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Blog posts tagged with 'immune health'

Changing Needs: A Focus on Age and Proper Nutrition

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Changing Needs: A Focus on Age and Proper NutritionMany people can recite the names of the most popular vitamins and prominent minerals such as vitamin A, D, calcium, and potassium. But are you getting enough each day? Many people are, in fact, missing some of the main nutrients needed to sustain healthy living—especially older adults. As diets change, the number of calories older adults absorb can drop. This can lead to a deficiency in some of the more vital nutrients that are needed for good health and increased longevity. To help you sustain ongoing health, here are some of the top nutrients you should look out for to help ensure that you’re getting the proper amounts.

Bones, Cells and Heart Health

Calcium is essential to supporting healthy bones and teeth. Bone development continues throughout adulthood, which is why your body needs a steady supply of calcium. Not getting enough calcium can lessen your bone density over time, leaving them brittle and making you more susceptible to falling and incurring injuries. Besides dairy products, broccoli and kale are also rich sources of calcium. You can also turn calcium supplementing into a treat by making a smoothie out of yogurt, fruit, and vegetables.

Along with helping maintain healthy nerve function, vitamin B12 helps in the formation of DNA, RNA, and red blood cells. B12 is especially important for older adults because they can’t absorb it as easily as younger people can. To get enough B12, eat plenty of fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and milk.

Folate, or folic acid, is another B vitamin (vitamin B9). Folic acid supplementation is recommended in pregnant women because adequate folate levels during pregnancy may help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in babies. It has also been connected to protecting heart health and reducing risks of heart concerns later on in life. As one of the eight B-complex vitamins, folic acid helps convert the body’s food into fuel and is a crucial part of overall wellness.

Essential Nutrients for Internal Conditioning

Much has been written and debated about vitamin D. At its core it helps the body absorb calcium and is important to bone density, skin health, immune function, and many other processes in the body. While your skin is capable of producing some vitamin D when you’re exposed to the sun, many people do not spend enough time outdoors to satisfy the recommended daily value. Vitamin D amounts can vary by gender and age, but adults ages 19–70 should get, on average, at least 600 IU each day by remembering to step out in the sun or eating cereals, milk, and juices fortified with vitamin D.

Potassium is an electrolyte that helps your cells, tissues, and organs function properly. It is also connected to the electrical activity of the heart, and aids healthy blood pressure and kidney function. The daily requirement for potassium is 4,700 mg, which can be obtained from bananas, prunes, potatoes, dairy products, soy, and some fish.

While the body doesn’t need much magnesium, it still plays a crucial role in some 300 different processes in your body. Often associated with heart health, magnesium is also pertinent to a high-functioning immune system and bone health as 66% of the magnesium your body needs is stored in the bones. Although magnesium is found in many common foods such as grains and nuts, it is still estimated that people only get 66% of the necessary daily value. You can help make up for this deficit by eating more unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and seeds.

Keeping Well Fed and Watered

Your digestive tract has a lot of responsibilities that include nutrient absorption, waste elimination, and immune health. Fiber, which is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested by the body, aids the digestive system. It is also known for supporting heart health. The national recommendation for fiber is 30–38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women ages 18–50.

The last area of nutrition that is often overlooked is hydration. Fluids are an important part of your diet; water being the most crucial. As you get older your sense of thirst can decline, but no matter what age you are, hydration is important for every process mentioned in the above paragraphs. It is often said that if food is your body’s fuel, then fluid is the coolant. Nutritionists recommend drinking 3–5 large glasses of water each day, or 8 glasses if you’re physically active.

Covering Your Bases of Nutrients

Sometimes keeping track of what your body needs can seem overwhelming. However, if you’ve already made the decision to eat healthier by managing your food groups and portions, you can easily figure out what vitamins and minerals you are getting enough of, and what areas you may need to focus on. Supplementation for many vitamins and minerals is always a viable option due to the various nature of different diets. Getting a wide variety of what you need, at each point in the aging process, however, is crucial to continued healthy living, and it starts with what you know.

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and Anxiety

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and AnxietyMost people think of stress as something that weighs heavily only on your mind and emotions. Its effects, however, can also produce a physical response in your body that can have far-reaching consequences on your overall health.

