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new year-revUSA WEEKEND, The Doctors    January 10, 2014

Don’t beat yourself up over unkept resolutions. These small daily changes from The Doctors can make a big difference to your health this year.

If you haven’t yet dropped the first of 20 pounds you promised yourself, or only hit the gym once since New Year’s, when you swore you’d go every day, don’t stress too much. Losing weight and exercising more are certainly good goals, but those kinds of overly ambitious resolutions often require unrealistic leaps. Instead, focus on making small lifestyle changes you can stick to. That’s where The Doctors can help. Here, they share the little things you can start doing today that will improve your health throughout the year.

 KNOW YOUR RESTING HEART RATE
A heart that beats fewer times per minute is usually a more efficient heart. To get your resting rate, sit in a comfortable position and use your index and middle fingers to feel for your radial artery, just below your opposite wrist, at the base of your thumb. Count how many beats you feel in 60 seconds. Anything between 60 and 100 beats is considered normal, but lower in the range is usually desirable. The great news? Simply adding 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine could lower your resting rate — and add years to your life!

— Dr. TRAVIS STORK, emergency medicine physician

USE ‘PURE’ MOISTURIZERS
Almost all moisturizing products contain chemical compounds — some of which are included on the FDA’s list of suspected carcinogens. Others, called parabens, are known endocrine disruptors because they can mimic the actions of estrogen in the body and may be associated with increased risk of certain types of hormonally-responsive cancers. The skin is your largest organ and chemicals are absorbed through it, so I don’t use anything on mine that is not pure enough to eat. For more than 10 years, I’ve moisturized with pure cooking oils — sunflower, safflower or coconut oil for my face, body and even hair. I pick them up at the grocery store and pour them into pretty bottles for use in the bathroom. They are inexpensive, effective and safe for you and your whole family.

— Dr. JENNIFER ASHTON, obstetrician and gynecologist

 EAT SMALL, FREQUENT MEALS
Distribute your day’s calories over the course of four meals and at least two snacks — this strategy prevents those dreaded insulin hormone spikes that can cause weight gain as well as help keep you from overeating. It’s not always about what you eat, butwhen that can make a difference in maintaining or losing weight.

— Dr. IAN K. SMITH, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist

GET GOOD SLEEP
And by that I mean quality sleep. You know you need about seven or eight hours a night to improve your learning and memory and boost your mood and health, but it’s also important to make sure that time is spent resting well. To help you sleep soundly, leave stress outside the bedroom door, don’t exercise too close to bedtime, and skip the nightcap — alcohol may help you get to sleep quicker, but it’ll disrupt your slumber as your body starts to metabolize it.

— Dr. ANDREW ORDON, plastic and reconstructive surgeon

READ FOOD LABEL INGREDIENTS
Starting with packages in your pantry, if the list includes one of these three ingredients: hydrogenated (oils); high fructose corn syrup; or yellow #5, blue #2 or another other color and number combo — toss it. It’s a simplified list of unhealthy ingredients, but it’s a good, effective place to start. (Be sure whatever you get at the grocery store can pass the same test; you can even have your kids look for the “bad words” if they are bugging you to buy a not-so-healthy snack.) And when you’re done cleaning out your pantry, stock your fridge with fruits and vegetables. I know it sounds cliché, but getting at least five servings every day is your most powerful weapon against chronic illness, cancer and auto-immune diseases.

— Dr. JIM SEARS, pediatrician

SIT ACTIVELY
Whether you work at a desk all day or plant yourself in front of your home computer for hours, take time to do a few sets of seated leg lifts — they’ll help you burn calories and tone while you type. Women should add Kegel exercises to their desk regimen — they strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which may help with bladder control as well as improve your sex life by making orgasms more powerful! Where are those muscles? Next time you have to urinate, stop midstream — the muscles you used are the ones you’re targeting. Here’s how to do Kegels: Making sure your bladder is empty, tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold the contraction for five seconds, then relax for five. Try it four or five times in a row. Work your way up to 10-second contractions, with 10 seconds rest. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

— Dr. RACHAEL ROSS, family medicine physician and sexologist

MEDITATE FOR 10 MINUTES EVERY MORNING AND NIGHT
Reaching this deep relaxation can help heal your body and prevent disease; in fact, studies have shown that our DNA can actually be modified by the regular practice of meditation. When you quiet your mind, you can also find answers to difficult questions, solutions to challenges, minimize stress, as well as enhance creativity and inspiration. But you have to learn to do it for real — the same calm cannot be achieved by lounging at the pool or simply restingon the couch, for example; it also can’t be forced. To learn how to meditate, I encourage my patients to listen to guided CDs or tapes until they are able to develop their own practice. My favorite mentors are Deepak Chopra, Abraham-Hicks, and Wayne Dyer — their guided meditations are all easily accessible online. I even introduced the practice of meditation to my children; it’s something we frequently do together. It gives them a healthy way to release stress and anxiety. Try to make meditation part of your happy and peaceful new year.

