and understanding the causes and proper treatment for GERD, most people can find relief.

-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham

Oral Health and Heart Health

Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing, flossing and seeing a dentist regularly for cleanings can protect the health of our gums. Since the body and mouth are not separate, taking good care of our teeth and gums can affect our overall health and may help us to live longer. There is scientific research that supports a potential link between dental health and heart health. Therefore, the simple daily habits of brushing and flossing may be more important than we think.

The Connection Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease

Bacteria. Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria and builds up on teeth. The bacteria in this plaque can cause decay and gum disease if it is not removed regularly through brushing, flossing and dental cleanings.

Inflammation. Gum disease is a serious driver of inflammation. Inflammation is a protective mechanism and indicates that the body is fighting something harmful and trying to defend itself. It is possible that inflammation in the gums triggers a cascade that can lead to inflammation in the cardiovascular system and plaque formation.

High Blood Pressure. New research in the American Heart Association’s journal ‘Hypertension’ accentuates the importance of good oral health in blood pressure control. The study findings showed that people with high blood pressure that have healthier gums responded better to blood-pressure lowering medications and had lower blood pressure than those who had gum disease. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart disease or stroke.

Tips to Improve Oral Health and Heart Health

Stop Smoking. Not smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your mouth and your body. Smokers have a much higher risk of gum disease and heart disease, and smoking promotes inflammation.

Manage Stress. When we are under stress the immune system’s ability to fight off infection is compromised. Increased stress also leads to elevated cortisol which increases blood pressure, makes us insulin resistant leading to diabetes, increases inflammation in our body and increases cholesterol.

Eat a Balanced Diet. A healthy diet helps to fight infection by boosting the immune system. Eating foods high in antioxidants can help our bodies repair damaged tissues. A plant based whole foods diet is key. Eating a rainbow of colors is important. It is important to reduce processed foods in our diet and take time to mindfully eat and enjoy our food.

Exercise. Being physically active is one of the best ways to strengthen the heart muscle, maintain a healthy weight and protect our arteries from damage. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes per week with a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching. Find activities that you enjoy.

Sleep. Lack of sleep may weaken our immune system and our body’s ability to deal with inflammation or infection.  Lack of sleep can also lead to elevated blood pressure and blood sugars which are risk factors for vascular disease. Practice good sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques and aim for seven to nine hours each night.

Practice Good Oral Care. Be sure to brush and floss twice a day and make an appointment with your dentist for advice regarding your personal care and recommended schedule of visits. Taking good care of your oral health can be a part of your heart-healthy routine.

-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham

New Beginnings

The first day of January rings in a new day and a new year. There is something about new beginnings that inspires us to review the things we’ve learned and experienced in the past and find renewed excitement for the times that lie ahead. We can use the momentum of the New Year to inspire us to set and achieve the goals we dream about. It is a good time to review our personal mission and vision statement. What do you see you and your family doing in your life? To be successful in pursuing our life goals optimal health is important. Pursue good lifestyle habits to maximize enjoyment of life.

To incorporate a healthy lifestyle it is best to start with small health goals. If we try to change everything at once it can be difficult and discouraging to sustain. These small goals can be as simple as replacing a morning bagel with a healthy protein smoothie or a vegetable omelet, or taking a brisk walk before or after dinner. When you are successful with smaller goals and see the change, you will be more motivated to achieve larger goals in the long term.

Practice Mindful Eating.  When we practice mindful eating we become aware of the food we put in our bodies and how it ultimately affects our health and how we feel. A good start is to incorporate more greens and other colorful foods on our plate. Aim to always have something green, such as dark leafy greens, and other colorful plant foods included at each meal.  These colorful foods have an array of health benefits from healthier skin and vision to improved brain and heart health. You will notice a significant improvement in your overall well-being when you regularly incorporate these foods. You can start small by adding one new vegetable to your lunch or dinner meal. Although dietary changes take some effort, it will be worth it in the long run. Aim for 9-13 servings of plant foods every day.

Increase Daily Activity. Regular physical activity contributes to our overall health. It strengthens our body and plays a role in our mental health. It can also improve our memory, mood and sleep. Find a form of exercise that is right for you. Find things you enjoy. This can be anything from a yoga class to a walk in nature. Anything that keeps your body moving is beneficial.  Try to start with small bits of daily exercise and increase this to at least 30 minutes per day.

