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What Is in That Energy Drink and Is It Worth the Trade-Off?

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What Is in That Energy Drink and Is It Worth the Trade-Off?Despite national health movements encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles, consumption of energy drinks continues to rise. According to data compiled by Bloomberg last year, energy drink sales increased nearly 7%, reaching $9.2 billion by the end of 2013. From office workers to athletes, people are consuming energy beverages for a variety of reasons. But are they really that helpful?

Measuring Effective Performance

A recent study on energy drinks carried out by experts from Camilo José Cela University (UCJC) sought to analyze the positive and negative effects they may have on athletes. In the study, top athletes who participated in various sports including soccer, climbing, swimming, basketball, rugby, tennis, and hockey were given the equivalent of three cans of energy drink or a placebo energy drink before their competitions. Their performance was then measured with GPS devices which tracked their average speed and distance covered. Other devices were used to track muscle usage in certain sports. Results of the study showed a minimal 3%-7% percent increase in total performance for those who had taken the energy drinks. However the results were not all positive.

An Unhealthy Trade-Off

While an increase in performance was noted, it was not without a cost. Athletes that took the energy drinks before their competitions also experienced an increased frequency of insomnia, along with nervousness and an inability to calm down after their activities. The placebo group did not show the same signs or frequency of any negative side-effects such as nervousness, anxiety, or insomnia as those who were given the energy drinks.

Other studies done on the short-term physical effects of energy drink consumption showed alterations in short-term heart function. Researchers took cardiac MRIs of 15 healthy men and three healthy women with an average age of 27.5 years before and one hour after they consumed an energy drink containing 400 mg/100 ml taurine and 32mg/100 ml caffeine. Comparing MRI images, researchers discovered that there was increased strain on the left ventricle in the "after" images.

While more research about the long-term effects of energy drinks on the heart and body in general is needed, study author Dr. Jonas Dörner from the University of Bonn, Germany, commented that it was clear that energy drinks can affect short-term heart function.

Choosing a Path to Healthy Energy

While public scrutiny often falls on the soft drink beverage industry, the ingredients in energy drinks do not vastly differ. Some energy drinks contain up to three times the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of coffee. As recently as 2013, a group of 18 doctors jointly urged the FDA to restrict the amount of caffeine companies were allowed to put into energy drinks as reported in the NY Times.

When looking for a healthy source of energy—whether it's for exercise or help you endure the work day—it's important to be aware of how these sources can affect your body. Instead of constantly turning to caffeine or sugar-filled foods or beverages, choose foods high in fiber or proteins such as eggs, nuts (including trail mix), and whole-grain cereal for longer, more sustained energy. When it comes to beverages stay hydrated with plain old H2O. Water helps transport nutrients through the blood and can support the efficient removal of waste that can build up and lead to fatigue during exercise.

For the healthy, long-lasting energy your body needs, be sure to choose the right fuel. Proper nutrition and hydration can provide the right daily balance to help keep your energy levels where you need them all day long.

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Why Knowing Your BMI can be the Beginning of Better Health

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Why Knowing Your BMI can be the Beginning of Better HealthBecause every person's body shape can vary in size, proportion, and weight distribution, having a particular set of measurements to calculate your ideal weight in relationship to your height can be helpful in assessing the current state of your overall health. The body mass index measurement, or BMI, can give you a specific idea of what your target weight should be. However, figuring out your BMI is only the beginning. Integrating the proper nutrition and exercise into your lifestyle - in manageable, realistic steps can help you reach your target BMI index and achieve the greater health you desire.

Your BMI and Its Importance

Your body weight is tied to many areas of overall well-being. From blood sugar to blood pressure to overall heart health—and even the internal pressure of your organs and other systems—weight is one of the single most important aspects of assessing how healthy you are. This is why the BMI can be a great tool. This formula can help determine whether your body type and size is putting you at a higher risk for serious health problems and allows you to pinpoint specific areas you need to target to set you on the path to better health.

To determine your BMI number, start with your weight (in pounds) divided by your height (in inches) squared, and multiply by 703. Once you get your BMI number you can look at the unhealthy and healthy ranges. For adults age 20 or older, if your BMI is 30 or higher, you are considered obese. BMI measurements 25-29 and beyond are categorized as "overweight", while numbers from 18.5 to 24.9 are considered "normal" weight. Anything less than 18.5 is considered to be "underweight", which also can put you at risk.

A Realistic View of Health

While it's always sensible to maintain a healthy weight for lifestyle reasons, fad diets and unattainable body images have led many astray in the process of attempting to lose weight. Health starts from within. Not everyone can or should want to look like models in TV commercials or magazines. With that in mind, knowing your BMI number and what your ideal range should be can help you set realistic goals when it comes to weight loss.

However, in addition to knowing your BMI number, you should also know what it doesn't take into account. BMI doesn't factor in age and gender, or differences between fat and muscle mass, Athletes or those with more muscles mass may have a higher BMI, but are not necessarily unhealthy. In the same respect, age and gender can skew your BMI reading. According to the CDC, women tend to have more body fat than men, on average. Also, as you get older your body tends to store more fat.

