Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is Sports Massage for You?

Alright, so you may not be a star athlete playing on an NFL team, but you ARE physically active, right? So why use massage therapy only as a special “treat” for when you feel emotionally stressed out? The truth is that different massage techniques can also help heal your weekend-warrior, sports-related, and gym induced injuries. In fact, sports medicine has employed massage therapy as a complementary treatment for decades!

Have you ever seen a personal trainer massaging the legs or arms of a professional athlete during a big game? Well, that's not just for show. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases says the rubbing, pressing and body manipulation involved in massage therapy works to soothe muscles and increase blood flow. This, in turn, helps relax tense, sore, or overworked muscles. And, a further study published in February 2012 in Science Translational Medicine found that massage therapy can reduce inflammation and promote muscle healing on the molecular level.

What does this mean? When we exercise, we're actually tearing and slightly damaging our muscles in order to build them up to be stronger over time. In the short term, this can cause inflammation. Sometimes taking an aspirin will help with the momentary dull pain that comes after exercising. This study suggests that getting a massage after exercise has similar effects.

But the benefits don't stop there. Massage therapy can also help prevent sports injuries when used as part of a conditioning routine. Regular massage can help stretch tight muscles and increase flexibility in athletes, which results in less risk of injury overall.

So whether you're a professional athlete with a strict training regimen or an average Joe or Jane who likes to run a few miles before work, massage therapy can have a place in keeping your body fit and ready for any type of exercise.

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

3 Tips for Transitioning the Winter Season

Living in Houston, we don't get the dramatic seasonal change that our neighbors to the north get; their brisk fall transitioning into blustery winter... Even so, as Houstonians our bodies must adapt to our own change. It is important to take care of yourself during this time of transition so that you can be at your best. I've listed some tips and tricks to aid you on your path towards a smoother season shift - despite our "warmer than the north" temperatures.

Getting Physical
No matter what time of the year it is, exercise should be top of the list especially in our cooler seasons. When the winter season rolls around for us here in Houston and temperatures drop to a mild chill, I find jogging or cycling outdoors to be especially pleasant. And while our cool fronts are known for bringing rain; that should not be a reason to tone down the exercise frequency or stop at all. Running the treadmill indoors or taking part in a group class or indoor boot-camp is always an option. Even if you have the means, hitting up your local gym is always better than sitting sedentary.

Eating healthy is equally important. Especially with the holidays that go hand in hand with the winter season, gifts packed with sweets and large dinner parties will always be a temptation, but finding ways of maintaining self control and keeping your health in check should always be a top priority.

In an Emotional State
S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a real problem when the days get gray and the night gets longer. Although the weather outdoors maybe cold and desolate, that doesn't mean you have to be the same way. Keep your emotions in check and don't let the gray weather blues get the best of you. When the holidays approach and things get hectic, don't overload yourself. Keep things simple and realistic. Instead of trying to please others, think about the social activities that would keep you happiest and healthiest. That way you won't overwhelm yourself physically or drain yourself emotionally trying to cater to everyone else's demands. Who cares what others might think? In the end, all that really matters is that -from the start to the finish- you are happy, healthy and enjoying your life.

Relax!
Unfortunately, with this time of year, finances and schedules don't let you de-stress as much as you might need. However, temporary escapes like the spa or a near by weekend vacation can be just as relaxing. Even a simple indulgence like getting a manicure or pedicure will do the trick, and you can always count on me for a massage. ;-)  While enjoyable outdoor activities such as hiking or trips to the beach might be more limited, seeing a comedy, or picking up a good book can be an indoor substitute. Try to steer away from activities such as shopping and eating out. Not only do they start creating a dent in your wallet, but they also can become a stressful event if self-control is not in check.

So with these tips in mind, I hope you have a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pillow Time

I have got to say that my sleep is always best when I’ve got a cool pillow to rest my head on. Nothing starts your day off better than getting a good night's sleep. And, since getting a full night’s sleep is essential to overall health, finding the right pillow can help.

"Pillows can not only impact the quality of our sleep, but also how healthfully we rest and recharge," says sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of ‘Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.’

Just as a good pillow can help your health, using the wrong one can make you miserable.  A bad pillow won't be the cause of any of these problems, but using the incorrect pillow can worsen headaches, neck pain, shoulder and arm numbness, discomfort, and induce sneezing, and wheezing. All of which can keep you from getting a good night's rest.

Don’t forget that if your pillow is old, it is more than likely overflowing with dead skin cells, mold, mildew, fungus, and dust mites. Just the thought of this can keep you up at night! LOL! So, when is it time to buy a new pillow? Experts say the general rule is to buy a pillow every 12 to 18 months - definitely replace it after two years.

Before you buy a new pillow, consider your sleeping position. A “good” pillow will help keep your head in what is called a 'neutral alignment.' This means your head is sitting squarely on your shoulders without bending back too far or reaching too far forward. Consider the following:

If you sleep on your back:
Use thinner pillows, so your head is not thrust too far forward, and you should look for a pillow with extra loft in the bottom third of the pillow to cradle your neck.

If you sleep on your side:
You need a firmer pillow, one that fills in the distance between the ear and outside shoulder.

If you're a stomach sleeper:
Stomach sleepers should use a very thin, almost flat pillow. You may not even need a pillow for your head, but is you suffer from lower back pain, consider tucking one under your stomach.

For more information on getting better sleep, visit Dr. Michael Breus’s official website – TheSleepDoctor.com.

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal
johnaaron-massage.com


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lessen Pain by Losing Weight

It’s a known fact that as we age we tend to have an increase in muscular and joint pain. It slowly creeps up on us because the actions that lead up to the symptoms are gradual, unassuming and thought to be a “normal” progression of aging. Take the few extra pounds we gain during mid life as an example. Left unchecked and you could be a candidate for obesity in no time.

The Institute for Preventative Foot Health discovered that obese people have a 40% increase in lower body joint pain. This makes sense because walking can place up to three times your body weight on your feet, knees and hips. Every step can wear joint cartilage and compress nerves which can lead to a life of chronic pain.

What’s the solution? Unfortunately, because pain is considered a “normal” symptom of aging, lifestyle solutions are often ignored in favor of treatment through medication. Let’s face it; when joints cause you pain, it’s much easier to just pop a pill to make the hurt go away. However, in this scenario only the symptom -not the cause- of pain is being treated. Until the cause is addressed, you are doomed to a dependency on medications to gain relief and thus tip the first domino in a chain reaction of events that rapidly lead to physical degeneration.

