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National Crossword Puzzle Day

National Crossword Puzzle Day

Crossword Puzzle Day on December 21st commemorates the birth of a challenging word game enjoyed by millions around the world. The first crossword puzzles were published in England in children’s books and other publications. They were simple word games derived from the word squares where letters were arranged in a square so that the words read the same across and down.

Did you know that the first crossword puzzle was created by Arthur Wynne and published on December 21, 1913 in the New York World Newspaper? Wynne’s puzzle was diamond shaped and contained no internal black squares. However, it was so popular with readers that within a decade crossword puzzles were featured in almost all American newspapers.

The object of a crossword puzzle is to fill in the white spaces of a grid with the correct words using the clues provided. Black spaces separate individual words. The clues to more challenging puzzles read like riddles, making the game more complex.

Many tout the benefits of crossword puzzles. Not only are they fun, but challenging crossword puzzles may help delay the effects of dementia or sharpen the brain for problem-solving. They can also increase vocabulary and even relieve the mind from the day’s stress by focusing on something other than worldly problems.

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles prevents dementia, improves verbal skills, helps practice problem solving skills, helps the brain identify patterns, and improves your ability to do trivia. That’s a lot of wins — and a lot of reasons to become a master crossword puzzle solver. Up your crossword puzzle game and win at trivia the next time you play with your friends!

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Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

Today, December 21, is the Winter Solstice.

The Winter Solstice marks the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere), all thanks to the tilt of the earth. On the calendar, it is officially the start of winter (even if the cold weather makes it already feel like winter!). The winter solstice is marked by the point at which the North Pole is at its farthest from the sun during its yearly orbit around the sun. It will be approximately 23 degrees away from the sun. Despite the temperature outside, the winter solstice is considered the astronomical beginning of winter.

In many cultures, the day is a day of feasting and celebration, but even if you’re totally agnostic, you can still find a reason to rejoice, because after today, you’ll see gradually shorter nights and longer days, which means you can look forward to the emergence of spring.

New England winters can be long and dark, and instead of focusing on counting down until spring, the Winter Solstice is an opportunity to celebrate the current moment. Even if it is dark and cold, the Winter Solstice reminds us that we can create light, and that brighter days are coming. For, after all, this is the shortest day of the year, and from here on out the days are going to gradually get longer. Whether or not you happen to be sensitive to long hours of darkness, it’s impossible not to interpret this day as an optimistic turning towards brighter moments. Across the world, various holidays have been celebrated on this day in various spiritual and religious traditions, but they all have an element of rebirth and renewal involved. The most famous Winter Solstice celebration is Stonehenge in England. Every year when the sun sets on the winter solstice, the sun’s rays align with two of the giant stones known as the central Altar and the Slaughter stone.

As always, Private Home Health Care encourages you to make the most of every day and celebrate in any way you can! Some good ideas for celebrating the Winter Solstice include lighting a cozy fire, burning scented candles, connecting with friends and family, and keeping an eye out for the sky when Jupiter and Saturn cross paths for the first time in 800 years!

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National Sangria Day

National Sangria Day

Now that we know what antioxidants are, what is the connection to sangria? Antioxidants can be found in food, especially in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based, whole foods. Several vitamins, such as vitamins E and C, are effective antioxidants. Wine is made from grapes, and grapes are rich in many antioxidants. These include resveratrol, catechin, epicatechin and proanthocyanidins. These antioxidants, especially resveratrol and proanthocyanidins, are believed to be responsible for the health benefits of red wine. Sangria is a wine based drink, and is traditionally made with red wine. This type of wine in particular has been shown to provide numerous health benefits.

Proanthocyanidins may reduce oxidative damage in the body. They may also help prevent heart disease and cancer. Resveratrol is found in grape skin. It is produced in some plants, as a response to damage or injury. This antioxidant has been linked with many health benefits, including fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. Resveratrol can also make test animals live longer. The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol. That is why red wine is considered healthier than white.

