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The best ways to support veterans in 2017

(BPT) – As the new administration and Congress settle into office, many organizations are working hard to put America’s 21 million veterans at the top of the nation’s “to-do” list.

“Veterans share a common thread — regardless of where they served or for how long — they are driven to protect our country and ensure freedom for all citizens,” says DAV (Disabled American Veterans) National Commander Dave Riley. “At the same time, they face unique challenges, from health problems related to their military service to translating their job skills into meaningful employment opportunities. It’s our nation’s duty to support veterans once they return home.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that 20 percent of veterans who served since 9/11 are estimated to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Twenty veterans take their lives every day, most of whom never seek help from the VA, and many veterans struggle to find employment, often leading to homelessness.

To help change the lives of countless veterans and their families, DAV has suggested three priorities for our country’s leaders in 2017:

* Ensure veterans have access to quality and timely health care, including effective mental health services. Changes in the health care system for veterans are critical according to leading veterans service organizations like DAV and VFW, as well as bipartisan leaders in Congress. They all agree the best path forward is to create local, high-performing health care networks, led by the VA, which combine the best of VA with the best of community care.

* Give needed benefits to the caregivers of veterans. While caregivers for veterans who served after 9/11 receive benefits and resources, caregivers of veterans who served in earlier conflicts, such as World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, do not receive them. This law must be amended and made inclusive.

* Educate employers about the value of hiring veterans, particularly those with disabilities. A recent survey of employers released by DAV, Monster.com and Military.com reveals 30 percent of employers worry about hiring veterans with PTSD. However, the vast majority of employers who have hired veterans with disabilities report it’s been a positive and productive experience.

You can support U.S. veterans.

You can be a positive voice for veterans and support changes in your communities. Start by speaking up on important veteran issues and write your elected officials in Congress. Volunteer with your local VA hospital or drive veterans to medical appointments. And, if you own a business or are a hiring manager, be sure your organization considers veterans’ unique talents and strengths.

America made a promise to care for its veterans, those men and women who sacrificed for everyone’s freedoms. Now the nation’s leaders must live up to that promise. For more information about important veteran issues and how you can help, visit www.dav.org.

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Longer battery life gives patient with heart condition a new outlook on life

(BPT) – By the time Emily H. turned 27, she had received her third life-saving heart device. While she was happy to be alive, she couldn’t help but question why the implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) surgically inserted in her chest needed to be replaced with such frequency. At this rate, she would undergo three more surgeries and pay nearly $30,000 in out-of-pocket medical bills before she reached her 35th birthday.

“I found out I had a hereditary heart condition just before entering my sophomore year of college,” she recalled. “I knew my life would never be the same after receiving my diagnosis, but I couldn’t have imagined the physical, emotional and financial toll that my dependency on a cardiac device would have on me and those who love me.”

Emily was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or a thickened heart muscle, at the age of 19. The condition makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood and could eventually cause sudden cardiac arrest. In order to prevent sudden death, Emily’s doctor implanted an ICD to continuously monitor her heart rhythm and deliver a life-saving shock, if necessary.

Her first device battery lasted just five years. It was at that point Emily faced the reality that the batteries that power ICD devices do not last indefinitely. When her second device had to be replaced after only two years, she began to worry, wondering how many more devices she would need and how much money she would have to save for the next inevitable, yet unpredictable, replacement procedure.

“With my condition, my savings account isn’t just dedicated for unexpected home repairs, a winter vacation or my children’s college funds,” Emily said. “I have to always be ready for future device replacement surgeries, and the weight of the financial burden that accompanies those surgeries is huge.”

Emily talked with her doctor when she was due for her third device and learned that medical device companies have been working to advance technology to extend the life of ICD batteries and lessen the burden on patients who need them.

Now, at age 33, Emily has a Boston Scientific ICD that her doctor expects will last up to 11 years – nearly three times as long as the four-year average of her previous devices.

“I’m so grateful for the improved battery technology that Boston Scientific offers because it’s truly impacting not just my life, but the lives of my husband and two small children,” Emily said. “I am optimistic about my future and glad my doctors have access to this device that gives me and my family peace of mind.”

Potential questions to ask your doctor about ICD’s:

* What device options do I have available to me and how do they differ from each other?

* How long will the device battery last and how soon should I expect to undergo a replacement procedure?