— Dr. JENNIFER BERMAN, urologist

 

thyroid The Doctors, USA WEEKEND – October 11, 2013

The tiny thyroid gland regulates and influences a surprising number of body functions.

Your thyroid is a small gland with a huge job: It produces hormones that help regulate the rate of many of your body’s activities, from how quickly you burn calories to how fast your heart beats. It also influences the function of the brain, liver, kidneys and skin. If the gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, it can cause body systems to slow down; if it churns out too much, it has the opposite effect, speeding up the body’s processes.

A number of different factors could affect thyroid function: an autoimmune attack, genetics, pregnancy in some cases, or too much iodine. A study even suggests certain chemicals found in carpets and cosmetics could be linked to thyroid problems.

As many as 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, and more than half remain undiagnosed, according to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. That’s partly because many symptoms are similar to those of other conditions.

The way to know for sure is to get tested. Your doctor can check your blood levels of thyroid stimulating hormone, for example, to determine whether your thyroid is over- or underactive.

Here are four reasons to consider a thyroid evaluation:

It runs in your family. Your chances of thyroid disease are higher if your parent, sibling or child has a condition. Women are much more likely to develop thyroid disorders than men.

You’re exhausted often. Granted there are a million reasons you might feel especially tired. But if fatigue is accompanied by an overall sluggishness, unexplained weight gain, coarse hair, dry skin, brittle nails, constipation, muscle cramps and an increased sensitivity to cold, those are signs of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), the most common thyroid disorder.

You notice a lump. The thyroid is at the base of your neck, and a number of related disorders could cause it to become enlarged or develop nodules, such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism, inflammation or cancer. To help with early detection, do a simple neck-check at home: Stand in front of a mirror, tip your head back, and take a drink of water. As you swallow, check for any bulges or protrusions (remembering the thyroid gland is below the Adam’s apple, closer to the collarbone).

You’ve been exposed to radiation. Some thyroid conditions can be caused by radiation treatments for certain cancers.

The Doctors, USA WEEKEND November 22, 2013

It’s that time of year again — big dinners, lots of parties and celebratory toasts. For some holiday revelers, that means more heartburn. Getting a burning sensation in your chest now and then is normal, particularly after overdoing fatty or fried foods, chocolate and alcohol. But when it’s more than twice a week, you may have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This chronic condition results when stomach acid or bile backs up into the esophagus; the “reflux” of acid irritates sensitive tissue that lines your food pipe. What you need to know:

It causes more than heartburn. Though that’s the telltale sign, not everyone with GERD experiences it. Other signs: regurgitation of food or a sour-tasting liquid, nausea, chest pain, hoarseness or sore throat. Some may have difficulty swallowing or feel as if food is stuck in their throat. GERD can also cause dry cough or bad breath.

Losing weight can help. That’s because excess fat around the belly increases pressure on the stomach, which forces acid back up into your esophagus. Maintaining a healthy weight both reduces risk of developing GERD and helps treat it. Other changes that may help: wear loose-fitting clothing around your waist; quit smoking; eat smaller meals and skip foods that trigger heartburn. Also: wait at least three hours after eating before you lie down; if possible, raise the head of your bed with wood blocks or a wedge between your mattress and the box spring. The goal is to elevate your body from the waist up so gravity can help keep stomach acid down. (Pillows don’t provide the same effect.)

You’ll likely need medicine, too. Diet adjustments, lifestyle changes and antacids may help mild symptoms, but for many people with GERD, stronger meds are needed. H-2-receptor blockers reduce acid production; proton pump inhibitors block acid production to allow the esophagus to heal. Both are available in over-the-counter or prescription strength. If drugs don’t help, your doctor may discuss surgery. Some medical centers now offer a new, less invasive procedure called the LINX system, which involves laparoscopically implanting a magnetic ring at the bottom of the esophagus to improve symptoms.

Talk to your doctor to determine your best course. Left untreated, GERD can sometimes cause serious complications, from an ulcer to precancerous changes in the esophagus.

Cranberries

 

 

cranberries

Cranberries’ role as a holiday condiment can obscure the fact that they are a genuine super fruit-and one that can be enjoyed anytime, not just at Thanksgiving. The tart berries, popping up in markets now, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, along with minimal calories and lots of vitamin C. They often disappear from stores by December, so snatch some up soon (they’re also long-lasting). “Think beyond the typical sauces, pies and tarts,” urges Elizabeth Falkner, executive chef at Corvo Bianco in New York City and a Top Chef Masters alumnus. She shares her tips for getting the most from this produce powerhouse.

