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Healthy New Year! Top Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Holiday weight gain is a widely accepted fact of life, causing many to hopelessly give up and give in to the temptation of high-calorie treats that seem to lurk around every festive corner. But accepting rather than fighting poor habits throughout the holidays can set anyone on the path to dietary disruption and bad health.

As we get older, every ounce of weight gain matters, and can seem impossible to lose, making it especially important to keep a close eye on calories. Luckily, there are many easy ways to prevent the sabotage of all your fitness plan progress.

Below are some top tips to help anyone avoid the trap of holiday weight gain.

 

1. Retain the Routine—

Yes, you’re on vacation. No, this doesn’t have to mean you should take a break from the gym, yoga classes or whatever form of exercise you generally work into every week.

Sticking with your workout regimen can keep your metabolism moving and help you burn extra calories; something you might really appreciate later when faced with a plate of holiday cookies.

And don’t be afraid to go heavier on exercises that burn more calories during the holidays to offset the extra intake.

 

2. Step Away from the Buffet—

When hanging out at social events, it’s easy to get caught in a conversation while standing near the buffet table if you’re grazing randomly, so purposefully grab a plate, make your selections, and move away from the food area.

This will help you be aware of exactly how much you eat, while removing the temptation to have “just one more” cookie or chip with dip as you stand mindlessly chatting and nibbling.

 

3. Make Friends with the Vegetables—

At every holiday party, there is a generally a plethora of sugary baked goods and salty snacks, with a sad, neglected vegetable tray sitting alone and ignored somewhere on the table.

Find that lonely tray of vegetables and load up your plate with these fiber and nutrition-packed beauties, because they’re going to fill you up without a lot of calories while fueling your body with vitamins and minerals.

Remember to go easy on the dip, and eat all of the veggies before moving on to the more calorie-dense foods.

 

4. Protein is Your Pal—

In addition to vegetables, lean protein in its various forms is a great way to fill up and stay full without fattening carbohydrates.

Look for shrimp, chicken or any other versions of protein that aren’t covered in heavy sauce, and add these to your vegetable bounty for a healthy holiday meal.

 

5. More Sleep, Less Stress—

Lack of sleep has been shown to increase the body’s levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that increases weight gain, especially around the middle. It can be difficult when you feel like you have one million things to do, but making sleep a priority is definitely worth it.

Cortisol is also known for breaking down muscle, and muscle loss lowers metabolism, making it especially important to get the sleep you need during the food-filled holidays.

 

6. Wonderful Water—

Feelings of dehydration can mimic hunger, making it important to remain hydrated at all times to prevent pointless snacking.

Dehydration can also lower the metabolism and increase inflammation levels in the body, both of which lead to weight gain. Some experts recommend alternating a glass of water between every adult beverage to prevent the dehydrating diuretic effects of alcohol.

Drinking water before meals has also been shown to create a feeling of fullness that can help promote weight loss, so before you head out to that holiday party: drink up!

 

7. Do the Shopping Shuffle—

Buying gifts online can be more convenient, but if you want to sneak in a little extra exercise while you take care of holiday-related errands, go to the actual stores and walk around.

Worried about missing an online deal? Many stores will match online competitor prices, so be sure to take a device with you that allows Internet access, or print out the best price you can find to show store employees.

 

8. Saving Calories is Sabotage—

Don’t make the mistake of trying to starve yourself all day to “save calories” for the holiday party later. This will only drop your metabolism down into starvation mode, and set you up to overeat late in the day, which is the worst time to overindulge if you’re trying to stay trim.

Instead of starving, eat healthy, well-balanced meals, and if the party you’ll be attending isn’t a dinner party, consider eating your final meal of the day before you go to keep the snacking to a minimum.

 

Focusing on the humanity, kindness and goodwill of the season (rather than trying to figure out how much food you can stuff into your face in a few weeks) is also a helpful way to avoid holiday weight gain. The holidays may involve a lot of food, but they really aren’t ultimately about food at all, are they? If you can keep this philosophy in mind, and use the smart tips above, you can keep your diet and fitness program on track to have a healthy New Year!

Slow and Low: 6 Reasons Low-Intensity Exercise is the Way to Go

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“No pain, no gain!”

“Extreme workouts equal extreme results!” 

 “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re wasting your time!”

These are the kinds of exclamations you may hear at the gym and read about in fitness magazines. But some people have tendon and joint issues that prevent intense exercising.

And beginners often aren’t at a level of fitness where pushing muscles hard will be helpful. In fact, for many, starting off too tough can lead to injury, derailing a brand new workout program completely.

This means that starting slow and low may actually be the best way to go, especially for older folks who don’t heal as quickly as they used to, or those who haven’t worked out in a long time.

Below are 6 benefits of low-intensity exercise.

 

1. Weight Loss—

Yes, it is entirely possible to lose weight with a low-intensity regimen. This is because when you’re doing an exercise gentle enough to allow a longer workout, you’re giving your body the opportunity to use up more calories.

High-impact, extreme exercises may burn more calories in direct comparison, but intense activity can only be done for a short period of time. Once you’re exhausted, the workout is over… and so is the calorie burning.