Get a Restful Night’s Sleep. We all need to make a good night’s sleep a top priority.  Although we all have times we have to run on five or six hours of sleep, the ultimate goal should be seven to eight hours. In the long run, adequate sleep can affect our overall health and performance.  Insufficient sleep has been shown to raise a variety of health concerns including obesity, mood swings and increased risk of chronic disease. You can start by adopting some simple evening routines and adjusting your schedule to allow for a full night’s sleep. Your evening routine can be anything that promotes peace and serenity. It can consist of using aroma therapy such as lavender essential oil, adding yoga stretches, practicing deep breathing along with soothing music and gratitude thoughts, or reading. Wind down each evening and allow your brain and mind to relax. 

Find Time for You. Life can be demanding and we are often juggling many responsibilities at a time. But this can lead to burn out and exhaustion and can have a negative impact on our health. It is important to find time for you. An important part of life is having time for the activities that we enjoy. Start by finding small blocks of time during your week to devote to joyful activities. This can be anything from reading a book to having coffee with a friend. Find the activities that make you happy and consistently commit to making time each week to plan for these activities.

Being healthy and fit is important to living a successful life. Turning even the smallest goals into habits will transform your well-being and will help you achieve the life you desire.

-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham

Practicing Gratitude

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to give thanks for what we have, for the relationships we cherish with our friends and family, for our health – a time to celebrate all life’s blessings. This is a powerful time of the year for taking time to reflect upon those things we are most grateful for. Gratitude has been consistently associated with greater happiness. But gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for special occasions. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating even the smallest things in life. Start incorporating gratitude into your life on a daily basis and you will quickly notice your life filling with more things to be grateful for. Here are 5 ways to practice gratitude daily:

Develop the habit of being grateful.  One of our greatest gifts is the ability to choose what to focus on. The best way you can begin your day is by counting your blessings. Take time daily to write down five things that you are grateful for. Fill up with the feeling of gratitude in your body. There is nothing too small to be grateful for, count things such as being able to start your day with a warm shower or receiving a note from a friend. You can also try writing things you are grateful for that you may not yet have in your life. What are you working toward or believing for – feel grateful for that now.  As you develop the daily habit of gratitude you will notice that you are naturally more grateful and have more empathy and happiness in your life.

Share your gratitude with others.  When you express gratitude to others not only does it make their day a little brighter, but it will increase your own level of gratitude and happiness. Show your appreciation through a smile, a text, thank you note or a phone call.

Spend time with friends and family.  Practice the art of listening and support your friends and family. Find ways to build others up and find positive ways to share genuine compliments with them. Connecting with others improves physical health and psychological well-being.

Focus on positive thoughts and solutions.  No matter where you are and what your situation is, your focus can be shifted to something positive. Finding fault and complaining drain our energy. It is important to combat negative thinking. Dwelling on the negative will keep us stuck in an unhealthy place. Make sure to focus on the good things that happen in a day and not the one bad thing that didn’t go well. Sometimes we have to practice objectivity – what would you say to a friend who had that problem? As you focus on gratitude and positive outcomes, this type of thinking will become like second nature over time. Take a moment at the end of each day to focus on the things that went well. This is a positive way to end your day and will improve rest by promoting contentment – no matter how your day was, you will sleep a bit better than you would have.

Give back.  Volunteering is a powerful way to share your gratitude with others. Even small acts of kindness can symbolize your appreciation of others and their situations. Feel grateful for the capacity to volunteer your time – this can include things such as helping in a soup kitchen while knowing you are so grateful for the healthy food you have at home lining your pantry and refrigerator shelves.

It’s easy to take all of our blessings for granted. Stop and be grateful, even if just for a simple glass of clean water, we maintain our lives because of water. Research shows us that practicing gratitude boosts our emotional well-being as well as physical health. Every day is a good day to enhance our lives through giving thanks.

-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham

Finish this Year Strong

At the first of the year many of us create a list of health and wellness goals that we want to accomplish. We often feel that this will be the perfect time to get things started. But imagine what it would be like to start your New Year feeling and looking your best. Due to the busyness of the season, the last few months of the year are usually when we make the worst decisions regarding our health. Imagine building momentum toward your goals now with an intentional plan to overcome the various stresses and unhealthy lifestyle habits that distract so many during this time of year.

Become intentional and make good choices through the end of the year.

