Monday, April 30, 2007

Care, not blame, is health goal

I was very impressed with this article which makes valuable points about how we judge and criticize others (consciously or unconsciously) for the nature of their illness or accident. Our first question often centers on how did it happen? did they deserve it? did they bring it on themselves? was their behavior or negligence a cause? Hospice workers, known for their non-judgmental mentality, are just as guilty of this as others. We strive to make meaning out of anyone else's misfortune in the hopes we can see how we don't fit THAT mold, we won't be a victim of their mistakes. What is really called for is compassion and kindness - living with what is - in the moment.
Read on...
Inside Medicine: Care, not blame, is health goal

By Dr. Michael Wilkes -
Published Saturday, April 14, 2007

A family dies in a car crash, and reports on the news say they were not wearing their seat belts.

• A 46-year-old man dies of lung cancer, and his obituary says he was not a smoker.

• A 56-year-old woman in intensive care with liver disease needs a liver transplant, and the doctors go to great pains to emphasize to the other doctors that she is not an alcoholic.

• A 20-year-old college student is sexually assaulted in a parking lot after leaving her night shift as a waitress.

• A man is shot in his car at 4:30 a.m. while driving home after a night of partying.

Over the years, research has documented links between risk factors (smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle) and illnesses (lung cancer, diabetes and heart disease). Doctors remind people to live healthy lives and help minimize these health risks.

However, we fail to mention two key points. First, there are few risk factors that predictably result in a disease. Many factors only slightly increase a person's risk of illness over what would happen if the person didn't engage in the risky behavior. For example, seat belts and motorcycle helmets are certainly lifesavers. But if the crash is severe enough, as many are, the injuries will be fatal. Conversely, there are people who never engage in risky behaviors and still get diseases (lung cancer or cirrhosis of the liver).

For those people unlucky enough to get a stigmatized disease (cirrhosis of the liver, lung cancer) or injury (gunshot) without engaging in an associated risk factor, often lots of explaining and backpedaling needs to be done to convince people that the victim is "innocent."

But wait one minute. Why do we blame the smoker, drinker, rape victim or homicide victim? Do these people want to engage in these risky behaviors, or is it that they can't stop (smoking or drinking), have simply forgotten to protect themselves (to wear seat belts) or can't afford the less risky way of life (to heat their home with a central furnace rather than a kerosene floor heater, or to work a day shift)?

What is gained by blaming the victim? Clearly the disease or injury is bad enough without having to face social wrath.

I suspect the reason we blame victims isn't to punish the victim further but to protect or immunize ourselves from the same fate. If they didn't wear their seat belts or ate too much red meat or smoked cigarettes or were out until 4:30 a.m., and I don't do those things, then I will be protected. It gives us a sense of being in control of our own lives -- when in fact, we really aren't.

Social scientists call this the "just-world hypothesis." We assume that in a just world, bad things would never happen to innocent people unless they did something to bring on the harm. While this makes us feel safer in a world filled with random acts of violence, it is naive and unfair to the victims and their families.

This type of stigma, when inflicted by the medical profession, can also lead to poorer health. For example, for people who are not ready to lose weight, being repeatedly counseled by well-meaning doctors to diet often leads to a reluctance to visit the doctor for other medical problems.

Maybe some notions of blame are old-fashioned -- caused by an information lag between what we now know about the cause of a disease and what still exists as mythology in our culture. The next time you read or hear about a person with a sickness, ask yourself why we need to follow such bad news with an explanation of what they did to bring this on themselves. What is called for is genuine compassion, love and the acknowledgment that our world isn't perfect. And sometimes bad things just happen.

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee

The secret of creativity...

The secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

-Albert Einstein

Women & Heart Disease - “The Healthy Heart Handbook”

Love Your Heart: New NHLBI Resource Helps Women Reduce Heart Disease Risk
20th anniversary edition of “The Healthy Heart Handbook” includes New Statistics, Quizzes, and Charts

A must read for women who want to show their hearts some love, “The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women” is an invaluable and easy-to-use resource every woman should read from cover to cover. A full-color, 122-page booklet from The Heart Truth campaign, it is packed with the latest information on preventing and controlling the risk factors for heart disease — the No.1 killer of women.

“The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women” a publication of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, contains new information on women and heart disease and offers practical suggestions for reducing the risk of heart-related problems. The handbook also describes the warning signs of heart attack and how to get help quickly.

“The Healthy Heart Handbook” is available for $4.00 from the NHLBI Information Center, (301) 592-8573 or (240) 629-3255 (TTY); it is also online at

Coffee drinking - benefits revealed, still some risks

Coffee Drinkers Unite! It seems there's controversy in the risk/benefit assessment of most any food, nutrient, activity or behavior. And if we personally partake of or enjoy something in our lives we love to shout out the good news, yes? So read on coffee lovers... and if you want the whole story, the link is at the bottom of this post. My coffee caveat? Must be organic, fair trade, and fresh!
Be Well, Janis

The following includes selected excerpts from the complete article.
Moderate Coffee Drinking Reduces Many Risks, Panel Says
Science Daily Although the American Society for Nutrition's popular "controversy session" at Experimental Biology 2007 focuses on the health effects of coffee drinking, panel chair Dr. James Coughlin, a toxicology/safety consultant at Coughlin & Associates, says that recent advances in epidemiologic and experimental knowledge have transformed many of the negative health myths about coffee drinking into validated health benefits.

...moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups per day) may be associated with reduced risk of certain disease conditions, such as Parkinson's disease. Some research in neuropharamacology suggests that one cup of coffee can halve the risk of Parkinson's disease. Other studies have found it reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease, kidney stones, gallstones, depression and even suicide.

