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Give Your Family the Gift of Good Health


To Your Health







(Family Features) As colder months approach, many families enjoy spending time together on the couch watching football, indulging in delicious family recipes and preparing for the holiday season. Many of us look forward to this time of year when we can spend quality time with loved ones, relax, reflect on the year and look forward to the new year ahead. This can also be a challenging time to stay healthy, as people tend to stay bundled up indoors and the food seems to pile up on the dinner table.

Learning how to eat well and stay active ahead of the holiday season may mean the difference between staying healthy or packing on a few extra pounds and creating habits that could lead to serious health issues down the road. That is one reason the Aetna Foundation is working to make nutritious foods and exercise programs readily available for families year-round.12987

“Poor nutrition poses a challenge to America’s health, especially for vulnerable populations whose access to healthy food is often limited,” said Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, president of the Aetna Foundation. “We’re excited to support programs that help make healthy food and exercise programs more affordable and accessible to people nationwide.”

There is a great need to increase access to nutritious foods in vulnerable communities and to make healthy food available, accessible and affordable for more people across the country. Millions living in underserved communities struggle to maintain healthy habits during the holiday season without the help of school-provided meals and activities. That is why the Aetna Foundation is working with nonprofit organizations across the country to provide healthy foods and exercise options and tools to more people year-round.

These tips from the Aetna Foundation are designed to help people stay active and healthy during the holiday season.

1.     Eat well. When grocery shopping for large (or small) family meals, choose fresh, seasonal, nutritious foods as often as possible. When fresh is not possible, keep in mind that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are still healthy alternatives. To guard against nutrient loss, be sure to eat frozen fruits and veggies soon after purchase and steam or microwave them rather than boiling to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.

2.     Cook together. As you plan and cook meals for your friends and family over the holidays, inviting your children to cook with you is a great way to teach them about nutrition and better food choices.

3.     Get off the couch. It can be tempting to curl up on the couch to stay warm and dry during the cold winter months, but find ways to stay active with your family – such as interactive dancing video games, an indoor game of hide-and-seek or dancing during commercials while you watch your favorite TV show.

Find more healthy living tips for your family at


Photo courtesy of Getty Images



December 16, 2015 |

This Holiday Season, Eat Mindfully


To Your Health








It’s the holidays and for most Americans, that means eating – lots of eating – followed by weight gain and a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. The American Heart Association recommends a healthier approach to eating during this holiday season and beyond by incorporating healthier food options into your routine, and avoiding mindless eating or eating when you’re not hungry. Recognizing and planning to avoid these common eating habits can help people manage their weight.
“The secret to mindful eating, and staying fit, is using your brain to plan, plan – and plan some more! Being mindful and planning for behaviors, thoughts, emotions and triggers related to your eating can allow you to maintain a healthy regimen for life,” said Lubna Somjee, PhD, Clinical and Clinical Health Psychologist and Executive Coach in the Hudson Valley.
Some people eat healthy meals three times per day with healthy snacks in between. But for many, habits like binge eating, emotional eating, nighttime eating and mindless eating can put people on a path to weight gain and obesity.
Binge eaters, who eat a lot of food in a short time period, are able to control portions sometimes but lose control at other times—it’s not a healthy habit especially if you have diabetes.
Emotional eaters eat when they feel upset, angry, sad, lonely or fearful. These emotional triggers lead to eating high fat, sugary or high calorie comfort foods. But learning healthier ways to react to your emotions, and time, can help. Emotions usually don’t last long — often just 10 minutes to an hour — so you only need to distract yourself from eating for a short time, until the emotion passes.
For many people, dinner is only the start of their nighttime eating. While there’s nothing wrong with a healthy snack such as fruit, plain popcorn or whole-wheat toast with a little jam a couple of hours after dinner. However, nighttime eating is a problem when you eat large amounts of food or foods high in fat, sodium and calories like cookies, chips, full-fat ice cream, sandwiches or leftovers.
Mindless Eating 
Mindless eating is consuming food just because it’s there, eating while distracted – watching TV, working at a computer or texting on our smartphones. It’s eating for emotional comfort instead of for hunger. Simply put, it’s not paying attention to what we eat which can lead to being overweight and even obesity.


