LiveWell®

Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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Art as healing: finding hope and resilience in life’s challenges

Mt Vision Sunrise, a watercolor by Vera Kovacovic

For Vera Kovacovic, watercolor painting is an opportunity to filter a scene through her own lens, capturing its essence rather than its absolute reality.

Alabama Hills Sunrise, a photograph by Nancy Cox

Nature photographer Nancy Cox views her work as a peaceful pause in an otherwise busy world.

By Nancy Cox, RN

In my role as a healing coach at the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute® – Abbott Northwestern Hospital, I like to encourage my clients to pursue their passion, in spite of or in light of their circumstances. If not now, when?

My passion is photography. My partner, Vera Kovacovic, has a passion for watercolor. We travel, I take photographs, and she paints. What a joy to share creative times together. In preparing for the current Art of Healing show at the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute, I thought it would be interesting to have Vera do a watercolor rendition of some of my photos, showing how an image can be seen differently depending on one’s creative eye, talent and perspective.

This is also true about life, especially during challenging times. My intent in my work is to help people see their circumstances with fresh eyes, seeking hope when it appears dim and allowing healing when it seems elusive. I am constantly moved by the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for healing.

Being primarily a nature photographer encourages me to seek out beauty. I can forget everything else when looking through the lens of a camera. I once spent three hours in 20 below temperatures shooting photos of the trumpeter swans on the Mississippi River in Monticello. By the time I was done I could barely feel my fingers, but I had the best time. It cleared my head, soothed my spirit and ignited a flame that kept me warm. Of course, making a beeline to the closest coffeehouse when I was done didn’t hurt!

Living fully can mean different things to different people. I can’t hike up a steep mountain with 30 pounds of camera equipment on my back trying to get a shot, nor will I risk life and limb. (I ask myself…Is this shot worth a year in physical rehabilitation?) So it forces me to slow down, look deeper and see things differently. This allows me to find my unique vision.

I cannot see life through another person’s lens, only my own. But I can seek understanding. It’s like looking deep into a photograph to see what the artist was trying to convey. Sometimes it is obvious. Other times not so much. That is what I believe Vera does in her interpretation. As a watercolorist, she starts with a blank slate and creates what she sees. She says it is the “essence” of the image through her own personal lens.

That is also what I do in my role as a healing coach. I need to stay aware of my own lens, but be able to go beyond myself and find the true essence of the person who has entrusted himself or herself in my care. It is truly an honor.

Nancy Cox, RN, healing coach, works with people dealing with cancer and their families. She sees clients at the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute – Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. For appointments, call 612-863-0200.


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Eight fun and healthy family activities around the Twin Cities this fall

You don't have to spend a lot of money to find healthy, fun, family activities for the fall. Just raking the leaves can be a fun event for kids.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find healthy, fun, family activities for the fall. Just raking the leaves can be a fun event for kids.

By Courtney Baechler, MD

Once the school year starts, cooler weather hits, and we kick off a season of sweets that starts with Halloween, it can be challenging to find fun family activities that support a healthy lifestyle.

As a mom of two young children, I know this all too well and make an effort to keep our family active year-round.

Here are some of my favorite healthy fall activities and destinations in and around the Twin Cities:

  • Saturday and Sunday trolley rides at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. This is an oldie, but goodie. My kids love going on the scenic trolley car between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. You can also stop by the park at Lake Harriet, which has climbing options for kids.
  • Renting a bike that seats a family at Minnehaha Falls. Sometimes the most challenging thing with bikes and small children is feeling like you are out of control as a parent. The “Surrey” and “Double Surrey” bikes that you can rent at Minnehaha Falls allow you to get some exercise, stay together and enjoy the scenery.
  • Day trip to Winona, Minn. I’m biased since my husband is from Winona, but it is such a beautiful place to visit. The leaves are gorgeous in October, and there are many opportunities to hike and bike. You can try the flat walking path around Lake Winona. Or, if you want a challenge, try hiking the Garvin Heights Overlook and the Sugar Loaf Bluff. You can grab some apples on your way back in Lake City on the south shore of Lake Pepin.
  • Healthy kids food alert. I can’t say enough positive things about the restaurant Agra Culture in Edina, Minn. They prepare healthy, kid-friendly food quickly. You can choose from protein bowls, great salads and breakfasts that include quinoa. The food is served cafeteria style, making it easier to get in and out with young kids.
  • Raking leaves in the yard. It’s free, easy and a great workout. Plus, my kids love the crunch and smell of the leaves, along with the undivided attention.
  • Pinehaven Farm, Wyoming, Minn. A relatively short drive from Minneapolis, you will find this a great place to enjoy some Halloween fun. It is complete with a petting zoo, corn maze, pumpkin patch and face painting. There are activities for family members of every age with a wide variety of interests.
  • Bowling at Pinstripes in Edina or Town Hall in Minneapolis. We often do this when it rains on the weekend. While it’s not the most active pastime, at least we get away from a screen. My kids enjoy a game of bowling or bocce ball at Pinstripes, and we can take a short walk around Centennial Lakes afterwards. I find both Pinstripes and Town Hall have some healthier options on their menus for parents and kids.
  • Monster Dash Fun Run. My daughter and I will complete this 5K this year. It’s a great way to dress up in a costume and enjoy a short run or walk. The most important thing we can do as a role model is lead by example when it comes to exercise. If you didn’t sign-up this year, come watch and make a plan for next year.