...distinguished researchers discussed some of the benefits - and a couple of the remaining increased risk factors (possible increase in blood pressure and plasma homocysteine) - on April 30 at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, DC.

In recent epidemiological studies in the U.S., Europe and Japan, persons who were heavy coffee consumers had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes than persons who consumed little coffee. Interestingly, he says, associations were similar for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, suggesting that coffee components other than caffeine may be beneficial for glucose metabolism.

The article continues with a discussion by Dr. Lenore Arab, a nutritional epidemiologist in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, of the net results of numerous coffee-cancer studies.

Click here for the complete article on

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Buddhist Wisdom - obstacles

When everything is clean-clear in your own mind,
nobody can create obstacles for you.

-Lama Thubten Yeshe, "The Bliss of Inner Fire"

Copyright Wisdom Publications 2001. Reprinted from "Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations," edited by Josh Bartok, with permission of Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm St., Somerville MA 02144 U.S.A,

Saturday, April 28, 2007

FDA Update #2

In another recent post from the Life Extension Foundation, there is great concern over the potential expansion of FDA powers with Senate legislation S1082. Read on and follow the links if you are concerned about your rights and the safety of the American drug market. Be Well, Janis

U.S. Health Freedom on Verge of Collapse
This article has been reprinted with permission from
Major Expansion of FDA Powers will Target Dietary Supplements

A new attack against health freedom, drug safety, and dietary supplements was launched last week by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) with major support from Michael Enzi (R-WY). It is called the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act (S1082). This legislation was planned over the past few years working hand-in-glove with the FDA’s dysfunctional management and legal team – meaning this legislation was written for the profits of Big Pharma and Big Biotech AT THE EXPENSE OF SAFETY AND HUMAN HEALTH.

S1082 is a Trojan Horse bill that pretends to address safety issues. Unbelievably, the bill turns the FDA into a drug development company that will expose Americans to new and dangerous biological drugs that have little testing to prove safety or effectiveness. And to top it off, the bill gives broad new regulatory powers to the FDA that can be used to frivolously attack dietary supplements and forward the FDA management’s anti-American globalization agenda.

On April 18, 2007, S1082 was approved by the HELP committee ...and now moves to the floor of the Senate. In a slick move, Kennedy has attached his long-planned FDA/Big Pharma “reform” measures to the renewal of PDUFA (Prescription Drug User Fee Act). Current PDUFA law expires later this year and must be reviewed by Congress. PDUFA allows Big Pharma to pay the FDA fees to speed the approval of its drugs. The new Kennedy bill will increase these FDA bribes to 380 million dollars in 2008, well over 50% of the FDA budget for new drug approvals. This is like paying the mob for protection. Kennedy, by replacing the existing PDUFA law with this new bill (S1082), is ensuring that his twisted legislation is the one that will be put before the Senate for a vote.

Click here for complete article on the Life Extension Foundation website.

Emotional Freedom Technique - learn the basics for free

Kate Nowak of the May You Be Blessed Blessings Experiment, (a world-wide grass-roots movement designed to transform the world through the power of blessing) recently included the information below in her Blessings Experiment Newsletter about using EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique. I know people who have successfully used this to heal mind-body trauma, for instance, auto accidents, work-related stressors and childhood abuse. There are many paths to healing, and paths that address the mind-body-spirit as a whole are often the most powerful techniques. If you are interested, read on. On this website you can access a free introduction to the process and email news and support to teach yourself the basics.
Be Well, Janis

The Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, was originally

designed to reduce the psychotherapy process from months
and years down to minutes and hours. From there it was
discovered that astonishing physical healings also occurred.
Symptoms faded for everything from migraine headaches
to cancer, and a special form of the technique, called the
Palace of Possibilities works particularly well for establishing
in us just the kind of self-talk we need to help us in overcoming
whatever beliefs or barriers are keeping us from our own success.
I love EFT, use it daily and cannot recommend it highly enough.
To learn more about this life-changing technique, I urge you to
visit the link below.

Emotional Freedom Techniques: Where emotional relief brings physical health

Choose your attitude, the last human freedom

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

— Viktor Frankl

FDA limits on supplements and complementary practices update

Friends, I have been receiving petitions and emails regarding the FDA shutting down our ability to purchase supplements OTC (over the counter). This email from my Reiki newsletter clearly sets the record straight. Though it is addressing Reiki practitioners, the information is just as valuable in understanding what the actual facts are. I hate to see the frivolous amount of time and energy people spend on forwarding inaccurate emails, so read on if this concerns you at all. Thanks for reading! Janis

April 27, 2007

Information on FDA ruling not factual

Dear Students of Reiki,

Recently there have been many emails circulating on the internet warning about a new ruling the FDA is about to create that would threaten the practice of Reiki and other complementary practices making it illegal to practice unless you’re a medically licensed health care provider. The emails have also said that our right to use vitamins and herbs will also be threatened by this new ruling so that they will only be available by a doctor’s prescription and even then at very low dosages. People have been asked to protest this ruling by sending emails to the FDA by April 30.

This information is not based on fact. The practice of Reiki isn’t being threatened by any proposed FDA ruling, nor is our right to access vitamins and herbs. The information passed around on the Internet has for some reason been distorted and misrepresented.

In December 2006, the FDA issued a guidance document that commented on an existing ruling. They are not proposing anything new. To summarize part of the existing ruling, it indicates that if a vitamin, herb or food manufacturer states that their product will cure an illness, that manufacturer must first get permission from the FDA before making such a statement. The same is true for any practice such as Reiki. If a Reiki practitioner claims that Reiki will cure an illness, then the practitioner must get permission from the FDA before making that claim.

The National Health Freedom Coalition has reviewed this issue and written a clarification document that I suggest you read for further information. Look specifically at points 5 and 6.