* What resources can I review to gather additional information about the procedure and/or recommended device?

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Heart Racing? How Being Informed and Taking Action Can Stop a Common Heart Condition

(BPT) – For some, simple activities that others often take for granted – like walking around the neighborhood or doing chores around the house – can make them feel tired or dizzy. They may feel their heart racing or like a hummingbird is flapping its wings in their chest.

These symptoms may point to atrial fibrillation, or Afib.

Affecting nearly 3 million Americans, Afib is the most common heart rhythm disorder, causing a quivering or irregular heartbeat. Without treatment, Afib can double the risk of heart-related deaths and increase the risk of stroke by five times. It is estimated to be responsible for more than 80,000 deaths each year, but it doesn’t need to be left untreated.

“Many of my patients are unaware that Afib is a serious condition and don’t know how to manage it,” says Dr. Larry A. Chinitz, Professor of Medicine and Cardiac Electrophysiology and Clinical Director of the Leon Charney Division of Cardiology at the New York University School of Medicine. “The sooner that people learn about Afib and receive treatment, the greater the chance of stopping the condition before it leads to more serious complications. That’s why diagnosing Afib and getting the proper treatment is imperative.”

An online survey by Harris Poll on behalf of Biosense Webster, Inc. of more than 200 U.S. adults who had been diagnosed with Afib found that 63 percent of people surveyed felt they were extremely knowledgeable about their treatment options. However, when asked specifically, many were not familiar with all of the different types of available treatments.

While several effective options for treating Afib do exist, people frequently aren’t fully equipped to make informed health decisions. This gap between perceived knowledge and actual understanding of specific treatments is what many doctors specializing in heart rhythm disorders, including cardiologists and electrophysiologists, are trying to close.

Treatment options

The most appropriate treatment often depends on the type of Afib, how long someone has had the condition, severity of symptoms and the underlying cause. Generally, treatment goals include reducing the risk of complications including stroke and restoring a normal heart rhythm.

One treatment option, which only half of surveyed Afib patients were familiar with, is known as cardiac/catheter ablation. This minimally-invasive therapy provides an alternative for those who don’t respond to, or can’t tolerate, drug therapy.

Catheter ablation selectively targets areas of the heart causing heart rhythm irregularities. During the procedure, doctors insert a catheter through a small incision in the groin, where it is then guided to the heart through a blood vessel. Once it reaches the left upper chamber of the heart (atrium), radiofrequency energy is delivered to the heart wall to block faulty electrical impulses that can cause heart rhythm disorders.

This type of treatment is helping doctors more accurately target areas of the heart. Now, with products like the THERMOCOOL SMARTTOUCH SF Catheter with contact force technology, electrophysiologists are able to precisely measure the amount and direction of force being applied to a delicate heart wall.

These technological advances have led to improved results and shorter procedure times for patients, without compromising safety. A multicenter, prospective study of the THERMOCOOL SMARTTOUCH technology demonstrated a success rate of greater than 74 percent after a one-year follow-up. In the study, success was defined as freedom from abnormal heart rhythm for 12 months.

Raising awareness

Afib is a progressive disease, and over time, repeated incidents can lead to issues including irreversible heart rhythm abnormalities, blood clots, chronic fatigue, stroke and heart failure. For people with this condition, knowledge can quickly translate to better health. Oftentimes, simply the lack of information may prevent them from taking the first steps to a healthier life.

Talk to a local doctor who specializes in heart rhythm disorders or visit www.GetSMARTAboutAfib.com to learn more about how to identify and manage this condition. The sooner you’re able to learn about available treatment options, the sooner you or your loved one can get back to leading a healthy, fulfilling life.

As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. Only a cardiologist or electrophysiologist can determine whether ablation is an appropriate course of treatment. There are potential risks including bleeding, swelling or bruising at the catheter insertion site, and infection. More serious complications are rare, which can include damage to the heart or blood vessels; blood clots (which may lead to stroke); heart attack; or death, are rare. These risks need to be discussed with your doctor, and recovery takes time.

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Top college football coach’s journey to #TackleEpilepsy

(BPT) – The year 2000 brought a new millennium, and for college football coach Jerry Kill, it was a year that would change his life forever. One of the most respected names in college football, Kill has coached at the collegiate level for more than 20 years, rising all the way to the Big 10 where he was named Coach of the Year in 2014 as the head coach of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

But the coaching success is only part of Kill’s story; his battle with epilepsy dates back to the night in 2000 when he experienced his first seizure. While he wouldn’t be officially diagnosed for five years, the year marked the beginning of Kill’s life with epilepsy.

