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The most wonderful (and stressful) time of year. Could you be suffering from seasonal anxiety? Find out how to cope.

(BPT) – Hot cocoa by a crackling fire. The sounds of family and friends’ laughter heard throughout the house. Your favorite holiday movies on the television. This is the idyllic holiday scene. But what’s the reality? Statistics show us that the holiday season, portrayed as the most wonderful time of year, can also be a time when a few uninvited guests come knocking — stress, anxiety and depression.

If this sounds familiar, then you are one of the millions of people who experience holiday-triggered anxiety. One in five adult Americans already struggle with mental health disorders daily, and during the holiday season 64 percent of people with mental illness report that their conditions worsen, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Even people in warm-weather states like Florida, California and Texas can experience seasonal mental health issues around the holidays.

Why do so many people experience holiday-related anxiety? For starters, the emphasis on family time and togetherness can act as a constant and painful reminder that our lives may not look like joyful holiday cards — putting family conflict, loss, breakups and divorce under a microscope. The stress and anxiety of being confronted with family events, combined with travel, darker and colder days, unusually packed schedules, and lack of sleep can trigger behavioral health issues. Also, when busy and/or traveling, it’s common for people to deprioritize their physical and mental health.

But this doesn’t have to be your reality. You can give yourself the gift of telehealth! Many people, through their health plans, have access to virtual visits with licensed therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists — making it possible to manage mental health and enjoy the busy holiday season. Telehealth makes it possible to access quality care, 24/7, anywhere you have a smartphone or the web. Visit Teladoc.com/therapy to find out how you can access care from your home, on the road, or even right smack in the middle of your family’s holiday dinner.

“A combined 58 million American adults are living with either major depression (16M) or an anxiety disorder (42M), but in my experience, 100 percent of people will experience a stressor, or a loved one will need support, during the holiday season,” says Dr. Monika Roots, vice president of health services at Teladoc, the world’s largest and most trusted provider of virtual care delivery services. “One of the reasons I’m an advocate of telehealth for mental health is that it allows people to access care upon feeling triggered, not waiting weeks to get an appointment. After your aunt asks you why you’re single at the dinner table, for example, you can talk to someone immediately, making it easier to proactively manage stressors before they become major issues.”

How else can you help yourself or a loved one maintain positive mental health during the holidays? We asked Teladoc’s Dr. Roots for the top five ways to mitigate holiday-triggered anxiety. Here’s what she said:

1. Set boundaries. If you are overwhelmed by family, friends or work commitments, take quality time for yourself. A long walk or designated time unplugged from work or social interactions will help clear your mind.

2. Ask for help. If you need to talk to someone, don’t hesitate to get care. If you are away from your therapist or psychologist/psychiatrist, telehealth services are available by phone, web or mobile app. Check out Teladoc.com/therapy for more information.

3. Stick to a routine. If you are traveling, try to wake up, eat and go to bed at the same time as you normally would at home. Keeping an organized, regular schedule will help mitigate stress and anxiety.

4. Exercise. Maintaining physical health is key to maintaining mental health. Anything counts, even a walk around the mall while shopping!

5. Get some sleep: Try to log 7-9 hours a night. This will help improve mental focus and overall mood.

Many people don’t realize that they have access to a telehealth solution like Teladoc through their health benefits, or that these services offer mental health support. Further, as opposed to 25-day wait times for a mental health visit (according to the Kennedy Forum), you can see Teladoc licensed therapists and psychologists/psychiatrists within minutes, so you can get back to enjoying your holiday.

“I know that seeking mental help is deeply personal,” said Dr. Roots. “It’s my personal mission — and one that’s shared amongst all of us at Teladoc — to make sure no one ever feels alone as they navigate their mental health. If you’re experiencing stress, anxiety or depression this holiday season — or ever — please reach out to a doctor for support. If you do decide to try Teladoc, know that you can speak to the same person throughout your course of care, if you so choose.”

To learn more about Teladoc and telehealth’s role in mitigating holiday stress and anxiety, visit Teladoc.com/therapy.

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Say goodbye to winter blues with vitamin D-rich foods

(BPT) – Winter got you down? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect 10 million Americans, according to Psychology Today. Another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild SAD.

Even if you don’t have diagnosed SAD, it’s not uncommon to have bouts of the winter blues. There are many reasons people experience a “winter funk:” cold weather, little sunlight, shorter days, limited outdoor activity, etc.

