Friday, February 26, 2010

Aspirin? Or Red Wine? Which Is Better For The Heart?

imageby greenj76, sxc.hu

Latest Research Says Red Wine Is More Effective

Mediterranean diet is well-known for its therapeutic properties that overcome both cardiovascular and cancer mortality. Besides olive oil, unrefined cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables and dairy products, eggs and fish, the inhabitants of Crete, Greece and southern Italy are known to consume red wine in moderate amounts as part of the daily ritual. While each of these ingredients exercise different influences on one's wellbeing, of late the red wine's influence on the heart has come into sharper focus.

image by meiteng, sxc.hu

The efficacy of Aspirin has increasingly been coming under the cloud. Aside of a small subgroup of the population (females with positive mutation of the LPA gene), a low-dose aspirin therapy doesn't really work so well to limit the possibility of a heart attack. Approved by the FDA in 1988 as a secondary line of prevention of heart attack, there are more people who are susceptible to gastric bleeding due to aspirin therapy than there are people who do not take aspirin. Further, the presently-recommended dosage of 75 to 81 mg of aspirin is now perceived to be too low to stop your heart from collapsing. The new recommendation is to take 162 mg of this chemical everyday in order to reduce the chances of a cardiac attack by 44%.

image by alifarid, sxc.hu

So what is the alternative solution? Enter, red wine. This liquor has a miracle molecule known as "Resveratrol" (chemically called "3,5,4'-trihydroxystilbene"), which is essentially a polyphenol with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet aggregation and chemotherapeutic properties. Resveratrol has been found to metabolize itself rapidly in the intestine and the liver, whereupon it hits directly the layers of lard to comprehensively engage the LDL (the bad guys) in an anti-oxidant conflict, which conflict decimates the baddies. The chemical thus dissolves the clots formed in the coronary arteries in a most natural manner, bypassing the need for stenting or surgery. Another benefic result is its nudge to the appropriate gland to release adenosine, which is essential to handle arrhythmia.

image by straymuse, sxc.hu

A five-ounce glass of aged red wine is said to comprise almost 60 mg of this molecule. Pharmaceutical companies have come out with formulations in the form of tablets that can be popped against the doctor's prescription. However, a research paper here suggests that grape juice and wine score over tablets because there are other constituents present in the natural products that further enhance the bioavailability of the molecule in the body's innards.

image by gergerger7, sxc.hu

If you or some family member has been undergoing treatment for cardiac illness, look forward to your regular doctor prescribing the recently available resveratrol tablets and / or consumption of red wine.

image by leonardini, sxc.hu

[When things go wrong, as they invariably occasionally do, worry, anxiety and stress begin to disturb the body's homoeostasis. The heart automatically begins to beat faster and less rhythmically, the flow of blood to the far reaches of the body becomes uneven, and all this give rise to a host of physiological symptoms. In such times, the solution is not to suppress the symptoms by popping pills. The solution is to, as this article says, Smile. Here is the article: "Smile, Though Your Heart Is Aching".]

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Have You Assessed Your Partner's Attachment Style?

image by konr4d, sxc.hu

Evaluating Relationship Attachment Styles Helps

Though Valentine Day officially got over a few days ago, its aftereffects - as well as aftermath - continue to linger and be felt. The occasion is always a highly-charged period for people in a romantic state of mind, and the day gives them an opportunity to convey their thoughts to that significant someone in ... let's say the proper perspective. The net and the bookstores are abuzz with insightful tips on how to read the subtle and not-so-subtle signals sent out, how to make sure that you in turn send out the right signals so that the other responds in a manner that is desirable to you, and generally how to manage the relationship. Amidst all this buzz, here is another set of insights into relationship management for you.

image by omar_franc, sxc.hu

It is easy to understand an individual's relationship attachment styles once you are tuned into them, and especially when you accept the fact that all of us move around with masks on our persona. So just like you want to put your best foot forward and project all that is good in you in a hyperbolic fashion, the other party also is straining to do so. We therefore have to lookout for the signs that contradict the facade, so that we can understand the real human being behind it in a better way.

