Saturday, 25 February 2017

So You Think You Can’t…Have a Better Memory?

One true thing: memory erodes as we get older. Even though your hippocampus—that area of the brain responsible for building memory—loses about 5 percent of its nerve cells each decade, and the production ofacetylcholine (a neurotransmitter important for learning and memory) slows with aging, research shows that our brains are still able to form new, memory-building networks, which can enable us to boost our power of recollection.

Memory experts say that if you want a “fit” brain, you have to keep using it. Use it—or lose it. While those memory lapses can be annoying, stressful and worrisome, we have more control than we think.

The antiaging brain “diet” includes not just certain foods, but some other things like mental activity, physical fitness and stress reduction.


Brain health is directly related to nutrition and lifestyle, says registered dietitian Samantha Heller in her book,Get Smart. Her nutrition prescription for boosting your brain power includes:

Lots of veggies (9-11 servings per day)
Two to three fruits each day
Whole grains like whole-wheat pasta, brown and wild rice and whole-grain cereals
Healthy oils like olive, canola, peanut, sesame and walnut
Lean, healthy sources of protein like low-fat or nonfat dairy, soy, nuts, egg whites and beans
White-meat skinless poultry or fish (two 3- to 4-ounce portions a day)
Dark chocolate
Other “smart” foods include blueberries (animal studies show they protect the brain against oxidative stress), wild salmon (it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for brain function), nuts and seeds (good sources of vitamin E, which has been associated with less cognitive decline) and avocados (rich in monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow). Some studies have demonstrated that supplementing with vitamin D and B-12 can boost cognitive function.
Mental Activity
Here are some of the many ways to challenge your brain:
Puzzles like Sudoku and crosswords.
AARP offers a variety of free online games.
Luminosity gives you a personalized training program that tracks your progress.
Cogniciti offers a free online 20-minute brain health assessment for adults aged 50-79.
Fit Brains challenges your brain with fun programs designed by neuroscientists.
HAPPYneuron offers a coach, which provides you with a tracking tool to check your progress, personalized guidance and motivation.

CogniFit brings you personalized brain fitness training programs designed to train memory and concentration.

Cognitive rehabilitation specialist Ruth Curran, in her Cranium Crunches blog  offers thinking puzzles, games and apps that help improve your thinking, cognitive functioning and overall brain health.


In addition to its benefits like lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, aerobic exercisecan protect your memory and thinking skills.

A study from the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise might boost the size of the hippocampus (that’s the brain area involved in verbal learning and memory).
Exercise also improves your mood and your sleep and reduces stress and anxiety—all contributors tocognitive impairment.

Other studies suggest that aerobic exercise promotes growth in the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory.

Standard recommendations call for a half hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week. That’s 150 minutes a week. Overwhelming? Start slow, and build up by five to 10 minutes every week. Soon enough, you’ll be racking up the minutes.

Stress Reduction

There has been much research on the negative effects of stress on memory and other cognitive functions. Emotional stress plays havoc with many body processes, including the ability to remember and recall recently learned information.

One study found that stress hormones can negatively influence the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the area of the brain that controls high-level “executive” functions like working memory and decision making. In a study of juvenile rats, long-term stress was found to impair glutamate receptors, which play a role in PFC function. Turns out, chronic stress when you’re younger may have a negative effect on memory years later.

Perhaps to make you feel more empowered when it comes to stress, remember this: much of the stress we feel is a matter of how we perceive and handle it.

Just a few ways to manage your stress include meditation, yoga, keeping a “worries” journal (or conversely, a gratitude journal), prioritizing your to-do list, reading an engrossing book, eating well, exercising … oh, I’m sure you all know them.

3 Key Supplements for Midlife Women

Midlife is inevitably a time of changes. New words and conditions take root, like bone density andosteoporosis, muscle mass and sarcopenia, aches and arthritis, hot flashes and menopause.
Emerging health issues and concerns might make us feel a bit more vulnerable than ever before.
That’s why I think being proactive is so important. Take a look at your everyday habits. Are you eating right? Getting the exercise you need? Making sure your sleep is not only enough but of high quality? Keeping your stress levels under control?
Are you supplementing your diet with the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep pace with your changing health?
I recently spoke with physician, author and broadcaster Dr. Ronald Hoffman. What I like about what he does is that he is a classically trained physician who studied internal medicine but also embraces complementary and alternative medicine.
I asked Dr. Hoffman for his opinion on aging. No, not whether or not to dye our gray hair or embrace it, but what he suggests as supplements for midlife women. Yes, I know there’s recently been quite a lot of controversy on the subject of vitamins and supplements, but it’s important not to turn our backs completely on supplementing our diets with certain nutrients, which we may be deficient in and may benefit us as we age.
Below, three key supplements you might want to consider:
Vitamin D
Although this vitamin can be found in small amounts in some foods (among them fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, mackerel and herring) and is added to dairy products, juices and cereals (marked as “fortified with vitamin D”), many of us are deficient in this vitamin. Most of what the body gets is acquired through exposure to sunlight, and many people are not getting enough.
Some studies, says Hoffman, suggest that certain levels of this vitamin are needed for some osteoporosis medications to work effectively. Although individual needs vary, Hoffman recommends a dose of approximately 2,000 milligrams daily. Since there are different forms of the vitamin, he says, “Make sure it’s vitamin D3.”
About vitamin D: It’s required for the regulation of calcium and phosphorus found in the body and plays an important role in preserving proper bone structure. People who don’t get enough sun are at risk of deficiency. Especially at risk are older people, who have fewer “receptors” in their skin that convert sunlight to vitamin D and may not get it in their diets. And aging kidneys may not be as efficient in converting dietary vitamin D to a useful form.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Considered to be essential fatty acids, our bodies need omega-3 fatty acids, which are not made in the body, in order to work normally.
The two crucial omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are mainly found in fish. “Fish oil is beneficial in so many ways, but the vast majority of women are probably not eating enough fish,” Hoffman says. For supplements, he suggests avoiding the “super bargain brands” and instead looking for ones that are moderate to high-priced, because they’re more likely to have more of the beneficial active ingredients EPA and DHA.
About omega-3s: Omega-3s are thought to help reduce inflammation throughout the body. And a small pilot study found that together with vitamin D3, omega-3s might help the immune system clear the brain of amyloidplaque, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Talk to your doctor if you take anticoagulant drugs, because these supplements may cause the blood to thin and cause excess bleeding.
The recent warnings about the association between calcium supplements and increased risk of heart attacks and death from cardiovascular disease have left many women confused. “I would not abandon calcium,” says Hoffman. He suggests shooting for a total of no more than 1,500 milligrams of calcium each day—and that total includes what you get in your diet and in your supplement. If your diet provides less than 1,500 milligrams of calcium each day, he suggests supplementing with calcium. To figure out approximately what you need to supplement with, Hoffman advises keeping a diet diary for about a week, to see how much calcium you are ingesting. Calcium citrate, he says, is better absorbed than is calcium carbonate, and dairy helps to facilitate absorption.
About calcium: As the most abundant mineral in the body, some things calcium is required for are strong bones and teeth, muscle function, nerve transmission and hormonal secretion. Most of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, where it supports their structure. While the bone is constantly being remodeled, calcium is being reabsorbed and deposited into the new bone. But age changes that balance of reabsorption and depositing; that’s when bone loss take place.
What else can you do to stay proactive?
If you’re worried about:
Macular degeneration
Consider: lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, selenium and DHA (from fish oil)
Cardiac and immune function
Consider: olive leaf extract
Heart disease and cancer
Consider: aged garlic extract
High blood pressure
Consider: fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium and changing the sodium-to-potassium ratio in your diet
Getting adequate sleep
Consider: melatonin

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Get Active in Midlife: It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising

A friend of mine, who loved to travel but couldn’t when her children were younger, once told me she made herself feel better by saying, “It’s not my decade.” Once her children grew, she went on a tear around the world.

