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.

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Transportation safety: How seniors can maintain independence outside the home

(BPT) – It can be hard to admit your vision isn’t what it used to be, especially when it comes to driving. Maybe you’ve noticed some difficulties reading traffic signals, or you’ve found it challenging to drive at night.

If you’re a family member noticing these warning signs in a loved one, pointing out these challenges may seem like a daunting and delicate undertaking. But when it comes to being on the road, safety is one thing you can’t ignore.

Encouraging your loved one to prioritize safety can be hard, especially when it feels like their independence is at stake. That’s why it’s important to have an open and honest discussion to determine the best options for maintaining independence outside the home.

Step 1: Address driver safety

Vision is the most important sense for driving safety. Annual vision screening is important for everyone, but it is especially critical for older people, since the sensory data used for driving is predominantly visual.

For seniors still able to drive, a defensive driving class can be beneficial. These classes allow students to brush up on skills while gaining confidence and introduce them to alternative transportation options for the times and locations of their preference. What’s more, many insurance companies provide discounts to seniors who complete these courses.

Giving up driving doesn’t have to mean choosing between all or nothing. For example, start limiting driving to daylight only, non-rush-hour periods. Then look into supplementary transportation options that eliminate the need to drive while still allowing you to get where you need to go.

Step 2: Research transportation options

It’s important to educate yourself or your loved one about locally available transportation options for seniors. When you know there are reliable, cost-effective transportation options available, it can help maintain a high level of independence for a trip to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment.

Rides in Sight is a nationwide, online database of senior transportation options built by ITNAmerica, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing sustainable transportation options for seniors. Visit www.ridesinsight.org and enter basic information like your state or zip code, and you can find the ride option that’s best for your situation. If you prefer to access information by phone, call 1-855-60-RIDES (1-855-607-4337).

Rides in Sight makes it easy to find customized transportation, no matter what a person’s needs. For example, you can find wheelchair accessible transportation options or door-to-door driver assistance if that’s what you need.

Step 3: Implement a trial period

Giving up the keys is easier if you do it over a period of time. Pick a date and schedule your first ride with a transportation service during a time you normally drive. Any change takes time to adapt to, so try it out for a while before reassessing and making any necessary adjustments. After this trial period, you should feel more comfortable with someone else driving you, and you get to be in control of your mobility.

For older Americans, it’s important to be able to maintain independence when they limit or stop driving. When they are encouraged to create their own driving transition plan, more emphasis can be placed on finding new passions and activities to engage with their communities. The result is a positive impact on people of all ages.

To have that impact, reliable, secure transportation is essential. Having the necessary conversations and researching appropriate transportation options helps keep everyone happy, healthy and safe.

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Thinking about a career in health care? Consider this

(BPT) – 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.

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Too many with epilepsy are unaware of this uncommon but fatal threat

(BPT) – For people with epilepsy—and for those who care for them—the side effects of the condition are well known. They know all about the seizures and they also know how best to care for themselves or their loved ones should a seizure occur. While the persistent possibility of a seizure is well known, many people living with epilepsy are unaware of another threat that, while uncommon, is fatal.

They are unaware of SUDEP.

What is SUDEP?

SUDEP stands for Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. It is an uncommon but fatal complication that kills one in 4,500 children with epilepsy and one in 1,000 adults with epilepsy each year. In many cases of SUDEP, an otherwise healthy person with epilepsy dies unexpectedly. And while SUDEP may seem to strike from nowhere, new research is available to help patients and their families reduce their risk.

The American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society recently released a new guideline to help patients and their families better understand SUDEP and its risk factors. According to the guideline, the occurrence of generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS), a type of seizure that involves the whole body, is one of the key risk factors for SUDEP. The guidelines also find that a patient’s risk of SUDEP increases as GTCS increases in frequency.

Likewise, seizure freedom from GTCS decreases a person’s risk of SUDEP.

Care guidelines for doctors, patients and caregivers

Given the clear connection that exists between the frequency of GTCS and their risk for SUDEP, reducing GTCS experiences remains the most effective way to reduce a person’s SUDEP risk.