Red wine may help lower cholesterol. Drinking small amounts of red wine may reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to retain the “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood. Oxidative damage and the oxidation of the “bad” LDL cholesterol may also be reduced by up to 50%. Studies have also shown that the nutrients in red wine help improve blood circulation, reduce the formation of blood clots, and may improve the function of the layer of cells that line your blood vessels. All of these translate into powerful cardiovascular benefits – drink red wine for heart health!

Red wine may also promote gut health. Though often overlooked, a healthy gut is vital for overall health because it is where our immune system is. A 2018 study reports that polyphenols from red wine and grapes can improve the gut microbiota, contributing to a healthy gut. According to other research, red wine compounds may also act as prebiotics, which are compounds that boost healthy gut bacteria. In 2016, researchers suggested red wine could reduce the risk of heart disease through its effects on the gut microbiome.

Sangria can also be higher in antioxidants than regular wine. This is because the fruit that you add to sangria also has high levels of antioxidants. Fruit contains a great deal of antioxidants, especially berries! Add blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries to your sangria for an extra dose of antioxidants and nutrients, and it enhances the flavor as well! Sangria is such a fun drink because it is so versatile and there are virtually endless combinations of flavors. A great way to celebrate National Sangria Day is to have a get together where everybody brings their own sangria! No two sangrias are the same, so there will be plenty of options to sample and explore new combinations and flavors. Private Home Health Care encourages you to have fun and celebration National Sangria Day!

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Antioxidants

Yesterday was National Sangria Day! Sangria is a beverage made with wine and sweetened with fresh fruit and fruit juices. Other ingredients can include herbs, spices, carbonation, and liquor. The combinations are endless, giving sangria a place in the cocktail rotation year-round. Refreshing and light during hot summer months, bright and sparkling during the winter ones, this fruity punch is quite versatile.

Sangria does indeed have health benefits, sometimes even more than regular wine! This is because the added fruit bolsters the nutritional content, as with herbs and spices such as cinnamon and mint. Sangria is traditionally made with red wine. Red wine is made by fermenting dark-colored, whole grapes. It is high in antioxidants, and drinking moderate amounts has been shown to be good for health.

We speak about them all the time, but what exactly are antioxidants? Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals are compounds that can cause harm if their levels become too high in your body. They’re linked to multiple illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Free radicals are constantly being formed in your body. Without antioxidants, free radicals would cause serious harm very quickly.

When free radicals outnumber antioxidants, it can lead to a state called oxidative stress. Prolonged oxidative stress can damage your DNA and other important molecules in your body. Sometimes it even leads to cell death. Damage to your DNA increases your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, and some scientists have theorized that it plays a pivotal role in the aging process. Several factors, including lifestyle, stress, and environmental components, are known to promote excessive free radical formation and oxidative stress.

However, it is important to note that free radicals also serve important functions that are essential for health. For example, your immune cells use free radicals to fight infections.

Your body needs to maintain a certain balance between free radicals and antioxidants. When this equilibrium is disrupted, it can lead to oxidative stress. Prolonged oxidative stress leads to an increased risk of negative health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

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More About Baking Cookies!

On top of making cookies relieving stress, eating cookies also helps boost your mood and beat stress! This is because when we eat sweets, the pleasure/reward part of our brain lights up, making us feel happy. Treating yourself to homemade cookies from start to finish is sure to make your day better. Baking cookies with loved ones is also good for you because it is a wonderful way to connect. Humans are social creatures and meant to interact with each other. In fact, research has proven that those who have regular interactions with others, especially if they are meaningful interactions, enjoy better health, quality of life, and even increased longevity. Baking cookies is wonderful because anyone can participate, no matter their age or ability. Those who may not be able to partake in every step of the way, such as young children or those with certain disabilities, can help decorate or put sprinkles on cookies. And anyone can definitely help with eating them! You create special memories by baking cookies with family and making recipes that have been passed down through generations. By making a family cookie recipe, it can be a way to honor someone who is no longer living and keep them close to us. 

