Quick and Easy Healthy Snacks

Veggie Flowers: Evenly slice one cucumber, then cut each slice in half. Evenly slice one carrot, then make triangle cutouts along the edge of each slice. Cut your favorite cheese into cubes and slide each cube onto a toothpick. Slide a cucumber onto each toothpick, with the rounded side down. Top each toothpick with a carrot flower and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies: Combine one cup of peanut butter, one cup of sugar, and one egg in a bowl. Stir, then shape into patties and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Place one Hershey’s kiss in the center of each patty, then allow to cool.

Sunny Day Smoothie: In a blender, add a half cup of orange juice, a half cup of chopped carrot, a half cup of frozen pineapple chunks, one cup of vanilla yogurt, and one tablespoon of honey. Blend, pour, enjoy.

Chocolate Bananas: Peel one banana and place on a plate. Melt semisweet chocolate in microwave-safe bowl then pour over banana. Decorate with nuts, sprinkles, or raisins.

Yummy Fruit Pizza: Cut a tortilla into 4-6 triangular pieces. Brush each side with oil, sprinkle with vanilla sugar, and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow slices to cool, then cover with layer of vanilla yogurt. Slice banana, kiwi, pineapple, strawberry, or any other fruits, and arrange on tortilla slices. Sprinkle slices with cinnamon before serving.

Homemade Potato Chips: Thinly slice one potato. Sprinkle slices with salt water, arrange on baking paper and cover with another piece of baking paper. Microwave for 5 minutes, then enjoy.

Tasty Purple Popsicles: In a blender, combine ¼ cup blueberries, ¼ cup strawberries, ¼ cup raspberries, ½ cup vanilla yogurt, and ½ cup ice. Blend, pour into popsicle molds or plastic cups, then freeze.

Strawberry Summer Lemonade: Boil two cups of water and one cup of sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, then add one tablespoon of grated lemon peel and one cup of lemon juice. Stir and let cool. Add one pint of pureed strawberries. Stir and refrigerate. Before serving, add two cups of sparkling water, stir, and add ice.

Fruity Squares: Break graham crackers into squares and spread with vanilla or plain yogurt. Top with chocolate chips, raisins, chopped nuts, or berries.

Easy Cheesy Crackers: Buy your favorite type of cracker. Peel string cheese into strips and arrange on crackers. 

High-Intensity Interval Training Can Improve Cardiorespiratory Health

Cardiorespiratory fitness is the fitness of your lungs and heart. To improve cardiorespiratory fitness, you have to up your intensity! HIIT training, or high-intensity interval training, requires you to alternate moderate-intensity exercises with high-intensity exercises to get and keep your heart rate up.  Incorporating HIIT workouts offer a safe and effective way to get fitter and adapt your body to more intense exercise.

HIIT workouts increase your cardiovascular fitness more quickly and greater than other kinds of exercise. In addition, it can save you time. You need only 25-30 minutes for an effective HIIT session. You still burn the same amount of calories as a longer workout. Some people also find HIIT workouts more fun and interesting than moderate-intensity options, since they are fast faced and the exercises change.

To create and use HIIT workouts effectively, you'll need to be able to distinguish between moderate- and high-intensity exercises. The easy way to tell the difference is using a talk test. You should be able to talk during moderate-intensity exercise but struggle to say more than a few words without taking a breath during high-intensity exercise.

Before incorporating HIIT routines, work out with moderate intensity for several sessions or until moderate intensity is comfortable for a minimum of 20 minutes. Once you reach 20 minutes, you can add a HIIT routine into your training. Moderate intensity exercise options include biking, walking, jogging, or using a machine like an elliptical.

When you plan to do a HIIT workout, starting with five to 10 minutes of relatively easy exercise to warm up your body. Then, switch to high-intensity work for 30 seconds before swapping back to moderate exercise for up to three minutes. Once you recover completely, repeat the process two or three times over the next 30 minutes.

Remember that working at a high intensity does not mean you should be exerting your maximum effort. If you experience discomfort or pain in your chest, lightheadedness, or severe shortness of breath, stop exercising immediately. If you experience unusual fatigue or joint or muscle pain, talk with your doctor about your symptoms.

As your body adjusts to the HIIT program, increase the frequency of the high-intensity intervals, up to five or six intervals per workout instead of two or three. In addition, you can increase the time of the interval to make it more challenging.

