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30 Minutes of Exercise a Day Can Help Keep the Pounds at Bay

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30 Minutes of Exercise a Day Can Help Keep the Pounds at BayWorking out is a commitment that few people enjoy, but if you’ve been trying to shed some extra pounds and dread spending long hours in the gym, you’ll be pleased to learn that a new study reveals that 30 minutes of exercise a day is all it takes to help shed that weight. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology, moderately overweight men who exercised for 30 minutes a day for three months lost an average of eight pounds compared to men who worked out for 60 minutes a day, who lost an average of six pounds.

Work Out Smarter, Not Longer

The study authors based their research on 60 moderately overweight men who were randomly assigned to either a high aerobics group, which was required to work out 60 minutes a day, or a moderate aerobics group, which worked out 30 minutes a day. Both groups were required to exercise hard enough to break a sweat by doing activities such as running or cycling. At the end of 13 weeks, both groups lost about nine pounds of body mass, but the 30-minute-a-day exercise group lost about two pounds more body weight. The researchers theorize that the men who worked out for half an hour found the amount of time to be reasonable, so they were actually more committed to accomplishing their workout goals in the shorter time period. Compared to their counterparts who worked out for an hour, the 30-minute exercise group also burned more calories. Post workouts, the 30-minute group probably had more energy left over, so they remained more active throughout the day, too. The 60-minute exercisers probably ate more after their workouts, so on average they gained back some of the calories that they burned.

Be Inspired to Get Healthy

Although a difference of two pounds of weight loss may not seem much at first glance, over a year the results can add up. The study also shows that you don’t need to spend countless hours in the gym as long as you’re fully committed to doing as much as you can within the time that you give yourself. Being healthy begins with being smart, so plan your workouts accordingly to get the most benefits.

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Added Pounds May Mean Added Joint Discomfort in Women

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Added Pounds May Mean Added Joint Discomfort in WomenIt goes without saying that being overweight isn’t healthy. When your body carries excess weight that isn’t ideal for your skeletal frame and musculature, it forces your heart and other organs to work extra hard. Besides heart health challenges, such as high blood pressure, being overweight can also affect blood sugar management and bone strength.

Overweight Women More Prone to Joint Discomfort

A new study funded by the Mayo Clinic that was published in Arthritis Care & Research states that women who are overweight have a 20% greater risk of developing joint health challenges. According to Dr. Eric Matteson, one of the study coauthors and chair of the rheumatology department at the Mayo Clinic, “fat cells produce inflammatory proteins and they’re active in inflammation.” Inflammation in joint tissue can lead to swelling, stiffness, and discomfort in joints and surrounding tissues. So aside from putting extra weight on joints and wearing them away faster, extra fat cells can cause inflammation, which can further aggravate your joints. The National Institutes of Health also states that women are two-to-three times more likely than men to develop joint health challenges, and four-to-five times more likely to have bone density challenges, which can also affect joints.

Take the Strain off Your Body

Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just better for your joints, bones, and heart—it can also significantly lift your mood if you’re feeling self-conscious about your body. Exercise releases endorphins, which stimulate feelings of happiness in the brain. Long-term, regular exercise can also help lift moods, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep quality. Keeping your weight healthy isn’t something you should do to keep health challenges at bay; you should do it because being healthy makes you feel good!

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Snooze So You Don’t Lose Out on Health Benefits

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Snooze So You Don’t Lose Out on Health BenefitsFor some people, 24 hours isn’t enough to accomplish all the things they need to do in a day, so they often forego a good night’s sleep in order to work, work, work. The satisfaction of accomplishment, however, is fleeting compared to the actual harm they could be inflicting on their health. Sleep helps mind and body heal and rejuvenate, and when this important health aspect is ignored it invites the possibilities of all sorts of health challenges. If you’re one of these people, stop ignoring your body’s desire for rest. When you feel tired, that’s your body’s signal to you that it needs to wind down and recuperate for the day. A good night’s sleep can help you feel more refreshed—and you might be surprised at some of the other side benefits.

Sleep Supports the Mind

If you’re learning a new skill, such as a new language, sleep can actually strengthen the memories or practice skills that you’ve acquired. It’s a process called consolidation. If you’ve practiced a set of repetitive skills during the day, something about the sleep process helps reinforce these memories or learned skills so that you have an easier time recalling them the next day. The more you practice and the more rest you get in between, the greater your recall ability. Being well-rested can also spur your creativity if you’re struggling to find a solution to a problem. It can also sharpen your attention span and boost your mood if you’re stressed or anxious because your blood pressure lowers when you’re asleep.

