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Showing posts from September, 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.

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 c…

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…

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 …

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 …

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 …

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-lower…

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 muscl…

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…

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 healt…

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 …

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 diag…

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 morta…