Additionally, between the months of November and March, the lack of vitamin D absorption from the sun can be taxing on your immune system and may also be contributing to your winter blues.

Dubbed “the happy vitamin” by some researchers, vitamin D could be the key to turning seasonal frowns upside-down. Maintaining vitamin D levels during the cold winter months may help keep you healthy during cold and flu season while also boosting your mood.

What’s more, vitamin D may help you maintain a healthy weight. It’s no secret that many people experience weight gain due to the flood of comfort foods available during cooler months. This, paired with lower physical activity, causes many people to put on a few winter pounds.

According to a study quoted in Men’s Health, a University of Minnesota doctor found that people with adequate vitamin D levels lost more weight than those with low levels, even though all study participants reduced their calorie intake equally.

To get all the benefits of vitamin D, start by adjusting your diet. Vitamin D occurs naturally in eggs and oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, but it’s important to look for foods that contain even higher levels of vitamin D to naturally boost your intake, especially in the winter.

“Food is quite literally one of the best medicines out there when it comes to improving your mental and physical health,” says registered dietitian nutritionist, Dawn Jackson Blatner. “One of my favorite tips for boosting Vitamin D intake is to simply swap out ordinary eggs for Eggland’s Best eggs, since you’ll automatically get six times more vitamin D — it doesn’t get any easier than that!”

In addition to added vitamin D, Eggland’s Best eggs provide superior nutritional benefits such as 10 times more vitamin E, double the omega-3s, more than double the vitamin B12 and 25 percent less saturated fat than ordinary eggs.

A healthy diet that uses mood-boosting ingredients doesn’t have to be boring. Get creative in the kitchen and try new recipes featuring vitamin D-rich ingredients like this BLT Salmon Caesar Salad from Eggland’s Best and TheAlmondEater.com.

BLT Salmon Caesar Salad

Makes two servings

Ingredients:

1 salmon filet, baked and seasoned to your liking; 2 slices bacon; 1 Eggland’s Best egg (large); 5 cups lettuce; 1/2 cup tomatoes; 1 avocado, sliced; 1 cup croutons; 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese; 2 tablespoons Caesar dressing

Directions:

Heat bacon in a skillet and cook completely; set aside and then cut or break into bite-­size pieces once cooled.

Soft boil the egg over the stovetop.

While egg is cooking, place lettuce in a large bowl and add tomatoes, avocado, croutons and cheese to the bowl; stir to combine.

Next, add the baked salmon to the salad, along with the bacon; add the Caesar dressing and stir to combine.

Last, add the soft-boiled egg and enjoy!

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3 simple tips to get delicious, balanced weeknight meals on the table

(BPT) – Weekday schedules get crazy, which is why the first casualty of all that chaos is the family dinner.

While most families say eating together is a high priority, day-to-day reality is different. According to a 2013 poll by NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, only half of children in the U.S. are in families that dine together. Yet research cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that children reap many benefits from regular family meals, from improved academic performance to developing a deeper sense of resilience.

But busy families can find time to sit down together more often, says Colleen Burns, a lifestyle expert and spokeswoman for Nestle’s Balance Your Plate program. To be successful, set the intention with good planning and smart strategies. What’s more, these meals can also be delicious and nutritious.

“When you have simple solutions in your toolbox to get those well-balanced and tasty meals on the table in the little time that you have, it lets you establish and keep an important family ritual,” says Burns, who is also a busy mom of six boys. “At the same time, you don’t get burned out, and that’s key to staying motivated and inspired.”

To help you get started, Burns shares her top three simple tips to get delicious and nutritious meals on the table quickly.

Shop the freezer section: When you’re in a time pinch, frozen foods have many offerings that set a good foundation for any home-cooked meal, Burns says. Oftentimes, the quality is just as good as their fresh counterparts, and they eliminate many steps of prep time, whether you’re looking at entrees, veggies or sides. On top of all that, fruits and veggies are flash-frozen, which locks the nutrients in place.

Don’t sacrifice: If you know what to look for when shopping the grocery aisles, you can find convenient entrees and sides without sacrificing taste or quality.

