Oncologist: Meditation is now Science-approved medicine — guest post

English: Meditation

English: Meditation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There have been countless anecdotal claims about the benefits of practicing meditation since the Eastern tradition has become more popular in the West. Now, there’s plenty of Western-based scientific evidence to support them, says Dr. Matt Mumber, a radiation oncologist and co-director of a non-profit integrative oncology program.

“Meditation is to the brain what physical activity is to the body. We’ve found meditation to be an important facet of health care, both for prevention and maintenance as well as in the treatment of disease, including cancer,” says Dr. Mumber, co-author with colleague and Yoga instructor Heather Reed of “Sustainable Wellness: An Integrative Approach to Transform Your Mind, Body, and Spirit,” (www.sustainablewellnessonline.com).

Mumber and Reed, who are co-facilitators of non-profit residential retreats for cancer patients, say one can experience sustainable wellness by developing a life practice grounded in the cultivation of awareness. This awareness is paying attention without attachment. The ability to be aware can be increased by a meditation tool called mindfulness.

“Life is a constant series of adjustments, matching your inner being with your outer doing,” Reed says. “One way to heighten your awareness is through practicing meditation.”

Mumber and Reed say there’s plenty of new evidence that the resulting sense of balance and peace is not just a psychological effect:

• Mindfulness meditation leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density: Recently published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, shows that measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress occurred with study participants who meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks.

• Meditation practitioners have longer attention spans: Published by the journal PloS Biology, a study analyzed people with three months of rigorous training and found that they gained a drastically improved attention span – not only longer, but less susceptible to internal or external distraction. They also showed improved memory and enhanced performance in several tasks, from driving a car to playing piano.

• Reduces stress and blood pressure: Presented to the American Heart Association by researchers at the at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, a study including 200 high-risk patients for heart attack found that meditation reduced their chances for heart attack by 50 percent.

“Studies involving people seeking to reduce stress and other problems in their lives via meditation will continue, as well as for those who want to enhance performance of various duties,” Mumber says.

“For those skeptical of the medical benefits of this Eastern practice, there’s now plenty of Western proof.”

About Matt Mumber, MD & Heather Reed

Matt Mumber, MD, is a practicing board-certified radiation oncologist with the Harbin Clinic in Rome, Ga. He completed his radiation oncology residency at Wake Forest University Bowman Gray School of Medicine and graduated from the Associate Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. Dr. Mumber is past president of the Georgia Society of Clinical Oncology. He founded Cancer Navigators Inc, a non-profit organization offering cancer patients access to nurse navigation, social services and educational programs to support and augment the clinical care they receive. Dr. Mumber received the Hamilton Jordan Founders Award for involvement in statewide oncology activities and in 2008 he was named a Health Care Hero by Georgia Trend magazine. He serves on the editorial board for the journals Current Oncology and Journal of Oncology Practice and is on the board for the Society of Integrative Oncology. 

Heather Reed has been teaching Yoga since 1996. She expresses an integrative, adaptive approach and specializes in using Yoga and meditation techniques for people living with cancer, post-polio syndrome and other chronic illnesses. Heather received an Experienced Teacher Certification from Esther Myers Yoga Teacher Training Program and has had extensive training with senior staff of the Commonweal Cancer Help program and Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. She developed Yoga classes for cancer patients at The Wellness Community, Atlanta. Since 2008, she has been Yoga teacher and co-facilitator for the Residential Retreat Program for Cancer Navigators of Rome, Ga.

 

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Baby boomers, try heart-healthy volunteering

English: A sample of a wrist style blood press...

English: A sample of a wrist style blood pressure monitor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you do a good deed, you feel better. It makes you feel better about life and your fellow man. Now there’s evidence that volunteering can help boomers reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a condition that’s a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.

An article at HealthDay.com examines a study, scheduled for publication in the journal Psychology and Aging, that involved over a thousand adults between the ages of 51 and 91. The study suggests volunteering can be a heart-healthy activity.

65 million Americans are affected by high blood pressure.  The article also includes a link to information on preventing this deadly condition that, many times, doesn’t have symptoms.

So for you boomers out there, volunteer in the community. Your heart will thank you.

Seven mistakes nearly all back-pain sufferers make. Expert debunks common myths — guest post by Jesse Cannone

Back pain is one of the most common health issues in the United States, with up to 80 percent of the population suffering the condition at some point in one’s life.

