VACCINES ARE NOT JUST FOR KIDS -
SIX TIPS TO REDUCE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
EIGHT WAYS TO STAY HEALTHY THIS WINTER
FLU SEASON IS HERE - WHO SHOULD GET A FLU SHOT
TIPS FOR STAYING HEALTHY THIS SUMMER
HOW TO NIP SPRINGTIME ALLERGIES IN THE BUD
SIX STRATEGIES FOR WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS
SIX TIPS TO HELP BOOST WOMEN'S HEALTH
TEN TIPS TO LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP TO STAYING HEALTHY
FOUR SECRETS FOR A LONGER AND HEALTHIER LIFE

 

VACCINES - NOT JUST FOR KIDS!


As a life insurance company, we have a vested interest in our members' good health. Vaccines are an important part of disease prevention, for children and adults alike. National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. NIAM was established to encourage people to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them. Communities and health centers have continued to use August of each year to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases. While immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals. People need to be reminded that immunizations aren't just for children. They are needed throughout our lifetime.

The NIAM stresses three messages:
Vaccines are an important step in protecting against serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases.
Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives, not just for kids. Adults need to be informed about the vaccinations they might need.
A doctor/provider recommendation is one of the best ways to ensure patients get the vaccinations they need when they need them.

VACCINES ARE NOT JUST FOR KIDS!
As an adult you may think you're done with immunizations, but you're not. One of the more common ailments in adult patients is pertussis, or whooping cough. You may think whooping cough is just for kids, but the vaccine you may have gotten so many years ago can wear off. When adults get pertussis it is called the 100-day cough, aptly named because that's how long the sidesplitting, spasmodic cough usually lasts. You'll want to avoid this if you can. But there's another reason why it's important to get a pertussis booster shot: The virus can be deadly if passed on to infants who may not be immunized yet. Grandparents take note!

TDAP
The vaccination called the TDAP is a combination of a pertussis and tetanus shot. You'll only need the pertussis booster once, but you'll need to get the tetanus booster by itself every ten years (or sooner if you're attacked by a rusty nail-if it's been more than five years since your shot you'll need a booster right away).

SHINGLES
The other highly recommended vaccine is the shingles vaccine. It can be given at age 60 and over to anyone who has had chicken pox, and one shot is enough. While it may not completely prevent shingles, it can limit the severity of an outbreak. You may wonder how chicken pox can later lead to shingles. As it turns out, the chicken pox virus is sneaky. It never entirely goes away, but hides in a nerve. Then one day when you get good and stressed out or your immunity drops, the virus comes out
of hibernation, so to speak, and you develop shingles (herpes zoster)-a condition that results in painful, itchy sores. The rash only appears on one side of the body in the distribution of a particular nerve. It can be any nerve, so it can be located anywhere on the body. If you have never had chicken pox, ask your doctor to order a blood test to make sure if you are or are not immune. Avoid this painful and horrible affliction.

FLU
We tend to gloss over this one, as flu and its symptoms are usually bearable. But people as young as 40 die from the disease. Complications from influenza kill, on average, 36,000 people in the U.S. each year. Should you get an annual flu vaccine? Yes! While it may not prevent contracting the flu, it will greatly diminish the dangers and discomfort. For optimum effectiveness, the shots are best administered in October or
November, at the start of the flu season. The vaccines above are simply administered, with rare side affects, usually limited to possible minor swelling at the point of injection. Many national chain pharmacies offer this service on a walk-in basis at a reasonable price. The shingles vaccine is the most costly. Medicare covers some portion of most.

PNEUMONIA
Pneumonia is another potentially preventable disease. The pneumonia vaccine-which can help protect against multiple strains of pneumococcal pneumonia - is recommended for everyone 65 and older. One shot is all you need. Before age 65 it may be given as a precautionary measure to asthma and COPD patients as well as patients with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer, kidney disease, and liver disease, to name a few.