Select – You’ll be limited by the fact that cranberries are usually sold in sealed 12-ounce bags, so you can’t examine them too closely. But do feel through the bag to make sure all the berries are firm and check the color-they should be deep red, and the skin should look shiny.

Clean – Pick through and remove any berries that are soft and stems that are still attached. Place in a colander, rinse under cold water, then lay out on a towel to dry before storing.

Store – Keep in airtight container in your refrigerator’s crisper for up to two months. To store them for up to a year, place on a baking sheet, let freeze, then transfer to a zip-top bag and keep in the freezer.

Prepare – For a salad dressing: Combine ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey and ¼ cup cranberries in a saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat and allow to cool, then combine with 2 chopped dates, 1/2 cup olive oil and a pinch of salt (this also makes a great topping for crostini spread with goat cheese). Or you can use raw cranberries to add a tart kick to a smoothie: Purée ½ banana, ¼ cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 cup apple juice and ¼ cup cranberries until smooth.

Nutrition Score: One 1 -cup serving=46 calories, 5g fiber, 85mg potassium, 8 mg calcium

 

Eat to Beat Anxiety

 anx foods

Stress can lead to snacking-which is okay, but only if you choose the right nosh. “Some nutrients can enhance mood, while fatty comfort foods can physically bring you down because they are harder to digest,” says Marisa Moore, R.D.N., a nutritionist in Atlanta and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Choose these instead to create calm from the inside out.

Avocados – This fruit is an excellent source of vitamin B6 and folic acid, both of which have been shown to reduce stress by helping to maintain proper nervous system functioning. Avocados also provide a heart-healthy serving of potassium (1 avocado has 975 mg, while a banana has only 422 mg), which helps regulate blood pressure. Add a few slices to your salad, or mix up a bowl of guacamole.

Salmon – This fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids-a natural mood booster, according to studies. Additionally, omega-3s help protect your ticker, which is important when damaging cortisol levels are soaring. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone because it’s released when you feel under pressure, and if levels remain high it can wreak havoc on your system. Enjoy a fillet for lunch or dinner.

Broccoli – One cup of cooked broccoli contains twice as much vitamin C-which helps control blood pressure and cortisol levels-as a medium orange. Vitamin C also strengthens the immune system, which can be weakened by stress (making you more susceptible to the coming season’s colds). Mix some broccoli into a morning omelet or dip it into hummus for an afternoon snack.

Almonds – One serving of this nut contains 20 percent of your daily recommended value of magnesium, a mineral that also helps manage cortisol levels. Studies have shown that magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system and may promote better sleep as well. Keep a stash of almonds close by (a 1-ounce serving is the size of a shot glass).

Strong Minded

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To boost your focus, strike a pose. After 20 minutes of yoga, people process information more quickly and accurately than they do following the same amount of time on a treadmill, according to a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health. “Running and walking are repetitive motions, so they don’t require as much concentration as yoga does,” says lead author Neha Gothe, a professor of kinesiology and health sciences at Wayne State University. “Plus, yoga reduces anxiety, which can improve cognitive performance.” When you need to tackle a tough work project, start the day with sun salutations-and save the cardio session for later.

How to stay healthy when everyone around you is coughing and sneezing?  Reach for vitamin D, which is vital for a strong immune system.

A recent Spanish study found that people with low levels of D have a decrease in cells that kick-start the immune response.  “We experience a drop in vitamin D when there’s less sunlight to help your body produce it, which could be why upper respiratory infections are more common in cold weather,” points out study author Victor Manuel Martinez-Taboada, MD.  Check with your doctor to see how much vitamin D you need to take to stay sneeze-free all season long.

Fuel: Protein Power

A 2010 study found that athletes were more successful losing weight with a diet that was 35 percent protein than one that was 15 percent protein.  “Protein preserves lean muscle  mass and controls appetite,” says Enette Larson-Meyer, Ph.D., R.D., who heads the University of Wyoming nutrition and exercise lab.

Training: Yoga Works

Spice up your workouts with a dash of Om. More than just stretching, yoga gives you whole-body strength, especially in the hips, core and upper body.  To start, try a class with hatha, gentle, or level 1 in the title.  For best results, do yoga twice a week on nonrunning days.

Mind and Body

Break it down:

This year, create mini-goals to help boost your confidence and keep you motivated to push on toward any bigger goals you might have.  Start with a target you know you can achieve-like walking three times a week or jogging at least three miles a day.  Then track your progress with visible reminders of what you’ve accomplished.

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