When you pay attention to what you’re eating, you can make small changes that make a big difference. Here are some tips toward a more mindful approach:

eating computer
•    Control portions. Especially during the holidays, know that you’ll have more opportunities to eat festive snacks and desserts. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smaller portions and less often.
•    Eat when you’re hungry. Just because the clock says noon doesn’t mean you have to eat. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are – just don’t wait until you’re famished because you might overeat. Also, don’t eat just because the food is available. Learn more about why you might be eating when not hungry.
•    Plan. Prepare healthy snacks throughout the day. If you tend to get hungry between meals, bring along a 200-calorie, whole grain, high-fiber snack. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer. Learn how a little planning helps your heart, and your budget.
•    Slow down. Enjoy each bite and put your fork down while chewing, then take a drink between each bite. This gives your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied (not necessarily full).
•    Pay attention. Do not eat in front of the TV or computer, or while standing in the kitchen or talking on the phone. When you do these things, you’re more likely to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
•    Use technology. As we continue to become increasingly distracted by modern technology, our focus on health can fall to the back burner. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “We can actually use our smartphones and other electronic devices to help us,” said Platt, a volunteer with the American Heart Association. “There are now apps that manage food records, count calories, help you track what you eat and even provide guidance on healthy food choices at the grocery store and restaurants.”
•    Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, look at it, then identify why you ate it – was it hunger, stress, boredom? Then look for areas you can make adjustments and incorporate healthy changes. “Keeping a food diary is really key to awareness,” Platt said. “Most people are surprised at all they’ve consumed when they review what they’ve eaten.”
Eating healthier is just one lifestyle change you can make to live a heart healthy life. More than 80 percent of heart disease can be prevented by simply lifestyle changes. Learn more at .

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About the American Heart Association  

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country.



December 11, 2015 |

Eye-Opening Vision Tips


To Your Health









(Family Features) As you age, your eyes undergo natural changes year after year, making ongoing attention to your eye health an important aspect of your overall wellbeing.

The importance of ongoing eye care is a lesson champion wide receiver Victor Cruz learned young and learned well.

“When I was young my mom made sure that I went to all my annual vision tests and had my eyes checked numerous times just to make sure I was up to date,” Cruz said. “I had to make sure my vision was right because I was an athlete playing multiple sports and she wanted to make sure that my vision was taken care of first and foremost.”

In fact, the eyes are a good indicator of overall health. Trouble with your vision can be a red flag regarding eye health. In addition, according to the American Optometric Association, a range of signs of illnesses can be detected through an eye examination, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even rare hereditary diseases.

The World Health Organization, among other health authorities, asserts that more than 80 percent of vision problems can be prevented, treated or cured. Here are five easy tips for taking care of your eyes from the experts at Alcon, a global leader in eye care:12902

* Schedule routine eye exams. Your eye doctor will advise you on how regularly you should have an eye exam. This will vary based on your age, health, family history and whether you wear glasses or contact lenses. According to the American Optometric Association, most healthy people over 6 years of age should have an eye exam every 1-2 years.

* Ask for comfort when choosing lenses. If you need corrective contact lenses, recognize that advances have been made in contact lens technology and ask your eye doctor which product may be right for you. For example, DAILIES TOTAL1(r) contact lenses are the first and only contact lenses with water-gradient technology. The contact lens approaches 100 percent water content at the outermost surface,* creating a cushion of moisture that delivers outstanding end-of-day comfort.

* Keep contact lenses clean and replace them as recommended. Despite our best intentions, many of us aren’t properly caring for our contact lenses. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 99 percent of lens wearers reported at least one contact lens hygiene risk behavior, such as swimming in contact lenses or not washing hands before inserting lenses. Be sure to speak with your eye doctor about your contact lens options – some risky behaviors may be avoided by using daily disposable contact lenses.

* Be open with your eye doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor about any discomfort or irritation you may be experiencing with your eyes or if you notice changes in your vision. There are new vision technologies being introduced regularly so there may be new products that can help you.

* Protect your eyes from digital eye strain. Spending two or more hours a day staring at a screen (computer, smartphone, tablet, television, etc.) can lead to digital eye strain, which can result in physical straining that leads to dry, itchy or burning eyes. The Vision Council recommends protecting your eyes by following the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes you spend staring at a screen, take a 20 second break and focus on an object 20 feet away.

