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Protect your heart with these easy meal add-ins

(BPT) – What’s the biggest threat to our health? It isn’t cancer or even accidents, but heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, one in four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease, which includes heart attack and stroke. This statistic is scary, but the good news is, there is something powerful we can do to prevent us from becoming a victim to this disease.

Even if you are one of the 47 percent of Americans living with a major risk factor, there are preventive measures you can take for a healthier heart, says registered dietitian nutritionist, Dawn Jackson Blatner. All you have to do is embrace some simple lifestyle changes starting with your diet.

“Food is quite literally one of the best medicines out there when it comes to improving our health,” says Blatner. “Studies show us repeatedly that a balanced diet including heart-healthy unsaturated fats, along with multiple servings of fruit and vegetables can give you additional protection against heart attack and stroke.”

Here are five of Blatner’s go-to foods you can easily incorporate into your diet for a daily dose of heart-healthy compounds.

1. Fish: Salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, which lower the risk of irregular heartbeat and help decrease plaque buildup in the arteries. If fish isn’t already in your meal rotation, it’s time to start. Preparation and cooking time for fish entrees is much shorter than that of chicken, beef and pork, making it a perfect weeknight meal.

2. Greens: Leafy greens contain nitrates, healthy compounds that not only reduce the risk of heart attack, but can boost survival rates after a heart attack. Plus, spinach, kale and other dark green vegetables have carotenoids, which work to keep blood vessels healthy. So aim to have at least one cup of leafy greens each day, such as scrambled in your morning eggs, a green juice as a snack or a leafy salad with lunch or dinner.

3. Nuts: They contain protein, fiber and healthy fat, which work together to keep us feeling full and satisfied. Though high in fat, studies show people who consume nuts on a daily basis are leaner than those who don’t, and staying lean is, of course, heart-healthy. So go ahead and keep almonds, walnuts or pistachios on hand for snacking, and choose those that are minimally processed, avoiding candied or highly salted nuts.

4. Dark chocolate: Good news: Eating dark chocolate every day can reduce heart attack and stroke for high-risk patients. The magic compound here is flavonoids, which are beneficial for blood pressure and clotting while also reducing inflammation. If you’re on-board with making chocolate your after dinner indulgence, opt for brands with 60-70 percent cocoa and that don’t contain milk fat in the ingredient list.

5. Eggs: Contrary to earlier belief, eating one egg a day has no negative effect on coronary health and can actually reduce the risk of stroke by 12 percent, according to a recent review of 30 years’ worth of scientific study cited on nutraingredients.com. But all eggs are not created equal. Eggland’s Best eggs, for example, offer the benefit of 25 percent less saturated fat, five times more Vitamin D, more than twice the omega-3s and three times more Vitamin B12 than ordinary eggs. Eggland’s Best’s superior nutritional profile is due to its proprietary, all-vegetarian diet. So get cracking and experiment with recipes featuring poached, baked and even hard-boiled Eggland’s Best eggs to serve up heart-healthy meals.

Very Vegetable Frittata

Ingredients

4 Eggland’s Best Eggs (large)

1/3 cup Eggland’s Best Liquid Egg Whites

1 cup non-fat milk

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1 cup chopped broccoli

1 cup chopped cauliflower

1 cup chopped zucchini

1 cup halved cherry or pear tomatoes

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

arugula, for serving (optional)

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, milk and Dijon mustard; set aside.

In a 10 to 12-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet, spray with cooking spray and heat to medium-high.

Saute onion until softened — about 2 minutes.

Add the mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini to the skillet. Saute until slightly softened — another 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk the egg mixture again, then pour over the vegetables.

Sprinkle tomatoes and feta cheese on top.

Place a lid on the skillet, reduce heat to medium and cook until the bottom and sides of the frittata are firm — 8 to 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven broiler.

Place the skillet under the broiler and broil until the frittata is cooked through (no longer jiggly) and slightly browned on top — about 5 minutes (watch closely).

Cut into 4 wedges and serve immediately, over a handful of arugula, if desired.