Rest Benefits the Body

Besides having emotional and mental perks, sleep is also physically good for you. People who get less sleep tend to have higher levels of C-reactive protein, which is linked to inflammation. Inflammation can lead to cardiovascular, blood sugar, and joint health challenges. However, most experts agree the simple act of getting more sleep reduces your risks significantly. Researchers at the University of Chicago also found that well-rested dieters tended to lose more fat than their sleep-deprived counterparts, who shed muscle mass instead. Sleep deprivation also causes hunger to kick in, which can be even more detrimental if you’re trying to manage your weight.

Something to Sleep Over

The next time you’re thinking about pulling an all-nighter, take a moment to consider the pros and cons. Is depriving your body and mind of rest really worth the cost of your health? If you feel your body getting tired, don’t resist it—your body will thank you for it.

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Effects of BPA May Stick Around Long After You’re Gone

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Effects of BPA May Stick Around Long After You’re GoneIf you own a lot of plastic products, you may have heard a lot of negative buzz about a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA. BPA is popular in the plastics industry for manufacturing transparent bottles, food containers, receipt paper, gardening tools, and lining the inside of canned goods. The plastic industry loves BPA because of its diverse number of uses. Unfortunately, BPA isn’t so good for your health, and it’s estimated that almost 93% of Americans have traces of it in their systems. BPA is able to enter your body because it’s sensitive to extreme temperature variations: Extreme cold (such as freezing) or extreme heat (heating a container in a microwave or leaving a water bottle out in the sun) can cause BPA to become unstable, allowing small amounts to seep into whatever food or drink you have stored in that plastic container. You can also absorb BPA through handling store receipts or plastic tools that have been heated in the sun all day.

How Does BPA Affect You?

Every day your body absorbs trace amounts of toxins that your immune and digestive systems help filter out. The problem with BPA, however, is that it isn’t just any old chemical—BPA is a type of compound that’s known as an endocrine disruptor. In layman’s terms, this means that BPA is able to fool your body into thinking that it’s a hormone (such as estrogen) and it can have disruptive consequences. Worse still, prolonged BPA absorption can mutate your genes and this mutation can be passed on to your children and your children’s children. Several studies have shown that the main consequence of BPA contamination is a mutation which affects how you absorb folic acid. This B vitamin is essential to developmental health and can usually be obtained from leafy greens, which is why pregnant women are often advised to load up on folic acid to support proper growth and development of their unborn babies. Before folic acid can be used by your body, an enzyme called 5-MTHFR needs to break it down to a usable form called 5-MTHF. This is relatively simple process, if your genes are normal and able to produce 5-MTHFR. Mutated genes, however, aren’t able to break down folic acid into 5-MTHF, so even if you’re taking double or triple the required daily amounts, you may not be absorbing any of it.

Low Folic Acid Linked to a Number of Health Challenges

So one less vitamin in your diet doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? Wrong. Numerous studies have linked low folic acid levels to low moods, anxiety, sleeplessness, trouble focusing, weight gain, and even behavioral problems in some infants. In fact, the health challenges associated with low folic acid levels are so numerous that BPA is already banned in Europe and Canada. Some U.S. states are following suit by initiating statewide bans on BPA bottles and baby goods, too. The good news is that many manufacturers are becoming more conscientious of the concerns that the public has over BPA in plastics and many non-BPA-containing plastic products are also available. As a consumer, it’s your right to be picky about what you consume, so insist on all your plastics to be BPA free for the sake of your health and future generations.

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Can Stress Affect Memory?

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Can Stress Affect Memory?Stress can often make one feel flustered and forgetful, but can the long-term effects lead to advanced cognitive impairment and poor memory? That’s what researchers in the U.K. are attempting to find out in an ambitious study that seeks to find new ways of preserving cognitive function and memory. The study will monitor 140 individuals who already have mild cognitive impairment over 18 months. The scientists will take regular blood and saliva samples, looking for stress markers to determine if stress has any effect on their condition.

Traumatic Events Are Potential Stress Factors

Previous studies indicate that midlife stress may increase risk of cognitive impairment. A Swedish study conducted on about 1,500 women found that subjects who had repeated periods of middle-age stress had a 65% higher risk of developing cognitive impairment. Animal research led Scottish scientists to theorize that it’s the release of certain hormones during stress that interfere with normal brain function. Traumatic events—such as the death of a loved one—put people through greater amounts of stress, which could possibly trigger the release of greater amounts of hormones that impair brain function.

Finding Out the Cause Before the Solution

Scientists hope that by understanding the physical and psychological symptoms that accelerate cognitive impairment, it will help them manage the condition in patients more effectively. Because the human brain is so complex, any single or combination of symptoms may be early indicators of greater risk ahead. But by watching out for these red flags now, we may be able to apply this useful knowledge in helping thousands of others in the near future.

References:

  • Roberts, M. “Role of Stress in Dementia Investigated.” BBC News. Jun 2012. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18577326.
  • Johansson, L. et al. “Midlife psychological stress and risk of dementia: a 35-year longitudinal population study.” Brain. 2010. 133 (8):2217-2224.

