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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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Tackling Heart Health Head On: One Woman’s Journey to Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosis and Treatment

(BPT) – In 90-degree heat and with her heart pounding, Shawna Dukes was in her happy place as she sprinted up and down stadium stairs during the annual University of Texas women’s football training clinic. With determination in her stride, the physically fit, 58-year-old Texas native looked like she could take on anything. However, just a few short months prior, Dukes came toe-to-toe with an opponent she didn’t know how to tackle – coronary artery disease (CAD) – which led her to a coronary stent procedure to help re-open a 90-percent blocked artery and restore blood flow to her heart.

The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that Dukes is just one of the 15 million Americans affected by CAD. The disease causes the blood vessels that feed the heart to become narrow, making it difficult for blood to flow to the heart, according to the Heart Foundation. The AHA reports that CAD is the most common type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States. A recent AHA study found that, for women specifically, heart disease takes more lives than all cancers, respiratory diseases and Alzheimer’s disease combined. Despite these staggering statistics, only 42 percent of women aged 35 and older are concerned about heart disease.

Dukes had been diligent about seeing her doctor regularly, exercising and eating a healthy diet, so heart disease was far from her mind, until one day when she began to experience excruciating chest pain that made her struggle to catch her breath. As plaque builds in the coronary arteries of people with CAD, potential signs and symptoms may include chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, nausea or fatigue, according to Mayo Clinic. The AHA study also found that for some women, indications of CAD can be unpredictable: nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of women who die suddenly from CAD have no physical warning signs.

As her symptoms persisted, Dukes visited multiple doctors who recommended typical first-line treatments, including aspirin or blood thinners, beta blockers and nitroglycerin tablets, but nothing seemed to help alleviate her pain. Unable to enjoy her daily walks with her dog or participate in exercise classes, Dukes continued to research her symptoms and ask questions, refusing to give up her active lifestyle and let this debilitating condition be her new normal.

Her persistence led her to seek out the advice of interventional cardiologist Dr. Colin Barker at the Houston Methodist Hospital. Upon her first clinic visit, Dr. Barker performed tests to confirm a CAD diagnosis and told her she would need an immediate medical procedure to re-open her blocked artery. Within two hours of meeting Dukes, Dr. Barker initiated a minimally-invasive procedure called a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) using a new stent, called the SYNERGY(TM) Bioabsorbable Polymer Drug-Eluting Stent System.

“The primary goal in treating coronary artery disease is to open arteries that have become clogged and restore blood flow to the heart as quickly as possible,” Dr. Barker says. “For Shawna, I chose the SYNERGY Stent, which is the only FDA-approved coronary stent with a bioabsorbable polymer – a special coating which dissolves along with the drug in about three to four months following implantation. Reducing the amount of time polymer stays in the vessel can prevent chronic inflammation and associated complications that patients can experience years after receiving a stent with permanent polymer.”

One week after receiving the SYNERGY Stent, Dukes was back to taking five-mile walks with her dog. Then, just a couple of months after her procedure, she was able to participate in the grueling six-hour, high-intensity women’s training clinic hosted by the University of Texas football coaching staff.

Now Dukes uses her exercise classes to do more than stay in shape. She regularly engages groups of women in conversations about heart health by sharing her story and encourages them to talk to their doctors about available treatment options.

“My experience inspired me to educate others, especially women, about the importance of being an advocate for their own health care,” Shawna noted. “I often tell people, ‘Don’t be afraid to seek out a second opinion and do your own research. Asking questions could save your life.’”

Top questions to ask your doctor about Coronary Artery Disease/preparing for a stent procedure

1. What is coronary artery disease (CAD) and how is it treated?
2. Do treatment considerations differ between women and men?
3. What makes a patient a good candidate for coronary stenting?
4. What are the different stents and procedures available, and what are the benefits and risks of each?

As with any medical procedure, there are risks that should be discussed with your physician as some are serious in nature. For more information, please visit http://www.bostonscientific.com/SYNERGYPatient to learn more about heart health and the SYNERGY Stent.

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Tips to avoid distracted driving

(BPT) – The pace of business never seems to stop, and thanks to the convenience of cell phones, many people work on the go, even while they’re driving. Yet cell phone use is one of the most common type of distracted driving, and it claims thousands of lives and causes thousands more injuries every year.

More than a quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use, both hand sets and hands-free, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports. In 13 percent of fatal crashes, the drivers were using cellphones, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. The actual number of cell phone-related accidents is likely much higher, since many states don’t yet compile and report data on cell phone use following a crash.