“But this exceedingly high number is just the beginning of the problem, because multiple studies indicate that roughly 70 percent of back surgeries fail,” says Jesse Cannone, a back-pain expert and author of “The 7-Day Back Pain Cure,” (www.losethebackpain.com). “It’s so common that there’s a name for it – failed back surgery syndrome, or FBSS.”

One recent study monitored 1,450 patients in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation database; half of those on disability endured back surgery, half did not. After two years, only 26 percent of those who had surgery returned to work. Additionally, 41 percent of those who had surgery saw a drastic increase in painkiller use.

“The success rate for the most common treatments is pathetically low, so it’s no surprise people often struggle years or decades with back pain, with few ever finding lasting relief,” Cannone says. “The majority of back surgeries are not only ineffective, but most could have been completely avoided.”

He reviews seven common mistakes made by back-pain sufferers:

• Continuing a treatment that doesn’t work: One of Cannone’s clients experienced 70 treatments with a chiropractor, resulting in no relief. “Here’s a general rule to follow,” he says. “If you see no improvement after going through a three-month period of treatment, consider making a change.”

• Failing to solve the problem the first time: Take pain seriously the first time. Cannone’s own mother suffered a significant bout of back pain, which subsided after a few days. But two years later it came back, and the second time was so debilitating she couldn’t work. “If she had taken the first bout more seriously, she probably would have prevented the second, more debilitating bout.”

• Thinking you’re too healthy or fit to have back pain: Staying in shape is always a good idea, but it does not make you invulnerable. People who train their body can be more prone to back pain because they often push their body’s limits, says Cannone, who has been a personal fitness trainer since 1998.

• Treating only the symptoms: Cortisone shots, anti-inflammatory drugs, ultrasound and electrical stimulation only address pain symptoms. “You may get rid of the pain, but the problem causing the pain will persist if not addressed,” he says. “If you want lasting relief, you must address the underlying causes, and it’s never just one.”

• Not understanding that back pain is a process: In most cases, back pain, neck pain and sciatica take weeks, months or even years to develop; the problem may exist for quite a while before the sufferer notices it, except for rare one-time trauma incidents like automobile accidents. Most people sit for hours at a time, yet the body was developed for diverse movements throughout the day. “Think of a car with steering out of alignment; eventually, tires will wear down unevenly and there will be a blow out,” Cannone says. “The same is true with your body.” Just as the damage was a process, recovery is the same and can be time-intensive.

• Believing there are no more options left: Not only does back pain hurt and prove physically debilitating; it also tries the morale and determination of the patient. A sufferer can run the gamut of treatments. But, often, it takes a cocktail of treatments that address all of the underlying causes. “Remember, you can’t really treat the root of pain until you know what’s causing it,” Cannone says. “In so many cases, this is precisely the problem.”

• Failing to take control: Doctors and other specialists are ultimately limited to what they know and what they’re used to. If you have a debilitating back problem, it should be among your top priorities to learn all you can about it, and how to fix it. Get a second, third and fourth opinion if treatment isn’t working; try out alternative therapies, and consider a healthy mix of treatment. Most importantly, take control; it’s your back, your body and only you can heal it, with help from others.

“I may be critical of how most handle back pain, but that’s because I’ve proven to patients that there are flaws in the traditional approaches as well as more effective alternatives,” Cannone says. “I also feel that I’m offering a hopeful message because of my high success rate in helping to cure the back pain from my clients.” 

About Jesse Cannone

Jesse Cannone is a leading back pain expert with a high rate of success for those he consults. He has been a personal trainer since 1998, specializing in finding root causes for chronic pain, and finding solutions with a multidiscipline approach. Cannone publishes the free email newsletter “Less Pain, More Life,” read by more than 400,000 worldwide, and he is the creator of Muscle Balance Therapy™.

 

Don’t downplay the health benefits of walking

English: Walking for Health in Epsom, England....

English: Walking for Health in Epsom, England. A group of walkers are following the walk leader, who is wearing a yellow jacket. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, you want to start an exercise program so you will look great at the beach this summer. A study suggests you don’t have to go to the mall and invest in the latest exercise gear. Nope. How about a good, brisk walk?

According to an article written by HealthDay reporter Steven Reinberg, a study shows that brisk walking is as good as running if you want to reduce three risk factors for heart disease: diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

In Reinberg’s article, you’ll learn that running reduced the risk of high blood pressure 4.2 percent and walking reduced the risk 7.2 percent. Also, running reduced the risk for high cholesterol 4.3 percent and walking lowered the risk 7 percent.