Maybe you’ve been busy raising children or concentrating on your career or the myriad other things that can crowd life. And maybe, because of all those things, you’ve neglected the thing that many people have a hard time finding time for: exercise.

MORE: Exercise and Your Body

If you’ve been sedentary for the past few decades, it’s not too late: a new study indicates that even if you’ve been inactive for years, becoming physically active in midlife can substantially reduce the likelihood of getting seriously ill or physically disabled in retirement.

Author Gretchen Reynolds writes in The New York Times:

“The new study joins a growing body of research examining successful aging, a topic of considerable scientific interest, as the populations of the United States and Europe grow older, and so do many scientists. When the term is used in research, successful aging means more than simply remaining alive, although that, obviously, is the baseline requirement.”

Successful aging. Isn’t that the hope of all of us? Ideally, we want to remain healthy and able to engage in life with as few problems as possible. To remain disease-free, retain our cognitive function and steer clear ofdepression and disability is a worthy goal.

Granted, a good part of health is determined by genetics, but there are several other factors—things that are within our control—that contribute to good health:  not smoking, moderating alcoholic consumption and exercising. Reynolds also includes having money in that equation, and while it’s clear that people with greater economic resources may have certain health advantages, it’s important to remember that all the money in the world doesn’t guarantee you health.

MORE: Top 5 Exercise Time-Wasters to Trim

For people of any income bracket, being physically active during our adult years is a very important factor in keeping healthy. One large study of more than 12,000 Australian men between ages 65 and 83 found that those who exercised five or more times a week for about 30 minutes fared much better than those who did not.

Fret not if exercise hasn’t found its way into your life yet. More studies find that even if someone ignored exercise earlier in life, adopting the habit now can still pay off. Those who were active and remain that way aged most successfully and had the lowest incidence of major chronic diseases, memory loss and physical disability. But others who were not active in their younger years but start exercising in middle age still profited, with about a sevenfold reduction in their risk of becoming ill or unwell.

In fact, researchers found that the health advantages of becoming active were on par with the advantages of giving up smoking.

But what if you hate the gym? You need not adopt a formal exercise program, researchers say. To qualify as someone who is “active,” all you need is an hour per week of moderate or vigorous activity, like gardening, washing the car, moderate-paced walked or even dancing.

Aches and Pains: From Denial to Acceptance

Seems that in this so-called midlife I’ve been fighting surrender on a lot of fronts.
But lately, I’ve been at the losing end.

For instance, I have a bum left knee. I first realized something was wrong a little over 10 years ago, while visiting Paris. It was my first European trip and I was determined not to let anything ruin it. Not the torrential rain we had. Not the record cold temperatures. Nothing. Not even the fact that we went to the Louvre on the one day it was closed.

A few days into the trip, my knee gave me a sudden, sharp jolt midway down a steep set of subway steps. And it continued to ache throughout the remainder of my trip, but I managed to mostly ignore it, instead choosing to concentrate on the buttery croissants and bottles of sumptuous red wine.
By the time I got home, croissants and resveratrol behind me, the knee screamed out to be front and center. No longer able to ignore it, I made an appointment with a specialist, who, after reading the X-ray, told me that I had “worn cartilage.”

I thought back to my days on the front lines of aerobic and step classes, questioning my judgment. But, when you’re young and agile, you think your body parts will last forever.

“If you were 10 years older, I’d call it arthritis,” the doctor solemnly uttered.

At the time, I didn’t see the sense in that—but now that more than 10 years have passed I realize that he was trying to placate me. Why upset me with the bitter truth before my time? And secretly, I can’t deny feeling a bit relieved—his euphemistic choice of words soothed me.

When people looked at me questionably if I limped when my knee acted up (I could go a good long time in between flare-ups), I’d simply shrug it off and say, “Oh, just some worn cartilage,” and I’d nonchalantly  carry on.

But now that 10 years have passed, and my knee acts up more than it behaves, I’m trying to come to grips with certain truths about aging. Like, maybe it’s time to surrender and stop with all the euphemisms. Maybe it’s time to stop living in denial and accept what is.

And yet, I refuse to abandon exercise because if I don’t move my body—even if it hurts to move it sometimes—I will go out of my mind. I’m the kind of person who needs to be in motion; in fact, I probably would do better on a treadmill desk than squirming in my chair all day while trying to concentrate on my writing and ignore my sore butt at the same time.

Now when I exercise, I wear a stretchy knee brace (that is, when I remember to put it on). And when you live in an apartment building you can’t hide much. When I wear shorts with my knee brace, my neighbors notice.

“What happened to you?” 15C asked.
“What’s wrong with your knee? Skiing accident?” inquired the tenant who recently moved into 8A.
If only.
“Oh, just an old pesky injury,” I answered.
And then I nonchalantly limped on, just like in Paris.
Only this time I could no longer indulge in buttery croissants and gulp gallons of red wine without thinking about the consequences.

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Talk to Your Children About Healthy Relationships

Not only do we at HealthyWomen believe in the importance of healthy bodies, we also like to promote healthy relationships—healthy relationships with ourselves, our partners, our friends and our families. And we believe it’s important to teach our children about healthy relationships, both through what we say and what we do.

This is a perfect time to talk about healthy relationships because February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and Feb. 4 is It’s Time to Talk Day, a national day to promote healthy relationships and prevent teen dating abuse.

You may not know that one in three teens will experience some type of abuse from a dating partner in the form of either physical, sexual or verbal abuse. Unfortunately, three out of four of us parents have never had a conversation about domestic violence with our children.

Talking to your children about what it means to have a healthy relationship is a crucial step to ensuring they are prepared to have safe, respectful relationships throughout their lives.
Start the talk

Organizers of the It’s Time To Talk Day observances offer these tips to get the conversation started:
Provide your children with examples of healthy relationships and point out examples of unhealthy behavior. Use examples from your own life, television, movies or music.
Ask questions and encourage open discussion. Make sure you listen to your children, allowing them time to speak. Avoid analyzing, interrupting, lecturing or accusing.
Keep it low-key. Don’t push it if your children aren’t ready to talk. Try again another time.
Be supportive and nonjudgmental so your children know they can come to you for help if their relationships ever become unhealthy.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it. This builds trust.
Reinforce that dating should be fun. Stress that violence and intimidation are never acceptable.
Discuss options your children have if they witness or experience dating violence.
Remind your children that they have the right to say “no” to anything they are uncomfortable with or not ready for.
Remind them that they must respect the rights of others.
Assure your children that they can come to you if they are ever in a relationship that feels uncomfortable, awkward or frightening.
Remind them that any decisions they make about a relationship should be their own.
Starting a conversation with your child about healthy relationships isn’t complicated. Every situation is different, but here are some ways you could talk with your children:
“What do you think a healthy relationship looks like?”
“What do you think an unhealthy relationship looks like?”
“In a healthy relationship, you should never feel pressured, unsafe or harmed in anyway.”
“Did you know that it’s unhealthy and could be abusive if your partner is pressuring you to do things you don’t want to do or controlling what you do or who you spend time with?”
“If you ever feel like this is happening in your relationship, you can talk to me.”