Burns recommends Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese as one easy solution that helps you get a great meal on the table. It has ingredients that consumers would use in their own kitchens, such as freshly made pasta, butter, cheddar cheese and milk. Burns likes to serve it as a side to marinated chicken (see recipe below) and roasted seasonal veggies, because it’s a simple solution that makes her and her family feel good about dinner.

Maintain balance: Look to a variety of entrees and sides to bring a nutritional balance as well as delicious flavors to your dinner menu. Burns recommends opting for lean proteins like fish and chicken served with fresh or frozen veggies. Check out her how-to video, https://youtu.be/fKcY-jiTWJg, to learn more.

Marinated Garlic and Lemon Roasted Chicken Drumsticks with Honey Mustard Sauce

10 chicken drumsticks

1 large lemon zested and juiced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 whole cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon oregano

1 pinch each salt and pepper

Minced parsley for garnish

Honey Mustard Sauce:

3 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

In a bowl, mix together lemon juice, zest, olive oil, chopped garlic, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken drumsticks and toss to coat evenly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When ready to cook, let chicken come to room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange chicken on oiled foil-lined sheet pan.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Flip chicken pieces and cook another 10 minutes until chicken reaches 165 degrees and is no longer pink.

Make sauce in a small bowl by whisking together the mustard and honey.

Add water as needed for a workable consistency.

With a small pastry brush, brush sauce over chicken and broil 5 minutes until bubbly.

Place chicken pieces on a serving platter and sprinkle minced parsley over all.

Source: Nestle’s Balance Your Plate

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Senior guest? How to prepare your home for older visitors

(BPT) – Whether it’s for a special occasion or just because, hosting an older adult in your home can be a wonderful experience with lots of memory-making potential. However, for a safe and successful visit, you may want to make a few adjustments to your home before they arrive to make it more senior-friendly.

“Spending time with aging parents or grandparents is a wonderful experience for all generations,” says Sara Terry, Brookdale Senior Living’s senior vice president of resident and family engagement. “Creating a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere is the job of any good host and that is no different when entertaining seniors. Considering older adults’ varying mobility and comfort levels, there are a few adjustments you can make to your home to meet their needs.”

Whether your guest is staying short- or long-term, Terry offers these six tips to help you transform your home into a more senior-friendly environment so you can focus on what matters most: making memories with your entire family.

Outdoors

The walkways to many homes are cracked or uneven, which is a risk factor for falls. Make sure the pathway is cleared and easy to see, shovel show in the winter and sweep leaves in the fall. Stairs can be tricky to maneuver as well. If possible, add a ramp that leads to your door. If there are stairs, install handrails on each side. Entryways divided by a threshold can be tricky for someone with mobility issues. Eliminate this common tripping hazard when seniors visit.

Clutter

The easiest thing you can do is remove clutter (especially on the floor) to allow sufficient space for senior guests who may be in a wheelchair to maneuver around rooms. Remove or tape down all cords. Rugs may look nice but they are a leading tripping hazard. Remove all accent rugs from your home, and in areas like the entryway where you must have mats, make sure they are secured with non-slip material.

Light

Seniors need more light than you do in your home, particularly in notoriously dim areas such as entryways, hallways and staircases. Replace existing soft light bulbs with brighter or higher wattage ones and add motion-sensor lights to bathrooms. Adding night lights throughout your home is an easy addition that helps seniors see better, especially at night or on darker winter days.

Stairs

Ideally, a senior won’t have to navigate stairs, but if you have some in your home, you can make the space safer by having railings on both sides. Railings should be at least 1.5 inches in diameter to accommodate seniors with limited dexterity and aging grips. What’s more, help each stair be more visible by using contrast strips (available at your local hardware store).

Bathrooms

Make bathrooms safer by adding well-placed grab bars next to the toilet and in bathing spaces. In the shower or tub, add non-slip strips and a shower seat for comfort and ease of use. For guests who are staying awhile, consider adding a handheld, adjustable-height showerhead. Finally, set the hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees as to avoid unintended burns.

Room selection

Whether your loved one is staying one night, one month or more, selecting the right room will increase their comfort and safety. One-level living is key, so if possible use a room on the main floor with easy access to the bathroom, kitchen and living room. Furniture, including the bed and chairs, should be at a good height (neither too low nor too high) to be easily used. Knobs can be difficult, so consider replacing round door handles with lever handles.

