Simple Ways to Add Physical Fitness to Your Daily Routine

Being resourceful with your daily routine can deliver big payoffs when it comes to increasing your activity level. Incorporating physical fitness into your everyday activities can save you time and also burn calories, and it doesn’t have to take much time or effort.

“For many people, the biggest obstacle to getting more exercise is time,” says Danielle Johnson, physical therapist and wellness physical therapist for the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. “People feel stretched between their career, child care demands and family commitments. Thinking of spending an hour extra at the gym may feel overwhelming.”

If you don’t have time to fit in a scheduled workout, try using daily tasks to incorporate fitness, Johnson advises. “You’ll still be able to reap the benefits of exercise by using small bouts of movement throughout the day. Two 10-minute walks, a few sets of stairs and some five-minute intervals of bodyweight squats, lunges or push-ups can add up to big health benefits.”

Here are some tips to get moving throughout the day:

Turn chores into exercise.

  • Mow the lawn or do some gardening. The physical benefit is good for your health, plus gardening can enhance your mood, and the food you grow offers great nutritional benefits.
  • Try bicycling to run errands. Leave the car in the garage and bring out your bike for a quick run to the grocery store.
  • Turn household cleaning into a mini workout. “For example, mopping floors gives your shoulders and back a workout, and can burn more than 100 calories in just 30 minutes,” Johnson says.

Find fitness opportunities with friends.

  • Instead of going out for dinner or drinks with friends, do something physical, like taking a walk, going for a bike ride or engaging in a physical activity like tennis or bowling.
  • Take your dog to the park, or play with them in your own backyard. A game of fetch is not only great exercise for your furry friend — it works your muscles, too.
  • Join or start a sports team with your friends. Whether it’s softball, basketball or soccer, taking part in a sport you enjoy will improve both your physical and mental well-being.

Stay curious and improve upon what you’re already doing.

  • Do you already walk daily? Try walking faster or choose a challenging route with hills.
  • Take up a new summer outdoor sport, such as canoeing, paddle boarding or inline skating.
  • If there’s a cause you feel passionate about, try training to participate in a run or walk to raise funds.
  • If you play golf, walk the course and carry your own clubs instead of using a cart and caddy.

“Every little bit counts,” Johnson says. “Research suggests that as little as 10 minutes of cardiovascular activity can make a big difference in your health and fitness measures. I often equate health to putting away money for retirement. Putting away savings, even in small amounts, will add up big over time. The same can be said for your health. Investing in opportunities to be active, even for short periods of time, adds up. The key is to be consistent.” (BPT)

The Eyes Have It: 4 Things Your Eyes May Communicate Without You Knowing It

Your eyes: you stare with them, wink with them and roll them. You use your eyes to communicate your thoughts and feelings every single day. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your eyes can speak volumes about who you are and what you feel. But could your eyes be sending the wrong message?

New findings from Allergan’s “A Look at Eye Language” online survey of 1,019 adult Americans reveal that approximately half of respondents (53 percent) say the first facial feature they notice about another person is their eyes. Patti Wood, a body language expert with over 25 years of experience in the field of human behavior, says our eyes can convey all sorts of messages — both intentionally and unintentionally. “Eye language is the messages we send to others with our eyes,” Wood says. “These eye behaviors include rubbing the eyes, extended eye contact, averted gaze or eye shifts. Our eye language can say a lot about us, revealing our emotions, confidence level and, at times, even if we’re telling the truth.”

Curious what your eyes are telling other people? Wood provides four eye language examples.

