A Simple, Fast Way to Build Core Strength

Swissball

There are a lot of different ways out there to strengthen your core, but one of my favorites to increase core strength and improve balance is the Swiss ball. This simple piece of equipment is not only inexpensive but very effective for building overall strength that will improve everyday functional movements. Many Americans have one of these balls, but often it’s just hanging around in their basement collecting dust. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Cooking Shows, Energy Drinks and Big Ears

Cooking shows may help pack on the pounds. Cooking shows have become exceedingly popular and the offerings come in all different flavors. But your die-hard watching of the latest cooking show may be helping you gain weight according to a new study out this week. “The study involved 500 women, aged 20 to 35. Participants filled out online surveys that included questions about their height and weight, and whether they preferred to cook from scratch or turn to books and television shows for inspiration. Then they categorized women into doers and viewers. Doers were women who watched the shows and then cooked from scratch and viewers watched shows but did not cook. Doers were, on average, 11 pounds heavier than viewers.” The researchers point out that the recipes on these shows are often geared more at entertaining, which means they’re often loaded with carbs and fat and may come in large portions. According to the authors, “If you want to make what you see on those shows, tune into the healthier cooking shows, or take the recipes you like and make them healthier. Make sure the portion sizes are correct and maybe save those special fried Oreo cookies for the special occasions.” (CBS)

Energy drinks boost your blood pressure. Energy drinks make all sorts of claims about how they bring your energy up when your levels get low, but new research has found they may be boosting your blood pressure as well. “Researchers found that energy drinks can raise blood pressure to potentially unhealthy levels. The effect was far more prominent in young adults who did not consume caffeine regularly. The research team gave a can of a commercially available energy drink to 25 healthy volunteers, whose ages ranged from 19 to 40. On a different day, the participants drank the same amount of a placebo drink. The researchers measured the participants’ heart rate and blood pressure before and after the drinks. The participants experienced a more marked rise in blood pressure after consuming the energy drink than after drinking the placebo. The participants’ average systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) increased by 3 percent more after they drank an energy drink, compared with the placebo drink.” While that amount might not seem like much, the researchers point out that even a small increase can be dangerous in some. “At a population level, an increase of three or four points on a systolic blood pressure reading could mean a significant increase in deaths from stroke. Scientists do not know whether it is the caffeine, taurine or other ingredients found in energy drinks — or a combination of ingredients — that adversely affects the heart.” (Fox)

If you have big ears, people don’t seem to mind. Having ears that seem too big or that stick out too much might seem like cause for embarrassment, but a new study out this week has found those self-conscious about their ears shouldn’t be so concerned. “To see how much people really notice protruding ears and if seeing them triggers any biased assumptions about personality, the surgeons showed 20 adult volunteers pictures of 20 children aged five to 19 as they were and digitally altered to make the ears sit closer to the head. The observers rated the kids in all the images on 10 personality traits by scoring them on a scale of one to 10 representing pairs of opposite extremes, such as friendly-unfriendly, creative-uninspired and honest-dishonest. Participants rated the kids equally assiduous, intelligent and likeable regardless of ear type. In fact, people spent the most time focusing on protruding ears in the unaltered photographs, and those images scored higher on assiduousness, likeability and intelligence than the doctored images.” (Reuters)

Low Vitamin D Common; May Affect Depression

beautiful girl enjoying the summer sun

Vitamin D has been the target of a wide variety of studies lately looking at everything from how it affects your blood pressure to the length of your life. For several years, vitamin D levels have been linked to depression, but most of these studies were done in older adults who were often in poor health. A new study out this week has looked to fill that gap by examining whether vitamin D levels play a role in depression for younger women as well. Read more  »

Prepping Yourself for Spring Allergy Season

sick woman allergies sneeze tissueThe weather is changing for the better outside, but not everyone is pleased. If you’re like millions of other Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, the warming weather also signals the coming of pollen season along with itchy eyes and a running nose. To help you get a jump on your seasonal allergies, I’ve put together a few pieces of information that I think will be helpful in getting you well prepared.

Where do seasonal allergies come from?

Our body’s immune system has a variety of different cell types to combat various invaders. The cells that trigger allergies are mast cells and basophils and they’re supposed to fight foreign invaders that can infect our bodies. In the case of allergies, these cells get tricked into thinking that pollen found in the air is a foreign invader. They respond by releasing a variety of inflammatory compounds to fight off the pollen, which leads to the itchy eyes and runny nose that you get during seasonal allergies. Read more  »

Front-of-Pack Nutrition Symbols: Should You Choose Them or Lose Them?

Woman shopping for candy grocery store

Picture this: You are standing in the grocery store, two similar items in hand, debating which is the healthier option: one carries a bold “front-of-pack” (FOP) nutrition symbol on the front of the package that calls out the amounts of certain nutrients like sodium, sugars or saturated fat. The other food does not. Should you be swayed?