Tips for Caregivers of Alzheimer's Patients

New research suggests a minimally invasive surgery that alleviates chronic heartburn is safer than previously thought. In addition, the procedure is likely a preferred alternative to using acid reflux medications in the long term.

Researchers determined that the often-quoted 1 percent is far higher than the actual death rate following laparoscopic funoplication surgery, which is a method of treatment for GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This research comes as concerns are growing about taking acid reflux medications for extended periods.

Previously, one of the main arguments against the surgical options for treating GERD is the concern about mortality, according to study author Dr. John Maret-Ouda, a doctoral student at Sweeden's Karolinska Institute.

The study found just one death among 9,000 patients who underwent surgery between 1997 and 2013.

Results from this study were published in the British Journal of Surgery recently.

When the muscle located at the bottom of the esophagus does not properly close, stomach acid is able to leak into the esophagus and cause irritation. This is when GERD occurs. The chronic heartburn can cause cellular changes that could lead to esophageal cancer. As many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from GERD, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports.

Proton pump inhibitors, also known as PPIs, are often prescribed to reduce the production of stomach acid. PPIs include Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec. Unfortunately, use of these medications long-term has been linked to health issues, including dementia.

The research team examined 30-day and 90-day death rates resulting from laparoscopic fundoplication surgery for almost 9,000 people. Using small incisions in the abdomin, surgeons detach part of the stomach from the spleen, using it to create a tighter barrier between the esophagus and stomach, which helps prevent acid reflux.

During the 16-year study, only one death occurred as a result of the surgery. Death rates for 30 days post-op were 0.03 percent, and death rates for 90 days post-op were 0.08 percent. PPIs act mainly by reducing the level of acidity in the stomach but do not reduce the reflux. The surgery, on the other hand, creates a barrier, inhibiting the reflux entirely.

The perception that the surgery is dangerous and carries a 1 percent risk of mortality is why many people opt for PPIs. This research could provide a turning point, though. Given this information combined with the studies linking prolonged use of PPIs to health issues, we can likely expect an increase in the number of people opting for surgery.

Stay Hydrated While Pregnant

You know how important it is to stay hydrated all the time, but it is increasingly important when you're pregnant. In addition to staying hydrated, you have to make sure the water you're drinking is safe.

Why Stay Hydrated?
Your body is composed of 70 percent water, and every part of your body requires water to function. Every tissue, cell, and organ requires hydration. Staying hydrated ensures your body can lubricate joints, remove waste, and maintain boyd temperature.

How Do I Become Dehydrated?
You lose water when you go to the bathroom, when you sweat, and even when you breathe. Whether you are being physically active or the weather is hot, you're losing water from your body. You can also lose water when you have a fever, because your body is working to maintain its temperature.  Furthermore, you can lose water when you're sick from vomiting or diarrhea. This can be extended to morning sickness during pregnancy.

Symptoms of Dehydration

  •        Thirst
  •        Dry Mouth
  •        Lack of urine or dark urine
  •       Lightheadedness
  •        Headache
  •        Confusion
  •        Lack of tears while crying

Staying Hydrated
Be sure to drink the appropriate amount of water each day. In addition, be sure to include an electrolyte water, such as Propel Zero or Smart Water, if you're experiencing morning sickness and vomiting or if you're sweating a lot. Sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting can lead to a loss of electrolytes as well as fluids.

Aim for six to eight glasses of water each day. If you're unsure whether you're drinking enough, check your urine. It should be colorless or light yellow if you are properly hydrated.

Other Options

If you find water to be flavorless and boring, try fresh-pressed vegetable and fruit juices. Be sure they do not contain added sugar. You can also drink one caffeinated drink a day. Fruits and vegetables contain water, so be sure to consume plenty of fresh produce. In addition, soup broths can be soothing to sip on. Keep a water bottle handy and full so it's easy for you to drink regularly. 

Quitting Smoking a Cold Turkey Decision

Thinking of quitting smoking? Good for you! That’s a brave first step to a healthier life. However, the road to a smoke-free life may not be quite as easy as slapping on a patch or chewing some gum. According to some scientists, relying on smoking cessation devices and drugs may have more pitfalls than promises.