On Feb. 4 parents across the country are joining forces to start having these critical conversations with their kids as part of NO MORE Silence: It’s Time To Talk Day. This annual conversation day, presented by Mary Kay and Break the Cycle’s Love Is Not Abuse campaign in partnership with Verizon, is focused on educating and equipping parents, mentors, youth advocates and others to start talking to teens about healthy relationships. It’s Time to Talk Day also encourages people to make this issue a priority year-round.

Conversation events, called It’s Time To Talk Day Talk-A-Thons, will be happening across the country on Feb. 4. Anyone can attend. If you’re interested in participating in the free Talk-A-Thon events in New York City with Mary Kay Cause Champion Olympic Gold Medalist Jordyn Wieber, register at

Make healthy relationships a priority

You can commit to making this issue a year-round priority by adding your name to the Love Is Not Abuse Coalition, a group of advocates nationwide that supports and promotes healthy relationships in a variety of ways in their communities. You can also donate no-longer-used wireless phones to HopeLine from Verizon, a program that supports survivors of domestic violence nationwide.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or has a question about relationship health, you can text “loveis” to 22522 for round-the-clock support from advocates at Love Is Respect, sponsored by Mary Kay.

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The Beauty Benefits of Papaya

What is that mixture you are putting on my face?” I asked my aesthetician D as she slathered on a smooth mask during my facial.

“It’s a papaya and yogurt mask,” said D. “The healing enzymes in papaya help exfoliate the dead skin and the yogurt is soothing—a good antiaging remedy.”

According to D, papaya is a wonderful fruit with many benefits. “Papaya helps with digestion too,” said D. “It’s good to eat papaya after a heavy protein meal.” I was eager to learn about this benefit, even though my gastroenterologist did tell me that I have a beautiful stomach after he looked down my tummy during myendoscopy. I’ve had irritable bowel syndrome and heartburn during my life after 50, so anything that will help with these issues is a positive attribute.

Dr. Cari Case, a chiropractor from Pennsylvania, writes on her For a Healthy Future blog: “Papaya is rich in many vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants including vitamin C, folate, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, carotenes, flavonoids, B vitamins, magnesium and pantothenic acid.” Dr. Case says that “the carotenoids, antioxidants and vitamins in papaya can help keep your eyes healthy. In fact, they may also reduce the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related condition resulting in loss of vision.”

After my facial, I drove right over to Whole Foods Market to buy some cut-up papaya and plain yogurt. D said to keep the papaya in the freezer and defrost a few chunks before eating or using on my face. To make an at-home facial, D said all I have to do is mash up the papaya, mix it with some yogurt, put it on my face, lie down for 20 minutes and let it soak in and then wash it off.

With my homemade cider vinegar toner and now my at-home papaya facials, I am going to have such fruity and fragrant skin during my life after 50. Ooh, ooh, ooh, but I’ll need to stock up on plenty of papayas to also maintain my fabulous looking and hopefully fabulous feeling stomach.

I wonder with my green thumb if I can grow a papaya tree in my backyard? Let’s see what it says about growing papayas? Ooh, ooh, ooh, I found a website that explains how to grow papaya from seed. Â It says it is easy to do. Let me just read down a little bit. Yes, yes, yes, I think I can do it.
Uh-oh! Oh no! The Tropical Permaculture website says: “To grow good papayas you need a frost free climate.”

With global warming, maybe when I’m in my 80s I’ll be able to grow papayas in the Northeast. Meantime, I guess I’ll be purchasing my papaya chunks at the market.

The Scoop on Taking Multivitamins

Many of us wrestle with whether or not we should take a daily multivitamin. And recent news reports may have left some of us more undecided than ever. Here’s the scoop on taking multivitamins from an interview with Duffy MacKay, ND, vice president of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

Q. We’re reading in the news that multivitamins are unnecessary; in fact, they may even cause harm.
A. Multivitamins are generally safe. In fact, the Physicians’ Health Study II of 14,000 participants who took multivitamins showed no adverse events associated with taking them. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force shows overwhelming evidence of their safety.

What you are hearing about in the news—but what is not made completely clear—is older data about supplemental high doses of beta-carotene and its adverse effect on smokers and asbestos workers. But it’s important to note that this is limited only to these two groups.

Q. So, can a multivitamin help prevent things like heart disease and cancer?

A. The evidence that everyone should take a multivitamin to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease is limited. But some studies do show a modest reduction in cancer among individuals who take multivitamins. It’s a tough thing to measure—that group studied may be a group that is more likely to practice healthy behaviors in the first place. The evidence that multivitamins protect against age-related cognitive decline is limited. In conclusion, if you’re taking a multivitamin to prevent serious disease, you will be disappointed.

Q. Under what circumstances should people take a multivitamin?

A. The number one reason is to fill in the nutrient gaps in our diet. We know that most Americans are deficient in vitamin B, potassium, calcium and fiber. Additionally, a small percentage of people over 50 will have a tough time absorbing enough vitamin B-12 and may be deficient. And pregnant women will need supplemental folic acid and iron in many cases.

Remember, a multivitamin is not a magic bullet. Neither is it a weight-loss pill. It just fills your nutrient gaps, as the typical diet for most men and women doesn’t supply enough of certain vitamins (most commonly, vitamin D).

Q. How do people know if they are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals?

A. Once you start asking people what they eat and don’t eat, the list expands rapidly. For example, vegetarians are generally low in vitamin B and iron. If someone is lactose intolerant, where’s their calcium coming from? They likely will need a calcium supplement.

Only .05 percent of the population eats “right” and has close to a perfect diet. They may not need a multivitamin … but for all others, I’d recommend it.

Remember, it’s best to discuss your diet with your health care provider to access where the nutritional gaps exist.

The cost of using a multivitamin is relatively small, ranging from between $20 and $30 per year for brand-name products. If you purchase the large economy-sized containers, it can run as little as $10 annually.

Q. How can you know what brand to buy?

A. Nationally recognized brands or store brands from a trusted retailer will help ensure a product’s safety. These companies have a lot at stake and, as a result, invest a lot of time, effort and resources to ensure their products live up to their reputation.

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Friday, 17 February 2017

Top 4 Benefits of Infant Massage

Most new parents know that touch is an important way to bond with their newborns, but there’s even more you can do. Infant massage goes beyond just a generic inventory of consecutive strokes and has proven benefits.

It involves mindfully engaging with the baby, recognizing nonverbal communication and creatively adapting touch to support the child’s sensory needs and capabilities.

Whether your baby is a newborn or several years old, massage can bring immediate and lasting results.

Here are the top four benefits of infant massage:

Improves sleep. In a study by Tiffany Field, PhD, at Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine, infants and toddlers with sleep onset problems showed fewer sleep delays after being massaged by their parents for 15 minutes before bedtime each day for a month (as opposed to babies who were read a bedtime story). Massage helps babies sleep deeper and more soundly—and you’ll sleep better if they’re sleeping better!

Stimulates growth hormone for weight gain in underweight babies. Dr. Field also studied massage for preterm babies (preemies) and found that preemies who were massaged three times a day for 15 minutes gained 47 percent more weight and left the hospital an average of six days earlier than those who were not massaged. When a baby is discharged from the hospital six days early, it saves about $3,000 per infant in hospital costs. Approximately 470,000 premature infants are born each year in the United States. If they were all massaged, the savings would amount to $4.7 billion in hospital costs per year. Not to mention the emotional benefits to the parents.