Employers take up the issue

Recognizing the ethical and liability issues that arise when employees drive while distracted, employers across the country have begun implementing distracted driving policies. Typically, these policies prohibit employees from using cellphones while driving on company time.

In January 2017, the NSC reported that Cargill was the largest privately held company to prohibit the use of mobile devices, including hands-free technology, while an employee is driving on behalf of the company. The ban also covers work related calls while commuting to and from work, even if employees are driving their own vehicles.

“There is a time and place for doing business, and it’s not while you’re driving,” says Melanie Burke, director of health and safety at Cargill, a Minnesota-based privately held company with 150,000 employees around the world.

Even Cargill’s Chairman and CEO David MacLennan is subject to the ban. In announcing the policy to employees in late 2016, MacLennan noted he was 138 days into cell-phone free motoring. “It’s been liberating,” he told employees.

NSC data shows about 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies have instituted cell phone bans, and of those, just 1 percent believe the ban affected productivity.

Replace risk, keep productivity

Taking care of business doesn’t mean you have to risk a crash. Here are six ways to keep up with the pace of business without using your cell phone in the car:

* Use an automated response app to let callers know you’re driving and can’t take their call at the moment. These free apps allow you to personalize the response and set your phone to automatically reply with a text message to incoming calls or texts.

* If you’re driving a vehicle outfitted with communication technology, use its “do not disturb” feature to unplug from calls and texts while behind the wheel.

* Use shared calendars to block off times when you’ll be on the road and unable to answer a call. The calendar item will help alert coworkers and anyone else connected to your calendar when you’ll be out of touch and when they might be able to reach you again.

* Remove temptation. A study by AT&T found 62 percent of drivers keep their phones within reach in the car. Put yours away where you can’t see or reach it. You can place it in your purse, briefcase or messenger bag, and place the bag in the back seat. Further reduce distraction and temptation by turning your device off before stowing it.

* If you absolutely must take a call while on the road, pull over in a safe location. If a call comes in while you’re driving, allow it to go to voicemail until you’re safely pulled over, then return the call.

* Be aware of other dangerously distracting behaviors, such as putting on makeup, tying a necktie or eating while driving. Do all your dressing and personal grooming before you leave home, and if you must snack while driving, choose food that is easy to manage, like a granola bar (unwrap it when you’re stopped), rather than something messy like a burger with all the fixings.

“Before we had cellphones, if you had to take a business call while on the road, you would pull over and find a pay phone,” says Burke. “Productivity was fine and business got done. When it comes to time behind the wheel, safety is everyone’s most important job.”

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5 easy tips to prepare your family for the daylight saving time change

(BPT) – Daylight saving time brings brighter evenings and a reminder that spring and warmer weather are within reach. However, it comes with the potential to wreak havoc on a family’s sleep routine. Time changes can make morning schedules just a little bit harder for parents everywhere.

“A time change shifts our body’s normal schedule and losing an hour of sleep during daylight saving time can be a tough transition for moms and their families,” says Shannon Wright, a registered dietitian and wellness expert for Natrol, a market leader of vitamins and supplements.

Despite this, daylight saving time may be just the right time to reset sleep routines and get family schedules back on track.

“Use this time change as a reason to start implementing a better night time routine for the entire family,” Wright says. “If adults do not get the seven to nine hours of sleep the body needs, it can have significant consequences such as decreased mood, poor performance at work and an increase in accidents can occur.”

To help families get through this time change adjustment, Wright recommends these tips and tricks to help ease into the transition and get the best night’s sleep possible:

1. Stay consistent.

Develop a nightly routine to help regulate your body’s sleep and wake schedule. Aim to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help support your body’s natural sleep cycle and also support the body’s release of melatonin, which helps put you to sleep and promotes more restful sleep.

2. Limit nighttime screen time.

Unwinding with your favorite TV shows or reading the latest news on your smartphone or tablet can seem like a nice way to ease into falling asleep once the kids are in bed, but it can hinder your sleep if you do it within an hour of bedtime. The blue light release from these various technological devices can actually trick your brain into thinking it is daytime and your body will delay its release of melatonin.

3. Step outside.

Use that extra daylight to spend some quality time outside with your family. Research suggests a correlation between exercise and a good night’s rest. You can even use a pedometer or step monitor to ensure you’re moving your body enough throughout the day. Challenge your family to be more active and your whole family will be getting more sleep.

4. Create an environment for sleep.

A perfect sleep environment should be dark, quiet and cool so you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep. If you have challenges with any of these factors, invest in some blackout curtains, ear plugs or a fan.

