Tag Archives: study

Take a Break with Tea

National Hot Tea Month

January is National Hot Tea Month. Tea has many health benefits that make it the perfect beverage for chilly winter days.

The antioxidants in green tea can boost your endurance while exercising, and they increase your ability to burn fat as a fuel.

Antioxidants That Help You Move

 

A 2016 study found green tea drinkers lowered their chance of stroke by 35%.

Green Tea's Health Benefits

 

Studies show drinking tea could help reduce the risk of heart attack.

Drinking Hot Tea for Your Heart

 

Tea might help protect your bone health, reducing breaks from falls.

 

Antioxidants in green tea can help protect your skin and reduce inflammation.

Drinking Your Way to Health Benefits

 

Japanese researchers found that tea can decrease tooth loss and doesn’t erode enamel.

Protecting Your Teeth with Hot Tea

 

Herbal teas might help soothe your digestive system, like ginger teas that calm nausea.

Herbal Tea for Your Stomach

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Holiday Cookie Eating

Chasing Health: My Ho-Ho-Horrible Holiday Eating & Exercise Habits

I love the holiday season. In the fall and early winter, it seems like there is something special to celebrate nearly every other week. The list goes on and on, and I can’t get enough of it.

As a holiday enthusiast, I appreciate it all, from decorating, baking, and gift-buying to curling up and watching holiday-themed movies, not to mention mouth-watering smells, twinkling lights, and feeling like you’re in a magical snow globe at the first sight of flurries. Seems innocent enough, right?

Well, when I’m not watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Home Alone 2 for the 80th time, tearing up when “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” comes on the radio, or obsessing over the placement of ornaments on my tree (perfectionism strikes again), you can probably find me eating all the delicious holiday goodies that come along this time of year.

On top of turkey, ham, and the wide selection of casseroles, you get fudge, cookies, cheeseball, cheese dips, and pretty much any other finger food you can imagine. It’s amazing.

This is the time of year a lot of people take a break from their diets and indulge. It’s also the time of year when the days are short and cold, and your couch and TV seem to call your name the minute you walk through your door. (“Nicole, come catch up on The Walking Dead for the next five hours. I already set out your favorite blanket.”) It’s not a good combination.

But there is hope. Whether you overeat because your stress from the holiday grind has reached Clark Griswold level or (like me) you’ve waited all year for your mom’s chocolate crinkle cookies, you don’t have to put your healthy eating and exercise on hold.

I realize it’s hard to control yourself when you’re surrounded by fabulous snacks in every direction. I go into my family’s celebration with the same strategy every year, and it’s not a healthy one.

On Christmas Eve, I skip breakfast, make ham-and-cheese pinwheels (my decade-and-a-half-long contribution to our family’s party), nibble on the ones that don’t quite make the cut, and consider that my lunch.

An hour or two later when I’m extra hungry from skipping two meals, I help my mom set out all our delicious cookies. I’m an expert in taste-testing.

Cookie pic 2
My mom is in charge of chocolate crinkles (my all-time favorite!), peanut butter, and molasses. I’m in charge of the iced sugar cookies.

Once my aunt’s cheeseball and grandma’s fudge arrive, it’s game over. I’m usually not even hungry by the time my dad’s secret-recipe glazed ham is ready. But I somehow rally like a true holiday-eating champion and get through that meal and an equally delicious meal the next day with the other side of my family.

How does the two-day affair almost always end? With a stomachache and a tinge of regret.

Here is the fabulous spread of delicious goodies. Notice the salad and bowl of oranges. Not everything is unhealthy! Full disclosure, I skip right over both of those.
Here is the fabulous spread of delicious goodies. Notice the salad and bowl of oranges. Not everything is unhealthy! Full disclosure, I skip right over both of those.

Holidays don’t have to end in stomachaches or regret. Here are some tips based on my own worst holiday habits to help you stay on track this holiday season.