— Recipe courtesy of Eggland’s Best.

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Keep your teen athlete fueled with these 4 vital tips

(BPT) – High school can be intense, but being a student athlete can intensify expectations.

As the start of spring sports approaches, the stakes are even higher for your student to maintain the success they had first semester. There are practices, matches and conference finals that have to fit in with exams and semester-long projects. Being a standout in the classroom and on the field requires expert-level planning and execution.

That’s where parents play a huge role in helping their teen athletes keep it all in balance. Here are four easy tips to help you ensure that your teen is ready for a great season, on and off the field.

Food: Allison Maurer — a sports dietitian and Gatorade consultant who has worked with high school and collegiate athletes — says, “The important thing to remember is that food is fuel. It gives athletes the energy they need to perform and also helps them recover. When planning your athletes’ meals, look for whole food sources that provide high-quality fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Talk to your athlete about his or her fuel strategy before, during and after practices and games, and offer support by providing healthy, energy rich snacks.”

Hydration: When exercising hard, the body cools itself through sweat. If body mass is reduced by about 2 percent, which would be 3 pounds of water weight loss in a 150-pound athlete, it can negatively affect performance, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s (NATA) Position Statement on Fluid Replacement for Athletes.

“Athletes lose more than water in sweat, so it’s important that they take their hydration seriously since it can impact performance,” Maurer says. “There are a number of products to meet an athlete’s hydration and fueling preferences. For those looking for an organic fueling option, I recommend G Organic, Gatorade’s latest product. It’s made with only seven ingredients and provides the same hydration benefits that athletes expect from Gatorade.”

Rest: Although teens may seem to bounce back easily from a night with too little rest, the truth is that good sleep helps both learning and athletic performance. Sleep helps athletes recover, especially after they’ve pushed their limits in an intense workout. Being rested can also improve reaction time, as well as speed and accuracy. In addition, teens with earlier bedtimes had better grades than those who stayed up later and slept less, according to a study of 3,000 subjects cited by the National Sleep Foundation.

Talk about these benefits with your athlete, and encourage them to go to bed and rise at the same time each day. Also, the glowing light of electronic devices can also interfere with sleep. So, help your teen come up with a strategy to power down an hour or so before bedtime in order to prepare their minds for a night of restorative sleep.

Planning: Schedules have a way of colliding, and this especially happens when a huge test and a game are scheduled for the same day. Each week, sit down with your student athlete and walk through that week’s schedule. Look at practices, games, homework assignments and tests, and create a calendar. That way, if a midterm and a game take place on the same day, he or she can plan accordingly. This will help avoid a late-night, stress-filled cram session that will steal from their performance in the classroom and on the field.

Life as a student athlete means keeping everything in balance. By focusing on the body — from nutrition to time management — athletes can focus on giving their best performance this upcoming season.

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5 simple steps to boost your immune system now

(BPT) – Whether it’s battling the rampant germs of cold and flu season or maintaining wellness throughout the year, the immune system is your main line of defense. In order to feel good as often as possible — and recover quickly when you don’t — it’s important to keep your immune system strong.

“The immune system is the part of the body that monitors both internal and external environments,” says Dr. Chris Oswald, certified nutrition specialist and chiropractor in Hudson, Wisconsin. “It’s important to understand that both too much immune response and too little immune response, including inflammation, is not good, so maintaining that happy medium is the name of the game.”

To achieve that “happy medium,” Dr. Oswald recommends incorporating five simple steps into your daily routine:

Support natural sleep cycles

“Sleep is the time when our bodies repair and rejuvenate, so it is something to not be taken lightly,” Dr. Oswald says. “Generally speaking, the older we are the less sleep we need, but for adults 7-9 hours is usually the sweet spot.”

He says a good way to know if you are sleeping well is if you fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down and you are able to wake at approximately the same time every day without an alarm clock.

“It is also very important to maintain regular hours as our body’s circadian rhythms do not like to be disrupted,” he adds.