  • Eye contact: Too much of a good thing. You’re taught early on to look at someone when they’re talking to you; it’s a sign of respect and shows you’re listening. In fact, the survey, conducted in conjunction with Kelton Global, revealed that for those who see the value in maintaining eye contact, holding a direct gaze makes them feel respected (53 percent) and understood (45 percent). However, Wood says if your gaze becomes a continuous, unrelenting stare throughout an entire conversation, it may signal to the other person that you’re trying to assert your dominance. This can be problematic in many situations, particularly in the workplace, so make sure you’re being attentive but not overly aggressive with your eye contact.
  • Certain conditions can alter your eye contact. Sometimes, you send messages with your eyes without realizing it. For example, Chronic Dry Eye disease symptoms, like red, itching, burning or watering eyes, can send the wrong message — one you don’t intend. It’s important to understand the messages your eye language might be sending to others. Talk to your doctor or visit Eyepowerment.com to learn more about the symptoms and treatment options for Chronic Dry Eye.
  • Liars look away? Not always. You’ve heard the old saying that a person who looks away is lying. But in many cases, that isn’t true. Research shows the eye contact you make while lying is partially determined by your personality. Wood says that introverts tend to have more trouble maintaining eye contact while lying, whereas extroverts may go over the top and increase eye contact while lying more so than they would otherwise. Additionally, Wood shares that an action like rubbing your eyes can convey a lack of interest, fatigue, disagreement or disbelief in the speaker — or even deceit.
  • The amount of eye contact you display can show how you feel about things. Research shows that eye contact can demonstrate attraction or attentiveness. You actually make more eye contact with people and things you like and less eye contact with people or things you don’t like. Wood notes that our eye language makes us look at things that are new or interesting, especially faces, or look away from things that we find distasteful. So if you’re curious about how a certain person feels about you, pay attention to how much they look at you.

When it comes to nonverbal communication, your eyes are one of the most expressive parts of your body, even if don’t realize it. In fact, Wood says that research shows we can read not only the six basic emotions — sadness, disgust, anger, joy, fear and surprise — but also over 50 different mental states such as curiosity, interest, dislike or boredom, in another person’s eyes.

That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your eye language. Certain conditions, such as Chronic Dry Eye disease, have symptoms that may be sending the wrong message — one you don’t intend. To learn more about Chronic Dry Eye symptoms and treatment options, talk to your doctor and visit Eyepowerment.com. (BPT)

 

Access to Mental Health Care May be Just a Virtual Visit Away

Mental health disorders impact thousands of people every day, including many of our friends, neighbors and co-workers. Everyone reading this likely knows someone struggling with mental illness and is aware of the toll it can take on individuals, families and communities. Mental health challenges do not discriminate — they affect people from all walks of life regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic level.

While stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders impact an estimated 43 million adults nationwide each year, the World Health Organization reports that only about one in four people with a diagnosed disorder is likely to pursue treatment.

Unfortunately, barriers prevent people from getting the mental health care they may need. The reasons are many. Consider these statistics: 4,000 areas in the U.S. have only one psychiatrist for 30,000 or more people; the average waiting time for a first psychiatric visit is 25 days; and stigma is the fourth highest-ranked barrier to help-seeking.

The good news is that people who access care more quickly may be more likely to engage in their treatment and have a better outcome. With the right treatment and support, people can recover from mental health disorders to live healthy, self-directed lives as valuable members of their community. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge from a friend or loved one to help someone take that first step on their path to recovery.

For some people, that best first step may be a virtual visit with a mental health provider via a mobile device or computer. For many, access to virtual care may already be available as part of their health care benefits.

Virtual care can shorten wait times for an appointment, fit work and personal schedules, and eliminate travel time and expense. An appointment conducted in the safe, comfortable environment of home may reduce stigma. And, research shows that outcomes of a virtual visit with a mental health provider are similar to in-person sessions for multiple disorders.

Raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health issues are keys to supporting well-being within our communities. Today, people can access effective, proven treatment in a variety of formats, including using video-calling technology. It’s up to all of us to reach out and encourage our friends, neighbors and family members in need to access these available resources.

For more information and links to recovery support resources in your area, visit www.optum.com/recovery. To learn more about available health care benefits, call the number on the back of your health plan identification card. (BPT)

Top Tips for Physical Fitness and Sports Month

Staying active doesn’t just keep a waistline in check, it benefits every part of the body, including the brain. 