One counter solution is to lighten the load placed on your joints. Losing weight has been proven to reduce the wear and tear placed on lower body joints. Less wear means a decrease in joint pain thereby allowing you to remain mobile and active throughout your later years. However, the benefits don’t stop there! Losing excessive weight can help shrink your risk of a wide range of diseases deemed “age appropriate” such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The latter of which can also cause pain due to diminished circulation and nerve damage.

I realize that while this may be a simple solution; for many, losing weight is a tremendously difficult task. My suggestion is to seek professional help. If you are at a loss, feel free to call or email me for a referral toward an appropriate health and lifestyle professional. In some cases all that may be needed is a good exercise routine and a tweak of your dietary habits. For others, a physician or medically based program may be the best fit.

Either way, there is help to treat your chronic pain that doesn't require dependance on medications. So don’t settle for the excuse that pain is an unavoidable symptom of getting older! In many cases it’s not – and I’ve got many clients to prove it!

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal

Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wellness Is Always in Season

Yes, I know. Halloween just ended... But, like it or not, the "Holiday Season" is officially here and that's what I want to write to you about.

Did you know that this Holiday Season we are expected to attend an average of around 30 hours (or more) attending parties, social events and family gatherings during the next 8 weeks alone? The number surprised me: that's nearly 5 hours of partying a week! What's more alarming is that those hours don't even include your shopping, travel time or the hours spent cooking in preparation for those parties and events! So, with this in mind, I offer 3 simple tips to help maintain your health, wellness and "sanity" through this flurry of holiday season activities.

Relax Your Muscles. After spending time on your feet, sit down and actively relax your muscles by tensing and relaxing each large muscle group. Start with your head by doing some gentle neck and shoulder rolls. Then work your way down through your hands, arms, legs and finally your feet. This is one of the easiest ways to ease tension in the body as it builds up. Stay limber.

Up Your Hydration. Start your morning with a mug of warm water and the juice from half a lemon. The ritual of this practice gives you the chance to set your intentions for the day, and also reap the benefits of the vitamins from the lemon to help maintain optimum body performance while also starting the day with water to help hydrate against the drying cooler weather, too.

Keep Your Sleep. Daylight Savings Time aside, bear in mind that while the days grow shorter, the body still fully needs its rest and quiet to regenerate and nourish from the long days of shopping and cheer. Power naps, quiet reading time and of course a full 8 hours of sleep at night are some of the best ways to keep stress levels low during the bustle of the season.

So there you have it; My three simple tips for staying sane this Holiday Season. Oh, and as we enter the month of November, I want to thank you with a little gift for your support this year. For me, it has certainly been a crazy one filled with dramatic change for me and I know I couldn't have made it this far without you.

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pay Attention to Your Everyday Aches.

According to the Institute for Preventative Foot Health, almost 80% of American adults have encountered some type of foot problem. This is a number I find surprising considering our overall sedentary lifestyles. None-the-less, it seems that anything from improper shoe size, high-impact exercise, slips & falls, and "surprise-surprise"  - obesity -  can trigger a pain causing condition.

To avoid a lifelong injury it is important to take your discomfort seriously. Even something as seemingly minor as sore feet or bunions can worsen over time. If left unchecked, they can ultimately result in costly surgery and time away from doing the things that you love. For more information, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association's web site: http://www.apma.org/

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal

Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.




Monday, October 8, 2012

Sports Massage for Total Body Wellness

Sometimes I’m asked why people seek out my services as a massage therapist. Well, for some, massage therapy is used as a treatment to relax from emotional stress or to heal the body from physical strain. Considering the various massage treatments and styles that are available, there is sure to be something that naturally targets any specific area of the body that needs special care.

Sports massage, for example, helps to break down acids which build in the muscles during strenuous activity. For these clients, sports massage helps get the muscles back into acclimated form, and also helps to restore and maintain proper body movement and muscular function through incorporating stretch and joint mobilization into the massage.

A sports massage can aid in both pre and post sport events by increasing blood and nutrient circulation to the muscles and by assisting the body in eliminating metabolic wastes that are the byproducts produced by strenuous activity. If there is a sports injury, massage can be used as an adjunct to work in collaboration with traditional medical treatment thereby helping to restore the athlete to top form. Shiatsu, for instance, is a form of rigorous massage that uses fingers to apply acupressure to points along the body's energy pathways, and is often used on athletes as a proven method of relieving muscular tension.

While not all of my clients are athletic overachievers, most come to me experiencing muscular pain caused by an unknown source. In these cases they too find that massage can help soothe aches, by evacuating toxins from the body and restoring pliability and circulation to tight muscles and compressed joints. In fact, many of my clients would agree that if you are looking for total body health, be sure to include massage therapy. It can ease your pain, relax your body and improve your overall sense of well-being.

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lowering Blood Pressure with Low-Fat Dairy

Moo juice. It’s more than a kid’s drink and fortunately for me, I never grew too old to stop appreciating a tall cold glass of milk. I’m even more psyched about it now that I know about a Dutch study performed on hypertensive adults 55 and older. The research data suggests that low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt may lower blood pressure or even help prevent hypertension all together.

Here’s How it Works:
The key is in the minerals and avoiding “fat free” dairy. It seems that consuming milk with a modest amount of fat helps to increase the bio-availability of calcium in the dairy. This makes the calcium easier for the digestive track to absorb. In addition to being a great source of calcium, low-fat dairy is also an excellent source of two other blood-pressure-lowering nutrients: magnesium and potassium.

Here’s How Much You Need:
As part of a daily regimen, you should consider following the guidelines of a 2006 study from Harvard Medical School, which suggested that people who ate three or more servings of low-fat dairy per day improved their blood pressure reading by 2.6 points compared to those who ate less than half a serving per day. So aim to include three individual servings of low-fat milk, cheeses, or yogurt into your meal plan.

High blood pressure isn’t a death sentence. It’s a warning. You can effectively improve your numbers and reduce the risk of disease. Take heed to what your body is telling you and make little changes, like the one mentioned above, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier heart.