Another important factor to consider, therefore, is waist circumference. Abdominal fat has been linked to heart concerns and higher blood pressure. For women, a high waist circumference can mean anything above 35 inches, and for men, anything above 40 inches. Because each individual is different, including genetic history, nutrition, physical activity, and body type, your area of focus might not always be the same as another.

Smaller Steps to Greater Health

When targeting your ideal BMI, experts say your initial weight loss goal should be losing 10% of your total weight. It's also important to set a realistic target date; you're not going to change your lifestyle or general health in one week or even one month. True and lasting change takes time and repetition. Introducing the appropriate amount of calories into your daily diet will take trial and error. Experts suggest it can be helpful to start by eliminating one unhealthy meal or food item from your diet a time instead of trying to totally change your diet at once.

Checking with your physician to know your limits as far as physical activity is concerned is important, as is maintaining consistency. Again, smaller steps can help ease you into the lifestyle change you desire. Trying to not be inactive can be easier than trying to immediately go from not exercising to trying to exercise five days a week. Walking three times a week or small forms of aerobic exercise a few times a week is a good starting point on the road to greater well-being.

Information Equals Better Decisions

People are motivated and driven by different things when it comes to health. For some of them it's realizing that they can't perform a physical activity as easily as they once could; others see something on TV that speaks to them in a way that hits home. No matter where your motivation comes from, it's important to get all the information you can before you set out and try and enact your healthy change.

Start by seeking the proper expert advice and using the tools that are available to you—such as BMI, blood pressure, and waist circumference measurements. There are also a number of technological applications that can help you track your weight, remind you to exercise, or figure out how to properly structure your diet. All of these can be valuable resources when it comes to making the small changes that lead to a world of difference.

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Going Beyond the Numbers: Learn How You Can Support Good Cholesterol

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Going Beyond the Numbers: Learn How You Can Support Good CholesterolCholesterol has been a major focus of daily health for many years, especially when it comes to the heart. For a long time doctors and experts focused on a certain set of numbers based on LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels to assess heart health. But recent studies have shown that cholesterol management is more than just a numbers game.

A Change in Approach

Almost everyone who watches their cholesterol knows there are two different types: LDL, otherwise known as "bad cholesterol", and HDL, known as the "good cholesterol". According to the Mayo Clinic, acceptable ranges for LDL cholesterol consist of anything below 70 mg/dl while anything between 130 mg/dl and 159 mg/dl is borderline high. For the good HDL, the higher the number the better. Healthy ranges consist of anything between 40 mg/dl up to 60 mg/dl.

A recent report released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, however, gave updated insight into how other potential risk factors—not just cholesterol numbers—play a role in determining your cholesterol health. Cholesterol numbers by themselves sometimes don't always tell the full tale as the same numerical values can bear different meanings for different people.

In order to give a more accurate evaluation, doctors and health experts looked at other factors such as genetics, age, physical activity levels, diet, and blood sugar levels to assess what type of daily support an individual may need. Any one of these factors can raise your risk of heart concerns, which is why it's important not to focus on a single aspect, but rather the big picture of your well-being.

Ways You Can Influence Your Cholesterol Numbers

There are several controllable factors that you can engage in to support not just your cholesterol number readings, but other aspects that go into your health. Diet, for instance, can play a crucial role. Studies have shown that legumes can positively influence your cholesterol numbers. Foods like beans, nuts, peas, and lentils can cut cholesterol by 5%, which, in turn, can cut your risk factors for other heart health concerns by 5%, making a world of difference.

There are also supplementation options for a more natural approach to supporting cholesterol. The clinically tested Bergamot fruit continues to show promise for cholesterol health as well as balancing blood sugar levels. Other ingredients such as folic acid, omega-3 fish oil, and flaxseed have also shown the ability to provide positive daily support when it comes to managing cholesterol.

Depending on your personal variables, exercise is another often-cited factor in influencing cholesterol health. You don't have to dedicate yourself to workouts to see a difference, but adding 30–40 minutes of moderate-intensity workouts three-to-four times a week can support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure ranges according to the American Heart Association.

Other lifestyle components include resisting more obvious bad habits such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol, as well as not monitoring stress levels as they can impact blood pressure and your overall heart health.

It's More Than Just About the Numbers

While many people measure their cholesterol strictly by the numbers, there's much more to it than figures on a piece of paper. Your overall lifestyle—depending on how healthy or unhealthy it is—indirectly affects your heart. However, no matter your age, weight, gender, or family history, it's never too late to enact positive changes starting today that can bear great health rewards tomorrow.

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A Joint Effort: Tips to Help Influence Healthy Joints

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A Joint Effort: Tips to Help Influence Healthy JointsThe importance of supporting healthy joints throughout your lifetime is no secret. Many factors—from exercise to diet to lifestyle—are discussed at length when it comes to how and why you should take care of the joints that are tied so intricately to your overall well-being. But the fact remains that many people still suffer from joint stiffness and discomfort. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of 2012 nearly 52 million people are diagnosed as having a common type of joint concern. While natural wear and tear on your joints and muscles occurs throughout your life, taking some minute daily precautions can be the difference between ultimately helping or hurting the health of your joints.

