Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Health Quiz

True or False health quiz for a healthier heart...
Taking blood pressure in both arms may reveal a higher heart attack risk.
TRUE: You should measure blood pressure in both arms. A difference of 10 points or more means a 38% greater chance of having a heart attack — something you should talk to your doctor about.
Coated aspirin is better if you are taking it daily for your heart.
FALSE: If you’re taking daily aspirin for your heart, don’t use coated aspirin. It won’t protect your stomach AND not all the aspirin will get into your blood stream. You’re better off with chewable “baby aspirin.”
Dietary fat wreaks havoc on your heart and your memory.
FALSE: Not all dietary fat wreaks havoc on your heart and memory. Saturated fat (in butter and red meat) can harm both memory and artery health while monosaturated fats (in olive oil and fish) actually improve both memory and heart health.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Where to turn for low back pain relief

In most cases, a primary care doctor or chiropractor can help you resolve the problem.

back pain reliefLow back pain is one of the most common complaints on the planet. And you may wonder where to turn when you start experiencing some of those aches or twinges in the lower part of your back. Take heart. "In most cases, you won't need a specialist," says Dr. Robert Shmerling, a rheumatologist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

When pain strikes

There are many causes of low back pain. Some of the most common include an injury to a muscle or tendon (a strain), an injury to a back ligament (a sprain), and a herniated or "slipped" disc (when the soft material inside of a disc between spinal bones leaks and irritates nerves). Many of these issues will eventually resolve on their own.
But some causes of low back pain, such as a narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis), may require a specialist. "A referral makes sense when conservative measures have failed to address your back pain, symptoms aren't improving or are getting worse, or there's a suspicion that surgery might be needed," says Dr. Shmerling.

Where to turn

Since you shouldn't try to diagnose your own back pain, make your first call to a professional who can assess your problem, such as a primary care physician or a chiropractor. "Both can serve as the entry point for back pain," says Dr. Matthew Kowalski, a chiropractor with the Osher Clinical Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "And 35% to 42% of people with their first episode of back pain will consult a chiropractor."
Chiropractors use posture exercises and hands-on spinal manipulation to relieve back pain, improve function, and help the body heal itself. They often work in conjunction with other doctors, and they can prescribe diet, exercise, and stretching programs. "A well-trained chiropractor will sort out whether you should be in their care or the care of a physical therapist or medical doctor," Dr. Kowalski explains.

The next step

If you do need a specialist on your team, there are many experts who can help, depending on your needs. You may be referred to any of these:
  • A neurologist, a doctor specializing in treatment of the nervous system. "Back pain is commonly associated with lower-extremity symptoms, such as numbness and tingling. These symptoms can also be caused by neurological conditions that are not spine-related, such as multiple sclerosis. Neurologists are great at sorting this out and offering solutions," says Dr. Kowalski.
  • A physiatrist, a doctor with expertise in physical medicine and rehabilitation. "This may be helpful for back pain related to a sports injury, if surgery is not needed, and when medications are not working," says Dr. Shmerling.
  • A rheumatologist, a doctor who treats diseases of the joints, muscles, and bones. "Referral is most appropriate when there is inflammation of the joints in the back, or if the back pain might be related to an inflammatory disease, such as psoriatic arthritis," explains Dr. Shmerling.
  • A physical therapist, a licensed therapist who can help you strengthen back and core muscles to absorb pressure on the spine.
  • A pain management physician, a doctor who can prescribe medications, provide injections, and consider other approaches. "People with symptoms that aren't responding to treatment are great candidates for pain management, such as injections or procedures to smaller joints in lower back," says Dr. Kowalski.
  • An orthopedic spinal surgeon or a neurosurgeon who primarily does spine surgery, if surgery is likely needed for severe, unrelenting pain that may be due to a disc or spinal column problem.