“In addition to these tips, I recommend having a conversation with your loved one before their stay,” says Terry. “Talk to them about what will make them feel at home in your home. What’s most important is enjoying your visit to the fullest and spending valuable time together.”

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Overcoming Self-doubt while Living with a Chronic Illness

(BPT) – Many people impacted by rheumatoid arthritis experience feelings of self-doubt – but a head-on approach can lead to self-love.

The mind is directly interconnected with your physical body, and while this stands true for everybody, it is something people living with a chronic illness are reminded of every day.

For people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – an autoimmune disease of the joints that impacts approximately 1.6 million people in the United States – it can be challenging to stay mentally and emotionally positive when your health is always on your mind. The symptoms of RA and their effect on physical functioning can impact overall well-being, which can lead to feelings such as self-doubt.

Does our physical health affect our mental health?

When first diagnosed with a chronic condition like RA, many patients may struggle to accept their disease. The emotional process to acceptance can be difficult, but try to understand your condition better and make a conscious choice to face it head-on.

Further, managing symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness, and fatigue can make it difficult to do common everyday tasks, which can lead to mental and emotional impacts.

So how can you overcome self-doubt?

Turning self-doubt into self-love

For people living with a chronic condition like RA, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to settle. That’s why taking one day at a time is critical in any approach to self-care.

Take the first step by becoming more aware of your emotions and feelings when it comes to the management of your RA. Own your experience with the disease by recognizing and accepting feelings of frustration, anxiety, or guilt about your RA in order to refocus your emotions toward resilience, hope, and joy.

Here are some additional tips and tricks to combat self-doubt:

* Ground yourself: Balance out the negative by thinking about the positive aspects of your life. In doing this exercise, remember that sometimes the positive things are small and simple: a bouquet of fresh flowers on your dining room table, a book that makes you laugh out loud, or a phone call with an old friend. Directing your focus toward these positive aspects of your life can make a huge difference!

* Set a timeline: It’s okay to acknowledge negative feelings sometimes, but don’t let this go on for too long. Give yourself a deadline for when it’s time to mentally shift your focus.

* Invest in yourself: Take some time each day to read, listen, or watch something that uplifts you.

* Set the mood: Create a set of your own soundtracks! One playlist might bring back good memories, another might make you feel motivated to take on a busy day, and perhaps another makes you feel calm and relaxed. Music is a powerful tool, and setting the mood through music is a fun and easy way to practice self-care and redirection of your energy.

* Reflect on your self-perception: Focus on what defines you as a person and learn to accept who you are. Remind yourself of a time when you overcame self-doubt. Ask yourself, “Am I talking to myself the way I would talk to my spouse or my friend?

* Connect with others: Surround yourself with people who love and encourage you. You may also find solace in connecting with others living with RA, whether it is online or in-person.

* Most importantly: Understand your own body and your own needs on your journey to self-love.

Above all, make time for yourself; this alone is an act of love toward yourself! Making time for yourself can take on many forms, including those listed above as well as things like going for a walk, taking a bath, even taking a moment to enjoy the view out of your kitchen window! Making “me time” happen is what can ultimately help you look beyond the negative!

“When I was first diagnosed, I struggled to keep things going,” says Elaine R., patient advocate and administrative assistant living with RA. “Even though I was unable to do my usual yoga routines, I did feel a sense of relief from my yoga music and deep breathing. I think focusing on the positive things in your life, no matter how small, is a great idea. Little joys are a necessity.”

If you have a chronic disease like RA, it’s important to remember that it does not define you and there are steps you can take to better manage lifestyle challenges as a result of your condition. With research and communication with your rheumatologist or other healthcare professional, there are ways to prioritize your health and choose self-love over self-doubt.

For more tips on how to overcome self-doubt and negative emotions, and choose self-love while living with RA, visit www.Arthritis.com.

Content was provided by Pfizer.

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Boomers: 10 reasons to go nuts

(BPT) – For the roughly 75 million Americans who make up the baby boom generation, a healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons against age-related diseases.

“It’s vital at any age to adopt good habits to live a strong, fit and healthy life,” says Dr. Mike Roussell, a nationally recognized nutrition consultant and nutrition adviser to Men’s Health and Shape. “Fueling your life with tasty and nutrient-rich foods while making sure to be active every single day are essential components to keeping your body young and vibrant.”

