Friday, June 23, 2017

Got a Sweet Tooth? These Healthy Treats Will Hit the Spot

If sugar is your vice, don’t worryyou’re not alone. I myself have quite the sweet tooth. But throughout the years I’ve learned how to work with my cravings, not against them. What I’ve come to discover is that you’re never going to stop craving sugar. Thus, the next best thing you can do is give into your natural desires by treating yourself to one of these healthy treats.   

Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds

The beauty of dark chocolate covered almonds is that they satisfy two cravings: a craving for sugar and a craving for carbs. But this convenient little snack also does wonders for the body. According to Michigan Medicine, dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants that protect against free radicals.  Meanwhile, almonds contain high levels of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and protein. Almonds also contain healthy unsaturated fats.

Popsicles

This one’s tricky because if you’re not careful, you can end up consuming a frozen treat that’s just as unhealthy as ice cream. When I say popsicles, I’m talking it has to be made with real fruitnone of that high fructose corn syrup crap. I highly recommend Outshine bars.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

I’m a huge fan of smoothies, not only because they’re delicious, but also because they’re just so darn easy to make. This chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie is my go-to when I’m craving something sweet. Here are the ingredients that I use:
  •  Peanut butter powder
  • Cacao powder
  •  Bananas
  •  Ice
  •  Milk (I use soy milk since I have a dairy allergy)
If you end up trying this recipe, please let me know how you like it. I’d also be curious to know if any of these snacks have helped you curb your sweet tooth. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Health and Business Execs Make the Case for NIH Funding

A chalkboard message that reads, "Invest in your health."
Photo credit: Shutterstock
At a time when the White House has been flirting with the idea of slashing billions from the budget of the National Institutes of Health, a group of executives, government officials, and academic leaders recently went to Washington, D.C. to make the case for the NIH’s continued funding.

The meeting, organized by General Atlantic CEO William E. Ford, involved 27 people, including NIH Director Francis Collins, Vice President Mike Pence, nine White House officials, and a cadre of top names in the academic and biotech worlds.

In case you’re not familiar with what the NIH does, it’s basically the largest biomedical research agency in the world. Its team of scientists does research on treating and preventing chronic diseases, curing infectious diseases, using new medical technologies to promote wellness, and healthy aging. The agency also provides grants to researchers at universities and other academic institutions. In other words, the NIH is a pretty important part of the U.S. health infrastructure.

Although Congress granted the NIH a $34 billion budget for 2017, Trump’s proposed “skinny budget” for the fiscal year 2018 (which begins in October 2017) reduces the NIH’s budget by $5.8 billion.

The point the White House visitors were trying to make is that private investment is not an adequate substitute for the NIH’s support for research at colleges and universities. They also said the odds of winning NIH funding for that research are getting slimmer and slimmer because the organization’s budget has stayed flat for years.

The group worries that Trump’s immigration policies are making it harder to recruit foreign scientists as well. University of Texas heart disease researcher Helen Hobbs said her Chinese postdocs are now taking jobs in China rather than staying in the U.S.

“Federal support for fundamental science in academia is the driver of national innovation, leading to new medicines that improve quality of life and longevity and make major contributions to job and economic growth,” said Stanford University President Richard P. Lifton. “Biotechnology took off in this country because of U.S. leadership in federal support for science. Our system is the envy of the world.”

Collins tried to drive the point home by noting how funding the NIH will check two boxes on Trump’s priority list: jobs and the healthcare budget.

Their tag-team approach may have had the desired effect. According to Ford, the two-hour meeting went well. “The members of the new administration we met with were very receptive to our message, and I’m confident that a productive dialogue has begun,” he said.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative President of Science Cori Bargmann agreed. “The message in the room was heard loud and clear: We need the NIH! And we need it now more than ever,” she wrote in a Facebook post just after the meeting.

People may have emerged from the meeting optimistic, but nobody talked about the elephant in the room—the proposed cuts to NIH’s 2018 budget.

Are the NIH’s funding prospects going to improve because of the meeting?  “I think time will tell,” Collins said.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Signs That a Loved One May Commit Suicide

A man pointing a gun at his head.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,193 Americans commit suicide
every year, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. If you’re worried that someone close to you may commit suicide, please check to see if they exhibit any of the following warning signs:
  • Withdrawal from social activities, including reduced contact with friends and family members.
  •  Missing school or work.
  •  An increase in drug or alcohol use.
  •  Sleeping either too much or too little.
  •  Little to no physical activity (e.g. laying in bed all day).
  •  Giving away possessions.
  •  Displaced aggression.
  •  Mood swings.
  •  Talks about suicide.
According to Mental Health America, 80% of people who contemplate suicide show signs of their intentions. But do keep in mind that this is not a one-size-fits-all checklist, meaning that your loved one may only exhibit one of these signs or they may exhibit none of these signs, which brings me to my next point.