Favorite sweets can also help with memory. This is because memory can be closely tied to our senses, and cookie making uses all of our senses – including the smell of the cookies in the oven, seeing them being made, shaping the dough with your hands, hearing the mixer whizzing, and, last but certainly not least, tasting the cookies! For those with age related memory loss, short term memory may not be available, but they can vividly recall making cookies with their mother as a kid, and be able to recite verbatim favorite recipes. 

One of the best parts about making cookies is sharing them with others! Homemade cookies make a great, heartfelt gift that recipients will be appreciative of. Giving to others is not only a gracious and kind act, but studies show that giving can actually boost your physical and mental health. From volunteering at a soup kitchen to committing to raise money for a specific charity – health benefits associated with giving can include:

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Less depression.
  • Lower stress levels.
  • Longer life.
  • Greater happiness and satisfaction.

In addition, giving has a ripple effect. One act of giving inspires others, and it makes the world a better place. For instance, if you make cookies and give it to someone, it will make them happy and they are more likely to ‘pay it forward’. A 2017 report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute noted that people are happier overall when they give to others and that the more they do or give, the happier they tend to be. It’s simply referred to as “the joy of giving.” When you perform acts that make you and others happier, your levels of stress go down. As we know, high levels of stress can have adverse effects on health. Simply put, giving is good for your health! With the holidays around the corner, we are in the ‘giving season’. What better way to celebrate National Bake Cookies Day than to make a batch and give them to a loved one? Private Home Health Care encourages you to embrace cookies and giving today!

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National Bake Cookies Day

Today is National Bake Cookies Day! This day comes just in time for the holiday season. Anyone can agree that there is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked cookies warming up your house, especially in the middle of winter. That is why they even have cookie scented candles! Cookies have been around in some form or another pretty much forever. The earliest documented cookie goes back to seventh-century Persia. Cookies were introduced to America sometime in the 17th century, but the name ‘cookie’ was given much later. The original dutch form ‘koekje,’ meaning ‘small cake’ was altered to ‘cooky’ and eventually ‘cookie.’ Since then, cookies have been eaten all over the world. Even though there are many different types of cookies, one thing can be for sure – baking your own cookies at home is always tastier and more enjoyable than eating store bought cookies. 

Baking cookies is a wonderful activity, from start to finish! There are so many things to love about cookie making at home. Baking cookies is a known stress reliever. How is this so?

Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a clinical psychologist says some of it’s just allowing yourself to be creative—adding flavor, changing color, forming shapes. Then you’ve got the sensory triggers. “The smell of spices and vanilla are comforting, and [they] often remind us of happy times. Olfactory scents are particularly linked to areas of the brain that involve emotions and memory.” Baking is methodical, and the rhythm of it can lead to a mindful state. Mindfulness is the quality of being aware and engaged, leading to reflection rather than reaction. Many psychologists believe it’s one of the best ways to combat anxiety and depression. When you’re baking, you can’t help but be engaged because if you are not paying attention then you could seriously mess everything up (like accidentally adding salt instead of sugar…no one wants to eat salty cookies!) Being distracted when making cookies by measuring, pouring, mixing, shaping, and decorating is a great way to take your mind off stress. When you bake something, you are creating something, and the final product can make you feel accomplished. It is a great feeling when you work hard to follow the recipe and make beautiful looking cookies, it is something tangible to be proud of. Baking cookies releases serotonin and endorphins, which are two of the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain that give you feelings of happiness. 

Sounds pretty sweet to me! Private Home Health Care invites you to celebrate National Bake Cookies Day by, well, baking cookies! In addition to baking and eating cookies for yourself, you can also participate in a cookie exchange with friends and family. Another great idea is to bake cookies to raise money for charity. No matter what you decide to do, baking cookies is always a great idea! 

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International Tea Day

International Tea Day

Today is International Tea Day! This day celebrates everything tea! Tea is the second most popular drink in the world behind water. People in every country drink tea daily. Where did tea drinking originate? With so many variants and cultures drinking tea, it is hard to pinpoint an exact date as to when the beverage was invented.