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Low Vitamin D Levels May Make Women More Prone to Weight Gain

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Low Vitamin D Levels May Make Women More Prone to Weight GainOver the years, scientists have found that low vitamin D levels may negatively affect a number health of areas such as bone strength, the immune system, and cellular health. Now research shows that low vitamin D may also affect body weight.

Low D May Add More Weight

A recent study conducted on over 4,600 women aged 65 and older found that women with lower vitamin D levels were more prone to gain weight. Of the 571 women who gained weight, the scientists observed that women who already had low vitamin D levels going into the study and failed to address their low D levels gained an average of two pounds over five years. The study was published in the June 2012 edition of the Journal of Women’s Health. It echoes the results of a previous study, which found that a combination of vitamin D and calcium supplementation slowed down weight gain.

While researchers aren’t clear yet how vitamin D directly affects weight management, it may have to do with the fact that vitamin D is a prohormone that helps regulate other types of cells. Certain immune cells, for example, need vitamin D to activate them so that they can perform their duties, which is why vitamin D is important to immunity. Similarly, fat cells also have vitamin D receptors, so in women with low vitamin D levels, their fat cells may continue to grow unregulated if there isn’t enough vitamin D to signal the fat cells to “stop.”

How Can You Get More Vitamin D?

Before you think of dosing up on vitamin D to shed pounds, keep in mind that the studies only indicate that low vitamin D makes people more prone to weight gain; taking more won’t help you lose it. That said, however, given how important vitamin D is to your overall health, it can’t hurt to get more of it in your diet. Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because your skin is able to produce it the moment you are exposed to sunlight. Despite this, many people still aren’t getting the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine currently recommends a dosage of 600 IU daily for people aged 1–70. But with more people working in office environments and leading sedentary, indoor lifestyles, higher dosages may be more beneficial. Fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel), beef liver, cheese, and egg yolk are all natural food sources of vitamin D, but they contain very small amounts. That’s why supplements with higher dosages can be a better option to getting the optimal levels you need for good health. As stated earlier, however, increasing your vitamin D levels isn’t a magic bullet to end your weight management worries, so follow it up with healthy diet and exercise habits, too.

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Healthy Foods to Feed Your Blues

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Healthy Foods to Feed Your BluesThe term “comfort food” often gets a bad rap because we don’t always make the healthiest food choices when we’re chasing our blues away. We’ve all had days where all we wanted to do was slouch on the couch and sink our faces into a bag of potato chips or tub of ice cream. That’s because when we’re stressed, the stress hormone, cortisol, creates food cravings which we often satisfy with carbohydrates or sweets. And excess carbs, as we all know, leads to more fat cells, which can stress us out even more. That being said, there is a healthy alternative to “stressed-out snacking” that can help us satisfy our cravings without adding on the pounds.

Choose “Calming” Foods Instead of Comfort Foods

Calming foods, as opposed to comfort foods, contain vitamins and minerals that can have an uplifting effect on your mood. They contribute to the creation of neurotransmitters that help to reduce the stressful effects of cortisol. B vitamins, such as folate, have been confirmed by numerous clinical studies to positively affect moods. Asparagus, spinach, and other dark-green, leafy veggies are especially high in folate. But if snacking on salad sounds less than ideal to you, avocados are also rich in B vitamins and L-glutathione, another known mood enhancer. Just be careful with portions, however, because despite being a fruit, avocado has plenty of natural fats. Vitamin C, aside from being an immune booster, can also support healthy moods. Oranges and berries, besides being terrific snacks, are also packed with vitamin C, offering even more healthy alternatives for snacking. Antioxidants are all the rage when it comes to antiaging, but they may also come in handy for mood support. Garlic may not have the most alluring odor, but most researchers are in agreement over its health benefits. Dark chocolate (not milk chocolate or white chocolate) is also a healthier snack alternative because it’s loaded with mood-enhancing polyphenols and flavonols. And for a more soothing alternative, chamomile tea and green tea can help calm your nerves while satisfying your cravings, too. Zinc is another mineral that is tied to healthy, upbeat moods. Nuts, such as cashews, are not only zinc rich, but also make great snack foods at any time of the day. Or, if you’re feeling extra fancy at dinner time, oysters (besides being renowned as aphrodisiacs) also contain lots of zinc. Beta-glucans in oatmeal also have positive influences on mood. But be cautious with how much you consume because processed grains also tend to increase blood sugar and fat levels. Omega-3s have also been shown to support circulation to the brain and enhance moods. You can obtain plenty of these from walnuts or fatty, coldwater fish such as salmon and tuna.

Satisfy Your Cravings and Be Happy, Too

As you can see from the alternatives listed above, whenever stress-induced cravings hit you (as they do us all), you don’t have to give in to junk food. Plenty of healthy alternatives exist that are equally delicious—and many times healthier. So the next time those cravings hit you, be choosy in your snack choices. You’ll definitely feel less guilty about it later.

