Let’s talk telomeres

There’s a lot of talk about  Telomeres (tel-uh-meers) these days as we learn more about the biological aging process and what we can do to slow it. The good news, is that there are many things we can do to slow and in some cases even reverse aging, but let’s begin by understanding what telomeres are before we delve into those.

What is a Telemere?
Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. They’re the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes… a little like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Without telomeres, our DNA strands can become damaged and our cells don’t function properly. DNA makes up the cells in our bodies. Cells replenish by copying themselves, but each time a cell copies itself, telomeres shorten. Over time, telomeres get too short to do their job, causing cells to cease functioning optimally and to age. They shorten as we age, but they can also be shortened by stress, obesity, inadequate exercise, and a sub-optimal diet.

Can we lengthen Telomeres?
Research suggests an enzyme known as telomerase can slow, stop and maybe even reverse aging-related telomere shortening. Exposing human cells to telomerase slows cell aging allowing cells to begin copying again and causing gene expression to change to a younger phenotype making cells function as younger ones.

What can YOU do to restore telomeres length?
To-date, research tells us there are lifestyle choices we can make to slow the loss of telomere length. They include:

10 ways to detox your home (or office!)

The average home contains 500-1,000 chemicals, most of which you can’t see, smell or taste. Many common household and cosmetic or body products are linked to negative health, affecting our immune systems, as well as our endocrine, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It’s time to detox your home!

Try some or all of these tips for a healthier home:

  1. Change your furnace filter regularly to prevent buildup and help ensure irritants like dust, mold spores, and pollen are removed from the air in your home. A clean filter also improves furnace efficiency, reducing heating bills.
  2.  Keep windows and doors open as much as possible to ventilate. Use green plants as natural air detoxifiers.
  3.  Avoid non stick pans, pots, bakeware and utensils. Teflon contains perfluorinated chemicals which are linked to cancer and other health problems.
  4. Detox your lawn. Choose organic products to deter weeds and fertilize your lawn and flower beds.
  5. Check Radon levels.  Radon is an odorless gas that forms as uranium in rocks and as soil breaks down and it’s linked to lung cancer.
  6.  Switch to cleaner and greener cleaning products.
  7. Buy (or grow) your own organic produce.
  8. Painting? Use low VOC, low odor water-based paint. Open all windows to ventilate your home when painting indoors.
  9. Avoid excess moisture as it encourages the growth of mold and mildew. Check areas for moisture accumulation and regularly clean surfaces where mold has a tendency to grow.
  10.  Replace skin care and personal products with less hazardous options. You’ll find healthier options in most drugstores.

8 ways a daily walk will improve your health

When it comes to physical activity, don’t undervalue the incredible health benefits of a daily walk. Research tells us that there are health benefits to exercise — even periods as short as a few minutes. It also reveals that these benefits are increased when we get moving outdoors. You don’t need a gym membership or the latest in gizmos and gadgets to improve your physical and mental fitness, you just need some comfy shoes and the determination to make it happen.

Here are just a few of the benefits of a daily walk:

  1. You’ll boost your spirits:
    There’s no need to pound away stress: a brisk daily walk will do the trick! It turns out that exercise is so beneficial for our mental health, that it’s considered as effective in treating anxiety and mild to moderate depression as many medications — and without the side effects. We all have time for a daily walk — to school or work; on a break or at lunch; after dinner; or even as a walking meeting wit a colleague.
  2. You’ll reduce your risk of diabetes:
    Walking can lower your blood sugar levels as well as your overall risk for diabetes.  See this simple walking plan.
  3. Improved blood pressure:
    Researchers at the University of Boulder Colorado and the University of Tennessee determined  regular walking reduced blood pressure by as much as 11 points and may in fact reduce the risk of stroke by 20 percent to 40 percent.
  4. Longevity:
    Mounting evidence suggests walking can reduce your risk of mortality. A study using data from over 334,000 people in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer Nutrition (EPIC) concludes that adding just a 20-minute daily walk to an otherwise sedentary lifestyle, reduces the risk of death by 7 percent.
  5. Weight management:
    While many experts suggest weight loss is more effectively accomplished by way of a healthy diet and responsible caloric intake, exercise helps torch extra calories and can rev up metabolism so that we burn even more calories even while at rest.  Exercise is also an effective tool in helping us to maintain a healthy weight throughout life — and yes, walking counts!
  6. Stronger bones:
    Bone density is built in part through weight-bearing exercise like walking, and strong bones can help prevent osteoporosis and the related fractures commonly seen in older adults. Each time you lace up your running shoes or venture outdoors for a brisk walk, remind yourself of the incredible benefits of exercise.
  7. A healthier heart:
    A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that people who walk at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes or more had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with those who did not walk on a regular basis. Need we say more? Click here to learn more about reducing your risk of heart disease.
  8. Creativity:
    Numerous studies link walking with improved creativity and ideation and helping to reduce or eliminate brain fog. Don’t be surprised if on a walk you find yourself full of good ideas, creative solutions, new approaches, and the energy to put them to work.