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Discovering a Skeleton

They’re scary. My proverbial closet has them. Yours does, too. But the skeletons of one’s past don’t necessarily mean shameful, scandalous, hidden secrets. They are the life experiences that help mold each of us into the unique individuals that we are.

You can know someone superficially. On the surface they appear to be whatever we project them to be. For example; you’re in a parking lot when someone who appears dazed, walks across your path. Hair is unkempt; he’s red-eyed, shabbily dressed and smells like he hasn’t bathed in days. First thought; probably a homeless street beggar.

It’s when you get down to the actions and events that got that person to the place they now are, that you really understand who that person is; A loving and dedicated father who has spent a week at the hospital by his child’s side fighting some deadly serious disease. He is stressed, and afraid to be away from her side for even a moment, but is currently trying to fulfill her only request for a Happy Meal.

To many times we get self absorbed and insulated by our own daily lives that we neglect to learn about the people we come in contact with. Inspiration, motivation and the chance to serve & help others can come from learning, truly learning, what is secretly behind the façade of another human being. Look beyond any skeletons, to the real person dealing with the real fears those skeletons can bring.


John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Hot & Cold Back Pain Remedy

As a massage therapist, backaches are one of the most common complaints of pain that I receive. Often times we stress our backs through overuse or injury which can cause painful swelling of the joints and surrounding tissues. So what do I do when my back gives me trouble? I change the temperature...

Cold is known for its ability to shrink things, and that includes bodily inflammation. So I turn to it regularly. I use ice bags or bags of frozen veggies to treat my back. To reduce risk of further injury, I place a cloth or thin towel between the ice pack and my skin and alternate therapy like this; apply for about 20 minutes (but no more than 30 minutes) on the achy area followed by 30 minutes off (or 30 minutes of moist heat), then another 20 minutes on again.

I find that alternating heat with cold, really improves my circulation, healing and pain relief. Alternating application of heat and cold is sometimes called a vascular flush because the heat expands the blood vessels, and the cold constricts them, causing a "flushing" action.

Just remember that the general time recipe ratio for hot and cold application is three to one. For every three minutes of heat, apply one minute of cold. Also be careful with heat applications to avoid burning. Be very aware of the degree of heat of an application and how it feels against your skin! Then, be sure to end with the cold application cycle.

Caveat
There are precautions to be aware of: Reynaud’s disease. If you have Reynaud’s disease, peripheral vascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, hypersensitivity to cold, or reduced skin sensations do not use cold therapy applications. Diabetics should always use caution when applying ice to their skin.


So the next time you experience back pain, give this hot/cold treatment a try. You may be surprised at the amount of relief you will receive. Of course, getting a massage by a trained and experienced professional will also help, too. ; )

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lowering Blood Pressure with Black Beans

I love black beans. In fact, they are a staple of health and wellness, so we usually have them as a main course at least once a week. They’re versatile in recipes, tasty by themselves and very easy to prepare. Black beans also have a high fiber-to-protein ratio that’s hard to beat. It’s this combination that helps in keeping blood sugar in check and maintaining lower blood cholesterol levels.

Here’s How it Works:
Although black beans are a nutrient-dense source of fiber and magnesium, what puts them at a distinct advantage over other foods is the folate you'll find in these delicious little legumes. Folate (folic acid) is a B-complex vitamin that appears to lower blood pressure (especially systolic blood pressure) by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow.
 
Here’s How Much You Need:

While a single cup of cooked black beans only yields about 256 micrograms of folate, tossing them with a cup of spinach salad will bring you slightly over the daily recommended allowance of at least 400 micrograms of folate. However, you should really only aim for that to be your minimum. In fact, most large-scale studies showing significant benefit using folate to reduce blood pressure relied on double that amount (800 micrograms) daily.

High blood pressure isn’t a death sentence. It’s a warning. You can effectively improve your numbers and reduce the risk of disease. Take heed to what your body is telling you and make little changes, like the one mentioned above, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier heart.

As always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Being Happier with Less

Tomorrow marks the first full day of autumn and the third anniversary of my newest tradition: The Autumn Toss-Out.

I began this ritual a few years ago after reading a book by Peter Walsh called, “It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.” (Well, I’m over forty. I had a lot of stuff!) How can this effect your health and wellness? Well, Peter explains in real-world terms, and with as much sympathy as possible, that in our accumulation we create unnecessary stress and overwhelm in our lives. An excerpt from his book reads;

“You want a life built on a solid foundation, but you can’t even see the floor beneath you. You want to lose weight but your kitchen is overwhelmed with appliances you never use. You want to build your career, but your office literally makes you feel ill. You want to change? This is where it starts: your home. Where you live, breathe rest, love and create. Get rid of the clutter. Get organized. If you do, I promise that every aspect of your life will change in ways that you never imagined possible.”

A point that struck a particularly resonating chord with me is that many times we have so much stuff that we lose track of it, don’t even remember what we have, and eventually just get more of the same. Or, we keep something supposedly for sentimental reasons but we don’t honor and respect its significance. Instead, we squirrel it away in some dark forgotten corner until one day it’s re-discovered and promptly hidden away again.

Well, to make a long story short, I’m taking the autumnal change as my queue to “toss-out” all that doesn’t have a positive function in my current life. I’ll go through my home, pull out clothes that no longer fit my family or that we haven’t worn in over a year and set them aside for donations. The same goes for books and other ephemeral data that will be sent to resale shops or recycling.

In other words, I'll focus only on keeping what’s important and pulls me forward in my life. Possessions really can “weigh you down” if you let them. For a more thorough explanation of the benefits of “letting stuff go,” I suggest reading Joe Walsh’s book. It’s a quick, easy read and if applied to your life, will help make it a happier one indeed.

Enjoy the autumn weather and as always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Autumn Health and Wellness and Pumpkins

I count down to the autumnal equinox like a kid waiting for Christmas. Living through the sweltering summer heat in Houston, Texas you might understand why I can get so excited about this time of year. And since we’ve just received our first "taste" of cooler weather, I decided to start my official fall activities a bit early with one of the most ubiquitous symbols of autumn: the pumpkin.

Amazingly healthy, the pumpkin is stuffed with antioxidants, and essential nutrients like iron, zinc and fiber. But what fascinated me the most were the numerous references to the health and wellness benefits of pumpkin and its effect on;

Prostate Cancer – For example, compounds present within the pumpkin seeds (phytosterols) are believed to lower the risk of prostate cancer. They work by shrinking the prostate and stimulating the secretion of chemicals that protect against the transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (known to cause enlargement of the prostate gland at high levels).