Studies at the University of Oxford are now saying that while it certainly isn’t easy, simply going cold turkey may be far better than relying on gums, patches, or other nicotine resources. According to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine participants who tried to gradually reduce the levels with cessation products had less success in actually giving up smoking than those who simply threw away their cigarettes or other tobacco products and quit.

The kick back is that while it does seem to make giving up the actual cigarettes easier, there will be a point where you either have to stop using the cessation products, thereby eventually having to go without any nicotine at all, or be hooked on a different form of the real source of smoking addiction—nicotine anyway.

More Effective Alternatives for Abruptly Quitting Smoking

Quitting is probably the smartest choice you will ever make. It will improve your health, allow you to enjoy life better, and avoid countless health hazards associated with smoking. There are better options for stopping than nasal spray, gums and the rest, if you are considering going cold-turkey. Join a group online, find a therapy group for smokers in your community and get support. Of course, family and friends who are supportive are wonderful, but unless they have quit, or are trying to quit, they may not be able to provide you with the type of support and understanding you really need. For a non-smoker, the struggles of stopping do not seem real. Talk therapy does help a lot, however, when there are people who have been through it or are going through the same things you are.

Believe it, or not, your overall state of mind may play a much larger part in your success or failure when it comes to giving up tobacco. Having a positive perspective and a good outlook will help you get through the times when managing the cravings seem overwhelming. Don’t be fooled into complacency either. Many people who successfully quit for months, even years, end up going back, and to some that seems unthinkable. Just like an alcoholic, once a smoker, always a smoker. The key is in taking it one step, one day at a time, and realizing that you can never have “just one.”

 Even after years, one of the dangers is that you can begin to feel overconfident, and forget that you were once addicted. Then something happens out of the blue, it could be a simple little aggravation or a big life-changing issue, and suddenly you may get hit with a craving and slide right off the wagon. Knowing that, and remembering that it can happen is one of the most powerful tools to avoiding relapse and picking up those cigarettes again. Your mind is your most helpful weapon against the dangers of tobacco.

Hoarding a True Society Problem

Hoarding is becoming a real problem for a large segment of the world population. 4% of the people of the world have some degree of hoarding tendencies. It isn’t just junk that people accumulate in their homes or on their property. The problem can be either inanimate or living animals, or both. It can seem like it is a simple issue, but hoarding is a form of compulsive behavior that goes far beyond collection or hobbies. Hoarding can become so invasive it takes over homes and have a negative impact on life and health.

 Collecting items can begin with simple things like figures, photographs, magazines, newspapers or legal items, but turn into the inability to get rid of anything, even old food, clothing or garbage. When dealing with this type of disorder, people can have trouble telling the difference between good and bad, and be blind to the clutter of possessions surrounding them.

Boxes and stacks of items, whether they are clean items or garbage can do more than just make an home cluttered or hard to navigate. It can actually cause structure damage to property as well. Buildings can be stressed by the extreme weight of piled up junk in a concentrated area. The over-collection of anything can also make it impossible to reach parts of rooms, see when outside damage has happened like roof leaks or other things that end up getting worse, and causing extra damage from water buildup. Excessive accumulation of items invites parasites and rodents to move in as well. Rats and mice love boxes, and so do roaches, ants and spiders.

Triggers for Hoarding

Hoarding can begin in early life, starting in teenage years and getting worse as people age. Other times, life situations are known for triggering the problem. In many instances, people who were otherwise normal suddenly began to accumulate things following severe trauma, abuse, divorce or due to depression. Most of the reasons for the disease are centered around anxiety and physical, social or financial loss.

Along with the health hazards of accumulating large amounts of stuff, the act of hoarding also triggers social distress, distrust of others and isolation. It has caused marital problems and destroyed marriages. Even loss of loved ones can’t make people who are determined to save useless items understand the need for parting with the accumulation.

Symptoms of Hoarding Personalities

Hoarders typically put off activities, have a hard time organizing items, have unusual attachments to inanimate objects or can’t throw things away regardless of value. They usually have a false sense of value regarding the things in their lives either financial or emotional. Other times, they just get a sense of security and safety from having things around them.

The desire to keep precious items until it is over-whelming can also get worse with age, and that makes it extra problematic as the piles are hazardous for elderly people to navigate. Cluttered rooms are also fire hazards for people of any age, and some insurance companies may refuse to cover homes that have blocked passages or doorways.