  • Rethink Your Commute. Leave the car keys at home and lace up your sneakers instead. Commuting to work by bike is a great way to bookend the work day with some aerobic activity.
  • Take a Walk. Even the most adventurous weekend warriors are sometimes required to sit or stand in place for long stretches in the workplace. If your job keeps you sedentary, break up the day with a brisk walk outdoors during lunch. Throughout the day, stretch your legs with a loop around your work station. It sounds counter-intuitive, but a short break spent being physically active can help boost your overall productivity.
  • Get Out of Town. Skip the gym and plan a day or weekend trip dedicated to physical fitness. Whether it’s hiking a nearby trail, kayaking a local river, or doing yoga in the park, there’s nothing like getting your exercise fix in nature.
  • Gear up. New tech gear is helping support people’s efforts to get outdoors and stay fit, so consider gearing up before your next adventure. For example, Casio’s PRO TREK WSD-F20 Smart Outdoor Watch is water-resistant and equipped with GPS capabilities and a full-color map display. Users can download maps in advance to continue getting navigation guidance even when they are offline or out of range. Vital information, such as travel speed, elapsed time and distance, is close at hand without checking your smartphone — making it a good choice for cyclists. Other tools include a compass, altimeter and barometer.
  • Try Something New. Change up your fitness routine from time to time to avoid hitting a plateau. This will keep things mentally interesting so you don’t lose interest in exercise. What’s more, a new class or activity may “surprise” your body by working different muscles in a new way.

With a few simple strategies and the right tools, incorporating fitness into your life can be fun and easy. (StatePoint)

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Strawberries

Eight strawberries, a single serving, delivers on a surprising checklist of benefits for anyone looking to live a healthier lifestyle. Strawberries are much more than a sweet and delicious treat — they are a versatile fruit that’s great for your health. What better time than National Strawberry Month to share six health benefits of strawberries that may be new to you. Grab a handful of strawberries and read on, because eating right has never tasted so good.

  • Strawberries help you stay sharp. A recent study in the Annals of Neurology suggests that eating strawberries more than twice a week appears to delay cognitive aging by up to two and a half years.
  • Loaded with nutrients. Strawberries pack a lot of healthy properties into a small package. Each berry is full of beneficial antioxidants and nutrients, including potassium, folate and fiber.
  • Sweet without the sugar. The sweet taste of strawberries makes them a natural dessert topping, and strawberries are also low in calories and sugar — one serving of eight strawberries contains just 45 calories!
  • A delicious source of vitamin C. When you think vitamin C, think strawberries. One serving of eight strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange, topping out at 140 percent of the recommended daily value. It’s the perfect power-packed boost that you can add to any meal or cold remedy.
  • A healthy choice for diabetics. The American Diabetes Association has identified berries, including strawberries, as a perfect component of a diabetes meal plan. This is because strawberries have a low glycemic index and are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and dietary fiber.
  • Cholesterol fighter. Lowering your cholesterol is a common goal for many Americans these days, and strawberries can help. In addition to being packed with antioxidants and fiber, strawberries are also rich in phytochemicals, which have been shown to reduce overall cholesterol levels. In addition, the potassium found in strawberries may help control blood pressure and fight strokes.

It’s easy to see why you should eat eight strawberries each day. Grab a handful today — your body and taste buds will be glad you did.

To learn more about the health benefits of strawberries, visit www.californiastrawberries.com. (BPT)

5 Facts About Strokes That Could Save Your Life

Chances are you know someone who has had a stroke. An estimated 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite how common strokes are, there are a lot of widely believed misconceptions. Unfortunately, not knowing the facts can put a person at bigger risk for experiencing a stroke themselves, or, not being able to help someone else who may be experiencing a stroke.

To help separate fact from fiction, the medical experts at Life Line Screening share the truth about the top misconceptions about stroke:

Misconception: Strokes only happen to older people

Fact: Research found 61 percent of strokes happen in people over the age of 65. That means 39 percent of strokes happen to younger people. 

Misconception: Strokes are not a problem in the United States

Fact: You may only know a few people who’ve had a stroke in their life, but someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the U.S. 

Misconception: A stroke will kill you

Fact: Approximately one out of eight strokes results in death within thirty days. The other seven instances leave the person disabled. Stroke is fatal in about 10 to 20 percent of cases and, among survivors, it can cause a host of disabilities, including loss of mobility, impaired speech, and cognitive problems. 

Misconception: Strokes cannot be prevented

Fact: Up to 80 percent of strokes could be stopped before they start. Health screenings are an effective way to identify and understand risk factors so they can be properly managed.

Research shows nine out of 10 cardiovascular doctors support preventive health screenings for cardiovascular disease (plaque in the arteries) among patients with key risk factors. To learn more, visit http://www.lifelinescreening.com. 

Misconception: Only a doctor can identify a stroke

Fact: Everyone can and should know the signs and symptoms of stroke. By taking quick action, you could save a life.

