7 Simple Exercises That Undo the Damage of Sitting

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this story is brought to you by vapor-distilled smartwater, who found unique inspiration for their water by looking up to the sky. we hope the change in perspective this piece offers will help inspire you.

If you’re like most men living and working in a techno-service economy, you probably spend a good deal of your day sitting down. You go from the kitchen table to your desk at work to your chair in front of the TV. But as we’ve discussed before, spending most of your waking hours planted on your keister is terrible for your health.

You’ve probably experienced those moments when you get up from a sitting position and your butt feels numb and your hips feel so tight that you have to lean forward at the waist just to walk. Excessive sitting leaves your hips and legs tight and your glutes inactive. Even after you stand up, the ill effects of sitting stay with you and may prevent your butt muscles from firing at an optimal level when you really need them – like when you suddenly need to chase down a purse snatcher!

Some fitness experts argue that sitting causes muscles in the hip area to physically shorten (and stay shorter), even after you stand up. While there are no scientific studies to back that claim, from my own personal experience, sitting for lengthy periods of time definitely makes everything feel tight in the groin/butt area.

If you’re an athlete (or fancy yourself one), tight hips and inactive glutes can hamper physical performance in a variety of activities, such as sprinting, squatting, and — my favorite — deadlifting. If you want to perform at your best, you need to make sure that your hips stay limber and that your butt muscles are firing on all cylinders. Even if you’re not interested in deadlifting 600 lbs. (though I hope to change your mind on that someday), keeping your hip flexors loose and glutes active can improve your life on other fronts.

First, having limber hips just feels good, plain and simple. Second, having a healthy range of motion in your hips can help prevent injury when you pursue more recreational physical activities and do household chores. For example, loose hips keep your IT band loose as well, which can ward off knee pain. Finally, taking care of your hips may help improve your posture, which can in turn alleviate back or neck pain. (Not to mention the role of limber hips in doing a mean mambo.)

Below, we provide some simple stretches and exercises that will undo the damage to your hips and butt caused by sitting.

Prevention Is the Best Remedy: Sit Less and Move More

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best thing you can do for your hip mobility and glute activation is to simply sit less and move more during the day.

If your employer will allow it, try using a standing desk, which keeps your muscles activated at the office. Keep in mind that, just as with sitting, standing should be done in moderation (doing it for an extended period of time isn’t that great for you, either).

If a standing desk isn’t an option, take five-minute breaks from sitting every 30 to 45 minutes. Stand up and walk around a bit. Maybe even perform a few of the exercises below. Even if you have a standing desk, you should still take breaks every now and then for some movement.

Stretch Out Those Hips

These dynamic stretches and exercises are designed for loosening tight hips that come from sitting too much. I try to incorporate a few of them in my daily workout warm-ups or even sneak some in when I’m hanging out with the kids (who think their dad is pretty odd). Every now and then I also dedicate an hour on Saturdays to just hip and glute work, along with some intense foam rolling.

If you’re really tight, take it nice and easy. As physical therapist Kelly Starrett says, “Don’t go into the pain cave. Your animal totem won’t be there to help you.”

Leg Swings

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This is a great dynamic stretch that I do before every workout. It loosens up the hips, hamstrings, and glutes.

Begin with forward leg swings. Find something to hold for balance. Start off swinging your right leg backwards and forwards as high and as far back as you comfortably can. Do 20 swings and then switch legs.

Next are side-to-side swings. Again, find something to hold for balance. Swing your right leg out to the side as high as possible and then in front of you towards your left as far as you can go. Perform 20 swings and then switch legs. Depending on how tight you feel, you may need another set.

Grok Squat

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The Grok Squat is very similar to a catcher’s stance in baseball. Simply squat down until your butt touches your ankles. Keep your heels firmly on the ground and your back straight. Hold that position for 30-60 seconds. You should feel your hamstrings, quads, Achilles tendons, lower back, and groin gently stretching. If you’re super stiff, it may take a few days of practice to sink into a full squat. Keep at it. Your back and hips will thank you.

Intersperse a few short squatting sessions into your daily routine.

Table Pigeon Pose

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If you’ve done yoga, you’re probably familiar with the pigeon pose. This stretch is the same thing, except you use a table, which makes it a bit easier to perform and allows you to stretch out your muscles from different angles. Start by placing your leg on a tabletop (you could also use your bed) with the knee bent at 90 degrees. Place one hand on the table and one hand on your foot for support. Lean forward and hold for 60-90 seconds. Then lean left to the 10 o’clock position and hold for 60-90 seconds. Lean right to the 2 o’clock position and hold for 60-90 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

If you have knee problems, rotate your body so that your ankle hangs off the table and place a pillow underneath your knee. Aim to do two pigeon poses a day (I personally do one during my workout and another at a random time).