 

2. Less Injury—

You’re into your new regimen, you’re working out consistently, and then… BOOM. You push yourself too hard and injure a muscle or tendon. Now you’re sidelined, watching all your progress disappear – and nothing demotivates like having to wait weeks for the body to heal.

With low-intensity exercise, you can avoid this frustrating and discouraging scenario. By starting slowly and giving muscles a chance to build at a safe pace, you reduce the chance of physical setbacks, helping you stick with the plan.

 

3. More Motivation—

Consistency is one of the most important factors for getting results from exercise, yet one of the hardest to maintain; and it’s difficult to look forward to a particularly grueling routine.

For this reason, finding an enjoyable, less strenuous form of exercise can keep us motivated by alleviating stress without unpleasant physical exertion.

An hour of brisk walking on a nature trail feels better than straining to lift heavy things or doing sprints to the point of fatigue, making us more likely to look forward to the activity, rather than dreading it.

 

4. Extra Endurance—

Are you a tortoise, or are you a hare?

High-intensity exercises are a faster way to build muscle mass, obviously, but low-intensity exercise can be done for a much longer time, building endurance, heart and lung strength.

This means the elderly gentleman who can walk quickly on the treadmill for an hour may actually be in better cardiovascular shape than the young muscular fellow who can bench press large amounts of weight.

 

5. Less Inflammation—

If you have joint pain or certain tendons and muscles that are easily ruptured, high-intensity exercise is not your friend. The more pressure and impact you put on the body, the more you’ll pay the next day.

While there are natural anti-inflammatories like Omega-3 fatty acids and good old ibuprofen, the best way to reduce inflammation is to avoid inflicting it on the body in the first place.

By choosing a low-impact, mild form of exercise such as yoga, walking, swimming, or cycling, you can obtain the calorie burning and health benefits of regular exercise without hurting your body.

 

6. Less Health Problems—

In addition to lessening inflammation and increasing endurance, low-intensity exercise has been proven to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, as well as reducing the risk of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Longer, easier exercise sessions have also been shown to reduce appetite by decreasing hunger hormones released by more demanding forms of exercise.

 

Research has shown that it is entirely possible to get excellent results from a low-intensity workout regimen.

In one study, participants did only stretching and gentle exercises for 90 days, with positive effects such as weight loss, reduction of stress, better sleep, lower blood pressure and more. (Source: University of Queensland in Australia.)

Another study found that simply not being sedentary (i.e. standing, moving around rather than sitting) improved lipid and insulin levels better than an hour of intense daily exercise. (Source: Hans Savelberg and colleagues, Maastricht University.)

If you are a beginner, have back, joint or tendon issues, or simply seek a gentle workout routine, don’t listen to those who tell you low-intensity exercises can’t get you in shape. Find the fitness regimen that’s right for you, and enjoy your easy exercise.

Is Your Home Burglar Bait? 9 Top Tips to Prevent a Break-In

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As the economy stumbles, making budgets tighter all around, crime rates have risen — especially theft-related offenses. Desperate people do desperate things, and even the best neighborhoods are no longer exempt from break-ins and robberies. In fact, nicer neighborhoods are often targeted because thieves know they’re guaranteed to find goods they can sell for cash.

We all know criminals are lazy, because if they weren’t, they’d get a job and work for their money like the rest of us. With the knowledge that these lazy losers like quick victims, people often wonder: What can our family do to make sure our house doesn’t look like an easy target?

Below are 9 top tips recommended by security experts to help your home look like it’s not easy to rob:

 

1. Looking Lived In—

The number one thing everyone can do to deter criminals is: always make the home look like somebody’s there.

This can mean parking your car in the driveway while your spouse is at work, having a table with coffee mugs and chairs on your porch to give it a “we hang out here” vibe, or keeping a filled bird feeder in front of your home.

Thieves choose empty homes for minimal hassle, so any way you can make your house seem lively and inhabited will help keep criminals away.

 

2. Let the Light Shine—

Like the human cockroaches they are, thieves scurry away when light is shined on them, so install motion-detecting flood lighting around your home’s perimeter, focusing on the driveway to prevent car theft, and of course, the front door area.

If you don’t have motion sensor-triggered lighting, leaving the porch light on at night can help keep the bad guys away.

A light facing a front window, set to go on and off randomly with a timer is also an inexpensive yet very effective way to make a potential criminal think twice about choosing your home to rob.

 

3. Dogs Sound Dangerous—

You don’t need to have a large dog to protect your home, unless you want to, of course. But if you prefer a smaller dog, interviews with convicted thieves have taught us that criminals definitely avoid homes in which they hear barking.

Large dogs offer a visual deterrent that many find helpful for enhanced feelings of safety, but little dogs make great alarm systems, and their painful, bacteria-laden bite is nothing to dismiss as harmless.

If you can’t adopt a dog or have allergies, consider placing “Beware of Dog” signs on your front porch area and/or gates leading to the backyard, as this has also been shown to deter criminals.

