All Entries For health issues
You know how health insurance works: You pay a premium, you pay a deductible and sometimes you also pay a copay. It can feel like a lot of paying, all told. But health insurance doesn’t just have to cost you money. Health insurance companies have an interest in you staying healthy and preventing chronic illness, too. After all, someone who is healthy will end up living a longer, happier life--and spending much less on medical expenses.
While yesterday’s insurers took a here-and-now approach, today’s companies are offering a host of health-promoting incentive programs to help their members prevent and manage health conditions. These programs are painless and powerful motivators to keep up healthy habits. Every insurance company is different, but most of the time, all it takes is a quick, baseline assessment in which you create personal, measurable goals (like getting a check-up or tracking workouts), and you’ll soon be earning rewards. These rewards most often consist of discounts or points toward the purchase of items or services (like exercise equipment, movie tickets, hotel stays and more) simply for doing basic health-related tasks. Here are some of the ways you could reap rewards from your insurance company (many of which you would probably do anyway!). Read More ›
Getting motivated is tough, and staying motivated is health’s million dollar question. You might be able to muster up the will to get to the gym a few times a week for a few weeks and then… nothing. Working out starts to feel like a slog. You fall back into your old TV habit and the next thing you know, you’re back on the couch instead of taking that after-dinner walk or meeting a friend for tennis. Inspiration can be especially sparse if you’re balancing a crazy work schedule, kids, aging parents, and everyday chores. But the good news is, there are now more motivational tools out there than ever to help you get (and stay) inspired to live a healthier life. One of the following helpful resources is bound to help you stick with your goals for the long haul! Read More ›
Your husband says he has a nagging pain below his ribs, chest tightness that won’t quit or has simply been feeling sluggish lately, but doesn’t feel like calling his doctor (or doesn’t have one). Here are three symptoms he (and you) should take seriously. Read More ›
Are you sick of fighting constant tummy troubles? Many people suffer from bloating, discomfort and digestion problems--sometimes for no apparent reason at all. Isn't it time you did something to quit your bellyaching for good (quite literally)? We have a fun way to reset your system and get your digestion into tip-top shape with plenty of help along the way. Plus, it'll only take you 20 days to feel better! Read More ›
Since November is Diabetes Awareness Month, we wanted to take this opportunity to remind you about all the tools and content you can find on SparkPeople to help you successfully manage your diabetes whether you've been diagnosed as pre-diabetic or are living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. According the American Diabetes Association, nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, while another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes or are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Many diabetes complications can be prevented or delayed with careful attention to diet, exercise, medication and blood glucose monitoring.
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"I'm fat because of Oreo cookies!" screamed the woman as she entered the weight-loss class I was coaching last week. In hand, she waved the press release from Connecticut College, which blared the warning, "Oreos are just as addictive as drugs!"
"I am addicted to certain foods, just like those rats were addicted to Oreo cookies," she continued on. "It's supposed to be worse than being addicted to cocaine. How am I ever going to be successful with my weight loss?" Read More ›
It might seem intuitive to avoid exercising your joints when they're causing you pain. But, like many aspects of the human body, what seems to make sense isn’t necessarily what's good for you! When you're suffering from arthritis, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to exercise. However, you must learn the right exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joints, and the best stretches to gain and maintain flexibility.
Here are the exercises that I prescribe for my patients with knee and hip arthritis. My patients have had great success with them, and I hope you do, too.
Editor's Note: We're passionate about saving lives and preventing heart disease! Please share this blog post with other women in your life. Click the buttons above to share it on social media sites or send via email.
Happy American Heart Month!
February's best-known day is Valentine’s Day, and what with all the heart-shaped things associated with that occasion, it is the perfect month to highlight heart health and share with you what you can do to protect your most precious asset. Your heart will be there for you during all of your life’s adventures, but heart disease is a big threat to all of us! Heart disease is America’s number one cause of death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- 1 in 3 deaths in the US is from heart disease and stroke
- That's equal to 2,200 deaths per day.
- 2 million heart attacks and strokes occur each year
- 80,000,000 adults are affected by heart disease
- Heart disease & stroke cost the nation $444 billion/year in health care costs and lost economic productivity.