Keep in mind

It may take several types of tests, such as x-rays, MRIs, and blood tests, to determine the exact cause of your back pain.
And you may need more than one expert managing your back pain. It just depends on the situation. "Most people who see more than one expert have more than one problem or have not improved with prior treatments," says Dr. Shmerling.
But for back sprains, strains, and herniated discs, a visit to your primary care physician or chiropractor may be all it takes to feel better. Make that initial call if back pain is interfering with your day.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

11 Reasons You’re Not Losing Belly Fat




Belly fat won’t budge? Genetics, hormones or easy-to-fix mistakes could be to blame.


Getting rid of your belly bulge is important for more than just vanity’s sake. Excess abdominal fat—particularly visceral fat, the kind that surrounds your organs and puffs your stomach into a “beer gut”—is a predictor of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and some cancers. If diet and exercise haven’t done much to reduce your pooch, then your hormones, your age and other genetic factors may be the reason why.

You’re doing the wrong exercises
Doing crunches until the cows come home? Stop it! When you’re down to your final inches of belly fat, the dreaded crunch won’t be the exercise that finally reveals your six-pack. “You can’t spot reduce,” Jill says. Instead, she suggests doing functional exercises that use the muscles in your core—abdominals, back, pelvic, obliques—as well as other body parts. “These exercises use more muscles, so there is a higher rate of calorie burn while you are doing them,” she says. Planks are her favorite functional exercise—they activate not just your core muscles but also your arm, leg, and butt muscles.


You’re unmotivated

Are you committed to the work needed to lose belly fat? “Reducing belly fat takes a combination approach of a low-calorie diet that is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates and sugar along with cardiovascular and weight training,” Dr. Kashyap says. “If you are willing to do the work, you can move past genetics and lose it.


You’re eating the wrong fats
The body doesn’t react to all fats in the same way. Research correlates high intake of saturated fat (the kind in meat and dairy) to increased visceral fat, says Patton. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats (the kind in olive oil and avocados) and specific types of polyunsaturated fats (mainly omega-3s, found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, and fatty fish like salmon) have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and if eaten in proper portions may do your body good. But Patton warns that eating too much fat of any kind increases your calorie intake and could lead to weight gain, so enjoy healthy fats in moderation.


You’re doing the wrong workout
A daily run or spin class is great for your heart, but cardio workouts alone won’t do much for your waist. “You need to do a combination of weights and cardiovascular training,” says Sangeeta Kashyap, M.D., an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic. Strength training increases muscle mass, which sets your body up to burn more fat. “Muscle burns more calories than fat, and therefore you naturally burn more calories throughout the day by having more muscle,” says Kate Patton, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic. Patton recommends 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 125 minutes of high-intensity exercise a week.


You’re sick
If your testosterone levels are high—something that can occur with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—you might have difficulty losing weight. “If you’re an apple shape and overweight, it’s a good idea to see your doctor,” Dr. Kashyap says, since there may also be a chance that you are prediabetic or diabetic.


You’re stressed
Tight deadlines, bills, your kids—whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it’s not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you’re stressed, though that’s part of it. It’s also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.


You’re eating too many processed foods
“Refined grains like white bread, crackers and chips, as well as refined sugars in sweetened drinks and desserts, increase inflammation in our bodies,” says Patton. “Belly fat is associated with inflammation, so eating too many processed foods will hinder your ability to lose belly fat.” Natural foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are full of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may therefore actually prevent belly fat, Patton says.


Your workout isn’t challenging enough
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, those completing the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) “You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that,” says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you’re going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you’ll burn more calories in less time.


You’re skimping on sleep
If you’re among the 30% of Americans who sleep less than six hours a night, here’s one simple way to whittle your waistline: catch more Zs. A 16-year study of almost 70,000 women found that those who slept five hours or less a night were 30% more likely to gain 30 or more pounds than those who slept seven hours. The National Institutes of Health suggest adults sleep seven to eight hours a night.