Roussell’s recommendation? Nuts. In particular, pistachios. “Pistachios are a multitasking nut with fiber, healthy fats, and three specific types of antioxidants that may help fight the onset of age-related conditions that lead to poor health in these 10 ways.”

1. Heart health

Large population studies show that people who regularly eat nuts, such as pistachios, have a lower risk of dying from heart disease or suffering a heart attack. Pistachios provide 360-degree cardiovascular support in that they can promote improvements in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood vessel function.

2. Anti-inflammatory

Excessive inflammation is one of the root causes of age-related conditions, such as arthritis. Pistachios contain a special form of vitamin E called gamma tocopherol, which has unique anti-inflammatory properties. Gamma tocopherol levels have also been shown to decrease as we age.

3. Weight loss

Being overweight can also contribute to a number of age-related illnesses. Studies show pistachios positively promote weight maintenance as the dietary fiber, fat and protein all work together to make us feel fuller and satiated longer, plus removing them from the shell slows down eating. Pistachios are also the lowest-fat nut.

4. Digestion

The fiber in pistachios also can help with digestion. Research shows that the fiber in pistachios works as a prebiotic and feeds the good bacteria in our digestive tract to improve the health of our digestive system. A single serving of pistachios contains as much as 3 grams of dietary fiber.

5. Blood glucose level

Developing adult onset diabetes, or Type 2 diabetes, is a common fear for boomers. The American Diabetes Association praises the health benefits of nuts, including pistachios, calling them a diabetes superfood because they improve how the body’s cells use glucose and how insulin responds to a carbohydrate-containing meal, namely, stabilizing blood glucose levels.

6. Skin health and appearance

UV light from the sun promotes damage and accelerates the aging of our skin. Pistachios contain two carotenoid antioxidants that are concentrated in the skin and work to filter out and protect it against the damaging effects of UV light.

7. Eyesight

Pistachios contain lutein, a nutrient known to help improve eye health, especially in older individuals. Lutein has been shown to prevent and slow down macular degeneration by providing more pigment for the eye, thereby reflecting more of the sun’s light, preventing damage to the retina.

8. Memory

Preliminary research shows that the fatty acids and antioxidants found in pistachios can help support brain health. The antioxidants in pistachios can help ward off excessive inflammation in the brain, a major cause of accelerated cognitive decline. Another study found that eating pistachios stimulated brain waves that aid the formation of ideas and memory processing.

9. Sleep

Nuts, including pistachios, are rich in minerals such as magnesium. One benefit of magnesium is that it may aid sleep because it assists in helping the muscles relax and quiet activity in the brain by working as an inhibitory neurotransmitter.

10. Energy

Pistachios have been shown to promote energy, which is why so many professional athletes consume them while training. More energy means we’ll commit to getting enough exercise.

But what is Dr. Mike’s main reason for having his clients eat pistachios? “They taste good. People are much more likely to stick to a healthy diet when the food is tasty and fun to eat.”

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The Organic Label is the Gold Standard [Infographic]

(BPT) – A new USDA study affirms that the organic label is the most comprehensive, most transparent and most tightly regulated food certification in the world, and points to the flaws in single label claims causing consumer confusion. With the proliferation of label claims over the past three decades, consumers’ misunderstanding continues to escalate. For organic dairy pioneer Straus Family Creamery of Northern California, which became the first 100 percent certified organic creamery in the United States in 1994, and is an innovative organic leader to this day, the organic label stands unequivocally for integrity in sustainable agriculture and organic food production.

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4 things no one tells you about preparing for baby

(BPT) – It’s only a matter of time now. Your little bundle of joy is on its way, and for the first time you are about to be a parent. Think you’re ready? Many people do and then the reality of parenthood strikes them. Remember your friends who said being a parent is nothing like they expected? They were right.

Parenting is a wild ride, but it’s also one of the — if not the — most rewarding things you’ll ever do in your life. Just don’t expect it to be smooth sailing right from the get-go. It’s going to be challenging, but there are things you can do to prepare before your life changes forever.

To give you the leg up you so desperately need, Dawn Dais, author of the parenting book “The Sh!t No One Tells You,” offers this advice:

* Take advantage of your freedom. If this is your first baby, you need to maximize every second of freedom you have left. Go to the movies, order an appetizer and a dessert at dinner, travel, decide to leave the house and then do so 25 seconds later. Watch television shows with cuss words.