Learn more about your eye health at, where you can find resources to help you and your family take better care of your eyes and vision.

*Based on laboratory measurement of unworn lenses.
Source: Alcon


December 9, 2015 |

Don’t Let Cold and Flu Ruin the Season


To Your Health








(Family Features) As the holidays approach, many are gearing up for  dinners, holiday shopping and celebrating with family and friends. But with the unpredictable cold and flu season, it’s equally important to add staying healthy to your list.

To help answer your most pressing queries, Dr. Travis Stork, emergency room physician and host of the Emmy Award-winning talk show “The Doctors,” has partnered with Church & Dwight Co., Inc., the maker of Arm & Hammer(tm) Simply Saline(tm) nasal mists, on a new online tool called “Congestion Questions,” inviting people to ask questions and get the answers they need, such as these:                                             12950

Q: Do nasal mists cause the rebound effect?
A: Nasal mists are drug-free and derived from natural ingredients – they contain only salt, sodium bicarbonate and water. They are non-addictive and do not cause any rebound congestion.

Q: I have been experiencing nasal congestion for days. It’s so bad that now I’m unable to blow my nose. How can I find quick relief?
A: Saline irrigation is an excellent way to relieve this sort of nasal congestion. Using either a nasal spray like Arm & Hammer Simply Saline Nasal Relief or a neti-pot ought to help flush out your nasal passages and help loosen your congestion.

Q: I use saline mists and other medications when I need to for my children, but how else can I ease the symptoms of stuffy noses and sore throats?
A: Helping little ones feel better when they are sick is always a priority for parents.  How best to help is often dependent on the cause. Some traditional treatments that can help soothe and clear stuffy noses include chicken soup or warm drinks with a little lemon or honey, although you should not give honey to a child less than one year of age. You should also make sure the house is kept at a comfortable temperature and perhaps consider a humidifier if you are in a dry climate. Finally, always make sure your children are staying hydrated and eating well.

Q: Why do I get congested mostly at night?
A: Many people find that their congestion gets worse at night. This may be because when you lie in bed, gravity is no longer playing its part in clearing your nasal passages naturally, so you should try propping your head up with an extra pillow or two to find some relief. You may also want to reduce the allergen levels in your bedroom by keeping pets off your bed and buying hypoallergenic pillows. A saline spray like Arm & Hammer Simply Saline Extra Strength Nighttime Relief with natural eucalyptus can help quickly clear congestion so you can breathe easier and comfortably fall asleep, with no day-after effect.

To submit your own questions and learn more about easing your cold and flu symptoms, visit

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Source: Arm & Hammer Simply Saline

December 2, 2015 |

New National Movement Unites Stroke Survivors


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Family Features) Never before has there been a way for the nearly 6.5 million stroke survivors in the United States to rally together as they travel the path to recovery. Unlike other survivor communities, there is no banner, symbol or color that survivors and the general public can identify with when it comes to stroke and stroke recovery.

That is changing with the launch of National Stroke Association’s Come Back Strong initiative, the first national movement to rally for stroke recovery. It was created to inspire hope following a stroke, so those survivors now have a voice.

“This is a history-making moment for the stroke community,” said Matt Lopez, CEO of National Stroke Association. “Survivors and their caregivers have been asking for a unified message, a symbol, a color to support them as they come back strong from stroke.12814

“As a stroke survivor myself, I understand the desire to return to our normal selves that drives stroke survivors forward. Come Back Strong serves as a starting point to hope that one day people everywhere will understand what a stroke is, how to avoid one and the real opportunity that exists to come back strong after stroke.”

