April 4, 2013 at 11:39 am , by Amelia Harnish
Why do you need to think about your muscles? Well, aside from making you look toned and fabulous, weight training also protects your joints, strengthens your bones and even revs your metabolism. As important as it is to get your heart rate up with walking, jogging or other aerobic activities, strength training is worth its weight in added health benefits. And with swimsuit season rapidly approaching, now is the perfect time to get started. Here are a few beginners’ tips from Deborah McConnell, a global master fitness trainer from the Life Fitness Academy.
Warm up first: “You want to wake up your joints and loosen up a bit beforehand to prevent injuries,” says McConnell. Power walking, jogging or a little time on a treadmill or elliptical are all good options. Do it for at least five to 10 minutes.
Find the right routine: You’ll need to do a bit of homework to find a training program that’s right for you. “In general, I recommend beginners start with a full body routine. Do eight to 10 exercises that hit all the major muscle groups, and start with eight to 12 reps each,” says McConnell. Try this basic routine from Jillian Michaels or check out the American Council on Exercise’s Kick-Start Challenge.
Practice good form: A strong core is essential for weight lifting, whether you’re using dumbbells, cable machines or your own body weight. Be sure to engage your core for every repetition, and don’t forget to breathe. “Every movement should be slow and controlled. You can get hurt rushing through it,” says McConnell. If you’re using weights, make sure it’s challenging, but light enough for you to get through each set with proper form.
Space out your sessions: Your muscles need time to rest and recover to get stronger. Shoot for two to three strength training workouts a week, with at least 24 hours between each one, says McConnell.
Don’t forget to stretch: Evidence is mounting that you shouldn’t stretch before exercise, but there is still good reason to stretch afterward. In fact, it’s a good idea to break between sets to stretch and relax the muscles you just worked on, says McConnell. When stretching, gently hold until the muscle relaxes. Sudden movements or bouncing can lead to injury.
Photo copyright Artem Furman, shutterstock.com
March 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm , by Amelia Harnish
We’ve seen quite a few stories this week offering tips for sticking with your diet during the spring holidays. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Easter and Passover are all about family time, fun and most importantly, food. Worrying about your waistline at Easter dinner or beating yourself up over indulging in a chocolate bunny can totally ruin it. “Food is intertwined in tradition and celebration, and that’s totally okay,” says Sally Kuzemchak, R.D., and frequent LHJ contributor. “It’s important to acknowledge these are special foods that mean something to us, and it’s good to enjoy them.”
Yes, exactly. We say forget the guilt and go for it (with some moderation, of course). Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your indulgences this week.
Savor your favorites. If you look forward to your sister-in-law’s famously rich macaroni and cheese on Easter every year, why change it? “I am not a fan of lightening up traditional foods or favorite family recipes,” Kuzemchak says. “Enjoy your favorites, but get back to your usual eating habits the next day.”
Save yourself for the right dessert. Eating too many Cadbury eggs or handfuls of jelly beans can make you feel gross and tired rather than satisfied. “Instead of pillaging the bowl of pastel M&M’s, save it for the homemade pie or allow yourself a good dark chocolate bar,” Kuzemchak says.
Drink to your health. ‘Tis the season for Manischewitz! If you indulged in the traditional four glasses at your family’s Seder, worry not. It’s just one day out of the year. “There are antioxidants in wine,” says Kuzemchak. “But moderate drinkers get the most benefits.”
Photo copyright Oksana2010, shutterstock.com
March 20, 2013 at 11:04 am , by Julie Bain
Millions of women in America are chronically sleep deprived. Ladies, you know who you are! To make matters worse, a bunch of studies have linked not getting enough sleep with weight gain. One big Harvard study showed that women who slept just five hours a night were 32 percent more likely to gain at least 30 pounds than women who slept seven hours or longer. Over the 16 years of the study, the women who slept longer gained less weight—even when they ate more than the sleep-deprived women. Not fair, is it?
An interesting new study, summarized well in this New York Times column yesterday, showed that sleep-deprived folks eat more calories overall and especially overeat those comforting carbs that pack on the pounds.
I thought about all this as I was lying awake at 2 a.m. this morning. (Was anyone else there with me?) Yes, I toss and turn sometimes, too—even though I have a lot of good-sleep tricks up my sleeve. A few years ago I co-authored a sleep book for women. It’s called Sleep To Be Sexy Smart and Slim. (I don’t make any money on the book; it was just part of my job to work on it.) Anyway, here are a few tips from it that have really stuck with me:
5 STRATEGIES FOR BETTER SLEEP
1. Wind down for an hour. So many women just keep going, and going, and going. Then you’re too wound up to drift off. Give yourself the gift of an hour with no more chores, no exercise (unless it’s sex, which does help you sleep better), no stimulating TV news or drama, no catching up on work, no major “we’ve got a problem” conversations and most of all, no electronics. Yes, you can turn off your laptop and phone. Play soft music, read something light, let it all go.