Eat fermented and unprocessed foods

Dr. Oswald says the body’s microbiome health has a huge impact on the immune system. The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that inhabit the intestinal tract, creating a mini-ecosystem.

“Every bite of food we eat impacts microbiome balance, so it is important to eat foods that promote its health,” he says. “I like fermented foods and foods that are minimally processed or as close to their form in nature as possible. When the wrong foods are eaten, certain microbiota are able to ‘gain strength’ and offset the health promoting benefits of other more beneficial organisms.”

He adds that dietary fiber is also very important to maintaining the health of the microbiome. Additionally, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA help boost the immune system.

Use supplements to support digestive health

“The digestive tract is a barrier to the outside world which selectively allows molecules to pass through,” says Dr. Oswald. This is why a healthy gut is a big part of overall health — it filters out the bad while keeping in the good.

Eating plenty of probiotics in foods like yogurt and kefir helps maintain digestive health, but it can be difficult for the average person to get enough to make an impact. “Supporting digestive health with a comprehensive probiotic supplement such as Nordic Naturals Nordic Flora Probiotic Daily is a great foundational health strategy for everyone,” Dr. Oswald says.

Move your body

“Higher levels of fitness are definitely associated with improved immune function,” says Dr. Oswald. He recommends high intensity interval training (HIIT), where you alternate short periods of intense exercise with brief rest periods.

“I like people to choose any activity they like and have a nice gentle 5 minute warm-up followed by up to six 100 percent work intervals for 30 seconds with 60 seconds of rest,” he says. “Once complete with the circuit, a five minute cool down completes your workout in 19 minutes or less.”

Embrace mindfulness and meditate

Dr. Oswald says both acute and chronic stress have an effect on the immune system, which can potentially decrease your resistance to illness. One easy way to combat stress is to try to meditate every day.

“Meditation is a very powerful option and I firmly believe that all should find some way of increasing mindfulness,” he says. “It is important to remember that meditation is different for everyone.”

Meditation can be sitting quietly with eyes closed, staring at a flame, walking in the woods, etc. Try something that feels right to you that allows you to relax and be mindful of the present.

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Transform your home into a retreat with these 5 tips from a luxury resort

(BPT) – There’s a reason why they say your home is your castle. This is a place of rest and refuge so you can be returned to your best state.

The next time you find yourself with a quiet evening or weekend in your abode, make self-care and pampering a priority. In fact, you can borrow a few pages from the wellness playbook with expert tips from one the world’s most storied resorts.

Destination Kohler located in the heart of Wisconsin in the quaint village of Kohler — and recently named one of the top 15 wellness resorts by Conde Nast Traveler — is what you might call a luxurious refuge. Here, after you explore picturesque snow-covered hiking paths on snowshoes or cross-country skis, and enjoy five-star accommodations at this historic American Club, you can restore your body and mind at the luxurious five-star Kohler Waters Spa or unique Yoga on the Lake facility.

But even a few simple additions at your home, says Garrett Mersberger, director of Kohler Waters Spas, can greatly increase the relaxation factor during your down time.

1. Include the five senses.

The secret to setting up the best spa experience, Mersberger says, is making positive connections to all the senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and sound.

“If one of these is missing, the experience isn’t the same,” he says.

Even the smallest changes can transform your space and elevate your mood. You can light a candle and plug in the indoor water fountain to create sound and lighting that soothes the mind. Snuggle into a plush robe and encase your feet in super soft socks or slippers after your shower or bath. Finally, don’t forget to set yourself up with a glass of wine and a cheese plate.

2. Prepare your body with hydrotherapy.

People have known this since ancient times: water has great powers of restoration, which is why hydrotherapy is central to any worthwhile spa experience. At home, it’s as simple as making small adjustments to your shower routine. Mersberger suggests changing the pulses in your shower head and experimenting with hot and cool blasts of water, which he says are good for the skin and blood flow.