image by bluegum, sxc.hu

Behavioral psychologists working on attachment theory suggest that our styles of engagement in a relationship get encoded through the conditioning received by us during the formative days when we had the primary caregivers (such as the mom, grandma, nanny, aunt, dad, or others) to look after us and give us company. Kids who experience sensitive and responsive caregiving that is accepting of the child as an individual, grow up to expect similarly positive and secure relationships with their romantic partner. They have the capability to handle the ups and downs of the relationship well enough, and you can look forward to a good, mutually-enriching relationship with such an individual.

image by irum, sxc.hu

On the other hand, kids who went through rejection and neglect during childhood construct walls around them as a defense mechanism. Such kids grow up into adults to become emotionally remote, and are not willing to allow anybody "in" and take a good look at the turmoil within. There is low disclosure of feelings. So if you find yourself attracted to such a person, and you are puzzled why they are behaving like an iceberg despite their obvious interest in you, now you at least have an explanation.

imageby simmbarb, sxc.hu

The third category is of kids whose caregiving was inconsistent in nature. It swung between rejection and neglect at one end, and overprotection, interference, and intrusiveness at the other end. Can you guess what kind of people these people grow up to be? This particularl category incidentally forms the bell in the bell-curve of statistical distributions, meaning they are to be found in majority; so most likely you might have bumped into such a character some time or the other during your quest for the right Valentine.

image by mattox, sxc.hu

These individuals crumble when facing negative evaluation of themselves from the partner they hold in high regard, and positively bloom and brighten up when the partner gives them a thumbs-up. This is because their self-esteem is highly dependent on what others think about them. Expect a roller-coaster ride of emotions and intimacy if you happen to be in a relationship with such an individual! The tip is to remain vigilant about the words you utter or the body language you let out, even when you yourself might be in a less-than-bright mood.

image by mrgoose, sxc.hu

So far we have talked about the other party's attachment style in the relationship. What about us? The other party's other-party? As self-developer, we have to first turn the searchlight onto ourselves and introspect who we are, how we were fashioned in the childhood developmental oven, and what we have become as a result. After understanding our own personality styles and knowing what we really look for in relationship, celebrating these Valentine Days every year becomes more joy and less trepidation.

image by rknds, sxc.hu

[As human beings, we all crave the attention, love and care of somebody who understands and appreciates us for what we are, without passing any judgment. If such a person is already there in our life, great. If not, then thanks to the internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, the fishing pond has now expanded into an ocean. What are the different personalities that we encounter on the internet? Here is an article that takes a view: "Don't Cry, Shopgirl".]

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Psychiatric Medication - Coping With Prejudice And Rejection

image by jmtwid, sxc.hu

Supportive Family, Positive Auto-Suggestions Can Help

The way society has evolved over the centuries, a lot of stigma has come to be associated with mental illness. Even in the so-called enlightened world of today, anybody who is known to be undergoing intervention for psychiatric illness is largely accorded a social status that is less than desirable, to put it euphemistically. The stereotype of "mad", "crazy", "nuts", "psycho" and "psychotic" is so deeply entrenched that even well-intentioned people find themselves viewing the individual through a distorted prism. Observe the owners of premises interviewing a prospective tenant, and see how they react when they come to know that the person talking to them has just returned from a session at the psychiatrist's clinic. Employers have been known to be wary of prospective employees who as much as hint that they are undergoing some treatment or the other that is related to mental illness.

image by mzacha, sxc.hu

Mentally-ill people face a double whammy. On the one hand they have to struggle with being accepted by the community at large. In order to attain acceptability and be given the treatment reserved for any other, "normal" individual, these people go to any extent to hide their problems and issues. In order to avoid being "found out" and consequently getting socially rejected, such people often withdraw into their shell, and limit their social interchange only with those whom they can trust. This deprives them from developing meaningful relationships at all levels - personal, educational, career and professional.

