Julie Bain

Lady in Red: A Symbol of Hope

September 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm , by

Last night our new LHJ editorial intern Carisa McLaughlin headed downtown to meet some ladies in red gathered to empower women to put their health first. Here’s her report:

The American Heart Association’s campaign Go Red For Women, along with actress Elizabeth Banks, created a film entitled Just a Little Heart Attack in order to warn women that heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women.

At the premiere event, there were six courageous women who spoke about their firsthand experiences with heart disease. They varied in age and race and all had unique and touching anecdotes to share. I couldn’t believe one woman’s story. Only 40 years old, she was in the middle of what she said was the best date she’d had in a long time when she thought she was having first-date jitters. Turned out, though, she was actually having a stroke! Yes, it happens. All the special guests there, including Elizabeth Banks (who has a family history of heart disease), expressed how they’ve made it their mission to share what they’ve learned about heart disease with at least five other women. Pass it on!

In the short film directed by and starring Banks, we get a glimpse of a mother’s typical morning ritual—getting ready for work while also rounding up her kids for school and helping out her husband. But the day quickly turns sour as she’s faced with a frightening situation. You can watch Banks’ surprisingly funny film below. But remember that heart disease is no joke.

6 Weeks to a Younger You: Week 6

September 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm , by

Welcome to the final segment of our “6 Weeks to a Younger You” plan. This week is about finding your balance—literally and figuratively.

First, the literal. Your equilibrium starts to dwindle as you get more, ahem, mature. And that can lead to falls and fractures later—which can really affect the quality of your life and make you feel old. You can train yourself to have better balance by practicing it. Yoga classes are great for that, of course. Amelia and I are testing out our yoga Tree Pose,  right, and bending in the wind, as young trees do to weather storms. If you don’t want to be a tree, just practice balancing on one foot while you’re in line at the grocery store or brushing your teeth at the sink. Do it every day on both legs and you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll get at it with practice.

Now the figurative.
Too often we go to extremes. We eat too much junk, then decide to starve ourselves in penance. We skip exercise all week because it’s humid and rainy, then go crazy on the weekend and end up with sore muscles or an injury. Balance is better.

That means eating healthy meals and not snacking all day long. You may have heard it’s healthy to eat several smalls meals throughout the day. But studies show that if you never give your digestive system a break, your body may not have time to remove damaged cells and toxic stuff that accumulates. And that can make you more vulnerable to diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Four to six hours between meals is optimal.

Regular exercise is key, too, not just for your body but also for your brain. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week for three months increases the part of your brain you use for short-term memory. Yes, regular brisk walks may actually improve your memory! For more details, read our interview with our favorite memory expert and neurologist Majid Fotuhi, M.D. here.

You need to balance your spirit, too. Are you a “doom and gloom” personality type? Studies show that Type D’s, as they’re called, have a higher risk of heart disease and are more likely to die from it, too. You can help yourself become a more relaxed type, like young trees that bend in the wind (see us above, hint, hint!), by practicing yoga or meditation, and getting more exercise, which is guaranteed to lift your spirits.

Woo-hoo to a younger (more balanced) you!

Photo by Cassandra Tucker

6 Weeks to a Younger You: Week 4

August 31, 2011 at 7:05 am , by

Weights 3Do you feel younger yet? We’re in week four of our six-week push to a younger you, and we have weighty matters to discuss!

In previous weeks, we’ve been challenging ourselves to move more by measuring our steps with a pedometer and getting our heart rate up with some interval training. That’s great, but we’ve got to add in some resistance exercise to keep our bones strong and build lean muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn!

That’s why I keep these six-pound hand weights in my bedroom. I can do my bicep curls and squats while watching how well the new celebs cha-cha and samba on this season’s Dancing With the Stars. (I’ll be rooting for Chaz Bono, and let’s face it: he needs to shape up a little.) Or I can go out on my terrace in the gorgeous morning light and knock out three reps of 10s before the coffee has dripped. Join me! See four easy exercises here.

You know when celebrities shape up for an action movie and talk about their regimen? They always say they cut back on carbs and pump up the lean protein. A lot of women normally do the opposite. This week, try to get some protein at every meal. That could be eggs or Greek yogurt for breakfast, a big salad with  chicken or tofu and a sprinkle of cheese for lunch and some lovely grilled fish for dinner, for example. If you’re vegetarian, it can be harder to get enough, so you should pay even more attention to your  intake. Try to eat 120 to 140 grams of protein a day. Here’s a good chart to help you figure out how to get there.

We’re still cleaning up here in the Northeast from hurricane Irene, and almost everyone I know is sleep deprived right now. You may be, too, even if your weather has been perfect. Most American women don’t get nearly enough shut-eye to keep their brains in good working order. Make it a priority this week. Wind down early, avoid caffeine and alcohol, keep the room cool and dark and aim for at least seven hours. I co-wrote a sleep book just for women (with author Ellen Michaud; you can  buy it here). It’s full of great tips—best book I’ve ever read on the subject!