Couch Stretch

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This stretch is a killer. I didn’t realize how unlimber I was until I tried doing the couch stretch. It’s basically a quad stretch ratcheted up a few notches. Starrett argues that this will undo years of sitting.

You actually don’t need a couch for this stretch, it just makes it a bit more comfortable (if that’s even possible). You can also do it on the floor by putting your knee against a wall.

For the “easy” version, place the knee of the leg you’re stretching against the back of your sofa. Place the foot of your other leg on the floor. Slowly raise your torso to a neutral spine position (i.e. standing straight and tall). As you raise your torso, squeeze your butt and abs. Hold the position for up to four minutes. Switch and repeat on the other leg. You should feel things really stretch in your hip flexor area — just don’t push yourself too hard.

To up the ante, bring your non-stretching leg up onto the seat of the couch. Keeping a straight, neutral spine, squeeze the butt and abs and work your way up to holding the position for four minutes. Keep in mind that it may be awhile before you can get your torso to a straight position. When I first started doing this stretch the “hard way,” I could only raise my torso to a 45-degree angle and I’d have to support myself with my hand on the floor. I was eventually able to move to a straight position after two weeks of dedicated stretching. The difference in the mobility of my hips was (and continues to be) significant.

This stretch is so good that I try to do it every day, sometimes before a workout, sometimes when I’m just hanging out while Gus watches Paw Patrol.

Activate Those Glutes

Barbell Bridges

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This is another exercise that makes you look goofy but does wonders for your glutes and hips. It has been a great support exercise for the deadlift.

Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put a padded barbell across your hips and grab it with an overhand grip about shoulder-width apart. Raise your waist off the ground while squeezing your glutes until your hips are aligned with your body. Return to the starting position, and complete three sets of 10 reps.

Aim to do this exercise one to two times a week. You can add weight as you get stronger. If you can’t do it with the weight of the barbell, try un-weighted bridges.

Clamshells

Fair warning: You’re going to feel a bit ridiculous doing this exercise. But it’s one of the best for activating your glutes. If you’re self-conscious, do this at home before you go to the gym so no one sees you.

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Fire Hydrants

Hey, look! Another glute activation exercise that makes you look goofy! It’s called the fire hydrant because you’re going to mimic how a dog pees on a fire hydrant. For real.

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I learned these moves from a few sources: Becoming the Supple Leopard by physical therapist Kelly Starrett, paleo guru Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple, and weightlifter Medhi from Stronglifts. If you’re looking to increase not only your hip mobility, but your all-around limberness, Starrett’s book and website are especially helpful.

Illustrations by Ted Slampyak

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Seeing Doctor Regularly May Cut Your Colon Cancer Risk

Seeing Doctor Regularly May Cut Your Colon Cancer Risk

 The more often seniors with Medicare coverage visit their primary care physician, the less likely they are to either get colorectal cancer or die from the disease if they do, new research suggests. Moreover, the investigation also found that the greater the frequency of visits, the less likely such seniors were to die of any cause at all.

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“Specifically in terms of colorectal cancer this is very important to know, because that is one of the cancers that is preventable,” explained study author Dr. Jeanne Ferrante, an associate professor in the department of family medicine and community health at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Somerset, N.J. “And we found that people who do visit their primary care physician are more likely to get screened for colorectal cancer,” she noted. “And those people, in turn, are less likely to get colorectal cancer, as well as less likely to die from it.”

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The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women who face an average risk for colorectal cancer begin getting some type of routine screening starting at age 50. That can take the form of a colonoscopy once a decade, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy or virtual CT colonoscopy once every five years, and may result in polyp removal. Those at high risk due to a personal or family history of the disease, polyp development and/or inflammatory bowel disease are encouraged to start screening at an earlier age and to repeat the process more frequently.

For the investigation, the authors sifted through U.S. Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data on nearly 103,000 Medicare patients newly diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1994 and 2005. Data covering another approximately 27,000 Medicare patients who died of the disease in that timeframe was also included, as was information on more than 62,000 patients who died of any number of causes. Given that Medicare typically kicks in at age 65 (and that colorectal cancer screening is not advised for people over the age of 85), the average age of those in the study hovered around 76.