Improves overall functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Colic, constipation and gas can cause a lot of distress for both babies and parents. Easy-to-learn massage techniques can help move alongdigestion and move out the gas that is causing distress, often relieving pain and discomfort in just a few minutes.

Relieves the pain and discomfort of teething. Teething is one of the most stressful times for babies and parents. A special facial massage technique helps release endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever. Massage also reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

This new instructional DVD from Zen Babies Massage, Bond With Your Baby: Learn Loving Infant Massage, can teach parents, grandparents and caregivers the lessons and insights needed to properly massage a baby or young child. It will give you the confidence you need to enjoy this special one-on-one quiet time with your baby.

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Questions Every Pregnant Woman Should Ask Herself

You’re pregnant! Congratulations! During your 40-week journey, you’ll come up with lots of questions, some valid and some silly. To make sure the valid questions get the attention they deserve, I want to make sure you’re aware of these three very important topics. Take note—and happy growing, Mama!

Am I eating enough protein? 

Women need additional protein during pregnancy. And while moms-to-be have every intention of upping their protein portions, first-trimester nausea can quickly change eating habits. If you’re having difficultly filling nutritional gaps with food, you can try supplementing. There is a terrific product called Mommi 3-in-1.  It’s the first-ever complete prenatal protein shake with all the vitamins, protein and DHA a pregnant woman needs. Each serving contains 25 grams of protein, 100% daily value of 14 essential prenatal vitamins and 200 milligrams of DHA when prepared with 10 ounces of 1% milk. Best part: it comes in yummy chocolate and vanilla flavors. You get everything you need without the nausea! Win!

Should I receive prenatal testing?

During your 40 weeks, there will be moments of anxiety. And lots of wondering, “Is the baby healthy?” There are certain prenatal tests that can provide you answers. For example, Panorama is a noninvasive, highly accurate prenatal test that screens for several genetic conditions including Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome and Patau syndrome. The test can be administered as early as nine weeks gestation. These tests not only help expectant families prepare for future health implications involving their baby, but they may also provide reassurance that all is well with the baby. If you find yourself anxiety ridden, this test may be a good option for you. It’s worth mentioning to your health care provider.

Should I consider cord blood banking? 

A newborn’s umbilical cord blood contains powerful stem cells that have been used for the treatment of more than 80 serious diseases and disorders in both adults and children. Cord blood banking is the process of retrieving the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta in the moments after birth. Expectant parents only have one opportunity to save or donate the cord blood, and it is among the most critical decisions new mothers and fathers will make. To make an informed decision regarding their options, expectant parents should learn all they can about current therapies and future treatments using cord blood stem cells.

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Why Using Sunscreen Is Not Enough

I look forward with anticipation to the warmer weather all year long, even more so when we have extreme seasons like we did this past winter. In the summertime I feel freer, happier and more at peace. While many will disagree that 80 degrees Fahrenheit is a comfortable temperature, it’s the perfect one for me.

But now that the warm weather looks like it’s dug in its heels, I’m remembering that as much as I love it, it takes a certain amount of caution and planning.

Wear it right
Because when the sun shines—as wonderful as it feels—it’s important to remember that it also burns.

Using sunscreen is not enough—you have to know precisely how to use sunscreen and the best types to use. And remember: the most hazardous times for UV exposure are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Some of your most pressing questions answered:

All sunscreens are created equal, right?

Wrong. Although all sunscreens do help prevent sunburn, they are not the same: only some may help lower the risk of skin cancer. Look for broad-spectrum types, which protect your skin from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB), both of which are harmful to the health of your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Can I use the leftover sunscreen from last year?

The answer is twofold: Yes, because the stuff is designed to retain its strength for three years. But also no, because if you are using sunscreen correctly and religiously (more on that in a minute), a bottle shouldn’t last from one year to the next. Tip: If your sunscreen bottle has no expiration date, write down the date you purchased it on the bottle. Dump anything that’s been exposed to very high temperatures or has an off-color or odor.

If I put on sunscreen once at the beach or before I go outside, isn’t that enough?

Sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside. And it should be reapplied frequently—about every two hours—but more often if you swim or sweat. Without special approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), manufacturers cannot claim “instant protection” or protection for more than two hours.

What’s the best amount of sunscreen to apply?

Many of us don’t apply enough. For best protection, most people need about the size of a shot glass (1 ounce) to adequately cover all the exposed areas of their body—and it needs to be rubbed in well. If the size of your sunscreen container is 4 ounces, about one-fourth of it will be used during one application.

If I wear waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen, can I swim or sweat and not reapply it?

There’s no such thing as waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen. In fact, the FDA requires manufacturers to include, on the front label, information about how long a user can get protection while swimming or sweating. Only two times are permitted: 40 or 80 minutes.

If it’s cloudy out, do I still need sunscreen?

Absolutely. Harmful rays (up to 80 percent) can penetrate cloud cover and even fog; you can still get a sunburn. Be especially careful around sand, snow, water or concrete, all of which can make the sun’s effects even stronger. It’s best to also cover your head with a hat and your eyes with sunglasses, because sunscreen does not protect you 100 percent.

If I use other skin products, when should I apply sunscreen?

Moisturizer first, then sunscreen and then makeup. If you also use bug spray, make that your last step—putting sunscreen on top of bug spray renders both less effective.

Do I still need sunscreen if my makeup contains an SPF?

The Skin Cancer Foundation says you can get protection with a moisturizer containing SPF combined with a foundation with SPF; two applications of cosmetics containing SPF, they say, increases your protection. And don’t forget moisturizing your ears, neck and upper chest (usually forgotten areas, but susceptible to damage). Also recommended is an eye cream with an SPF for the delicate skin around your eyes. After applying your foundation, apply compressed powder with a sponge to help your products stay put throughout the day. (Of course, perspiration or your own skin oils can make the protection wear off, in which case, you’ll need to reapply.)

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3 Health Headlines You May Have Missed

Are you in the midst of holiday madness? Chances are you are. As a result, there are many things that go by the wayside, including keeping up with the latest important health headlines—or other news.
If you’ve missed some of the latest developments, here are a few important stories … just in case you’re craving some health information or need something interesting to discuss at one of your upcoming holiday parties.

Cutting Breast Cancer Risk

Knowing that you’re at a high risk of breast cancer can make you feel like a ticking time bomb. While some women opt for prophylactic mastectomies, the option is not desirable or suitable for others.

What if you could take a pill instead?

A five-year study published in the journal Lancet has found that for women at high risk of developing breast cancer, the drug anastrozole (Arimidex) may help. Half of 4,000 postmenopausal women studied took 1 milligram every day, while the other half took a placebo. The findings were encouraging: after five years, 40 of the women who took the anastrozole developed breast cancer, while 85 women in the placebo group developed the disease.

Considered at high risk are women who:

had certain high-risk types of benign breast disease;
had two or more blood relatives with breast cancer; or

had a sister or mother who developed breast cancer before age 50 or developed breast cancer in both breasts.