Boost your health with antioxidant-rich super foods


My favorite super foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, that minimize the cell damage that can lead to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. Although one of the best ways to stay healthy is to eat a wide variety of vitamin-rich foods, nutrient-dense super foods offer more bang for your buck. Load up your grocery cart or basket at the market, and enjoy them every day to boost your intake of vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients that benefit the body and immune system.

Purple, Red, and Blue Grapes
Grapes, especially dark-colored ones, are loaded with phytochemicals, antioxidants that may help protect against cancer and heart disease.

Red Berries
Berries, especially raspberries and strawberries, contain a phytochemical thought to help protect against cancer-causing agents in the diet and environment.

Nuts are one of the most balanced foods on the planet, offering a dose of “healthy” fats and plant-based protein. Most nuts contain phytochemicals such as resveratrol and plant sterols, which can help lower cholesterol.

Blueberries contain many of the vitamins and minerals known to strengthen the immune system, along with key phytochemicals that may help protect against cancer and heart disease. They also appear to reduce inflammation.

Dark Green Veggies
Broccoli, spinach, kale and collard greens belong to the esteemed dark green vegetable group. These super veggies are high in nutrients that help fight disease, including vitamins C, E, and A, and calcium. They’re also loaded with magnesium and potassium. These veggies are also loaded with antioxidant phytochemicals that may offer cancer-fighting properties.

Sweet Potatoes
Although both white and sweet potatoes provide important nutrients such as vitamins C and B6, potassium, and fiber, sweet potatoes have more of these nutrients. They also offer calcium and plenty of vitamin A.

Tea offers two potent phytochemicals — anthocyanin and pro anthocyanin. Each of these antioxidants helps fight inflammation and may help block cell damage that can lead to cancer.

Whole Grains
Switching to to whole grains can significantly benefit your health by reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.

Beans offer an incredible array of nutrients of vitamins and minerals. Green soybeans and soy provide vitamin C, calcium, zinc, and selenium. Lentils and black-eyed peas are rich in folate and zinc. Black beans and kidney beans also offer a substantial amount of folate.

Six easy ways to enhance your health

Man cooking at home preparing salad in kitchenWant to optimize your health without watching every bite you eat and hitting the gym every day? It’s easier than you think!

Get some sleep

It’s recommended that we get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. In fact, just like good nutrition and exercise, enough quality sleep is essential to our health. We all have a restless or wakeful night now and then, but if you struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or awaken feeling you haven’t slept at all, read on.

Drink plenty of water

Though the clear, calorie-free stuff streaming from our taps may not have the same allure as some of the celebrity-endorsed, colourful, or neatly packed sports drinks readily available and usually prominently displayed in stores, water is the smart choice for most of us.

Try a little nature therapy

In recent years, health professionals have reawakened to a powerful therapy with healing benefits for us all. Called Nature Therapy or Ecotherapy, the prescription is simple: head outside.

Take a walk

From the time we’re just mere months old, we’re eager to get onto our feet and to move… and with good reason. Walking can help increase our fitness and keep us healthy; provides us with an ideal mode of transportation; helps us connect with nature; and offers simple enjoyment. Step to it!

Eat smart

A few simple swaps can make your favorite recipes healthier, without sacrificing taste and enjoyment. Try some of our favorites.

Be mindful

Mindfulness and meditation are often associated with states of deep relaxation, focus, peace and insight. Learn about some of the benefits of regular meditation.

Try a little Nature Therapy

In recent years, health professionals have reawakened to a powerful therapy with healing benefits for us all. Called Nature Therapy or Ecotherapy, the prescription is simple: get outside.

Spending time in nature on a regular basis can be as effective in treating depression as traditional psychotherapy or medication. Best of all, this form of treatment is free and readily available. In 2007, researchers at the University of Essex found that of a group of people suffering from depression, 90 percent reported greater self-esteem after a walk in a park, while almost three-quarters reported feeling less depressed. Just as exercise is medicine, so too is time in nature.

Here are five ways Nature Therapy can benefit your health and enhance your life:

  1. Emotional Well-Being

Do you feel happier, rejuvenated, and more relaxed after a walk or time in the garden? The Japanese call it “forest bathing” and believe time in nature is essential for a balanced life. I happen to agree! Several studies indicate that time spent outdoors reduces symptoms of depression while elevating mood.  Not convinced? Try it and see for yourself.

