It's no wonder many teens are pooped out. "The obligations of school, work, family and friends make it hard for teenagers to get sufficient sleep to perform their best," said a report from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). "While it might seem like teens sleep a lot, most are sleep deprived and trying to catch up on the weekends." Close to 8 in 10 high school students don't get enough sleep on an average school night, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The academy says 13- to 18-year-olds need eight to 10 hours per night. One obstacle is that teens' body clocks trigger sleepiness later at night and wakefulness later in the morning, making it harder to get up early for school. That's why the AASM says middle and high schools should not start before 8:30 a.m. "Adjusting school start times to better align with teens' circadian rhythms is a positive step toward improving student achievement, health and safety," the report said in an academy news release. "Later school start times are associated with longer total sleep time, reduced daytime sleepiness, increased classroom engagement, and reduced tardiness and absences." While students can't control school start times, they can follow these tips for better sleep:
- Get physical activity every day. Avoid caffeine after school.
- Limit naps to 30 minutes or less and don't nap after 4 p.m.
- Have meals at the same time every day and don't eat too close to bedtime.
- Keep lights dim at night.
- Put away electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Take time to relax and unwind before going to bed.
- Set a bedtime that will let you sleep at least eight hours.
- Get bright light in the morning.
- Stick to your sleep schedule as best you can on weekends.
If your children are picky eaters, bribing or pressuring them will probably backfire. But there are other steps you can take to help them get over their fussiness, researchers report. Australian scientists reviewed 80 studies to find out more about fussy eaters. They found that pressuring a child to eat, offering rewards for eating and stricter parenting methods didn't help. But a relaxed parenting style, eating together as a family and involving children in preparing food can reduce the odds of fussy eating. "For parents with a fussy eater, mealtimes can be especially stressful -- juggling the family meal and a picky eater is no small feat," researchers said. "Some families have kids who turn their noses up at any vegetable. Others are dealing with kids who dislike certain textures or colors of food. Some of these preferences relate to a child's characteristics or personality, which are difficult to change, if at all. But others are external factors that could help reduce fussy eating in kids," researchers said. "Eating together as a family, with siblings, and having a single meal at a regular time all helped reduce food fussiness. As did getting the fussy child involved in the meal, either by helping to choose the menu or helping to prepare the meal. Yet if fussy eaters were allowed to eat in front of the TV, or if they were rewarded for eating certain foods, these behaviors negatively influenced picky children," researchers added. Researchers also say stress can contribute to fussy eating. "When you have a child who is a picky eater, it's very stressful for a parent or [caregiver] -- they're forever questioning whether their child is getting enough nutrients, enough food, and often enough weight gain," researchers said in a news release. It's important to understand that being overly anxious or worried can actually contribute to increased picky eating. "Avoiding getting cross and limiting any negativity around mealtime will benefit everyone. Positive parenting, no matter how difficult it can be in certain situations, is the best step forward for fussy eaters," researchers said. The researchers offered these tips to help a fussy eater: Set a good example: Eat together as a family. Have regular mealtimes. This reduces levels of stress. Get kids involved in making meals. Familiarity and a sense of control can help. Turn the TV off. Focus on food. Keep mealtimes calm and stress-free. It will be a better experience for all. Don't reward, bribe or punish fussy eaters.
Admit it, you've probably put off doctor visits whenever possible during the pandemic, and getting back on track with your health care is a daunting prospect. Never fear, says an expert who offers some advice on resuming in-person health care visits. The first step is to push aside any shame about falling behind on regular appointments, said a news release from the American Heart Association (AHA). "Stress took a toll on all of us, and our lives and routines were turned upside down. There's nothing to be ashamed of here," an AHA news release said. "The key is — let's move forward together." Leading up to your appointment, start measuring and documenting body metrics such as your daily weight, blood pressure (if you have a home blood pressure cuff) and blood sugar levels (for those with diabetes). "Even if it's been a while since you've tracked your body metrics, providing recent measurements will help your doctor determine if there have been significant changes," the news release said. Make a list of questions before your appointment and create an action plan with your doctor on how to achieve health goals, but set realistic objectives. "Keep in mind that small, consistent habits can add up to big changes over time," the news release said. If you have any new physical or mental health symptoms, don't wait to see your doctor, he advised. "New chest pain symptoms in particular are always a red flag," the release said. "That's something we want to know about and see you about ASAP." It's also important to see your doctor immediately if your medications don't seem to be working as well as before, or if you can't afford them. "Our goal, like yours, is to make sure you're getting the care you need to live your longest, healthiest life possible," Researchers said. If you don't have a primary care provider or if unemployment has reduced your access to health care, resources like Federally Qualified Health Centers and Community Health Centers can help, he added. Fortunately, far fewer Americans are still putting off health care visits because of the pandemic. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey conducted between June 23 and July 5, 2021, showed that 19 percent of U.S. adults reported delaying or not getting medical care in the prior four weeks because of the pandemic, compared with 45 percent in the same period last year.