Anastrozole is a medication belonging to a group of drugs known as aromatase inhibitors. By inhibiting the production of estrogen (which can drive some breast cancers to develop), these drugs can lower breast cancers that are fueled by the hormone. Tamoxifen is currently used for this purpose, but the side effects—muscle pain, extreme fatigue and hot flashes—make that a difficult route for many women. Anastrozole’s side effects, according to the latest research, are minimal and only slightly higher than the placebo.

Read more here: Breast cancer drug halves cases in high-risk women
Viagra for … What?

Some men with premenopausal partners might find supplies of their erectile dysfunction medication mysteriously disappearing once the news of a new study spreads. Research uncovered that the main ingredient in Viagra (called sildenafil citrate) can help women who suffer with moderate to severe menstrual cramps. In preliminary findings, when Penn State College of Medicine researchers studied 25 women ages 18 through 35 who experienced menstrual cramps, they found the women who took the drug (as opposed to those who took the placebo) reported nearly double the pain relief.
Read more here: Viagra for Menstrual Cramps?

E-Cigarettes: Not Necessarily a Safer Bet

Many people are smoking this odor-free, green and “smokeless” electronic cigarette that is not regulated by the FDA, thinking it’s a safer, cleaner bet than traditional cigs since it’s not “real” tobacco smoke. And the people around them may also be lulled into complacency, believing they’re being spared from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Others may think that e-cigs are a helpful aid in smoking cessation.

But is the surrounding environment really smoke-free? Not necessarily so, say researchers. Although it’s not real tobacco smoke, a new study finds that e-cigarettes can generate enough nicotine emissions (even though it is lower than that from tobacco smoke) to put people at risk for second-hand exposure.

And if you smoke e-cigarettes, you shouldn’t necessarily feel sheltered from nicotine exposure: another recent study found that because e-cigarette smokers puff more often and tend to inhale more deeply than regular cigarette smokers, they may be inhaling even higher levels of nicotine than traditional smokers.

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Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Top 5 Health Benefits of Wine for Women

The next time you raise your glass, keep these key health benefits of wine for women, as reported by The Daily Sip®, in mind (Note: Health benefits of wine apply when consumed in moderation vs. in excess, NOT when pregnant, etc.):

Red wine contains a “super” antioxidant called resveratrol that may help to reduce heart-disease,osteoporosis, diabetes, and more (learn about it here)

Red wine may specifically reduce the risk of cancer in women, as reported by Cedar-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles (learn more here)

Moderate wine consumption may help to reduce the risk of dementia (learn more here)

There are numerous health and beauty products made from wine grapes that may help to reduce the effects of aging due to being loaded up with vitamins C & E + antioxidants (learn more here)
On a less serious note, moderate wine consumption can be both fun and enjoyable with fellow wine enthusiasts, sometimes even in eclectic settings (aka: some even have “blended” wine with yoga in the vineyard. Learn more here.)

It is my personal opinion that a healthy mind and a healthy body coupled with good cheer lead to greater happiness, thus the moderate consumption of wine by women may contribute to both for all the aforementioned reasons!

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Tea Time: An Easy Way to Improve Overall Health

Maybe it’s the snow outside.

Maybe it’s the dipping temperatures.

But right about now I am craving a cup of hot, steaming … tea.

Yes, I’m a coffee drinker. I like coffee’s taste. I like its texture. And Starbucks is one of my go-to meeting/working/socializing spots (my personal fave is a soy latte). But winter is also tea time.
There’s just something about tea that conjures up thoughts of healing, soothing vibes.
As the second–most consumed beverage in the world, tea touts lots of benefits. New research published in the December 2013 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that it can not only be a simple way toward improving your overall health and well-being, but it can at the same time clear your mind and improve your mood.

In short, tea is a multitasker of sorts, wouldn’t you say?
According to the new research, there are a lot of benefits sitting in a cup of tea:
Weight Loss
The polyphenols and caffeine in tea can increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, both beneficial for losing and maintaining an ideal body weight. Polyphenols act as antioxidants, protecting cells against damage caused by free radicals (which contribute to tissue damage in the body) and possibly guard against certain effects of aging.
Bone Strength
The polyphenols in green tea may help improve your bone strength. A Mediterranean study found a 30 percent reduction in the risk of hip fractures associated with women and men over 50 who drank tea. You want to protect your hips: a hip fracture, whose likelihood increases as you age, is a serious injury with complications that can be life threatening.
Winter, with its shorter days, is enough to darken your moods. That’s why tea can be so valuable: it contains the amino acid theanine and caffeine, both of which may provide psychological benefits and improve attention so you can concentrate better.
Heart Health
In studies, black tea was shown to reduce blood pressure. And in people with hypertension, tea can help lessen the negative effects of a high-fat meal. (But not so much that you should feel free to throw caution to the wind and dine on fat-laden spaghetti carbonara with a tea chaser!)

We’re all looking for ways to have some mastery over this disease. There’s no one surefire method. But due to its antioxidant effects, tea might be a good start. It has been found to have anticancer properties for certain cancers—those of the lung, prostate, breast and gastrointestinal tract. Aside from that, it may inhibit growth factor signaling and improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.
While tea does contain caffeine, it has less than coffee, which has about 90 milligrams in one cup. A cup of black tea has about 60 milligrams, white tea has 50 milligrams and green tea, about 30 milligrams. Herbal teas have none.

A beverage high in antioxidants, with anticarcinogenic properties that may lower cholesterol levels, fight belly fat, speed up metabolism, stimulate your immune system, reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes and stall the activity of enzymes that wear down the elastin and collagen in your skin?

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Another Reason to Embrace Aerobic Exercise: It May Protect Vision

If you are lucky enough have normal vision, you may take healthy eyes for granted. But if you started wearing glasses early in life or recently learned you needed them, you may be more aware of and concerned about your eyes and vision.

As we age, protecting eyesight becomes more important than ever; that’s because with age comes vulnerability to degenerative eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Many people close to me are affected by this disease, and the heartbreak and difficulty I witness is distressing. It can strike virtually any of us. It’s tough to treat. And it can lead to severely impaired vision—or even blindness.

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, which is a small spot near the center of the retina; it’s the part of the eye that you need for sharp, central vision that allows you to see objects that are straight ahead.

In some people, AMD progresses slowly, and their vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the progression is faster and can lead to loss of vision in one or both eyes. Risk factors include smoking, race (it’s more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos) and family history (people with a family history of AMD are at higher risk).
Enough bad news. What’s the good news?
Researchers have found a link between AMD and some simple lifestyle choices, and you may be able to reduce your risk for AMD—or slow its progression—by making some healthy choices:
Avoid smoking
Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy veggies and fish
Exercise regularly

In fact, a recent study found that aerobic exercise could benefit your retinas. OK, the study was done on mice, and the image of mice running on treadmills might make you giggle. But when electrical activity of their retinas was measured, the mice that exercised showed two times greater function compared with the inactive mice. Even though their eyes were exposed to damaging bright light, the mice in the exercise group had twice as many healthy photoreceptors as did the inactive mice.

If you need more solid evidence, there were women who were studied in a different initiative, and evidence was found that maintaining a regimen of daily physical activity influenced long-term preservation of vision. It helps, too, to follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

I don’t know about you, but since there’s no cure for AMD, rather than feel helpless and frightened, I’m happy to empower myself as much as possible and fight to reduce my risk by going outside for a long walk, hitting the gym or taking my bike out for a spin.

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7 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Are you worried that Thanksgiving marks the start of an unhealthy month (or two)? Are you determined to make it different this year?