  • Don’t cut back on sleep before the big celebration. I like to stay up late any chance I get, whether there’s a special occasion or I’m just watching Netflix by myself. I’m no better than the millions of kids staying up to wait for Santa. But research shows that not getting enough sleep can make you crave the not-so-healthy foods, which isn’t good when the not-so-healthy foods are everywhere.
  • Don’t skip meals to overeat at the party later. Sometimes I think skipping breakfast and lunch gives me a free pass to fill my body with chocolate. It doesn’t. It not only puts me in the wrong mindset, but an Ohio State study suggests that doing this regularly can also affect how your body gains belly fat.
  • Don’t stand around the snack table. This is my favorite place to camp out for the afternoon, but it makes snacking a little too convenient. I probably don’t need a 10th piece of fudge, but who’s counting? (This brings me to my next point.)
  • Keep track of what you’re eating. I started tracking what I eat at the beginning of December as part of a headache diary for my migraines, and my snacking has fallen way off since then. I can only imagine how much this tracking system will help me through the holidays. Any kind of food diary can help you see how healthy or unhealthy your eating habits are.
  • Eat something healthy. Sadly, despite what Buddy the Elf tells us, the main food groups are not “candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” Mix some fruits and veggies into your holiday meals and snacking options, and eat the unhealthier options in moderation.
  • Keep yourself busy with something other than food. Play games (my brother and I are quite the Catch Phrase duo) or set up a tournament. My cousins and I have hosted all kinds of championship events, everything from table tennis to Guitar Hero to rock-paper-scissors (we must have been feeling either really bored or hyper-competitive that year). The more physically active and farther from the food, the better.
  • Keep up your exercise routine (or something close to it). If you fall off, don’t feel discouraged (and don’t eat more cookies to console yourself). Just start exercising again. It’s easy to make excuses, but if you’re like me, you’ll feel better physically and mentally if you don’t ditch the physical activity.

I hope to follow at least some of these tips this holiday season and hope you do, too. I’ve already tried pretending celery is chocolate. It didn’t go so well, but I have high hopes for these other more reasonable tips.

Happy holidays!

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Stop the Tossing and Turning

My Healthy Journey: Finding Time for Sleep

It’s been a busy year for my team at Health Alliance, so I hope you’ve been enjoying Nicole’s Chasing Health series while I’ve been too busy to post!

When life gets busy and stress takes over, the first thing that always goes for me is sleep. I’ve never been very good at getting a lot of it, even though it’s one of my favorite things in the world, especially when stress sets in.

Unfortunately, that’s not doing my health any favors:

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Image via Mind Body Green

And since stress and being too busy already make some of these things worse, like my mood and healthy eating flying out the window, not getting enough sleep on top of all that is not good.

Not to mention that it’s definitely not helping my work:

What Happens When Your Brain Doesn't Sleep?
Image via Science.Mic

The moral is clearly that sometimes, you have to make taking care of yourself a priority, which is unfortunately easier said than done.

Rally, our online wellness tool, can help by offering missions that help you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, stick to a bedtime, start a bedtime ritual, and sleep better.

As for me, what can I do to get better sleep?

I’m taking notes from this video and this handy list of 27 Easy Ways to Sleep Better Tonight from Greatist.

  • Start a bedtime routine. I used to have one, but that’s all but disappeared the last 6 months. I need to start again, and I’m going to try adding drinking something warm (and decaffeinated) to that schedule.
  • Listen to soothing music. Normally, I leave something playing on Netflix as I fall asleep, but soothing music or a sound machine, without the light, would be a much better idea. Maybe I can make use of Adele’s new album or apps like Rain, Rain, which makes thunderstorm noises.
  • Cut back on electronics. This and making my bed a work-free zone are nearly impossible for me, but I do need to work on cutting back. Setting a curfew when I set down my phone or laptop, like at least a half hour before bed, could really help.
  • Make your bed cozy. I mentioned this in my resolutions for this year, but I’ve just gotten around to digging out my cozy stuff for this winter.

A Cozy Bed

  • Make up for lost sleep. Adding an extra hour when I didn’t get enough sleep the night before could help me with my sleep debt.
  • Don’t toss and turn. I do this a lot, and if I can’t fall asleep for more than 20 minutes, I should try getting up and doing something relaxing (NOT work), like knitting or reading.