Today, Coach Kill is a passionate advocate for epilepsy, and even with the demands of his new position as offensive coordinator at Rutgers University, he devotes much of his time to supporting those living with epilepsy and raising awareness of the disease. In
2016, he was presented with the Hero of Epilepsy Award from the Epilepsy Foundation. Kill frequently speaks at conferences, founded the Chasing Dreams Epilepsy Fund, and, most recently, has teamed up with UCB and EpilepsyAdvocate on the social media campaign #TackleEpilepsy to help raise awareness of epilepsy during the football post season. Approximately one in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime.

Early memories

Long before Kill’s journey led him to become an inspirational epilepsy ambassador and advocate, it began with a seizure.

“I was alone in my bedroom when it occurred,” Kill remembers. “At that time I didn’t know I’d experienced a seizure, because I wasn’t sure what a seizure was.”

The demands of Big Ten football

Kill was named head coach of the University of Minnesota’s football team in 2011, and though he was continuing to experience seizures, he refused to let them prevent him from coaching at the game’s highest level. However, the grind of being a Big Ten coach started to affect his health. “Being a college football coach is an extremely stressful job,” Kill says. “We work 16 hours a day, seven days a week during the season. In the off-season, we’re constantly on the road recruiting. I was often sleeping only two or three hours a night and I wasn’t eating properly.”

The grind finally took its toll, and in 2013, Kill was forced to miss a game for the first time in his career. Leading up to the team’s road game at Michigan, Kill estimates he suffered more than a dozen seizures over a two- or three-day period.

While his absence was taken hard by many, Kill chose to focus on the positive. He embraced the outpouring of support he and his family received from his players, fans and the state of Minnesota as a whole. And with his wife by his side, he began working with a specialist to get his epilepsy under control.

Going forward to #TackleEpilepsy

Today, Kill is able to continue to coach the game he loves and focus on staying healthy, managing his epilepsy, and raising awareness.

That’s why he’s partnering with UCB and EpilepsyAdvocate to support the #TackleEpilepsy campaign to raise epilepsy awareness. The #TackleEpilepsy campaign invites people to take a picture of their best “game face,” upload the photo to their Facebook pages using the hashtag #TackleEpilepsy, and tag friends to spread awareness. UCB will donate $26,000 to the Epilepsy Foundation in honor of #TackleEpilepsy participation. This represents the one in 26 people who will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder sometimes called a seizure disorder because seizures are the primary symptom. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological diseases worldwide; more than 65 million people worldwide live with the disease, including an
estimated 3 million in the U.S.

Learn more about #TackleEpilepsy and check out some of the best game faces on the EpilepsyAdvocate Facebook page. You can follow Coach Kill on Twitter at @JerryKillCoach.

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Why eating breakfast boosts your health

(BPT) – Want to make 2017 the year you focus on your health? Wellness goals are admirable throughout the year, but too often well-meaning people make a common mistake that sabotages their efforts: they skip breakfast.

It’s a daily choice that millions of people shrug off as no big deal, but research proves breakfast is an important component in how you feel throughout the day. Fueling up solely on java may perk you up momentarily, but it doesn’t do the trick long-term.

Consider these five reasons why breakfast boosts your health and should not be ignored.

Awakens your metabolism

When you eat breakfast, you “break the fast” from your sleep periods and give your metabolism a wake-up call. When you sleep, your metabolism slows and you burn fewer calories while you rest. By eating a nutritious breakfast, you are sparking your internal engine so it burns calories and gives you more energy throughout the day.

Helps you focus

Hunger can make people irritable and it’s hard to focus on work when your stomach is grumbling. By eating a balanced breakfast of fat, protein and fiber, the food is processed into energy, allowing you to feel fuller longer.

Steadies the burn

When you skip breakfast, the body panics for nutrition, so come lunch you tend to overeat. This in turn overwhelms the metabolism and you end up with peaks and pits of energy throughout the day. For steady energy and efficient calorie-burning, eat a nutritious breakfast and other meals on schedule.