For neurologists—the doctors who treat patients with epilepsy—this means increasing patient knowledge of SUDEP and letting people know that while the condition is uncommon, it can be fatal. This conversation can be difficult, but it is essential so patients can better understand their risks and how to protect their health. Actively working with patients who experience GTCS to manage their epilepsy therapies is the best way to reduce their seizure risk. Neurologists should also inform patients that seizure freedom, particularly freedom from GTCS—which is more likely to occur by taking prescribed medication regularly—is strongly associated with a decreased risk of SUDEP.

For patients, this report makes the conversations they have with their neurologist regarding their epilepsy treatment more important than ever. Patients must speak with their neurologist about their experiences and carefully follow the treatments set in place. Failure to do so could not only be seizure inducing, but life threatening. For those living with epilepsy and their caregivers, sidestepping the treatment simply isn’t worth the risk.

To learn more about SUDEP and the latest treatment guidelines available from the American Academy of Neurology and American Epilepsy Society, visit aan.com.

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Think you’re eating well? Misconceptions lead to nutrient deficiencies for many

(BPT) – The good news? Americans think they are eating well; in fact, 60 percent say they eat a very healthy diet. The not-so-good news? Perception and reality may not be aligned.

Only 6 percent of Americans report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, reveals recent research from supplement maker MegaFood. The discrepancy leaves a huge nutritional gap to fill.

The survey results highlight another knowledge gap between Americans and healthy eating — you can eat plenty of healthy foods, and still not get the recommended daily allowances of key nutrients.

For example, 52 percent of survey respondents say they think they get enough vitamin B6 in their diets. B6 is found in foods like bananas and avocados, plays an important role in producing fuel and energy, and is critical for optimal function of the brain, nervous and immune systems. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say 30 million Americans are deficient in vitamin B6.

Multiple studies have shown many Americans don’t get the recommended amounts of needed nutrients every day, yet two-thirds believe they can get all the required nutrients by eating a healthy diet, according to the MegaFood survey. As a result, the belief they don’t need a multivitamin is the top reason two in five people don’t take one.

“My experience consistently shows me that a large number of Americans live high-carb, high-sugar, caffeine-overloaded, stressed-out, no-exercise lives,” says Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, herbal medicine and dietary supplementation, and author of National Geographic’s “Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.” “We may have good intentions when it comes to eating well, but the truth is that many of us fall short of an ideal diet — and even when we do our best to eat well, it is extremely difficult to get all the nutrients we need on a regular basis with diet alone.”

What you can do

It is possible to take steps to improve nutrition. Dr. Low Dog offers these tips:

* Know the nutrients you should be getting and the recommended daily amount for each. The National Institutes of Health provide online tables for recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals, based on age and gender.

* Do your best to eat a balanced diet; it delivers health benefits beyond vitamin sufficiency. Be sure to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

* Supplement your good eating habits with a quality multivitamin. Eighty-one percent of consumers realize that not all multivitamins are the same. MegaFood makes a line of multivitamins formulated to support the health of men and women during various phases of life. They’re made from real food from real family farmers. The line is gluten-, soy-, GMO- and dairy-free, and tested to be free of pesticides and herbicides.

* In an effort to help bridge the nutritional gap, MegaFood has launched its MegaPledge campaign. Pledge to close your nutritional gap by taking a multivitamin and MegaFood will donate a bottle of multis to someone in need. Pledgers will receive a $5 coupon and be entered to win great prizes, including a year’s worth of multivitamins and an amazing wellness getaway. Additionally, MegaFood is teaming up with Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit organization that empowers underserved consumers to make healthier food choices by increasing affordable access to fresh, local food. With every pledge, MegaFood will donate two servings of fruits and veggies to someone in need. Take the pledge at megafood.com/pledge.

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The important role vaccines may play in helping keep children and adults healthy

(BPT) – Every one of the nearly 12,000 babies born in the United States each day may be susceptible to infectious diseases. The good news is that vaccines can help protect children from some of these diseases.

As National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) approaches, it is timely to remember the role that vaccinations can play in helping to prevent certain diseases among infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that routine vaccination of the nearly 4 million babies born in the US each year may help to prevent about 20 million cases of diseases that they could develop over their lifetime. In fact, over time, successful vaccination campaigns have contributed to the near elimination or elimination of some diseases in the U.S., like polio.