According to the CDC, the most common signs of stroke are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
  • If you or someone else has any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
  • Understanding the facts about stroke helps empower you to control your own health. Even if risk factors are present, you can take proactive measures to help prevent stroke for yourself and loved ones.

Thinking About a Career in Health Care? Consider This.

Image of Harvard Medical School faculty member Dr. Richard Schwartzstein, teaching in the intensive care unit as part of an HMX course. Image courtesy of HMX | (c) 2017 The President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Medical professionals are in greater demand than ever before, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), by the year 2025, the United States could need as many as 90,000 more physicians than it actually has, and the demand for nurses and other health professionals could be even higher.

Given those numbers, the time couldn’t be better to consider a career in health care.

Historically, the path toward becoming a doctor or nurse has been a rigid one — and, as a student, you were either on that path or you weren’t. But today, new options are opening up, as even the best-established medical schools seek to expand their offerings and encourage a greater number of medically inclined students to enter the field professionally.

New Options for Health Care-Inclined Students of All Ages

Just take what Harvard Medical School is doing. This spring, the school — whose typical acceptance rate is under 4 percent — announced its first-ever online certificate program that’s open to all aspiring clinicians as well as the general public.

The program, called HMX Fundamentals, is designed to give students a taste of what a top-tier medical education entails, while building crucial expertise in four foundational subject areas: Immunology, Physiology, Biochemistry and Genetics. These highly immersive courses emphasize real-world applications and experiences, integrating real-life case studies and offering a first-hand look into real medical facilities — a significant step beyond the traditional, passive learning and slide-show presentations that are common in some other online programs. The idea is to provide foundational knowledge in a meaningful context, making the information as relevant as possible.

By offering wider access than ever before to some of the school’s top physician-scientists, Harvard Medical School is hoping to change the game, and encourage more health-curious students and professionals to explore medicine seriously.

Whether you’re a highly motivated high school student, a recent college graduate or a young professional considering a transition into health care, this summer’s HMX Fundamentals program could be the first step in your path toward a career in medicine.

Expanding Access Without Sacrificing Quality

While HMX Fundamentals courses are open to students at virtually any phase of their academic or professional career, they do require a basic understanding of chemistry, biology and physics. To ensure that students are prepared to succeed, prospective students are asked to submit a brief application, both to confirm they’ve completed the recommended prerequisites and to give HMX a sense of what they hope to achieve through the program.

Applications for the program will be accepted through May 30, and the inaugural summer installment program will begin June 20. Tuition for HMX Fundamentals courses is tiered, beginning at $800 for a single course or $1000 for a two-course bundle. Partial scholarships are available on a limited basis. (BPT)

Tips to Reduce Your Health Care Expenses

Health care costs are in the news all the time. You hear about them at work and when you’re with friends and family. The comments are always the same. Health care is getting more and more expensive and it seems to be outpacing the money you make.

Fortunately you’re not helpless when it comes to controlling your health care costs. While some treatments simply have to be done in order to support your health, there are other things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones while looking out for your pocketbook at the same time.

Employ these five tips today and you’ll enjoy the care you need without breaking your budget.

* Focus on your health first. When it comes to controlling your health care expenses, you actually have more control than you think – a lot more. The decisions you make every day – what to eat, whether or not to smoke, how much to exercise – all play a dramatic role in your overall health. So take charge, dine on fruits and vegetables, take a run and kick that nicotine habit for good. Each of these little decisions will benefit your health and your budget.

* Be decisive with your deductible. Your insurance deductible is a fixed cost and one you’ll pay every single year before receiving network coverage support. But once it’s paid, you’ll enjoy the full coverage of your plan. Thus, if you have another treatment or procedure coming up, don’t put it off any longer than you have to. Undergoing additional procedures in the same year means you get more coverage while paying only one deductible. Many health plans also cover preventive services in full, without going against a deductible.

* Be smart about where you go for care. While health care facilities across the country are all capable of delivering compassionate, quality care, they are not all priced the same. According to a Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report, 29.8 percent of emergency room visits were for conditions that could have been treated in retail clinics. The same research also found consumers saved money on out-of-pocket costs by visiting retail clinics for routine services when compared to doctor’s offices, and the visits were much more inexpensive than receiving the same treatment in the emergency room, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

* Ask questions. Your provider may know best, but it’s all about your health. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, not only about the procedure itself, but about the price of the procedure and if there is anything you can do to reduce the expense. Sometimes there may be something you can do on your own that supports your health and lessens your costs at the same time.