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A review of Medicare claims paperwork was conducted to identify all primary care visits made during the four– to 27-month period leading up to a cancer diagnosis or death due to colorectal cancer or any other cause.

The result: Patients who had seen a doctor between five and 10 times in the allotted timeframe had a 6% lower risk of disease (and a 22% lower risk of colorectal cancer death) than those who had never seen their doctor or had visited just once. All-cause death rates were 21% lower the more often a patient saw their doctor.

That said, Ferrante stressed that in the world of cancer risk many different factors are at play, making it impossible to draw a simple cause-and-effect link between primary care doctor visits and a reduced risk for colorectal cancer diagnosis and mortality. “For example, we found that although we looked at a group of people that had universal care insurance, still more than one quarter had either never visited a primary care doctor or had done so just once in the study period,” she noted. “So it could be that the Medicare patients who do go in to see their primary care physician are so-called ‘healthy users’ to begin with. By that we mean people who are by definition more concerned about their health and make an effort to take better care of themselves in general,” Ferrante explained. “So, while we do want to emphasize the importance of seeing a primary care physician, the act of going might actually reflect other factors that contribute to a lower cancer risk.”

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Dr. Robert Schoen, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, suggested that the study should be interpreted as “yet another reason to go see your primary care physician. This looks at a basic research question,” he noted. “What is the benefit of going to a primary care physician? Do routine physicals help? Do blood tests help? What really is of value here?”

“And this study,” Schoen said, “clearly points to a big benefit that comes from going to your doctor, by showing this protective association. Now, there are caveats. Yes, we don’t know if the people who go are more health-conscious to begin with, and because this is based on observational data we don’t actually know what happens during these visits. What did the doctors actually recommend in terms of screenings? But even so, it is logical to presume that the more contact with a primary care physician, the more likely colorectal cancer prevention was discussed and acted on.”

Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

Provided by Rebecca McGonigle, Wellstyles Newsletter, November 2013, Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT).

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Asthma Control at the Office

Asthma Control at the Office

Learn what you need to do to practice successful asthma control while at work and prevent an asthma attack.

Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin MD, MPH

You walk into work feeling well, with your asthma under control, but then leave at the end of the day wheezing and short of breath or, even worse, after experiencing an asthma attack at the office. This scenario plays out daily for a number of asthmatics whose workplaces are filled with asthma triggers. If you’re one of them, there are strategies you can adopt to make the situation more manageable.

Be Prepared for Asthma Control at Work

Follow your asthma action plan at work and also at home to avoid an asthma attack on the job. Some precautions you can take:

  • Keep an inhaler within reach. “Having an albuterol inhaler is the best way to prevent an asthma attack from a personal control standpoint, beyond trying to avoid what triggers the attack,” advises Mark Moss, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
  • Let someone know about your asthma. Depending on the severity of your asthma, you may want to alert a co-worker or your supervisor about your risk of an asthma attack and what triggers your asthma symptoms. You should also provide them with emergency contact information in case they need to call yourdoctor or a family member.
  • Voice your concern about asthma triggers. “People do get self-conscious about having asthma, may not want others to know that they have a health condition, and be reluctant to raise concern,” says Dr. Moss. “Others may be reluctant to be the whistleblower. The hard part is that not all workplaces respond the same way. I’ve had patients that raised concern to their supervisor, their supervisor took it very seriously, and then several other co-workers were very happy that a trigger was removed. Other patients have raised concern to the supervisor, and the supervisor was less sympathetic and may or may not have taken any action.”
  • Get a doctor’s note. If your supervisor doesn’t seem to fully understand your asthma control needs, your doctor may be able to write a letter explaining your condition and any modifications that need to be made in your workplace.

Identify Asthma Attack Triggers at the Office

While you have more control over your environment at home than you do at work, you should still be proactive about identifying asthma attack triggers at your workplace and managing them if you can. Allergies and asthma are both very common problems so, chances are, if you are bothered by a moldy carpet or excessive use of spray cleaning products, someone else may be, too, even if he doesn’t have asthma attacks.