In the not too distant past, heart disease was erroneously labeled as a "man’s" disease. The seemingly healthy father that suddenly dies of a heart attack leaving young children and a wife behind is a stereotypical nightmare scenario. Views like this have placed too much emphasis on men in heart-health research, and, as a result, both treatment guidelines and public health initiatives are skewed toward men.
But are you aware of the prevalence of heart disease in women? More than 42 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in America!
To change America’s perception that heart disease is a "man’s disease," the American Heart Association in 2004 created the campaign Go Red for Women to bring awareness to this largely preventative disease. Efforts such as Go Red for Women Day work because studies show that when women are aware of their risk for heart disease they are much more likely to make the effort to make the necessary lifestyle changes.
The same simple, lasting changes you're implementing as a way to lose weight will also help you keep your heart healthy: eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don't smoke (or quit if you do), and limit your alcohol intake.
So, as women, what can we do specifically to improve our heart health? What should we be doing to keep our ticker ticking?
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Which is better: being fat and fit, or thin and unfit? The first reaction might assume that carrying excess body fat is more harmful to your health, even if you exercise regularly. But is that true? Opinions will differ depending on who you ask, but some of the latest research seems to contradict what we’ve typically been lead to believe. Size is not always the best indicator of health.
Newer research has been exploring the “obesity paradox”, a term used to explain how overweight and obese people tend to live longer with chronic illnesses than those who are a normal weight. For example, “One study found that heavier dialysis patients had a lower chance of dying than those whose were of normal weight or underweight. Overweight patients with coronary disease fared better than those who were thinner in another study; mild to severe obesity posed no additional mortality risks. In 2007, a study of 11,000 Canadians over more than a decade found that those who were overweight had the lowest chance of dying from any cause.”
Scientists have validated these results in a variety of medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Although research has yet to find a definitive reason, there are theories as to why those who are overweight and obese fare better with these chronic illnesses. One theory is genetics (the illness presents itself differently in those who are thin versus fat.) Another theory is that doctors don’t treat thin patients as aggressively because it’s assumed their bodies are able to deal with the disease more effectively. Or maybe the real problem is that we are assigning blame to size, when really there are other factors causing these diseases. Read More ›
Whether you’re young or old, a balanced diet and regular exercise makes it much more likely that you’ll live a long, healthy life. As if that wasn’t enough reason to get up off the couch, research has shown that the complications that come with an unhealthy lifestyle affect not only your body, but your mind, too. Although most of us didn’t worry about these health affects when we were young (because we were invincible, right?), it’s never too early to be concerned. Studies on adults have shown metabolic syndrome (a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes) is associated with brain changes in adults. New research shows the same effects on the teenage brain. Read More ›
Over the years as technology has advanced and made it easier for us to sit more throughout the day, humans in general have become less active. This continued inactivity has lead to increasing obesity trends, along with other ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. Like I mentioned in a previous blog, "many people might find that they spend 8+ hours sitting at work and then come home and sit some more, whether it is to watch TV or for some other sedentary activity."
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We get this question a lot. And we don't list sex in our cardio tracker for several reasons.
For reference, a cardio workout is anything that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time, usually 20-30 minutes. It works all of the major muscle groups, and you should find yourself sweating and breathing hard during the most intense part of the workout.
Cardio works large muscle groups repetitively (such as how running uses your large leg & arm muscles and swimming uses your whole body). Sex does not typically use major muscle groups (or at least not in a full range of motion the way that these examples do).
Cardio must reach a specific level of intensity, meaning that you must elevate your heart rate to an aerobic level and sustain it there—about 60-85% of your max heart rate, or on a Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (where you estimate how hard you are working on a scale of 1-10, about a 6-8.5). Although you may be breathing heavily during sex, this isn’t necessarily because your heart rate is up. It has more to do with hormones and what’s going on with your nervous system. (Think of how you may breathe harder or feel your heart rate increase if you’re scared—that doesn’t mean you’re getting a cardio workout.)