It is believed to have originated during the Yunnan region during the Shang dynasty (1,600 BC-1,046 BC) as a medicinal drink. An early record of tea drinking is noted in the third century AD before spreading across the globe. It became a popular beverage in the 17th century in Britain, who went on to introduce its production in India to challenge the Chinese monopoly.

Tea For Your Health:

Which tea is healthiest? Chamomile and Green teas are tied for first place when it comes to health. Both are considered the healthiest tea options however they serve different purposes.

Chamomile tea cuts blood-sugar levels, and the chemicals in the tea block activity of an enzyme associated with the development of diabetic eye and nerve damage.

Green tea is touted to be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet. It’s loaded with antioxidants that have many health benefits, which may include:

improved brain function

fat loss

Healthy metabolism

protecting against cancer

lowering the risk of heart disease

Healthy aging

Decreased risk of chronic diseases

Green tea is rich in polyphenols, which are natural compounds that have health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and helping to fight cancer.

Green tea contains a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other benefits.

These substances can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. These free radicals play a role in aging and many types of diseases.

Tea as medicine:

In many Eastern cultures, tea is used as a traditional medicine. Now tea is catching on in Western medicine as a simple and easy treatment or supplement. Have an upset stomach? Ginger or peppermint tea soothes and improves digestion. Stressed? Try lavender or licorice root tea. Need to sleep? Chamomile tea does just the trick.

To celebrate, simply drink your favorite tea! With endless varieties to choose from, there is a tea out there for everyone. Private Home Health Care wishes you a tea-riffic day!

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National Cupcake Day

Today is National Cupcake Day! Who doesn’t love cupcakes?! They are the perfect sized treat that people of all ages love. The earliest known documentation of the term cupcake shows up in 1828 in Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. The cookbook was by Eliza Leslie. What is great about cupcakes is that they are the perfect size – a single portion that is not too big and not too small. When eating a healthy diet, there is absolutely room for sweets, but portion size is key. Cupcakes are so much fun to celebrate a special occasion with. What is more, you can pick out many different flavors, instead of just having 1 flavor with a large cake. Cupcakes are adorable, fun, and deserve to be celebrated today on National Cupcake Day!

Cupcakes evoke sweet childhood memories – bringing cupcakes into school on your birthday was a highlight of the year! Studies have shown that eating sweets can actually help with memory, especially when consuming baked goods that were your childhood favorites. Taste and scent are both interconnected and they are strongly linked to long term memory, which remains largely intact despite cognitive decline. Not only eating them but making them with loved ones also evokes special moments in life.

Lately we have explored stress relief. There is the cute saying ‘you can’t spell ‘stressed’ without ‘desserts’! This is certainly true, and desserts can be a great stress reliever – in moderation of course. Stress causes increased cortisol levels in the body, and when you experience chronic stress, your cortisol levels become too high and lead to inflammation. Inflammation is essentially the root cause of illness and disease because it undermines your body’s immune system. In addition, when you eat a dessert with antioxidants such as a double dark chocolate cupcake, it helps combat inflammation as well! Because cupcakes are so customizable, you can make them healthy as well! Swap out white flour for wheat or an alternative such as oat flour, white sugar for coconut sugar or banana, and butter for olive oil or applesauce. You can even add JuicePlus Complete to up the amount of protein and nutrients in your cupcakes. Check out this delicious (healthy!) chocolate cupcake recipe!

So eat cupcakes for your health and join Private Home Health Care with celebrating National Cupcake Day!