When hair sprouts where you don't want it, you can always shave, but other ways to remove unwanted body hair can last longer. The downside: Chemical hair removers can cause burning, itching or redness. "Hair removal creams, lotions and gels are quick and easy to use, but they can sometimes irritate the skin," American Academy of Dermatology news release reported. "Before applying the product to a large area, like your legs, it's a good idea to test out the product first." Mabry suggests applying a quarter-sized amount to the area where the unwanted hair is located. Keep it on your skin for the time recommended in the instructions — or less if your skin starts stinging or burning. Rinse the product off, then wait 24 hours. Don't use the product again if you experience pain, redness, itching or burning. If after 24 hours you've had no irritation, you can use the product. A hair-removal cream works best when you apply it in a thick, even layer, the release said. Don't rub. Don't put it on a cut, scar or mole. Wash your hands after applying, then gently wipe off the cream where you're removing hair at the recommended time. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry. "Hair-removal products can make your skin more sensitive for a short while after using them," the release said. "If you develop skin irritation after using a hair-removal cream, lotion or gel, or if you have questions about at-home hair removal or other options for hair-removal, talk to a board-certified dermatologist." Mabry recommends using only gentle, fragrance-free products to avoid irritation, and protecting the skin from the sun for 24 hours after application. The best ways: Seek shade when outdoors, wear sun-protective clothing, and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all uncovered skin.
If the Alps or the Rockies are on your bucket list, check with your doctor first if you're at risk for cardiovascular disease. New advice from the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests certain people take precautions before going to high altitude places. These recommendations apply to folks with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmias) or heart failure. In mountainous areas -- particularly heights of 9,800 to 16,400 feet above sea level -- activities such as skiing, hiking, bicycling or climbing can stress the heart and blood vessels because of lower levels of oxygen and changes in air pressure, temperature and humidity. At high altitudes, the heart needs more oxygen-rich blood, even at rest. Fainting is common, even at altitudes of 8,800 feet above sea level and can happen within a day, according to the AHA statement. "Many people and health care professionals are familiar with symptoms of acute mountain sickness like headaches, dizziness, nausea and weakness," a news release reported. "However, they may be less aware of the stress placed on the body -- and particularly the heart and lungs -- when people with cardiovascular disease travel to mountainous regions where there is a reduction in oxygen availability compared to sea-level conditions. If people are not prepared, they may be at an increased risk of adverse events in these types of environments," he said in an AHA news release. "A thorough assessment by a health care professional may be necessary before a mountain sojourn to assess risk and ensure that people with a history of heart disease safely enjoy physical activities in the mountains," the release said. Would-be travelers should develop a plan with a health care professional, bearing in mind the location and duration of travel, along with the severity of the individual's medical conditions. The plan should address these key questions: Is the patient's heart condition stable and under control? What is the emergency plan if something goes wrong? Are there any additional medications needed in case of an emergency? Where is the closest hospital? Who should be called if you need to be evacuated from a remote location? The statement defines low altitude as 1,640 to 6,560 feet above sea level and moderate altitude as 6,560 to 9,840 feet above sea level. High altitude is considered 9,840 to 16,400 feet, while extreme altitude is 16,400 feet or higher above sea level. The AHA offers these tips for a safe trip to high altitudes: Gradually increase altitude so the body can adjust to lower levels of oxygen. Stay hydrated. Adjust medications based on medical advice. Ask your doctor if any additional medications are needed. Limit or avoid alcohol. Know the symptoms that should signal an emergency evacuation. Have emergency descent plans. Sudden cardiac death is the most frequent non-traumatic cause of death at altitude. It may happen without warning and result in death. Risk factors include a history of heart attack, being male and older age. Studies have found that more than 50 percent of sudden cardiac deaths at altitude happen on the first day. The risk may be reduced by one night sleeping above 3,381 feet, which gives the body time to acclimate to higher altitudes before engaging in physical activity.