Ladies’ Home Journal truly believes in the power of doing good. Turns out, if you help others, it makes you feel younger, too! We have lots of good resources to get you started. Cheers to a younger you!

Photo by Stella Capuano

6 Weeks to a Younger You: Week 3

August 24, 2011 at 11:28 am , by

gummy bearsHow did you do on your week 2 assignments? Did you give meditation a try? Or get your blood pressure checked? Hope you at least put on your sunscreen and took your vitamin D. Those are easy!

But the homework gets harder this week with two assignments that I know I need to work on: getting my heart rate up and eating less sugar.

Remember step aerobics classes? I think they went the way of shiny Spandex around the turn of the millennium, but they had the right idea: to get your heart rate up without causing joint pain from pounding the pavement. I kind of miss them. I’m lucky that I live and work in New York City, so I walk a lot—but on a very flat island. I seldom climb anything unless it’s a few stairs out of a subway station, and I don’t often break a sweat, either (except when I’m standing on a broiling subway platform, but that doesn’t count).

To improve your stamina and cardiovascular health, you’ve got to raise your heart rate and get the sweat going, too. New research says you can do this through interval training, meaning short bursts of intense activity combined with longer periods at a more comfortable pace. This is good news! I’m not a gym rat, so I want to find a way to incorporate this into my day. Aha—another urban advantage. I can combine my pedometer-guided walks to and from work with the stairs in my apartment building. I’ll try to zoom up and down the six flights to my apartment at least a couple of times a day. Maybe if I put Olivia Newton-John on my iPod, I can pretend I’m back in aerobics class. Woo! Now what are you going to do to step it up?


I think cupcakes have become the bane of American women’s existence. They’re everywhere, in schools, at the office, in the mall—and they’re nearly impossible to resist. Let’s face it, when you have a bad day or are stressed out, you don’t crave broccoli. You want the red velvet cupcake with the cream-cheese icing and the cute sugar daisy on top. Or ice cream, cookies, chocolate-covered caramels and gummy bears. Or maybe chips, crackers and pizza (which are basically sugar, too, at least as far as your metabolism is concerned).

I used to think sugar wasn’t as bad for you as fat, but research is showing it’s actually the other way around. Sugar turns into belly fat, raises your bad cholesterol and leads to heart disease—which still kills more women than anything else. So how do you resist? Here’s what works for me: Don’t eat carbs for breakfast. Start your day with some protein, fat and fiber to kick-start your metabolism, keep you feeling full and help you fend off the sugar cravings later. That means no OJ, fruit, cereal, bagels, pastries, energy bars or toast (save those for later). It doesn’t mean you’re never going to give into the lure of the cute cupcake again (I had a pink one with sprinkles yesterday after the earthquake scare), but it lays the groundwork. You can do the rest!

Here are some of my choices for breakfast: eggs scrambled in a little olive oil or a hard-boiled egg I’ve made the night before, a mozzarella stick and a handful of walnuts, low-fat plain (no honey or fruit purée) Greek yogurt with toasted almonds, even a big spoonful of peanut butter spread on celery sticks. If you have time, an omelet with some spinach and feta cheese would be amazing. Sometimes I’ll even munch on cold crunchy leftover green beans, drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

See lots more tips and details of our six-week plan here, and cheers to a younger you!

6 Weeks to a Younger You: Week 2

August 17, 2011 at 11:45 am , by

Beautiful woman at the beach putting sunscreen on her bodyWelcome to week 2 of our plan! How’d you do with your pedometer and your colorful fruits and veggies last week? I made some progress and I’m feelin’ good. Hope you are too! So what’s on tap for this week?

You need to protect your skin from the sun (to look young and avoid skin cancer). But you need vitamin D for strong bones and maybe even to prevent cancer and heart disease. So how to do you do both? It’s a problem I’ve wrestled with.

My doctor called me a few days ago to tell me that everything on my recent blood test looked good, except one thing: I’m deficient in D. In winter, sure. But in August? Well, I avoid the sun like the plague, thanks to my history of skin cancer. That means wearing sunscreen every day, staying on the shady side of the street—and donning a hat when it’s high noon.

Yes, I take a 1,000 mg D3 supplement almost every day, and I always take it with some nuts or cheese since it’s fat soluble, to improve absorption. But apparently it’s not enough. Supplements just don’t work as well as the sun. My doc suggested I go to 2,000 mg a day—a level that most experts think is safe (although more research needs to be done). And maybe just a few unprotected minutes of sun a day on my arms and legs might be a good idea, too. But just a few!