5. Get support with a melatonin supplement

Various factors can affect the natural production of melatonin in our bodies such as age, diet, time changes and stress. Supplementing with melatonin can help establish normal sleep patterns to give you a more restful, relaxing sleep and in turn, better overall health. Try Natrol Melatonin, a 100 percent drug-free sleep aid that is non-habit forming to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep so you wake up feeling refreshed.

“Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different so use these tips and be patient. Before long, moms and their families will be fully rested and ready to tackle their busy days,” Wright says.

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5 things you need to know about vaccines

(BPT) – No one wakes up in the morning hoping to be sick. Yet despite the angst people have about becoming ill, many forgo one of the easiest, most effective ways to protect themselves and their loved ones from common and even severe illnesses — they choose not to get vaccinated.

There are many reasons people choose not to get vaccinated. Often, the decision is caused by incorrect information one may read or hear about vaccinations. Mayo Clinic seeks to eliminate these mistruths and offer correct information about vaccinations so people can make safe, healthy choices for themselves and their families.

1. Are vaccines safe?

Safety concerns are the most common question people have regarding vaccines, and it’s also the question where there is the most misinformation. The truth is vaccines are safe and people who receive them enjoy numerous health benefits, including illness prevention. Each vaccine undergoes rigorous testing before being released to the general public to ensure it not only protects against the disease it’s designed to combat, but that it offers no other ill health benefits. Risks associated with vaccines are minor and may include a fever, soreness or skin irritation.

2. Which vaccinations are recommended?

Mayo Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many other health care providers recommend people receive the following vaccinations:

* Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis

* Haemophilus Influenza B

* Hepatitis A & B

* Human Papilloma Virus

* Influenza

* Meningococcal

* MMR

* Pneumococcal

* Polio

* Rotavirus

* Varicella, otherwise known as Chickenpox

3. Should vaccinations be spaced out?

The vaccinations above may seem like a large list and it’s natural to wonder if all of these vaccinations should be done at once or spaced out. Sources of misinformation may lead people to believe that tackling several vaccinations at once somehow dilutes them, but there is no evidence of this. In fact, research shows people, even children, are able to take several vaccines at once without any negative effects. Spacing out the vaccines creates unnecessary delays and additional scheduling, while opening a longer window of exposure to illnesses.

4. Understand the difference between vaccination and immunization.

A vaccination is a treatment that introduces weakened or dead bacteria and/or viruses into a person’s body to build up their immunity against the disease. Immunization is the process of developing that immunity. Immunization may happen through vaccination, but it could also come from contracting the bacteria or virus and recovering from the disease.

5. Vaccinations are important for everyone.

For people wondering who should get vaccinated, the short answer is nearly everyone. In particular, vaccinations are especially important for younger people. This is because children, especially young babies, are not inherently equipped to fight many diseases and without vaccinations, otherwise small problems could become serious complications and even be fatal.

Vaccinations remain an often discussed topic and it can be difficult to determine what is fact and what is misinformation. For those with questions, the first step should be to discuss vaccinations with your doctor, who will be able to provide you with the information you need. For more information about vaccinations, visit mayoclinic.org.

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5 things you must know about this groundbreaking treatment for servicemen and women

(BPT) – When the nation’s servicemen and women serve a tour of duty overseas, many don’t return home the same.

Nearly 60 percent of servicemen and 50 percent of servicewomen experience at least one traumatic event during their service, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. These events have the potential to cause life-long complications.

Research shows the consequences of a traumatic event has the potential to impact a person’s cognitive ability through traumatic brain injury (TBI), or to cause them to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Either of these conditions means that even when the service person’s tour is over, their struggles have just begun.

Fortunately for service people dealing with the effects of TBI and PTSD, new treatments are available. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is easing the pain for many servicemen and women through an increase in oxygen to combat problems ranging from complex disabilities and chronic infections to pain and neurological impairment.

If you’ve never heard of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, here are five things you need to know about this new treatment and how it is helping servicemen and women across the country.

* The treatment is built on speed and oxygen. When a patient undergoes hyperbaric oxygen therapy, their body is exposed to a high amount of oxygen, carried through their body at a rapid pace. This alternative medicine therapy not only increases the amount of oxygen the body receives, but the purity of the oxygen as well. The increase of oxygen aides the patient’s body in the creation of new blood cells which supports the healing process.

* In addition to supporting the healing process, it also combats stress. Research shows hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been proven to alleviate stress on the body through cognitive rehabilitation, making it a natural treatment solution for servicemen and women suffering not only from external wounds, but from PTSD, TBI and depression as well.