 

4. Noise Means No—

If you’re going away on vacation, consider leaving a television or radio playing loudly to make it seem as if someone is home. These noise makers can also be set on a random timer to make them more convincing.

And speaking of noise, turn off all phone ringers when you’re not home as well. If a burglar is listening at a window or door to determine whether or not somebody’s home, an unanswered phone is just the confirmation they’ll need.

 

5. Remove the Routine—

Creepy as it seems, sometimes criminals watch houses for weeks ahead of time, trying to learn its inhabitants’ schedules. Then, once they determine the daily “empty time” for the home, they move in for the robbery.

To make it harder for someone to learn your routine, try to mix it up as much as possible. This means taking a different route to and from work a few times a week, or maybe driving home for lunch sporadically.

If you work from home, don’t run errands at the exact same time every day, and park your car in and out of the garage on random days to confuse spying eyes.

 

6. Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs—

Consider having a professional security system installed, and place the company’s yard signs on your property to make it clear you’re protected. If a thief thinks an alarm will sound when they break into your home, they’re going to find another victim.

Be sure to also place security company stickers on back windows to let potential criminals know that the entire house is protected.

 

7. Under Lock and Key—

Remember the potential thief that might be watching your home? That creep can see exactly where you hide your “secret” extra key, as can your neighbors or anyone else who happens to be driving by, so don’t make this mistake.

If you move into a new home, get the locks changed immediately, because you have no idea who has a key to your house.

Other expert recommended ideas: Install electronic locks, drill and saw-resistant deadbolt locks, security doors, window guards and gates specifically built to provide extra protection to make your home harder to breach. If the job is too difficult, thieves will often move on to easier pickings.

 

8. Secure the Scenery—

Unkempt landscaping makes it look like people aren’t home, or don’t care about their house, which might lead a criminal to think the homeowner is lax in other areas… like security.

Keep all trees and shrubs trimmed to eliminate unsavory characters from lurking on your property unnoticed, paying special attention to areas around windows.

Using rose bushes, holly and other varieties of plants with thorns can also be a great way to safeguard your vulnerable perimeter areas.

 

9. Don’t Flaunt Your Wealth—

If you buy high-dollar items worth stealing, such as electronics or other easily-pawned-for-cash purchases, cut up the product boxes and hide them in opaque (dark) garbage bags. If thieves know exactly what’s waiting inside a home, they may try harder to get the goods.

Also: Don’t tempt criminals by leaving bicycles, lawn mowers, weed eaters, or anything else someone might want to take lying around. Keep windows covered and garage doors closed and locked, as well.

 

If you are the unfortunate victim of a break-in and first on the scene, remember to call police immediately, wait in your car, and don’t enter the house to assess the damage until law enforcement arrives. If the thieves are still inside, you don’t want to be the one to find them, and by walking around in your home post-robbery, you may destroy evidence that might have led to a conviction.

It’s unsettling to think about, but peace of mind can be yours by using the helpful tips listed above to make sure your family, home and belongings stay protected, safe and secure.

Give Peas a Chance: 5 Fast Ways to Help Kids Learn to Love Vegetables

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Maybe it’s because they have so many more meal options than we did growing up, or maybe they’re just being kids, but it seems like many children today have a very limited list of foods they’re willing to eat. Not only can this be frustrating for parents, it can be unhealthy for growing kids who need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow.

While parents know we’re supposed to get a certain amount of healthy foods into our kids every day, it can be hard for vegetables to compete with comfort food favorites like chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese. Luckily, there are things we can do to make the vegetables more kid-friendly, and we’re going to discuss them below.

Here are 5 easy ways to get kids to try (and maybe even enjoy) healthy foods:

 

1. Quietly Cauliflower—

The secret undercover agent of the vegetable world, cauliflower can be cooked, mashed and blended with butter or cheese to resemble and taste very similar to mashed potatoes.

Adults on low-carb diets already know about this amazing substitution for the starchier dish it so closely resembles, but children are used to seeing cauliflower on veggie trays in its raw and somewhat pungent-smelling form.

If your children are extremely particular, you can try blending mashed cauliflower half and half with potatoes to gradually get them used to the flavor. And don’t forget that this vegetable can be added to casseroles, or covered with cheese and baked to create a delicious cauliflower gratin.

 

2. Marinara is Magnificent—

With a strong tomato base to hide other flavors, shredded or pureed carrots, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, or any other vegetable that sounds good can be added to this popular red sauce (especially if it has ground turkey or beef added as well to hide the texture).

Pasta primavera is another tried and tested way to get children to enjoy vegetables, so don’t forget that a good, creamy butter sauce can also convince a picky kid to give veggies a chance.

 

3. Macaroni and More—

Macaroni and cheese sits firmly at the top of many people’s favorite food lists, but the deliciousness of this dish doesn’t have to stop with cheese, and neither does the nutrition.

This is because it’s easy to add finely chopped broccoli, steamed spinach, diced tomatoes, or any other vegetables you’d like, thanks to the strong cheese flavor that both covers and compliments pretty much anything you add to it.