In fact, while you may believe that, as an asthmatic, you are the sick one, it is also possible for buildings to be considered sick. “Sick building syndrome” means that the inner environment of a building is causing a significant number of people to have problems with congestion, headaches, asthma symptoms, and other health issues that they would not otherwise have — symptoms that clear up as soon as they are out of the office. A survey of 14,151 workers identified common asthma triggers that related to their occupation. These included insects, latex, flour, industrial cleaning agents, paper, dust, and carbonless copy paper. Other possible causes of an asthma attack at work are the same as they are at home: cockroaches and their droppings, pet dander (cat dander, for example, can come into the workplace by way of other people’s clothing or accessories) and mold. Let your supervisor know if you identify any triggers that must be cleaned up by a pest control professional, facilities services, or janitorial staff. Depending on how big the business is, cleaning up asthma attack triggers may be your responsibility (in a small office) or a task for building management (in a multi-story, multi-tenant office building).

If a combination of personal asthma control and identification of asthma triggers on the job is not enough, try one more thing: better communication with your supervisor. You may not be the only one suffering from asthma, and your co-workers will likely thank you for clearing the air.

8 ways red wine keeps you healthy

8 ways red wine keeps you healthy

TODAY Health Nov. 6, 2012 at 8:23 AM ET

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By Stephanie Castillo,Prevention

Any hardworking gal knows that kicking back with a girlfriend and a glass of red wine is a fabulous way to de-stress. The best part? Your red-wine habit also happens to come with some happy health benefits, such as protecting your ticker and even slimming your waistline. Check out these eight reasons why winding down with a glass of vino is a good call all around.

1. Lower your cholesterol

High-fiber Tempranillo red grapes—which are used to make certain red wines, like Rioja—may actually have a significant effect on cholesterol levels, according to a study from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain.

Healthy study participants who consumed the same grape supplement found in red wine saw their LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” levels decrease by 9% among healthy. Participants with high cholesterol experienced a drop of 12%. What’s the big deal? Excess LDL ends up getting deposited in arterial walls and forming plaque, which causes arteries to stiffen and blood pressure to rise, ultimately leading to heart attacks, says Arthur Agatson, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami and author of The South Beach Heart Program.

2. Protect your heart

On top of lowering bad cholesterol, polyphenols—the antioxidants in red wine—can help keep blood vessels flexible and reduce the risk of unwanted clotting, says John Folts, PhD, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and nutrition at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“They’re nearly as effective as aspirin,” says Folts. But be careful: Chronic heavy drinking damages the heart, so, as with most things, moderation is key.

3. Control blood sugar

The skin of red grapes—a rich source of red wine’s natural compound resveratrol—may actually help diabetics regulate their blood sugar, finds recent research published in the journal Nutrition. Study participants who took a 250 mg resveratrol supplement once a day for three months had lower blood glucose levels than those who didn’t take the pill. Plus, resveratrol-takers also had significant decreases in total cholesterol and systolic blood pressure. Researchers suspect that resveratrol may help stimulate insulin secretion or activate a protein that helps regulate glucose and insulin sensitivity.

4. Boost your brain

Resveratrol may also be the key to keeping your memory sharp, says Philippe Marambaud, PhD, a senior research scientist at New York’s Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders. The compound has been shown to hamper the formation of beta-amyloid protein, a key ingredient in the plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Marambaud suggests flexing your noodle by doing crossword puzzles and brain teasers for an hour then cooling down with a glass of wine.

5. Fight off a cold

If you hate getting sick (and who doesn’t?), the antioxidants in red wine may help keep you healthy. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that among 4,000 faculty members at five Spanish universities, those who drank more than 14 weekly glasses of wine for a year were 40% less likely to come down with a common cold. Why? According to the National Institutes of Health, antioxidants are believed to fight infection and protect cells against the effects of free radicals, which may play role in cancer and other diseases.

Another antioxidant boost? They may also lower sex hormone levels to protect against breast cancer, says a study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

6. Stop cancer

According to researchers at the University of Virginia, the resveratrol you get from drinking one glass of red wine three or four times a week may be enough to starve any nascent cancer cells. The scientists dosed human cancer cells with resveratrol and found that the compound inhibited the key action of a cancer-feeding protein.

7. Get slim

Clearly, resveratrol is a bit of a limelight hog when it comes to the healthful compounds in vino. But research in the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests piceatannol, the chemical compound our bodies convert from resveratrol, deserves some credit. This compound was shown to actually prevent the growth of fat cells in a series of lab tests. How? Researchers say that piceatannol binds to the insulin receptors of fat cells, essentially blocking the pathways necessary for immature fat cells to mature and grow.

8. Jazz up dinner

Who said your red wine consumption had to be limited to the glass? You can include the drink in your dinner, either as a sauce or complimentary ingredient, and still reap its benefits.