This is about more than just healthy eating; it’s about creating healthy habits and consciously creating the life you desire. Do you feel that your schedule gets out of control this time of year with too many responsibilities and obligations? How many gifts do you really have to buy and how many functions do you need to attend? Does your house really need to look like the pictures in Pinterest – do not let this overwhelm the joy of the season. Reserve some time over the next few months for personal self-care. Choose self-care activities that reenergize you. Find joy in the season and in positive change. It’s not about the end goal, it’s always about the journey. Discover different types of exercises that you like and focus on eating whole foods, enjoying the flavors of the fall harvest.  

Enjoy the Season.

There is no need to deprive ourselves during this holiday season, but we should be choosy and budget our holiday eating wisely. When faced with large buffets and feasts at holiday gatherings don’t feel obligated to eat something just because it’s there. Focus on eating the foods you really love and be sure to make room for veggies. Enjoy your food and pace yourself, take your time and stop eating when you feel full. If you are going to drink alcohol, try alternating between water and alcohol to minimize intake and stay hydrated. If you know that you will be indulging in a few extra calories this time of year be sure to increase daily physical activity. In addition to walking, consider adding activities the whole family can enjoy.

Focus on high quality, nutrient-dense foods. Imagine what your health and body would look like if you multiplied the nutrient-density of your diet. Think roasted vegetables vs French fries. Eating whole foods vs refined, processed or fast foods. Increase healthy fat intake (such as avocados, nuts and seeds, and olive oil) and get away from sugar and refined carbohydrates. Incorporate intermittent fasting – start by not eating after 7 pm. Don’t skip breakfast – starting your day with a balanced meal focused on protein and healthy fats will set your healthy metabolism for the day and put the brakes on cravings and overeating later in the day. Incorporate vegetable omelets, avocados, crustless quiche or protein smoothies.

Invited to a party and need to bring a dish? Consider bringing a dish of non-starchy vegetables or a low-carb Mediterranean-style platter. Fill your low-carb snack tray with cooked meats such as sliced roast beef, turkey and pepperoni (choose the best quality you can, with minimal processing and minimal added ingredients). Add fresh ingredients such as a variety of cheeses, olives, avocado, stuffed mini peppers, mixed nuts, vegetables, fruits and low carb crackers. At least you know there will be a variety of low-carb snacks (brought by you) that you can enjoy.

Let this season be a time of celebration and also relaxation.

Enjoy your family and friends and if you do fall overboard and lose sight of your goals just try to get back to your healthy habits as soon as possible. Incorporate these Healthy Habits to Finish This Year Strong:

  • Stay hydrated with 6-8 cups of water daily.  
  • Stay energized: exercise 3 times per week.
  • Pace yourself during this season to avoid overscheduling or overspending.
  • Make time for self-care and find balance and joy in the season.
  • Make adequate sleep a priority.    
  • Find ways to walk more.
  • Add more vegetables and fruit.
  • Snack on whole foods like nuts and seeds.
  • Commit to a daily gratitude practice.
  • Get connected with friends & family.
  • Balance meals with protein and healthy fat to prevent cravings. 
  • Reserve sweet treats for special occasions.
  • Bookend healthy eating around parties and never go to a party hungry.
  • Have small daily goals to help you achieve success.

-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham

Beat the Heat – Keep Your Mind Calm & Cool This Summer

Self-care is very important. But practicing self-care isn’t always easy. Time for ourselves is often the last thing on our agenda. Our schedules overflow with many responsibilities, busy careers, caring for others, and keeping up with technology.  We must take time to support our own physical and mental health. We need ways to re-center and restore ourselves so that we can feel and function better.

The summer season is here, and it’s a great time to focus on relaxing, going on adventures and living each day to the fullest. Use this time to develop some self-care strategies and implement them into your regular routine so you can boost your well-being, not only for the summertime but through all the seasons of your life. Here are some important self-care strategies you can include in your life.

