HIGH CHOLESTEROL

It seems like we all watch our cholesterol these days, but we may not really understand the importance of doing so. If you have high cholesterol, you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.  It’s that simple.

You may be at risk for having high cholesterol if any of the following risk factors fit your profile:

  • Are you a man 45 years old or older or a woman 55 years old or older?
  • Does your family have a history of heart problems? This includes heart attack, coronary heart disease, or atherosclerosis.
  • Do you have high blood pressure? Are you on blood pressure medication?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have diabetes?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of the factors listed, then it may be time for you to make some changes in your lifestyle to lower your cholesterol level.

Some of those changes may include:

  • Eating less fat, salt, and more fiber
  • Comparing labels on the food products you buy and choosing those that are lower in fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories
  • Cooking with less fat
  • Learning correct serving sizes for determining food portions
  • Increase your physical activity to 30 minutes most days to strengthen your heart

High cholesterol can be controlled.  Now is the time to start creating your plan toward a healthier you!

PTSD AND OLDER ADULTS

(Adapted from VA’s “PTSD: The National Center for PTSD”)

There has been little research done that looks at treatment for PTSD in older adults versus younger people. We do know that PTSD, like many other disorders, can affect older individuals differently than it affects younger adults.

When dealing with trauma-focused treatments, older adults may develop increased anxiety and confusion. As it may be more difficult for older adults to benefit from therapies when confusion is present, presenting materials in a variety of formats and focusing on one topic at a time may be helpful. It may also help to include caregivers in the treatment plan as they often play a critical role by reinforcing information presented in therapy sessions.

Medications used to treat older adults may take longer to work, including those drugs prescribed to treat PTSD. Side effects may be more pronounced in older adults too, so dosages may have to be adjusted over time.   And, because older adults are often taking medications for other disorders, physicians should monitor any confusion to determine whether it is related to drug interactions.

PTSD in older adults may need a bit of a different approach for treatment purposes than is required with younger adults. What limited evidence there is at this time does support that PTSD treatments are effective for older adults.

TRIGGER STACKING

As a dog trainer, I sometimes see things that can be applied to people as well as dogs. Last night I worked with a wonderful little beagle who gets so excited she can barely function.  When she’s worked up, she barks constantly and won’t stop.  It’s very frustrating to the owners, as you can imagine.

When the owners drove up, this dog was in the back of the car, and she was very excited over going for a ride. They took her out and she immediately spotted several other dogs and their owners.  That also excited her.  As there were many other dogs that had been on the grounds that day, she was able to scent them, and that further excited her.  And, finally, when we took her to the exercise pen to stretch her legs, she spotted a fat rabbit nibbling the grass on the far side of the fence.  She immediately went into hound behavior, baying at the rabbit and frantically looking for a way to get under the fence to get it.  She was so excited, it was impossible to calm her down.  She was a victim of trigger stacking.

Each one of those events made her excited and nervous. Added together, they created a situation where she became out of control.  Unfortunately, I did not recognize what was happening until after the fact, but at least I was able to identify what was really going on: she wasn’t a bad little dog, just one that observed everything going on around her and was stimulated by it.  Her response was undesirable: barking, non-stop, but she wasn’t “just misbehaving.”

I think trigger stacking happens to humans quite often, and we also may not recognize what’s happening. We’re driving and someone runs a stop sign in front of us.  It scares us and makes our hearts race.  Then we get home and the kids are running around the yard, screaming as they play.  We go inside and the dog bolts out the door and runs away.  Finally we sit down to relax a few minutes and the neighbor comes over banging on the door with a complaint.  That may be the point where we lose it.  They are little things, but they build on one another until you’re feeling frantic.  It’s a perfect time for your PTSD triggers to go off too.

So, how can we respond to trigger stacking to stop the process? Recognizing what’s happening is the first step.  When you start to feel that first racing of your heart, take a time out.  Slow down and let yourself process what’s happening.  Are you in danger now?  No.  Can you afford to pull over for a few minutes at the local park and let yourself calm down?  If you can, it may break the sequence before it goes further.  At each step, recognize that things may be out of control, but there is no actual danger at the moment.

Staying healthy means recognizing when we have multiple issues that are having a negative impact on us. Don’t let your triggers build up until you go over the edge and lose it entirely.  Stop, evaluate the danger you’re really in, and then go on knowing you are in control.

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD SLEEP – Part 2

A good night’s sleep can make such a difference in your life! For those of us with sleep difficulties, it may take some effort to ensure a good night’s sleep.  According to a study by the Institute of Medicine, 50 to 70 million adults in the United States have a sleep or wakefulness disorder.  Many of us often don’t get enough sleep: the average adult needs 7 to 8 hours each night.  Some people can get by with less, and some people require more, but 7 to 8 hours will usually let you make it through the next day without feeling like a zombie.

It can help if you can tell whether you’re sleepy or tired. While they may seem like the same thing, they aren’t.  If you’ sleepy, you’ll find yourself fighting to stay awake.  If you’re tired, you may feel fatigued, but you will still be fairly alert.  If you feel drowsy during the day, you probably didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

If your sleep problems last more than a month, you should talk to your doctor. You may be tested to see if you have a contributing condition such as arthritis, acid reflux or even depression.  Or, you may find the medications you’re taking affect your sleep.  In that case, your doctor may suggest alternative drugs that will won’t disrupt your sleep as much.

The problem with not getting enough sleep is that it is linked to the development of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. While you might question how sleep difficulties can contribute to obesity, consider that those of us who are up at night often eat out of frustration to compensate for being awake!

Some tips to help you sleep better include:

  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and provides adequate support.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping, not for reading, watching television, or listening to music.
  • Do not eat large meals before bed.
  • Do not exercise before bed.
  • It may help to journal what you’re thinking before going to bed if you are plagued with racing thoughts when you lie down.
  • Limit the alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine you use as you near bedtime.
  • Try taking a warm bath, meditate, or listen to calm music before going to bed.

Getting a good night’s sleep is important and it makes a huge difference in the quality of day you’ll have. A little bit of effort can make a big difference in sleeping soundly.  Sweet dreams!

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

All of us experience those nights when we can’t sleep. For those of us with PTSD, they may happen more often than is usual.  Last night I was up almost all night.  It’s my own fault.  I didn’t think ahead, and went out with a friend for supper.  I had a large diet Coke with my meal.  Normally, I drink caffeine-free, diet beverages, but this restaurant didn’t offer the caffeine-free variety, so, I took what I could get.  I paid for it too.

I was several hours into the sleeplessness when I realized what I’d done. I quickly got up out of bed and went out of the room to pursue quiet activities until I became sleepy.  After watching a bit of TV and playing some soft music, I returned to bed and fell asleep quickly.  Getting out of bed is one ploy for remedying the situation.  Doing something calming until you become sleepy is another.  Some of the other tips for overcoming sleepless nights include:

  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool
  • Get regular exercise, and make sure you don’t exercise late in the day
  • No caffeine within six hours of going to bed
  • Establish a routine so you go to bed at the same time every night
  • Avoid taking naps in the middle of the day

Sleepless nights can be frustrating and may leave you feeling like you’re among the living dead the next day. Try to avoid getting caught up in negative thoughts about how your sleepless night will affect you, as it only makes it worse.  Reframe those thoughts by realizing you’ve been here before and you’ve gotten through it successfully…and you will again.  Sweet dreams.