World’s Top 25 Healthiest Foods

Prevention

World’s Top 25 Healthiest Foods

25 Ridiculously Healthy Foods

Pile your plate with these nutrition superstars

The Healthy Superfoods You Need

The following healthy power foods can claim big bragging rights: They can fend off serious diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease; fortify your immune system; protect and smooth your skin; and help you lose weight or stay slim. If you’re eating most of these healthy foods already, good for you! If not, now’s the time to load up your shopping cart and supercharge your health!

1. Eggs

Egg yolks are home to tons of essential but hard-to-get nutrients, including choline, which is linked to lower rates of breast cancer (one yolk supplies 25% of your daily need) and antioxidants that may help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Though many of us have shunned whole eggs because of their link to heart disease risk, there’s actually substantial evidence that for most of us, eggs are not harmful but healthy. People with heart disease should limit egg yolks to two a week, but the rest of us can have one whole egg daily; research shows it won’t raise your risk of heart attack or stroke. Make omelets with one whole egg and two whites, and watch cholesterol at other meals.

More from Prevention: Foods That Burn Belly Fat

2. Greek Yogurt

Yogurt is a great way to get calcium, and it’s also rich in immune-boosting bacteria. But next time you hit the yogurt aisle, pick up the Greek kind—compared with regular yogurt, it has twice the protein (and 25% of women over 40 don’t get enough). Look for fat-free varieties like Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt (90 calories and 15 g of protein per 5.3-ounce serving).

3. Fat-Free Milk

Yes, it does a body good: Studies show that calcium isn’t just a bone booster but a fat fighter too. Recent research from the University of Tennessee found that obese people who went on a low-calorie, calcium-rich diet lost 70% more weight than those who ate the least. Vitamin D not only allows your body to absorb calcium, it’s also a super nutrient in its own right. Research shows that adequate D levels can reduce heart disease risk, ward off certain types of cancer, relieve back pain, and even help prevent depression, but most of us don’t get nearly enough of the 1,000+ IU daily that most experts recommend. A splash of milk in your morning coffee isn’t enough to provide the calcium and vitamin D you need. Use milk instead of water to make your oatmeal, have a glass with breakfast, or stir some chocolate syrup into it for an after-dinner treat.

4. Salmon

Salmon is a rich source of vitamin D and one of the best sources of omega-3s you can find. These essential fatty acids have a wide range of impressive health benefits—from preventing heart disease to smoothing your skin and aiding weight loss to boosting your mood and minimizing the effects of arthritis. Unfortunately, many Americans aren’t reaping these perks because we’re deficient, which some experts believe may be at the root of many of the big health problems today, like obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Omega-3s also slow the rate of digestion, which makes you feel fuller longer, so you eat fewer calories throughout the day.

More from Prevention: Healthy Salmon Recipes

5. Lean Beef

Lean beef is one of the best-absorbed sources of iron there is. (Too-little iron can cause anemia.) Adding as little as 1 ounce of beef per day can make a big difference in the body’s ability to absorb iron from other sources, says Mary J. Kretsch, PhD, a researcher at the USDA-ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, CA. Beef also packs plenty of zinc (even minor deficiencies may impair memory) and B vitamins, which help your body turn food into energy. If you can, splurge on grass-fed. Compared with grain-fed beef, it has twice the concentration of vitamin E, a powerful brain-boosting antioxidant. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Because this type of beef tends to be lower in overall fat, it can be tough—so marinate it, and use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking.

More from Prevention: Healthy Beef Recipes

6. Beans

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect food than beans. One cooked cupful can provide as much as 17 g fiber. They’re also loaded with protein and dozens of key nutrients, including a few most women fall short on—calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Studies tie beans to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers. The latest dietary guidelines recommend consuming at least 3 cups of beans a week—3 times the measly 1 cup we usually get. Keep your cupboards stocked with all kinds: black, white, kidney, fat-free refried, etc. Use them in salads, stuffed baked potatoes, and veggie chili or pureed for sandwich spreads.

7. Nuts

In a nutshell: USDA researchers say that eating 1½ ounces of tree nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Walnuts are rich in omega-3s. Hazelnuts contain arginine, an amino acid that may lower blood pressure. An ounce of almonds has as many heart-healthy polyphenols as a cup of green tea and 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli combined; they may help lower LDL cholesterol as well. The key is moderation, since nuts are high in calories. Keep a jar of chopped nuts in your fridge, and sprinkle a tablespoon on cereal, salads, stir-fries, or yogurt. Or have an ounce as a snack most days of the week.