Experts have discovered it can take more than 10 times of tasting a food to decide whether or not we like it, making macaroni and cheese a great way to help a child develop an appreciation for nutritious foods without even realizing it.

 

4. Meat You in the Garden—

Unless you’re a vegetarian, meat can be a great way to work vegetables into your diet via meatloaf, meatballs, and meat sauces.

Veggie burgers, either made entirely from vegetarian sources, or meat with pureed and finely diced vegetables mixed into the patties is another method used by resourceful parents to encourage kids to eat healthily.

The addition of a hamburger bun and condiments further serves to add to the illusion of an all-meat burger, allowing families to add baked fries and skip the fast food for a healthier homemade alternative.

 

5. The Secret Baker—

Everybody loves zucchini bread, right?  And carrot cake is a classic favorite dessert. So what’s weird about adding pureed cauliflower, carrots or spinach to chocolate cake or spice muffins?

Cauliflower is bland, carrots are a surprisingly sweet vegetable, and spinach has a mellow taste that goes unnoticed when paired with stronger flavors. Give it a try, get creative, and never fear: It can be a little secret between you and us, and we promise we’ll never tell.

Be sure to blend all well-cooked vegetables you’re adding to a baked good into a smooth paste to avoid textural discovery of your well-hidden nutrition, and nobody will ever know the difference.

 

The above tips are ways to disguise the flavor of vegetables and conceal them within foods kids already love in hopes that children will eventually grow to enjoy the flavors they’re subconsciously tasting.

But the best way to help kids learn to love vegetables is to lead by example; by eating them with meals openly and positively. By using the tips above, and making a point of enjoying them in front of your children, you can take the mystery out of these nutritional superfoods to help your children learn to love vegetables.

Is Your Mouth a Heartbreaker? 5 Surprising Health Risks Related to Oral Hygiene

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We all know that flossing and regular brushing are necessary to prevent gum disease, but there are many other seemingly unrelated benefits to taking great care of our teeth.

For example, researchers have discovered that periodontitis can lead to inflammation-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, decreased memory and other health issues. This means that taking great care of our teeth is more important than merely making sure we have a beautiful smile: it might even save our lives.

Below are 5 surprising ways poor oral hygiene can lead to more than just mouth problems:

 

1. Harmful for the Heart—

Periodontal (gum) disease generally occurs from tartar and plaque buildup, but genetic factors and tobacco use may also play a role, creating infection in the affected areas of the mouth that can lead to tissue and bone loss.

Studies have implicated this mouth inflammation might trigger an inflammatory response in other parts of the body, such as the cardiovascular system. Other studies have shown the increased cardiovascular disease risk may happen because of the excessive bacteria coming from the infected parts of the mouth.

Regardless of the exact cause, findings have proven that gum disease might trigger a heart attack or stroke for some, making it especially important for those already at risk for cardiovascular issues to practice thorough oral hygiene.

 

2. The Oral Health/Diabetes Connection—

Chronically high blood sugar levels can eventually affect the body’s ability to battle infection, making it harder for gums to fight off periodontitis-causing bacteria.

Having gum disease can also make it harder to maintain steady blood sugar levels… creating a vicious cycle of diabetes making periodontal issues worse, and vice versa.

To avoid this unfortunate dance between diseases, hyperglycemic people should establish a consistent brushing and flossing routine, and have twice-yearly check-ups to keep a close watch on gum tissue.

 

3. Greater Risk of Pancreatic and Kidney Disease—

When researchers at Harvard followed 52,000 men for 16 years, they found that participants with periodontal disease had a 65% higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those with healthy gum tissue.

This number was already a shocking discovery, but when men experienced tooth loss because of gum disease, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer became even greater.

Another study established that people who’d lost their teeth were more likely to have chronic kidney disease than those with their natural teeth. Blood pressure issues caused by the chronic kidney disease also affected overall bone health and led to heart disease. (Source: Case Western Reserve University.)

 

4. Higher Percentages of Head and Neck Cancers—

Japanese researchers studied people with poor oral hygiene and increased bacterial infections/inflammation/periodontal disease, and found highly increased risks of head and neck cancers in participants.

People who’d lost teeth were 136% more at risk for esophageal cancer, 68% more likely to experience head or neck area cancers, and had a 54% increase in risk for lung cancer. (Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, American Association for Cancer Research.)

HPV risk is also higher in those with gum inflammation, with about 60% of oral cancers linked to the human papilloma virus.

These findings were shocking, to say the least, proving that it is vitally necessary for cancer prevention to take the best care of teeth possible.

 

5. Gum Disease Can Cause Respiratory Problems—

It makes sense that what’s happening inside the mouth can travel down the throat, but the bacteria from periodontal disease can even make it all the way into the lungs, leading to respiratory issues such as pneumonia.

Those most at risk are the elderly, smokers, those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and people who are already immunosuppressed, such as HIV and cancer patients. (Source: American Academy of Periodontology.)

