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Re-focusing on Getting Fit? Heart Experts Offer These Tips

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Screenshot 2022-04-20 070557 Want to get rid of all that weight you put on during the pandemic or even after the holidays? To help out, the American Heart Association (AHA) launched an initiative called Move More. One in four U.S. adults is sitting for longer than eight hours each day, which can harm one's mental and physical health, according to the AHA. "For too many of us, our daily routines have become more sedentary over the past year due to the pandemic, making it even more important to find ways to increase physical activity in our day," a report from the AHA for prevention said. "Any movement is better than no movement, and more is better. Even small breaks of activity throughout the day will benefit health and reduce stress," an AHA news release said. The association outlines ways to get more active:

  • To avoid long stretches of inactivity, set reminders to move around for five minutes multiple times a day.
  • Find more ways to get off the couch. For example, take a walk around the house or do a few pushups between episodes of a TV show. If you have a pet, take breaks to play or go for a walk outside. Active chores such as vacuuming and tidying up clutter also help.
  • Reduce screen time. Schedule a time each day for the whole family to unplug and take an activity break. Take a walk, play a game of hide-and-seek inside, or put on your favorite music for a dance party.
  • Move more while working at home. Try to reduce meetings by five minutes when possible and use that time to do basic strength exercises like squats or crunches, move to different part of your home to do stretches, or stand every time you create or answer an e-mail.
  • Find types of exercise you enjoy and that fit your schedule.
The AHA recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking or gardening, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity such as running or aerobic dancing, or a combination of both intensity-level activities. It also recommends two days of moderate-to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity weekly, such as resistance training.

Walking: Your Best Step to a Healthier Heart

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Screenshot 2022-04-20 070118 When the world gets you down, go for a walk and make your heart happy. Physical activity is one of the best ways to manage stress and boost your mood, while reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week – or about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. And the minutes don't have to be consecutive to bring benefits. "Walking is a great way to improve your health and your mental outlook, and it doesn't take a lot of expensive sporting equipment to do it. Put on a good pair of shoes and grab a water bottle and you're ready to go," a release from AHA said "It doesn't matter how fast or how far you walk, the important thing is to get moving," AHA news release said. "Counting steps doesn't have to be part of a structured exercise program. Increasing your everyday activity, like parking slightly further from your destination, doing some extra housework or yardwork and even walking your dog can all add up to more steps and better health." The association pointed to research presented at a 2021 AHA conference and published online in JAMA Network Open. The researchers found that people who took more steps in short spurts lived longer – even if they weren't doing long, uninterrupted workouts. Benefits leveled off at about 4,500 steps a day in short spurts. Compared to no daily steps, each day that someone increased steps by 1,000 was associated with a 28 percent decrease in death during the study period. Those who took more than 2,000 uninterrupted steps a day had a 32 percent decrease in death during that time. Compared to people with the fewest steps, middle-aged people who got in the most each day had a 43 percent lower risk of diabetes and a 31 percent lower risk of high blood pressure, the researchers reported. For women in the study, those who had the highest step count also were 61 percent less likely to be obese compared to women who walked the least. For each 1,000-step interval increase, women had a 13 percent lower risk of obesity. Individuals who walked at least 7,000 steps per day had a 50 percent to 70 percent lower risk dying during the study period compared to those who didn't. Walking more than 10,000 steps was even better, lowering the risk of premature death from any cause among Black and white middle-aged men and women. While being outdoors in areas that have a lot of green may also have health benefits, walking anywhere, including indoors at home, in a gym or at the mall can all offer benefits, the release said said. "Unfortunately, many people do not have access to safe walking trails or adequate green space," the release said, adding that AHA advocates for policy changes that make it easier for people to have access to safe places to walk, exercise and play, as well as transportation options that integrate walking, bicycling and wheelchair use.

Tips on How to Lower Stress

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Screenshot 2022-04-16 071529 Whether it's struggling to finish your taxes, dealing with high-stress at home or on the job, or just juggling multiple tasks every day -- taking a breath once in a while is the best thing you can do for your overall health, say experts. How does stress play a harmful part in our daily lives? It's often felt in a tightening of the muscles, increased blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, and dry mouth. In fact, studies show that severe stress has a direct correlation with heart disease, depression, and a general lowering of the immune system which, in turn, opens the body up to many other diseases. The cure? For some, it only takes a timely reminder to breath -- have a laugh, and relax. For others it requires a serious, daily affirmation that stress won't get the better of them. Sure, stress will always be a part of our lives, so it's important to keep in mind the ways to cope with it. And what better way to start de-stressing than on National Stress Awareness Day?