2. Have some milk and cookies. When I was doing publicity for the book, this tip was always a favorite of the bleary-eyed morning-show hosts who interviewed me. There’s real science behind it: The chemical tryptophan in milk will help you feel sleepy, but you need some carbs to get it where it needs to go in the brain. A small (low-fat) cookie or two does the job well—plus, you feel nurtured like a child, too.
3. Chill out. Lowering the temperature in your bedroom helps signal your body that it’s time to sleep. Taking a hot bath sounds like a cliché but it helps, too, by lowering your core body temp afterward. A cooler room may help keep hot flashes at bay, too, if you’re in that joyful stage of life.
4. Make it dark. Sometimes your eyes open a bit as you move from one stage of sleep to another, and any kind of light can wake you up, whether it’s streetlights or the display on your digital clock. It’s worth investing in blackout curtain liners. Turn your clock face away so you can’t see it (or obsess over it if you do wake up). And put some dark electrical tape over all those LED displays on your computer, TV, cable box, etc. Darkness can make all the difference.
5. Let go of your worries. This one’s my favorite. It sounds a little corny but it works. Keep a small notebook and pen on your nightstand and consider it your “worry book.” When you can’t settle your buzzing brain down, or wake up anxious about work or money in the middle of the night, grab it. Write down what’s bugging you and any strategies and priorities for dealing with it. Then close the book and give yourself permission to let it go until daytime. Put it aside and go to sleep.
Photo copyright Africa Studio, shutterstock.com
February 27, 2013 at 10:57 am , by Amelia Harnish
You probably keep ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen in your medicine cabinet at all times. Why not? Any one of these can work wonders for everyday aches and pains like headaches or menstrual cramps. You don’t need a prescription to get these drugs—and you’ve probably used them hundreds of times—so it may seem like they’re harmless. But new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that overuse of OTC pain medications may lead to hearing loss.
Yup, you heard that right. The study scanned the pain-pill habits of more than 62,000 women over a 14-year period and found that those who used ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days a week increased their risk of hearing loss by up to 24 percent, depending on how much they took.
No one’s sure exactly why this is, says lead author Sharon Curhan, M.D., but it may be that these drugs inhibit blood flow to crucial parts of the inner ear, or destroy antioxidants that protect the ear’s delicate structures from damage. “Hearing loss is increasingly common and often disabling. Our findings suggest that frequent analgesic use may be an important but preventable contributor,” she says. (You may be taking even more analgesics than you think, she adds, since certain cold meds contain them too.)
That’s not the only harm OTC painkillers could cause. “While bad side effects are fortunately pretty rare, there are some other possible ones,” says Gary Dorshimer, M.D., section chief of general internal medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital, in Philadelphia. “Among them, OTC pain meds could cause hormone changes that reduce your kidneys’ ability to process certain minerals, or dampen the effectiveness of ACE inhibitors, a type of drug used to control high blood pressure.” An even bigger risk, he adds, “is when you ignore a warning on the label that says, ‘Don’t take this drug for more than X days before speaking with your doctor.’ You could have a problem that needs medical attention.” Masking the pain won’t make it go away and could give it a chance to get more serious.
In fact, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you find yourself relying on OTC pain pills on a regular basis for a recurring problem of any kind, like headaches or backaches. “Talk over the risks and benefits of using over-the-counter painkillers for your problem. Try to determine the exact cause of your pain, and explore whether there are other alternatives to using medication,” says Dr. Curhan. There may be lots of other things to try, from physical therapy to massage or even acupuncture.
Check out our guide to the risks and benefits of different painkillers here.
Photo by Dick Ercken
Categories: Health, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: acetaminophen, analgesics, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Gary Dorshimer M.D., hearing loss, ibuprofen, naproxen, OTC medications, OTC pain medications, pain, painkiller, Sharon Curhan M.D., side effects | 5 Comments
February 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm , by Amelia Harnish
When you’re not feeling so well, the first thing to do is call the doctor… right? Maybe in a perfect world, but we all know that getting an appointment with a physician can be time-consuming and a lot more difficult than it should be. Enter HealthTap, a web site and mobile app that lets you pose questions to real doctors and get answers fast.
“In our research, we found that 25 percent of doctor visits in this country are just question and answer,” says Ron Gutman, founder and CEO of HealthTap. “But on average, it takes 20 days to get an appointment. We saw a huge opportunity there to help people save time and money.”
The service first launched almost two years ago as a resource for new moms (who famously have endless questions for their pediatricians). Now HealthTap boasts a network of 32,000 doctors in 128 different specialties. All you have to do is go to HealthTap.com and register or download the app on your iPhone or Android smartphone. Then you can search by topic or ask a question, which will be matched to an appropriate physician. You will get an e-mail or notification on your phone when a doctor has answered.