We’ve got some tips. While you might have heard some of these before, a reminder can only serve to help, don’t you think?  Sometimes it takes a while before it actually clicks.
But this year we’re offering up some new tips that you might not have run across before, like things you thought you couldn’t eat but can/should.
Here’s a short list to help you have a healthy Thanksgiving.

Eat breakfast. You might be tempted to save up all the calories for the “big meal,” but that usually backfires because you end up with an “I deserve it” mentality, which often leads to overdoing it. Instead, start your day with a filling, but healthy, breakfast like a bowl of hot oatmeal or whole-grain cereal or an egg-white omelet filled with vegetables and sprinkled with a little low-fat cheese. Most important: don’t show up for Thanksgiving hungry!

Be active. Most gyms are open Thanksgiving Day (at least, part of the day) and feature fun workouts. Working out early will not only give you the energy to get through a busy day, but it will lift your mood and rev up your metabolism. If you can’t get to a gym, try taking a walk. And there’s no shame in grabbing some of your Thanksgiving guests and insisting you walk off your turkey after dinner, either.

Eat whatever you want. Just eat less of it. There’s nothing worse than regretting never having tasted that homemade apple crisp that smells so good or not trying the pumpkin pie that you look forward to all year. Saying no to foods you love and won’t likely see for another year will only make you feel deprived and frustrated. Instead, have a plan: tell yourself that you will let yourself eat whatever you want, but that you’ll put just a small amount of that something(s) on your plate—and not take seconds.

By the way, go for a bit of chocolate, preferably the dark stuff. A German study that reported on chocolate’s health benefits also found that you need only consume about six grams a day—about the equivalent of one square of a chocolate bar—to reap the benefits, which include lowered blood pressure.

MORE: 5 Healthy Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Help out. Obviously, if it’s your house, that’s a given. But if you’re a guest this year, helping to clear the table and wash or dry some dishes will not only keep you from sitting too much, it’ll keep you from lingering at the table and picking at the leftover food.
MORE: Why You Might Not Want to Sit

Bring something. Yes, that’s a given, too: you’re unlikely to show up empty-handed. But here’s your opportunity to prepare a healthy dish in the event your host favors a heavy hand in the cooking department. For instance, bring your own version of sweet potatoes. Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa suggests baking yams in foil at 400 until the syrupy juice starts to seep out (usually about an hour), peeling and slicing them, then layering them with some pineapple slices and a bit of cinnamon.

Snack on some nuts. While there’s no guarantee your host will have them, consider bringing a nice assortment for before or after the meal. A new study has found that adults who ate a small handful of nuts (about a one-ounce serving) seven or more times a week were less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than those who didn’t eat nuts. Regularly eating nuts also reduced mortality risk for heart and respiratory disease and cancer.

Scope out the spread. Nutrition expert Kerri Glassman and cofounder of MommyCoach offers a good suggestion to people going to parties: Rather than jumping right in and filling your plate with all the goodies set out before you, take your time. Studies show that people eat more when they’re offered a greater variety of foods, she says. “By taking a tour of all the food first, you won’t fall into this trap,” says Glassman. This way, you can look at everything and decide what’s healthiest and what to put on your plate.

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Infection Detection: Yeast Beast or Something More Serious?

If it’s itchy down there, it must be a yeast infection, right? Wrong.

Before you run to the drugstore for an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-fungal treatment, you might want to re-evaluate your symptoms. An estimated 44 percent of women with a vaginal infection initially treat themselves with an OTC yeast infection medication when they actually have bacterial vaginosis (BV), a much more serious infection caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that occur naturally in the vagina.
Bacterial Vaginosis A-Z Guide
A yeast infection, on the other hand, is caused by an overgrowth of fungus that occur naturally in the vagina.
Yeast Infection A-Z Guide
In fact, the outward symptoms of many forms of vaginal infection are similar. Here’s a quick chart to help you detect whether it’s the yeast beast — or something more serious.

If your discharge is a milky gray-white, or if it’s accompanied by a fishy or foul odor, see your doctor right away. OTC yeast-infection medications are not an effective treatment for bacterial vaginal infections and, in fact, may be harmful if they delay proper treatment.

Untreated BV can lead to significant health complications, including premature delivery, postpartum infections, clinically apparent and subclinical pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), postsurgical complications (after abortion, hysterectomy, cesarean section and other reproductive procedures), increased vulnerability to HIVinfection and, possibly, infertility.

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Exercise and Diet Help Me Manage COPD Symptoms and Live a Healthier Life

I have emphysema, as well as chronic bronchitisand an asthma component. I smoked for 30 years and quit in 1992, mostly because I realized that I was organizing my entire day at work around when I could smoke. I decided that was pretty stupid, so I got the patches and quit. I had never tried to quit before; I had cut back occasionally, but I never really tried to quit until I actually did it.

When I quit, I was already having difficulty with my breathing. Going up stairs was very difficult and going up a lot of stairs (like at a concert or football game) was awful. When I quit smoking, I started exercising, mostly to see whether I had any lungs left and also to try to avoid the weight gain so many people often experience. I exercised religiously for about two and a half years, but then started getting respiratory infections that made it really difficult to exercise.

I went to my family doctor in 2000 because I was having trouble breathing. Walking any distance was hard, and going up stairs was something I avoided like the plague. I think I saw my basement maybe once a week if I was lucky.  My doctor diagnosed me with asthma and prescribed a couple of inhalers. One of them made me cough so hard that I went back for something different. He then prescribed a bronchodilator, an inhaled steroid and albuterol for rescue. At that point, I knew it was probably COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). I knew I had chronic bronchitis; every time I caught anything it went right to my chest.

Unfortunately, not exercising and feeling sorry for myself resulted in a significant weight gain over the next several years. In September 2002, my husband and I made a trip to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The altitude nearly did me in. Walking any distance was very difficult, showering was really hard and actually doing anything was really out of the question. I did manage to go on a float trip, but the effort required was incredible, and my inability to do much of anything was becoming very embarrassing for me.
When we got home, I promptly caught something and ended up in my doc’s office for my usual antibiotic, and he put me on oxygen, 24/7. I had an oxygen concentrator at home, a concentrator in my office and portable tanks for everything else.
Things continued to deteriorate. By February 2003, I was having trouble showering completely because breathing was so difficult, making the bed was a 20-minute activity requiring lots of resting, and I hadn’t been downstairs to the basement in weeks. One Sunday morning, I had to get out of the shower before I could rinse the shampoo out of my hair. The next morning, I knew I couldn’t shower at all.

I finally got dressed and on my way to work realized that I was in real trouble. I called my PCP and asked if he wanted me to go to his office or the ER. His staff told me to come to the office. We’d had a really wet snow the night before and then it froze solid; typical Iowa weather.  When I got to the clinic, I did something I had never done before; I parked in a handicapped parking place.
Between my oxygen tank, my purse and the struggle to get out of the car, I had to wait to catch my breath for a good three or four minutes before I dared to try to walk across the rutted driveway to the front door. When I finally got inside, I sort of collapsed on the sofa and just gasped catching my breath. The two ladies at the desk asked if I was all right, and, being really proud (and stupid), I gasped that I was fine.

My doctor’s nurse took one look at me and told me I was going to the hospital. I felt so rotten at that point I didn’t even argue.
I was on intravenous steroids and antibiotics and on 6L of oxygen at rest in bed. I’m an administrator and a manager, and my first question to my doc was, “How do I fix this?” He told me if I lost weight that would help both the COPD and my type 2 diabetes. He also made it pretty clear (I thought—he says he didn’t intend to give me this impression) that he didn’t think I would or could. He also made it clear that if I didn’t do something, life was going to continue to be a pretty scary experience.