Inflammation – With antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, regular consumption of pumpkin can help pain management by reducing joint inflammation. Pumpkins have been known to provide relief from inflammation quickly, and without the harmful side-effects of OTC anti-inflammatory medicines.

Radiant Skin – The high amount of Vitamin A, C and E as well as Zinc present in pumpkin, make it a great choice for those who want to prevent the appearance of wrinkles and to keep skin hydrated, nourished, and sporting a healthy glow.

Kidney Stones – Having up to 10 grams of pumpkin seeds daily can help prevent kidney stones preventing the formation of calcium oxalate stones.

It's hard to believe, but these are only a few of the benefits of pumpkin that I have found. So is it any wonder why it's included as one of the worlds Super Foods? In my opinion, pumpkin is wasted if you only use it to make pies. In fact, I'm currently perfecting my own recipe for a natural, organic, pumpkin body scrub - but I'll tell you more about that project in a later blog....

For now, I thought I would start slow and introduce you to a great recipe for Pumpkin Butter. I found it on one of my favorite blogs: skinnytaste.com. Similar to apple butter, it's easy to make and it filled my house with the great scent of fall.

Enjoy the cooler weather and as always – Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.




Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Orthopedic Massage: Helps Heal Injury

Have you ever considered the amount of money we spend each year treating pain from chronic conditions and injuries? Hint: it’s in the billions. It’s around $560-$635 billion annually according to a recent report by The Institute of Medicine.

My recommendation is proactive maintenance which includes nutrition, movement, stretching and the application of a variety of massage therapy techniques. Take orthopedic massage, for example.

A unique Approach
Orthopedic massage is not a “spa type” of massage. It’s a type of massage that more specifically deals with the problems of the musculoskeletal system.

While the goal of a spa type of massage is to reduce stress and tension in the body and mind through relaxation; orthopedic massage helps improve or heal a particular problem, usually an injury, and restore range of motion to the area.

What to Expect
When requesting an orthopedic massage, be sure to tell your therapist that your goal is to reduce pain, restore range of movement and support a return of health and strength to the injured area. A competent licensed massage therapist should be able to develop a comprehensive, planned approach to your goal choosing from a range of safe, effective techniques to best help improve the condition at your specific stage of healing.

Following a standard procedure, your treatment should include an assessment of the condition, and the combination of specific massage techniques and home-care suggestions such as a stretching program and/ or movement therapy.

You can’t always life 100% pain free, but you can manage and reduce your pain so that you can still live life happy and to its fullest. Try massage today. You may be surprised by how good, and healthy, it can make you feel.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal

Bio: I am a Houston based massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. Love a good meal –And; did I mention that I laugh - a lot? Visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and how to live life well!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lowering Blood Pressure with Whole Grain Oats

A recent study reports that in a nutritional comparison between whole-grain oat-based cereals and refined wheat-based cereals, hypertensive participants consuming whole-grain oat-based cereals were able to lower their blood pressure over the course of the 12 week study. A whopping 73% of that group did so well, they were able to cut out their anti-hypertensive medications all together, or at least reduce them by half.

Here’s How it Works:
The blood pressure benefits noted in this study are derived from the fiber and magnesium found in oats. Both have beneficial effects on blood pressure. What’s more, oats can slow and possibly reverse the progression of atherosclerosis; the plaque buildup that occurs in blood vessels.

Here’s How Much You Need:
You should aim for a typical serving (about three-fourths of a cup) of whole-grain oats daily. For example, eating whole-grain oatmeal topped with skim milk (or unsweetened soy milk) and banana will also give you the added blood-pressure-lowering benefit of calcium and potassium. You can even try sprinkling oat bran on your regular cereal or on salads. Plus loose oats added to soups or stews makes an excellent thickener, and they are great filler when preparing meatloaf or meatballs.

High blood pressure isn’t a death sentence. It’s a warning. You can effectively improve your numbers and reduce the risk of disease. Take heed to what your body is telling you and make little changes, like the one mentioned above, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier heart.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal

Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Massage: Relieve Pain and Restore Movement

One of the most common complaints a client presents to me is pain. Neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, lower back – you name it. What’s interesting is that most of my clients blame getting older as the reason for their aches and pains. However, the problem is not chronological; it repetitive use.

In pro sports it's commonly called a “repetitive stress injury,” but this syndrome isn’t limited to athletes.

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s), can affect anyone who lives long enough.  Did you understand that? What I mean is that you don’t get pain because you are getting older. In this case, you experience pain due to repetitive actions done over many years.

These actions can be anything from the way you walk, sit or lift, to the way you work, write or sleep. Sometimes RSI’s can be diagnosed as tendinitis, frozen shoulder, tennis or golfer’s elbow, plantar fasciitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome just to name a few examples.

So - Do you have an RSI?
You may have an RSI if you have chronic muscle spasms in the upper back and neck, stiff and painful shoulders, or tingling in your arms or hands. If you have pain, tightness, or weakness in these areas, continuing repetitive movements may cause a serious injury and extended loss of time away from work or the things you love to do. That’s why early and regular treatment is essential.

How massage helps
Healing an RSI often requires plenty of time and rest, but massage can help speed the recovery. The body naturally “tenses” when it experiences pain but massage can help release knots and painful trigger points in muscles and tendons thereby increasing the pliability of damaged tissue and reducing pain.

Massage can help reduce swelling, release and stretch tight tissues and restore easy, pain-free movement. Ice therapy and self-care, including exercise and specific stretches may be included in your treatment.

Even if I’m not your personal massage therapist, it is important that whomever does your treatment be knowledgeable enough in anatomy and movement to be able to recommend a regular program of massage therapy, stretching and movement exercises to help reverse the problem and minimize your pain.

Remember, your body is capable of incredible feats. In fact, it craves variation and challenge. Supplying your body with those will not only help you live pain free but feel younger, too.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. Love a good meal –And; did I mention that I laugh - a lot? Visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and how to live life well!
 