How many calories you're burning during sex really depends on too many factors. It's like asking "does walking burn a lot of calories?" It depends on your speed, distance, duration, intensity, etc.
Now, if you really feel that your sexual activity meets all of these requirements—although I'd recommend taking your heart rate several times during it to make sure—then you could probably count it as cardio. But according to most calorie counters, the calorie burn is pretty minimal—less than walking and not much more than just sitting. Plus, how accurate is that?
It’s important to distinguish that not all activities are a workout. Sure, being "active" burns more calories than not being active. But just because you’re burning a few additional calories does not mean you are exercising or that you’re receiving the same benefits of a true workout.
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When it comes to good health, I'm grateful that the odds have always been in my favor. Not only was I taught early on about the importance of eating well and exercising regularly, but I also come from healthy genes (my grandmother is still going strong at 96 years old!). However, along with those good genetics, I also inherited something that has recently proven to be somewhat of a disadvantage: My dad's stubborn refusal to go to the doctor at all costs.
My dad is one of the sweetest, hardest-working people I have ever known. The one flaw he has in my eyes is that he just doesn't know when to stop working. He is the carbon-copy of my hard-working grandfather, who worked for a steel company nearly his entire adult life. Upon his retirement, he received an award (a plaque that my family still has!) for never taking a single sick day in 44 years.
Needless to say, my dad followed in my grandfather's footsteps, and I subconsciously learned from an early age that we Hersheys just don't get sick. And if we do, we can power through it. Of course, my parents always took me to the doctor on those rare occasions that I did get sick growing up. But my dad, who is still working well past retirement age, has always sent the subtle message through his actions that life doesn't slow down, even when your body needs it to. You just deal with it and keep going.
As they say, like father, like daughter. Given my upbringing, it should be no surprise that my health has always been a big point of pride for me. So, when I started feeling tired and run-down a couple of months ago, my immediate thought was, ''I just have a lot going on right now. I'll be fine once I finally catch up on sleep!" And then, on the weekends, I slept, and slept... and slept. And I would wake up feeling even more tired than I did before. I watched my endurance plummet during my workouts, and I had trouble concentrating on the simplest of tasks. I kept making excuses for the way I felt: I was working a lot; I just needed to take a day off from exercise; I was getting too much sleep. I made up every justification under the sun to keep from admitting that there may actually be something wrong with me. Read More ›
It seems that the crazier a headline sounds, the more likely people are to click on it. Even though I knew a recent story couldn’t possibly be what it seemed, I had to check it out for myself. “Exercise Could Hurt Heart Health”, “Exercise May Be Bad for Some” and “Is Exercise Bad for You? A New Study Says Yes!” were just some of the titles about a recent study that caught my attention. Could everything I’ve learned through school, work experience, professional certifications and personal experience really be wrong? After review, I don’t think there is cause for alarm just yet. Read More ›
People with asthma often have concerns about whether or not they can safely exercise without exacerbating their condition. Turns out, exercise is generally beneficial to asthma. Asthmatics can safely exercise, especially when their asthma is well-controlled, but you should work closely with your doctor to develop a fitness plan that works for you, and time your treatments (using the inhaler, etc.) in the best way to reduce attacks during and/or after exercise.
Work with your physician of course, but try to keep your exercise intensity low initially, especially if you have a cold. When asthma symptoms occur, you should reduce your intensity level, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop completely. Using your inhaler before your workout will help reduce the possibility of attacks during exercise.
Additionally, take extra time to both warm up and cool down. Depending on where you work out, you might also consider wearing a face mask (will work great at home, but might make you self-conscious in the gym). This keeps your inhaled air warm and moist, helping to reduce asthmatic responses during exercise. Because warm and moist air is beneficial to asthmatics, try to avoid exercising in cold, dry environments.
Regular exercise is important for your weight loss and fitness level, but staying consistent with it will also reduce the number and severity of your asthma attacks, as well as boosting your immune system. Simply pay attention to how your body reacts to higher-intensity activity and know your limits. If you feel that your asthma is interfering with your exercise program, talk to your doctor to help find a solution that works for you. Read More ›
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