If you have an inexplicable feeling that something is wronga gut feeling as some may call ittrust it. Reach out to your loved one and check in on how they’re doing. There’s a good chance that the simple act of reaching out and showing that you care can save that person’s life.

Along that same note, I want to talk about how to properly respond to someone who is contemplating suicide. This person may be direct about their intentions (e.g. “I want to kill myself”) or indirect (e.g. “I hate my life and I wish I’d never been born”). Both comments should be taken seriously.   

Whatever you do, do notI repeat: do notrespond with cynicism or judgment. Statements such as, “you’re being over dramatic” or “you’ll be fine, toughen up” will only push the person more towards suicide. Instead, respond with statements such as, “I’m here for you, you are not alone” or “I care a lot about you and I want to help you in any way that I can.”

To learn more about what you can do to prevent your loved one from committing suicide, visit helpguide.org.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Connection Between Skin and Stress

A young, distressed Asian woman squeezing a pimple on her chin.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
We’ve all been there. It’s right before a wedding, right before a big presentation. It’s right before some huge event and your skin is freaking the hell out. You were fine just a couple weeks ago, but now your face is covered in red spots, pimples, and maybe even a little rash.

Despite the fact that most of us have experienced this phenomenon, studies show that the majority of Americans do not believe that stress has any connection to skin. But that’s all changing, thanks to a new field called psychodermatology.

“Psychodermatology practitioners treat skin the way a psychotherapist treats behaviorby learning how it responds to emotional and environmental stressors and helping to moderate those responses,” says Ted Grossbart, Ph.D.The more we learn about how much emotional and psychological states influence our physical states, and vice versa, the more the line blurs between these categories.”

This revolutionary new medical field is more important given the fact that stress levels are on the rise in the U.S. Yep, that’s right, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), average stress levels in the U.S. increased from 4.9 in 2014 to 5.1 in 2015. And that’s on a 10-point scale.

"The common dermatological issues that have been documented to be made worse by stress include acne, rosacea, psoriasis, itching, eczema, pain and hives, just to name a few," says Rick Fried, MD, PhD.

So what can you do to protect your skin in times of stress?

It’s simple: set some time aside to take care of your mental/emotional well being. A lot of people find yoga to do the trick. Others find going on a walk helps them decompress. And yet others will find that simply allowing themselves to kick back, relax, and watch some TV gives them some much-needed relaxation.

But whichever method you choose, make sure that you combine your relaxation ritual with a healthy diet, exercise, and 7-8 hours of sleep each night.   

Friday, April 28, 2017

I’m Calling Out Whole Foods For What It Is: Deceptive

A picture of a Whole Foods Market sign.
Photo credit: Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock
You know, for being such a health guru, one would think that I would be in love with Whole Foods… but I’m not. As a matter of fact, I hate Whole Foods.

I sincerely believe that Whole Foods rips people off. Their prices are exorbitant only because they’re selling this idea of “designer food.” It’s where all the cool kids shop—you know—all the Pilates instructors, fitness trainers, naturopaths, etc.

They do an excellent job of marketing themselves as a top-notch health food source. Except, a lot of their products aren’t even healthy…

Take, for example, their 365 Chocolate Sandwich Cremes. In reality, this is nothing more than a glorified Oreo. In fact, when compared side-by-side, they have nearly the same amount of sugar.

And these kinds of hypocrisies are all over the place! There’s the Nature’s Path Mmmapple Brown Sugar pastries (the equivalent of Poptarts), the Whole Foods Two-Bite Cinnamon Rolls that are loaded with sugar, the 365 Cheese Curls (a knock-off of Cheetos), the Glutino Milk Chocolate Coated Wafers, and the list goes on and on.

Sure, some of these products may be made with organic ingredients, but at the end of the day, it’s all overly processed junk food. And people are buying into this!

Don’t fall for the marketing folks, because at the end of the day, that’s all that it is. It’s all one big, fat corporate lie that’s being used to make money off of you.