But be careful, while a hot bath or shower before bed feels terrific, it’s not relaxing since warm temperatures will raise your blood flow, preparing the body for work or exercise, he says. To ready your body for sleep or relaxation, finish with a shower that’s a neutral temperature (about 92-97 degrees Fahrenheit), to return your body to normal.

3. Release blocked energy.

Start your quest for relaxation with a simple yoga move called the seated cat/cow position. “In addition to releasing blocked energy, it also opens the spine,” says Ashley Kohler, Manager of Yoga on the Lake at Destination Kohler. To do this, sit cross-legged on the floor and place your hands on your knees. As you inhale, lean your chest forward and lift your gaze to the sky. As you exhale, round out your spine while drawing your shoulders forward, gazing down.

4. Hone your breathing technique.

Breathing is a vital component of managing stress levels, Kohler says. Yet most Americans only breathe with a third of their lung capacity, creating “flight energy” in the body and cultivating that feeling of stress.

“Conscious breathing will ease your nervous system and help control stress levels and help you unwind,” Kohler says.

Here’s an easy antidote: Sit quietly for a few moments, taking full-body, deep breaths through your nose.

“I like to visualize the ocean, and imagine the sound of the its big crashing waves with every breath I take,” she says.

5. Relieve stress by going outside.

The benefits of going outside in the winter is not only good for our bodies, being outside chases away the winter blahs, as research has told us. So go ahead and skip the treadmill and go jogging in the park. Or rent a pair of snowshoes take a tromp through the woods. Or take a walk. When you’re done, there’s no better feeling than coming in from the cool air, knowing you are truly in for the day.

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Tips to make goodbyes better for both parent and child

(BPT) – As a parent, you’ve probably experienced the clinging, clutching and crying that often accompany a goodbye when your child returns to day care or preschool after a long holiday break. Separation can be difficult for both children and their parents. Remember, separation anxiety is perfectly normal and can start at any time during the first three years.

The challenge of separation can vary greatly depending on your child’s age, developmental stage, temperament and environment. But there is relief. Child development experts agree families can learn how to ease separation anxiety and manage transitions by developing a predictable routine between the parent and/or caregiver and child — a consistent way to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye helps your child

You may be tempted to sneak out and avoid a scene, but that only tends to make your child more anxious. Creating a consistent and predictable routine will help ease separations that are painful for both of you. The repetition of a goodbye routine will help your child develop a sense of security and facilitate a smoother transition from your presence to your absence and back again.

“Neuroscience has shown that the consistency and predictability will help your child learn to anticipate your return,” says Dr. Victoria Simms, child development specialist and president of the Simms/Mann Institute. “It’s very important for young children to have experiences that promote security. Consistent routines leave a positive imprint on the brain that will help set the stage for easier transitions during times of separation.”

Tips for easing separation anxiety

1. Bring a familiar object from home. Children often find comfort in familiar objects such as a cuddly lovie, toy or blanket. These special items are called transitional objects. By introducing a transitional object early on your child will begin associating it with you and what you represent to them: warmth, comfort, security and most of all, love.

2. Create your own consistent goodbye routines and rituals. Creating a consistent and predictable goodbye routine is key to making transitions easier. Designate a special place in your house where you can focus on each other for a few minutes before saying goodbye. Don’t forget to confidently give your child a hug and a kiss and be on your way.

3. Comfort yourself. When you’re comfortable and calm, your child will feel less anxious and more confident. Remember, thoughtful distress can help you and your child grow and spending the time to say goodbye will enable your child to manage the separation and help your child reconnect with you in a more positive way when you return.

To further help parents and caregivers understand the importance of creating consistent and predictable routines, the Simms/Mann Institute recently launched the CuddleBright(TM) Experience, a product that incorporates all the elements needed to get your goodbye routine off to a strong start.

By integrating the latest neuroscience research and years of child development theories, the CuddleBright(TM) Experience aims to connect and comfort both parents and children during times of separation. The product is specially designed for children ages 0-5 and their parents. It includes a cuddly lovie, a beautifully illustrated board book, “A Cuddle Before I Go,” and a special keepsake heart that will serve as a transitional object for the parent. These items work together to create a loving goodbye routine for both parent and child. In addition, the CuddleBright(TM) Experience includes a parenting guide focused on 18 child development topics that provide tips and strategies for navigating parenthood.