You’re apple shaped
If you tend to pack the pounds around your middle rather than your hips and thighs, then you’re apple shaped. This genetic predisposition means ridding yourself of belly fat will be harder, Dr. Kashyap says, but not impossible.


You’re getting older
As you get older, your body changes how it gains and loses weight. Both men and women experience a declining metabolic rate, or the number of calories the body needs to function normally. On top of that, women have to deal with menopause. “If women gain weight after menopause, it’s more likely to be in their bellies,” says Michael Jensen, M.D., professor of medicine in the Mayo Clinic’s endocrinology division. In menopause, production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone slows down. Meanwhile, testosterone levels also start to drop, but at a slower rate. This shift in hormones causes women to hold onto weight in their bellies. The good news: You can fight this process.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

5 Ways To Lift More

Here’s the thing about lifting more weight: It’s great for you.
People might worry about bulking up too much if they start lifting more weight. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Having functional strength is so important in everyday life, “and also, if you develop more muscle, it takes many more calories to feed the muscle. You’re going to be burning fat more efficiently. You’re going to be stronger and leaner, and in better shape.”
For one thing, you can’t get huge if you’re not increasing your calories. “It’s just impossible." “You’ll have the same frame but you’ll just be pushing more weight. You won’t grow exponentially.” While you might feel a surge of blood to your muscle—that’s what lifters call “the pump”—it will only last for about 15 minutes while your tissues and muscles are developing following a lift. After that, you’ll return to your previous size. We asked Ryan for some tips about lifting more weight without putting on the bulk.

Lift More, in Fewer Reps

You want to do something that is challenging but not uncomfortable. If you're going to increase your weight load, lower your reps. Try doing 16 to 20 reps—a typical number for low weight—and as you add more weight, drop that number to 10-12 reps. Ryan suggests that about 15 percent more is the correct amount to add. As long as you don't go with the powerlifter routine, which is 3-5 reps at maximum weight, you shouldn't add bulk.

Embrace the Drop Set

Ryan's a huge fan of drop sets, especially when building strength. Drop sets are performed by starting at a certain weight and number of repetitions. As your workout continues, reduce your number of repetitions while increasing your weight. For example, start with 12 reps of a move, then add 5 to 10 percent more weight. Next do 10 reps, then add 5-10 percent more weight followed by 8 reps, adding 5-10 percent more weight. Finally, do 6 reps, then drop the weight you’ve added and do 12 reps at the original weight. "You're taking a muscle that is growing and fatigued, and then you're overloading it," Ryan says. "It's also an ego boost. You're doing more weight and thinking, 'this is great.'

Have A Spotter

You want to have proper form and technique as you start lifting more weight, and you want to always have a spotter, especially when you're doing overhead movements. For anything where you have a bench movement or shoulder movements, where you have weights over your head or over your face, ask a buddy to spot you. They'll be able to help in a pinch, while making sure that your form stays consistent and correct to achieve your goal.

Don't Sweat Weight Gain

If you're doing it right, your weight will go up a bit. The reason? Muscle is denser than fat. "Do. Not. Panic," Ryan advises. "Don't be a scale monster. Don't even look at the scale." The goal here is to improve your body composition, so you will see your body go through a change. Although you will be putting muscle on, you'll notice that your body fat percentage will go down, eventually reaching the correct balance for you. You are going to be a leaner, more fit version of yourself. Your clothes are going to be looser in places where you want them to be looser. You're going to look good, and not overly buff.

Keep Up the Protein

If you're training and want to get a little stronger, the big thing is protein. Women should eat a gram of protein a day per pound of body weight, while men can go up to 1.5 grams (or 2 grams if they want to add bulk). As long as you're consistently lifting, adding protein will ensure that your muscles are well-fed and healthy.

Mike Ryan

Thursday, March 17, 2016

18 Snacks That Burn Fat


What you eat between meals matters more than you think. Health.com explains how these choices can boost metabolism and help you lose weight fast.