  • Nourish Your Body. Fuel your mind and body with nutrient dense foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables which are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants. Some of the best self-care foods include fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (such as olive oil, nuts and seeds and fatty fish), and quality lean proteins. Avoid refined, fried or sugar-laden foods and beverages.
  • Sleep Well. High quality, restorative sleep improves brain function and leads to happier, more productive days. Allow for 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep and practice good sleep hygiene. Unplug from your electronics a few hours before bed and allow time to unwind from your busy day.
  • Feel Grateful.  Being thankful can transform your life. Studies show gratitude improves physical and emotional health, reduces stress, strengthens the immune system and improves sleep. Start and end your day focusing on what you are grateful for. You can write in a gratitude journal or simply ponder three things you are grateful for in your current life or recall happy memories from your past.
  • Practice Self-Love.  Practice balanced love and know that self-care is not selfish. Spend time refilling and recharging your system. Plan a spa day, walk through a garden, organize your home and bring in some fresh flowers. Schedule time to do what you love. At the end of each day breathe deeply and review what is good about yourself and what is right about your life.
  • Embrace Movement. Do something that energizes your body. Life is movement and when we become stagnant toxins can accumulate in our mind and body. Stretch, dance, go to the gym or take a walk in the park. Discover different physical activities that you enjoy. Exercise is a key part of self-care.
  • Repeat Positive Affirmations.  An affirmation is a definitive statement that something is so. Affirmations are self-fulfilling prophecies. Create personal affirmations to declare and affirm your goals and visions that you hold. Saying positive words can help set you up for positive wins throughout the day in all areas of your life.  Replaceany negative or self-defeating words or thoughts with positive affirmations. Say them out loud daily. Write out your positive statements on a beautiful notecard or place post-it notes in your daily environment. Perhaps start with this affirmation: I am worthy of self-care. I honor myself and nourish my body, mind and spirit.
  • Calm Your Mind. Develop the habit of practicing relaxation techniques daily. Be mindful to stay in the present moment – when we feel stressed or worried our mind is usually focusing on the past or the future. Find a quiet place for prayer and meditation and embrace the peace and stillness. Become aware of your thought patterns and replace toxic thoughts with positive ones. Use guided imagery to avoid stress buildup. Imagine yourself in a peaceful setting, incorporating your senses and changing your mental state. Guided imagery is a powerful tool for increasing relaxation, reducing pain, managing stress and improving mental resilience. Start and end your day with a few minutes of deep breathing and a some of your favorite yoga stretches.
  • Stay Connected.  Moments with friends and family can help you feel more connected and relaxed. Build social networks. Strong social ties have been associated with lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy.

The more you can fit self-care time into your schedule the more you will be able to grow, enjoy your life and thrive. The better we feel and function, the more we can do for the people and things we care about.

-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT     Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.   We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook           

Why Should You Work with a Health Coach?

Living a healthy life can be challenging at times. A state of optimal health and well-being means more than just the absence of disease.  To pursue good health we need to make individual lifestyle choices that support our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being. Lifestyle habits in the area of diet, physical activity, sleep and stress management can greatly impact the quality of our life and ultimately impact our long-term health.

A Need for Change

Over 75% of chronic disease is preventable. We know that most chronic disease can be prevented by eating well, being physically active, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.  According to the World Health Organization chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for almost 70% of all deaths worldwide.

Most of us want the benefits of being healthy. We want to avoid disease and have energy and stamina to thrive in our lives. Many people know that getting proper exercise, eating well and managing stress are healthy behaviors but do not practice these things. Many people have tried to improve their fitness levels, manage their weight, improve their sleep or reduce the negative effects of stress… only to find that behavior change is hard. Whether you have failed to make your health a priority, have found it difficult to implement long-term change, or you are not sure where to begin, a health coach may be able to help you on your journey to well-being.     

A health coach is a supportive mentor and wellness authority that can help you create personalized, lasting mental and physical changes. Your doctor may have advised you on healthy changes you need to make. A health coach can act as your partner to support you and help you in developing the skills needed to embrace new behaviors.

Doctors and Coaches Working Together

In her internal medicine practice, Dr. Geni Abraham recognized that patients weren’t feeling better just because she gave them medications and treatment protocols. So, she explored what else she could do. In that process her office transformed into a wellness focused office and she added a health coach. As her health coach, I help patients develop healthy nutritional habits with a “food is medicine” focus, encourage exercise that they enjoy, and work on stress management and sleep hygiene.  It turns out that these measures are going to promote health and wellness and prevent disease.  This integrated approach helps patients feel healthier, more energetic and they are able to meet the challenges of today’s stressful society.  It is also what is going to reduce our overall healthcare costs in the future.

We offer lifestyle and stress management programs to our patients and members of our community.  I spend a lot of time with each person, often regularly scheduled 30 or 60-minute appointments to help them stay motivated and accountable as they make positive changes to reach their health goals.