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Meditation and the Brain

Study after study has shown what practitioners have known for thousands of years – meditation is good for the body, mind, and soul. The mind-body connection is critical for health, and meditation bridges and enhances both. Stress Meditation is one of the best tools we have to counter the brain’s negativity bias, release accumulated stress, foster positive experiences and intentions, and enjoy the peace of present moment awareness. Years of research has established that practicing meditation regularly had tangible health benefits including:

-Decreased blood pressure and hypertension

-Lowered cholesterol levels

-Reduced production of “stress hormones,” including cortisol and adrenaline

-More efficient oxygen use by the body

-Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA

-Improved immune function

-Decreased anxiety, depression, and insomnia

Meditation can help you tap into your brain’s deepest potential to focus, learn, and adapt. While scientists used to believe that beyond a certain age, the brain couldn’t change or grow, we now know that the brain has a quality known as plasticity, enabling it to grow new neurons and transform throughout our lives. Meditation is a powerful tool for awakening new neural connections and even transforming regions of the brain. This means that meditation can help protect against and even reverse cognitive decline. Simply put, meditation is good for the brain and helps promote brain health. Meditation can improve the aging brain and body, which is why at Private Home Health Care we encourage mindfulness and meditation for our clients, their loved ones, within our agency and the community at large.

Meditation helps combat the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and can prevent and delay the onset of this disease. A recent Harvard study found that after only eight weeks of meditation, participants experienced beneficial growth in the brain areas associated with memory, learning, empathy, self-awareness, and stress regulation (the insula, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex). In addition, the meditators reported decreased feelings of anxiety and greater feelings of calm. It is truly one of the greatest tools for brain health and to support the aging brain.

Another wonderful thing about meditation is that it is available to everyone – including the young, elderly, healthy, ill, differently abled, men, women, and from any walk of life. Chances are that you have practiced meditation in your life without knowing it. Have you ever closed your eyes while taking deep breaths, and counting to ten? That is a form of meditation! The beauty and simplicity of meditation is that you don’t need any equipment. All that’s required is a quiet space and a few minutes each day. What is more, there are many different forms of meditation, which means that there is a practice for everyone.

Meditation comes in many forms, including the following:

-Concentration meditation teaches you how to focus your mind. It’s the foundation for other forms of meditation.

-Heart-centered meditation involves quieting the mind and bringing the awareness to the heart, an energy center in the middle of the chest.

-Mindfulness meditation encourages you to focus objectively on negative thoughts as they move through your mind, so you can achieve a state of calm.

-Tai chi and qigong are moving forms of meditation that combine physical exercise with breathing and focus.

-Transcendental Meditation is a well-known technique in which you repeat a mantra—a word, phrase, or sound—to quiet your thoughts and achieve greater awareness.

-Walking meditation turns your focus to both body and mind as you breathe in time with your footsteps.

Like any skill, meditation takes practice. You can start with just one minute a day and build up to twenty, thirty, or even forty minutes. You can even meditate for a minute in the shower. Private Home Health Care encourages you to embrace this simple practice that will bring many benefits to your health, well being, and life.

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Meditation for Health

Let’s talk about meditation.

Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. Once regarded as ‘alternative’, meditation and mindfulness practices have made their way into mainstream medicine and lifestyles. There are many health benefits of meditation, and as knowledge of this becomes widespread, meditation is becoming more popular. You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction. Modern medicine’s relatively recent research on meditation has revealed that it does indeed confirm this ancient practice is immensely beneficial for health. Meditation positively impacts all facts of health, including physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual sphere of wellness. And these benefits don’t end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may also help manage symptoms of certain medical conditions. Even when you move onto the next activity in your day, the effects of meditation continue to support well being, notably for the most important organs – the brain and heart. Research has shown that your brain chemistry is altered during meditation and continues to produce positive chemicals even after you finish. Also, your heart rate is less likely to increase well after being slowed down with a meditation session.

One of the major benefits of meditation is stress relief. In our busy modern world, it is unfortunately common to be overly stressed. You can’t see or touch stress, but you can feel its effects on your mind and body. In the short term, stress quickens your heart rate and breathing and increases your blood pressure. When you’re constantly under stress, your adrenal glands overproduce the hormone cortisol. Overexposure to this hormone can affect the function of your brain, immune system, and other organs. Chronic stress can contribute to headaches, anxiety, depression, heart disease, and even premature death.

Though you may not be able to eradicate the roots of stress, you can minimize its effects on your life. Meditation is one of the easiest and most achievable stress-relieving techniques. Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. Meditation has consistently been found to improve quality of life for virtually every single person practicing.

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