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Embrace the Traffic

Houston. It’s the fourth (or is it now third?) largest city in the nation. Goes without saying that traffic here can get pretty grizzly at times. Road rage has been responsible for more than just a few car accidents and deaths. But did you know that it can contribute to ‘silent killer’ heart diseases like high blood pressure, too?

Like most commuters, I used to boil while stuck in rush hour traffic. I used to rant and curse; give the “stink eye” to a couple of drivers I considered crazy. Never once thinking of the view they must have had staring back at me in my wild-eyed, crazed mess… Houston traffic simply drove me in sane.

Then, I had a kid. I know you’re probably thinking I drove more safely because I was concerned for my daughters’ welfare. Well yes, that’s partly true. What I was really concerned with was the example I was setting for her. Raging, throwing tantrums and my yelling at other drivers was not doing a single thing to improve the journey. Not one single thing! Instead, it was hurting my health and setting bad precedence for my little girl.

So, I changed my point of view. Hey, this is Houston. It’s a BIG town. It’s got traffic. A lot of traffic and it will probably never have any less traffic as the years go by. So, I embraced that fact. I can’t change it. Instead, what I can do is choose to no longer “fight” that fact and make it work FOR me instead.

I’ve learned to use my car as a cocoon of sorts; a capsule where I can improve on myself. I can listen to podcasts or inspirational music while I travel. I can use this time to listen to audio books, interviews or simply lead my four year old in a sing-a-long and spend this quality time bonding with her.

I even take the long way home. Why not? It’s usually a prettier view and it doesn’t get me where I’m going any later than it would have if I had crawled at a snails’ pace through the main roads.

Since changing my point of view, I’ve been much happier and I can’t help but feel it has made a positive impact on my daughter, too. Don’t get me wrong. Everything is not always peachy keen. In fact, I’ve bit my lip and practiced deep breathing on more than one occasion since making this change. The point is that I have recognized that my previous actions were self destructive and made no improvement in my life or the lives of others.

Even if it hasn’t improve my heart health, I wanted to make sure it improved the life of my little girl. Maybe you’ve got someone you feel the same way about. Either way, accept the situation for what it is. Embrace the traffic and make it work for you, too.

And if we happen to see each other on the road, let’s agree now not to cut each other off…. ; )

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except perhaps for the times that I don't. Did I mention that I like to laugh - a lot? Visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and how I can help you live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lowering Blood Pressure with Broccoli

My four year old daughter loves broccoli and I couldn’t be happier about that. Especially since broccoli is a well-known regular for healthy eating. You may already know the super-food reputation this cruciferous veggie has because of its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But what you may not know is that, when it comes lowering blood pressure, broccoli is another winner.

Here’s How it Works:
Loaded with fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C, broccoli’s nutritional properties can help lower blood pressure. Just one cup of broccoli gives you more than 200 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Research suggests that vitamin C helps reduce blood pressure by protecting nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow. While theories vary, scientists agree: Antioxidant vitamin C helps normalize blood pressure.

Here’s How Much You Need:
Regular consumption of broccoli can provide you with a myriad health benefit, but there is no reason to go overboard with it. Most people would do well to eat at least one serving a day. If you are looking for an alternative to steamed broccoli, try eating it raw with salsa or hummus, or drizzle your steamed broccoli with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. And if you can run the stalks and leaves through a juicer, you’ll have a spicy green sipper to enjoy as a snack with whole wheat crackers.

Remember; high blood pressure isn’t a death sentence. It’s a warning. You can effectively improve your numbers and reduce the risk of disease. Take heed to what your body is telling you and make little changes, like the one mentioned above, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier heart.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal


The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is Organic Milk the Better Option?


A study published by scientists at Stanford University has pushed the debate on whether or not organic foods are more nutritious than foods grown conventionally. In short, they say no. There is one exception though: organic milk.

A few years ago media focused on a growing concern on childhood puberty. On average, it appeared that girls were reaching puberty at a much earlier age while boys were reaching their stage of puberty at a slower than normal one.  This gave rise to growing concerns over bovine growth hormone.

BGH is commonly used to stimulate milk production on conventional dairy farms. Because the hormone occurs naturally in cows, and the Food and Drug Administration has argued that the additional BGH injected into cows does not change the milk. However, this is debatable.



To maintain milk’s “organic status,” organic dairy farms are required to allow their cows to spend a certain amount of time grazing on natural grasses. It is believed that this in combination with limited grain feed in the bovine diet (or eliminating it entirely), and refraining from BGH injections result in a noticeably beneficial balance on the fatty acids in the milk.

An excerpt from Kenneth Chang's New York Times article explains: “Compared with conventional milk, organic milk has lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which are believed to be unhealthy for the heart in high concentrations, and higher levels of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. The Stanford researchers noted that organic milk does have modestly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, based on a few small studies included in the analysis.

Organic Valley, a cooperative of organic farmers, says its organic milk shows omega-3 levels that are 79 percent higher than those in conventional milk, as well as much lower levels of omega-6.”

As Always - Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Relieving Pain in America


If you are over forty, this should interest you. Did you know that every year, about 100 million adult Americans experience chronic pain, and that this condition costs our nation somewhere between $560 billion and $635 billion annually? These figures come from a new report by the Institute of Medicine. Much of this pain is preventable or could be better managed, added the committee that wrote the report.

The IOM committee called for coordinated, national efforts of public and private organizations to create a cultural transformation in how the nation understands and approaches pain management and prevention. They believe that some of the recommended changes can be implemented by the end of 2012 while others should be in place by 2015 and maintained as ongoing efforts.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Younger With Each Day

It’s no big news. I turned 46 last week. My birthday was low-key and reflective, mostly spent with my family and friends telling jokes about the good old days and flipping through pics of a younger me on Facebook. It’s strange to look back at those times. Sort of feels like visiting the grave of a long-lost friend. Each of us re-living those memories, and realizing how invincible we thought ourselves to be.

Now older, we know how much we have changed over time and have learned to treasure those things which matter most to us like family, health, career, personal fulfillment and life purpose. What we may have originally thought to be important in our youth has now been replaced with the need for meaning, love in its genuine form, emotional strength and above all the physical stamina to do all those things which make our lives full and rich.

And, something else occurs to us… It’s something that most of us never even thought of in our “younger” days. We become keenly aware of our mortality and just how frail our bodies, our lives, can be.