How will a health coach help you to make lasting lifestyle changes, from weight management to overall wellness?

  • Goal Setting: Your coach will challenge you to focus on your ultimate outcome. What is your long-term wellness vision? Perhaps you want to change your diet and lifestyle to have more energy and vitality, and to make sure you can be around for your children or grandchildren. This long-term vision will help you to break through the obstacles you may face when embarking on behavioral changes such as a new way of eating or exercising. With an understanding of your personal interests and your readiness to change your coach will help you to establish SMART goals which are: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely.  You will establish both short and long-term goals that you will continually revisit as you transform them into reality.
  • Maintaining a Positive Focus: You can retrain the way you think and establish positive self-talk. A health coach can help you shift to a more accurate and positive way of thinking. The focus will be on your strengths rather than your weaknesses to make behavior changes. Do you feel that you’re not motivated enough? Do you feel you lack time or discipline? Does the weather, an injury or financial constraints hold you back? A health coach can help you break down and overcome these barriers so that you can get back on the path to better overall health.
  • Implementing Small Changes: Have you found that making drastic changes all at once were unsustainable and didn’t last in the long-term? Have you discovered a lot of contradictory advice in the overwhelming amount of information on the internet and in the media? A health coach can help you implement small changes at a pace that is comfortable for you so that you can meet all of your health goals.
  • Creating New Habits: To find success in realizing your health goals it is important to develop healthy habits and stick with them. These new habits will turn into automatic behaviors. Start by committing to something easy and practice this new habit regularly.  It is not hard to form a new habit when you relate it to an important goal. Your health coach can support you in forming new healthy habits and reversing unhealthy ones.

Working with a personal health coach could change your life. Take the next step on your health journey and let a health coach provide you with the guidance, expertise and support you need on your path to achieve optimal wellness.

-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT     Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.   We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals.

Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook           

Taking Care of Your Heart

February is American Heart Month. This is a great time to focus on steps we can take to keep our heart healthy and prevent heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but a heart-healthy lifestyle can go a long way to prevent heart disease. Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease. Make sure you are working with your doctor and incorporating healthy lifestyle practices to treat these conditions.  Our day to day lifestyle choices directly impact our heart’s health. Research shows that making healthy lifestyle changes, even later in life, may stop and actually reverse heart damage.

A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight heart disease.  The food you eat (and the amount) can affect other risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight. Choose nutrient-rich foods instead of nutrient-poor foods. The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables (variety of color), lean protein, healthy oils (Extra virgin olive oil), whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease.

This healthy diet includes:

  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice per week and limiting red meat to no more than a few times per month.
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Avoiding hydrogenated oils (trans fats) which are found in fried foods and processed foods such as pies, cookies, pastries, donuts and frozen food.
  • Limiting refined sugars and carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice.
  • Sticking with water as your beverage of choice is best, as there is no benefit to adding sugary drinks.
  • Focusing on whole, natural foods and eating lots of vegetables.
  • For dessert, eating fresh fruit and saving sweets for a special treat or celebration.
  • Taking time to savor your food and enjoy your meals with family and friends.  

Regular exercise is one of the most effective tools to strengthen the heart muscle and reduce the risk of heart disease. Your heart will get stronger and healthier if you lead an active life. Regular exercise has many benefits including: burning calories, lowering blood pressure, reducing “bad” cholesterol and boosting “good” cholesterol. Aim to do aerobic exercise (“cardio”) for thirty minutes, five to six times per week.  Some examples include walking, jogging, biking, swimming or dancing. To check your intensity and make sure you are not pushing too hard, you should be able to talk but you shouldn’t be able to sing a full song. Find activities that you enjoy and start small. You can even break up your exercise sessions into 10-minute intervals. In addition, you should include strength training twice per week to build muscle and reduce body fat. To maintain flexibility, be sure to include stretching exercises (such as yoga) weekly as well. For ongoing encouragement, use an app on your phone or a wrist band that provides input on how many daily steps you have taken. Talk with your doctor before making any changes to your current exercise routine.