He sent me home with oxygen 24/7, a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine for sleep apnea, inhalers, a nebulizer, all my meds for diabetes, and Lasix, because I was retaining lots of fluid in my legs especially. I was a mess.

Between being scared and being mad (powerful motivators, both!), I lost 100 pounds by February 2005. I talked with my doc about pulmonary rehab, but he didn’t think that what they offered at the local hospital would really help me.

He did give me permission and encouragement to begin exercising in April 2003. I started using the exercise bike I already had. When I first got on it, I could barely manage five minutes without being exhausted. I slowed down and went for time first. When I could manage 20 minutes at a time, I increased my speed, and within about six months was able to do five miles in 20 minutes. I added a treadmill in June. The first time I got on it, I managed about five minutes at a really slow speed. So I went for time and, when I got to 45 minutes, added speed and incline.

Between exercise and diet, I made a lot of progress. I gradually reduced my need for supplemental oxygen, going from needing it 24/7 to needing it only for sleep and exercise, then sleep only and, by January 2005, not needing it at all. I also stopped taking fluid-retention medication, reduced my diabetes medications and need only minimal medications for my COPD. A bonus for me: I ended up with a whole new wardrobe and a much healthier, more energetic life.

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Am I Having a Heart Attack?

I recently was enjoying dinner with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in many months. After catching up on our latest news—our jobs, our children, our husbands—we got around to that popular topic: health. It seems that ever since my group of friends has ventured into our 40s and 50s, the topic of our health inevitably pops up. Some of the most common topics? Sports injuries, menopausal symptoms, sleep or lack thereof, the need for reading glasses … you get my drift.

What I didn’t expect to hear was that my friend had recently spent a night in the hospital for observation after being taken by ambulance when she phoned 911 with chest pains. Her first thoughts were that the crushing pain she felt might be a pulled muscle (she had worked out that morning in the gym) or that it would pass.

She said she got up from her chair, tried walking around, then tried lying down. But the pain persisted. “I’m not an alarmist,” she told me, “but the pain was so intense— and frightening—that I thought I might be having aheart attack.” And since she was alone in her house, she was afraid she’d collapse and no one would ever know.

She was right to be concerned. Every 33 seconds, someone in the United States dies from heart disease. The Heart Foundation likens that statistic to being like the September 11th event repeating itself every 24 hours, 365 days a year. What’s more, this year more than 920,000 Americans will suffer a heart attack, nearly half of those occurring without prior symptoms or warning.
MORE: Heart Disease Guide

That’s concerning. When many of us think of heart disease and heart attacks, we may think of them as relating more to the male population. But it’s important, as women, to know these facts: Women count for more than half of those heart disease deaths each year, and deaths from heart attacks are six times greater than those from breast cancer each year.

What’s even more disturbing and frightening is that women are less likely than men to survive a heart attack (42 percent of women who have heart attacks die within a year, compared to 24 percent of men). Why this discrepancy? Perhaps one reason is that heart attack symptoms in women can be different than in men. As a result, women don’t seek help quickly enough. And time counts.
Symptoms of heart attack in women include:

Chest pain, pressure, tightness, heaviness or burning. Although these are the most common symptoms, many women never feel chest pain at all.
Pain or discomfort in the neck, shoulders, lower jaw, arms, upper back or abdomen.
Shortness of breath that lasts more than a few seconds.
Feeling lightheaded, dizzy or faint.
Breaking out in a cold sweat.
Feeling like your heart is either beating very fast or is out of rhythm.
Extreme fatigue.

MORE: High Smog Levels Tied to Serious Heart Problems

My friend is happy to know that she has a strong and healthy heart. Her doctor assured her that she did the right thing by calling 911. It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Too many heart attacks have occurred because women hesitated to reach out for help.

So, if it wasn’t a heart attack, what was it? My friend may never know. Her doctor’s educated guess is that it might have been related to a digestive problem. According to The Mayo Clinic, heartburn can include chest pain, as can a muscle spasm in your esophagus or the pain of a gallbladder attack. Health professionals caution, though, that you should call for help immediately if you get heartburn that seems worse or different than usual, especially if it occurs during exercise and is accompanied by sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness or pain traveling into your shoulders or arms.

Five Healthy Lessons We Can Learn from Our Dogs

When my beloved 15-year-old Bichon, Chloe, recently died, I naturally grieved. But as time passes, instead of getting easier, in some ways, it’s getting more difficult. Why? It’s not just her physical presence that I miss; it’s that deep and real emotional attachment and the continuous reminders of how to live life.

If you pay close attention, there are valuable – and healthy – lessons we can all learn from our dogs.
Forgiveness. Ignore your dog…scold them… cut their walk short… feed them stinky food…leave them with strangers when you go on vacation. Dogs hold no grudges; they simply move on. Healthy benefit: Living in the moment and letting go of negative feelings contributes to less stress, lower blood pressure and more happiness, which is a boost to your immune system.

Focus. When dogs have a job to do, they give that job their upmost attention. Throw a ball, and they’ll chase it – not remember mid-task that they have to go chew their bone instead. That can wait. And when they do finally chew that bone, they lie down and focus… just on that bone. Healthy benefit: Since it’s been found that multitasking is counter-productive – affecting your attention and memory – it makes sense that focusing on one task at a time will benefit you and make you feel calmer and more accomplished.

Nap. Dogs know when they need to rest – and they honor that need. They don’t ignore it because they have other things to do, or feel guilty about napping in the middle of the day. They get comfy, settle in, and sleep…deeply. Healthy benefit: Studies show that napping has a host of benefits, from lowering the risk of dying from heart disease to enhancing alertness and performance.

Stretch. Dogs rarely get up from a sitting position without stretching first – usually a series of deep, gentle and luxurious stretches, at that. Healthy benefit: Stretching not only relieves stress, it also keeps your body limber and improves muscle strength and flexibility.

Smile. Okay, maybe dogs don’t smile (although I swear mine did), but a wag of the tail is a reliable substitute for it. Dogs express themselves without hesitation or self-consciousness. Healthy benefit: Happy people have younger hearts and arteries, lower blood pressure and a longer life expectancy than unhappy folks; plus they’re better equipped to deal with pain and stress. Many experts say that the mere act of smiling results in making you feel happy, even if you weren’t before you turned the corners of your mouth upward.

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Don’t Hide From Breast Cancer

Ever since 1992 when the pink ribbon was adopted as the official symbol of Breast CancerAwareness Month, I can’t see the color pink without thinking about my own diagnosis, which started innocently enough in 1988 with a first-ever screening mammogramat the age of 34.

As you can probably imagine, I was both unprepared and shocked at this turn of events. Breast cancer was nowhere in my family. My mother, sister and grandmother—they were all alive and well and cancer-free, as were many female members of my family. I was relatively young and led a healthy life. I exercised, ate well and limited my alcohol intake to a few glasses of wine each week. I didn’t fit what I thought to be the “typical” profile of a woman with breast cancer.

But I’ve learned a lot since then from my job as a health writer, my own personal journey and the increasing public awareness of this disease. I’ve also read  innumerable articles on the subject.