Vaccination is considered to be one of the greatest public health achievements since 1900. NIIW, which is held April 22 – 29 this year, highlights the importance of helping to protect infants from diseases for which there are vaccines and celebrates the achievements of vaccination programs in helping to promote healthy communities.

“Today vaccines can help to protect against 14 diseases before age two,” explains Eddy Bresnitz, M.D., M.S., Executive Director, Merck Vaccines Global Health & Medical Affairs. “Failure to vaccinate may mean putting your children at risk for potentially serious diseases.”

“In the U.S., most young children receive many of the recommended vaccines, but there is room to improve vaccination rates among all groups, including adolescents and adults,” says Bresnitz.

In fact, the CDC has specific recommended vaccination schedules that cover children, adolescents and adults. Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccines that may be recommended for you and your loved ones, and visit www.vaccinesandyou.com to learn more.

This information is provided by Merck.

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Proper nutrition is key to senior health

(BPT) – Americans are now living longer than ever before. In fact, one of the fastest growing segments is people over the age of 85 who will represent 20 percent of the population by the year 2040. Because we are living longer, certain conditions specific to seniors are also on a steady rise. Dehydration, falls, fractures, cognition loss and attention deficits are now becoming more commonplace.

In a recent paper titled “Salt Appetite Across Generations” presented at a medical conference in Switzerland, Israeli researchers from the University of Haifa indicated that among seniors, a reduced sense of thirst could increase the increased risk of serious dehydration. They also noted that the appetite for salt does not diminish with age, and suggested that this could be used to help sustain hydration and prevent the dangerous symptoms that result from dehydration.

Another study published in the American Journal of Hypertension identified significant risks to cardiovascular health and longevity from consuming any less than 1, or more than 3 teaspoons of salt per day. Fortunately, most Americans, including seniors, when left to their own choice consume right in the middle of this range.

Seniors in assisted living centers can be especially susceptible to the dangers of low salt diets. In 2013 a task force of 12 professional medical, nursing, and nutritional organizations assembled by the Pioneer Network published the “New Dining Practice Standards.” Their report concluded that low salt diets were contributing to malnutrition and weight loss among a significant percentage of seniors in assisted living facilities.

Low salt diets can also cause seniors to suffer from mild hyponatremia, an electrolyte imbalance in the blood which may not sound bad but can lead directly to walking impairment, attention deficits and a much higher frequency of falls. Several recent medical papers found a direct relationship between hyponatremia and unsteadiness, falls, bone fractures and attention deficits.

Falls are one of the most serious problems for the elderly and about a third of people over 65 fall at least once every year. Fall-related injuries in the elderly are associated with numerous psychological and physical consequences and are a leading cause of bone breakage and hip fractures, which can lead to complications and permanent disability or death. Some seniors do need a low salt diets but many do not, and it should not be assumed that they all do or benefit from when in fact the opposite may be the case.

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Experts say alarming rise in STDs among young adults requires urgent action

(BPT) – Lauren, a young woman from North Carolina, started noticing symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) after being with a new partner. As someone who typically took great care of her health, she knew it was important to get her symptoms checked out. She was surprised to learn that she had chlamydia.

“Luckily, I experienced symptoms, so I knew to get tested,” Lauren says, “but not everyone experiences them.” Since talking to her friends about what happened, she adds, “I’m surprised at how many of them have gone through the same thing. It’s a lot more common than I thought.”

Because she caught it early, Lauren was able to treat her chlamydia quickly with one course of antibiotics. She said she knows getting an STD isn’t a punishment for having unprotected sex, but if you are having sex, getting tested is the best way to take care of yourself.

“I’m so glad that I didn’t wait to be tested, because the real problem is when STDs aren’t treated,” Lauren says.

Lauren’s experience is increasingly common among young adults. In fact, one in two sexually active people will get an STD by age 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet a recent study shows that fewer than 12 percent said they were tested in the past year.

Shattering the STD stigma

To spread the message about the importance of STD testing, the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) has launched a stigma-shattering initiative — “YES Means TEST(TM)” — to educate and empower young adults who say “YES” to sexual activity also to say “YES” to getting tested for STDs.

“At ASHA, we understand there are plenty of reasons young people aren’t getting tested,” says Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of ASHA. “They’re often in denial about the risk of STDs, aren’t educated about their harmful effects or for some reason are too embarrassed to discuss them. We’ve got to reverse that stigma so people, especially young women, feel empowered to take ownership of their sexual health.”