  • Treat yourself. While junk food isn't often recommended as the antidote for anxiety, there are a handful of immune-boosting desserts made with fresh blueberries, strawberries, honey, and whole grains that make for a wonderful daily indulgence. Even chocolatehas its health benefits when consumed in moderation.
  • Exercise. Be amazed at how physical movement can change your mental perspective. Take a walk -- or a good jogin place, or around a nature park -- to get those "feel good" chemicals (called endorphins) pumping in your brain that lend a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
  • Meditate.Taking time to breath, and collecting your thoughts before a hectic day, can often lead to increased energy and stamina.
  • Get enough rest. For a good night's rest, conciously shut the door on what has been bothering you during the day. (Sure, it may still be waiting there in the morning, but meanwhile... sweet dreams!) Remember that the body is detoxified and cells are regenerated during deep sleep, leaving us feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world again.
  • Pet your dog. Or it may be a cat, a parakeet, or any other pet. Science shows that the unconditional love that pets freely give helps us to de-stress and has powerful effects on lowering our blood pressure.
  • Bend, don't break. Trees that survive to a ripe old age are the ones that learned to roll with any passing storm.
  • Laugh.It's true what they say about laughter being the best medicine. So collapse on the couch and take time out to watch your favorite TV sitcom or stream a classic Hollywood comedy to end the day.
As the old, wise man once said... "Sometimes a quick hit of nothingness delivers a balance to the everythingness." Chill. And enjoy the day dedicated solely to de-stressing!

Early Menopause May Raise a Woman’s Odds for Dementia

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Screenshot 2022-04-20 065521 Women who enter menopause early may be more likely to develop dementia later in life, new research indicates. During menopause, production of the female sex hormone estrogen drops dramatically and a woman's periods come to an end. While women typically enter menopause in their early 50s, many do so earlier — either naturally or due to a medical condition or treatment such as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). This large study found that women in the U.K. who entered menopause before age 40 were 35 percent more likely to develop dementia later in life than women who started menopause around age 50. What's more, women who entered menopause before age 45 were 1.3 times more likely to develop dementia before their 65th birthday, the new study showed. "Women with early menopause may need a close monitoring of their cognitive decline in clinical practice," A study said. The higher risk for dementia may be due to the sharp estrogen drop that takes place during menopause, Hao said. "Estrogen can activate cellular antioxidants such as glutathione, reduce ApoE4, the most common genetic risk factor in the pathogenesis of dementia, and reduce amyloid plaque deposition in the brain," the study said. The build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, the most common type of dementia. This doesn't mean that women who start menopause early are powerless against dementia, Hao said. "Dementia can be prevented, and there are a number of ways women who experience early menopause may be able to reduce their risk of dementia," the study said. This includes getting regular exercise, participating in leisure and educational activities, not smoking or using alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight, she said. For the study, researchers compared age at menopause and dementia diagnosis among 153,291 women (average age: 60) who were part of the UK Biobank, a large database of genetic and health information on people living in the United Kingdom. They looked for all types of dementia, including Alzheimer's. Postmenopausal women are at greater risk of stroke than pre-menopausal women, and stroke may cause vascular dementia, but the study found no link between age at menopause and the risk of this type of dementia. While women who entered menopause early were at higher risk of dementia, those who entered menopause at age 52 or later had similar rates of dementia as women who started menopause at age 50 or 51, the study showed. The new findings held after researchers accounted for other factors that may boost dementia risk, including age at last exam, race, education, cigarette and alcohol use, body fat, heart disease, diabetes, income and leisure and physical activities. The study did not include information on whether women had a family history of dementia or if women entered menopause early for natural or medical reasons, which could affect the findings. The findings were presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Heart Association held in Chicago and online. Research presented at medical meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