* The treatment process involves several “dives.” Each hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment is called a dive and an individual can receive 20-40 dives in which oxygen is pumped into their specialized, sealed chamber. Each treatment lasts for up to one hour. Servicemen and women pursuing this treatment see the best results when these treatments are scheduled as close together as possible.

* The risk of TBI varies depending on conditions. Many veterans of the United States’ campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered TBI because of blast related injuries. Research shows males outnumber females in TBI cases 2:1. Age also plays a roll in a person’s likeliness to suffer TBI, and people ages 0-4, 15-19 and the elderly have a higher rate of suffering TBI than those outside of those age ranges. Substance abusers also stand a greater chance of suffering a TBI incident.

* You can support treatment for servicemen and women. Veterans across the country need your help. The Purple Heart Foundation strives to make the transition home as smooth as possible for all veterans, which includes providing them the treatment they need for the challenges they face after being discharged. The Purple Heart Foundation is a nonprofit, Veteran Service Organization whose mission is to honor the sacrifice of military veterans and create a smooth transition for them from the battlefield to the home front. Nearly 90 percent of each cash donation made to the Purple Heart Foundation goes to support aspects of this mission statement including: hyperbaric oxygen treatment, the National Service Officer Program, the scholarship program, service dog programs and other rehabilitation or recreational programs aimed at improving the lives of veterans. To learn more about how you can support veterans returning from overseas, visit purpleheartfoundation.org.

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4 things you can do today to support your heart health

(BPT) – On the path to good health, it pays to follow your heart — literally. A healthy heart is essential to supporting good overall health, yet many people ignore the warning signs that their heart is not as healthy as it could be.

A 2016 survey from the American Academy of Family Physicians, conducted by Harris Poll, found that nearly three in 10 men and women reported they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. This result mirrors the findings of research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings translate to an estimated 75 million people with high blood pressure, and just slightly more than half have the condition under control.

“This finding is concerning because we know that high blood pressure and heart attacks or chronic heart failure are so closely related,” said John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the AAFP. “According to the CDC, seven out of 10 people who have a first heart attack have high blood pressure. Seven out of 10 people who develop chronic heart failure have high blood pressure. So it’s important that people know what their blood pressure is.”

To lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health, the American Academy of Family Physicians offers these recommendations.

* Be deliberate with your diet. Fruits and vegetables are essential, but pay special attention to their color too. Vegetables and fruits of different colors offer different nutrients, so mix them up. At the same time, avoid heavily processed foods and those high in sodium. You should also make sure you’re drinking plenty of water rather than soda or energy drinks. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses every single day.

* Balance your BMI. If you don’t know your BMI, a quick Internet search can lead you to several easy-to-use BMI calculators. And once you do know your BMI, you can start taking steps to reduce it, if necessary. According to the American Heart Association, losing just 5-10 percent of your body weight can dramatically reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. And that leads us to …

* Jump start your heart with aerobic exercise. Your heart is a muscle, and like other muscles in your body, exercise strengthens it. So put your heart through a workout with activities like walking, biking or hiking to increase your heart rate. Exercise can also lower your risk of developing plaque in your arteries, allowing your heart to be more efficient in delivering blood and nutrients to other parts of your body.

* Stop the stress. Aside from a poor diet, there may be no larger culprit for high blood pressure than stress. Successful stress management has been proven to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke. So relax, exercise, meditate, breathe deep or just have some fun. Whatever you do to burn off stress, make it an essential part of your day. You and your heart will be better for it.

“Get your blood pressure checked,” says Meigs. “If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to treat it and lower your risk factors. That same advice applies to knowing what your blood cholesterol levels are.”

To learn more about how you can reduce your blood pressure and improve your heart health, have a conversation with your family doctor today. Your doctor will be able to give you an accurate assessment of your current health and offer ideas on where and how you can improve. And to find more heart-healthy tips, visit familydoctor.org.

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Volunteers bring healthier smiles to kids in need

(BPT) – Did you know half of all children in this country enter kindergarten with tooth decay? Tooth decay is the number one chronic infectious disease among children in the U.S., affecting 42 percent of children aged 2 to 11 years old, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition, nearly half of minority children and children receiving Medicaid benefits suffer from untreated tooth decay.

Good oral health is connected to good overall health. In fact, problems in the mouth can impact the rest of the body. If the tooth decay isn’t fixed — or prevented in the first place — the consequences are much broader; children with untreated tooth decay often have more school absences, difficulty paying attention in school and lower self-esteem.