Do you have to join a health club to begin a brisk walking program? Absolutely not. How about a brisk walk during your lunch hour at work? A brisk walk can fit into just about anyone’s schedule. Check with your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program.

 

Move it or lose it: 5 moves to put seniors back in the game — guest post by Karen Peterson

For Americans 65 and older, falling down can be the worst thing to happen to them, according to statistics from the National Council on Aging:

 One in three seniors experiences a significant fall each year
 Every 18 seconds, a senior is admitted into an emergency room after losing balance and hitting the ground
 Every 35 minutes, an elderly person dies from a fall — the leading cause of death for seniors

“The projected cost in health-care expenses for 2020 due to fall-related injuries in the United States is $55 billion,” says Karen Peterson, a therapist with multiple certifications, and author of “Move With Balance: Healthy Aging Activities for Brain and Body,” (www.MoveWithBalance.org). She’s also the founder and director of Giving Back, a nonprofit organization that grows and spreads programs that support senior health.

“It’s important for seniors to keep moving and learning, that’s what helps improve balance and coordination, and even helps build new neural pathways,” says Peterson, who emphasizes the cognitive importance to her workout programs. “But if you’re rather frail, or just very fearful of falling, you’re less likely to get up and move around.” These activities benefit all seniors, from 55 to 105.

Peterson says a fun, social program of games and activities that include exercises specifically designed for seniors helps them address multiple issues, including those that tend to keep seniors sedentary – which only lessens their strength and balance.

Last year, her program was independently evaluated from Hawaii’s Department of Heath, which found a statistically significant reduction in falls from seniors – 38 percent. It also won the MindAlert Award from the American Society on Aging.

“Seniors of all ages need to continually work on improving their balance, coordination, strength, vision and cognitive skills. When they do, they’re less likely to fall – and more able to enjoy life.”

Peterson suggests these moves, which address many different areas of the body:

• The cross-crawl: After various light warm-ups, begin with the basic cross-crawl, which focuses on the fundamentals of balance. March in place, lifting the knees high. At the same time, reach across and touch the lifted knee with the opposite hand or elbow; alternate and keep going. This can be done sitting, standing or lying down. Once any of these exercises are mastered, Peterson says, participants should continue to challenge themselves. For even greater balance work, and to exercise the vestibular system, close your eyes and count backwards from 100 by threes. “It’s not fun if you’re not conquering a challenge,” she says. Her book includes several challenges for each exercise.

• Forward toe-touch dancer: To improve motor skills, physical coordination and cognition, there are many dance exercises that are appropriate for seniors. If needed, use a chair for assistance. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Now, simultaneously extend your left foot and your right arm forward. Keep your left toes pointed down, touching the floor; or for more difficulty, maintain the toes a few inches off the floor. Repeat this move with your left arm and right foot. Hold each pose for several seconds, and increase holding time.

• Sensory integration – the arrow chart: Look at an arrow chart and call out the direction indicated by each individual symbol. Then, thrust your arms in that direction; in other words, say and do what the arrow indicates. For an additional challenge, do the opposite of what the arrow indicates.

• Side-step walk: Walk sidestepping – bring your right foot across the left and step down three to five inches away from the left foot, ankles crossed. The closer the feet, the harder it is to balance. Alternate crossing the foot in front and then behind the other foot as you move along; repeat several times, then do the same with opposite feet. As a bonus challenge, try a reading exercise from a vision card, designed for stimulating the brain/visual system, while sidestepping.

• The cat jump: This activity is practice in case of a fall; the muscle memory of the movement will be etched in your body. Bend your knees in a squat. Jump a little off the ground with both feet, and land softly, like a cat, without jarring your body. Repeat until you are confident in your ability to prevent a spill.

“Research shows that most falls are preventable,” Peterson says. “These and other exercises, performed regularly, are a great way to achieve safety and a revitalized lifestyle.”

About Karen Peterson

Karen Peterson is founder and director of Giving Back, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of elders through intergenerational mentoring. She has multiple certifications, including as a Brain Gym® instructor, educational kinesiologist, natural vision improvement instructor, Touch for Health instructor and a massage therapist. For 25 years, Peterson has been teaching these modalities to children, businesspeople, athletes, classroom teachers and adults of all ages and occupations.