Courtney Baechler, MD, is a practicing physician with and the vice president of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. She has a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.


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A talk on managing menopause with Dr. Debra Bell and Nutritionist Sue Moores

Debra Bell, MD, will talk about holistic approaches to managing menopause with Nutritionist Sue Moores at an October event in Minneapolis.

Debra Bell, MD, will talk about holistic approaches to managing menopause with Nutritionist Sue Moores at an October event in Minneapolis.

In last week’s LiveWell blog entry, Busting Menopause Myths, we dispelled some menopause misconceptions. We also offered a few holistic tips for managing symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes and sleeplessness.

Later this month, Debra Bell, MD, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, and Sue Moores, a nutritionist with Kowalki’s Market, will team up to tackle this topic in person at An Integrative Approach to Managing Menopause. Attend to learn how to deal with symptoms through diet and integrative wellness strategies. Discover which foods trigger symptoms and which can help boost metabolism. Come with questions, and walk away with tips for being well.

The Kowalski’s event will be held Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, from 6:30-8 p.m. in Minneapolis at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, which is across from Kowalski’s Parkview Market.

Learn more or register here.

 


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Busting menopause myths

WomensHealth

Healthy living – exercise, sleep, good nutrition, and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine – is the first step in managing the symptoms of menopause, according to Debra Bell, MD, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

This article will run in the upcoming issue of the LiveWell® Newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Contrary to popular belief, menopause isn’t just about estrogen.

In reality, there are many hormones involved, including several types of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and pregnenolone. Aging can affect other hormones as well, such as those that control metabolism and other body functions.

Another misperception about menopause is that it reflects a hormone imbalance. “Menopause is not a state of imbalance, and it is not a disease. It is a state of change,” said Debra Bell, MD, an integrative medicine doctor at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Adding to this complexity, fluctuations in hormone levels affect women differently. In fact, the severity of menopause symptoms is not directly related to an individual’s hormone levels. That’s why Bell does not routinely check hormone levels when a woman is experiencing symptoms.

But this does not mean women have to simply endure menopause.

Bell said her goal is to help women go through this change with the least amount of symptoms. “What we do depends on what else they are doing in their lifestyle and what their symptoms are.”

While hormone replacement may have a role in helping some women, “I think it’s important to not just focus on hormone replacement,” said Bell. She recommends that women take a more holistic approach.

“Healthy living is the first step: exercise, sleep, good nutrition, avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine. For many women, this is enough to keep their symptoms in check. For others for whom that’s not enough, there are many treatments that can help,” said Bell.

That includes dietary supplements, herbal preparations, acupuncture, mind-body techniques and more. For example, Bell often prescribes black cohosh and vitex to treat hot flashes, anxiety and other symptoms. “Herbals often work together synergistically, so we put different herbs together to address different symptoms,” she said. Before considering herbs or supplements, it is best to check with a health care practitioner.

Bell encourages women to view menopause as a new stage of life and to be open to adapting to it. “This is more about a process than a quick fix. We should be thinking about what we can do to be healthy at different stages of our lives.”

Going through menopause? Help yourself with these tips:

• Eat wholesome foods.
• Avoid sweets, alcohol and caffeine.
• Get regular exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day.
• Try yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques.
• Try acupuncture.

If you do not have other medical problems and are not taking prescription medicines, consider supplements or herbal remedies that are formulated to address menopause symptoms. These should be purchased from a reputable natural foods store.

Consult with an integrative medicine provider if:
• Your symptoms are very disruptive and make you uncomfortable.
• Your symptoms are affecting your sleep, your work life or your relationships.
• You have tried addressing the symptoms on your own without success.
• You are not sure if your symptoms are related to menopause or to something else.

Debra Bell, MD, sees patients at the Penny George Institute – Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis. For appointments, call 612-863-3333. See her profile at wellness.allinahealth.org/bell.


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Take time this fall to create a winter wellness plan

B30

Take time this fall to create a plan for staying physically and socially active this winter.

By Pat Vitale, LICSW

The fall season is fast upon us, and it happens to be my favorite time of year. Cool, crisp temperatures, the smell of wood burning in outdoor fireplaces, apple picking, pumpkin picking, the sounds of Friday night high school football games and other activities that bring back fond memories.