When people hoard animals they often have a hard time keeping up with regular care, and animal-borne diseases become a problem that can spread to areas outside the home and cause a health issue. Animal collectors have a high risk of exposure to ticks, fleas and other parasites as well.

When to Get Help

Hoarding becomes a health risk when cleaning is impossible around the stacks of items. Filthy conditions, or too many animals in one space can become a hazard from feces and urine accumulation, but that isn’t the only time when animal waste is an issue. The stacks of items that are rodent attractions get soaked with urine that builds up.

The biggest health risk is ammonia inhalation and constant exposure that can cause lung damage, asthma or bronchitis. When people have a hoarding problem, they usually need intervention before they get help. Because it is a compulsive disorder, CBT is usually the best form of therapy in resolving the issues surrounding the behavior. Cognitive behavioral treatment can be done as an outpatient in most cases.

Along with depression, it has been linked to ADHD types of hyperactivity. People who have difficulties with attention and are indecisive can develop a problem with deciding what is important and what is not. In those cases, hoarding goes beyond special items and turns into collecting and saving everything, even plastic bags and household supplies.

Vitamin D Supplements and Osteoarthritis

A new study examined the effects of vitamin D supplements on knee pain from osteoarthritis. Researchers found the supplements did not relieve or slow the progression of the pain.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 8, 2016.

One in 10 men and about 13 percent of women over 60 suffer from osteoarthritis.

There is no treatment available for osteoarthritis that will stop the loss of cartilage that occurs as a result of this progressive disease. Many osteoarthritis patients head toward surgery and knee replacements, according to researchers.

The data in the study suggest there is little evidence to support vitamin D supplements as effective in slowing the progression of the disease or structural change in the knee.

Using vitamin D supplements to treat osteoarthritis has been considered controversial in the past; past studies have reported conflicting results.

This latest study randomly assigned osteoarthritis patients to receive either vitamin D supplements or a placebo. In this particular study, vitamin D supplements did not provide any benefits.

The best treatment, according to some experts, is to provide a joint supplement that will modify the symptoms of this progressive disease. Some experts believe no oral or injected medication will alter the disease.

Existing treatments include cortisone injections, painkillers, and anti-inflammatory drugs. While these can relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, none stop the disease's progression.

The research team that conducted the study assigned 400 study participants to either a placebo or to 50,000 International Units of vitamin D per month. They conducted follow-ups for two years, during which time the researchers did not observe differences between the two groups in regard to loss of cartilage, reduced pain, or improvement in bone marrow in the shin or thigh.

This study does not mean vitamin is not important for other aspects of bone health; it is in fact important to building and maintaining bone mass.

It simply doesn't appear from this and past studies, though, that vitamin D has the capacity to improve or stop the effects of osteoarthritis.

Your Job Can Influence Your Heart Health

You job and career can influence your level of risk for heart disease and stroke, according to a new study.

Middle-aged people who work in food service, office jobs, or sales jobs have more risk factors for heart disease than people in managerial or professional jobs.

Firefighters, police, health care support workers, and truckers are all more likely to have these markers, the researchers said.

Individuals who are older than 45 and who are in office or sales jobs are more likely to eat an unhealthy diet, smoke, be sedentary, and struggle with high blood pressure.

People in food service tended to have the worst diets, while truckers tended to have the highest smoking rates.

People employed under the "service" umbrella were much less likely to have ideal cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as a lower incidence of healthy BMI.

This heart risk profile is poor, and it was especially pronounced and frequent among protective service workers, which encompasses police, firefighters, and security guards.

To draw these conclusions, the researchers examined health data for more than 5,500 women and men over age 45 to assess heart health. They based the assessment on the American Heart Association's "Life's Simple 7," which include diet, BMI, smoking, physical activity, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

More than 88 percent of employees over the age of 45 did not smoke, and 78 percent of employees we healthy blood sugar levels. However, less than 41 percent had ideal heart health in the remaining five areas.

More than 20 percent of the transportation workers smoked; this was the highest rate among occupation groups in the study.