 

We now know the benefits of a beautiful smile extend well beyond the teeth, yet despite these scary additional health risks, 80% of the U.S. population has some form of gum disease. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

For the reasons above and more, having good oral hygiene is a crucial part of overall wellness, and a healthy mouth starts with a smart habits like brushing and flossing regularly. Be sure to see your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and wellness exam, brush and floss every day, and take great care of your teeth and gums so they can help you stay happy and healthy, from head to toe.

Weight Loss Plateau? Oh, No! 5 Tips to Get the Scale Moving

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When you’re watching what you eat, exercising regularly, and doing all of the things that are supposed to promote weight loss, but the scale won’t seem to move, you may have reached what fitness experts call a weight loss plateau.

This frustrating phenomenon can demotivate even the most disciplined person, because when we feel like nothing we try matters, it’s natural to stop caring about what we do. What’s the point of all the work if you have nothing to show for it, right?

But before you throw in the towel, head for the couch, and grab the Ben & Jerry’s, you might try some of the techniques recommended to move past a weight loss plateau. With a little patience and determination, there are ways to move past this annoying phase of weight loss limbo — and working out consistently is still good for your health, regardless of what the scale says.

Read about 5 ways to move past a weight loss plateau below:

 

1. Strength Training to Boost Metabolism—

Lifting weights, using weight machines, resistance bands and other forms of exercise that get you out of your comfort zone are great ways to build muscle mass, and muscle mass burns more calories.

This means that even in a state of rest, your body will be using more calories than before, and this might be just the push you need to get the scale moving again.

If you’re already incorporating strength training into your workout, consider increasing the weight and or/reps you’ve been doing. You may have fallen into a weightlifting routine rut that no longer stresses muscle fibers enough to build mass, holding you steady at your current weight.

 

2. Check Your Chewing—

If you don’t keep a food diary, this might be a good time to start. Information is the first step in solving most problems, and if you’re going to get your weight loss program back on track, you’ll need to know exactly what’s going on.

It’s very common for people to forget what they’ve eaten in a day, or to discount the little things, but the little things add up. Record every liquid, snack, dressing and bite that goes into your mouth for a week to see if you might be forgetting about some sneaky saboteur somewhere in your daily diet.

Also: If you’ve lost a decent amount of weight, your daily caloric requirements might have lessened with your body fat content, so you may need to adjust accordingly.

 

3. What You Eat Matters—

While you’re recording your diet, pay attention to the types of foods you prefer, because even though caloric intake versus what you burn in a day is the most important factor for weight loss, there are foods you can eat to speed up the process.

Refined sugars and simple carbs, for example, are highly conducive to weight gain and don’t offer the body much in the way of nutrition. But healthier choices like whole grains and vegetables will fill you up with less calories, thanks to their high fiber content.

Also consider increasing your daily protein intake, as this is needed to build the metabolism-boosting muscle mentioned above, and will keep you feeling satisfied for a longer time than carbohydrates.

 

4. Many Mini-Meals—

Because jobs and life can make it difficult to eat often, most people have the standard 3 squares a day with occasional snacks in-between. But if you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau, a great way to “shock” your system back into losing weight is to switch to 6 mini-meals a day.

It requires more forethought and planning, and you’ll need to make sure your required caloric intake stays the same, but this method of eating has helped many lose weight.

Another benefit of multiple small meals throughout the day is that it curbs appetite, as the body receives small amounts of food before hunger has time to set in.

 

5. Change or Challenge Your Routine—

Sometimes we get set in our comfortable exercise regimens, as we hop on our favorite cardio machine, or do the same type of exercise for every workout. While this can be comforting psychologically, the body can also lapse into a comfort zone that slows fitness progress.

The answer to this, of course, is to mix it up. If you consistently do a certain form of cardio, for example, try a different type. If you are a leisurely trail or treadmill jogger, consider adding sprints to push the metabolism into high-gear.

Or take a completely different approach, slow down and try a more relaxing, enjoyable form of exercise, like yoga, hiking or swimming. Sometimes change of any kind can shake the body out of a plateau and back into progress.

 

Be sure to get enough sleep, stay hydrated, keep stress levels low, and be patient with yourself. Everyone experiences occasional setbacks and slowdowns with their weight loss programs, so try some of the tips above and stick with it: you’ll be back on track in no time!

 

More than Moles: Some Shocking, Surprising Signs of Skin Cancer

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Most of the news reports about skin cancer will warn people to keep a close watch on moles for changes. But did you know that there are actually many types of skin cancer that don’t present as moles at all? Skin cancers can also look like a red spot, a blemish, a bump, or a small patch of crusty, dry skin, for example.

The most important warning sign for cancer actually has nothing to do with moles; it has to do with healing. If you have anything unusual appear on your skin that doesn’t seem to heal, having it inspected by a dermatologist is highly recommended.

Below are descriptions of some common types of skin cancer, what to look for to catch them early, and treatment options:

 

1. Actinic Keratosis—

Technically, these rough, flesh-colored, pink or red bumps are considered a form of pre-cancer, and are most common on the face and ears, or any other place that receives a lot of sun exposure.

The small, crusty lesions can feel itchy or hurt when touched, and even though they don’t always turn into cancer, most doctors will choose to remove them.