Your body contains many different organs and systems that work symbiotically to react to both short term and long term mood and anxiety. Learning exactly what those pangs of physical reactions are doing to your body and how to properly manage these situations can help you overcome the mental and physical challenges they present.

Spotting the First Signs

When high-stress situations occur, your brain chemistry and hormone production changes, causing a cascade of reactions down to the rest of your body. Your adrenal system kicks in and the hormone, cortisol, is produced, which has a variety of effects.

At the first sign of anxiety, your heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid, and the lungs take in more oxygen. Blood flow may actually increase 300%–400% in order to prime the muscles, lungs, and brain. To cope with your body's increased oxygen demands, the spleen becomes more active and discharges more red and white blood cells.

If your voice suddenly becomes creaky or squeaky, or there's a tightness in your throat when you swallow, it's because the body is dispensing fluids from nonessential areas, such as your mouth, to more essential areas of the body, often leaving you with a dry throat. Blood flow gets redirected from the skin so that the supply can be concentrated on the heart and muscle tissues. This is why muscles tighten up, and your skin can feel cold and clammy.

Cortisol also causes the liver produce more glucose, the main fuel your body uses for energy. For most people, excess glucose can be reabsorbed if it isn't used, but if you already have trouble balancing your blood sugar levels, excess glucose can make your levels spike even higher. And one of the more day-to-day effects of stress can be the compromising of your immune system. Once again, cortisol is the main culprit because it suppresses your immune system function, leaving you more susceptible to inflammation and infections.

The Body's Worries Over Time

One of the main concerns about anxiety is if it's constantly present. Besides causing an immediate physical reaction, the long-term effects can negatively influence other important areas of your health, leading to digestion problems, changes in metabolism, and increasing your chances of developing an ulcer. Studies have also linked it to weakened respiratory function.

Those who experience constant anxiety and periods of low moods are more at risk for heart-related concerns due to increased blood flow, higher blood pressure, and an increase in cortisol production. Cortisol is a means to increase blood flow to give you the energy needed to deal with the situation, however, too much of it can overwork the cardiovascular system, eventually weakening it.

Dealing with the Daily Distractions

You cannot completely avoid frustrating situations; it's a natural response of human nature. But there are some immediate and simple ways to deal with it.

Taking a few deep breaths or counting slowly to 10 when you start to feel anxious can help you control the immediate impact it can have on your day. According to the American Heart Association, 10 minutes of peace, quiet, and slow breathing can help you alleviate the influence of stress on your mind and allow your body to relax.

Positive reaffirmation can be beneficial to calming those moments where you feel overwhelmed. Similarly you can find solace throughout your day with common practices such as meditation, yoga, or exercise.

Remaining Aware of the Mind and Body

It's important to pay attention to how much stress you are dealing with in your life and take the appropriate action to avoid the negative health consequences. Give your mind and body the daily support you need so you can take on the task at hand and allowing yourself to maintain a healthy mind and body.

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You and Your Dirty Phone

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You and Your Dirty PhoneAccording to a United Nations report, 6 billion of the estimated 7 billion people in the world use cell phones. With the increasing use of cell phones as a means of staying connected to people and information, more and more individuals are constantly touching their phones throughout the day—and coming into contact with bacteria.

How Your Phone Relates to Health


A recent study sought to look at just what type of bacteria can collect on a typical phone from daily use. Taking samples of 17 people’s smartphone touchscreens as well as their index fingertips and thumbs, researchers discovered more than 7,000 different types of bacteria between all of the samples taken. Unsurprisingly, the individual microbes on each person’s phone closely matched the ones on that individual’s fingers.

“This study confirms that we share more than an emotional connection with our phones—they carry our personal microbiome,” said the study researchers in the June 24 issue of the journal, PeerJ. The term microbiome refers to each person’s unique set of microorganisms that reside in the skin, saliva, and gastrointestinal tract. Over time, your body has adapted to having these bacteria, so there’s no cause for alarm to find such bacteria on personal items such as phones, especially since the average person checks their phone up to 150 times per day.

The close relationship you share with your phone may even make it possible one day to use them as a way to monitor the bacteria you are exposed to in the environment. For example, your phone could be screened before or after entering a medical facility to see if you are bringing dangerous pathogens in or out, according to James Meadow, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oregon.