Two-thirds of sales and office workers had poor cholesterol levels and eating habits, and 80 percent were sedentary. Ninety percent of security guards, firefighters, and police were overweight or obese, and seventy five percent had poor blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Researchers found generally poor cardiovascular health in lower-paying jobs, compared to high-paying jobs.

The nature of the job can create challenges to being healthy. For example, people with desk jobs tend to have trouble getting enough active time.

To combat these challenges on the job, try taking a walk after lunch each day, meal prep your food for the week, or look into a stand-up desk.

7 Reasons to Eat Bananas

Bananas are full of important nutrients and are among the most popular fruits around the world. They grow in 107 countries, and Americans eat more bananas than oranges and apples combined.

There are many potential benefits of eating bananas.

1.   Blood Pressure
Increasing potassium intake can be just as important for blood pressure as decreasing sodium intake. What's more? Consuming large amounts of potassium is associated with a 20 percent lower risk of dying early from any cause.
2.   Asthma
According to a study conducted in London, children who consume just one banana a day were 34 percent less at risk of developing asthma.
3.   Cancer
Eating oranges and bananas during your first two years can reduce the likelihood of childhood leukemia. Bananas are a good source of vitamin C and thus help fight the free radicals that cause cancer. In addition, the fiver provided by bananas helps reduce risk of colorectal cancer.
4.   Heart Health
The vitamin C and B6, potassium, and fiver all work together to support cardiovascular health. High potassium intake is also associated with lower risk for stroke, as well as reduction in kidney stones, and preservation of bone mineral density.
5.   Diabetes
The fiber types found in bananas help lower and moderate blood sugar, lipid, and insulin levels.
6.   Memory and Mood
It's not just your Thanksgiving turkey that has tryptophan. Bananas are also a great source of this amino acid which is believed to help preserve memory and boost mood.
7.   Treating Diarrhea

The electrolytes are lost in large quantities when someone has diarrhea. Bananas help promote regularity in the digestive system and also help replenish potassium in the body.

Heart Disease and Women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both women and men. A woman dies from heart disease every 80 seconds. More than 75 percent of these deaths could be prevented. About 80 percent of women in the United States have one or more risk factors for heart disease, but most don't consider this to be the greatest risk to their health.

Less than 33 percent of women know heart attack symptoms, and almost 44 million women in the U.S. have a form of heart disease.

Death rates from heart disease have fallen over the past two decades; however, death rates from heart attacks for women still outpace those for men. The American Heart Association released new research in early 2016 in which it recognized heart attacks have different causes and symptoms in women than in men. The AHA also referenced evidence that women have more complications and death rates within one year of a heart attack than men.

Why Do More Women Die From Heart Disease Than Men?

1. Societal Pressures and Norms
Heart disease is thought of as a man's disease. More women die of heart disease-related complications each year than men, though. Women tend to postpone their own care and prioritize the care of their family members ahead of their own. Women often have fewer opportunities for stress relief as well, due to pressure both at work and at home.

2. Differences in Treatment
Men are screened more aggressively than men for heart disease. Women typically have more vague symptoms than men of heart disease. Breast cancer screenings garner a lot of attention, but there is not a lot of emphasis put on heart disease screenings for women. Phsyicians are also less likely to be aggressive with heart attack treatment in women for fear of complications with an angioplasty or coronary stenting. Women on average have smaller hearts and smaller blood vessels and have higher rates of bleeding during an emergency procedure for treating a heart attack.

3. Patients Lack Awareness
Women typically think their greatest health risk comes from uterine or breast cancer, not heart disease. However, heart disease affects 1 in 3 women, compared to 1 in 8 affected by breast cancer. Many women are unaware of the risk factors for heart disease and thus to not modify their behaviors to reduce risk.

To Reduce Risk…

1. Learn risk factors. Educate yourself and your families about risk factors of heart disease as well as the risks of developing it. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and obesity.

2. Care for Yourself. See your healthcare provider regularly. Actively participate in your own care, including lifestyle, exercise, and diet. Request the appropriate screenings from your physician, and discuss ways to reduce your risk. Committing to a regular exercise schedule goes a very long way.

3. Advocate. Reducing the number of deaths related to heart disease requires a team. Advocate for yourself and others. Join with local leaders and groups such as the American Heart Association.

4. Promote research. More research is necessary to reduce the number of deaths from heart disease. We must design clinical trials to determine the best treatments for women, among other things.