These Simple Steps Can Help Seniors Manage Their Health Care

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Screenshot 2022-04-20 065123 Navigating the health care system can be challenging, but an expert urges older people not to try to go it alone. "It's common for someone who hasn't had any health problems suddenly to be faced with their own issues and the need to navigate the health care system," said a report from Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. "Before that happens, talk with friends who've been dealing with health concerns — especially if they've been in the hospital — to hear about their experiences so you have a better idea of what it might be like," A report said in a Penn State Health news release. Another tip: Ask a trusted friend or loved one to accompany you to medical appointments. "It's so important for a patient to understand what the doctor says," a report said. "Often, a patient won't fully digest what the doctor's saying. I advise seniors to have someone else at the appointment with a pen and paper to write everything down and make sure there's appropriate follow-up." When they see a doctor, older patients should bring an updated list of health concerns — including any changes in their medical history or new symptoms — as well as a list of all current prescription and over-the-counter medications they take, including any supplements, along with their dosages. Some people may find it easier to bring all their medications to their appointment, A report said. If you don't understand your health insurance coverage or medical bills, ask a trusted loved one or a professional to go over them with you. "There are groups out there and advocacy services through senior centers that are a good resource to helping understand health care financials," a report said. "They offer continuing education-type programs for the public all the time to help people understand what insurance will and won't cover." Older patients and their advocates can also work with care managers or financial aid staff at a medical center to help sort through their bills. Some seniors may be uncomfortable asking for help or may not even realize they need it. So it's important for adult children and other trusted individuals to ask, but to do so carefully. "You'll want to get permission to have these conversations with your mom or dad, aunt or uncle now, ahead of a medical crisis," a report said. "Come in with love and respect, ideally in a face-to-face conversation. Let them know how much they're cared for, that you want the best for them and that you have some concerns you'd like to discuss with them. Then ask their permission to do that."

Heaters, Pools, Bed Rails: Household Dangers Can Kill Seniors

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5 A new report delivers a troubling statistic: Seven in 10 consumer product-related deaths occur among those over 65, even though these people only account for 16 percent of the U.S. population. Each year, consumer products are linked to roughly 3,800 deaths and nearly 3 million emergency department visits among older Americans, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report found. "It's a fact that older adults are far more likely to experience a significant injury, or fatality, from the hidden hazards associated with consumer products in their homes than other age groups," said CPSC chair Alex Hoehn-Saric. "This new report is an important reminder that preventing consumer product-related injuries and deaths to older adults often begins by following basic steps to improve safety in all areas of the home," he added in a CPSC news release. Falls are the most common product-related cause of injuries and deaths among older Americans. Each year, there are an average of 1,800 deaths from falls and 1.5 million ER-treated injuries among older adults. Falls typically occur on floors, stairs, steps and from beds. Older adults are six times more likely to be treated in the emergency department as a result of a fall on flooring than younger people. They are also 3.5 times more likely to die in fires than the general population, with about 930 deaths annually. Smoking and cooking are two major causes of fire. The report also discovered that the clothing fire death rate among older adults is 14 times higher than among people younger than 65. The dangers don't end there: About 300 older adults die due to drownings, mostly associated with swimming pools, bathtubs and spas; about 200 die in incidents involving bicycles, e-scooters and off-road vehicles; and about 45 die due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from sources like heating devices, generators and other engine-driven equipment. Adult portable bed rails are involved in about 16 deaths a year among people aged 65 and older. These bed rails are generally used to protect people who are at risk of falling out of bed, but many do not meet safety standards and create an entrapment risk, resulting in suffocation. Victims can get caught, stuck, wedged, or trapped between the mattress or bed and the bed rail, between bed rail bars, or between a dresser and the bed rail, according to the report.

Resistance Exercise May Be Better for Improving Sleep

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4 Resistance exercise may be better than aerobic exercise for improving the duration and quality of sleep among individuals with a high risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2022 Scientific Sessions, held from March 1 to 4 in Chicago. A group of researchers randomly assigned 406 inactive adults (53 percent women; ages 35 to 70 years) with overweight/obesity and elevated/stage 1 hypertension with a high risk for cardiovascular disease to aerobic exercise only (101 participants), resistance exercise only (102 participants), combined aerobic exercise and resistance exercise (Combined Exercise; 101 participants), or a no-exercise control group (102 participants) for one year. The rate of exercise adherence was 83 percent. The researchers found that all groups showed significant improvements in the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index total score and decreases in sleep disturbances. Among participants getting less than seven hours of sleep at baseline, sleep duration increased significantly by 17 minutes in the resistance group, but not in the Aerobics, combined, or control groups. Sleep efficiency increased in the resistance and combined groups, but not in aerobics or control groups. There was a decrease noted in sleep latency in the resistance group, although the overall between-within groups interaction effect was not significant.