image by wetape, sxc.hu

On the other hand, the mentally-ill people internalize the stigma. The looks and the body language let out by others when it becomes known that they are being treated for mental illness, and the behavior exhibited by the general public towards such people come to haunt them. The consequence of this continuous dwelling on the negative reactions is the repeated auto-suggestions of "I am not normal", "I am stupid", "I am crazy", "I am no good", "I am mad", "I am defective", "I have no reason to be alive", and the like. Shame sets in, along with feelings of belittlement and lack of worth and low self-esteem. At times, the internalization of stigma is even worse than the actual responses received from society. Is it any surprise, then, to find quite a few of the mentally-ill also suffering from depression?

image by duchesssa, sxc.hu

It is interesting that the male species takes the stigma and rejection more to heart than the female. This perhaps has to do with the traditional role of the male being "strong" and "in control" of himself, and the general perception of the male being a person who is a "macho" and "not a sissy" and who "can take care of oneself without mother-like attention". Communal definitions of "success" and "fitting in" drive the males to hide their mental-health problems from the rest of the world, and also prevent them from seeking help - "What will everybody think? What opinion will they hold of me if I tell them that I am suffering from so-and-so condition?" Women on the other hand find it easier to accommodate their illness into their overall self-concept, and can therefore better cope with the condition.

image by nazreth, sxc.hu

Family members take a portion of the blame in the mentally-ill individual's ignominy. Instead of helping the person understand the meaning of the diagnosis given to them, and instead of placing the condition in the right perspective, family members either feel frustrated and despaired and vent out their frustration on them, or they do absolutely nothing to help the individual come to terms with the diagnosis. Have you heard the sibling say "You're nuts! You are freakin' crazy!", or the mother say "You are psycho! Now what are we gonna do with you?" The sense of self-worth having been shattered at home itself, when such a person emerges outside, their worldview is already distorted. They look at everybody around them as having a similar negative perception, they perceive everybody laughing at them with derision and contempt or with fear; and the negative downward spiral accelerates.

image by pastelman, sxc.hu

As self-developer / counselor, when such individuals approach us for help, a very good starting-point is to first assess their feeling of comfort in their interpersonal relationships. Any modicum of discomfort on issues of acceptability and adjustment with other people gives ample indication of what the individual might be going through. Another important assessment is to find out whether or not the individual is actually taking the medication been prescribed to them. Often times, it is discovered that they avoid taking any medication at all because "medication is only for the crazy!" Lines of treatment that can be implemented in parallel are: reverse the negative auto-suggestions and replace them with positive self-affirmations, orient the family members and significant others to become more sensitive and supportive, and make the individual understand that taking medication will improve the condition and give them better control over themselves.

image by abcdz2000, sxc.hu

[The mind, they say, is "sane" - the so-called compos mentis - when it produces thoughts, feelings and emotions that are considered to be rational by the rest of society. Related to this concept is the idea of consciousness which describes the executive control system of the mind. We know that there are three states of consciousness which the executive control system finds itself in: wakefulness, sleep and dream. Spiritualists like to talk about yet another state of consciousness, and here is a piece that talks about it: "Exploring The Fourth State Of Consciousness". ]
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Monday, February 01, 2010

Relying On Cues From The Environment

image by brokenarts, sxc.hu

Cues From The Environment Direct Our Life

In the restaurant, the waiter hovering over the head, you staring at the menu card spread out on the table, how do you make that decision to place the order? Do you take a look at what the other diners are having on their plate, and choose the one that appears the most palatable and also the one eating which is giving the eater's countenance that look of special satiation? It is a split-second decision that you take, and having taken the decision, you heave a sigh of relief and move on. Your decision in this case was based on a cue you picked from the environment.

image by bigevil600, sxc.hu

When you walk into one of those social gatherings where everyone is a stranger to everyone else, then, given a choice between the stranger standing a few feet to your left and a stranger standing a few feet to your right, who do you gravitate to, first? What parameters does your brain evaluate in those fleeting few moments, which motivates you to reject one person in favor of the other? Do you look for social affinity? Or gender? Are you mesmerized by that inviting smile or that warm demeanor? Or are you taken in by the rich, powerful aura exuded by their persona? It's a decision you make, and you make it real fast, standing on your own two feet, and never mind that ultimately you end up chatting the rest of the evening with the person you had rejected earlier. Ever wondered how naturally fast the brain works in such circumstances!