Here’s the link to the FDA document

William Lee Rand,
President, The International Center for Reiki Training

Friday, April 27, 2007

Reduce Stress the HeartMath way: fast instant relief

We all know we need to reduce stress. We just don't have the time to do what most traditional approaches to stress reduction tell us: RELAX. We need quick stress relief, something we can do 24/7 while we multitask and answer all those emails. We need something we can do that doesn't require a trip to the spa, the beach or a quiet room.

HeartMath's Quick Coherence® Technique is stress reduction for the 21st century: Fast, instant and on demand.

  • Heart focus. Focus your attention to the area around your heart.
  • Heart breathing. Imagine your breath flowing into and out of your heart.
  • Heart feeling. Recall a positive or fun time in your life and attempt to re experience it.
Now, doesn't that feel better?

Inner Quality Tip from HeartMath. Copyright 2007 HeartMath LLC. All rights reserved. HeartMath LLC. 14700 West Park Avenue Boulder Creek, CA 95006

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Five Wishes: Living Will, simple to understand & prepare

The Five Wishes document helps you express how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. It is unique among all other living will and health agent forms because it looks to all of a person's needs: medical, personal, emotional and spiritual. Five Wishes also encourages discussing your wishes with your family and physician.

Five Wishes lets your family and doctors know:

  1. Which person you want to make health care decisions for you when you can't make them.

  2. The kind of medical treatment you want or don't want.

  3. How comfortable you want to be.

  4. How you want people to treat you.

  5. What you want your loved ones to know.

Five Wishes is changing the way America talks about and plans for care at the end of life. Nearly EIGHT MILLION COPIES of the document are circulating throughout the nation. In addition, more than 10,000 ORGANIZATIONS are distributing this revolutionary document, including churches, synagogues, hospices, hospitals, doctor and law offices, and social service agencies. Many employers are providing Five Wishes to their employees, to help them plan for themselves and have those delicate discussions with their aging parents.

The document speaks to people in their own language, not in "doctor speak" or "lawyer talk." It can be used in the living room instead of the emergency room. And it helps families talk with their physician about a subject that before was too hard to face.

For more information also check out these sites:

Caring Connections

Dying Well Website

Our mission is to help you and your family plan and receive the care you deserve.

Change: how to live with it and learn from it

Change, that inevitable fact of life... seeks us out, moment to moment.... causing stress (adaptation to change = stress); or creating opportunities. Change keeps us moving, ideally, towards health and healing. Like pain, we are nudged into perpetual motion, avoiding the difficulty, conflict, and stagnation, in the direction of new growth and strength. But it certainly doesn't feel that way. We often don't recognize the strengthening aspects of change until we are over the hump, through the tunnel, with some semblance of objectivity and enough distance to provide clarity. "What did that part of my life mean?" "How is my life better now because of those changes?"

Humans long for simplicity, structure and stability. Too much change too fast rocks our world and leaves us shaken at times. Here is a great article from Yoga Journal about change, and the skills and strategies that can teach us flexibility, gratitude, and the ability to make meaning out of the ups and downs that accompany each and every day. -JD

Change is in the Air

by Chris Colin
So, how is it that when life is spun around by circumstances, benign or otherwise, some people flail, while others sail? Why do some of us wallow in that place where we're so shocked and unhappy about an unexpected turn of events that we resist reality and find ourselves mired in bitterness or fear or hopelessness? Instead of accepting change with grace, we dig in our heels and suffer through each day of things not being what we think they should be. What's the secret to riding each new wave gracefully—regardless of whether it deposits you gently on the beach or wallops you down to the seafloor?

How can you learn to accept change with equanimity, absorbing each phase in stride and learning from each new experience? The answer may come from dealing with change in three distinct stages.

Loosen Your Grip, Separate Your Feelings, Tap Into Wisdom

Expect the Unexpected

Prepare for life's ups and downs with a daily practice. Frank Jude Boccio offers some ideas for a change-friendly inner life.

Accept Impermanence Every morning, I repeat a gatha (mindfulness verse): "Great is the matter of birth and death; impermanence surrounds us. Be awake each moment; do not waste your life." Much of my practice has to do with aligning myself with that. Then, ideally, my action comes from the situation, rather than from a false perception of what's happening.

Practice mindfulness Come back to the present moment. The Buddha points out that you can be happy in a pleasant situation, but then it's all too easy to lose yourself in the pleasure.

Take a breath When faced with a change, pleasant or otherwise, I try to tune in to my breath, and how I'm feeling in my body. Tuning into the breath gives me time to respond better to an unpleasant situation.

Be sure to click the link above to get the full article.

Peace Meditation - Thich Nhat Hanh

To make peace, our hearts must be
at peace with the world.
Thich Nhat Hanh

A peace meditation courtesy
We invite you to spend a few minutes experiencing our peace meditation, inspired by monk, author, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. The Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master worked tirelessly for peace, especially during the Vietnam War. In 1967, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize. Thich Nhat Hanh argues that unless and until individuals are peaceful within themselves, they cannot work for peace among nations. Note: This feature has audio.

Click here to access this wonderful meditation-recording of Thich Nhat Hanh

Mother Teresa on Peace

Monday, April 23, 2007

The problems in the world today are so enormous...

"The problems in the world today are so enormous they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Hot Flashes in Women Tied to Higher Blood Pressure

April 12 (HealthDay News) -- Hot flashes in women are linked with high blood pressure, says a new study that may be the first to identify this association.

The study of 154 women -- ages 18 to 65 with a mean age of 46 -- found that the 51 women who reported having hot flashes had an age-adjusted mean systolic awake blood pressure of 141 and a mean systolic sleep blood pressure of 129, compared to 132 and 119, respectively, among women without hot flashes.