Encourages healthy choices

People who eat breakfast tend to make healthier choices throughout the day. According to MayoClinic.org, “People who eat breakfast tend to eat a healthier overall diet, one that is more nutritious and lower in fat. In contrast, people who skip breakfast are more likely to skip fruits and vegetables the rest of the day, too.” Try starting the day with 100-calorie Thomas’ Light Multi-grain English Muffins.

Sets a good example

When you eat breakfast, it sets a good example for your family. Plus, sitting down to a nutritious meal is a positive way to start the day together. You’re helping your kids form healthy habits that will benefit them with increased focus and energy at school, ensuring they can do their best academically.

Try this easy 5-minute recipe to start your morning. For more nutritious breakfast recipes, visit thomasbreads.com/recipes.

Greek Yogurt English Muffin

Ingredients:

1 Thomas’ Light Multi-Grain English Muffin
Plain Greek yogurt
Sprinkle of granola
Handful of blueberries
Honey for drizzling

Directions:

  1. Split and toast English muffin. Let cool slightly, then top with yogurt, granola and berries. Drizzle with honey for an added touch of sweetness.
  2. Serve with more blueberries and strawberries, if desired.

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USDA could remove one common ingredient from organic foods

(BPT) – The “certified organic” seal is synonymous with healthy living and clean eating. But what exactly does it mean? And who decides what is or is not certified organic?

In the United States, food is certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture. The seal verifies a product has been made with 95 percent “certified organic” ingredients and minimally processed. The remaining 5 percent allows for the use of ingredients that are not organic, but have been approved by the USDA because they are safe and eco-friendly, and have no organic alternative.

These approved additives are reviewed regularly by the USDA, which is currently deciding whether to continue to allow one of them in organics: an essential, natural ingredient called carrageenan.

Carrageenan is made from red seaweed that is sustainably grown and harvested by family farmers in oceans around the world. It is an ingredient in everything from yogurt to infant formula to baked goods, and has been used by home cooks for hundreds of years.

Here are some of the reasons carrageenan should remain in organic food:

Because you love the taste of your favorite ice cream, yogurt, almond milk, protein shake…

If carrageenan isn’t allowed in organic foods, many of our favorite products will be changed. Food companies will use other ingredients to replace carrageenan — ingredients that are not as natural or safe as red seaweed

Because you care what’s in your food.

Carrageenan can’t be replaced with just one food ingredient, and multiple additives mean longer labels. Carrageenan is GMO-free and made from sustainably harvested seaweed; its replacements are grown from bacteria in a vat or otherwise manmade.

Because babies should be able to eat organic, too!

Carrageenan is the only stabilizing ingredient used in organic liquid infant formula.

Organic foods should be affordable and accessible to everyone.

For many, eating organic is a luxury they can’t always afford. Adding multiple ingredients to replace carrageenan means the cost of a product may increase.

Because carrageenan is essential to vegetarian, halal and kosher foods.

Carrageenan is a plant-based ingredient often used to replace animal fats and gelatin. Without carrageenan, some organic products will no longer be able to meet certain dietary restrictions.

Because the livelihood of seaweed farmers (and our world) is at risk.

Seaweed is one of the most sustainable crops on the planet, and it’s harvested by family farmers in coastal communities around the globe. Growing and harvesting the red seaweed used to make carrageenan requires none of the fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals used in land-based farming.

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3 things you should know about ‘surprise medical bills’

(BPT) – Patients receiving medical care increasingly also receive something unexpected and troubling — a bill they thought would be paid by their health insurance plan.

Without knowing, patients may be treated by physicians or providers outside their health insurance network who are paid at a lower rate than an in-network physician. Patients are then expected to pay the difference between the actual charge for the medical service and the lower amount the insurance companies agree to pay. These out-of-network payment issues are caused by gaps in insurance coverage.

“Health insurance plans are extremely complicated, and even savvy consumers face uncertainty about what is covered by their health insurance,” says Jeffrey S. Plagenhoef, M.D., president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). “My own wife recently received a surprise medical bill despite being a physician herself and researching our insurance policy in depth ahead of time.”

The ASA wants to empower patients to be informed health care consumers by alerting them to three things they should know about “surprise insurance gaps.”

1. Before having a medical procedure, ask who will be involved in your care and whether they’re in your plan’s network. Also, call your insurance company to verify that not only the hospital or medical center, but also your particular physicians and other providers are in-network.