  1. Unplug and Reconnect

Unplugging from our devices and the demands of we face every day to spend time outdoors helps us reconnect with the natural world and get in touch with ourselves in a way necessary to feel whole.

  1. Physical Health Benefits

Time spent in nature may lengthen our lives suggests a recent study. The same study notes that those who can easily access natural environments have fewer health concerns and report greater happiness and contentment. Regular interaction with nature reduces stress levels, which in turn can lower heart rate, and possibly the incidence of cardiovascular disease stroke. Enjoy exercise outdoors for even greater physical and mental health benefits.

  1. Improved Attention Span

A study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology determined that viewing a natural scene for less than a minute reduces mental fatigue and increases productivity in employees. If you find yourself with a reduced or declining attention span, try turning off the electronics and stepping outside more often.

  1. Natural Healing

Studies conclude that post-surgical patients with a view of nature heal faster than those without. These same patients also required fewer pain medications than those without a view of nature, suggesting a natural view may even promote healing.

Ready to see if Nature Therapy will leave you feeling happier and healthier? Though even a single walk offers benefits, try spending time outdoors every day for a week, taking in the scenery, interacting with nature, feeling the sun on your skin, listening to birds or running water, planting seeds, or simply sitting quietly on a bench in a park. At the end of the week, I think you’ll be convinced.

The pursuit of happiness

Do you live with discontent? Are you waiting for happiness to find you? You may be waiting a very long time! Happiness doesn’t just arrive at the front door and let itself in, it’s something that has to be cultivated.  In fact, science is telling us more and more about what it takes to be happy — and most of it relates to our personalities and to our thoughts and behaviours — two things that can be altered.

Contrary to what many believe, those who are wealthy, stress-free, or beautiful, are not actually happier than those who don’t have these things. Rather, those who are happiest seem to have the following in common:

  • They spend time with family and friends
  • They practice gratitude
  • They are optimistic
  • They feel a sense of purpose
  • The live in the present – a form of mindfulness

Happiness then, is something we can all practice. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Invest in meaningful relationships:
    Surround yourself with optimistic and happy people allowing their positivity to boost your own. Then, slowly begin sharing your own optimism and contentment with others. Good friends and cherished family members are in their own right worth celebrating, so invest in and care for these relationship and let people know that you appreciate them through kind words and actions.
  2. Practice gratitude:
    Gratitude is about more than saying thank you. It’s about recognizing good fortune as it happens in daily life. To learn more, click here.  Begin by identifying and giving thanks for at least one thing every day. A visit from a friend, someone who held the door when you were burdened with shopping bags, or a hug from a co-worker, are just some examples. Fall asleep grateful and awaken to the same thought each morning.
  3. Be optimistic:
    Try to see things through an optimistic lens. If you’re not an optimist by nature, begin by recognizing negative thoughts as you have them and trying to view them differently — or try dealing just with the facts, instead of the “what-ifs”.
  4. Find your purpose:
    Those with a goal or mission in life are happier than those without. Having a goal provides us with a sense of purpose, increases our self-esteem, and unites us with others who share our pursuit. If you’re not engaged in something that brings purpose to your life, consider the causes that excite you, the areas where you’ve achieved success, and the legacy you want to leave.
  5. Live in the present:
    Celebrate the small pleasures of everyday life. Focus on the positives of the present instead of dwelling on the past or stressing about what’s to come.
  6. Exercise:
    You don’t need to run marathons, but you do need to make time to be active every single day. Exercise is a proven stress-buster and benefits not only our physical health, but our mental health too. Go for a brisk walk or run to leave pessimism or a bad mood behind.
  7. Let it go:
    If you’ve been carrying a grudge or holding onto anger, you need to let it go. Can’t do it on your own? Get help so that you can release yourself from the burden and find optimism, happiness, and freedom.

Feeling stressed? Develop a toolbox of self-help strategies

Stress affects us all. It’s a normal response when we feel threatened… whether the threat is perceived or real. This response is actually designed to prepare us for action to get us out of danger (i.e. oncoming car) only the threats we face most often, aren’t things we can actually run away from (work, family issues, illness, etc). It may be hard to believe, but a little stress can actually be a good thing, motivating us to take action, solve problems, and get things done.

When stress is counter productive however, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Many people find it a challenge to concentrate or make decisions, and some experience the physical side effects of stress: a racing heart, sweating, and muscle tension.

Happily, there things we can all do to minimize and cope with stress.