"One third of the women we studied reported having hot flashes within the past two weeks. Among these women, systolic blood pressure was significantly higher -- even after adjusting for whether they were premenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal," senior author Dr. Linda Gerber, professor of public health and medicine, and director of the biostatistics and research methodology core at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, said in a prepared statement.

"Future research will help us better understand the mechanisms underlying this relationship and may help to identify potential interventions that would reduce the impact of hot flashes on blood pressure," Gerber said.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, which accounts for half of all deaths among American women age 50 and older. Previous research has linked menopause to high blood pressure.

The study was published in the March/April issue of the journal Menopause.

SOURCE: Weill Cornell Medical College, news release, April 2, 2007
Publish Date: April 12, 2007

Cancer Support pages at updated

The LAF recently improved its online Cancer Support section at The redesigned Cancer Support web pages makes it easier for cancer survivors and their loved ones to access information about specific cancer concerns, including changing family relationships, adjusting financial needs, and dealing with physical limitations resulting from treatment. The section also helps survivors organize their cancer experiences and connect with one-on-one support from LIVESTRONG SurvivorCare.

A new section For Professionals offers healthcare professionals information and tools to share with their patients and connects them to education opportunities.

Check out the new Cancer Support section.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wellness Approach to Depression

By: Raymond Francis, D.Sc., M.Sc., R.N.C.

The World Health Organization is projecting that, by the year 2020, depression will become the world's second most devastating illness, after heart disease. Depression also affects many physical illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, making them more likely, severe, and difficult to treat. Right now, one in five Americans will experience major depression in their lifetimes, and one in ten suffers from recurring bouts of major depression. We need to understand how this epidemic came about and put an end to it.

Symptoms of depression include: despair, worthlessness, guilt, fatigue, poor concentration, significant weight loss or gain, sleep problems, and loss of interest in life. The personal and economic costs of this ailment are enormous. Major depression has become the leading cause of workplace absenteeism, and is the cause of 20 to 35% of all suicides. While almost everyone gets depressed at one time or another, generally related to a major life change or loss, the epidemic of depression we are experiencing is different. Chronic depression has been brought on by our modern diets and lifestyles. Since we created it, we can eliminate it.

Only One Disease

In my years of research as a chemist, I have found there is truly only one disease--malfunctioning cells. Cells malfunction for only two reasons: they are either deficient and/or toxic. Therefore, our depression epidemic can be both prevented and reversed by teaching people how to prevent and eliminate cellular deficiency and toxicity. Depression is the result of prolonged stress to the brain. That stress may be caused by overt deficiency and toxicity or by social stress, which can induce deficiency and toxicity. Nutritional intake, toxic exposure, exposure to sunlight, exercise, and community with others all affect depression. Let us have a closer look at these factors.

Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition is the single most important factor in preventing and reversing depression. Consider that the inventor of the anti-anxiety drug Valium later discovered that B vitamins could produce exactly the same benefits as Valium, without side effects or addiction. Naturally, no leading medical journal would publish his findings since they were all profiting from advertising Valium. These findings were eventually published in an obscure foreign journal and remain unknown to most physicians. Deficiencies of B-vitamins and magnesium are known to cause cellular malfunction and depression. Vitamin B1 deficiency, for example, is common in depression cases severe enough to require hospitalization. The same goes for vitamin B2.

This article continues with discussions of Vitamin B, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), Sugar, Sunlight, Social Connection, Exercise, and Toxicity.

Read the complete article at Starfish Health Partners Collaborative Medicine Journal:

A Wellness Approach to the Depression Epidemic

Looking for guidance to develop a holistic lifestyle to combat depression? Contact Janis Davies, CWHE. Work with a Whole Health Educator to gain the information and understanding you need, in an atmosphere of compassion and deep respect. See my post on Whole Health Education

Monday, April 16, 2007

Study Finds High Arsenic Levels In Herbal Kelp Supplements

10 Apr 2007
A study of herbal kelp supplements led by UC Davis public health expert Marc Schenker concludes that its medicinal use may cause inadvertent arsenic poisoning and health dangers for consumers, especially when overused. Schenker and two researchers evaluated nine over-the-counter herbal kelp products and found higher than acceptable arsenic levels in eight of them.

The new study, published in the April issue of Environmental Health Perspectives was prompted by the case of a 54-year-old woman who was seen at the UC Davis Occupational Medicine Clinic following a two-year history of worsening alopecia (hair loss), fatigue and memory loss.

Click for the rest of this Medical News Today article

The complete article -- entitled "A Case of Potential Arsenic Toxicity Secondary to Herbal Kelp Supplement," is co-authored by Eric Amster, from the UC Davis School of Medicine, and Asheesh Tiwary, from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System. It can be found on the Environmental Health Perspectives Web site at

How to Summarize your own Medical History

How to Summarize Your Own Medical History

"Medical schools teach that the most important step of making an accurate medical diagnosis is not physical examination or fancy medical tests and equipment. The doctor is best served by taking a proper medical history. Surprisingly, most people do not know many of the details of their own health. This is a frustration to all health professionals, and contributes to misdiagnosis and even medical errors. Technology will eventually catch up with our need to have timely access to medical information. In the meantime, follow these steps to create a quick record of your past medical history."

Click on the link above (or below) to access this informative step-by-step article from Wikipedia's Wiki-How pages.

Everything counts, or does it?

Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted.

Mother's Day gift... support women whose lives have been ravaged by war

Looking for a meaningful Mother's Day gift? Consider a donation, purchase from, or sponsorship of this worthwhile international non-profit organization.

“Women for Women International has sharply identified the nature and complexities of a much neglected need associated with wars—the urgency of providing rehabilitation to people, particularly women, left destitute, impoverished or displaced by the hostilities. The organization is already protecting millions of lives from short-term agony and long-term ruination.”