image by mzacha, sxc.hu

Imagine that you are visiting a doctor X for some serious ailment. The doctor examines you thoroughly, asks you all the right questions, and then in the end prescribes you certain therapeutic intervention. You are on the way to administer yourself the intervention when along comes this friend who has been experiencing the same ailment, but has been consulting another doctor Y. This friend highly recommends the other doctor, and you feel motivated to go visit doctor Y. Now the good physician that this doctor Y is, they too examine you equally thoroughly, they too ask you all the right questions, and then in the end, they too prescribe you... a different therapeutic intervention altogether! Now what do you do? How do you decide which amongst these two healers to reject and which to trust? Do you compare the feeling of comfort you had in either doctor's company? Do you give higher weightage to their soft voice, or to the way they nodded their head in understanding when you were venting your complaints? Or do you discuss the ailment and the two interventions with other patients and see what the majority have to say? Do whatever you want, but decide you have to, and it is okay to cloak it under the label of "informed, intelligent decision".

image by wolak, sxc.hu

Any social interaction is dynamic in nature, even the most cursory, peremptory ones. We rely on cues from the environment to make decisions, and our decision-making process when we are alone is different from when we are part of a social group, because the latter is richer in terms of the variety and diversity of cues. When alone, we spend a lot of time agonizing over which direction to take. But there's a herd of people rushing in one direction, and "duh!", "doh!", without much ado, we find ourselves rushing after and along with them, matching them step with step. And I speak here both physically as well as metaphorically. Of course, there are situations when there are different herds rushing in different directions, so we are left scratching our head picking up cues from this complex environment to decide which herd to be in step with.

image by ffaabbii, sxc.hu

What I have presented here are a few examples of our brain following different sets of heuristics in order to arrive at decisions in different situations and context. Like a Swiss knife that has multiple tools. You can build a long list of similar situations in your life where you use this Swiss knife yourself. It's a marvel how the brain "knows" which tool from this knife to yank out from the set and apply in a given situation. One major tool that guides our life on quite a few occasions is the heuristic of "imitate-the-majority". Another tool that is equally helpful is the "imitate-the-best" policy. So if somebody who in our eyes is successful wears their tie pin a certain way or waves goodbye in a certain style, before long, we find ourselves unconsciously aping them. It is this policy on which the advertisement and celebrity-endorsement industry is founded! Imitation and conformity go hand in hand.

image by cdwaldi, sxc.hu

The "problem" of selecting a mate too is based on certain heuristics. This problem has an added flavor of challenge because the process - barring a few cultures - requires mutual acceptance. While the once-over is in progress, we search for cues to build a general profile in the mind, of the individual's overall quality as a potential mate. We also keep at the back of the mind a list of other candidates whom we perhaps consider equally likely to be our mate, and so there is this compare-and-contrast that keeps happening, which sometimes takes days, weeks or months, and sometimes takes a flash to resolve. When we are looking for a casual sexual relationship - a one-night stand, may be -, we will have different heuristics than when we are looking for a long-haul partner with whom children can be birthed. It is again the Swiss knife in action.

image by biewoef, sxc.hu

The key point for us self-developers is that the brain has these sets of heuristics ingrained into it through the value systems of the family and the larger culture we are embedded in. These intricate psychological mechanisms are so deeply hard-wired in the unconscious that our actions and reactions are invariably performed without any conscious thought - we simply perform them. Like a pre-programmed automaton. At the end of the day, retiring to bed, while worrying about the next day's tensions and issues, we might also consider spending some time on quiet self-reflection of the incidents in the day when we acted "unthinkingly", relying on cues from the environment, going with the majority, or imitating the best, or following such similar heuristic. It is marvelous, this process of discovering what we do like an automaton. So that the next time when we are in the process of performing an unthinking act, we will be more self-aware.

image by ilco, sxc.hu

[There is another dimension to social interaction in this new era. And that is the forging of relationships in ether, on the web. Like any other facet of human psyche, this new dimension has its own interesting challenges and charming characteristics. The mask of anonymity afforded by online relationships doesn't really camouflage one's true personality from influencing the direction the online interactions take. Here is an article that focuses on this issue: "Don't Cry, Shopgirl".]

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