“YES Means TEST” launched with a video featuring comedian/actress Whitney Cummings, a creator of the hit TV show, “2 Broke Girls.” The video is aimed at normalizing STD testing so young people will view it as a natural part of their health routine. The video reveals surprising statistics about the impact of STDs and asks young people why their generation isn’t more comfortable talking about STDs and getting tested. All “YES Means TEST” activities direct people to www.YESmeansTEST.org, where they can locate nearby clinics to receive STD screenings.

Why testing matters now more than ever

People may not know they have an STD because many do not have symptoms, and they can cause serious health consequences if they are not detected and treated appropriately. For example, chlamydia left untreated can put a woman at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, a condition that can lead to infertility. “YES Means TEST” was designed primarily to reach sexually active women ages 18-24. The CDC recommends annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings for this demographic.

STD testing can be confidential and free or low-cost, and common STDs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, are usually effectively treated with antibiotics. For more information about STDs, “YES Means TEST” or how and where to get tested, visit www.YESmeansTEST.org. Join the conversation online with #YESmeansTEST.

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Fresh ways to enjoy pizza night and make a balanced meal

(BPT) – You know a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables is best for your health, but achieving that can be a challenge given everything you have to accomplish in a day. Daily meal planning doesn’t have to be such a chore if you turn to your freezer for a little help. In fact, starting with frozen prepared foods as the foundation of your dinner plate and adding side dishes with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and/or low-fat dairy can make it possible to serve a balanced meal that is quick and tasty. And that works for pizza night, too!

“Eating a balanced meal doesn’t mean you have to give up favorite foods like pizza,” says Bobby Parrish, Food Network personality and Today contributor. “It just means you need to be mindful of portion sizes and balance out your plate with a nutritious side dish of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains.”

Research shows that Americans struggle with meeting recommended dietary guidelines. In fact, nine out of 10 people don’t get the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say. A simple way to improve the mix of foods you’re eating is by supplementing something you already enjoy — like pizza — with side dishes made up of other food groups.

Nestlé USA’s Balance Your Plate educational program aims to help you put together delicious and nutritious meals that incorporate both frozen and fresh foods. The website www.nestleusa.com/balance provides information, tips and recipes to help consumers create easy, balanced meals that meet dietary guidelines.

By choosing your favorite frozen dishes, like pizza, as the foundation of your meal, you can build a more balanced plate with these tips:

* Make at least half your plate fruits and vegetables. For example, if you have a slice of cheese pizza, pair it with a fresh salad or your favorite vegetable side dish.

* Figure out your portion by looking at the recommended Serving Size in the Nutrition Facts label. Here’s an easy idea for pizza portions: picture your hand as a pizza slice and plan to enjoy one or two hands’ worth.

* Don’t be afraid to mix vegetables right into or on top of your pizza. For example, top cheese pizza with fresh tomato and basil after it comes out of the oven.

* Bagged salad greens, spinach or salad kits are a great, speedy way to add greens to your plate.

Parrish, who partnered with DiGiorno to create original side dish recipes, offers these two nutritious and tasty salad recipes to pair with your favorite pizza to create a more balanced meal:

Quinoa and Grapefruit Herb Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups of cooked quinoa

1 grapefruit

2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped and roasted (optional)

1-2 small carrots, grated

1 tablespoon each of fresh parsley and dill, chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of half a lemon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Couple cracks of black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil and add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Add 3/4 cups of raw quinoa. Stir well, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Check the quinoa; the water should be absorbed and the grain should be fluffy. If the quinoa has not unraveled, add another 1/4 cup of water and cook until the water evaporates and the quinoa looks cooked. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool for up to two hours, or you can make ahead of time and refrigerate overnight.

Place the cooked, cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Using a knife, cut away all the skin from the grapefruit and cut all segments directly into the bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Check for taste; you may need to add more lemon juice. The salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Shaved Apple and Romaine Crunch Salad

Ingredients:

2 hearts of romaine lettuce

1 sweet apple, like gala or pink lady

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon fresh chives, sliced

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

For the salad dressing:

3 tablespoons tahini

2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Zest and juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Couple cracks of black pepper

2-4 tablespoons water

Directions:

Use a slicer or mandoline to thinly slice the apple. Place the slices in a large bowl and squeeze some lemon juice over the slices to prevent them from turning brown. Slice the romaine thinly and add it to the bowl along with the remaining salad ingredients. Set aside.