September 14, 2006, WASHINGTON, DC - Women for Women International is the recipient of the 2006 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world’s largest humanitarian prize of $1.5 million. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation presents the annual award to an organization that “significantly alleviates human suffering.”

“Women and children bear the major burdens of the unprecedented number of wars and civil conflicts raging worldwide and are often left to rebuild their lives without the basic necessities for survival or a viable means to earn a living and take care of their families,” said Steven M. Hilton, chairman and CEO of the Hilton Foundation. “Women for Women International has demonstrated that it can create change and stability within a society by providing women survivors with the tools and resources to rebuild their lives. The organization also gives women the training and confidence to engage in their communities’, and ultimately their nation’s economic, political and social structures,” he added.

“We are incredibly proud and grateful to receive the Hilton Humanitarian Prize, and to be the first women’s organization recognized with this honor,” said Zainab Salbi, President and CEO of Women for Women International. “It reinforces our vision that stronger women build stronger nations and encourages us to work harder to bring the voices and concerns of the women we serve to the forefront.”

Women for Women International currently operates in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Sudan. 30,000 women access its programs every day, benefiting 5.3 million family and community members. Since its founding in 1993, Women for Women International has distributed more than $28 million in direct aid and microcredit loans.

Anger Limits Love - HeartMath quote

Saturday, April 14, 2007

How Healthy Is Your Breathing?

Poor breathing habits are easy to spot. Here are a number of self-administered tests to help determine if you can benefit from breath-retraining exercises.

Upper-Chest Breathing Lie on your back, placing one hand on your upper chest and the other on your abdomen. If the hand on your chest moves as you breathe but the one on the abdomen does not, you're definitely a chest-breather. Anything more than slight movement in the chest is a sign of inefficient breathing.

Shallow Breathing Lie on your back and place your hands around your lower ribs. You should feel an effortless expansion of the lower ribs on the breath in and a slow recoil on the breath out. If your ribs remain motionless, your breathing is too shallow, even if your belly moves.

Overbreathing Lie down and take a few minutes to let your body establish its relaxed breathing rate. Then count the length of your next exhalation and compare it to the length of the following inhalation. The exhalation should be slightly longer. If not, you are an overbreather. As a second test, try to shorten your inhalation. If that causes distress you are probably an overbreather. Because it is easy to manipulate the outcome of these two tests, you may want someone else to count for you at a time when you are not paying attention to your breath.

Breath Holding Holding one's breath after inhaling may be the most common poor breathing habit. To determine if you do this, pay attention to the transition from inhalation to exhalation. A breath-holder usually feels a "catch" and may actually struggle to initiate the exhalation. This tendency is particularly noticeable during exercise. You can reduce the holding by consciously relaxing your abdomen just as an inhalation ends.

Reverse Breathing Reverse breathing happens when the diaphragm is pulled into the chest upon inhalation and drops into the abdomen on exhalation. Lie on your back and place your hands on your abdomen. The abdomen should slowly flatten as you exhale and rise gently as you inhale. If the opposite occurs you are a reverse breather. Since reverse breathing may only occur during exertion, this test is not completely reliable.

Mouth Breathing It's fairly easy to notice if you're a mouth-breather; if you're not sure, ask your friends or try to catch yourself at unguarded moments.

July/August 2000 - By Barbara Benagh

This article can be found online at

Stress Buster - Yoga Journal

Looking for a great home practice to manage stress? Yoga Journal has a yoga sequence designed to meet your needs.

"It starts with dynamic movement and gradually moves into tension-releasing stretches and restorative poses to stimulate deep relaxation."

Read the full article and clearly described sequence with photos and tips at:

Friday, April 13, 2007

Gong Bath - Chico May 15, 2007

Gong Bath
Tuesday May 15th at 4:30pm
Contact Blue Lotus Yoga
for more information:

973 F East Ave., Chico
Courtesy: Lotus Guide | P.O. Box 135 | Chico, CA | CA | 95927

Good Communication

Copyright © 2007, HeartMath LLC All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sciatica Strategies from Yoga Journal

So many people I know suffer from sciatica at times in their lives, I thought this might be a helpful article to have on hand. JD

Sciatica Strategies

When a sciatica attack hits, there are several ways to naturally soothe flare-ups or prolonged bouts of pain.

By Matthew Solan

Acupressure In this massage technique, the therapist applies pressure with her fingertips or knuckles. There are about 30 to 40 acupressure points. The goal is to release physical tension to the painful area, relax tight muscles, and increase blood circulation. It's possible to learn how to identify the points and massage them yourself when a flare-up occurs.

Acupuncture In traditional Chinese medicine, sciatica, like other physical pain, is considered a chi (energy) stagnation, says Javaharian Mohammad, L.Ac., of the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego. Acupuncture treatments use thin needles to stimulate points in the lower back to help unblock chi and ease pain.

Herbs Many herbalists use St. John's wort flowering tops for mild painful conditions, including sciatica and muscle inflammation, says herbalist Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa. Turmeric is another widely used herb. Its anti-inflammatory effects are most likely due to its active ingredient, curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color and may be as effective as cortisone in fighting acute inflammation. Or try a strong tea made from gotu kola (one ounce of dry herb steeped in one pint of water), which can help heal chronic conditions if taken daily for several days or weeks, Khalsa says. (Check with a naturopath before taking these or any other herbs.)

Leg stretches Place the foot of the painful leg up on a box, chair, or stair, while standing, suggests Loren Fishman, M.D. "Lifting the leg stretches spastic muscles in the leg, buttock, and lower back," he says. If both legs hurt, lie on your back, bend your knees, and bring them to your chest. "Make sure your movements are slow and careful," Fishman counsels. For unbearable pain, do the poses while in a warm shower, and let the water cover as much of your body as possible: shoulders, back, and leg; or chest, abdomen, and leg.