Allergy Season Is Near: Be Prepared

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3 Spring allergies are a perennial annoyance, but if you're focusing on the pandemic, they still could catch you by surprise, an expert says. "People still have COVID on their minds," said a report from the president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. "They might not be thinking about spring allergies, so symptoms could sneak up on them," a news release said. "One of the most important tools for battling spring allergies is to get ahead of symptoms," the report said. "Begin taking your allergy medications two to three weeks before your itching and sneezing normally start to occur. And be aware that, thanks to climate change, symptoms may appear even earlier than normal." Both COVID-19 and spring allergies can cause symptoms such as cough, fatigue and headache. But COVID -- especially the Omicron variant -- can cause more nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, postnasal drainage and symptoms of a sinus infection, while allergies rarely cause a fever. If you think you might have COVID-19, get tested as soon as possible. If it's not COVID-19 and your symptoms have been dragging on for a while, get tested for seasonal allergies, reports said. It's important to know your allergy triggers so you can treat them properly. You may be tempted to open your windows to bring fresh spring air into your home or car, but that's a bad idea if you're allergic to pollen, reports said. Instead, you should use air conditioning in both your home and car to keep pollen out. See your allergist early in the season. A doctor can offer a number of ways to treat your allergy symptoms. Corbett said one of the best treatments is immunotherapy, which uses injections or pills to target your specific allergy triggers and can greatly reduce the severity of your symptoms. Allergy shots and pills can also prevent the development of asthma in some children with seasonal allergies, reports said.

Fewer Rainy Days Are Bringing Earlier Springs

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2 Never mind what the calendar says -- your plants will tell you when spring is here. And even in Northern regions, they're leafing out earlier than ever in recent decades due to climate change. In a new study, researchers attribute the early greening to two key factors: warmer temperatures and fewer rainy days. "This contrasting effect earlier in the year makes the plants think it is spring and start leaf onset earlier and earlier," a news release from Ohio State University said. Scientists already knew that warmer temperatures due to climate change had caused plants to leaf out sooner in the year in recent decades, but these new findings show that fewer rainy days are also a big reason why. Previous models suggested that by 2100, spring will arrive five to 10 days earlier than today, the news release said. But this new estimate, which factors in a decline in rainy days, suggests the season will begin another day or two earlier each decade. For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the United States, Europe and China, along with satellite images showing when vegetation started turning green from 1982 to 2018. As rainy days declined over the years, spring arrived earlier for most areas in the Northern Hemisphere. One exception was grasslands in semi-arid regions, where the season was delayed slightly. The researchers offered two key reasons why fewer rainy days bring spring to an earlier start for plants. Rainy days are cloudy days, so fewer of them in late winter and early spring mean plants get more sunshine earlier in the year, which stimulates leaf growth. Fewer cloudy days also mean daytime temperatures are higher and nighttime temperatures cool faster without clouds to trap the heat.

As Clocks Spring Forward, Keep Sleep on Track

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1. You may only worry about losing an hour of sleep when the clocks spring forward this Sunday, but the time change can also be dangerous for your health, an expert says. Research shows that the risk of stroke, heart attack and traffic accidents all increase in the days following the switch to daylight saving time, according to a report from a clinical sleep disorder specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "Among the sleep science community, there is no controversy: The consensus is that we should eliminate daylight saving time and stick with standard time permanently," a news release said. Time changes affect your body's natural circadian rhythms, which help your brain signal that it's time to go to sleep and also control many other organ systems. "We have clocks throughout the body," reports said. "A special region in the hypothalamus regulates our circadian rhythms and acts as the master pacemaker, telling us, 'Here's daytime, so do this, now it's nighttime, do that.' Our organ systems have to change their function, depending on what time of day it is." Interruption of those rhythms by events such as time changes, traveling across time zones and working rotating shifts triggers a stress response in the body. "Many people plan to go to bed an hour early when the clocks change, but they rarely do," reports said. "That means you've just lost an hour of sleep and your circadian rhythms are misaligned, which explains why we see an increase in accidents after daylight saving time begins." You can reduce the impact of the spring time change by planning a few days in advance. "The simplest way to manage the springtime shift is to go to bed and get up 30 minutes early on the Friday immediately before the time change,” reports said. "Then, shift it 30 minutes earlier for the following night. By Sunday's time shift, you'll be back onto your regular schedule without suddenly losing an hour of sleep." Breaking up the one-hour time shift into two 30-minute shifts helps your body adjust to the new time schedule while reducing strain on your circadian clock.