STAYING FIT AND HEALTHY DURING THE HOLIDAYS

With the holidays coming up, the highlight for many people during this season is gathering with family and friends and enjoying favorite holiday treats. Here are some tips that will help you enjoy your holidays to the fullest while not increasing your waistline.

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MAKING AND KEEPING NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS

Only 8 percent of individuals achieved their resolutions in 2016, according to Statistic Brain. This is likely due to most people having unrealistic expectations about the speed, ease and consequences of the resolutions they make. People attempting self-change rarely succeed the first time; most need five or six attempts, according to a paper published in American Psychologist by Janet Polivy and Peter Herman. The authors suggest false hope syndrome is the cause for failure.

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HEALTHY HOLIDAY OPTIONS

The holidays are a wonderful time to gather with family and friends to celebrate. These celebrations often consist of many delicious treats and hardy meals. You can still maintain a healthy diet with a little thought and planning in advance. Research from a recent Web-based survey found 18 percent of people feel they cannot eat healthily during the holidays because they don’t want to miss out on their favorite foods. You can still eat the foods you enjoy this season, just in moderation.

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The behavioral or environmental factor for a family connection to fear has already been established. A 2012 study at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain, confirmed the emotional transmission of fear of the dentist among family members and analyzed the different roles mothers and fathers might play. They concluded the father plays a key role in the emotional transmission of dental fear. The researchers suggest parents should be relaxed when they go to the dentist to assure their children. However, this won’t help the many adults who still experience anxiety and fear at the dentist.


Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help with dental fears. CBT is a short-term therapy that typically lasts six to 10 sessions. It has been successfully shown to reduce dental anxiety and thus increase dental attendance. King’s College London Dental Institute, Health Psychology Service at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust collaborated on a study last year using CBT for dental fear. Of all the patients in the study, four-fifths (79 percent) were able to have dental treatments without the need for sedation. On average, it only took five CBT sessions to get the patients to that point.


“There is a need for people with dental phobia to be carefully assessed by trained CBT practitioners working with dental health professionals,” said the lead author of the study, Prof. Tim Newton of the King’s College Dental Institute London. “Some of the patients referred to us were found to be experiencing additional psychological difficulties and needed further referral and management.”


There will still be those with dental fears who need sedation when they require urgent dental treatment or because they are having particularly invasive treatments. CBT can complement sedation.

Dentophobia – fear of the dentist – is fairly common. According the UK Adult Dental Health Survey, about one in 10 people suffers from dental phobia. Significant fear affects 10 percent to 20 percent of U.S. adults. For some, this fear prevents them from seeking proper dental care.


Psychology researchers at West Virginia University report dental fear and anxiety is in part due to inherited influences. Their study is the first to suggest genetics along with environmental factors for dentist-chair fears. The study also showed fear of pain, a problem related to but separate from dental fear, is also inheritable. The researchers theorize this can clarify how fear of pain may contribute to the development of dental fear.


University of Wisconsin-Madison psychiatric researchers demonstrated neurological proof that fear is genetically inherited from parents. The university’s Department of Psychiatry and the Health Emotions Research Institute found an overactive brain circuit in three brain areas involved in anxiety and depression and demonstrated this is passed from parents to offspring in an extended family of Rhesus monkeys. The researchers wanted to understand the specific regions in the brain responsible for the inheritable traits of anxiety and depression.


“We think that to a certain extent anxiety can provide an evolutionary advantage because it helps an individual recognize and avoid danger,”

FEAR OF THE DENTIST

ANGELA S. HOOVER

Angela is a staff writer for Health & Wellness magazine.

more articles by Angela s. hoover

said senior author Dr. Ned Kalin. “But when the circuits are overactive, it becomes a problem and can result in anxiety and depressive disorders.”


Understanding that parents pass on anxiety to children and knowing the exact areas of impact in the brain gives researchers an advantage in designing therapeutics for specific targets, said Kalin. PET brain scans of “scary” encounters showed over-activity of the prefrontal-limbic-midbrain circuit is inheritable and directly associated with extreme anxiety in early childhood and depression- anxiety later in life. The three regions involved in anxiety and depression are survival-related brain regions: the brain stem (the most primitive part of the brain), the amygdala (the limbic fear center) and the prefrontal cortex (the seat of intelligence and higher level reasoning, which is fully developed only in humans and primates). The function of brain structure – not its size – was passed down from parents to offspring.


“Now that we know where to look, we can develop a better understanding of the molecular alterations that give rise to anxiety-related brain function,” said Kalin.