Ice Old-fashioned ice therapy numbs sore tissue and can slow inflammation. Apply an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel (never place ice directly on the skin) to the area around your lumbar spine or wherever the pain is most intense.

Matthew Solan is a freelance writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. You can visit his website at

August 2006

This article can be found online at

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mind-Body & Immunity: Tai Chi & Shingles Study

Tai Chi Boosts Immunity to Shingles Virus in Older Adults, NIH-Sponsored Study Reports

Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese form of exercise, may help older adults avoid getting shingles by increasing immunity to varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and boosting the immune response to varicella vaccine in older adults, according to a new study published in print this week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. This National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study is the first rigorous clinical trial to suggest that a behavioral intervention, alone or in combination with a vaccine, can help protect older adults from VZV, which causes both chickenpox and shingles.

Tai Chi alone was found to increase participants’ immunity to varicella as much as the vaccine typically produces in 30- to 40-year-old adults, and Tai Chi combined with the vaccine produced a significantly higher level of immunity, about a 40 percent increase, over that produced by the vaccine alone.

In addition, the Tai Chi group reported significant improvements in physical functioning, bodily pain, vitality and mental health. Both groups showed significant declines in the severity of depressive symptoms.

Read the complete article at:

More information on Tai Chi can be found on NCCAM’s website at

Women & Heart Disease - what to know

Heart disease in women: A Mayo Clinic specialist answers questions

When it comes to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, men have traditionally garnered more attention than women have. You might think this is because men are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease than are women. But in reality, more women than men die of cardiovascular disease each year. Women are six times as likely to die of heart disease as of breast cancer. Heart disease kills more women over 65 than all cancers combined.

Historically, coronary artery disease has been considered primarily a man's disease. But recent statistics have shown that the rate of heart disease has declined in men but not as much in women. This may be due to a combination of biological and social differences.

Cardiologist Sharonne Hayes, M.D., director of the Women's Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and member of the advisory board of WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, shares her insights about women and heart disease.

Isn't heart disease just heart disease, whether it's in a man or a woman?
Not necessarily. We have gaps in our knowledge about the prevention and treatment of heart disease in women. For one thing, women historically haven't been included in scientific research studies to the extent men have.

For example, we now know that just because a woman's arteries appear clear on an angiogram (a picture of the heart), it doesn't mean she's not at risk of heart disease. A study by the National Institutes of Health indicated as many as 3 million women previously diagnosed with healthy arteries could actually have an increased risk of heart attack after all.

This study, called the Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE), found among other things that the gold standard test for assessing coronary artery disease — the coronary angiogram — may not spot the more diffuse buildup of plaques that often forms in the smaller coronary arteries of women's hearts.

How do heart attack symptoms differ in women and men?
The most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it's not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. Women are more likely than men to have signs and symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

* Neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
* Shortness of breath
* Nausea or vomiting
* Sweating
* Lightheadedness or dizziness
* Unusual fatigue

These signs and symptoms are more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. This may be due to the smaller arteries involved or because in men, the bulky, unstable plaques tend to burst open whereas in women, plaques erode, exposing the inner layers of the artery.

Differences in symptoms may also relate to a condition called endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial dysfunction — in which the lining of the artery doesn't allow the artery to expand (dilate) properly to boost blood flow during activity — increases the risk of coronary artery spasm and sudden death.

Ultimately, women tend to show up in the emergency rooms after much heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack. If you experience these symptoms or think you're having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. Don't drive yourself to the emergency room.

Davies: For more info also check out: ...take the Go Red Heart Checkup to find out your own risk for heart disease. GRFW is a campaign of the American Heart Association

Are the risk factors different for men and women?
Although the traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease — such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity — are detrimental to both men and women, certain factors may play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women. For example:

* Metabolic syndrome — a combination of abdominal obesity, increased blood pressure, elevated blood glucose and triglycerides — has a greater impact on women than on men.
* Mental stress and depression affect women's hearts more than men's.
* Smoking is much worse for women than men.
* Low levels of estrogen before menopause is a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in smaller blood vessels (microvascular disease).

Is heart disease something only older women should worry about?
No. While heart disease is the leading cause of death for women 65 and older, it's the third-leading cause of death for women 25 to 44 and second-leading cause of death for women 45 to 64. All women, of all ages, should take heart disease seriously.

There seems to be an ethnic disparity in heart disease. Why are black and Hispanic women at higher risk of dying of this disease?
It's complicated. Some of it is socioeconomic. Some of it is also the result of medical disparities. They may get fewer health screenings, or they haven't received ethnic-specific health messages. There are genetic differences to consider, too. Black women are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes, but they actually smoke less than white women do. Other ethnic traditions may put a different emphasis on diet and physical activity.

What can women do to reduce their risks of heart disease?
As for the basics: Be active, maintain a normal weight and don't smoke. Women also need to take their prescribed medications appropriately, such as beta blockers, blood thinners and aspirin, and they need to better manage other conditions that are risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Some women at high risk may also benefit from the use of supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids. These are all things you can talk to your doctor about.

Should I take aspirin?
Guidelines from the American Heart Association urge women to be more aggressive about cutting their heart disease and stroke risks. One of the recommendations is for women over 65 years of age to consider daily aspirin therapy.

The aspirin recommendation comes out of the ongoing Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study, the largest study of heart disease risk factors in women. In 2005, the WHI group released a study showing that the most consistent benefit of aspirin for heart attack prevention was observed among women 65 years of age or older. Women in this age group who took aspirin had nearly one-third fewer cardiovascular events (heart attack and stroke) than did women who took a placebo. However, the women taking aspirin had more gastrointestinal bleeding as well.