Cryosurgery is the fastest, least painful and most common form of removal, using a highly focused spray of liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide to freeze off the offending tissue.

For some, cryosurgery spots will form immediately into small scabs that heal within 1-2 weeks, and others may develop a blister first (that will soon scab over and heal).

 

2. Basal Cell Carcinoma—

Formed from the basal (bottom) layer of the epidermis, basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and fortunately, rarely spreads to other parts of the body. It can cause damage to surrounding areas, however, making it important to remove it as early as possible.

This type of skin cancer doesn’t grow inside of existing moles like melanoma, and will instead look like a patch of dry, red, scaly or crusty skin. Basal cell carcinoma may also present as a shiny bump or flesh-colored mole with light pigment.

Because of the varied ways this type of cancer can look, it’s important to remember that if anything forms on the skin and doesn’t heal, have it checked out.

When caught early, basal cell carcinomas will be confirmed through biopsy, and may be removed via cryosurgery during a quick office visit. If they are larger or deeper, they may need to be excised from the skin until all cancerous layers are eliminated.

 

3. Squamous Cell Carcinoma—

This type of cancer will often be larger than basal cell carcinoma, darker in color, have a bump under the skin, or domed, wart-like appearance. The edges of a squamous cell carcinoma will be irregular and may ulcerate to bleed or form a crust.

Because they arise from the top layer of cells, these skin cancers are often noticed more quickly than others, which is good because they can spread to organs if untreated.

Squamous cell carcinoma is generally cut out and stitched up in-office like larger basal cell carcinomas, and some doctors will use desiccation during surgery, applying an electric current to kill cancer cells and lessen bleeding.

 

4. Melanoma—

Melanoma forms in pigment-producing cells, which is why it often shows up in moles, prompting the warnings to check for irregular borders or sudden expansion of existing spots. This type of cancer can come in many different colors, often presenting with multiple hues in the same area.

Like all cancers, the growth rate of melanoma can be slow or rapid, but because the potential to spread throughout the body is higher in the case of melanoma, this is considered the most dangerous and life-threatening form of skin cancer.

Melanomas should be removed immediately, with blood work done to ensure cancer cells haven’t spread to other areas of the body. If caught early, melanoma generally won’t require topical or systemic chemotherapy.

 

Having red or blonde hair, pale skin, excessive levels of early sun exposure, tanning bed use, and a past history of severe sunburns are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing skin cancer. But it is recommended that everyone avoid direct sunlight during peak hours (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), use sun-blocking clothing, hats and eyewear, and apply sunscreen to unprotected skin.

Considering that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and that by age 65 almost half of our country’s population will develop some form of it, it’s extremely important to recognize the potential signs. As the most dangerous version, melanoma is most often discussed, but there are many other forms of skin cancer. Use the tips above to recognize and remove anything suspicious so you can keep your skin healthy and cancer-free.

Why Water is Wonderful: The Beautiful Benefits of Hydration

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Fitness experts often talk about recovery drinks and the best beverages to help our bodies perform to the max. We discuss the potential healing properties our sugary sports drinks have to offer, and ponder which one is best. To electrolyte or not to electrolyte? That is the question.

But in a world full of protein shakes, coconut water, vitamin-infused rainbow-colored liquids and other thirst-quenching choices, we often neglect to include enough of the best form of hydration nature has to offer: good old-fashioned water.

You remember water, right? That liquid that makes up 50-60% of our bodies? Yes, we know we’re supposed to be drinking a minimum of 8 glasses per day, but many of us still substitute caffeinated beverages, forgetting they have a diuretic effect, or choose liquids loaded with sugar we don’t need.

To remember why it’s important to choose the clear, chemical-free stuff for the majority of our daily drinking, below is a list of the health benefits proper hydration with water has to offer:

 

1. Delightful Detoxification—

Consider skipping the latest juice cleanse, and instead make it a point to drink extra water every day if you’d like to detoxify your system. Call it a water cleanse, if you’d like.

Even juice and other natural foods must be run through the kidneys, and in order for the kidneys to be efficient body-cleansing machines, they need plenty of water to remove waste, toxins, excess nutrients, sodium and electrolytes. And the cleaner your system is, the fresher you’ll feel.

 

2. Better Joint and Bone Function—

Staying hydrated lessens the shock on bones and joints by lubricating and protecting them from unnecessary shock.

When you drink enough water, it can actually cushion your spinal cord, brain and eyes from damage during jarring or rough exercise, so don’t forget to put on your “water helmet” for safety before you start any activity. (Source: University of Nebraska.)

 

3. Muscle Maintenance—

According to the European Hydration Institute, approximately 70-75% of our muscles are made up of water, and if we want them to perform well, we need to give them lots of it.

Many of us remember the protein known for building muscle mass, but forget the most important part of all: the water that keeps muscles working smoothly.

Electrolyte-filled drinks are fine and do hydrate the body, but contain sugar, chemicals and food dyes that tax the kidneys. So unless you’re working out for extremely long periods of time, water is the best choice.