2. Low premiums don’t necessarily mean affordable care. Always ask for details about what the health insurance plan covers and doesn’t cover before signing up to protect against high co-pays, deductibles and a plan with a narrow network of physicians.

3. “Surprise medical bills” are caused by “surprise insurance gaps,” or gaps in insurance coverage that occur when the insurance plan offers a low premium but limits the number of physicians available to patients in the plan’s network. Insurance plans with narrow networks remove or reduce patient choice by providing coverage with a limited number of physicians, high deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance. These inadequate networks limit insurance companies’ costs and shift them to patients and other stakeholders.

“Physician anesthesiologists are committed to safe, high-quality care for all our patients,” Dr. Plagenhoef says. “This means not only overseeing your care in the hospital or the office, but advocating for you with legislators, hospital administrators, insurance companies — everyone who plays a role in making sure patients get the care they deserve, which is the best care possible.”

To learn more about the critical role physician anesthesiologists play before, during and after surgery, visit asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount.

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5 ways telehealth can simplify your life

(BPT) – In recent years, we have seen tremendous advances in the areas of technology and medicine, along with more overlap between the two fields. Every year, new technology assists in the diagnosis, treatment and care of different medical conditions. As the new year begins, one new technology trend that you can look forward to is telehealth.

Telehealth uses telecommunication technologies like smartphone apps to deliver virtual medical, health care and education services. Some of the telehealth tools that we have already seen include services that enable you to have video consultations with your doctor without leaving your house and apps that remind you when it is time to take your medication. As an increasing number of telehealth tools become available, here are five reasons why they can improve and simplify your health care:

Telehealth saves you time.

Telehealth tools enable you to participate in audio and video calls with health care providers in lieu of an office visit. While some physical evaluations will still have to be conducted in person, many consultations can be held from the comfort of your own home, saving you time and effort.

Telehealth makes it easy to access health care.

For some of us, health care can be physically inaccessible. For example, individuals who have mobility limitations, are bedridden or live in care facilities can find it very challenging to get to the hospital or doctor’s office. Others who live in rural or remote locations may find the nearest health care provider is hours or even days away. In these cases, telehealth applications bring health care professionals to the patient virtually, providing care that that was impossible before.

Telehealth allows your doctor to monitor your health outside of their office.

Some health conditions require continued monitoring and care. There are now telehealth apps that allow health care professionals to keep track of patient progress and status. For example, patients can log their health status, such as their pain levels, in an app that is also visible to health care professionals, who can then initiate intervention as necessary. This way, your health is under professional supervision no matter where you are.

Telehealth makes it fun for you to take care of your health.

Some telehealth apps “gamify” your health care by making traditionally tedious activities more entertaining. As result, patients are motivated to comply with health care regimens and routines. For example, certain apps designed for diabetes patients use games to encourage them to monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Telehealth lets you contact the health care professional anytime without an appointment.

Sometimes, you may have health problems that, while not emergencies, still require timely professional advice and expertise. Apps are available that allow you to text or call health care professionals for just such situations. For example, the Signia myHearing App allows new hearing aid wearers to reach out to their hearing care professionals when questions arise regarding their new hearing aids or listening experiences. The hearing care professional can immediately offer assistance, or even remotely adjust the hearing aid settings if necessary.

While telehealth tools will never entirely replace the in-person care that health care professionals offer, they can significantly increase medical professionals’ reach, and help them provide better care to more patients.

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5 tips to turn your home into a retreat

(BPT) – There’s a reason why they say your home is your castle. This is a place of rest and refuge.

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

Destination Kohler is located in Kohler, Wisconsin, and recently named one of the top 15 wellness resorts by Conde Nast Traveler. A few simple additions to your home, says Garrett Mersberger, director of Kohler Waters Spas, can greatly increase the relaxation factor during your down time.

1. Include the five senses.

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

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

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

2. Prepare your body with hydrotherapy.

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

To ready your body for sleep or relaxation, finish with a shower that’s a neutral temperature (about 92-97 degrees Fahrenheit), to return your body to normal.

3. Release blocked energy.

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

4. Hone your breathing technique.

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

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

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

5. Relieve stress by going outside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Include the five senses.

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

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

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

2. Prepare your body with hydrotherapy.

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

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

3. Release blocked energy.

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

4. Hone your breathing technique.

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

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

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

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

5. Relieve stress by going outside.

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

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