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SNACKS VERSUS WEIGHT LOSS

Americans love to snack almost as much as we want to lose weight. But according to recent research by the USDA, our snacking habits are adding too many calories and too few nutrients to our diets. It doesn't have to be this way, says Susan Bowerman, RD, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. "When done right, [snacking] keeps your energy levels up and gives you more opportunities to get in all your nutritional needs."

WHAT SNACKS BURN FAT?

Eating snacks with the right ratio of nutrients, with the right calories, will help keep your body energized and help you lose weight. Protein (plus exercise) fuels the growth of lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolic rate and increases calorie burn. Fiber, meanwhile, helps improve digestion and keeps you from binging on fats and sugars. So while there's no food that will literally "burn fat" while you eat it, smart choices with these ingredients will help your body operate at maximum efficiency. Bowerman suggests snacks under 200 calories, with 10 grams of protein and close to 5 grams of fiber. Here are 20 of our favorite fat-burning snacks.

An apple and skim milk


"Almost any fruit is going to make a great snack, but you usually want to pair it with a bit of protein to make it more satisfying," says Bowerman; "unlike carbohydrates, which get used up relatively quickly, protein will help sustain your energy and hunger levels for a couple of hours." This duo will give you 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for just over 200 calories.

Lentil salad with tomatoes and watercress


Salads aren't just for mealtime—when they're about 200 calories, they make a great afternoon snack, as well. This one has 11 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber, thanks to superfood lentils and plenty of veggies. (The recipe makes six servings, so hold off on adding the vinaigrette if you're not eating the whole thing at once.)

Cottage-cheese-filled avocado


Here's another fruit and dairy combo, this one for when you're craving something rich, creamy, and a bit savory. Remove the pit from one half of an avocado and fill the space with 2 ounces of 1% cottage cheese. For 200 calories, you'll get 9 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber—and no dirty dishes!

Sunflower lentil spread with pita bread


Lentils are a good source of iron, a metabolism-boosting nutrient that 20% of us don't get enough of. This savory recipe makes four 180-calorie servings, with 10 grams each of protein and fiber.

Canned tuna on whole-wheat crackers


If you don't want to incorporate dairy into every snack, a can of tuna (packed in water) is another great source of lean protein plus healthy omega-3s. For about 200 calories, you can enjoy 3 ounces of light tuna and 6 whole-wheat crackers—complete with 3 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein.

Warm pear with cinnamon ricotta


Ricotta cheese is rich in protein, and pears are a good source of fiber. Together with a teaspoon of cinnamon, they make a delicious snack for any time of day. Each serving contains 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 170 calories.

Shrimp stack


You may not think of shellfish as a grab-and-go snack food, but you can put this tasty treat together in a flash if you keep pre-cooked shrimp on hand. With Greek yogurt and avocado, it's a protein powerhouse with 9 grams per serving (and 4 g fiber), for only 129 calories.

Miso-glazed tofu


This recipe is touted as a main course, but it's so light on calories (only 164) that it can stand in as a midday snack as well. It also packs plenty of protein (12 grams) thanks to the tofu, as well as 3 grams of fiber.

Chicken pita sandwich (half)


There's no reason you can't have smaller portions of "real" food as snacks, says Bowerman. "Oftentimes, the healthiest and most balanced snacks are the ones that start as full meals—like a half a sandwich, or a plate of leftovers put together from dinner the night before," she adds.
Whip up this chicken and veggie pita in the morning, and split it in half for two snacks throughout the day. Each half contains 200 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and more than 20 grams of protein.

Cauliflower with white bean dip


Make a batch of white bean and roasted garlic dip at the beginning of the week to spread on crackers and eat with veggies when hunger strikes. Pair a quarter-cup serving with 2 cups of raw, chopped cauliflower, for example, for a total of 11 grams protein, 8 grams fiber, and 199 calories.