Protect Your Phone, Protect Your Well-Being

Just as you are capable of picking up microorganisms from the environment, so too can your phone. “Phones may carry bacteria that we pick up from being outside, or from touching surfaces or other people,” said Meadow. Some bacteria don’t integrate into your microbiome and further research is needed to understand how they affect health.

To help limit the amount of bacteria that may spread between you and your phone, practice the same hygiene habits with your phone as you would your own hands. For example, don’t let your phone come into contact with uncooked food or other unclean surfaces. Wipe it down regularly with an alcohol-free disinfectant wipe because alcohol rubs away the grease-repelling coating on touchscreens. Then dry it with an extra-soft cloth. Use a microfiber cloth—such as the kind used to clean sunglasses—to remove fingerprints and grease from your smartphone’s screen, and use a compressed air can to clear away crumbs and other debris that may get stuck behind buttons. This minimizes the transfer of bacteria to your face, which can cause irritation to your cheek and jawline, or even illness.

In addition to keeping your phone clean, remember to keep your hands clean as well through frequent handwashing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing your hands under running water with soap for at least 20 seconds to kill germs effectively.

Make Hygiene a Habit

Everyone’s immune system reacts differently to certain environments, and Meadows advises that bacteria on smartphones and the body are not necessarily something to worry about. But good hygiene is something to be practiced for good health, especially if you feel ill often or have a low immune system. Just because you can’t see germs and bacteria on cell phones, door hands, or keyboards it doesn’t mean that they’re not there. By practicing good hygiene, daily immune system support can be easily integrated into your healthy lifestyle every day.

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The ABCs of Health: How Well Do You Know Your Vitamins?

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The ABCs of Health: How Well Do You Know Your Vitamins?Essential vitamins and minerals are vital to everyday health. Interestingly, the uses of many essential vitamins were discovered only when people observed the effects that their deficiencies caused. The more we understand about our health the more we realize our minds and bodies need proper daily support to function properly. How much do you know about the essential vitamins and minerals you need each day?

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Vitamin A (as known as retinol or beta-carotene) is said to help build good vision and promote bone development. It has antioxidant properties to support immune and cellular health. Vitamin C, also an antioxidant, is a water-soluble vitamin that is important for building connective tissues (such as joint cartilage and collagen), bones, and teeth. It assists in metabolizing other vitamins and is vital to proper immune system function. Vitamin E helps maintain healthy cells and may help promote cognitive function. Like vitamins A and C, it also functions as an antioxidant. Studies have shown that combinations of vitamin A, C, and E help protect the macula, the region of the eye that is integral for detailed vision. All three nutrients can be found in many different foods, so you aren't limited for choice:

  • Vitamin A – Sweet potatoes, beef liver, fruits and eggs.
  • Vitamin C – Citrus fruits, peppers, and greens like broccoli.
  • Vitamin E – Whole grains, nuts, and spinach.

Being Healthy Doesn't Need to "B" Complex

The B-complex vitamins are mostly concerned with energy production in your body. Vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B6 all help metabolize or produce energy. Vitamin B1 helps metabolize carbohydrates, while B3 releases energy from carbohydrates and fats. Vitamin B2 assists in energy production and red blood cell formation, while B6 supports nervous system function. Red blood cells are vital in transporting fresh oxygen to every part of your body and taking carbon dioxide back to the lungs. Another important B vitamin is B9 (folic acid). Folic acid is known to support a healthy brain and heart, and it also synthesizes proteins and DNA. Folic acid can be found in green, leafy vegetables and whole grains. A study done at the Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University, on B vitamins as biomarkers showed favorable results for supporting cognitive health and brain function with folic acid.

D + Calcium = Healthy Bones

Vitamin D and calcium are two of the most important vitamins and minerals for the integrity of your bones and teeth. Even though vitamin D is quite well known, recent reports say many people still aren't getting enough. Research shows that, worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people have inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood, and deficiencies can be found in all ethnicities and age groups. Vital to healthy bones and immune function, vitamin D can be produced in skin cells whenever you're exposed to UV rays from sunlight. Despite this fact, people may still not be getting enough sun exposure due to location and skin being concealed by clothing. Vitamin D also aids the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Together, all three nutrients keep your internal structure strong and healthy.