To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

It's hard on your body to expect your joints and muscles to go from zero to fully exercising, but in the same respect stretching cold joints, muscles, and tendons is not good either. Even if you're not about to exercise you should stretch daily, or at least three times a week, to maintain joint flexibility. However, warming up before doing some dynamic stretches to keep your joints, ligaments, and tendons loose is necessary.

Warming up literally means raising your body temperature a little before stretching and exercising. Jogging in place, rotating your arms, or even moving your body around can help you warm up to properly stretch and allow you to protect your joints from injury when you eventually engage in physical activity.

Low-Impact Exercise Still Has an Impact

As you get older, joint discomfort may mentally deter you from being physically active. While everyone's limitations change as they get older, it's important to know that even if you have joint concerns there are low-impact exercises that can cater to your capabilities and still allow you to get the exercise your body needs.

Walking, cycling, and swimming are some of the main types of low-impact exercises. Different types of sports can be jarring on your joints, but these simple ways of moving about without the high impact of your joints stomping the ground can provide a good cardiovascular workout while giving your joints the movement they need to stay in shape.

Other Helpful Tips for Keeping Joints Healthy

Sometimes joint health isn't just about focusing on your joints. Light exercises for muscles around crucial joints can actually help strengthen the joints themselves. Research has shown that having weaker thigh muscles can increase the risk of joint concerns. In addition to the muscles around your joints, make sure to workout your core. Having a strong core, midsection, and back can help you have better balance and a fuller range of motion, allowing you to put less pressure on joints.

Supplementation can also give your joints the well-rounded support they need. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid can help lubricate the joints to support mobility and flexibility while collagen, a main component of joints and skin, helps nourish cartilage to keep the connective tissues strong. MSM is another well-known ingredient for joint support as it supports tissue rejuvenation, nourishes cartilage, and is a major key for collagen production and overall joint support.

Understanding the Ins and Outs of Joints

To understand joint health is to know how the rest of your body is connected to movement. Just because you may experience joint discomfort, it should not be a reason to give up all hope for engaging in some type of consistent exercise. Of course, it is always important to know your limitations and be sure to check with your doctor before pushing your boundaries. Giving your joints the support they need is possible through both internal and external factors. Exercise, nutrition, and understanding how to best protect your joints can lead you to the healthy and active lifestyle you need.

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Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their Effects

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Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their EffectsStress and anxiety can come from a variety of places; whether it's deadline driven or due to life's sometimes overwhelming responsibilities. Everyone feels a little bit of anxiety and stress now and then, but when you are unable to properly deal with the daily anxieties of life they can build up and put excessive physical strain on your body. However, there are some simple techniques to dealing with the everyday stressors that can help you relax in the moment in order to keep your body from feeling the residual effects that stress can cause.

Concentrating on a Constant: Breathing

Breathing is an essential, unconscious process needed to sustain life. There are, however, many techniques which can help you control your rate of breathing. Whenever people feel stress or anxiety they naturally tend to breathe faster, which is part of the ingrained fight or flight response. By focusing on your breathing and taking slow, methodical breaths to avoid shallow breaths, you can slow your physical reaction to stress. One method is to produce long, deep breaths holding it, and then slowly exhaling over a few seconds. This type of deep breathing can reduce the effect those waves of anxiety can have on the body.

The Human Connection

Sometimes, relaxation is easier with company. Human beings are social creatures and throughout our lives we create deep, meaningful bonds with others. These connections to the people you love and care for can also be useful in reducing anxiety or stress when you're feeling frustrated. A positive word of encouragement from someone you love, or even a pat on the back or hug, can do wonders for your mood. Stress can make you tense and reserved, making you reluctant to open up and share your feelings. But having someone to talk to, or even just rant with, can relieve stress almost immediately. The power of the human connection should never be underutilized.

Moving to Stay Ahead of Stress

Whether you realize it or not, stress can also be a motivating factor that can be used to your advantage. This is aptly referred to as stimulation and engagement. When you feel bouts of anxiety or stress, you often feel as if you need to move around, which is why it's common to picture a person pacing back and forth when they're fretting on their problems. This idea can be used in a positive way if you engage in physical activity during instances of anxiety. Whether you work out, go for a walk, or even just dance around your room to a favorite song, you are naturally letting off steam and helping your body relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

Paying Attention to Your Stress Levels

Many people don't pay attention to stress and anxiety until it has a hold on them and sends their mood spiraling downward. Being aware of certain reactionary cues throughout your day such as changes to your voice, having sweaty palms, feeling burned out, or faster breathing can alert you to the fact that you may be dealing with unwanted anxiety.

Modern society is filled with things that can constantly make you stressed, from major nuisances (job, money, marriage, and relationships) to minor ones (traffic, cell phone service, and grocery shopping). By knowing what your trigger points are and being proactive in calming yourself through simple techniques, you can avoid stress before it takes hold and gain peace of mind, a healthier immune system, better focus, and more energy to concentrate on the things you love.

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