No, I’m not depressed. I’m just older. Appreciative of the little treasures I have found in this newly acquired knowledge that I now posses. It stokes the fire that drives me to do more, see more, and to actually be more and more alive with each day that passes.

Armed with this knowledge, my life mission is to inspire and appreciate the incredible abilities we all have and to teach others how to enjoy living younger longer and more fulfilled no matter what their age.

It’s true: Personal growth holds no maximum age limit. There is, and should always be, a pride to be taken in the experiences we have all lived through. Muhammad Ali once said, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Natural Human Grown Hormone and Aging

I often wondered about the ads I’ve seen in magazines and billboards advertising the youthful benefits of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). I know that this particular hormone is produced by the pituitary gland to fuel childhood growth and help maintain tissues and organs throughout life. So, why is it so important that companies have unleashed a barrage of ads? Two words: Baby Boomers.

It seems that, around the age of forty, the pituitary gland begins a process of early retirement by slowly reducing the amount of growth hormone it produces. Although this is a perfectly natural transition, the volume of Baby Boomers that have reached this stage is a market to big for supplement and pharmaceutical companies to ignore. And this, has prompted an "on mass" interest in the use of synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) to stave off the realities of old age.

But before you rush out to the 'flavor of the day' clinic or demand synthetic HGH from your personal physician, consider that this is the same stuff they give cattle to make them “beefier.” In fact, while synthetic HGH is proven to increase muscle mass in humans, it does not translate into increased strength.  And, because these tests have been conducted over a relatively short time, there is an ambiguity over whether or not there are detrimental side effects to extended use or if the benefits decrease over time.

Yet, don't give up hope. Your little pituitary gland is very much capable of doing more if you just encourage it to do so. How, you might ask? Well, the pituitary gland can continue its’ natural release of HGH through certain kinds of exercise. High intensity interval training (cardio) and intense weight lifting (especially routines that work several major muscle groups at once) to muscle exhaustion trigger increased release of this youth-giving hormone, just to name a few.

What's best is that this extra release is nowhere enough to produce the negative side effects that can be experienced by the use of the synthetic hormone, but is certainly enough to provide you with denser bones, better sleep, enhanced immune function, healthier skin, more lean muscle tissue, and more efficient fat-burning.

This is not to say that some Boomers may have legitimate need of synthetic HGH, but I prefer to allow the body to regulate this task first. If you have specific concerns about aging, be sure to ask your doctor about proven ways to improve your health. But always remember that making healthy lifestyle decisions — such as eating a healthy diet and including physical activity in your daily routine — can help you look and feel your best at any age.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal



The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Light Bulbs Make Us Fat…

It’s true. It’s Edison’s fault. While technology has advanced our species it has also impacted eons of evolutionary progress. Few people understand the connection or how the process of invention can have a negative effect on our health, but I can’t help but sense their related connection.

For example, “circadian rhythm” is a term used to describe the internal clock regulating the activities all living creatures perform throughout a 24-hour day. While this internal clock may differ, some animals are nocturnal while others are active during the daylight hours, the circadian rhythm reigns supreme over everything within the body like temperature, appetite and energy level. It’s the reason why some people can regularly wake up at a specific time without the use of an alarm clock.

Before Edison’s miraculous invention came about, our human circadian rhythms were closely matched with the 24 hour cycle found in nature. We got up with the Sun and slept when it went down. By nature, and extensive evolutionary history, we developed a close relationship with 24 hour days.

When the Miracle at Menlo Park introduced the world to a light source that was able to make a room almost as bright as the day, we no longer had to squint under the dim light of torches, gas lamps or candles. We were now able to see greater distances and perform tasks that had been previously reserved for the brighter light of day.

Here is the problem: our bodies depend on light levels to determine when to release some of the many hormones that drive our behavior and our health. This ability is solely dictated by our circadian rhythms which developed with the sunlight cycles.

Let me fast forward to a 21st century example. We’ve all experienced late nights; times you stayed up to watch a movie, TV or surf the Internet. These seemingly harmless pursuits expose us to light sources during times the body thinks it should be sleeping, thereby disrupting our natural circadian rhythm.

Over time, this disruption can limit your immune system’s efficiency and interfere with the regulation of your body temperature which closely relates to your metabolism, too. Although there is no harm in the occasional late night, if made a habit, late night activities can derail the body’s ability to recover from daily stress. Stress releases Cortisol and Cortisol can make the body store fat. Hence: light bulb = fat.

Ok. Maybe I jumped the gun on my logic there, but the truth really isn't that far off. The negative impact on our circadian rhythms by modern technology is being researched by numerous organizations, with a general consensus that has not been positive.

So, while I would like to blame my extra pounds squarely on Edison and his invention; the light bulb, I must be fair. It really isn't his fault. I know that. It is up to me to develop a responsible way in which to continue to benefit from modern advances while maintaining balance with nature. After all, the Sun is not going away anytime soon. And, neither is my circadian rhythm.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal
johnaaron-massage.com

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The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Science Proves: Stress Ages You

As if you didn’t already know, right? Well, now it seems that science has discovered a cellular link to the process of aging. They have discovered that the tips of chromosomes have a cap-like structure that resembles the plastic caps of shoelaces. Called Telomeres, these structures respond to stress, and if you are chronically stressed, they can cut your life span short.

Here’s why; in young cells, these telomeres appear to be very long. In the cells of old people, however, they are nothing more than mere nubs. It seems telomeres do play a part in the aging process because further research indicates that every time cells divide, the duplicate cells have shorter telomeres. This process is repeated until the telomeres become less than nubs, and cell division stops.

What’s worse is that chronic stress can speed up this process by shriveling the tips of the telomere bundles of genes inside cells, thereby shortening their life span and accelerating bodily deterioration. There is hope, though. It comes through the research on an enzyme called telomerase. It appears that telomerase can replenishes and protects parts of the telomere each time the cell divides. Unfortunately, the replenishment only seems to slow down the process of telomere shortening; not stop it.

“The highest chronically stressed people in the study group had significantly less telomerase activity, higher oxidative stress and shorter telomeres than the less chronically stressed group,” states Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder of the Stress Institute near Clarkesville, GA. “The key agent that is damaging in chronic stress is the stress hormone Cortisol. Cortisol is the driving chemical in our bodies that orchestrates the circadian rhythm of our body and regulates the flow of all our systems. When we produce more Cortisol from chronic stress, over time it literally exhausts our body systems.”