Workplace stress and heart attack: Finding the proper Work-Play balance — guest post by Dr. Kevin Campbell

Cardiac operating room

Cardiac operating room (Photo credit: Ruhrfisch)

Americans are workaholics.  Most of us work 40+ hours a week, bring work home on the weekends and take as little as 2-4 weeks of vacation including holidays.   As cleverly addressed in an essay in the New Yorker in 2006, life in Europe is quite different; 7-8 weeks of vacation time is the norm.   Europeans seem to value leisure more whereas Americans tend to emphasize earning and spending.  Much has been written about how certain habits at work can harm our overall health.  In US News and World Report in July, seven habits that were considered to be health harmful were examined. Habits identified included eating at your desk, lack of exercise, all night work sessions just to name a few.  Now add excessive workplace stress to the list.

I was listening to NPR this weekend and was intrigued by a story from the Lancet on the relationship of on the job stress and increased risk of heart attack.  In this study, a meta analysis from 13 European cohort studies was performed and included nearly 200 thousand patients.  The study demonstrated a 23% increase in risk for cardiovascular events in patients whose jobs were considered stressful as compared to those who did not report workplace pressure.  Based on this report, reducing stress in the workplace could potentially reduce heart attacks by 3-4%.  Certainly, this potential for reduction is not really comparable to the 20-30% reduction in events that is conferred by smoking cessation but it is not insignificant.

Traditionally, stress has been thought to contribute to cardiovascular events by increasing sympathetic tone and causing the abundant release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.  These stress hormones may cause increased lipid (cholesterol) levels, increased tendencies for blood to clot and they may also promote the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries with subsequent vascular damage.   Blood pressure and heart rate are all increased in this state, all leading to increased demands by the heart and potential for ischemia (lack of blood flow to the heart muscle).  Stress management techniques have been studied in the past and have been shown to result in decreased cardiovascular events.  A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2011 found that 36% of workers included in the study had experienced stress on the job.  Interestingly, the study participants cited lack of opportunities for advancement (43%), heavy workload (43%) unrealistic job expectations (40%) and long hours (39% ) as major stressors at work.

Much of the American worker’s self worth is measured by elite job titles, driving luxury cars and owning a large home in a prestigious community.  In Europe, the worker measures himself by having the ability to take extended holidays with friends and family.  In fact, US workers often fail to take allotted vacation time.   This may be due to the fear of losing traction towards advancement in the workplace or out of fear of being replaced by co-workers who did not take time away.  The US certainly remains the land of opportunity but many US workers have lost sight of the real American dream–the freedom to use our time as we see fit.  To enjoy family, friends and the lives we have worked so hard to build.

Much can be learned from the value that the Europeans place on leisure.  These workers make time away with family a priority.  Some studies of worker efficiency and productivity have shown superior performance and less burnout and depression in employees who take time for vacation and leisure.  Coronary artery disease and sudden cardiac death are one of the leading causes of death in the US today (behind all types of cancers combined).  Certainly we can impact disease by eliminating smoking, eating well and exercising but we can also reduce events through better management of workplace stress.  Take time for family.  Take time to relax.  Return to work refreshed, re-energized and renewed.  Although workplace stress is an unavoidable reality in the US today, we must find ways mitigate stressors and this will ultimately improve both our productivity and overall quality of life.

Dr. Kevin Campbell Bio
Dr Kevin Ray Campbell was born and raised in North Carolina. He received his undergraduate degree from North Carolina State University and graduated valedictorian in 1992. He attended medical school at Wake Forest University and graduated at the top of the class in 1996. Dr Campbell trained in Internal Medicine and completed his Internship and Residency at the University of Virginia in 1999. From there, he completed fellowships in bothCardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology at Duke University.

Dr Campbell joinedWake Heart and Vascular (WHV) in 2003 and became partner in 2006. He has served on the Executive Committee of the practice for 4 years. Dr. Campbell practices Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology in Raleigh, Smithfield and Wilson, North Carolina. Although he treats all aspects of cardiovascular disease, he specializes in the treatment of heart rhythm disorders, includingsupraventricular and ventricular tachycardias as well as sudden cardiac death. Dr Campbell is a nationally recognized expert in the implantation of Pacemakers, Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators and Cardiac Resynchronization Devices. Beyond device implantation, DrCampbell also performs Electrophysiology studies (EPS) and radiofrequency ablations.