One thing I can tell you I won’t be trying off this list? Kicking my pet out of my bed.

While I know this must be a problem for some people, I don’t think it’s a problem for me. And I’m not alone. A new study finds that 41% of people think having their pet in the room helps them sleep better.

I know that I would worry about her if she wasn’t in my room. Plus, cuddling her is about the most relaxing activity in my life. In fact, that’s frequently how I fall asleep now. I mean, how can you resist that?

Sleepy Tootsie

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Settled Into a Healthier Home

My Healthy Journey: Finally Settled

I finally have something to sit on in my apartment! After 3 months, I’m mostly settled in.

Moving requires a lot of organization, and as I told you before, this was a rushed and unorganized move, which is probably exactly why it’s taken me this long to get settled.

You may not realize how much being organized (or disorganized) affects your life and even your health.

One study showed that you’re more likely to suffer from stress and depression if your house is cluttered and full of unfinished projects. (This was definitely my house for the last 3 months.) Long-term stress is tied to heart disease, digestive problems, poor sleep, obesity, and cancer.

This long to-do list at home can actually prevent the cortisol (a stress hormone) in your system from naturally lowering throughout the day. This affects your mood, sleep, health, and more.

Planning can also be key to a lot of healthy life decisions, and that takes organization. This slideshow from Good Housekeeping highlights what organization is doing for you:

  • It reduces financial stress by avoiding late fees and unnecessary costs.
  • It helps keep good relationships with loved ones by helping you to keep your mood up and avoid arguments over lost stuff, forgotten appointments, and errands.
  • It increase your time for your favorite activities. Imagine every minute you’ve spent looking for your keys going toward your favorite TV show, music, or activity.
  • It protects your health. If you forget to take your meds or schedule doctor appointments, you really could be putting your physical health at risk, so make sure you put things in places you’ll see them, organize your schedule, or even download an app to help remind you.
  • It let’s you exercise more! One of the first things you lose from your schedule when things get crazy is workouts. Plus, when you’re constantly forgetting your gym bag, it’s an easy excuse to skip the gym.
  • It let’s you eat healthier. Healthy cooking takes planning, like finding recipes and buying the right groceries. Snacks you grab on the go and dining out can be huge calorie bombs, so plan ahead!
  • It helps keep your home healthy. One study found that dust can have arsenic, dead bugs, pollen, and dead skin in it. Plus, removing clutter can eliminate up to 40% of your housework.

Many people believe that we are a product of our environment and that a messy environment can affect all areas of your life, physical, mental, and emotional

Rally, our wellness tool, knows that organization can be an important part of your healthy journey, too, so it has a mission that challenges you to de-clutter for 10 minutes every day.

I finished unpacking and organizing all my bookshelves a few weeks ago but was waiting for my new couch to arrive before I shared pictures.

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Tootsie LOVES the new couch.

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Those beautiful watercolor paintings on the wall are prints by Kelly Eddington, my high school art teacher and the wife of one of our Health Alliance employees.

Ignore that lamp on the floor. I just need one more side table in here!

In case you don’t remember, this is what the shelves looked like, before the gold shelf got here:

Book Collection

This is them now:

Untitled-1

Everything is unpacked and on display, and finally getting to a place where I can use my living room feels so satisfying!

And now that I’m to this point, if I stick to the challenge of de-cluttering for a little bit every day, it should be easy to keep things looking nice.

Looking for some clever ways to clean up the messes in your house? Check out this list of 58 organization ideas and DIY projects.

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HPV Vaccine for Back-to-School

Protect Your Kids From Cancer This Back-to-School Season

In 2015, about 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. And about 4,100 women will die from their cervical cancer this year.

But you can help save your daughters from this fate by making sure they get the HPV vaccine.

HPV and Cancer

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and it causes many health problems. In fact, nearly all sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are many different types of the virus, and while some may cause no problems and go away, others cause warts, cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oral cancer in women or men.