Now, before you start “stressing” over this discovery and decide to give up and can dash all hope of ever living a long life, remember this; your DNA is flexible and has plasticity. So, if you are able to control your levels of stress, you can successfully increase your telomerase enzyme production level and diminish the impact Cortisol can have on your telomeres. Lifestyle and behavior immediately affects the aging process of your body.

Although you can wage war on aging by getting plastic surgery, buying face creams, body moisturizers, etc., if you are not shoring up these efforts by combining them with good nutrition, hydration, regular exercise and controlling your stress levels, you may never succeed in decelerating your aging process.

So take heed. Stress can kill in many ways, because it affects the entire body on a cellular level. Make time to de-stress; use meditation, massage, biofeedback, or just take time to breathe. Doing so will not only help you live longer, but look better, too.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal



The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lowering Blood Pressure with Fish

Along with obesity, it seems that high blood pressure is epidemic. What’s amazing to me is that you don’t have to be overweight to have HBP. For that reason, many people assume they are safe from this disease and unknowingly increase their risk of stroke and death. For the most part, HBP doesn’t really carry any significant symptoms, which is why it has earned its moniker, “The silent killer.”

So, what to do? Well, check your blood pressure regularly, especially if you are over the age of forty. Then, set an appointment to see doctor if you see a trend where your BP numbers are higher than 120/80. Your physician can help sort through the many medications that can help in maintaining your blood pressure. However, my preferred treatment is prevention thorough exercise and diet.

It doesn’t have to be complicated either. A daily walk and some minor adjustments like adding cleaner foods to your diet may be all you need. Take cold-water fish for example. Cold water fish are rich in omega-3 fats that help reduce vascular inflammation. Research proves omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Aside from the health benefits, there are many quick, tasty dishes you can prepare and a variety of omega-3 rich fish that you can choose from. Some of the best sources are salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod, trout, halibut, herring, and sardines.

Here’s how it works 
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that the body can't produce on its own. They need to be consumed. Once in your system, omega-3s act as a natural blood thinner, which makes it easier for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. As a result, you blood is less viscous (thick) which may help reduce the chances of forming clots in your veins and arteries.

Here’s how much you need
FDA and the EPA guidelines recommend two six-ounce servings of cold-water fish per week. But, if you bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or are already taking blood-thinning medications, be sure to talk with your doctor about any potential complications that may arize from this dietary change.

High blood pressure isn’t a death sentence. It’s a warning. You can effectively improve your numbers and reduce the risk of disease. Take heed to what your body is telling you and make little changes, like the one mentioned above, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier heart.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal


The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life have to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to Start

Starting a new exercise routine can be tough. I know. I’ve been there, too. The biggest obstacle I faced was fear. I was never athletic as a kid. Always told I was too skinny or weak, I found myself believing that. Maybe you have a similar story. What I can tell you is this: you are more than you think (in every way). I got over those fears with a friends encouragement and a plan.

First, and this is important, if you haven’t already been told to exercise by your physician, it would be wise to make an appointment to get approval before you begin. You never know what you may have done to yourself in the years of neglecting your body…

When I first began exercising, I wasn’t aware of pacing myself. I was so out of shape that I literally got nauseous after only a few minutes of exercise. So it is from experience that I encourage you to begin your exercise program slowly and with thought.

There is truth to the cliché “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” My body had years to learn it’s sedentary ways and no matter how many weights I threw at it, there was no way I was walking out of the gym looking like one of those Spartan guys; At least not after only one day of training. Lesson learned the hard way.

Save yourself some embarrassment and begin your workout by walking at a moderate pace for 5-10 minutes or so. Then, work your way up to 20-30 minutes. After that, stretch and leave. That’s it; At least for the first week.

What’s important is that you be consistent. You are creating a habit here. Somewhere along the journey of building my routine I realized I am not in a race. Exercise is a part of my life and my primary job is to make sure it stays that way.  If you can get your mind to accept that philosophy, things will be easier for you, too.

I tried several things after I became consistent with my walking routine. I tried the Elliptical machine and found that I preferred it to the treadmill. I tried yoga and tai chi, and while I still incorporate some of their moves, I settled on weight training and calisthenics (body weight exercises) as my primary source for building muscle, burning fat and giving shape to my body.

The point is that I tried different approaches. You should, too. Different activities appeal to each of us. If you are an outdoor person, you may prefer the trail to the swimming pool, but if you’ve always liked to dance, you may want to sign up for Pilates, a dance class or even yoga, because you will probably enjoy moving through the postures.

What I’m trying to say is don’t worry about what you “can’t” do. If I had done that, I would have never begun my fitness routine. Instead focus on what you would “like” to do. Once I got that concept down, I learned that my body is capable of much more than what I asked of it. Soon, you will realize that for yourself. All you need to do it start.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal


The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that their life have to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

“Not at all: They’re Family.”

We were feeling good! In fact, we were somewhat giddy. We had just returned from picking up our daughter from her week-long visit with Granny & Pawpaw in Northeast Texas. And at the same time, we were expecting the homecoming of a very dear friend that had been working in New York for the past three months. Alex asked if it wasn’t kinda silly to be so excited to have them back home. I said, “Not at all. They’re family.”

That phrase stuck in my head and got me to thinking.
I know – dangerous, right?

Well, the funny thing is that when I look back on our life together, I would have never pictured Alex and me to be where we are now. Oh, we’ve had our shares of ups and downs. There have been times, scary times, when it felt like the only thing holding us together was a worn out piece of string. Yet here we are, together still, nineteen years and counting.

How did we do it? Well, I could say it was purely devotion, discipline or true love. I could even say stupidity and I wouldn’t be half lying. After all, love does have a silly way of making us all a little stupid. But, of all things I could credit, I would have to say our longevity as a couple was a group effort. We didn’t do it alone. Now, more than ever, I am firmly convinced that there isn’t a single, long-term couple on this planet that has accomplished this feat – alone.

No. Family, friends and the friends who have become our “chosen family” invested their time and love into us, too. For them I am grateful. When our hearts were broken, they were there to help reassemble the pieces. At the times when ends were hard to meet, they gave without hesitation. Encouragement, advice, sometimes nothing more than a sympathetic ear but whatever was needed they provided it freely. They invested themselves in us. Can you identify with this?