Power berry smoothie


This recipe, which calls for soy protein powder and low-fat plain yogurt, contains 9 grams of protein; swap in Greek yogurt to add even more. Frozen berries add fiber (4 grams total), and honey provides sweetness. All this for only 139 calories!

Toast with walnut & pear breakfast spread


Split this breakfast recipe in half to make a healthy midday snack with 200 calories, 11 grams protein, and 3.5 grams fiber. Not only will it help prep your body for fat burn, but it may also boost your energy levels (so you're more likely to get to the gym, perhaps?). Walnuts are rich in serotonin, a hormone that produces feel-good chemicals in the brain.

Edamame


One cup of edamame, or boiled soybeans, contains 17 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, and 189 calories. A perfect snack all by itself! Serve hot or cold, season with salt, and enjoy.

Roast garlic and edamame dip


Edamame is a great snack by itself, but it also makes a great ingredient in this creamy dip for raw veggies or whole-wheat pita bread. You can enjoy up to three servings in one snack session, for a total of 162 calories, 9 grams protein, and 6 grams fiber.

Asparagus and hard-boiled egg


It's no wonder this classic combo goes so well together: Fiber-rich asparagus balances out eggs' natural protein. (Plus, asparagus is known as an aphrodisiac, thanks to its folate and vitamins B6 and E levels. Talk about fun ways to burn fat!)
Pair 15 asparagus spears (cooked or raw) with one hard-boiled egg for a 126-calorie snack, complete with 11 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.

Veggie tostata


In the mood for Mexican? You can't go wrong with black beans and veggies: These tostatas cook up quickly and easily for a fast and healthy mini-meal between lunch and dinner. At just over 200 calories, you get 13 grams of protein and 10.5 grams of fiber. Top with tomato salsa for added flavor without fat.

Minty iced green tea


A calorie-free beverage doesn't qualify as a real snack, but if you find yourself scouting the kitchen just because you're bored, rather than hungry, this tasty drink may just hit the spot. Plus, green tea has been shown to help dieters lose more weight, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, thanks to its metabolism-boosting antioxidant compound called EGCG.
Bowerman says that most research on green tea for weight loss has been inconclusive, but that either way it's a healthy, tasty way to stay hydrated throughout the day. "Drinking water and tea is a good way to keep all of your body's processes, including your metabolism, running smoothly and efficiently," she adds.

Spiced green tea smoothie


Here's another way to sip healthy green tea: as a smoothie! Pair this sweet and spicy drink with a few ounces of lean protein—some sliced turkey, for example—for a complete afternoon snack.
One serving will get you 3 grams of fiber (thanks to its secret ingredient, pear!). Plus, it contains cayenne pepper, which may help curb appetite and give your metabolism a boost.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Three Kinds of Fitness

  • Aerobic fitness. Aerobic activities condition your heart and lungs. Aerobic means "with oxygen." The purpose of aerobic conditioning is to increase the amount of oxygen that is delivered to your muscles, which allows them to work longer. Any activity that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended period of time will improve your aerobic conditioning.
  • Muscle strengthening. Stronger muscles can mean either more powerful muscles that can do bigger jobs (such as lifting heavier weights) or muscles that will work longer before becoming exhausted (endurance). Weight training (resistance training) or simple exercises such as push-ups are two examples of ways to focus on muscle strengthening.
  • Flexibility. Like aerobic fitness and muscle strengthening, flexibility is a result of physical activity. Flexibility comes from stretching. Your muscles are repeatedly shortened when they are used, especially when exercising. They need to be slowly and regularly stretched to counteract the repeated shortening that happens through other activities.
Understanding the differences between each kind of fitness will help you set your fitness goals. Reaching a balance between the three is important, because they affect each other and each contributes to total fitness.
Some physical activities involve more than one kind of fitness. Some activities that are thought of as aerobic exercise, for example, also strengthen muscles (swimming, cycling, skiing).