The sound of music (therapy)

04/05/2014 2:07 PM

08/08/2014 10:23 AM

If you’ve ever wondered whether music could help protect your health, consider the life of Maria von Trapp – “Louisa” in “The Sound of Music.” The last of the singing von Trapp children, she passed away this year at 99, more than three-quarters of a century after fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria.

But you don’t have to be a world-famous talent to let music soothe the savage beasts of anxiety, pain and depression, and fill you with a feeling of wellness and energy. A recent study out of the U.K. shows that sing-alongs can ease physical discomfort and psychological distress in folks 65 and older who are receiving nursing care for everything from dementia to heart disease. Premature babies seem to breathe, feed and sleep better when lullabies or soothing oceans sounds are brought into the NICU (not too loud, though). And cancer patients report less nausea and lower blood pressure after chemo when they listen to classical tunes.

So if you’re feeling stressed, are recuperating post-op or are making a push to get healthier now, try this:

• Set aside 10 minutes daily for singing, playing or listening to music that calms you. (No angry lyrics or aggressive rhythms.)
• Let your mind and breathing follow the melody or drift into the sounds, putting aside specific worries or thoughts.
• Trying to change a behavior or accomplish a goal such as quitting smoking? Tell yourself, “My urge to breathe free is enhanced by the notes.”

You’ll be amazed at how much more energy and focus you have when the music stops.

Don’t bet your life

Groucho Marx hosted “You Bet Your Life” from 1950-1961, but he wasn’t a big fan – even of his own work. (“I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on, I go into another room and read a good book.”) Although TV may have you betting your life (and brain) every time you tune in, it’s not the watching that’s the problem; it’s that you sit for hours at a time.

A recent study concluded that every hour spent sitting in front of the TV shortens your life by 22 minutes. An average North American adult watches nine years of TV over a lifetime. So, if you’re sitting in front of the TV for that long, you’re likely to die about three years earlier than someone who puts in no TV time (unless he or she misses the tornado warning). Why? Sitting on the couch hour after hour erases muscle tone, slows metabolism and makes fat cells suck in extra fat. That leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia – and a lousy sex life.

But you can tune in to better health. Try walking around the room while you watch your favorite program. Walking for 10 extra minutes a day can add two years to your life; walking an extra 45 minutes daily adds five years. (Aim for 10,000 steps daily.) At home, pedal through a “House of Cards” marathon on a stationary bike.

Sweating out hormone therapy risks

Forty-two years ago, when “All in the Family’s” Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) headed for menopause, she declared, “I feel like I’m jumping in and out of a hot maze and somebody’s twisting a rubber band around my head.”

Back then, we were trying to figure out how best to manage menopause symptoms and determine IF there were risks associated with hormone therapy. Now we know the first line of defense against hot flashes, brain fog and heart palpitations is losing weight if you need to, avoiding inflammatory saturated and trans fats and added sugars and syrups, and getting moderate exercise to reset your thermostat to “cooler.”

We also know (after years of debate) that women who aren’t at increased risk for breast cancer or heart disease can benefit from HT. Therapy should start before age 60, last for up to five years and deliver bioequivalent estrogen and micronized progesterone (if you have a uterus) in the lowest effective dose.

Unfortunately, a woman’s stroke risk doubles during the 10 years after her periods stop. And taking HT seems to increase that risk. That’s why we suggest that you ask your doc about taking two low-dose aspirins a day while on HT. And new research reveals another way to make HT safe for you: Getting 210-300 minutes of moderate exercise (walking) per week. It reduces your stroke risk by 20 percent right away. So if menopause symptoms are interfering with sleep, work, your love life and your happiness, talk to your doc about all these ways to “stifle” it.

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