 

4. Improved Digestion—

Talk to any gastroenterologist and she or he will tell you that the number one cause of poor digestion and/or constipation is dehydration.

If you’re not digesting your food well by allowing water to break down the nutrients for absorption into the bloodstream, your body can’t process what it needs to stay healthy.

And if you’re constipated, you’re holding onto toxins for longer than the body would like, essentially poisoning your system.

Extra water will help move everything through the intestines as intended, making you feel better and look less bloated.

 

5. Body Temperature Regulation—

Your body has a set temperature it will try to maintain at all times, but it can’t do this without enough water.

When we get too hot during warm weather or a workout, the body maintains homeostasis (i.e. regulation) by making us sweat. The sweat then cools our skin by evaporating, lowering core temperature back to desired levels.

So what happens when we don’t have enough extra water inside to produce sweat? We overheat, of course, which can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous. So drink up to cool down if you’re going to get hot!

 

6. Water Makes You Smarter—

As with every other organ in the body, the brain requires enough water to function well. Consistently hydrated water drinkers are more alert because their brain cells are receiving the oxygen they need, thanks to the other bodily systems running at their full potential.

Without adequate water, we can experience brain fog, memory problems and processing impairment, making it important for everyone, exercising or not, to remember to drink water all day long.

 

7. A Super Strong System—

Water is mandatory for proper cardiac function, and dehydration can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Because the circulatory system delivers oxygen to the entire body, it is extremely important for heart health to drink enough water to stay hydrated.

Water also lubricates the lymphatic parts of the circulatory system, allowing the body to better fight off illness and contagious viruses, making the immune system of water drinkers stronger than the dehydrated weaklings among us.

In addition to all of the above health benefits, water can help us maintain or even lose weight in a more efficient manner, by moving broken down fat out of the body faster, and keeping all of the metabolism-regulating bodily functions running at top speed.

 

If you’ve fallen into the trap of drinking sports drinks, soda or other beverages that contain unneeded extra calories or additives, try adding more water to your diet to gradually eliminate the liquids. Your body will thank you by feeling, looking and performing better than ever.

That’s Entertainment: How to Design a Spectacular Swimming Pool and Patio

Infinity Pool (2)

 

If you’re planning to create the backyard pool and patio of your dreams, there are many things to consider before you get started. A swimming pool is an investment in your future enjoyment as well as a valuable property value-increasing addition to your home, so you’ll want to make sure you design a perfect pool and patio area.

The first thing to consider is what you’d like from your future pool, because your main motivations and reasons for wanting a pool will guide you in the design process. Whether you’re seeking a great form of exercise, family bonding time, a place to entertain friends, or a soothing oasis for relaxation, there’s a pool for you; you just need to figure out which one it is.

Below are 5 considerations to help anyone designing a swimming pool decide exactly what they need.

 

1. Size Matters—

The first thing to figure out before you plan anything else is the size of pool you’re seeking.

Too big, and you might eat up space for landscaping, seating and other design elements needed to make your poolside area a favorite hangout.

Too small, and you might not have a pool large enough to suit your needs, wasting time and money.

Many experts recommend doing a “hose layout” to determine your future pool size by using gardening hoses to create an outline in your backyard of where you’re visualizing a pool, and the shape that might work best.

 

2. Privacy Matters—

Most people don’t want the neighbors staring into the backyard while they walk around in bathing suits, making privacy an important aspect of designing any pool.

The most common solution to this issue is fencing, which creates both a physical and visual barrier between pool users and outsiders. Also: If current fencing is too low, it can be made higher.

Landscaping such as evergreen trees and bushes in colder climates, or bamboo and other tall, dense flora in warmer climates can also be a great way to create a feeling of solitude with a softer feel.

Most importantly, leave room in your pool design for plantings or fence-building if privacy is a concern.

 

3. Swimming Pool Shape—

Most people try to choose a pool shape that complements the design of their house.

For example, a very rustic, Tuscan-style home wouldn’t mesh with an extremely simple, modern pool, and a contemporary house might look unusual with a highly-landscaped and busier pool design.

Function also plays a factor in this part of the planning process, as someone seeking exercise laps will need a larger pool. If lacking the space, an endless swimming pool is a good alternate option, as it is smaller yet still provides exercise via air jets to swim against.

 

4. Swimming Pool Type—

Natural/free form design has grown in popularity, offering homeowners a stunning pool that looks like a lagoon or pond while being completely swimmer-friendly and clean. This effect is achieved by surrounding an organically-shaped pool with landscaping like trees, bushes, flowers and rocks to hide the edges, creating a peaceful, pastoral oasis.

Modern design is another option, with infinity pools becoming a top trend for their strikingly simple style. With no wall around the edge, these pools appear limitless by allowing water to flow off the end (into drain systems), creating an “infinite” view reminiscent of floating in the ocean.

Other common pool shapes are geometric forms like simple squares, circles, ovals, or Roman-style rectangular pools with rounded edges, and L-shaped pools. Customization and choice of pool shape depends largely on the size and profile of your backyard.