The good news is that with proper management and intervention, early forms of tooth decay can actually be stopped and reversed. Oral care habits start at home. Children should:

* Brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste;
* Floss once a day;
* Eat healthy meals;
* Visit the dentist once a year.

Unfortunately, despite improvements in children’s access to dental care, many children continue to suffer. Leading the charge to address the gap in children’s oral health care is Give Kids A Smile (GKAS), a national grassroots movement of passionate volunteer dental professionals and dental industry employees who work tirelessly behind the scenes to address this problem.

Dr. Timothy Kinnard, dental director at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, has seen GKAS in action first hand. “The Give Kids A Smile program gives children critically necessary dental treatment they may otherwise may not be able to access,” Kinnard says. “It’s a wonderful demonstration of how access to dentistry helps reduce the oral health disparities that exist in underserved communities.”

Kids who attend one of 1,300 annual GKAS programs receive free oral health services including education, screening, preventive services and/or treatment from GKAS volunteers. GKAS is the largest children’s oral health charitable program in the U.S., already providing 5.5 million children in need with services since the first national event in 2003. More than 500,000 volunteers, including almost 140,000 dentists, have volunteered their time and resources at thousands of sites nationwide to help children who may not otherwise have access to dental care.

Taking action

More needs to be done to teach families how to prevent childhood tooth decay. GKAS volunteers are working year-round to educate kids and families in their communities, and to provide free dental care to kids in need. Give Kids A Smile is part of the American Dental Association’s Action for Dental Health initiative, highlighting the need for improved access to dental care for kids. The ADA Foundation continues to support GKAS volunteers so they can focus on what they do best — caring for those in need.

You can help. Find out more at ADAFoundation.org/GKAS.

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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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6 steps to improve indoor air quality

(BPT) – Spring and summer have a reputation for being allergy seasons, but actually two-thirds of allergy sufferers experience symptoms year-round, according to a study conducted by Isobar. Throughout “closed-window season” the lack of ventilation can cause irritants like dust, pet dander, and mold spores to linger and build up inside homes and offices, causing allergen-related discomfort to flare up. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can also build up when fresh air is not circulating and can result in airway irritation as well as other discomforts.

In some areas of the country with warmer climates, pollens can be a constant concern with plants blooming throughout the year. In cooler climate areas, temperature fluctuations can also cause pollen to be present when you least expect it.

“Many people automatically reach for an over-the-counter antihistamine when they experience allergy symptoms due to indoor or outdoor allergens,” says Dr. Bob Geng, a board-certified allergist/immunologist and medical advisor for Honeywell Air Purifiers. “However, by first evaluating your home environment and taking steps to remove or minimize allergens and allergen sources, you can reduce your exposure naturally and may be able to limit the need for medication or allergy shots.”

Reducing indoor allergens

Indoors, irritants can come from numerous sources. Take these steps to reduce allergens and irritants inside your home all year long:

1. Dust and other airborne particles can cling to window treatments, upholstery, throw pillows and other soft items that don’t get vacuumed regularly. Help minimize dust by reducing excessive amounts of fabrics in your home.

2. Wash sheets, pillow covers and mattress covers weekly in hot water of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Frequent laundering in hot water can reduce the presence of dust and dust mite waste.

3. Vacuum carpets at least weekly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove allergens that can settle deep into the fibers. Vacuuming can stir up, or aerosolize particles, so try to have a non-allergy sufferer do the vacuuming, or wear a disposable dust mask. Run an air purifier to supplement weekly vacuuming and to help capture airborne particles before they settle on surfaces.

4. Three in 10 allergy sufferers have allergic reactions to dogs and cats, according to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Detectable levels of pet dander are present in nearly every U.S. home, even those without pets, as these allergens can easily be carried into the home on clothing and shoes. Limit your pet’s access to bedrooms, and keep them off upholstered furniture.

5. Common household items including soaps, detergents, perfumes, cleaning supplies and building materials like paint and varnishes can emit gases in the form of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). For many, especially for allergy and asthma sufferers with airways that are typically already inflamed, exposure to VOCs can cause nasal passage, lung and throat irritation. The EPA reports that VOC levels inside homes are two to five times higher than levels outdoors.

6. Consider using an air purifier to remove contaminants from the air. Honeywell True HEPA Air Purifiers capture up to 99.97 percent of microscopic airborne particles that pass through the filters, including airborne grass, weed and tree pollens, dust, smoke, pet fur/dander, mold spores, and certain bacteria and virus. Activated carbon pre-filters can also trap common household odors and VOCs.

To learn more about air purifiers, visit honeywellpluggedin.com. For more information on allergies and allergens, visit the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America website, aafa.org.

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