In an effort to capture your attention in a crowded aisle and influence your perception of a product, roughly 20% of food products now carry these types of FOP ratings systems and symbols. Yet a recent study in Appetite found that foods that carry FOP nutrition symbols are not any healthier than those without them. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Breast Biopsies, Diet Soda and Loneliness

Breast biopsies found less reliable for subtle abnormalities. If you’ve ever had a positive mammogram, you may have gone on to have a breast biopsy to either confirm or refute the presence of cancer. A new study has found that works well for obvious cases, but may not be as good when the cancer is harder to detect. “The team asked pathologists to examine biopsy slides, then compared their diagnoses with those given by a panel of leading experts who had seen the same slides. There was good news and bad news. When it came to invasive cancer — cancer that has begun growing beyond the layer of tissue in which it started, into nearby healthy tissue — the outside pathologists agreed with the experts in 96 percent of the interpretations. They found the vast majority of the cancers.” But in the case of DCIS and cellular atypia, two findings that could indicate cancer, the disagreement was larger. For atypia, the experts agreed in only 48 percent of the interpretations. The outside pathologists diagnosed atypia in 17 percent of the readings where the experts had not, and missed it in 35 percent where the experts saw it.” The researchers say that if a biopsy is positive, the most helpful next step is just to get a second opinion before going forward with further treatment. (New York Times)

Drinking diet sodas may be linked to more belly fat. Recent research has pinned all sorts of problems on the consumption of artificial sweeteners and it looks like belly fat might be another. “The researchers looked at findings from a previous study of more than 700 white and Latino people. They were all 65 or older when they entered the study from 1992 to 1996. Researchers tracked them for an average of just over nine years to see what happened as they aged. The study ended in 2004. The researchers found that the waistlines of people who never drank diet sodas increased by 0.8 inches for the length of the study. By comparison, occasional diet soda drinkers’ abdominal girth grew by 1.8 inches during the same time. Waistlines expanded by more than 3 inches in those who consumed the drinks every day, according to the study.” The team is quick to caution that correlation doesn’t mean the diet sodas are behind the weight gain. People might switch to diet soda after gaining weight, for example, making those with bigger waistlines more likely to drink diet soda. To be safe, the researchers recommend switching to tea or coffee for the caffeine or having seltzer water if you want carbonation. (CBS)

Loneliness may significantly increase your risk of dying. You’ve probably experience the psychological toll of feeling lonely at one point or another in your life, but you probably didn’t think about the effects that loneliness might have on your health. “The researchers analyzed data collected from 70 studies and more than 3.4 million people from 1980 to 2014. The studies, which followed people for about seven years on average, showed that people who were socially isolated, lonely or living alone had about a 30 percent higher chance of dying during a given study period than those who had regular social contact.” The researchers point out that loneliness may show up in different situations for different people. “Some people with strong social networks may still feel lonely, even when surrounded by loved ones. Others choose social isolation and even prefer it.” The effect was larger for those who were under 65 than for those over 65. The researchers hope that the findings show the importance of social ties in maintaining good overall health. “Although living alone can offer conveniences and advantages for an individual physical health is not among them.” (Fox)

Big Breakfast, Small Dinner Holds Blood Sugar Steady

woman having breakfastChanging blood sugar is a fact of life. Every time you eat something, the sugars in the food are absorbed and pass into the bloodstream. From there, they circulate until your body removes them either for use or for storage. But for those with type 2 diabetes, this second step isn’t so easy. Their body doesn’t remove sugar effectively from the blood because it has trouble recognizing that there’s even sugar there to remove. When it does, it responds sluggishly. Fortunately, new research out this week has found that the amount you eat at different meals can change how well your body responds to sugar, which may help diabetics get their numbers under better control. Read more  »

Sharecare Top 5: Which Colon Cancer Test Is Right for You? Plus: Lush Lashes, Delicious Dip Recipes and More

Fresh guacamole in bowl on wooden table

On Sharecare we’re recognizing National Colon Cancer Awareness Month with screening tips, giving you pointers to boost your sex life and sharing yummy, healthy recipes perfect for any occasion.

1. The colonoscopy may be the best-known screening test for colon cancer, but it’s not the only option. Get the lowdown on several other tests you may want to discuss with your doctor and find out which is best for you.

2. Variety is the spice of life–including your love life. Check out this video from sex therapist Ian Kerner as he shares simple ways to heat things up between the sheets.

3. Want longer lashes but not sure how to get that effortless look? Learn quick tips to pump up the volume for thicker, fuller lashes from celebrity makeup artist Scarlett Rainer.

4. From creamy “gua-kale-mole” to spicy roasted pepper dip, these delectable recipes from Dr. Mark Hyman’s new book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet Cookbook, can double as sauces and salad dressings.

5. Suffering from joint pain but still trying to be active? Don’t let your aches hold you back. Try these gentle exercise options that can boost your fitness and flexibility.