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Manage Your Sugar Levels by Being Picky About Your Fiber

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Manage Your Sugar Levels by Being Picky About Your FiberIt’s always great to get more fiber in your diet. However, it also pays to be picky about where you’re getting your fiber from because not all high-fiber foods are great at blocking sudden increases in your blood sugar levels. When you obtain your fiber from grains, for example, the starch in the grain converts into additional sugar, so it overpowers any sugar-blocking effects the fiber might have.

Fruits and vegetables contain more soluble fiber than sugar per serving, so they won’t raise your blood sugar levels as much when you get your fiber from these sources. True, these foods contain some amounts of sugar that make them naturally sweet. But unlike processed grains they lack starch that can change into additional sugar.

Choose Foods with Low Glycemic Loads

A simple way to determine which high-fiber foods are best for managing blood sugar is by checking their glycemic load. The glycemic load is an indicator of how much a certain food will raise blood sugar levels after consumption. Foods with glycemic loads greater than 100 increase your risk of health challenges due to high blood sugar levels. The best sugar blockers are fruits and veggies with glycemic load values less than 50. It’s also important to consider the order which you consume your fiber with meals in order for them to have any useful effect. There’s a good reason why salad is served before the main course: the soluble fiber in leafy greens helps counteract any sugar-raising starches that may be present in any carbohydrates in your meal. In general, vegetables are better sugar blockers than fruit because they contain more soluble fiber and have lower glycemic loads. You should try eating vegetables raw or cook them as little as possible to preserve their fiber content. However, both are much healthier alternatives to starch-rich grains.

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Don’t Get Caught Up in the Calcium Scare!

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CalciumOn May 23, 2012, the Los Angeles Times published an article warning that taking calcium supplements increases the risk of heart attack. The article was based on findings from a Swiss/German study published in the journal, Heart. Calcium is the top-selling nutritional supplement in the United States, so naturally this report raised quite a fuss when it was published. But here are a few things you may not know.

Study Faces Criticism

The study conducted by the scientists was set up to examine the effects of diet and nutritional supplements on cancer and nutrition health; it was not specifically targeted toward calcium supplements and cardio health. This means that even though there were several thousand participants in the analysis, only a fraction of them took any calcium supplements or consumed foods with high amounts of calcium (such as milk and dairy products). Another thing to consider is that study paints a bad light on calcium alone, but not when calcium is consumed as part of food or with other nutrients. The researchers claimed that when too much calcium is consumed, it can clog arteries the same way cholesterol plaque does. However, according to a 2007 article on WebMD, pairing calcium with other nutrients, such as vitamin D and magnesium, aids calcium absorption in bones and helps maintain normal blood calcium levels. Most high-quality supplements or multivitamin formulas already do this.

Strong Bones Need Calcium

Calcium supplementation is crucial to supporting bone density, especially in maturing women who are more prone to age-related bone loss. Studies on the benefits of calcium are so plentiful that the Food and Drug Administration has even approved health claims about calcium with regard to osteoporosis. The National Products Association, a leading representative of the dietary supplement industry, believes that people who are currently taking calcium supplements should not be frightened into cutting off their supplementation, especially if it has been recommended by a physician. If you are concerned about your calcium intake, speak to a physician first before making any radical changes to your supplement plan.

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Sacrifices Can Lead to Big Health Benefits

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Sacrifices Can Lead to Big Health BenefitsAs gas prices, the stock market, and employment rates continue to yoyo, one figure has been steadily growing over the past few years, and it’s not a good one: It’s obesity. According to a joint study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Duke University in Atlanta, at current rates 42% of Americans will be overweight by the year 2030, and half of that figure will be due to childhood weight gain. A large part of it is simply due to the fact that people are consuming more calories, but exercising less.

Small Numbers Add Up Over Time

On paper, weight management seems like a simple task: If kids cut between 41 to 64 calories per day, it can lead to a national obesity rate of only 16.1% among youths aged 12 to 19. That equates to about cutting 4 ounces of apple juice or a quarter of an oatmeal raisin bar every day. These figures vary between racial demographics, but they are manageable, nonetheless, if parents and schools work together to curb kids’ appetites, and if adults themselves exercise a little more willpower. If obesity figures are left to their own devices, national healthcare costs due to weight-related health issues may exceed $500 billion over the next 20 years.

Cutting Back Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

As stated earlier, one doesn’t need to make drastic changes just to be healthier; small cutbacks to your diet every can be equally effective in producing lasting health results. So the next time you’re thinking about adding dessert to your meal, have one scoop of ice cream instead of two, or choose low-calorie frozen yogurt—then get up and add a little exercise into the mix. The long-term results may be a pleasant surprise!

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