The key word in these guidelines is "consider." The guidelines recommend that women consider taking aspirin — which means have a discussion with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking aspirin based on your own individual stroke and heart attack risk. The higher your risk of heart attack or stroke, the more that risk is reduced by taking aspirin, but the higher your risk is of bleeding. So, it's a balance that each woman needs to discuss with her physician.

When you say 'be active,' what do you mean?
Exercise isn't the same as being busy. I have women tell me how busy they are, that they're always running around doing stuff, and they may be tired at the end of the day, but they aren't physically fit. Being active means doing something physical, getting exercise.

In my practice, I give concrete examples of what this means. For instance, it means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking, riding bikes with your kids. I tell women to get a pedometer and track their steps. The goal is to log 10,000 steps a day, which is about five miles. Don't be discouraged if you can't jog or join an exercise club, even a 30-minute walk every day results in big benefits for your heart.

Can you give an example of how someone you know made some simple heart-healthy changes?
I know a woman who works on the 11th floor. She was overweight and very out of shape. She started exercising by walking up just a few flights of stairs each morning and then taking the elevator the rest of the way when she got tired. One day, she realized she had walked all the way up to the 14th floor without realizing it or getting winded. Now, she walks up to the 18th floor and then back down to the 11th because it feels good and is a great start to her day. I can tell patients with a completely straight face that soon you'll want to do more exercise because you'll feel better.

What's a normal weight? How much weight should I try and lose?
There is no "normal" weight, but a normal body mass index (BMI) is helpful. This calculation helps you determine if you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat. BMI numbers of 25 or higher are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Remember, though, even losing 10 to 15 pounds can help by lowering your blood pressure and helping prevent diabetes — both of which increase your risk of heart disease.

Is the treatment for heart disease different for women?
In some women, plaques accumulate as an evenly spread layer along artery walls, which is not treatable using traditional methods such as angioplasty and stenting designed to flatten the bulky, irregular, not-so-subtle plaques in men's arteries. In women with these more diffuse plaques, drug treatment — rather than angioplasty or stenting — may be a better option.

We also know that men and women respond differently to certain heart medications, such as clot-busting drugs (thrombolytics). There is also a difference between men and women in the effects of aspirin therapy. In women, aspirin therapy seems to reduce the risk of stroke more than in men, while in men it reduces the risk of heart attack more than it reduces strokes.

What these differences suggest is that if we use the same treatment in women that we use in men without understanding those differences, we may actually increase women's risks of complications.

I've heard something about the connection between depression and heart disease in women. What's that about?
Depression is twice as common in women as in men, and it increases the risk of heart disease by two to three times compared with those who aren't depressed. It's estimated that about one in five women who has a heart attack or is hospitalized with heart failure has evidence of depression. We need to better diagnose and address depression because depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment.

What's next in the effort to prevent heart disease in women?
Recent studies, especially those giving results for men and women, have helped us begin to identify gaps in our knowledge and will spur researchers to look for answers that will improve care for women. Doctors are becoming more aware of the different signs to watch for that may indicate a woman is having a heart attack — different than what men may experience.

Women and physicians also need to become better educated about heart disease in women. Knowledge helps women feel empowered to ask questions and learn more about how to prevent heart disease.

And as women become more informed about their risks, they'll be better able to follow through with healthier lifestyle habits.

Original Article:
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Apr 3, 2007
© 1998-2007 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "," "EmbodyHealth," "Reliable tools for healthier lives," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Nutrition: High-fructose corn syrup: Why is it so bad for me?

High-fructose corn syrup: Why is it so bad for me?
I've been hearing lots of bad things about high-fructose corn syrup in foods. What is it?

High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener and preservative used in many processed foods. It is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose - another form of sugar.

High-fructose corn syrup extends the shelf life of foods and is sweeter and cheaper than sugar. For these reasons, it has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods. Check your food labels. You may be surprised by how many foods contain high-fructose corn syrup.

Some nutrition experts blame increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup for the growing obesity problem. One theory is that fructose is more readily converted to fat by your liver than is sucrose, increasing the levels of fat in your bloodstream. But this hasn't been proved.

In addition, animal studies have shown a link between increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and adverse health effects, such as diabetes and high cholesterol. However, the evidence is not as clear in human studies.

Despite the lack of clarity in research, the fact remains that Americans consume large quantities of high-fructose corn syrup in the form of soft drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and other processed foods. These types of foods are often high in calories and low in nutritional value. This fact alone is reason to be cautious about foods containing high-fructose corn syrup.

To reduce high-fructose corn syrup in your diet, read food labels. Avoid or limit foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup. Some other easy tips for cutting back on high-fructose corn syrup include:

* Buy 100 percent fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.
* Choose fresh fruit instead of fruit juices. Even 100 percent fruit juice has a high concentration of sugar.
* Choose fruit canned in its own juices instead of heavy syrup.
* Cut back on soda.

By Mayo Clinic Staff
Apr 5, 2007
© 1998-2007 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "," "EmbodyHealth," "Reliable tools for healthier lives," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

"Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality."

Earl Nightingale

Courtesy Daily HeartQuotes™, HeartMath is a registered trademark of the Institute of HeartMath. HeartQuotes is a trademark of Quantum Intech, Inc. Copyright © 2007

Buddhist Wisdom - don't cling to your own understanding

Don't cling to your own understanding. Even if you do understand something, you should ask yourself if there might be something you have not fully resolved, or if there may be some higher meaning yet.


From "The Pocket Zen Reader," edited by Thomas Cleary, 1999. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Do you have the patience to wait...

Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles
And the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?

Whole Health Education - holistic health information counseling

The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Hippocrates
How would you like to...
-be listened to in a deeply respectful way, with unconditional acceptance?
-understand the cause and effect of disease and "
the big picture of health®"?
-have personalized health research information so you may enjoy better patient-doctor communication and better health?
-have the knowledge you need to control your healthcare management and prevent disease?

Whole Health Education is a holistic health information model which

an understanding of the big picture of health®, the whole picture of health®, which includes the physical, emotional, nutritional, environmental and spiritual aspects of our lives, and the impact they have on our health, well-being, and happiness.

...a relationship-centered, shared-decision-making process which invites the individual to participate in their own healing and self management process, through informed choices and options. Both the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has identified guidelines for the practice of health care in all settings, which include: "patients at the center of their healthcare decision making; care for the whole person; and evidenced-based health education" as key guidelines. understanding of how stress and stress adaptation influence health, wellness and disease outcomes.

...personalized research information, making available the most current scientific and medical data including integrative medicine references.

No prescription is more valuable than knowledge.
C. Everett Koop, MD, former Surgeon General of the U.S.

Janis Davies, CWHE
Certified Whole Health Educator
Upstairs Natural Health & Day Spa
Chester, CA
(530) 258-0377, ext. 2

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for osteoarthritis of the knee - Harvard Medical School

"...overall, the supplements didn’t reduce pain any better than a placebo. Broken out by groups, the data suggested that combined glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate helped ease moderate to severe (not mild) pain; but the numbers of patients were too small to be certain..."

Until recently, glucosamine supplements (with or without chondroitin sulfate) held great promise as a treatment for the more than 20 million Americans affected by osteoarthritis, a chronic disorder characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints and painful bone-on-bone friction. Both glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are biochemicals that occur naturally in the body and are involved in the growth, repair, and maintenance of cartilage. Early research suggested that these compounds might slow cartilage deterioration and relieve osteoarthritis symptoms, including pain, stiffness, and reduced function. Since habitual use of traditional pain relievers — acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — carries the risk of serious side effects, the public embraced these supplements as a safe long-term option.

Osteoarthritis of the knee

Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, a protective tissue that covers the ends of bones. In the knee, the cartilage covering the condyles (the knobs at the lower end of the thigh bone) degrades, which can result in the femur and tibia rubbing against each other.

Some studies of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have shown benefits, but these were small and, in some cases, sponsored by groups with a financial interest in the supplements. To settle the question, the National Institutes of Health sponsored the Glucosamine/chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT), a large, randomized controlled trial of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. The average age of participants was 59, and 64% were women. All had mild to moderate or severe knee pain and x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis. For six months, participants were assigned to groups that variously took glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine and chondroitin together, celecoxib (Celebrex), or a placebo. Symptoms were monitored every four to eight weeks.

The GAIT investigators found that, overall, the supplements didn’t reduce pain any better than a placebo. Broken out by groups, the data suggested that combined glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate helped ease moderate to severe (not mild) pain; but the numbers of patients were too small to be certain. Results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Feb. 23, 2006).

The GAIT researchers are now carefully analyzing the x-ray data, in part because earlier x-ray studies suggested that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate slowed osteoarthritis progression.

Given these findings, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for osteoarthritis in the knee. We don’t know if the supplements would be more effective taken for a longer time. They’re fairly safe but can be expensive, and they’re not FDA-regulated, so ingredients and amounts may vary.

If you plan to take glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, keep some points in mind. The supplement hasn’t been tested in elderly or pregnant women. Chondroitin sulfate is chemically similar to blood-thinning drugs such as Coumadin (warfarin), heparin, and aspirin and can cause excessive bleeding. People with diabetes should be aware that in animal studies, glucosamine increases blood sugar levels. (No such effects were found in GAIT participants, but the study wasn’t specifically designed to address that question.)

Whether or not you take glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, there are several things you can do to reduce osteoarthritis symptoms. Resistance exercise can strengthen the muscles surrounding your painful joints, helping to support them and reduce stress on them. Aerobic conditioning will improve your endurance. Weight control is crucial to reducing both the physical load on joints and the resulting pain. If your pain is due to joint misalignment, check with your doctor to see if you would benefit from a brace or an orthotic in your shoe. Devices like canes, walkers, and raised seats relieve stress on joints. Also consider heat and ice, analgesics (NSAIDs and acetaminophen), and topical pain relievers such as capsaicin cream (made from the active ingredient in hot pepper).

— Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

HEALTHbeat is distributed to individuals who have subscribed via the Harvard Health Publications Web site (

Emphasis (bold & italics) added by Davies

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Power of Friendship Among Women - UCLA Study

UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women
By Gale Berkowitz

A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women.

It's a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research- --most of it on men---upside down. "Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible," explains Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. "It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers."

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just "fight or flight." "In fact," says Dr. Klein, "it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the "fight or flight" response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men", says Dr. Klein, "because testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen", she adds, "seems to enhance it."

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic "aha!" moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA.

"There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded", says Dr. Klein. "When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something."

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the "tend and befriend" notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.

"There's no doubt," says Dr. Klein, "that friends are helping us live." In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%. Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses' Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life.

In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidantes was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight! And that's not all!

When the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality.

Those without friends were not always so fortunate. Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it so hard to find time to be with them? ....... That's a question that also troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., co-author of "Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls' and Women's Friendships" (Three Rivers Press, 1998).

"Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women," explains Dr. Josselson. We push them right to the back burner. That's really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have un pressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they're with other women. It's a very healing experience."

Taylor, S. E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R.A.R., & Updegraff, J. A. "Female Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight", Psychological Review, 107(3), 41-429.