* Embrace an HSA. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) provide a cost-effective way for people who don’t use a lot of health care services, to access care and pay for services up until they reach their deductible. Plus the money you save in your HSA can be used to pay for co-insurance payments or co-pays at your doctor’s office, and it’s also an eligible tax write off, opening the door to further savings. There are ways you can manage your health care spending. Follow the tips above and be an active participant in your role as a health care consumer and you’ll be surprised at how much you save. To learn more about the The Health of America Report, visit www.bcbs.com/healthofamerica. (BPT)

Health Help for Your Feline Friend

Photography courtesy of Amanda Nolan Booker. 

Cats are typically self-sufficient family members, but owners tend to forget that those furry feline friends do need help when it comes to their daily nutrition. To keep your cat healthy, it’s important to look for a cat food with high-quality ingredients to help with their nutrition needs, from head to tail.

“It’s important to periodically re-evaluate what your cat is eating and make necessary changes to ensure you both are on the right path for a happy, healthy life,” said Dr. Jeff Werber, registered veterinarian. “Like humans, cats need a balanced diet to be healthy; look for a premium food that has animal protein as the No. 1 ingredient to help satisfy their nutritional needs and carnivorous appetites.”

Other key elements to look for in your cat’s food include:

  • Optimal levels of fatty acids for a soft and shiny coat.
  • A fiber blend, including prebiotics and beet pulp, for healthy digestion.
  • A good mix of premium, high-quality ingredients to contribute to healthy energy levels.

Keeping your cat healthy and happy doesn’t stop with general nutrition. It’s also important to pay close attention to other health concerns, like oral care, which isoften overlooked.

“In my experience, one of the most common health concerns I see cats face today is oral care,” Werber said. “That’s why I was happy to see that IAMS released a great-tasting cat food, IAMS Oral Care Complete, specifically designed to help reduce plaque and tartar while also providing cats with a 100 percent complete and balanced nutrition. It’s a win-win.”

With the proper nutrition from a quality food, your cat can be healthier inside and out, which means more energy and vitality for playing and bonding. Whether you’re starting a kitten on a new eating routine or reassessing your adult or senior cat’s nutrition, remember the importance of supplying them with a premium cat food that includes high-quality ingredients for lifelong health.

For more nutritional information for cats of all sizes and ages, visit IAMS.com. (Family Features)

 

Want a Memory Boost? Try a Hearing Test.

Intrigued by all the brain-training products out there to keep your mind sharp and spirits young? You may want to consider something else: A hearing test.

That’s right. Mounting evidence links untreated hearing loss to impaired memory and diminished cognitive function. What that means is, if you keep brushing off that suspected hearing loss of yours, your cognition may pay.

Researchers have found that when people with unaddressed hearing loss strain to hear, they tend to do more poorly on memory tests. They may figure out what is being said, but because so much effort goes into just hearing it, their ability to remember what they heard often suffers.

Experts believe this has to do with what they call “cognitive load.” That is, in order to compensate for the hearing loss and make out the words, people with untreated hearing loss may draw on cognitive resources they’d normally use to remember what they’ve heard. Experts say that untreated hearing loss may even interfere with the person’s ability to accurately process and make sense of what was said or heard.

In fact, research shows that people with poorer hearing have less gray matter in the auditory cortex, a region of the brain needed to support speech comprehension.

Other research shows a link between hearing loss and dementia. One Johns Hopkins study found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. Another found that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults. And a third revealed a link between hearing loss and accelerated brain tissue loss.

Some experts believe that interventions, like professionally fitted hearing aids, could potentially help.

The bottom line is we actually “hear” with our brain, not with our ears.

So if you think you may have hearing loss, do something about it. Make an appointment with a hearing health care professional, and get a hearing test.

After all, research suggests that treating hearing loss may be one of the best things you can actually do to help protect your memory and cognitive function.

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) offers a free, confidential online hearing check where people can determine if they need a more comprehensive hearing test by a hearing health care professional. Access the BHI Hearing Check at www.BetterHearing.org.

Follow BHI on Twitter @better_hearing. Like BHI on Facebook at www.facebook.com/betterhearinginstitute. (BPT)