And if you still don’t believe me, consider this: back in March of 2016, Whole Foods was selling peeled oranges in plastic containers. Twitter user Nathalie Gordon said it best, “If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn’t need to waste so much plastic on them.”

So here’s what I propose instead: go to a grocery store with affordable prices and stock up on fruits, veggies, meats, nuts, and seeds. Your waistline and your wallet will thank you for it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Study Shows that Tea Helps Prevent Dementia

A photo of a cup of tea.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
According to a study from NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in China, drinking tea can help elderly individuals reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Based on a study of almost 1,000 Chinese aged 55 and older, researchers found that drinking tea daily can reduce cognitive decay by as much as 50%. What's more is that cognitive decay can be reduced by as much as 86% for people with genetic predispositions towards Alzheimer’s.
Researchers began the study in 2003 and followed up every two years until 2010. Though there has been a lot of research and drug trials, effective therapies for cognitive decline have been difficult to develop so far. The hope is that this study will help researchers develop a new drug that can be used to either prevent or reverse the effects of cognitive decay. 
The more we learn about Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders, the better we’ll come to understand the human brain. That could also help us to develop ways to better understand developmental issues that arise in younger people as well. 
While cognitive decline is generally a problem faced by older people, children can face a variety of cognitive impairments, too. There's even evidence to suggest that since the bioactive ingredients of tea aid healthy brain development, tea can provide cognitive benefits to children as well.
The issue of giving kids caffeine at an early age could be problematic, but this is a situation in which the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Plus, the amount of caffeine present in tea isn't nearly as high as the amount of caffeine in coffee. In fact, in many parts of the world, it's not uncommon for children as young as five to drink tea.
Either which way you look at it, this is a pretty safe and low-cost alternative to modern medicine. Better yet, there are little to no risks associated with drinking tea, so those who want to try it don't have much to lose. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

If You Can’t Find the Motivation to Workout, Maybe You’re Just Not a Gym Person

A woman at the gym struggles to finish her workout. She is exhausted and unmotivated.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
I have a confession to make: for all the time I spend touting about fitness, I hardly ever go to the gym. And for the longest time I felt guilty about that. But what I’ve come to discover is that there is more than one way to get fit.

If you’re anything like me, you can’t stand the mundane feel of a gym. There’s nothing exciting about elliptical machines, treadmills, and weight lifting equipment. On top of that, the lighting is unflattering and the whole place smells kind of funky. I’d much rather be outdoors, surrounded by nature’s beauty.

It took me the longest time to come to terms with the fact that I’m more of a hiking, biking, kayaking, rock climbing kind of girl. As a society, we are so inundated with images of gym-fit bodies that we tend to exclusively associate the two. Athletes use them. Doctors are always advocating for them. Don’t all healthy people go the gym?

Not necessarily. Being healthy is more than just physical wellbeing; it’s about spiritual, mental, and emotional wellbeing, too. That’s why you have to discover what makes YOU feel inspired and fulfilled.  

As I said before, for me it’s about being in nature. There’s nothing I love more than a scenic walk. But for others, it might be about joining a sports team. It might be about taking a yoga class. It might be that you love animals and want to volunteer at the local animal shelter and take the dogs for a walk. Different strokes for different folks.

If you feel like you literally have to drag yourself to the gym every day, there’s a pretty good chance it’s because that type of an environment doesn’t align with your personality. Do yourself a favor and find an exercise routine that leaves you feeling motivated, energetic, and refreshed.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Brief Introduction to Sleepwalking

A young boy sleepwalking on a roof.
Image credit: Shutterstock
Following along last week’s theme of sleep disorders, this week I want to talk about sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism. Even though somnambulism is mostly associated with children, readers should know that adults sleepwalk, too.

While researchers still aren’t sure exactly what causes somnambulism, a recent study points towards genetics as a possible culprit. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that children who had one parent with a history of sleepwalking were three times more likely to have the disorder. Even more revealing is that children whose parents both had a history of sleepwalking were seven times more likely to have the disorder.

But whatever the cause, there are things you should know about the disorder that can make living with it that much easier. Namely, you should know that it can be incredibly dangerous and/or embarrassing, depending on the situation.

For example, young children often wander outside during this state. Older children and adults may attempt to cook in their sleep. In rare cases, some adults even get into their cars and drive.

On the more embarrassing side of things, some sleepwalkers may expose themselves or act out sexual activities. It’s also quite common for those afflicted with the disorder to mistakenly use the bathroom in the wrong place (ex: urinating into a trashcan).