In fact, the HPV infection causes 5% of all cancers worldwide, and 10,000 Americans die from cancers caused by HPV each year, according to The New York Times. And 14 million new cases of HPV are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

HPV can cause cancer years or even decades after you first get HPV and can be spread to others that whole time, even when you have no symptoms. There is no way to know which people with HPV will develop cancer and other problems.

Debunking Concerns About the HPV Vaccine

The vaccine targets the kinds of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the kind that causes warts. And just this year in March, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC approved a new version of the vaccine that protects against 9 different strains of HPV.

While the vaccine can literally prevent cancer and has been proven highly effective, its use isn’t as widespread as the virus it protects against.

Some worry about the safety of the vaccine. It is fully endorsed by the FDA and CDC, which continue to closely monitor the vaccine’s safety. And it has very mild side effects, such as:

• Arm pain or redness where the shot was given
• Dizziness
• Fainting
• Nausea
• Headache

When the side effects of HPV are cancer, these seem like a minor risk to protect your kids’ futures.

Others have worried that the vaccine will promote sexual behavior, especially unsafe behavior. But as this U.S. News article discusses, a study from early this year shows that the vaccine hasn’t influenced these behaviors in women.

Protecting Your Kids

The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and highly recommended by your doctors. The HPV vaccine is just as important for your kids as vaccines that protect against diseases like mumps and measles.

The vaccine is a series of 3 shots recommended for girls AND boys between the ages of 11 and 12 but can be given anytime between the ages of 9 and 26. However, the earlier they get it, the more likely they are to be protected.

Talk to your doctor about giving your kids the HPV vaccine during back-to-school checkups and sports physicals this year. When cancer is on the line, protecting your kids now is always the best plan.

 

Health Alliance covers HPV vaccinations.

Work Up a Sweat with a Workout Buddy

Sweat Glands Work Better in Pairs

There’s something special about being part of a group. Spoken or unspoken, you rest easier knowing, “We’re in this together.”

You experience that feeling when you exercise in groups, too. Research shows those who sweat socially, like with a workout buddy, are more likely to stick with their fitness plan and see success.

In a Baylor University study, after teaching 53 female college students a specific weight-training workout, the researchers told them to do it on their own 3-days a week for 6 weeks.

Can you guess what happened? Every single one of them quit the study.

A workout buddy doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes success more likely, a review of 87 studies on 50,000 people found this link to be clea).

Still not convinced? Here are 5 more reasons to think about grabbing a friend and workout buddy before hitting the gym:

  1. Time flies. This isn’t to say your 60-minute workout will be easy, but instead of constantly watching the clock, you can catch up on each other’s lives between sets, laugh, and have fun.
  2. No more Debbie Downer. Who likes canceling plans with a friend? If your workout partner is counting on you to be there, you’ll be less likely to bail.
  3. Share a babysitter. If your gym doesn’t have a kid center, share the cost of a sitter.
  4. Keep perspective. Most of us are hard on ourselves. When you have workout buddies, they can help you see your progress and remind you of how far you’ve come.
  5. Stay on track. Not only do friends help you see how far you’ve come, they also keep you thinner. Harvard University researchers found that a person’s risk of becoming obese goes up by 2% for every 5 obese friends or family members he or she has. Yikes!

Give social sweating a try, and let us know what you think.

And if you’re looking for a gym to join, check out our Fitness Discounts section.

Know Your Heart Meds

Your Meds and Your Heart

Know Your Heart Meds

You don’t need to be an expert on your drugs, that’s what your doctor’s for, but you should ask questions and know the basics about your heart meds.

Whether it’s a pill for high cholesterol or your blood pressure medicine, make sure you know the answers to these questions:

  • What’s the name of my medicine?
  • What does it do?
  • What are its side effects?
  • What can I do to reduce those side effects?
  • How does this drug work with other drugs, dietary supplements, foods, or drinks?
  • How much is a one dose?
  • When’s the best time to take this medicine, like when you wake up, with breakfast, or before bed?
  • How long will I take this medicine?
  • What should I do if I miss a pill?