Parents of kids with asthma and allergies should prepare a plan to keep them safe as schools reopen, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) says. Along with guarding against COVID-19, it's important to protect against cold, flu and other viruses that pose a risk to children with asthma. That includes wearing masks, washing hands and using hand sanitizer whenever possible. "We don't know what this fall and winter will bring, but if COVID-19 cases are again on the rise, it's important to keep everyone safe from the flu virus and out of the hospital, a news release said. Flu shots are crucial -- along with the COVID-19 vaccine for kids who are old enough. (The Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 12 and older.) While flu numbers were down last year because folks stayed home, a news release said a flu shot this year can keep kids from getting sick with something that can be prevented. It's also important for kids with asthma and allergies to avoid triggers. For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) given off by new carpeting can cause wheezing and sneezing. Parents should consider: Is there new carpeting in school hallways? Are there open windows where pollen can drift into the classroom? Could a class pet be causing allergies? Is there mold in the bathrooms? It's important for parents to discuss potential triggers with school officials to help control their child's symptoms. Work with an allergist to make sure your child's medications are appropriate for their height and weight, their asthma action plan is up to date and that symptoms are under control, the ACAAI recommends. Ideally, this should be done before school begins. Children with asthma under the care of an allergist have a 77 percent reduction in lost time from school, according to the ACAAI. If your child has food allergies, work with your allergist and school staff to create an action plan that lists the foods your child is allergic to, what treatment is required, as well as emergency contact information, the ACAAI urges.
People suffering from regular migraines despite medication might consider investing in a yoga mat. That's according to a new trial that tested the effects of a gentle yoga practice -- with slow-paced physical postures, breathing exercises and relaxation. Researchers found that people who added the practice to their usual migraine medication suffered about half as many headache attacks as they normally did. In contrast, study patients who stuck with medication alone saw only a small decline in migraine flare-ups. The findings appear in the May 6 online issue of the journal Neurology. Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people have migraine headaches, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. For people who suffer frequent episodes, there are medications that can help prevent them. But it may not be enough. "The good news is that practicing something as simple and accessible as yoga may help much more than medications alone," researchers said in a journal news release. "And all you need is a mat." Instruction helps, too, however. In this study, migraine patients first had classes with a yoga teacher three times a week for one month. After that, they practiced at home with a manual for another two months. By that three-month mark, their average headache frequency had dropped. They also felt their migraines were less disruptive to their daily lives, based on a standard rating scale. Migraines cause episodes of intense head pain, along with symptoms like nausea, visual disturbances and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people need to take preventive medication, but lifestyle choices -- including sufficient sleep, regular meals and exercise -- are always key, experts said. "Physical exercise is one important part of migraine management," researchers said. But a problem for some people is that higher-impact exercise, like running, can be a migraine trigger. So yoga may offer a lower-impact way to be active. Beyond physical exercise, yoga includes other ways to practice "mindfulness" -- such as breathing practices, relaxation techniques and meditation. A caution, though, is that yoga exists in many different styles. The practice in this study consisted of gentler poses and plenty of breath work and relaxation -- not the fast-paced and strenuous styles offered in many real-world classes. Researchers recommended people with migraines avoid "hot yoga," which is practiced in heated rooms, since dehydration is a major trigger of headaches. It's wise to know what kind of yoga you're getting into beforehand.