For more information about the CuddleBright(TM) Experience visit www.cuddlebright.com.

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3 sneaky tricks of heart disease

(BPT) – As Americans, our health is far from perfect, but over the decades, we’ve seen great improvements to medical care and lived longer lives. But new health data in a recent report might shake up our complacency: The federal government finds that life expectancy for Americans has dropped for the first time in 25 years.

Though the factors are varied and complex, it has health experts and doctors taking a hard look at the current realities, including our rising obesity rate and the fact doctors may be reaching their limit on what they can do to treat heart disease.

“The report, though troubling to any family doctor, can be used as the basis of a wake-up call to anyone to improve their health,” says Andrew Manganaro, MD, FACC, FACS, Chief Medical officer for Life Line Screening. “That is especially true for those who have been diagnosed with a risk factor for heart disease.”

Manganaro urges patients ages 55 and older to be proactive with their heart health by scheduling regular doctor visits and following their doctor’s instructions. In addition, he recommends making regular cardiovascular screenings a part of your wellness routine.

Not convinced you need a screening? These three realities of cardiovascular health might change your mind.

1. Heart disease is often silent.

Problems with the cardiovascular system can creep in gradually. Fully 80 percent — 4 out of 5 — of people who have a stroke have no symptoms beforehand. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease are often silent, partly because the warning signs are not what most people expect. Symptoms are less obvious, such as a headache, shortness of breath or pain in the jaw. Even if you are already taking steps to manage your risk factors, a screening will give you and your doctor a picture of the health of your cardiovascular system.

2. Minor conditions are easy to ignore.

Even if your screening doesn’t reveal you’re at a very high risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, don’t be complacent. Because your cardiovascular system is interconnected, plaque in one artery makes it very possible that plaque will eventually show up elsewhere. For example, a diagnosis of peripheral artery disease is a condition that is associated with leg cramping, but that’s a diagnosis that should be taken as a warning. Because these leg arteries are literally narrowing, it could mean that the arteries to the brain could also narrow, creating the ideal conditions for a stoke. Likewise, if arteries to the heart were to narrow, that could lead to heart attack or heart failure.

3. Oral health is a window to artery health.

For decades, researchers have seen a connection between oral health and heart health. Back in the 1920s for example, doctors thought they could cure heart disease by extracting teeth. While the connection is not yet fully understood, we do know oral plaque has a relationship to carotid artery plaque. Manganaro encourages patients to also see their dentist regularly and take good care of their gums and teeth.

The good news is you don’t need a prescription or take a trip to the doctor’s office to have preventive health screenings for cardiovascular disease. Life Line Screening performs affordable testing in community settings throughout the country. This testing will reveal where carotid artery plaque buildup is located and how much. This could translate into lifesaving treatment for you, or simply offer peace of mind. To find out when a screening clinic may be scheduled in your area, visit www.lifelinescreening.com/HeartCheck or call (877) 754-9631.

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5 smart steps to preserving brain health

(BPT) – Everyone knows aerobic exercise gets the heart pumping and lifting weights keeps muscles strong. But when it comes to keeping the brain healthy, most people are unsure what to do.

As you age, brain health and maintaining memory functions becomes a top concern. Turns out, these issues may begin sooner than you think.

“We tend to think about memory decline as an older person’s issue, but that’s not the case at all,” says Dr. Aimee Gould Shunney, a licensed naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health and family medicine. “There was a study published in 2012 in the British Medical Journal that examined cognitive function in people age 45 to 70. The researchers did not expect it, but they found evidence of cognitive decline in the 45-year-old participants as well as the older participants.”

She notes there are two basic pathological processes that cause degeneration of the brain: oxidative stress and inflammation. Basically, the standard American diet and lifestyle contribute to those processes. So who is this really an issue for? Men and women of all ages.