Helpful Terms for Understanding Your Blood Pressure Heart Meds

Blood vessels move blood through your body. These are the types of blood vessels:

  • Arteries – These carry blood away from your heart
  • Capillaries – These connect your arteries to your veins and help move water and chemicals between your blood and tissues.
  • Veins – These carry blood from your capillaries back to your heart

Did you know? If you laid all the blood vessels of an average adult in a line, it would stretch over 100,000 miles.

Kinds of Blood Pressure Heart Meds

Blood pressure meds fall into 11 different classes, but they all have the same goals, to lower and control your blood pressure.

Classes

How It Works

Possible Side Effects

Diuretics Help your body flush extra salt and water through your urine.
  • More trips to the
    bathroom
  • Low potassium
Beta-Blockers Reduce your heart rate and how much blood it pumps to lower your blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness
  • Low heart rate
  • Decreased sexual
    ability
ACE Inhibitors (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) Narrow your arteries and make you produce less angiotensin, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • Dry cough
  • High potassium levels
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers Block your blood vessels from angiotension, so that your blood vessels can open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • High potassium levels
Calcium
Channel Blocker
Prevents calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and arteries, which makes your heart’s job easier, and helps your blood vessels open up to lower your blood pressure.
  • Low heart rate
  • Uneven or rapid heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Ankle swelling
Alpha-Blockers Reduce nerve impulses to your blood vessels to let blood pass more easily.
  • Headache
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Small decreases in bad cholesterol
Central
Agonists
Decrease your blood vessels’ ability to narrow, which also helps to lower blood pressure.
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased sexual
    ability
  • Fever

Via the American Heart Association.

Kinds of Cholesterol Heart Meds

Depending on the type, cholesterol meds help:

  • Lower your bad cholesterol.
  • Lower your triglycerides, a fat in your blood that raises your risk of heart disease.
  • Increase your good cholesterol, which guards against heart disease.

Types of Cholesterol Meds

How It works

Possible Side Effects

Statins
Altoprev (lovastatin)
Crestor (rosuvastatin)
Lescol (fluvastatin)
Lipitor (atorvastatin)
Mevacor (lovastatin)
Pravachol (pravastatin)
Zocor (simvastatin)
Lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and cause small increases in good cholesterol.
  • Constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Cramps
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Bile Acid Binding Resins
Colestid (colestipol)
Questran (cholestyramine/ sucrose)
Welchol (colesevelam)
Lower bad cholesterol.
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Upset stomach
  • Gas
  • May increase triglycerides
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor
Zetia (ezetimibe) Lowers bad cholesterol, and causes small decrease in triglycerides and small increase in good cholesterol.
  • Stomach pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle soreness
Combination Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitor and Statin
Vytorin (ezetimibe-simvastatin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Stomach pain
  • Exhaustion
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Fibrates
Lofibra (fenofibrate)
Lopid (gemfibrozil)
TriCor (fenofibrate)
Lower triglycerides and increases good choleterol.
  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach pain
  • Gallstones
Niacin
Niaspan (prescription niacin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Flushed face and neck
  • Upset stomach
  • Throwing up
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • High blood sugar
  • Peptic ulcers
Combination Statin and Niacin
Advicor (niacin-lovastatin) Lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases good cholesterol.
  • Flushed face and neck
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Interaction with grapefruit juice
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Lovaza (prescription omega-3 fatty acid supplement)
Vascepa (Icosapent ethyl)
Lowers triglycerides.
  • Burping
  • Fishy taste
  • Increased infection risk

Via The Mayo Clinic

When Should I Take My Heart Meds?

Your body’s inner clock can affect how well some medications work. Since, you can’t read your body’s clock though, researchers have studied how well heart meds work when they’re taken at different times of the day.

According to a clinical trial from Medscape, blood pressure meds are most effective when taken at night. The random trial tested the effect of taking blood pressure meds at bedtime versus in the morning.

It found that treatment at bedtime was the most cost-effective and simplest strategy to reach the right blood pressure when sleeping and of getting a normal 24-hour blood pressure pattern.”

It also estimated that each 5-mm-Hg decrease in overnight blood pressure reduced the risk of heart events by 14%.

Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before you make a change to your meds or their schedule. You can also learn more about the importance of taking your heart meds regularly and on-time in our Health section.