* Sleep now. Dais recently teamed up with Store Brand infant formula to help get the word out about ways parents can prepare before their baby arrives. Earlier this year, they released a “Baby’s First Year” survey that found 25 percent of new moms confessed their biggest fear before their baby’s arrival was the fear of never sleeping again. You will sleep again, but it might not be for a few months, so it’s important to get it in while you still can!

* Do your research. Make sure to discuss important topics before the baby arrives, such as feeding. The Store Brand formula survey found infant formula is the last topic researched by new moms while pregnant, but the No. 1 topic researched after their baby arrives. Feeding is the most important thing you do with your baby, so why is it so far down on the list? A lot of new parents don’t think about this because they just assume they will breastfeed. They are told that it is the most natural thing on the planet and so it’s not even a consideration or option not to breastfeed. But what people don’t tell you is that breastfeeding can be hard and there may be challenges. The survey also found that more than 50 percent of moms experience issues when it comes to breastfeeding baby, with low breast milk supply being the top concern. So knowing your feeding options before baby arrives is vital.

* Babies are expensive, so know where you can save big. It’s important to note that all infant formulas are required to meet the same FDA standards. That means you can choose store-brand infant formulas that meet the same federal nutrient requirements for baby as nationally advertised brands, and in fact, cost up to 50 percent less!

Make the most of your new role as a parent

Having a child is the most monumental change you can make to your life, but the joys that come with parenting make the process entirely worth it. So, plan ahead now by applying the tips above and you’ll eliminate some of those potential headaches. To learn more about feeding options and the “Baby’s First Year” survey, visit storebrandformula.com.

Headline: Tips to prepare for parenthood

Parenting can be tough. Make the most of it with these tips from Dawn Dais, author of the parenting book “The Sh!t No One Tells You .

* Take advantage of your freedom. If this is your first baby, you need to maximize every second of freedom you have left. Go to the movies, order an appetizer and a dessert at dinner, travel, decide to leave the house and then do so 25 seconds later. Watch television shows with cuss words.

* Babies are expensive, so know where you can save big. It’s important to note that all infant formulas are required to meet the same FDA standards. That means you can choose store brand infant formulas that meet the same federal nutrient requirements for baby as nationally advertised brands, and in fact, cost up to 50 percent less. I wish someone had told me that. Moms who use formula can relate — it can be expensive.

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Brain drained? These habits can help maintain a healthy brain

(BPT) – Everyone has those days. You’re operating in a fog, or perhaps you spaced out on a family member’s name in the middle of dinner, or maybe you just find it hard to concentrate on work or hobbies. When these unwanted situations begin to come up more often, you may start to worry. Aging has long been associated with a slow mental decline.

The good news is there are simple things you can do to clear the cobwebs and regain your focus. Dr. Mike Dow, a psychotherapist and best-selling author, says we often don’t realize the brain is just like the heart, our muscles, our lungs and bones — it needs maintenance, and healthy habits to help keep it working at its very best.

“People understand pretty well that if they eat healthy, quit smoking and start exercising, they can improve their cardiovascular health,” Dow says. “But they don’t always connect the dots of living a healthy lifestyle to improving cognitive health.”

To help you reach your optimal brain health, Dow offers these everyday tips.

Give yourself a daily challenge

If you catch yourself in a rut or locked in your routine, it may be time to find ways to stretch your mind muscles with a new and challenging activity. Researchers have discovered that healthy brains need certain levels of reserves, and challenging them is one way to build those reserves.

“Think of your brain like a bank account,” Dow says. “Every time you learn something new, or play a challenging game or read a book, it’s like depositing a dollar into that account. The more cash deposits you make, the more you have to spare.”

Feed your brain

Like other parts of the body, the brain needs food and nutrients, and the right food can go a long way to support brain health. An antioxidant-rich diet including things like unsweetened tea, berries and turmeric can protect the brain from damage that comes from aging and oxidative stress.

Dow also recommends taking a supplement like Natrol Cognium. It contains a unique silk protein that’s been shown in human clinical studies to protect the brain from oxidative stress. The studies also show that it improves memory and concentration by increasing blood flow and nutrition to the brain. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of Natrol Cognium, visit natrol.com/benefits/brain-health/.