Aren’t we all? Stress can raise your blood pressure, and so can the junky food you crave when you’re having a bad day. You know that lowering your bp can help your cardiovascular system, but here’s news: healthy blood pressure is good for your memory and brain health! High blood pressure causes no symptoms, so you’ve gotta get checked out. If you can’t see your doc right now, try out one of those drugstore kiosks where you can stick your arm in the cuff. You want to be at 120/80 or lower, and many experts say 115/75 is ideal. If you’re higher, take some deep breaths and take another reading. If it’s still high, make an appointment with your doc.

A great way to reduce stress (and your blood pressure!) is meditation. It can also improve your memory and boost your immune system. And anyone can learn it. All you have to do is sit quietly and focus on your breathing. The trick is carving out and committing to a few quiet minutes a day. I studied transcendental meditation back in the ’70s (hey, it was good enough for the Beatles!). I remember how  tough it was to learn to sit still and let go of all those busy, busy thoughts—without judging myself every time I felt I wasn’t doing it “right.” I’m going to commit to meditating for 20 minutes every day this week if you will. Cheers to a younger you!

Photo copyright goodluz—Fotolia.com

6 Weeks to a Younger You: Week 1

August 10, 2011 at 10:09 am , by

Me w saladOkay, ladies (and any gentlemen who want to join us), it’s week one of our six-week challenge, so let’s do this!

As I said in my intro yesterday, this plan, from the article in our September issue, is a series of small but important lifestyle changes to tune up your body, brain and spirit–in easy-to-swallow doses. It’s all based on evidence proven to make you look and feel younger. It will help you develop healthy habits you can live with. And it’s fun!

Each week we’ll meet here and talk about the four goals for our week: one each for Body, Diet, Brain and Spirit.

Today let’s start with brightening up your diet. Ban the beige and go for Roy G Biv instead, meaning fruits and veggies in every color of the rainbow. It’s so easy to do this time of year, with farmer’s markets overflowing with jewel-like produce. Go for blueberries with your Greek yogurt. Slice heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, top with fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Blanch kale, chard or spinach and toss with cherry tomatoes, cooked whole-wheat pasta and freshly grated Parmesan. Rub big slices of bright yellow zucchini and red or orange bell pepper with a little olive oil and toss on the grill. Skip the drive-through and head to your DIY salad bar for lunch (as I did yesterday, above). You get the idea. Add color to all three meals for a few days and you will feel different—better. Guaranteed.

I know; you work long hours and have no extra money and it’s been really, really hot outside. It’s almost impossible to get any exercise. I hear you. All we’re asking this week is that you move more than the week before. Start with a pedometer, any basic one that counts your steps. You can buy one at a sporting goods store for around $10, sometimes less. Wear it all day long to get a baseline of how many steps you normally take. Then your goal is to increase it this week by 10 percent. So if you log 3,000 steps today, go for 3,300 tomorrow. Maintain that or go for more if you can. You’ll be amazed how much you can increase your number just by getting up and moving around more at work, parking farther away from the entrance at the store, going for a walk in the early morning while it’s relatively cool, etc. I’m lucky because I live in New York and can walk to my office. I measured it this morning and it’s 2,240 steps, which takes about 20 minutes. That’s a good start. Now the trick is to add to it. Ideally we’ll work our way up to 10,000 steps a day.

Sex is good for your overall health, but now research shows that it may help you grow more brain cells, too. (Gives new meaning to the phrase “sex on the brain,” doesn’t it?) Your new healthy habits should make you feel more sexy, too. So put sex on your calendar this week and keep that appointment! And may I say, while intimacy and sharing are important parts of the sex equation, it’s the orgasm that has the most health benefits. So keep this goal on your agenda even if you don’t have a partner!

No, I don’t mean with ice cream. Reinforce your new healthy habits with something that gives you pleasure but is calorie- and guilt-free. Maybe it’s a movie, a new book, a manicure or a good conversation with your best friend.

Keep your new habits going, and report in on the comments section below to let us know how you’re doing. Then check back next Wednesday for week two of our plan. Woo-hoo for a younger you!

6 Weeks to a Younger You: Let’s Do It Together!

August 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm , by

VegI admit it: I’ve been a little lazy and sluggish in the summer heat lately. I could use a bit of healthy inspiration, how ‘bout you? Luckily, our September issue is hitting newsstands about now, and it has just the ticket: “6 Weeks to a Younger You.”

Here’s what it’s not:
It’s not a depressing, self-depriving weight-loss diet.
It’s not an intimidating workout plan.
It’s not a total health makeover.
It’s not difficult or boring.

Here’s what it is:
It’s a series of small but important lifestyle changes to tune up your body, brain and spirit–in easy-to-swallow doses.
It’s all based on evidence proven to make you look and feel younger.
It will help you develop healthy habits you can live with.
It’s fun!

So grab your copy of the September issue and see page 89, or check it out online here. We’re going to start tomorrow. So get a pedometer if you can and let’s meet here tomorrow for another blog with our first action plan (such as eating more colorful fruits and veggies, like those from my farmer’s market, above). Then be sure to weigh in on the comments about how it’s going. Cheers to a soon-to-be younger you!