8. Edamame and Tofu

Soy’s days as a cure-all may be over—some claims, such as help for hot flashes, don’t seem to be panning out—but edamame still has an important place on your plate. Foods such as tofu, soy milk, and edamame help fight heart disease when they replace fatty meats and cheeses, slashing saturated fat intake. Soy also contains heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, a good amount of fiber, and some important vitamins. Soy’s isoflavones, or plant estrogens, may also help prevent breast cancer. Some researchers believe these bind with estrogen receptors, reducing your exposure to the more powerful effects of your own estrogen, says Prevention advisor Andrew Weil, MD. But stick with whole soy foods rather than processed foods, like patties or chips, made with soy powder. Don’t take soy supplements, which contain high and possibly dangerous amounts of isoflavones.

9. Oatmeal

Fiber-rich oats are even healthier than the FDA thought when it first stamped them with a heart disease-reducing seal 10 years ago. According to new research, they can also cut your risk of type 2 diabetes. When Finnish researchers tracked 4,316 men and women over the course of 10 years, they found that people who ate the highest percentage of cereal fiber were 61% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. To reap the benefits, eat 1/2 cup daily—preferably unsweetened. For a versatile breakfast, top with different combinations of fruit, yogurt, and nuts. You can also use oats to coat fish or chicken or add texture to meatballs.

10. Flaxseed

Flaxseed is the most potent plant source of omega-3 fats. Studies indicate that adding flaxseed to your diet can reduce the development of heart disease by 46%—it helps keep red blood cells from clumping together and forming clots that can block arteries. It may also reduce breast cancer odds. In one study, women who ate 10 g of flaxseed (about 1 rounded tablespoon) every day for 2 months had a 25% improvement in the ratio of breast cancer-protective to breast cancer-promoting chemicals in their blood. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of flaxseed a day on your cereal, salad, or yogurt. Buy it preground, and keep it refrigerated.

11. Olive Oil

Olive oil is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol. It’s rich in antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s. Look for extra virgin oils for the most antioxidants and flavor. Drizzle small amounts on veggies before roasting; use it to sauté or stir-fry, in dressings and marinades, and to flavor bread at dinner in lieu of a layer of butter or margarine.

More from Prevention: 7 Grossest Things In Your Food

12. Avocado

These smooth, buttery fruits are a great source of not only MUFAs but other key nutrients as well. One Ohio State University study found that when avocado was added to salads and salsa, it helped increase the absorption of specific carotenoids, plant compounds linked to lower risk of heart disease and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. “Avocados are packed with heart-protective compounds, such as soluble fiber, vitamin E, folate, and potassium,” says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman’s Diet. But they are a bit high in calories. To avoid weight gain, use avocado in place of another high-fat food or condiment, such as cheese or mayo.

More from Prevention: Healthy Avocado Recipes

13. Broccoli

Pick any life-threatening disease—cancer, heart disease, you name it—and eating more broccoli and its cruciferous cousins may help you beat it, Johns Hopkins research suggests. Averaging just four weekly servings of veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower slashed the risk of dying from any disease by 26% among 6,100 people studied for 28 years. For maximum disease-fighting benefits, whip out your old veggie steamer. It turns out that steaming broccoli lightly releases the maximum amount of sulforaphane.

14. Spinach

We’ll spare you the Popeye jokes, but spinach has serious health muscles. For one thing, it contains lots of lutein, the sunshine-yellow pigment found in egg yolks. Aside from guarding against age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, lutein may prevent heart attacks by keeping artery walls clear of cholesterol. Spinach is also rich in iron, which helps deliver oxygen to your cells for energy, and folate, a B vitamin that prevents birth defects. Cook frozen spinach leaves (they provide more iron when cooked than raw) and serve as a side dish with dinner a few times a week.

15. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are our most common source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect against heart disease and breast cancer. The only problem with tomatoes is that we generally eat them in the form of sugar-loaded jarred spaghetti sauce or as a thin slice in a sandwich. For a healthier side dish idea, quarter plum tomatoes and coat with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes, and serve with chicken.

More from Prevention: 6 Tasty Tomato Recipes

16. Sweet Potatoes

One of the best ways to get vitamin A—an essential nutrient that protects and maintains eyes, skin, and the linings of our respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts—is from foods containing beta-carotene, which your body converts into the vitamin. Beta carotene-rich foods include carrots, squash, kale, and cantaloupe, but sweet potatoes have among the most. A half-cup serving of these sweet spuds delivers only 130 calories but 80% of the DV of vitamin A. Replace tonight’s fries with one medium baked sweet potato (1,096 mcg) and you’re good to go—and then some.