Tend to your relationships

As life and circumstances bring inevitable changes, the number of people we count as friends and loved ones can change over the years. It takes effort, but Dow says it’s important to try to maintain our relationships and be open to creating new ones, because they can have a profound effect on brain health.

“Relationships tend to buffer us from the stress of daily life, which is good because over time, excess stress can cause inflammation,” Dow says. “At the same time, good, healthy relationships give our lives meaning.”

To meet new people, try simple things like inviting a neighbor over for dessert, joining a book club or volunteering for a nonprofit or cause that’s important to you.

Get enough sleep

We often short ourselves on sleep when life gets busy, but it’s important to make it a priority, Dow says.

“Think of nighttime sleep as a wash-and-rinse cycle that clears away the ‘bad stuff’ that builds up during the day,” Dow says. “Brain fog and dementia-causing plaques are washed away by cerebrospinal fluid, and this process is more effective when you’re sleeping.”

Dow recommends practicing healthy sleep habits, such as striving for eight hours each night, being consistent with your bedtime routine and using melatonin instead of prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids to help you drift off.

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5 ways to jump-start your heart health

(BPT) – If you’re looking to improve your heart health, each day is all about making a choice that moves you in the right direction. You’d rather stay in with a big bowl of ice cream. But maybe today, you could click off the TV set and take a walk with a friend.

It’s easy to see why heart health is a pressing concern. One in three adults live with one or more types of cardiovascular disease, according a review published in the journal Circulation.

Over time, changes in the heart and blood vessels can lead to a host of devastating problems, including heart attack, heart failure and stroke. On top of that, lifestyle factors, such as poor diet and a lack of physical activity, lead to one in five deaths in the U.S., according to a study published in 2011 in the Journal of Public Health.

The good news is as the weeks and months pass, these healthy choices do pay off and make meaningful shifts in your health profile.

Turning these choices into habits is well worth the time and effort. Choice by choice, you could see big improvements.

1. Reach for whole foods

Diets abound, but the classic Mediterranean-based diet always comes up as a winner for heart health. It’s simple to follow because it’s made up of whole, healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, olive oil and fish. In 2013, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine said switching to a Mediterranean diet can prevent 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and heart disease deaths in high-risk people.

2. Get up and move more often

The Surgeon General says 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise each week promotes good heart health. To get started, visit your doctor to find out what is safe for you. Then work activities you enjoy into your routine, whether it’s a walk in the woods, a leisurely bike ride or swimming laps at the community pool.

3. Seek the company of others

This may not come up at the doctor’s office, but the time we spend with friends and family does reward us with better heart health. Isolation is linked to depression and that’s linked to higher rates of heart disease. Pick up the phone and call someone. Schedule lunch with an old friend, plan a special day with younger relatives or sign up for an activity.

4. De-stress and decompress

If you constantly feel the effects of stress in your body, it may be time to take steps to reverse that. Scientists haven’t found definitive proof, but they believe stress could trigger inflammation, a precursor to heart disease. So go ahead, and seek some joy: Laughter releases “good” HDL cholesterol. Exercise is also a proven stress buster, and studies show a mindfulness mediation practice reduces blood pressure.

5. Know your risks

Hopefully, you’re already making those annual doctor visits because your blood sugar, blood pressure, weight and cholesterol can all tell us something about our heart health. But what you really want to know is whether there is fatty buildup in your arteries, because toocan lead to stroke, peripheral vascular disease and carotid artery stenosis. Doctor office tests offer indicators and warning signs, but they don’t tell you how much you’re blocked.

Luckily, there’s a safe and affordable test that gives you the hard data on what is happening inside your body: vascular screening. If you think learning the truth will discourage you, one study indicates the opposite may be true.

The report published in the Journal of Community Medicine and Health Education says people who had vascular screening reported more positive changes to their health several months after their vascular screening than the control subjects who weren’t screened. For example, 61 percent of screened respondents said they ate healthier foods since the screening, versus the 46 percent who were not screened.

Truth is empowering and it can give people a powerful incentive to change, even if the news isn’t what you’re hoping to hear. To get your own vascular test, find out when Life Line Screening is coming to your community. You’ll get a results pack you can take to your doctor, so you can work on a plan together to improve your health.

To find out when a Life Line screening clinic may be scheduled in your area, visit www.lifelinescreening.com or call (877) 754-9631.

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