HEPATITIS
For those who travel overseas and those in the medical profession who work with people who may be ill, vaccines to protect against hepatitis A and B, Meningicoccus and Hemophilus influenza type b (Hib) are recommended. Travelers easily contract the virus from poor sanitary conditions in cities and in rural areas, sharing of personal items (nail clippers, razors, etc.), not washing hands frequently and thoroughly, and polluted water (even in luxury hotels). Viral hepatitis is especially common in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Amazon basin, and Asia. Tip: if you are travelling to an area outside Western Europe, Japan or Canada, get vaccinated.

VACCINATION CATCH-UP

Many young adults have never received any vaccinations. This is a very scary notion, especially when world travel makes it so easy for communicable diseases to be brought into areas where they've never been seen before. Measles, mumps, and whooping cough are on the rise, and polio is still present in the world. If you or your family, infants and children included, are missing any vaccinations, please catch up on them. It goes without saying that you'll need to have a discussion with your doctor regarding which vaccines you may need. The bottom line: Vaccines are safe for the vast majority of people - and can save lives.

Visit the NIAM and the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) website for further information:
https://www. nphic.org/niam-adults


SIX TIPS TO REDUCE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

 

High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a blood pressure reading above 140/90 mmHg. A high reading puts you at risk for a number of serious health conditions, including stroke and heart disease. Long-term high blood pressure has been shown to increase the likelihood of an individual developing cardiovascular disease. Other complications of high blood pressure include:

• poor circulation
• damage to the heart muscle and tissue
• risk of heart attack
• risk of stroke

Many cases of high blood pressure cannot be traced to a direct cause. However, the longer the blood pressure is high, the more dangerous the side effects of the diagnosis can become. Fortunately, there are proactive measures beyond simply taking medication that you can take to lower your blood pressure. Making the right lifestyle choices also helps control blood pressure.

Try these six tips to reduce your blood pressure — and maybe even lower your chance of developing heart disease.

1) Maintain a Healthy Weight
According to the Mayo Clinic, maintaining a healthy weight for your body type helps keep your blood pressure in check. If you are overweight or obese, losing excess weight is especially important for lowering blood pressure. Hypertension, when coupled with obesity, is dangerous to long-term health. Obesity can cause poor circulation, stress on joints and bone structure, and stress to the heart. This can make high blood pressure symptoms worse. That’s why, if you’re one the 35% of Americans who struggle with obesity, it’s important to prioritize weight loss when treating your high blood pressure. Weight loss can also make your blood pressure medication more effective. Talk to your doctor about a target weight and a safe weight loss plan.

2) Take BMI Measurements
If you’re not sure if you need to lose weight, ask your doctor to measure your body mass index (BMI) and your waistline. These two readings help determine if your weight is related to your high blood pressure. BMI is a measurement of your body’s height in proportion to your weight. While knowing your BMI can help predict your level of body fat, it may not be enough. Waist measurement can indicate risk for developing high blood pressure.

3) Exercise Regularly
A great way to improve your BMI and decrease your blood pressure is to get regular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says that simple exercises like walking or doing chores around the house can lower blood pressure. ACSM recommends a half hour minimum of moderate physical activity five days a week. By incorporating cardiovascular exercise into your routine, you will improve circulation, increase your lung capacity, and improve your heart efficiency. The combination of these benefits will reduce your blood pressure. It’s even better if you’re able to exercise outside. The exposure to Vitamin D in sunshine has been proven to increase happiness and reduce stress — just make sure to wear sunscreen. If you’re not ready for cardiovascular exercise, start with a simple routine of stretching your muscles. Gentle yoga or Pilates programs are a good place to start. By stretching your muscles regularly, you will improve your circulation, alleviate pain in your muscles, improve your posture, and ultimately be able to take steps toward reducing hypertension.

4) Try the DASH Diet
A healthy diet is another key to improving and maintaining healthy blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic recommends the DASH diet, otherwise known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet.This diet focuses on balanced nutrition and eating foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Here are the key elements to a DASH diet:

• DASH-approved foods include fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and low- or no-fat dairy products.
• A typical day on the DASH diet involves three full meals and two to three snacks. The center of each meal should be colorful, fiber-rich vegetables, with a small portion of lean protein to finish out the meal.
• Nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits are the recommended snacks.
• The DASH diet does not focus on food deprivation, but instead encourages eating enough to keep you full while cutting out sodium and artificial sugars.

DASH is effective and may cause your blood pressure to plummet as much as 14 mmHg.

5) Reduce Sodium Intake
Salt and high blood pressure don’t mix. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you cut even a little bit of salt from your diet, it can result in lowering your blood pressure by as much as 8 mmHg. The majority of salt in the American diet comes from restaurant food and prepared foods. The American Heart Association recommends that you keep your sodium intake to no more than 1,500 mg a day.

6) Reduce and Manage Stress
Stress can increase blood pressure, at least temporarily. You’ll want to pay particular attention to lowering your stress if you’re at risk for high blood pressure due to being overweight. Many activities can help you stay calm while dealing with daily stresses. Many of the same healthy actions that are good for your blood pressure — like eating right and exercising — can also counteract stress. In addition to exercise, other forms of relaxation like meditation or deep breathing are also helpful. A morning routine that focuses more on calming rituals — like a cup of a calming chamomile tea and 10 minutes of thoughtful meditation — will decrease stress levels more than reaching for that double espresso.


7) How to Prevent High Blood Pressure in the First Place?
Maintaining a diet that is low in sodium, engaging in cardiovascular exercise for over half an hour three or four times per week,
and being proactive about your stress levels are the most significant ways you can prevent hypertension. Looking into your family history to find out if heart disease and hypertension are part of your genetic makeup is a way to find out if you are at high risk for developing high blood pressure and is good information for you and your doctor to have. Finally, taming your “vices” also makes a difference in some cases. If you smoke, drink too much alcohol, or drink caffeine daily, talk to your doctor to see if cutting back should be a part of your blood pressure reduction plan. If you are at risk for or already have high blood pressure, checking your blood pressure weekly is a good idea, as is seeing your doctor regularly, in case a prescription for blood pressure reducing medication might be required.

 

 

EIGHT WAYS TO STAY HEALTHY THIS WINTER

 


1. Eliminate your sleep debt

Most people do not get enough sleep. Seven to nine hours per night are recommended, but most Americans only average six and a half hours. In the wintertime, when the days are shorter and it gets dark sooner, your body will crave more sleep, so this is the perfect time to eliminate your sleep debt. Being well-rested will enhance your performance at work and will boost your immune system, making you less susceptible to colds and flu.

2. Drink more milk
You are 80% more likely to get a cold in winter so making sure your immune system is in tip-top condition is important. Milk and dairy products such as a variety of cheeses, yoghurt, and cottage cheese are great sources of protein and vitamins A and B12. They're also an important source of calcium, which helps keep our bones strong. Try to go for semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, rather than whole, and low-fat yoghurts.

3. Eat more fruit and veggies
When it’s cold and dark outside it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food, but it’s important to ensure that you still keep your diet healthy and include five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. If you find yourself craving a sugary treat, try a juicy clementine or banana instead, or sweet dried fruits such as dates or raisins.

Winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, squash, and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a comforting winter meal for the whole family. Explore varieties of fruit and veggies that you may not normally eat.

4. Try new activities for the whole family
Don’t use the cold winter months as an excuse to stay in and lounge around. Instead, get out with the whole family to try a new outdoor activity, like ice-skating or snow-shoeing or taking a bracing winter walk on the beach. Regular exercise helps to control your weight, boost your immune system, and is a good way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house. Exercise is essential to your health and well-being all year round, but in winter many people engage in fewer activities outside, so it is important to find new and fun ways to stay active.

5. Have a hearty breakfast
Winter is the perfect season for oatmeal. Eating a warm bowl on a cold morning isn’t just a delicious way to start your day, it also helps you to boost your intake of starchy foods and fibre, which give you energy and help you to feel full longer, stopping the temptation to snack mid-morning. Oats also contain lots of vital vitamins and minerals. Make your oatmeal with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk or water, and don’t add sugar or salt. Add a few dried apricots, some raisins, a sliced banana, or other fruit for extra flavor and sweetness to help you hit the five-a-day target.

6. Drink Plenty of Liquids
Staying well-hydrated in winter is as important as it is when it is hot outside. Indoor heating dries nasal and breathing passages as well as your skin. Drinking plenty of water and other fluids is important to your immune system and cell health, so do not reduce your fluids intake, even though it is cold outside and you may not be as active and thirsty as you are in warmer weather.

7. Wash your hands often
An important and easy way to stay healthy and flu-free this winter, is to wash your hands often, especially after you have been in public places like a store, bus, train, school, or doctor’s office. Wash your hands after you get home, before eating, and several times during the day. You do not need to use anti-bacterial soap. Washing with warm water and regular soap for 60 seconds will eliminate most germs and bacteria. Be mindful of not touching your face with your hands too often. That is a primary way of avoiding contamination — keeping your hands clean and not bringing them to your eyes, nose, or mouth.

8. Not too late for a flu shot
Even if you did not get a flu shot in the fall, there is still time to get one in January or February. The flu season lasts until March at least, and you will get immediate benefits from a flu shot, even if taken late in the season.

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FLU SEASON IS HERE
WHO SHOULD GET A FLU SHOT?

 

If you want a fighting chance against the flu, doctors recommend that you get an annual flu shot. The good news is that the flu shot side effects are minor and shouldn't be a concern if you're looking to get a flu shot vaccine. If you have no specific conditions or allergies to the flu shot, anyone over the age of 6 months can receive the flu vaccine. Because it takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to take effect, it's best to get your flu shot early in the season.

While many people are scared that one of the flu shot vaccine side effects is to get a bout of the flu, the truth is that the flu shot will NOT give you the flu: the flu virus in that needle going into your arm is dead, making it impossible for you to catch the flu by getting a flu shot or getting near someone who just had a flu shot vaccine. Because the flu shot side effects are so few, if you are in an at-risk group, don't play Russian roulette by not getting the flu shot vaccine -- for many, it becomes a matter of life or death.

The Center for Disease Control urges the following at-risk groups to be immunized:

people age 50 and over
residents of nursing homes or other chronic-care facilities
adults and children who have chronic lung or heart problems, including children with asthma
adults and children who have chronic metabolic diseases (such as diabetes mellitus), renal dysfunction, hemoglobinopathies, or immunosuppression
children and teens who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
women in their second or third trimester of pregnancy during the flu season.

You should also think seriously about getting a flu shot if:

you are in contact with at-risk people. This includes health care providers, employees of nursing homes and chronic-care facilities, home-care providers, emergency-response people, and household members
you live in an institutional setting, such as college students and members of the armed services

What can you expect if you've had the flu shot? Not much, as flu vaccines are tolerated by most people. There may be some side effects:

primarily a low grade fever for 8 to 24 hours after you receive the shot.
a swollen, red, tender area around the vaccination spot.
And a few people, especially children, may develop slight chills or a headache within 24 hours, but the symptoms go away within a day or so.

NOTE: Always consult your family doctor or health care professional before any vaccination or medical procedure or treatment. The information in this article is general in nature and not intended to be taken as medical advice. Learn more about the flu and about flu shots at the CDC website here: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm

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TEN TIPS FOR STAYING HEALTHY THIS SUMMER


In the warmer, longer, lazier days of summer, the living may not always be that easy, but it does probably feel less chaotic. Even adults tend to adopt a "school's out" attitude in the summer. That's why this is a perfect time to improve your health in a fashion so seasonally laid back that you'll barely notice the effort. Ten tips to follow this summer -- or anytime!

1. Give Your Diet a Berry Boost

If you do one thing this summer to improve your diet, have a cup of mixed fresh berries -- blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries -- every day. They'll help you load up on antioxidants, which may help prevent damage to tissues and reduce the risks of age-related illnesses. Blueberries and blackberries are especially antioxidant-rich.

2. Get Dirty and Stress Less

Toimprove your stress level, plant a small garden, cultivate a flower box, or if space is really limited, plant a few flower pots -- indoors or out. Just putting your hands in soil is "grounding." And when life feels like you're moving so fast your feet are barely touching the stuff, being mentally grounded can help relieve physical and mental stress.

3. Floss Daily


You know you need to, now it's time to start: floss every single day. Do it at the beach (in a secluded spot), while reading on your patio, or when watching TV -- and the task will breeze by. Flossing reduces oral bacteria, which improves overall body health.

4. Get Outside to Exercise


Pick one outdoor activity: going on a hike, taking a nature walk, playing games such as tag with your kids, cycling, roller blading, or swimming -- to shed that cooped-up feeling of gym workouts.

5. Be Good to Your Eyes

To protect your vision at work and at play, wear protective eyewear. When outdoors, wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet A and B rays. Sunglasses can help prevent cataracts, as well as wrinkles around the eyes.

6. Be Good to Your Skin

Be sure to use 30 SPF sun screen and apply every two hours when out in the sun. Wearing a hat helps too, especially one that can shade your face.

7. Vacation Time

Improve your heart health: take advantage of summer's slower schedule by using your vacation time to relax and unwind, which will lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

8. Alcohol - Go Lite

Summer's a great time to skip drinks with hard alcohol and choose a light, chilled alcoholic beverage instead (unless you are pregnant or should not drink for health or other reasons). Sangria, light beer, or a wine spritzer are good, lighter choices for summer.

9. Food - Go Lite

Summer is the perfect time to increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, Salads, smoothies, and grilled veggies taste delicious if made from market-fresh ingredients. Visit your local farmers market weekly!

10. Sleep Well

Resist the urge to stay up later during long summer days. Instead, pay attention to good sleep hygiene by keeping the same bedtime and wake-up schedule and not drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
Learn more at http://women.webmd.com/features/8-summer-steps-for-healthy-living

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HOW TO NIP SPRINGTIME ALLERGIES IN THE BUD

 

Everyone is excited that winter is over and that spring is finally here. Flowers are blooming and trees will soon start budding -- and producing pollen. For too many people spring means that their allergies are back. Symptoms of seasonal allergies, commonly referred to as hay fever, include itchy eyes, nose and throat; sneezing; stuffy or runny nose; tearing up; and dark circles under the eyes.

For allergy sufferers, identifying the allergens is the first step to treatment. The test consists of dozens small pricks on your skin. 42 allergens are tested against the skin, including grasses, trees, and weeds, as well as molds, cats, dogs, even horses and cattle. Then, the ones that flag are tested for cross-reaction with foods.

Once the allergens have been identified, some people may need allergy shots once a week for three to six months to build up the allergic response to their specific allergies. Not everyone needs shots though. Antihistamines that are available over the counter can be taken daily, or a nasal spray, help most sufferers. Also, a simple nasal saline wash can rinse the pollen from your nasal cavity. But if all of that gives too little relief, do see a doctor.

In addition to medications, lifestyle changes can help relieve hay fever symptoms. These measures include:
* Limiting outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.
* Leaving windows closed at home or in the car to keep pollen out.
* Installing and using your air conditioner early, to filter the outside air that
comes into your home.
* Washing your hair after being outside.
* Avoiding mowing lawns or raking leaves, both of which stir up pollen and mold.
* Not hanging sheets or clothes outside to dry.

To learn more about seasonal and other allergies and how to prevent and treat them, go to the Mayo Clinic Health website at www.mayoclinic.com/health/allergies/DS01118

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SIX WAYS TO BOOST WOMEN'S HEALTH

 

Women's health concerns are a little different from those of men. If you're a woman, the tips listed below will soon have you feeling fit and energetic. To look and feel your best at every age, it’s important to make smart lifestyle and health choices. Here are six simple things that women can do every day (or with regularity) to ensure good health:


Health Tip #1: Eat a healthy diet.

“You want to eat as close to a natural foods diet as you can,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, IL. That means a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods and choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Include low-fat dairy products in your diet as well — depending on your age, you need between 800 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily to help avoid osteoporosis, Dr. Novey says. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.

Healthy eating will help you maintain a proper weight for your height, which is important because being overweight can lead to a number of illnesses. Looking for a healthy snack? Try some raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or zucchini with dip made from low-fat yogurt.

If you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet, you might want to take a multivitamin and a calcium supplement to make sure you’re maintaining good health.


Health Tip #2: Exercise.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in America, but plenty of exercise can help keep your heart-healthy. You want to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, if not every day. Aerobic exercises (walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling, dancing) are good for women’s health in general and especially for your heart, says Sabrena Merrill, MS, of Lawrence, KS, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise.


Health Tip #3: Avoid risky habits.

Stay away from cigarettes and people who smoke. Don’t use drugs. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Most women’s health studies show that women can safely consume one drink a day. A drink is considered to be about 12 to 14 grams of alcohol, which is equal to 12 ounces of beer (4.5 percent alcohol); 5 ounces of wine (12.9 percent alcohol); or 1.5 ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof).


Health Tip #4: Manage stress.

No matter what stage of her life — daughter, mother, grandmother — a woman often wears many hats and deals with a lot of pressure and stress. “Take a few minutes every day just to relax and get your perspective back again,” Novey says. “It doesn’t take long, and mental health is important to your physical well-being.” You also can manage stress with exercise, relaxation techniques, or meditation.


Health Tip #5: Sun safely.

Excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can cause skin cancer, which can be deadly. To protect against skin cancer, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 if you are going to be outdoors for more than a few minutes. Even if you wear sunscreen faithfully, you should check regularly for signs of skin cancer. Warning signs include any changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, or freckles, or new, enlarging, pigmented, or red skin areas. If you spot any changes or you find you have sores that are not healing, consult your doctor.


Health Tip #6: Check for breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society no longer recommends monthly breast self-exams for women. However, it still suggests them as “an option” for women, starting in their 20s. You should be on the lookout for any changes in your breasts and report any concerns to your doctor. All women 40 and older should get a yearly mammogram as a mammogram is the most effective way of detecting cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable.


A woman’s health needs change as she ages, but the basics of women’s health remain the same. If you follow these six simple healthy living tips, you will improve your quality of life for years to come.


Read more on the Everyday Health website:

http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/index.aspx


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TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO
TO LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE

 

High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and strokes. Blood pressure tends to increase with age, so it is important to monitor it carefully. Medicine is often prescribed for this condition, but there are other things you can do to help lower blood pressure or to keep it low in the first place.

If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, which is a systolic pressure (the top number) of 140 or above, or a diastolic pressure (the bottom number) of 90 or above, you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down. Lifestyle plays an important role in treating high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may be able to avoid, delay, or reduce the need for medication. These 10 tips for lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure, and keep it down, are taken from the Mayo Clinic Health website.

1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline - Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure.

2. Exercise regularly - Regular physical activity, at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week, can lower your blood pressure and it doesn't take long to see a difference.

3. Eat a healthy diet - Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure.

4. Reduce sodium in your diet - Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet will help reduce blood pressure.

5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink - Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure, but that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol.

6. Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke - On top of all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products raises your blood pressure.

7. Cut back on caffeine - Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure.

8. Reduce your stress - Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure. Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances, or illness. Once you know what's causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.

9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and make regular
doctor's appointments.


10. Get support from family and friends - Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor's office, or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low. Talk to your family and friends about the dangers of high blood pressure.

Read the entire article on the Mayo Clinic Health website:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/HI00027

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THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP TO STAYING HEALTHY AND LIVING WELL

 

Sleep is one of those things that we often take for granted. Many of us sacrifice sleep for other activities that we consider more important. Sometimes bad habits acquired through the years prevent us from getting as much sleep as we really need. Sleep is so important that nature has designed our bodies in such a way that we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping in order to function well and stay healthy!

Most experts agree that adults need at least seven or eight hours of sleep every night, and there are several reasons why having a consistent sleep schedule and getting enough deep sleep is important. Some of the more obvious reasons are for better efficiency (having enough energy during the day to do what we need to do), a happier outlook, less stress, and more clarity in our thinking. Some of the less obvious benefits of sleep and its influence on healthy living are for our minds to be able to dream and process what has happened during the day, and to provide us with information and inspiration. We all have had the experience of waking up in the morning with a solution to a problem that had seemed intractable the day before clear in our minds. A well-rested brain continues to work during sleep!

Sound sleep can also help our immune systems to function properly. Being in homeostasis, or a balance, helps our bodies to be more resistant to outside attack by producing hormones needed for good health. And it is well-known that we are better able to make decisions, do challenging work, assimilate information, and process what is happening in our environment when our minds are rested and sharp.

It has been found that those who get even one or two hours of sleep fewer than recommended, are more prone to weight gain, infections, and attention deficit. In extreme cases of sleep deprivation, a personality shift can take place, resulting in clinical depression and other mental disorders, and even in death, if the pattern is not altered.

Good sleep gives our bodies the opportunities to recalibrate and regenerate. Our chemistry is balanced in a healthy sleep state, and endorphins are released, helping with ailments from chronic pain to depression. Although not all of the benefits of sleep can be scientifically measured, we do know that it is a necessary part of a healthy life -- and an area that most people can easily improve and achieve immediate results when they do so.

Here are some tips for healthy living as it relates to sleep:

• Early to bed and early to rise! Besides being more alert, you’ll have more energy to get things done.


• Don’t eat before going to bed – this can put a lot of stress on your digestive system and your liver.


• Melatonin, kava, and chamomile tea have been reported to alleviate experience restlessness or insomnia. Avoid caffeine and excessive alcohol consumption; both have negative effects on sleep.


• Keep room lighting in your bedroom to a minimum; even an alarm clock LCD display can affect your melatonin levels, and thus your sleep.


• Make sure you have a good mattress and natural-fibre bedding. Fresh air also helps, so leave the window open, at least a crack.

• Before you go to sleep, try writing in a journal, reading, meditating, or praying to get your mind ready for sleep. Soft music set on a timer can also be a soothing way to fall asleep. Try to avoid stimulating and disturbing activities before going to sleep (like watching the news). Take a slow walk or a luxurious bath instead.


• Good sleeping habits start in childhood, so make sure your children have a regular and peaceful bedtime routine every night. Avoiding television and video games before sleep and reading bedtime stories are the two best ways to get your children to sleep happily.

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FOUR SECRETS FOR A LONGER AND HEALTHIER LIFE

 

We all know that proper diet and regular exercise will improve our health and extend our lives. These two rules, along with getting plenty of sleep, drinking plenty of water, not smoking, not drinking excessively, and getting an annual check-up have been accepted by most of us as the rules to follow for good health. But there are other things we can do to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. "There's good evidence that emotional, spiritual, and social factors are all important for longevity," says Gary Small, M.D., director of the Center on Aging at UCLA. Research has shown that there are four strategies that help the most.

1. The power of positive thinking
Research has established that people who have a positive outlook on life when they are young end up living longer. There is even a study that shows that people who were smiling happily in their high school yearbook photos live longer than those who were not. Negative emotions like hostility and bitterness are bad for overall health, especially for the heart. But changing your outlook on life, even at age 50 or later, can be an effective tool for living longer. Smile, reach out to people, join a club or volunteer organization, forgive and forget hurts or slights … all of these practices have proved to be successful in adding years to our lives.

2. The power of spiritual practice
Research has shown that people who go to church regularly live longer than people who go sporadically or not at all. People who meditate or pray at home also achieve better longevity results than people who never slow down in their busy lives. The best practice is to combine public worship with private spiritual practice. Pray or meditate each morning, read a spiritual book each day, tune out and stay quiet a few times a day, if you can. The benefit comes from slowing down, tuning out the world, and connecting with your inner life.

3. The power of helping others
Did you know that people who volunteer at two or more organizations have a 44% lower death rate than those who do no charitable work at all (according to a study at the Buck Institute for Aging)? Compassion has been shown to boost the functions of the immune system, brain, and hormones. So join a volunteer organization (preferably two) and be sure to go to your next PWA Group or Council meeting and see how you can organize volunteer work with your fellow PWA members. This will not only help the community where you live-it will let you live a longer and healthier life.

4. The power of staying connected
Countless studies have shown that people with strong social connections live longer. The important thing to remember is that the quality of the relationships is more powerful than the quantity. So spend more time with people who are good for you and avoid difficult or toxic relationships. Feeling needed and connected in a positive way extends lives of both men and women.

Read more:
"Commandments of Longevity" By Dr. Gary Small, UCLA

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WEIGHT LOSS: SIX STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS

 

Hundreds of fad diets, weight-loss programs, and outright scams promise quick and easy weight loss. However, the foundation of every successful weight-loss program remains a healthy, calorie-controlled diet combined with exercise. For successful, long-term weight loss, you must make permanent changes in your lifestyle and health habits. How do you make those permanent changes? Consider following these six strategies for weight-loss success.


1. Make a commitment
Permanent weight loss takes time and effort - and a lifelong commitment. Make sure that you're ready to make permanent changes and that you do so for the right reasons. To stay committed to your weight loss, you need to be focused. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to change your habits. So as you're planning new weight-loss-related lifestyle changes, make a plan to address other stresses in your life first, such as financial problems or relationship conflicts. While these stresses may never go away completely, managing them better should improve your ability to focus on achieving a healthier lifestyle. Then, once you're ready to launch your weight-loss plan, set a start date and then - start.


2. Find your inner motivation
No one else can make you lose weight. You must undertake diet and exercise changes to please yourself. What's going to give you the burning drive to stick to your weight-loss plan? Make a list of what's important to you to help stay motivated and focused, whether it's an upcoming beach vacation or better overall health. Then find a way to make sure that you can call on your motivational factors during moments of temptation. Perhaps you want to post an encouraging note to yourself on the pantry or refrigerator door, for example.


3. Set realistic goals
When you're setting goals, think about both process and outcome goals. "Exercise regularly" is an example of a process goal, while "Lose 30 pounds" is an example of an outcome goal. It isn't essential that you have an outcome goal, but you should set process goals because changing your processes - your habits - is a key to weight loss. Also make sure that your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited. An example of a SMART goal is aiming to walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for the next three months, and logging your results.


4. Enjoy healthier foods
Adopting a new eating style that promotes weight loss must include lowering your total calorie intake. But decreasing calories need not mean giving up taste, satisfaction, or even ease of meal preparation. One way you can lower your calorie intake is by eating more plant-based foods - fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Strive for variety to help you achieve your goals without giving up taste or nutrition.


5. Get active, stay active
The key to weight loss is burning more calories than you consume. While you can lose weight without exercise, exercise plus calorie restriction can help give you the weight-loss edge. Exercise can help burn off the excess calories you can't cut through diet alone. Exercise also offers numerous health benefits, including boosting your mood, strengthening your cardiovascular system, and reducing your blood pressure. Exercise can also help in maintaining weight loss. Studies show that people who maintain their weight loss over the long term get regular physical activity.


6. Change your perspective
It's not enough to eat healthy foods and exercise for only a few weeks or even months if you want long-term, successful weight loss. These habits must become a way of life. Lifestyle changes start with taking an honest look at your eating patterns and daily routine. After assessing your personal challenges to weight loss, try working out a strategy to gradually change habits and attitudes that have sabotaged your past efforts. And you have to move beyond simply recognizing your challenges - you have to plan for how you'll deal with them if you're going to succeed in losing weight once and for all.
From the Mayo Clinic website.
Read the full article here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss


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