  1. Identify the problem. Once once know what the problem is, can you do something about it.
  2. Solve problems as they arise. Consider solutions to your problems and the resulting outcomes. Once you’ve decided on your course of action, break down the steps and tackle just one at a time.
  3. Share your stress. Expressing your feelings can help lift your burden and having someone who will listen patiently is essential.  Can you talk to a family member or close friend? If not, ask your physician for a referral to a professional counsellor.
  4. Keep it simple. We often feel stressed when we have too much on our plates. Sometimes this means saying ‘no’ and making a concerted effort to simplify our schedules.
  5. Live mindfully. Being mindful is about being present. Let go of the past, focus on the present moment, and don’t allow what lies ahead to burden you.
  6. Learn about stress management. Understanding stress can help you identify it, understand it, prevent it, and manage it. Consider reading books, visiting trusted websites, or asking your doctor for more information.
  7. Help yourself. Activities like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and diaphragmatic breathing can help quiet the mind and lessen the body’s response to stress.
  8. Get moving. Exercise is great way to reduce stress and improve your mood. Learn more.
  9. Have more fun. Make time for the activities you enjoy – time with friends or family, exercise, hobbies.

Remember that stress is part of being human—you can’t do away with it altogether. Learning to identify and cope with stress however, can help you manage stressful periods and events as they arise. Practice stress management techniques even when you’re not feeling stressed and you’ll have well-developed tools in your toolbox you can reach for when needed.

Giving thanks is about more than being polite – and it can transform your outlook, mood, and even your health

Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the only time of year where we take stock of the blessings in our lives and give thanks. It’s a practice, that when done regularly, if not daily, has the power to make us happier and healthier. In fact, a recent study by a psychologist at the University of California, concluded that when subjects wrote down just one thing they were grateful for each day for just three weeks, they were 25% happier for a full six months. These same subjects noted an ever increasing sense of vitality.

It’s easy to practice gratitude and today’s an ideal day to get started. Jot down something you’re grateful for and make it a daily habit. You can also try any number of these simple ways to give thanks:

1. Send a thank you card to someone who’s made a difference in your life.
2. Volunteer in your community.
3. Donate to a cause or company for their efforts to create a positive impact you support.
4. Start a gratitude journal and write in it regularly, noting the blessings in your life and giving thanks to the people who have gone above and beyond on your behalf.
5. Give genuine compliments.
6. Talk about what you are grateful for with your family.
7. Celebrate – yes, even the small blessings!
8. Be present.
9. Meditate
10. Give a gift.
11. Say thank you.
12. Pay it forward by sharing kindness you’ve received with someone else.
13. Pick up the bill when you’re out with people you care about.
14. Text someone a note of appreciation.
15. Celebrate the success of others as you do your own.

Is it time for a digital detox?

You know putting your device down, leaving it behind, or even turning it off more often, would do you good — and if you’re among a growing group of Canadians feeling you’re rarely wholly present in the moment, it’s high time you did.

Seven ‘smart’ ways to a digital detox:

  1. Take weekends off! Shut down your computer after work on Fridays, take a break from your social media platforms, and turn off your phone. Pledge to be wholly present on weekends — with your partner and kids, with friends, and as you go about life.
  2. Swap out phone time for something you enjoy more — lunch and shopping with a friend, a fun fitness class, crafts with your kids, or getting outdoors with your partner.
  3. Take a good look around and see what you’re missing. When you’re glued to your phone or computer, you miss out on small moments in relationships, in nature, and in life, that you’ll never get back. There are no do-overs – so power down and engage in what’s real, and what’s happening NOW.
  4. The average North American checks their phone 46 times a day. If you’re among this group, you need to cut back… way back. Cut back to half this number immediately and a week later, allow yourself just three to six ‘check-in’ times a day, limiting each to the shortest amount of time possible.
  5. Turn it off — or leave it behind. If you’re unable to stop yourself from picking up your device and checking in regularly, it’s time to get tough. Turn it off and stow it somewhere that’s harder to access, or leave it at behind altogether.
  6. Don’t take your phone to bed. A recent survey found that over 70% of adults have a smartphone, tablet, or computer in their bedrooms and that close to half keep them on. Talk about temptation — and a sure-fire way to sabotage a good night’s sleep. Get an old-fashioned alarm clock and set it for your walk up call.
  7. Consider a digital babysitter — apps like Freedom, SelfControl, and Digital Detach can help you gain control over your digital habits and in extreme cases, give you your life back.

Think about all the moments you’ve lost out on, the meaningful conversations with your kids you might have had, and the time days, weeks, months, and years, where you’ve hardly noticed the seasons change. Life is short. Pledge to get more from it.

See my original post for DeerFields Clinic.