Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Less than 3%

There are really only a few basic habits we know should help keep people healthy: eating well, exercising, avoiding smoking, and keeping body fat in check.

Turns out a shockingly tiny number — just 2.7 percent — of Americans actually manage all four habits, according to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The research, led by Paul Loprinzi of the University of Mississippi, used data about the lifestyles of nearly 5,000 US adults from the 2003 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. (That’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biggest national health survey.)

The researchers zeroed in on information about exercise (whether people got 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly based on accelerometer data) and smoking status (measured by blood levels of cotinine, a biomarker for tobacco exposure). As for eating habits, the researchers looked at self-reported 24-hour recall data about diet and used the Healthy Eating Index score (an indicator of diet quality that takes into account how many fruits and vegetables people eat, as well as meat, beans, oil, saturated fat, alcohol, and sodium). To evaluate physical fitness, they also looked at body fat percentage.

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The researchers also looked at how these behaviors corresponded with biomarkers related to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, including cholesterol and fasting glucose.

The findings were stark.

Only about 38 percent of Americans surveyed had a healthy diet, just 10 percent had a normal body fat level, and fewer than half (47 percent) were sufficiently active. On the upside: 70 percent of adults reported themselves as nonsmokers. But overall, fewer than 3 percent of Americans managed all four healthy lifestyle behaviors. Eleven percent had none.

Generally, the researchers also found, people who had three or four of these behaviors had better biomarker measures compared with those who managed none.

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This new research should be a reminder of how difficult behavior change is, and how addressing society’s obesity challenge is going to take more than simply telling people to eat better and exercise more.

From VOX, read post here

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Have You Built a Quit Plan? | Smokefree.gov

Planning ahead improves your chances of quitting smoking for good. Follow these steps to create your own individual quit plan.

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Source: Have You Built a Quit Plan? | Smokefree.gov

An Awesome Way to Reduce Stress

Experiencing awe — through music, art, religion, or nature — can reduce inflammation and the risk for depression.

The feeling of awe that a beautiful sunset or painting can inspire does more than make you feel good. When we experience awe or wonder, levels of inflammation in our body are lowered, which can be important to the body in several ways.

UC Berkeley researchers asked over 200 people to report the kinds of emotions they’d experienced throughout the day. Then the researchers swabbed the inside of participants’ mouths and used these skin cells to measure levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a key marker of inflammation.

Those participants who’d experienced positive emotions like awe, amazement, and wonder that day — perhaps by seeing a beautiful sight in nature or hearing a beautiful piece of music — had the lowest levels of IL-6. It’s not clear whether the awe caused the people’s IL-6 levels to go down or whether there’s another type of relationship at work, but the results are intriguing.

See full article here…

quitSTART | Smokefree.gov

quitSTART is a fun, free app with tips to help you quit smoking: Distract yourself from cravings with games and challenges; earn badges for smokefree milestones; share your progress with your friends

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Source: quitSTART | Smokefree.gov

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October is National Spinal Health Month

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6 Foods to Eat for a Younger Heart

Adapted from Everyday Health, click here for the original article.

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According to CDC data, nearly three out of four U.S. adults have a predicted heart age that is older than their actual age, placing them at higher risk for heart attacks and stroke. (You can find out your own heart age by using the calculator on the CDC website.)

Everyone can benefit from a heart-healthy diet, but if you’re among the 70 percent of the population with an accelerated heart age, the payoff is even greater. While diet doesn’t directly factor into the new calculator, it can affect many of the indicators that do.

A diet aimed at prevention should be built on a foundation of nutrient-dense, low-sodium foods: vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, and fish.

Six Eating Habits That Can Boost Heart Health

That sounds well and good, but putting this general advice into practice can be overwhelming, especially if it’s a big shift from your current meal and snack patterns. To ease the transition, you can break up heart-healthy guidelines into smaller goals and tackle one or two changes at a time. Here are six eating habits that can make a big difference and help to reverse the clock on your aging heart.

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  • Swap one of your daily snacks for a handful of nuts. From almonds and pistachios to walnuts and peanuts, all nuts are heart-healthy choices, so choose your favorites. Stick to unsalted, though.
  • Serve at least one cup of vegetables and/or fruit with every meal. Produce is naturally low in sodium, and it’s rich in fiber, potassium, and other nutrients that may help to lower blood pressure. Squeeze in extra servings as snacks, such as berries with plain yogurt or baby carrots with hummus.
  • Put fish on the menu twice a week. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and Arctic char are best bets, but some seafood is better than no seafood, so if you prefer milder, flaky white fish or shellfish, those are fine choices, too. Fish fillets cook in less than 10 minutes, so they’re a smart entree choice for speedy weeknight meals.
  • Make the majority of your grains whole. Whole-grain bread, crackers, pasta, and breakfast cereals made from whole-grain flours are convenient choices to keep on hand. Intact and minimally processed grains, such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, popcorn, and bulgur wheat may offer even more benefits because they are digested slowly, producing a lower glycemic response.
  • Eat beans or lentils at least three times per week. Plant-based proteins are a nutrient-rich substitute for processed and red meats, which may increase heart disease risk factors. Combine canned, low-sodium beans with whole-grain pasta and roasted or sauteed vegetables for a simple meal that hits on three of the heart-healthy food groups listed here. Or, serve a side of seasoned beans in place of rice, pasta, or potatoes.
  • Cook more meals at home using whole foods. Seventy-five percent of the salt in our diet comes from processed and restaurant foods, so preparing more meals from scratch is hands down the most strategic way to reduce sodium. Minimize the salt you add to recipes and use fresh or dried herbs, vinegar, and citrus juices to build flavor.

Good Posture: A Stance for Better Health

Healthy posture is important for your well-being, but achieving it can be an uphill battle in a high-tech, high-heeled world, experts say.

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“People who have better posture tend to appear more confident and knowledgeable to others. It makes them feel confident internally as well,” said Alynn Kakuk, a physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program in Rochester, Minn.

Simple exercises and stretching can help your posture, she said.

One way to practice healthy posture is to stand with your upper back, shoulders and bottom touching the wall, with your feet a couple of inches away from the wall, she said in a Mayo news release.

There should be a slight space between your lower back and the wall, just large enough to fit your hands. Then, step away from the wall and try to see if you can maintain that posture.

It’s also important to remember that strengthening your muscles will make it easier for you to maintain that healthy posture, Kakuk noted.

Frequent use of cellphones and keyboards can sabotage posture and place stress on the upper back and neck, leading to rounded shoulders and a lowered head. Try to keep your cellphone at eye level so that you’re not bending forward, she suggested. Also, do exercises that strengthen your upper back and shoulders, such as chest exercises that strengthen your pectoral muscles and diaphragm-centered breathing techniques that release tension, she added.

Kakuk said maintaining good posture can help you walk, sit, stand and lie in positions that cause the least stress on your muscles and ligaments.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, September 2015

Click here for a handout: Good posture and spinal rolls