Focus on rest and relaxation. The effects of stress can have a direct impact on your body and can harm your heart. It’s important to have healthy habits in place to help in preventing and managing stress. When we feel stressed, we often reach for unhealthy habits to find relief, such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or overeating. These unhealthy habits lead to other factors that may contribute to damaging your heart by increasing blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.  Find hobbies and activities you enjoy, stay social and engage with friends and family. Stay positive and ponder uplifting thoughts about the future, as optimism is good for your heart. Dedicate a certain time each day to focus on your body and relaxing. Practice stress reduction techniques and exercises such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and tai chi. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for a healthy heart. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night. Create a nightly routine to unwind and relax before bed and stick with the same sleep schedule, even on the weekends.

Working with your doctor is essential to managing your health effectively. Staying proactive with your lifestyle choices will have a positive impact on your heart and overall health.

-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935 Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook

Simple Daily Habits for Reducing Stress

Stressors, good and bad, are a part of everyday living. Extreme stressors, such as the loss of a loved one, can obviously impact our health. But the ongoing, daily stressors that we face on a regular basis also put a strain on the body’s ability to function properly. According to the American Institute of Stress, up to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are due to stress related problems. While we cannot completely avoid stress, there are effective ways to manage how much we are affected by stress. 

Incorporate these simple daily habits to start living a lower-stress lifestyle.

Practice Positive Thinking 

It’s not the event or circumstance that determines whether we are stressed, but how we respond to those events. It’s how we feel or think about the event that determines our stress levels.  It is important to choose a positive mindset and challenge negative thoughts. It can be helpful to practice relaxation techniques while focusing on positive emotions such as appreciation and gratitude.  This can be as simple as breathing deeply while you focus on things that you are grateful for.  Emotions, or feelings have a powerful impact on our bodies. Practice maintaining a positive focus to reduce the effects of stress. Make sure to stay connected with friends and family and engage in activities that inspire you to smile, laugh and think positively.

Exercise

Incorporate 10-30 minutes of moderate activity into your daily schedule to reduce stress. Exercise reduces the levels of our body’s stress hormones, and it increases production of chemicals that elevate mood. Medical studies show that exercise dramatically reduces depression and anxiety.  Even one session of exercise can improve your mood.  Find an activity that you enjoy. Include walking in nature, swimming, group fitness, biking, tennis, etc. Regularly practicing yoga can be a great way to reduce stress and restore your sense of well-being.  Yoga can increase strength, flexibility and your ability to relax.

Get Quality Sleep

Sleep restores health and vitality to your mind and body.  Inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night not only leaves you more energized and better prepared to deal with stress, but it also lowers your risk for many diseases. Consistently maintain regular bedtime and wake-up hours. If you have trouble relaxing, try herbal aids such as valerian, passionflower, lavender oil, lemon balm or chamomile.  Avoid caffeine consumption (tea, cola, coffee, chocolate) within 4 to 8 hours of bedtime.  Reduce stress and prepare for a great night’s sleep with a relaxing bedtime routine (book, meditative music, bath, relaxation technique).

Mind/Body Relaxation Techniques

The state of relaxation is linked to higher levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and the growth hormone which repairs cells and tissue. Relaxation is a state of rest, enjoyment and physical renewal.  Harvard researchers have found that yoga, meditation, prayer and guided imagery all induce the relaxation effect.  Meditation can be as simple as letting tension go as you focus on your breathing.  If your mind wanders, return to your breath. Guided imagery is a type of meditation utilizing your imagination to visualize yourself in a peaceful setting where tension is washed away from your body and mind.  Practice one or more of these techniques even 5 to 10 minutes a day to offset the stress response with the healing power of relaxation.  Do you ever find yourself in the midst of a stressful situation? Deep breathing, where you fill your abdomen and expand your diaphragm downward, is one of the most powerful exercises you can do to quickly de-stress. Breathe long, slow and deep in a mindful-state as often as possible. As a powerful daily practice, deep breathing will advance your health and well-being. You can also unwind by enjoying a massage or practicing progressive muscle relaxation (an exercise that involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout your entire body) to relieve stress and release muscular tension.

Eat a Balanced Diet

A good diet will help prepare your body for daily stress. An unhealthy diet will only make you feel sluggish and less able to deal with life’s everyday demands. Reduce processed foods containing high sugar, saturated fat and salt. Enjoy a variety of fruits, vegetables, quality fats, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein. Take time to enjoy your food and eat without rushing.

You don’t need to devote hours to stress relief every day. Just practice these simple habits on a regular basis and enjoy a more positive, fulfilling life.

-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935 Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook