Friday, March 27, 2015

Walk On!

It’s finally warm enough to get outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine! So start fitting a daily walk into your schedule. Do you think your knees or hips are too stiff and sore to handle it? Think again — taking a nice, gentle stroll will send blood flowing to your aching muscles and help relieve that nagging pain.

One of the best ways to make walking easier on creaky joints is to simply do it more often. Here are 7 simple solutions to help your sneakers see a little more action:
1. Take the stairs. Take it easy at first and stick to jaunts of just one flight. Before you know it you’ll be walking right past the elevator and flying up three or four flights.
2. Go for an after-dinner stroll. Twenty quick minutes is all it takes, and it’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the day.
3. Commune with nature. Stroll through a nearby park or nature area a few days a week.
4. Make a date. Meet friends at a public garden and go for a stroll instead of meeting at a local cafĂ©.
5. Try a lunch combo. Spend half of your lunch hour eating, and the other half walking. You’ll get 30 minutes of extra exercise in — and feel energized for the rest of the day.
6. Watching TV? March in place while you watch your favorite program.
7. Take a break. Anytime you feel drowsy, angry, bored, or stressed, go for a five-minute walk. You’ll work out emotional issues while you “work out” your joints.

Don’t forget to hydrate before, during, and after you exercise. You can down one of many commercial products — or make your own DIY sports drink at a small fraction of the cost.

½ tablespoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of table salt
¼ teaspoon of potassium-based salt substitute*
1 quart of water
Unsweetened Kool-Aid® powder or other flavoring to taste

Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly, and drink up frequently.

*such as Morton® Lite Salt™ Mixture or Morton® Salt Substitute

Friday, March 20, 2015

Your Pills Can Kill You

Whether you’re battling heart disease, high blood pressure, or any other condition that includes a daily dose of meds, you need to be aware that each year 106,000 people die in American hospitals from “adverse drug reactions.” But the actual number of victims is higher, because many hospital deaths that are attributed to various diseases are actually caused by the meds patients were taking to treat the condition.

Overdosing ranks high on the list of reasons for death by medication. Other prime culprits are allergic reactions and the interaction of various drugs with each other, or with natural remedies. But even used as directed, a great many “miracle” drugs, both Rx and OTC varieties, deliver potentially fatal consequences, ranging from liver damage to nerve disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke — as well as known disease triggers like insomnia and weight gain.

Don’t get me wrong here, folks — I’m not suggesting that you fire your doctor and start dosing yourself with who-knows-what concoctions that you find on the internet! Modern drugs can — and do — save lives. But it does pay to take these precautions:
  • Find an MD who understands the benefits of natural remedies and can help you reduce your need for certain drugs, or decrease their side effects, by making lifestyle changes and upping your intake of natural remedies.
  • Whenever you see a doctor, take along a detailed list of everything you’re taking, including prescription and OTC drugs, as well as herbal remedies, nutritional supplements, and even your daily multivitamin pill.
  • Ask the doc about possible food interactions with the drug(s) you’re about to get. For instance, garlic has adverse reactions with blood-thinning meds.
  • Never talk to a nurse or pharmacist who is getting medications ready for you. Even the most careful and highly trained professionals can make big mistakes when they’re distracted by chatter.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Great American “Gums” Fight

It’s important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Otherwise, you’ll open up a whole heap of trouble, including tooth decay, inflammation, and other serious health problems. Caring for them takes more than just regular brushing and flossing after meals. Follow these tips for the healthiest gums in town:

Stay away from tobacco. Smoking adds to tartar build-up on teeth and gums and hewing tobacco can lead to ulcers and sores in the mouth.

Get plenty of vitamin C. It repairs connective tissue and stimulates bone growth. Dark green vegetables and citrus fruits are excellent sources.

Don’t forget about D! Get plenty of sunshine, and include fish, eggs, and dairy foods, in your diet for a healthy dose of vitamin D.

Stop stressing. You would be surprised at how much constant fretting can increase the plaque build-up on your teeth. Calm yourself by finding an exercise routine that you enjoy, and do it regularly.

Eat plenty of cranberries. The sweet-tart gems are known to prevent gum disease by keeping plaque from sticking to the teeth.

For a quick and easy way to get cranberries in your diet, try whirling these ingredients in a blender with 2 or 3 ice cubes for a “good for the gums” cranberry smoothie:
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup nonfat milk        

Friday, March 6, 2015

Are You Getting a Good Night’s Sleep?

There’s nothing I love more on a frigid winter night than snuggling up in thick flannel pajamas and diving into bed under a heavy down quilt. But it turns out that I may be treating myself to too much of a good thing.

Sleep experts say that in order to get a good night’s sleep, your body needs to stay relatively cool. Otherwise, even though you may fall asleep, you wind up tossing and turning to get comfortable, and then get up the next day feeling groggy. Try to keep the temperature of your bedroom between 60 and 68 degrees and cover yourself with lighter layers that you can shed before slipping into dreamland.

Research also tells us that people who get less than five hours of zzzs a night are 50 percent more likely to be obese than those who get a solid seven to nine hours. But if you’re having trouble sleeping, and it’s not because you’re too warm, try one of these simple tips:
  • Physical activity during the day will help you sleep better at night. Exercise reduces stress and induces sleep by promoting deep relaxation. And you don’t need any fancy equipment — or warm, sunny weather — to do the trick. March or jog in place while you’re watching the evening news. Mix in a few jumping jacks if you’re up to it, and throw in some sit-ups too!
  • Chamomile is a fragrant herbal tea with proven sleep-inducing qualities. So brew a cup before bed and slowly sip it. It’ll help your whole body, including your brain, relax and wind down.
  • Use guided imagery, a form of self-hypnosis, to help yourself to sleep. Listen to a meditation tape or use a progressive muscle relaxation routine to become deeply relaxed, then picture yourself comfortably asleep. Do this nightly for several weeks, and you’ll soon be able to fall asleep more easily.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Potent Perils of Popcorn

Who would ever think that one of America’s favorite — and potentially healthiest — snacks could actually be harming you big time — that is, if you opt for the microwavable stuff in the snack-food section of your local supermarket. Not only is the bag lined with weird nonstick chemicals that have been linked to thyroid disease and other illnesses, but the corn itself contains artificial colorings, flavorings, chemically altered oils, and other gunk that can lead to obesity, diabetes, and (yes) even cancer.

There’s no doubt about it: Microwave ovens have revolutionized the way Americans cook and eat — and when it comes to your health, almost entirely for worse, not better, despite what the food companies want you to think. But Big Food pulled off one of its biggest boondoggles ever with popcorn. They’ve hoodwinked the vast majority of the public into believing these two outright lies:

1. Popcorn is way too messy, complicated, and time-consuming to make the old-fashioned way.

2. The only way you can make popcorn in a microwave is to use the stuff that’s packaged in microwavable bags and loaded with who-knows-what chemicals — and costs mega times more than the real deal to boot.

I have just one word to say about that snow job: Baloney!

Microwave popcorn doesn’t have to put your health at risk. Here’s the ultra-easy, two-step formula that Uncle Orville and his pals would rather you didn’t know about:

Step 1. Put 1/4 cup of unpopped organic popcorn kernels into a clean brown paper bag, and fold the top over a few times. Or use a microwavable glass or ceramic (not plastic!) bowl loosely covered with a lid or a towel.

Step 2. Stand it in the center of your microwave, and nuke it on high for about 5 minutes, or until the popping slows down to one pop about every 2 seconds.

Pour the popped corn into a bowl, add melted butter or whatever other flavorings you like, and enjoy!

Friday, February 20, 2015

2 Freaky Ways Winter Can Wipe You Out

The cold, crisp days of winter can trigger a couple of conditions that can range in severity from painful and debilitating to fatal. Here’s the dastardly duo:

Chilblains (a.k.a. pernio) is the inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin that occurs in response to sudden warming after exposure to cold temperatures. Signs that you’ve been struck include itchy, red patches, swelling, and sometimes blistering, most often on your fingers, toes, ears, and nose. Chilblains generally clear up within a few weeks if you follow these guidelines:
  • Use mild skin lotions to alleviate swelling and itching.
  • Clean the affected skin daily with a natural antiseptic, and cover it to prevent infection.
  • Keep the afflicted area(s) warm but away from heat sources.
  • Don’t scratch!    
To prevent trouble, stay warm at all times, especially if you’ve suffered chilblains in the past.

Raynaud’s disease (a.k.a. Raynaud’s phenomenon) is a disorder in which the blood vessels narrow in response to cold air, thereby reducing blood flow to the fingers, toes, and often the ears, lips, and nose. The affected body parts turn white, blue, and then red, generally accompanied by burning pain when the blood begins flowing back to the stricken areas. There is no cure and, so far at least, no known prevention. If your extremities begin to feel tingly or numb and start to lose color, suspect the onset of Raynaud’s. Hightail it to a warm place where you can quickly raise your body’s core temperature and get your blood flowing normally again. If you already have the disease, do everything you can to protect yourself from the cold, whether that entails bundling up to the Nth degree or, if possible, moving to a warmer climate.

Friday, February 13, 2015

It’s Valentine’s Day! Make a Toast to Heart Health

A few years back, researchers wondered why Americans stuffing down burgers, ribs, and fries tend to keel over from heart disease, while the French ingest just as much fat dining on foie gras, creamy sauces, and pastry — but their hearts never skip a beat. Here’s the difference: French folks regularly drink wine in the normal course of dining. Scientists already knew that wine was a natural antioxidant...and then they stumbled upon resveratrol and quercetin, the two compounds in vino that seem to work to keep gunk from cluttering up your artery walls.

So here’s the bottom line: Drinking red wine in moderation is all it takes to reap its benefits. (More than one or two glasses of wine — or any other form of alcohol — a day actually increases the risk of some cancers and other serious illnesses.)

You can reap even more heart-healthy benefits from wine by combining it with another ticker-protecting powerhouse: onions! Medical science tells us that red wine and onions are both rich in compounds that help keep your heart in good working order. So why not combine the two healers into one easy tonic? Simply add the juice of a medium-size onion to a bottle of red wine, and shake it for a few minutes in a slightly larger bottle or jar. Take 1½ to 3 tablespoons of the potion each day. (Just save this odiferous tonic for after Valentine’s Day — your sweetie may not appreciate onion-scented smooches!)