"Zinc" Hard About Other Nutrients

Once you've checked off all the letter-vitamins on your nutrition list, don't forget to include minerals in your diet, too. Trace minerals such as iron and selenium are all important to your daily health, albeit in small doses. Iron is necessary to produce the hemoglobin found in red blood cells. Recent studies have also highlighted the importance of iron in brain development, showing it is needed for the mind as well. Selenium is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from free radical damage. Zinc is an essential mineral to many different bodily processes. Most notably it supports immune function. A recent study looked at the role that both vitamin C and zinc play in boosting immune health. Results showed that supplementation with a combination of zinc and vitamin C "was found to improve components of the human immune system such as antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities."

Multitask Your Nutrition with a Multivitamin

Keeping track of all the amounts and types of vitamins you need to take each day can be exhausting, but it's worth the effort because of all the ways they can positively influence your health. Luckily there are multivitamin supplements out there that can help you reach the recommended daily value of all these essentials. Multivitamins are often called a daily insurance policy on nutrition. By understanding the basics and where to get them, you can stay one step ahead in fortifying good, daily nutrition for healthy living.


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How a Healthy Love Life Can Lead to a Healthier Overall Life

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How a Healthy Love Life Can Lead to a Healthier Overall LifeFinding love and a partner in life is a story as old as human society itself. While love is often unexplainable, that hasn't stopped scientists from attempting to analyze the deeper meanings behind the laws of attraction by trying to find out what makes us tick and why we choose certain partners. But whether you believe that opposites attract or that people often seek others with similar tastes, the one thing that everyone agrees on is that being in love is good for you mentally, emotionally, and physically.

It's easy for those who have never experienced “love at first sight” to dismiss it as just another fantasy, but the fact is the brain releases love-related chemicals in the brain within a split second of eyeing someone you're attracted to. These chemicals—notably dopamine and norepinephrine—trigger a euphoric feeling and may cause those sometimes hasty decisions people make when they are “in love.” Adrenaline racing through your system can also cause your heart rate to rise and make you jittery when you're around the one you love, which is why so many people equate love to a drug; albeit one with more positive benefits to you overall.

Sealed with a Kiss

Kissing can have a wide range of sociological implications. A recent study took survey answers from 900 different adult men and women who were asked about the importance of kissing in relation to both short and long-term relationships. Results showed that kissing may serve as a subconscious test in compatibility. Through the sense of taste and smell, your mind and body may be taking biological cues for compatibility, genetic fitness, and general health. The study also found that the importance of kissing changed depending on whether people were in a short- or long-term relationship. Women rated kissing as more important in long-term relationships because they viewed it as a way of sustaining affection and attachment throughout a relationship.

The Important Role of Intimacy

Besides the emotional pluses that relationships can bring, physical intimacy with your partner has a wide range of health benefits—some of which may come as a surprise. First and foremost, sexual intimacy can be a form of exercise that burns up to five calories a minute. It increases your heart rate, helps lower blood pressure, and balances testosterone and estrogen levels. One study found that men who were intimate with their partners at least twice a week had better overall heart health. It also strengthens the pelvic muscles in women and supports prostate health in men, which can promote healthy urinary function. Intimacy also helps boost testosterone levels and aids a strong libido, increasing your ability and performance. Sexual activity is also good for immune health. Researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania found that people who were intimate with their partners once or twice a week had higher levels of certain antibodies to boost the immune system than those who didn't. A healthy physical relationship with your partner can also serve as a sleep aid, helping you to relax and fall asleep quicker and easier. And simply snuggling up to your partner can help relieve anxiety and stress because it releases the hormones vasopressin in men and oxytocin in women; “cuddle hormones” that enhance your affection for your partner.

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Opening up your heart to another person is one of the greatest things you can do for your own emotional and physical well-being. The euphoria from being in love can help lift your mood and help you view life with “glass half full” perspective. Intimacy with your partner is crucial to bonding, helping to foster a healthier and happier relationship, which can extend to other areas of your health. Besides being good for your heart emotionally, it's actually good for your heart physically, too, as well as your immune system, muscles, hormone levels, and libido. It can help ease daily stress, and boost your mood and self-esteem, all while keeping anxiety at bay. Valentine's Day is one day out of the year that puts the spotlight on your love life, but a healthy relationship is something you should strive to maintain with your partner every day. Intimacy plays a large role in that, so remember to show the one you love how much you appreciate them because the payoffs to your emotional and physical well-being are worth it.

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