I may know a lot, but I don’t know everything. Not even the most seasoned scientists do. Breast cancer prevention continues to be elusive. And though treatment options have certainly improved through the years, the death rate from the most common cancer among women in the United States (other than skin cancer) remains stubbornly high: the American Cancer Society estimates deaths from breast cancer to be about 39,620 each year. And many myths, misconceptions and fears persist.
Read: Breast Health Center

Before I go into them, may I make a personal plea? Please don’t think breast cancer only happens to other people and can’t happen to you. If you’re a female, it can happen (and, yes, even if you’re a male, you can get breast cancer). Being female, however, Â is your biggest risk factor.
True story: I knew a woman years ago who told me she never gets mammograms because she “just doesn’t want to know.” Hearing that was like a knife in my stomach. I begged her to get one, telling her my personal story. She refused. A few years later, I found out that she died—not from breast cancer, but from colon cancer. She had symptoms but ignored them out of fear.
Breast Cancer Dos and Don’ts

Don’t think that just because you have a lump, you have cancer. Most breast lumps—in fact, 8 out of 10—are not cancer.

Do get all lumps checked out by a doctor.
Don’t think that you’re too young to get breast cancer.
Do know that although breast cancer is more common in women over 50, it exists in younger women, too: about 13,100 cases will be diagnosed in women under age 40. And around 26,275 breast cancers occur in women under 45.
Don’t think that if you find a lump after a negative mammogram, it’s OK to ignore it.
Do contact your health care provider if the lump doesn’t go away. Mammograms can miss some cancers, especially if they’re in difficult areas to see (for instance, near your armpit) or in dense breasts. You may need imaging with an MRI or ultrasound or another mammogram.

More: Breast Cancer: 10 Common Misconceptions

Don’t think that just because the lump is painful, it can’t be breast cancer.
Do realize that although most breast cancers are not painful, having pain does not mean you’re cancer-free. A type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer can be painful; its early symptoms can include a red, swollen, warm and tender breast.

Don’t assume that you can’t get breast cancer while you’re breast-feeding.

Do get the lump checked out. Yes, breast-feeding might reduce your risk, but you can still get breast cancer while you are nursing.

Don’t think that just because there’s no breast cancer in your family, you won’t get it.
Do know the facts: According to the American Cancer Society, only about 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary. Over 85 percent of women who get diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history at all.

Don’t assume that a small lump is less likely to be cancer than a large lump.
Do get any lump checked, regardless of size. Size doesn’t affect the odds that it is cancer; even a tiny lump can be an aggressive cancer.

Do your best not to gain a lot of weight after menopause. Fat tissue produces estrogen, and having more fat tissue after menopause can increase your risk by raising estrogen levels. Overweight women also tend to have higher levels of insulin, which has been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.

Do remain physically active (or if you’re not, it’s not too late to start). Growing evidence points to the link between physical activity and reduced breast cancer risk. As little as 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking can reduce risk by as much as 18 percent, according to a study from the Women’s Health Initiative.

Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer Remains Difficult

Ovarian cancer is a complex and rapidly progressive disease that affects a relatively small percentage of women but has poor survival rates. In the United States, the number of deaths attributed to ovarian cancer is about the same as that of all other gynecologic malignancies combined.
Unfortunately, the majority (75 percent) of women diagnosed with ovarian carcinoma continue to have advanced stage disease (Stage III/ IV), with widespread metastases throughout the peritoneal cavity, lymph nodes, liver or lungs. Presently less than 20 percent of women with ovarian cancers are detected when the cancer is still confined to the ovary (Stage I).

Despite advances in surgical techniques and new biologic-based chemotherapy, the mortality rates of women with ovarian cancer remain poor. Women who are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease have five-year survival rates that range from 0 to 45 percent. However, those women diagnosed with early stage disease (Stages I to II) require less radical operations, have much less surgical morbidity, may not require adjuvantchemotherapy and have five-year survival rates approximating 90 percent. Therefore, tools and techniques that would allow the paradigm shift from the detection of advanced to early stage ovarian cancer would greatly improve women’s health care.

Currently available tests should not be used as a screening modality for healthy women without risk factors for ovarian cancer. However, as was recently pointed out by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the Society for Gynecologic Oncology, this recommendation does not apply to those women deemed to be at high risk for ovarian cancer.

In 1999, as part of the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Network, The Mount Sinai Hospital established the National Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program, which has now been renamed theVOICE Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment Program. This program was created for women at increased risk for the development of ovarian cancer by combininggenetics, gynecologic oncology, diagnostic imaging, psychology and molecular biology to optimize women’s health care. Women at risk include those with a personal history of breast, ovarian, colon cancer or a family history of these and other malignancies, all of which may have a genetic basis for inherited cancer.

The past and present challenge of screening for cancer is to affect survival, therefore we need tools that detect early rather than advanced stage disease; that is, before the disease is lethal. In the high-risk population, we identify women at risk before they develop cancer and offer prevention via prophylactic operations. Unfortunately, to date no clinically validated blood test(s) or imaging studies exist that allow us to detect early stage ovarian cancer.

The Society of Gynecologic Oncology agrees with the USPS task force recommendation not to screen low-risk women for ovarian cancer due to the limitations of our current medical technology. Once we have clinically validated tests that allow the detection of early rather than late-stage ovarian cancer, screening will have value and save women’s lives.

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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Independence Day Brought a Second Chance to Woman Living With Chronic Migraine

 Meet Indianapolis resident Dana Hartman, a winner of the Rewrite Your Day contest, which is giving 15 people living with chronic migraine the chance to work with celebrity event planner Mindy Weiss to re-create a special moment lost to the condition.

I’ve lived with migraines since the age of 16, but two years ago I was officially diagnosed with chronic migraine, a condition that causes me to experience at least 15 headache days or more each month, with headache lasting four hours or more. I have not been able to enjoy many special moments due to chronic migraine, including birthday parties and family gatherings. Last year, I missed my family’s annual July Fourth party due to a migraine, which was especially heartbreaking since it was our first Independence Day without my wonderful father-in-law who passed away earlier that year.

My father-in-law loved holidays with our family, especially when cooking and fireworks were involved, so Independence Day ranked high on his list. I wanted this first July Fourth without him to not feel sad for my young daughter, husband and extended family. I was focused on celebrating the day, which we decided would include a family party where we could eat, play and share memories of the great times we had with Dad.

Unfortunately, I awoke that morning to a fuzzy, sleepy feeling, which typically signals to me that a migraine is about to hit. The symptoms started quickly—neck pain, nausea, stabbing pain in my head. I could barely lift myself off the couch, so my husband ultimately decided to go to the party without me, taking our daughter along to play by the lake and watch the fireworks show. I was so disappointed I couldn’t be there to support my husband and his family and take joy in my child enjoying a summer holiday that she’ll remember nostalgically when she is older, though I won’t be part of that memory due to chronic migraine.

I am now working with a headache specialist to manage my condition. I am hopeful that together we will be able to find a treatment plan that works for me. I urge anyone who is living with chronic migraine to find a specialist who can help diagnose and manage their condition. Help is available; you just need to take the first step.

Dana’s Re-creation

Although I can never get back last July Fourth, I am thrilled I was given the chance to re-create that day thanks to celebrity event planner Mindy Weiss and the Rewrite Your Day campaign. Mindy helped plan a festive red, white and blue celebration that would have made my father-in-law proud. I was especially excited to see how enamored my daughter was by all the festive décor and delicious food, and I feel fortunate that I am now part of new July Fourth memories for her.

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