More from Prevention: 6 Super Smoothies

17. Garlic

Garlic is a flavor essential and a health superstar in its own right. The onion relative contains more than 70 active phytochemicals, including allicin, which studies show may decrease high blood pressure by as much as 30 points. High consumption of garlic lowered rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers, according to a research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Allicin also fights infection and bacteria. British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. The key to healthier garlic: Crush the cloves, and let them stand for up to 30 minutes before heating them, which activates and preserves the heart-protecting compounds, according to a 2007 study from Argentina.

18. Red Peppers

Citrus fruits get all the credit for vitamin C, but red peppers are actually the best source. Vitamin C may be best known for skin and immunity benefits. Researchers in the United Kingdom looked at vitamin C intake in 4,025 women and found that those who ate more had less wrinkling and dryness. And although getting enough vitamin C won’t prevent you from catching a cold or flu, studies show that it could help you recover faster. Vitamin C has other important credentials too. Finnish researchers found that men with low levels were 2.4 times likelier to have a stroke, and Australian scientists recently discovered that the antioxidant reduces knee pain by protecting your knees against arthritis.

19. Figs

When you think of potassium-rich produce, figs probably don’t come to mind, but you may be surprised to learn that six fresh figs have 891 mg of the blood pressure-lowering mineral, nearly 20% of your daily need—and about double what you’d find in one large banana. In a recent 5-year study from the Netherlands, high-potassium diets were linked with lower rates of death from all causes in healthy adults age 55 and older. Figs are one of the best fruit sources of calcium, with nearly as much per serving (six figs) as 1/2 cup of fat-free milk. Serve by chopping and adding to yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal, or green salads. Or enjoy them as a savory snack: Cut a slit in the side and stuff with 1/2 teaspoon of a low-fat version of a soft cheese such as chevre or Brie.

20. Blueberries

Blueberries may very well be the most potent age-defying food—they’re jam-packed with antioxidants. When researchers at Cornell University tested 25 fruits for these potent compounds, they found that tangy-sweet wild blueberries (which are smaller than their cultivated cousins) packed the most absorbable antioxidants. Research shows a diet rich in blueberries can help with memory loss, prevent urinary tract infections, and relieve eyestrain. Add up to 1/2 cup of blueberries to your diet a day for maximum health benefits, recommends Ronald Prior, PhD, adjunct professor of food science at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This alone provides just about double the amount of antioxidants most Americans get in 1 day.

21. Asian Pears

One large Asian pear has a whopping 10 g of cholesterol-lowering fiber, about 40% of your daily need. People who ate the most fiber had the lowest total and LDL cholesterol levels, according to a recent study of Baltimore adults. The same researchers found that people who ate the most fiber also weighed the least and had the lowest body mass index and waist circumference. Serve by dicing it into a salad of Boston lettuce, crumbled goat cheese, walnuts, and mandarin oranges. Or make it a dessert: Add peeled and cored pears to a saucepan with 1 cup white wine, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, and enough water to cover the pears. Cover and simmer 40 minutes or until pears are soft.

More from Prevention: 20 Ways To Feed Your Family For $100 A Week

22. Lychee

A French study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that lychee has the second-highest level of heart-healthy polyphenols of all fruits tested—nearly 15% more than the amount found in grapes (cited by many as polyphenol powerhouses). The compounds may also play an important role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer. Serve by peeling or breaking the outer covering just below the stem; use a knife to remove the black pit. Add to stir-fries or skewer onto chicken kebabs to add a sweet, grapelike flavor.

23. Apples

One of the healthiest fruits you should be eating is one you probably already are: the apple. The Iowa Women’s Health Study, which has been investigating the health habits of 34,000 women for nearly 20 years, named apples as one of only three foods (along with pears and red wine) that are most effective at reducing the risk of death from heart disease among postmenopausal women. Other massive studies have found the fruit to lower risk of lung cancer and type 2 diabetes—and even help women lose weight. In fact, one of the only things that could make an apple unhealthy is mixing it with sugar, flour, and butter and stuffing it into a mile-high pie. Instead, have one as an afternoon snack with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or add slices to sandwiches or salads.