No matter your age, you can take charge of your brain health by following these five smart steps from Dr. Shunney:

Healthy eating

“A Mediterranean-type diet that focuses on whole foods, good fats and foods high in antioxidants is a great place to start,” says Dr. Shunney. 

She encourages her patients to focus on getting omega-3 fats from fish and monounsaturated fats from olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds. She also recommends increasing fruits (especially berries) and beans (they’re packed with antioxidants). What’s more, research shows a little cocoa, coffee and red wine can act as antioxidants and are beneficial in low to moderate amounts.

Supplements

In addition to a quality multivitamin, Dr. Shunney recommends an omega-3 supplement. “Getting enough omega-3s is one of the most important measures we can take,” she says. “DHA is the dominant omega-3 in the brain. Just like we need to make sure babies have enough DHA to grow their brain, we need to make sure older people get enough DHA to keep their brains healthy.”

She suggests Omega Memory by Nordic Naturals. It’s a DHA-dominant omega-3 formula that also includes other brain healthy ingredients: curcumin, phosphatidylcholine and huperzine A. Learn more at www.nordicnaturals.com.

Regular sleep

Poor sleep is a risk factor for cognitive decline. “Studies show both sleep deprivation and sleeping too much impact cognitive performance,” Dr. Shunney says. “A good goal is to go to bed around the same time each night, sleep for 7-8 hours, and get up around the same time every morning.”

Thinking activities

“I recommend anything that keeps your mind working,” says Dr. Shunney. “Activities that require things to be arranged or puzzles that have to be put together. Crossword puzzles, word games and board games are all great.”

She also notes some activities to avoid: “It’s important to limit certain activities. The constant scanning of social media and newsfeeds eliminates creativity and keeps us on edge. Limit the time you spend doing that and instead do things that cause you to explore and think and put ideas together on your own.”

Socialize

“Social isolation has been linked with cognitive decline,” says Dr. Shunney. “In one study, people who were lonely experienced cognitive decline at a 20 percent faster rate than people who were not lonely.”

Make time to take a foreign language class, join a Toastmaster’s Club, take a watercolor class — anything that connects you regularly to other people.

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Thankful for every moment while living with lung cancer

(BPT) – As a busy mother of two sons, Ivy Elkins shrugged off her sore neck and elbow pain for months. She thought it was probably from the extra hours spent planning a bar mitzvah for her oldest son. After all, a middle-aged woman who never smoked doesn’t fit the typical profile of a lung cancer patient.

“To say that I was shocked and in disbelief is an understatement,” Ivy recalls. “I didn’t have a cough. I didn’t have any trouble breathing. I didn’t have any of the symptoms that I would associate with lung cancer. I didn’t know that someone like me could get lung cancer.”

It’s a common misconception that lung cancer is a burden borne by smokers alone. While smoking remains the major risk factor for lung cancer, never-smokers may also develop the disease. In women, up to 53% of lung cancers may not be caused by direct smoking. In these patients, the underlying cause of lung cancer is often a genetic mutation, a permanent alteration in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene. To identify mutations, patients undergo “biomarker testing” at the time of diagnosis. Doctors and patients then use the test results to evaluate treatment options.

After Ivy was diagnosed with late stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common form of lung cancer, she underwent biomarker testing. She learned that she has a specific type of mutation in the EGFR gene. EGFRs are structures that exist on cell surfaces. When mutated, these structures can cause cells to multiply at a rate that is out of control, driving tumor growth.

Ivy was more optimistic about her treatment when she learned about her mutation status. “I knew that it likely meant that I could be a candidate for treatment with a targeted therapy, as opposed to having traditional chemotherapy.” After her healthcare team learned more about her specific type of EGFR mutation and discussed treatment options, she started taking a targeted therapy.

Now, because she had the biomarker testing, Ivy urges fellow patients to take this advice: “It’s vitally important if you’re diagnosed with lung cancer to have biomarker testing done, to help determine the best treatment option for your cancer.”

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