Alex and I realize that our family is not normal in the traditional sense; traditional meaning husband + wife + offspring... Yet, our little family doesn’t lack for love, or purpose, or meaning.

I would even argue that perhaps our little family has those things in greater abundance than most of the so called “traditional” ones. Why? Because ultimately, family is more than whom you are genetically linked to. It’s more than what the legal definition of “family” is. It’s a commitment, an investment of love in the people you value as a significant part of your life. And the number of those people vested in our little "non-traditional family" is large, to say the least.

So, as I close, my challenge to you is this: take some time to honestly reflect on the non-traditional family members that have invested in your life. And don’t forget to thank them! Alex, Lexi and I are blessed, grateful and proud to have such family members. And you should be, too.

As always – Enjoy Your Life,

John Aaron Villarreal


The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all their lives have to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Don’t Reach for that Heating Pad!

If you’ve ever had a muscle strain or achy back, you probably did what most of us do; reach for a heating pad. It feels good. It feels comforting. But, did you know that it may be the wrong thing to do?

Whenever the body experiences trauma or some type of injury, a complex set of reactions occurs called the Metabolic Response. The metabolic response is a complex interaction between many body systems in an effort to restore physical health.

In many cases the affected area experiences inflammation, stiffness, and swelling. Because the use of heat therapy is comforting to most of us, we tend to reach for it first. However, while it may relax the muscles (thereby easing pain a bit), heat therapy does nothing to address the swelling associated with your body’s metabolic response to trauma. As a result, inflammation increases once the heat is removed and in many cases the pain returns even worse than before.

This is why my first choice for treating pain if cold therapy (Cryo-Therapy). It is a drug free war to reduce painful inflammation while allowing the body to heal itself at a more rapid pace. For example; Cold therapy is helpful in treating some overuse injuries or chronic pain in athletes. An athlete who has chronic knee pain that increases after running may want to ice the injured area after each run to reduce or prevent inflammation.

I think the best way to ice an injury is to use a high quality ice pack that conforms to the body part being iced. If you can’t afford products like ColdOne Cold Therapy Wraps, my preferred option would be to find gel or clay filled cold packs at your local drug store. You can also get good results from a bag of frozen peas or a simple zip-lock bag of ice.

Take care to use a cloth between you and the ice and never use ice therapy for longer than 30 minutes at a time. I find you can get excellent results in only 20 minutes followed by 20 minutes off, and 20 minutes on again. This therapy works best when used within the first 24 hours of an injury.

Once your inflammation is reduced, you can alternate heat with cold, to further increasing circulation to enhance healing and relieve pain.  Alternating application of heat and cold is sometimes called a vascular flush because the heat expands the blood vessels, and the cold constricts them, causing a flushing action.

Try alternating a hot shower with a cold one, a cold plunge after a sauna, or a series of hot and cold towels applied to an area, like and achy back or sore shoulders. The general time ratio for hot and cold applications is three to one; three minutes of heat to one minute of cold. However, always end with the cold application.



Precautions
Before you go off to try this therapy out I must give you a few caveats. Do not use ice or any very cold applications if you have Raynaud’s disease, peripheral vascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, hypersensitivity to cold, or reduced skin sensations. Diabetics should always use caution when applying ice to their skin. Also be careful with heat applications to avoid burning. Watch the degree of heat of an application and how it feels against your skin. And, if you experience any deformity or inability to use a limb within the first 24 hours of using cold therapy, consult your physician immediately.

All that said, using cold therapy can give you a great advantage over pain and recovery time. So, next time you experience a trauma, be sure to reach for the ice first. You may find you might never need the heating pad again.

As Always - Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


The Legal Stuff: The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose,
cure, treat or prevent disease. Please consult your physician
prior to starting any exercise or diet program.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lighten Your Load: Your Brains (plural) Coping with Stress

We thrive under pressure. In fact, evolution dictates that the survival of our species relied on facing life challenges, adapting, and then overcoming those obstacles. Thereby arriving  to where we are today. But, today things are different. No longer something physical like a Saber-toothed Lion we can run from, stress is invisible, ever present and just as deadly as it ever was.

Let’s step back for a moment. Did you know that evolution has given you three brains: the lizard brain, the dog brain, and the human brain (Reptilian Complex, Limbic System, and Neocortex)? Each one marks a progression of sorts.

The lizard brain is of basic instinct and need: purely selfish. However, about 100-million years ago mammals came into existence and with them came the Limbic System. A second brain the covers the first. Suddenly, emotions were introduced. Mammals were able to experience loyalty, jealousy, compassion, etc.

More recently, say 100-thousand years ago, the precursor to humans; primates immerged with the Neocortex. This third brain covers the first two and introduces reason, logic, cause and effect. It allows us to think and act well beyond our basic response to emotion or survival. But let’s get back to the topic of stress.

As I said earlier, today’s stress is invisible. While the older brains can only feel and act, our evolved brain is now capable of imagination and “what if” scenarios. And, for each one of those perceived dangers, our dog and reptilian brains want to immediately act against them. They want to escape or destroy them: fight or flight.

But how do you run away from say you afternoon meeting with your boss? It could be a meeting where you get a promotion and a pay increase, or a meeting where you get reprimanded and dismissed. Nevertheless, a whole slew of activities begin to physically happen because your dog and reptilian brain have engaged your lymphatic system and sent a flood of Cortisol (the stress hormone) into your system.

Heart rate and blood pressure increases. Pupils dilate and breathing becomes shallow. Even your bowels seem to respond either by letting loose or clamping shut. Is it no wonder why they say stress can kill?

Unfortunately, our “superior brain” permits us to concern ourselves with far more than we need to. It allows us to worry about the future, about things that haven’t happened yet, and of things that may never happen. But what I’ve learned is that today is more than enough to occupy my thoughts. Of course, planning and preparation for the future is essential for hope, personal achievement and growth, it is not the immediate. The “immediate” is what calls for action; action that I can take now.

What is my answer to coping with stress? Lighten your load. Make sure you are only carrying today’s pressures because today’s problems are usually stressful enough. Leave tomorrow’s burdens until later.

As Always - Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


The Legal Stuff: The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose,
cure, treat or prevent disease. Please consult your physician
prior to starting any exercise or diet program.