When we first heard about HealthTap, we were intrigued but thought for sure there must be a catch. But after meeting Gutman, I’m sold. The physicians are all screened for credentials via each state’s licensing boards. In addition to the Q&A feature, you can access a directory of doctors in your area, all ranked by quality based on other users’ experiences, and schedule in-person appointments right through the app. Another cool feature is “TipTaps,” which are short, doctor-written tips in areas like beauty, diet, exercise or parenting that are delivered by text message or e-mail. All these tools are free to use, but you can also pay for premium services, which include virtual, private consultations and the ability to ask longer questions. (There’s a 150-character limit for the free service, which I guess counts as a catch, albeit a small one in the age of Twitter.)
So while it’s no replacement for an in-person visit with a doctor who knows your medical history, HealthTap is great for when you just need quick, reliable medical information or advice. I used it recently to sleuth out whether the annoying itchiness I was experiencing in my left eye was pinkeye or just allergies. I got my answer within 24 hours (who knew one eye can be more allergic than the other) and bought some OTC eye drops, which saved me a trip to my doctor.
February 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm , by Amelia Harnish
We’ve been blogging and tweeting nonstop this month to get the message across: Way too many women are dying of heart disease. One of the things you can do to keep your heart healthy is cut back on salt to prevent high blood pressure. That’s why we tapped our friend Jessica Goldman Foung, also known as Sodium Girl, to share some delicious recipes from her new book Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook.
By Jessica Goldman Foung
Why not do something for your heart this Valentine’s Day? Not just your figurative heart—the one that beats for your special someone—but your actual heart that beats to keep you going. Back in 2004, when an aggressive attack of the autoimmune disease lupus caused my kidneys to fail, my eating habits had to change a lot. When you have excess sodium in your diet (and trust me, if you’re not paying attention, you probably do), the extra salt spills into your bloodstream, which makes you retain fluid and raises your blood pressure. Your kidneys normally regulate your sodium level, so for me, losing the salt was a must.
It took a life-threatening event to get me to ditch salt, so I know it’s hard. But what I learned is that nearly everyone can—and should—cut back. The average American consumes almost 3,500 mg of sodium every day, which is double the recommended amount.
Without salt, I became more daring and playful in the kitchen. I started eating vegetables that used to scare me like bok choy, leeks and Brussels sprouts, and I experimented with cuisines I’d never tried, including Moroccan, Indian and Korean. I was determined to make over salty meals that I’d always loved, which led to discovering many replacements for high-sodium ingredients, like soy sauce. Yes, even soy sauce! So I know anyone can do it.
I had to figure it all out on my own, so I’m happy to share a recipe to get you started. Read more for one of my favorite low-so recipes: Tamarind “Teriyaki” Skewers (pictured above). Read more
Categories: Health, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: American Heart Month, chicken, heart health, heart healthy recipes, Jessica Goldman Fuong, low-sodum, Sodium Girl, Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, Tamarind "Teriyaki Chicken Skewers | No Comments
February 6, 2013 at 9:29 am , by Julie Bain
Way too many women are still dying of heart disease. We need to talk about women’s heart health all year long, of course, but February is the month when marketing and media really flex their muscles to raise awareness. So we asked Lisa Collier Cool, a member of the Journal’s new Health and Wellness Blogger Team, to surprise us with some facts from her upcoming book. Check it out!
By Lisa Collier Cool
Life insurance companies know a secret that most doctors never tell patients: When it comes to rating your risk for a fatal heart attack, the least important cholesterol number is your level of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Instead, actuaries use a math formula to tell if you might be headed for a heart attack. They divide your total cholesterol by your HDL (good) cholesterol level. If the ratio is below three, you’re likely to qualify for the best insurance rates because your heart-attack risk is relatively low. (However, any abnormal cholesterol result, including high LDL, can pose a threat to your heart, especially when combined with other risk factors.)
That’s just one of the surprising facts I learned while working on my upcoming book, Beat the Heart Attack Gene, with coauthors Bradley Bale, MD, and Amy Doneen, ARNP, co-founders of the Bale/Doneen Method of heart and stroke prevention. Here are seven more things you may not know about women’s heart health.
1. Since 1984, heart disease has killed more women than men each year, claiming more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined.
2. Getting a flu shot cuts your risk for a heart attack or stroke by up to 50 percent.
3. For a healthy heart, take a few days off from work. Women who only go on vacations once every six years, or less often, are eight times more likely to suffer heart attacks or die from cardiac causes than those who vacation at least twice a year, according to a 20-year study.
4. Delicious news: People who eat the most dark chocolate are 37 percent less likely to get heart disease, and 29 percent less likely to have a stroke, than those who eat the least chocolate, an analysis of studies involving 114,009 people found. However, a square or two a day is all you need.
5. Yo-yo dieting can harm women’s hearts, a new study reports.
6. Seventy percent of heart attacks have the same root cause as type 2 diabetes: insulin resistance. Find out if you’re at risk by asking your healthcare provider to order a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test to check for abnormal blood sugar.
7. Fifty percent of women who have a heart attack don’t call 911, often because they don’t recognize the symptoms. Click here to find out the warning signs and more shocking facts about women and heart disease.
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