For the dressing, add everything but the water to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add enough water to loosen the dressing so it’s able to be poured. Check for seasoning; you may need a little more salt or lemon juice.

Keep the dressing and salad in the fridge until ready to serve. Right before you dress the salad, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a couple cracks of pepper to the romaine mixture. Toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat everything, making sure not to over-dress the salad. Once the salad is dressed, it must be eaten and cannot be stored in the fridge.

For more recipes, information and meal ideas, visit www.nestleusa.com/balance.

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Unique ideas to be gutsier in life

(BPT) – Being human takes guts, but a sense of bold confidence doesn’t come easily for everyone; and often requires you to start from the inside. You may need to overcome mental roadblocks and bulldoze through personal physical barriers that have held you back.

Now is the perfect time to break free of those internal boundaries and challenge yourself to live boldly and bravely. Here are some ideas to unlock your potential from the inside out, allowing you to live gutsier at any age:

Start with a gut check

To be your best self and have the “guts” to tackle whatever lies ahead, get your gut in check and reap the glory. According to a recent Renew Life survey, three out of four women (72 percent) report that they’ve experienced occasional digestive issues in the past 12 months, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Not only may these all be signs your gut is in need of replenishment and balance, but they’re enough of a reason to sit on the sideline rather than experience a new adventure.

Nutrition experts like Ellie Krieger, RD, host of “Ellie’s Real Good Food” show and author of several healthy cookbooks, agree that one of the most efficient and impactful ways to bring balance to the digestive tract for better digestive and immune health is with a daily probiotic like Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotics, recommended for their blends of multiple strains and billions of live cultures, which reflects the natural diversity in the gut.

Try something new

When you try something you’ve never done before, it stimulates the body and mind. Don’t worry about failure — just keep an open mind and have fun. No matter the outcome, you’ll create lifelong memories.

For example, even if you aren’t crafty, sign up for a pottery class. Always wondered about yoga? Take an intro session. Want to make new friends? Attend that community function. When you get outside your comfort zone, you may be surprised just how much fun you have.

Eat new foods

Expand your nutritional palate with healthy items that aren’t staples on your daily menu — mix them with dishes you know and try them a couple of times. Training your brain to recognize new flavors and smells requires multiple exposures, and proximity to familiar favorites helps make things safe by association. You never know what might become your next favorite dish.

Some healthy foodie trends you may want to try include sea vegetables like dulse, a seaweed, and items that include probiotic cultures, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and yogurt. You might even consider signing up for a cooking class to learn new skills in the kitchen.

Take a spontaneous PTO day

Americans wasted 658 million paid vacation days, according to Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2016 report. That means more than half of workers (55 percent) left vacation time unused. Don’t let precious time off slip away, and take a mental health day.

Call in on a random day and give yourself the gift of an unplanned day off. Maybe it’s a particularly nice day and you can go hiking or you can surprise your best friend with lunch on her birthday. Take a “me day” and enjoy.

Reflect on and be a role model

Who do you admire for their guts? Is it someone famous or someone close to you? Think about what they do that inspires you. If you can, tell them why. For example, write your mom a letter about how she’s impacted your life. It’s sure to make her day.

While thinking about role models, reflect on how you can be a better one yourself. Whether you hope to inspire your friends, children or co-workers, be the best you that you can be. Always stand up for what you believe in and be true to yourself. One way to do this is to donate to a cause close to your heart.

Challenge yourself

Need extra motivation for living gutsier? Join a fun challenge that can both guide you plus provide a sense of community and support. Sign up for a 5K with a friend or commit your family to meatless Mondays for a month. When you do challenges in groups, it can be a lot of fun.

Check out the Renew Life Guts & Glory 14-Day Gut Challenge at www.RenewLife.com/gutchallenge that will bring balance to your gut; and as a result live the life you’ve always dreamed of. The challenge will provide plenty of ideas to #getgutsy and stay healthy, and one lucky sweepstakes winner will receive $2,500 to put toward any gutsy endeavor they choose (sweepstakes from April 6 – May 19, 2017).

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