More from Prevention: Healthy Apple Recipes

24. Guava

Native to South America, this tropical fruit is an excellent source of skin-healing vitamin C, with 250% of your RDA per serving. One cup of guava has nearly 5 times as much C as a medium orange (377 mg versus 83 mg)—that’s more than 5 times your daily need. It’s also loaded with lycopene (26% more than a tomato), which may help lower your risk of heart disease. And according to research by microbiologists in Bangladesh, guava can even protect against foodborne pathogens such as Listeria and staph. You can buy guava juice, or simmer chunks in water as you would to make applesauce. Guava also makes a super smoothie: Blend 1/2 banana, 1/2 ripe guava, a handful of strawberries, 1/2 cup soy milk, and a few ice cubes.

25. Dark Chocolate

Thank you, dark chocolate, for making us feel good—not guilty—about dessert. Dark chocolate is filled with flavonoid antioxidants (more than 3 times the amount in milk chocolate) that keep blood platelets from sticking together and may even unclog your arteries.It may also help with weight loss by keeping you feeling full, according to a study from Denmark. Researchers gave 16 participants 100 g of either dark or milk chocolate and 2 hours later offered them pizza. Those who consumed the dark chocolate ate 15% fewer calories than those who had milk chocolate, and they were less interested in fatty, salty, and sugary foods. Try a chocolate with 70% or more cocoa. Two tablespoons of dark chocolate chips with fresh berries as a midafternoon snack or after-dinner dessert should give you some of the heart-healthy benefits without busting your calorie budget.

Read more: http://www.prevention.com/print/27166#ixzz2FHhsQMb8

Exercise Reduces Risk of Dementia

Regular physical activity reduces risk of dementia in older people

November 01, 2012
Study Highlights:
  • Physical activity significantly reduces the risk of dementia in older people.
  • The effect of physical activity remained regardless of age, education or history of stroke or diabetes.
  • Thirty minutes of physical activity three times a week had a significant impact on brain health.
 
DALLAS, Nov. 1, 2012 — Regular physical activity External link may help older people reduce their chances of getting dementia.
In a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, older, non-disabled people who regularly engaged in physical activity reduced their risk of vascular-related dementia by 40 percent and cognitive impairment of any etiology by 60 percent.
The protective effect of regular physical activity remained regardless of age, education, changes in the brain’s white matter and even previous history of stroke External link or diabetes External link, researchers said.
The findings are based on a prospective multinational European study that included yearly comprehensive cognitive assessments for three years. The results are part of increasing evidence that regular physical activity promotes brain health, researchers said.
“We strongly suggest physical activity of moderate intensity at least 30 minutes three times a week to prevent cognitive impairment,” said Ana Verdelho, M.D., lead author of the study and a neuroscience researcher at the University of Lisbon, Santa Maria Hospital in Portugal. “This is particularly important for people with vascular risk factors such as hypertension, stroke or diabetes.”
The analysis included 639 people in their 60s and 70s; 55 percent were women and almost 64 percent said they were active at least 30 minutes a day three times a week. The activity included gym classes, walking and biking.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise for optimal health.
Researchers performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests at the beginning and end of the study to gauge white matter changes in the brain, an indicator of possible cognitive decline.
“Damage of the cerebral white matter is implicated in cognitive problems including depression, walking difficulties and urinary complaints,” Verdelho said. “White matter changes are very common in older people and mainly associated with vascular risk factors like hypertension and stroke.”
Throughout the study, researchers asked participants in phone interviews and clinical visits about depression, quality of life and performing everyday activities.
At the end of the follow-up, 90 patients had dementia, including 54 with vascular dementia in which impaired blood flow to the brain causes cognitive decline, and 34 patients met criteria for Alzheimer’s disease. Another 147 patients developed cognitive impairment, but not dementia.
Co-authors are Sofia Madureira, Psy.D.; José M. Ferro, M.D., Ph.D.; Hansjörg Baezner, M.D., Ph.D.; Christian Blahak, M.D.; Michael Hennerici, M.D.; Christian Blahak, M.D.; Anna Poggesi, M.D.; Leonardo Pantoni, M.D., Ph.D.; Franz Fazekas, M.D.; Philip Scheltens, M.D., Ph.D.; Gunhild Waldemar, M.D., D.M.Sc.; Anders Wallin, M.D., Ph.D.; Timo Erkinjuntti, M.D., Ph.D. and Domenico Inzitari, M.D. Author disclosures and funding sources are on the manuscript.
For the latest heart and stroke news, follow @Heart News External linkon Twitter.
For stroke science updates, follow the Stroke journal at @StrokeAHA_ASA External link.
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Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available atwww.heart.org/corporatefunding External link.
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