 

5. Design Elements—

This is the part of pool planning that truly allows the designer to give the pool an original feel, offering different elements that set the mood and enhance the entire concept.

The area inside the pool can be made from fiberglass, concrete or vinyl material, but classic, mosaic, or glass tiles are a beautiful, eye-catching option that add personality.

The patio area around the pool is another design option, with stamped concrete becoming a popular choice, along with concrete pavers in different colors and textures to add visual interest.

Pool lighting, both inside and around the pool is another element to consider, with traditional, LED fiber optic and solar lighting available. There are even dimmers that can be installed to control intensity of lighting.

Water features that flow into the pool, such as waterfalls and fountains are also beautiful ways to personalize a swimming pool, and add a relaxing running water sound to the backyard.

 

Pool design has come a long way, and what was once a simple choice between limited options is now an opportunity to turn your backyard into a work of art that enhances your home and life. Use the helpful tips above to design a fabulous swimming pool and patio area you can enjoy for many years to come.

Cheap Eats: 10 Top Tips to Make Marvelous Meals with Less Money

Potatoes (2)

 

Groceries are becoming more expensive every year, with no relief in sight, making it more important than ever to stretch every dollar. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimated average cost to feed a family of 4 runs between $146 to $289 per week, so if you’d like to stick to the lower end of that average, you’ll have to learn to be a smart shopper and find ways to be frugal.

Below are 10 tips to make meals your family will love while spending less money at the grocery store:

 

1. Timing Matters—

Studies have shown that because stores start sales mid-week, this is the best time to grocery shop for items marked down because of impending expiration dates.

Food close to expiry that can be frozen will save your family big bucks if you have freezer space in which to store it.

 

2. Frozen is Frugal—

Frozen vegetables will often have more vitamins than fresh vegetables because they are fresh when frozen, and haven’t journeyed from their original destination to sit losing nutrition in a produce section.

Meat can also be bought in bulk, separated into smaller portions, and then frozen to save money.

 

3. Buy Dry—

There are many dry goods that offer nutritious meal options with endless seasoning possibilities that can make meals delicious as well as affordable.

Rice is a great high-fiber grain that fills people up for less, and is gluten-free for those who are intolerant.

Beans bought dry, rather than canned, are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Beans also create a complete protein when combined with rice, allowing diners to skip expensive meat dishes.

 

4. You Say Potato, I Say Big Savings—

Potatoes are consistently one of the cheapest fresh foods offered, and the most versatile. A big bag of these vitamin C and potassium rich vegetables can be made into healthy baked potatoes and fries, or mashed with butter, garlic, sour cream and anything else you’d like to add.

Side dishes, casseroles, crock pot soups and stews can all benefit from these spuds, and fill up the hungriest growing children in a nutritious way. So skip the processed foods full of preservatives and get back to these basic staples.

 

5. Don’t Obey the List—

While making a shopping list can help us save money by eliminating gasoline-wasting trips to the store for 1 or 2 items, don’t be afraid to skip the non-necessities written down if the price isn’t right.

Try to find these foods cheaper later if a price is higher than you’re used to seeing. You tend to know the prices of items you regularly purchase, so if it seems expensive, your instinct is probably correct.

 

6. Price Match, Please—

Many stores now offer price matching, which means that if you have a flyer with a cheaper price on any item they carry, they will match that price to keep your business (money) in-store.

The bigger grocery chains are known for starting this program, but many other grocery stores are also offering price matching in order to stay competitive. It never hurts to ask, right?

 

7. Sale Stock Ups—

When foods you’re sure your family will eat with longer expiration dates go on sale, stock up on them to save money later.

If you have a decent-sized or extra freezer, this is a great way to save money on meat and other frozen goods when they go down in price as well.

 

8. Slow Cook the Savings—

The secret weapon of creative cooks on a budget is the slow cooker. Offering a high improvisation factor, a crock pot can be a great way to use up the vegetables or other leftovers in your refrigerator before they go bad to stretch food even further.

A bigger batch of stew or soup means ingredients can be bought in bulk, saving money, and there will be plenty of leftovers to cover lunches, too.

 

9. Online is Fine—

If you’re an impulsive shopper and tend to come home with multiple items that weren’t on the list, you might consider grocery shopping online.

This may sound strange, but actually many larger chains are exploring this option and offering free shipping after a certain amount.

Obviously, you will still have to go to the store to purchase perishables like produce and meat or frozen foods, but if you buy all the dry goods online, you’ll at least lessen the time spent near potentially tempting impulse items.

 

10. Minimize Monetary Contact—

The less you shop, the less you’ll spend in a week, so resolve to only shop on one day and stay away from the stores unless absolutely necessary.

Shopping solo is also highly recommended, because having more people to grab impulse items around is a quick way to fill up a shopping cart with things you don’t need.

Plus, if you’re alone you can concentrate better, and maybe you’ll actually remember those coupons you keep forgetting to use.

 

Shopping on a tight budget can be a challenge, but with a good grocery plan involving the useful tips above, you can save money and feed your family affordable meals that still taste expensively delicious.