Monday, 30 December 2013

6 Ways to Boost Women's Health

Women's health concerns are a little different from those of men. If you're a woman, these tips will soon have you feeling fit and energetic.

To look and feel your best at every age, it’s important to make smart lifestyle and health choices. Here are six simple things that women can do every day (or with regularity) to ensure good health:
Health Tip #1: Eat a healthy diet. “You want to eat as close to a natural foods diet as you can,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. That means a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods and choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Include low-fat dairy products in your diet as well — depending on your age, you need between 800 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily to help avoid osteoporosis, Dr. Novey says. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.
Healthy eating will help you maintain a proper weight for your height, which is important because being overweight can lead to a number of illnesses. Looking for a healthy snack? Try some raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or zucchini with dip made from low-fat yogurt.
If you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet, you might want to take a multivitamin and a calcium supplement to make sure you’re maintaining good health.
Health Tip #2: Exercise. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in America, but plenty of exercise can help keep your heart healthy. You want to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, if not every day. Aerobic exercises (walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling, dancing) are good for women’s health in general and especially for your heart, says Sabrena Merrill, MS, of Lawrence, Kan., a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.
Health Tip #3: Avoid risky habits. Stay away from cigarettes and people who smoke. Don’t use drugs. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Most women’s health studies show that women can safely consume one drink a day. A drink is considered to be about 12 to 14 grams of alcohol, which is equal to 12 ounces of beer (4.5 percent alcohol); 5 ounces of wine (12.9 percent alcohol); or 1.5 ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof).
Health Tip #4: Manage stress. No matter what stage of her life — daughter, mother, grandmother — a woman often wears many hats and deals with a lot of pressure and stress. “Take a few minutes every day just to relax and get your perspective back again,” Novey says. “It doesn’t take long, and mental health is important to your physical well-being.” You also can manage stress with exercise, relaxation techniques, or meditation.
Health Tip #5: Sun safely. Excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can cause skin cancer, which can be deadly. To protect against skin cancer, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 if you are going to be outdoors for more than a few minutes. Even if you wear sunscreen faithfully, you should check regularly for signs of skin cancer. Warning signs include any changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, or freckles, or new, enlarging, pigmented, or red skin areas. If you spot any changes or you find you have sores that are not healing, consult your doctor.
Health Tip #6: Check for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society no longer recommends monthly breast self-exams for women. However, it still suggests them as “an option” for women, starting in their 20s. You should be on the lookout for any changes in your breasts and report any concerns to your doctor. All women 40 and older should get a yearly mammogram as a mammogram is the most effective way of detecting cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.
A woman’s health needs change as she ages, but the basics of women’s health remain the same. If you follow these six simple healthy living tips, you will improve your quality of life for years to come.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Healthy Living Center.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Short Bouts of Exercise Can Boost Self-Control

A quick sweat session can improve your brain function in the short term, a new analysis finds, even if you don't regularly work out.

When it comes to exercise and your health, most evidence favors consistency over occasional bursts of activity. But a one-off bout of exercise could be enough to provide some brain benefit, researchers from VU University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Quick workouts can impact higher brain function, particularly the part of the brain that regulates self-control, across 6- to 35-year-olds, researchers found after analyzing 19 studies involving short spurts of exercise. Exercise immediately boosts cerebral blood flow to the pre-frontal areas of the brain, or the part responsible for higher brain functions.
Boosting self-control on a daily basis can be valuable. Self-control is a limited resource in the brain, according to past research, including a landmark paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. By exerting too much self-control too soon, you could risk giving in to temptation later. For example, ordering egg whites over French toast for breakfast could deplete your self-control tank enough that you dive into a hamburger and fries for dinner.
The new analysis finds that exercise's impact on self-control is small, but measurable. It could be particularly important for children and teens, who require well-developed brain functions for academic achievement and daily life, the analysis authors write. "These positive effects of physical exercise on inhibition/interference control are encouraging and highly relevant, given the importance of inhibitory control and interference control in daily life," they say in the study.
This echoes a study published last year that found that a short walk in the middle of the workday can cut the amount of chocolate and other snacks you consume on the job. In the study, participants either took brisk 15-minute walks or rested before being given tasks to complete. Each individual had a bowl of chocolate on their desks while they worked on their tasks. On average, those who exercised before the task ate half the amount of chocolate as those who rested beforehand — 15 grams versus 28 grams. (Fifteen grams is equivalent to a small, "fun-size" chocolate bar.)
In the new analysis, regular exercise was not linked to chronically better self-control, meaning exercise might only benefit self-control in the short term.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Should You Try Yoga?

Pressures to conform one's body to the 'thin ideal' are extremely prevalent in our society today - so much so that it is considered somewhat 'normal' to be unsatisfied and critical of one's body.
In an effort to find out what fights against negative body image and self-objectification, researchers at San Jose State University in California, interviewed adult women who practice yoga on a regular basis.  Out of all of the participants, 74% reported that at some point in their lives they had struggled with their weight or with negative body image.  Interestingly, 75% of participants reported that their body acceptance and appreciation increased after developing a yoga practice.
Not only did these women report increased body acceptance, but they also reported that they attribute positive feelings and a feeling of well-being to their yoga practice.  They also expressed "greater connection to themselves, to others, and to their notion of the divine" and were more likely to practice intuitive eating.  The researchers concluded that yoga seems to have helped these women by improving physical and emotional awareness and providing a method for grounding and introspection or meditation.