Think about some of your favorite recipes. Do they include heavy cream by the cupful? Butter by the stick? Those meals may be tasty, but they aren't doing your heart any favors. Fortunately, you don't have to throw out your recipe books -- or sacrifice flavor -- to make your meals more heart healthy. All it takes is a little translating. When the casserole recipe calls for heavy cream, you read "evaporated skim milk." In your mind, two cups of all-purpose flour can transform itself to one cup of all-purpose flour plus one cup of whole-wheat flour. With just a few simple substitutions, you'll be well on your way to a low-fat, high-fiber, heart-friendly diet. Tweaking recipes Here are some easy and satisfying ways to tweak your recipes. These tips have been collected from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Cancer Society, the Ohio State University Extension Service, and the Purdue University School of Consumer and Family Sciences. Instead of one large egg, try two large egg whites. If baking, replace half of the eggs with egg whites. (For instance, instead of using two whole eggs, use one egg and two egg whites.) Desserts and breads baked with egg whites only tend to be tough. You can also use egg substitutes in recipes. Generally, one-forth cup of egg substitute is equal to one whole egg. If a recipe calls for two or more eggs, you can use one whole egg and use either egg whites or egg substitutes for the others. Go easy on the oil. If a recipe calls for a cup of oil, use 3/4 or 2/3 of a cup instead. If making a sweet bread such as banana bread, cut the oil in half and replace it with pureed plums or prunes, mashed banana, applesauce, or canned pumpkin. However, it's best not to skimp on oil when making yeast breads or pie crusts. (Eliminating the oil completely makes for a pretty "gummy" product.) When baking, use one cup of plain low-fat yogurt instead of one cup of sour cream. You'll hardly notice the difference, and you'll end up with 350 fewer calories, 44 fewer grams of total fat, and nearly 28 fewer grams of saturated fat. If you're baking something sweet, you can replace regular sour cream with nonfat sour cream. Don't try this in a savory casserole -- nonfat sour cream turns sweet when heated. Think skim. Skim or 1 percent milk makes a perfect stand-in for whole milk. Cut down on heavy cream. If making soup or a casserole, use evaporated skim milk instead. If baking, use light cream. Instead of evaporated whole milk, try evaporated skim milk. Switch to healthier fats. That means cutting out lard, butter, palm oil, coconut oil, and shortenings made with these oils. Instead, use healthy oils such as olive, canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower, sesame, peanut, and cottonseed. You can use low-fat or nonfat cheese in place of regular cheese. Since nonfat cheese doesn't melt, though, it's not a good choice for cooked meals. Another alternative is to decrease the portions while boosting the flavor. Instead of adding a cup of regular cheddar, use 3/4 cup of extra sharp cheddar. Likewise, 3/4 cup of freshly shredded Parmesan will add just as much zip as a cup of the grated stuff from the shaker. Low-fat cream cheese is a good alternative to regular cream cheese. Keep in mind that nonfat cream cheese will get very runny in cake frosting and dips. If you add nuts to a recipe, reduce the quantity and make sure to toast them. This helps bring out the flavor with fewer calories. When cooking with all-purpose flour, use half of the usual amount. Then complete the recipe with whole-wheat flour, an excellent source of fiber. (If the flavor seems a little strong, you can cut back a bit on the whole-wheat flour.) If you're on a low-sodium diet, you can reduce (or eliminate) the salt in many recipes without killing the flavor. Try adding herbs and spices instead of salt.
For anyone who might be step-obsessed, a new study suggests that all those steps might also add years to their life. Folks who took about 7,000 steps a day had a 50 percent to 70 percent lower risk of dying from all causes during after 11 years of follow-up when compared with people who took fewer steps each day. These findings held for Black and white middle-aged men and women. And quicker steps weren't necessarily any better, the study showed. Step intensity, or the number of steps per minute, didn't influence the risk of dying. The study appears in the Sept. 3 issue of the journal JAMA Network Open. "Step-counting devices can be useful tools for monitoring and promoting activity in the general public and for patient-clinician communication, the study said. "Steps per day is a simple, easy-to-monitor metric and getting more steps/day may be a good way to promote health." The study said that 7,000 steps/day may be a great goal for many individuals who are currently not achieving this amount. We also found in our study that accumulating a greater number of steps/day was associated with an incremental lower risk of mortality until leveling off at approximately 10,000 steps/day. This is a very nice study with a great message: "Live longer, walk more," the study said. "There's no need to join a gym, no need to purchase equipment, just start walking." The research wasn't designed to say how, or even if, taking more steps reduced the chances of dying. But "exercise can reduce cardiovascular risk by improving blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, improvement of hyperglycemia [blood sugar] in diabetes, and contributing to weight reduction," the study reported.
Living may be easier during the warmer weather seasons but that doesn’t mean your wellness goals should be swept under the rug. To help, here is a range of healthy suggestions for the summer, whether you’re at home, road tripping with friends and family, or grilling in your backyard. Develop an action plan: Use this time as an opportunity to develop a nutritionally balanced meal plan that focuses on real, whole foods that charge your metabolism and help you feel energized. A structured meal plan can help you lose weight and get healthier. For example, the company’s Metabolic Plan focuses on repairing metabolic health with whole foods that are affordable, simple to prepare and easy to find in a restaurant or convenience store. It’s effective because:
- You stay fuller longer and don’t have to fight with hunger and cravings
- You can eat delicious foods that you want to eat—you are in control
- There’s no diet isolation. You eat the same foods as your family and friends