A nationally recognized expert in prevention of sudden cardiac death, Dr Campbell speaks all across the US to physicians, physicians in training, as well as civic groups. These dynamic symposia are designed to raise awareness and facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of women at risk for cardiovascular disease and death. His efforts have led to the creation of prevention programs in many cities across the US. Dr Campbell’s successes have been chronicled in the media in North Carolina and beyond and include television interviews, newspaper and magazine articles as well as a monthly call-in radio show that helps to promote these initiatives.

 

Think you’re healthy? Would you know if you weren’t? Oncologist offers 7 tips for increasing awareness — guest post

Not too long ago – just after World War II – few people in the United States brushed their teeth with any regularity. Now, the mere thought of going an entire day or night without brushing one’s teeth is simply out of the question for most.

Hopefully, someday in the near future, a similar attitude will prevail regarding mental well-being, says Dr. Matt Mumber, an oncologist and author of “Sustainable Wellness: An Integrative Approach to Transform Your Mind, Body, and Spirit,” (www.sustainablewellnessonline.com), coauthored by Yoga therapist Heather Reed. 

“Human happiness and well-being are rudderless without awareness, which I define as the quality of paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment from an inquisitive, nonjudgmental and focused perspective,” he says.

An easy way to think of optimal wellbeing might be to envision a three-legged stool, says Reed.

“The three legs include physical activity, nutrition and that underappreciated component missing from too many Americans’ lives – stress management, or a healthy mental state,” she says.

After checking off a healthy diet and exercise from the list, how does one go about ensuring a healthy mind? Mumber and Reed say the key is mindfulness, which they define as paying attention on purpose, non-judgmentally and as though your life depended on it. Framed another way, mindfulness means focusing on something without trying to change it, like the sky holding passing clouds without clinging to them.

They describe the states necessary for attaining mindfulness:

• Beginner’s mind is the ability to see things with new eyes. The Bible warns against putting new wine in old wine skins – doing so risks tainting the new stock. A beginner’s mind opens people to the world of possibilities that exist in the present moment. That does not mean throwing away good ideas from the past; rather, it means to entertain new ideas with a truly open sensibility.

• Trust: Believe in your authority to know your own body, thoughts and feelings. We need to have the confidence necessary to trust that our thoughts and feelings at any given moment have value.

• Non-judging is the ability to see things for what they are, to hold an open and neutral place for whatever comes up within and around you, without thinking of anything as categorically better or worse than anything else.

• Patience is a willingness to continue with the process of paying attention on purpose even when it appears that no progress is being made. Learning and growing through mindful practice happens with time, and we can’t force the outcome.

• Acceptance refers to allowing whatever comes up in the moment to be held in our field of awareness. This is not the same as giving up or being passive; acceptance is merely acknowledgement.

• Letting go is refusing to attach to specific thoughts, feelings or behaviors. This can feel like losing something, but every time we let go, we open ourselves to something new and, potentially, deeper.

• Non-striving: In our goal-oriented society, this may seem counterintuitive. However, non-striving refers only to practicing mindfulness without expectation of some future goal or dream, which helps us better live in the now.

“By having our three-legged stool firmly planted in awareness, we can drop into what we typically call a sense of spiritual wellbeing,’ says Mumber.

About Matt Mumber, MD & Heather Reed

Matt Mumber, MD, is a practicing board-certified radiation oncologist with the Harbin Clinic in Rome, Ga. He completed his radiation oncology residency at Wake Forest University Bowman Gray School of Medicine and graduated from the Associate Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. Dr. Mumber is past president of the Georgia Society of Clinical Oncology. He founded Cancer Navigators Inc, a non-profit organization offering cancer patients access to nurse navigation, social services and educational programs to support and augment the clinical care they receive. Dr. Mumber received the Hamilton Jordan Founders Award for involvement in statewide oncology activities and in 2008 he was named a Health Care Hero by Georgia Trend magazine.

Heather Reed has been teaching Yoga since 1996. She expresses an integrative, adaptive approach and specializes in using Yoga and meditation techniques for people living with cancer, post-polio syndrome and other chronic illnesses. Heather received an Experienced Teacher Certification from Esther Myers Yoga Teacher Training Program and has had extensive training with senior staff of the Commonweal Cancer Help program and Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. She developed Yoga classes for cancer patients at The Wellness Community, Atlanta. Since 2008, she has been Yoga teacher and co-facilitator for the Residential Retreat Program for Cancer Navigators of Rome, Ga.