Fall also brings with it the reminder that winter is right around the corner. Like most people, I am hoping for a mild winter that won’t cause all of us to hibernate for six months only to emerge when we hear the sounds of spring.

The change to fall and winter weather can create challenges for each of us. For some, it is the lack of sunlight that is troublesome. For others, it is cold temperatures, deep snow and the need to be inside more.

Now is the best time to start thinking about what strategies you can put into place to stay healthy through the winter months ahead.

For those who are outdoor enthusiasts in the warmer months but don’t like the cold weather, perhaps you can transition some of your outdoor activities to the indoors, or try something new. Mall walking is a favorite of many people who want to continue to exercise. Perhaps taking some classes in yoga, kettlebells or Pilates is more your style.

For those who are a little more adventurous, consider trying indoor rock climbing. Whatever your choice, the most important thing to consider is: What can you do to keep your body moving and to stay off the couch?

But winter health isn’t just about finding ways to be physically active; It’s also about mental health. The weather can take its toll on people, keeping them isolated and disconnected.

We often think we get depressed because of the lack of sunlight. Perhaps we should consider that isolation may be as much of a contributor to our sadness or depression as the lack of sunlight. We can’t change the weather that we live in unless we move somewhere else. We can however find ways to stay engaged in the world and with people. Set up a book club, poker group, find a TV show you love and gather a group to watch it.

I would encourage each of you to start creating a plan now for the winter months ahead. Consider ways you can stay physically active and socially engaged. Please share your ideas here. I would love to hear them and others might benefit from them as well.

Pat Vitale is manager of training and development for integrative medicine for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.


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Why maintaining muscle is important and how to get started

Fitness training session

Gail Ericson, MPT, C CET (left) conducting a fitness training session at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center.

By Gail Ericson, MPT, C CET

In a way, muscle is your body’s engine. The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, the more calories you burn,  the stronger and more mobile you can be, and the more resilient you are to illness.

As we age, loss of muscle mass is inevitable. This can lead to higher total body weight with increased fat percentage or stable weight with higher fat percentage. It also may result in weakened bones, diminished mobility and a host of other issues.

People who are inactive may lose 4-7 percent of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 40. This could mean a more than 20 pound loss of muscle for a 160 pound person by the time they are 60 years old. Even active people may lose some muscle as they age, and muscle loss accelerates after the age of 70.

A decrease in muscle mass paired with other disease states, such as osteoporosis, can be devastating and lead to a downward spiral in health. For example, loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to a decline in function, balance and mobility. It can also lead to a fear of moving. This in turn may lead to further loss of function and falls, which often end in hospitalization.

The best way to combat muscle loss is with exercise.  Almost anyone at any age can benefit from exercise with few, if any, bad side effects. A combination of strength and aerobic activity three times per week for 20-30 minutes is adequate to maintain muscle strength and prevent some muscle loss that comes with age.

Here are four tips to get started:

  1. Keep moving and limit sitting for long periods of time if possible. Our bodies are built to move, and staying idle backfires on us.
  2. Pool exercise is an excellent starting point for both aerobic and strength work. It is also easy on the joints
  3. Use simple resistance bands or everyday items like soup cans to design a strength routine for home. In most instances, no fancy equipment is needed to add strength training into your day.
  4. If you are considering starting a strength routine for the first time and need guidance, seek out support. Consult with a physical therapist, or a trusted, credentialed athletic trainer or personal trainer.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing offers a host of programs and services to help you initiate, evaluate or progress in an exercise program.

Our highly credentialed staff of exercise physiologists, physical therapist, dieticians, nutritionists, and wellness coaches can help people of all abilities and fitness levels get going on an exercise routine.

If you have health issues or you haven’t exercised for a long time, it’s advisable to talk to your physician before beginning a new exercise routine on your own.

Gail Ericson is a physical therapist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing‘s LiveWell Fitness Center. She has 25 years of experience in exercise therapy and medical fitness. To make an appointment with her, call 612-863-5178.


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How good and bad gut bacteria can affect your health

Greg Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP

Greg Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP

The Star Tribune this summer explored the topic of intestinal bacteria and its relationship to health. The newspaper ran an article featuring Greg Plotnikoff, MD, a physician at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing and author of “Trust Your Gut,” a book about how to deal with digestive problems.

Plotnikoff explained that our stomach bacteria can help or hurt us, depending on how we treat them. “The gut is much more of a garden than a gutter,” he said. “Our mission is to be good gardeners.”

Read the full Star Tribune article, “Scientists discover more about the battle in your belly.”

Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP, is a board certified internist and pediatrician at the Penny George Institute. He is co-author of the book “Trust Your Gut,” which focuses on the science of gut-brain interactions.

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