But readers should also know that despite urban legend, waking up a sleepwalker will not kill them. However, those who do attempt to wake a sleepwalker should exercise caution. Upon waking, many sleepwalkers are highly confused and may become violent.

That’s why those who have the condition should take proper precautions to protect themselves. For example, setting an alarm or bell on the door can help wake the sleepwalker should he/she wander outside. Additionally, keeping locks on all windows and doors is an absolute must. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to store any and all sharp/dangerous objects in a safe place.

As always, I’m no expert in this field and I encourage you to visit the National Sleep Foundation's website for more information. I personally find the disorder quite fascinating and I’d love to hear about your experiences with it!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea

A man sleeping with a breathing apparatus on.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Happy Friday, everyone! Today’s topic is sleep apnea.

The first thing I need you to know is that sleep apnea is a life-threatening medical condition. Yep, you heard me right. You can actually die from it.

I’m not telling you that to scare you; I’m telling you that so that you’ll take the condition seriously and seek medical help. If you think you might have sleep apnea, check to see if you have any of the following signs and symptoms:

·      Snoring
·      Choking or gasping for air
·      Daytime drowsiness
·      Waking up with a headache
·      Trouble concentrating
·      Mood swings
·      Frequently waking up at night
·      Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking

Please note that just because you may have one or two of the above symptoms doesn’t mean you have sleep apnea. For example, you may snore and you may also experience drowsiness during the day, but that can be related to a completely different condition. With that being said, these signs and symptoms should be treated as a general guideline and not a medical diagnosis. Please consult with a doctor if you suspect that you have this condition.

Now, should you choose to book an appointment with a doctor, you should know that he or she may recommend that you undergo a sleep study (also known as a polysomnogram). During this procedure, you will be hooked up to censors that monitor your heart rate, breathing, muscle movements, and brain waves. And don’t worry; you’re put into your private room with a bed. It’s a relaxing atmosphere that should curb any anxiety that you may have.

As far as treatments go, there are several different options available. The most common is called a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP). A CPAP is a mask that helps the body regulate breathing. Other options include dental devices that open the airways. There’s also a hypoglossal nerve stimulator that can help reposition the tongue and adjust breathing patterns.

If you want to learn more about this topic, I encourage you to visit the Sleep Foundation’s website at https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/sleep-apnea-treatment. Remember, your health comes first and foremost, so please make it a priority to get this taken care of.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

5 Options for Getting Rid of Varicose/Spider Veins


A woman who has varicose veins on her legs.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Although similar, varicose veins and spider veins are slightly different. Varicose veins are often considered the more unsightly of the two only because they bulge. Spider veins, on the other hand, are smooth to the touch. They are red, purple, or bluish veins that branch out almost like a tree. Neither one of them are particularly attractive, which is why I wanted to offer some solutions for getting rid of them. 

But before I go through my list of treatment options, I wanted to talk a little bit about the cause of varicose/spider veins. Lack of blood circulation is mostly to blame. Malfunctioning valves cause blood to flow backwards into the vein, which results in vein enlargement and discoloration. Fortunately, there are solutions available.

1. Exercise

If you catch it early enough, you may be able to prevent these veins from forming by getting plenty of exercise. Cardio in particular helps improve blood flow circulation, which can help alleviate some of the aches and cramps that are associated with malfunctioning valves.

2. Sclerotherapy

This is only an option for spider veins and small varicose veins. The procedure involves injecting a small amount of sclerosing solution into the vein. This causes the lining of the vein to seal shut, which eradicates the vein.

3. Ambulatory Phlebectomy

The best part about ambulatory phlebectomy is that it is minimally invasive and doesn’t require any stitches. Doctors put patients undergo local anesthesia and remove the veins through tiny slit-like incisions.  

4. Endovenous laser treatment 

This is by far the quickest of all the treatment options as it can be performed in less than an hour. A laser is used to close the vein entirely. Don’t worry, this doesn't pose any health risks. Blood is simply rerouted through other, healthier veins. 

5. Compression therapy

In addition to exercise, using a pump or getting massages can help stimulate blood flow in the affected area. Although it is one of the cheaper solutions, it’s not the most effective.
I hope this helps any of you out there who are struggling with this issue. 

Trust me, I feel your pain! I have some spider veins forming in my legs. I’m writing this post because I’m looking into treatment options myself!


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