The movement, created to raise awareness about the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, is centered on a blue return symbol. Intentionally left open, it represents the drive for stroke survivors to come back strong and return to their former self, or a new normal. The reality of stroke survivors is a story of sudden and shocking loss followed by a return to hope for recovery. In the aftermath of a stroke, recovery is about getting back to normal life and living as independently as possible.
“Since my stroke in 2005, I’ve learned to walk again, talk again, even swallow again,” said Mark McEwen, former national TV morning show host. “As I got stronger, I got busy and discovered a whole community of stroke survivors and caregivers.
“But throughout my recovery journey, there was always something gnawing at me. Whenever I saw a yellow wristband or distinctive ribbon, I thought, ‘Why not us?’ The Come Back Strong movement changes that. This, finally, is for us. It’s important and powerful, and will raise stroke awareness in a hugely impactful way.”
There are several resources to help you support the cause:
* National Stroke Association’s website offers resources and support survivors and caregivers can use as they learn to live with new challenges.
* Shop stroke: You can support the cause through purchasing bracelets and T-shirts, and participating in donation opportunities.
* Comeback trail events: Participate in a series of national events scheduled to rally the community behind the movement.
* #ComeBackStrong: Supporters can follow along and get involved in the movement by using #ComeBackStrong on social media.

For more information on Come Back Strong and to find resources for stroke survivors and caregivers, visit or call 1-800-STROKES.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Source: National Stroke Association

November 25, 2015 |

9 Tips for Aging Well


To Your Health








(Family Features) Although you can’t stop time, the right type and amount of physical activity can help stave off many age-related health problems.

More than half (59 percent) of Americans expect to still be living at home independently at the age of 80, according to a recent survey by the American Physical Therapy Association. However, the same study showed that at least half of the same population recognizes they will see a decline in strength and flexibility as they age.

Movement experts such as physical therapists can help aging individuals overcome pain, gain and maintain movement, and preserve independence – often helping to avoid the need for surgery or long-term use of prescription drugs.

These nine tips, provided by the experts at the American Physical Therapy Association, are keys to helping you age well:12911_a

1. Chronic pain doesn’t have to be the boss of you. Each year 116 million Americans experience chronic pain from arthritis or other conditions. Proper exercise, mobility, and pain management techniques can ease pain, improving your overall quality of life.

2. You can get better and stronger at any age. Research shows that an appropriate exercise program can improve your muscle strength and flexibility as you age. Progressive resistance training, where muscles are exercised against resistance that gets more difficult as strength improves, has been shown to help prevent frailty.

3. You may not need surgery or drugs for your low back pain. Low back pain is often over-treated with surgery and drugs despite a wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating that physical therapy can be an effective alternative with less risk.

4. You can lower your risk of diabetes with exercise. One in four Americans over the age of 60 has diabetes. Obesity and physical inactivity can put you at risk for this disease, but a regular, appropriate physical activity routine is one of the best ways to prevent and manage type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

5. Exercise can help you avoid falls and keep your independence. More than half of adults over 65 report problems with movement, including walking 1/4 mile, stooping, and standing. Exercise can improve movement and balance and reduce your risk of falls.

6. Your bones want you to exercise. Osteoporosis, or weak bones, affects more than half of Americans over the age of 54. Exercises that keep you on your feet, like walking, jogging or dancing, and exercises using resistance such as weight lifting, can improve bone strength or reduce bone loss.

7. Your heart wants you to exercise. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. One of the top ways of preventing it and other cardiovascular diseases is exercise. Research shows that if you already have heart disease, appropriate exercise can improve your health.

8. Your brain wants you to exercise. People who are physically active, even later in life, are less likely to develop memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease, a condition which affects more than 40 percent of people over the age of 85.

9. You don’t have to live with bladder leakage. More than 13 million women and men in the United States have bladder leakage. A physical therapist can help you avoid spending years relying on pads or rushing to the bathroom.

To learn more about the role of physical activity as you age, or to find a physical therapist near you, visit

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (woman exercising)
Source: American Physical Therapy Association

November 18, 2015 |

Beware the Salty Six Foods to Control Sodium in Your Diet



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How much salt are you eating? Beware of sodium in “Salty Six” foods

Eating too many salty foods can create many health problems, including high blood pressure which can lead to stroke—the number five killer of Americans. But did you know the majority of the sodium we consume is not from a salt shaker at the dining table? It’s from common foods we enjoy every day.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is increasing awareness of sodium and the “Salty Six” – common foods that may be loaded with excess sodium that can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Sodium overload is a major health problem in the United States. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day – more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. That’s in large part because of our food supply; more than 75 percent of our sodium consumption comes from processed and restaurant foods. Eat_Less_Salt_

Here’s a quick look at the Salty Six, the top sources for sodium in today’s diet:

Breads and rolls. We all know breads and rolls add carbohydrates and calories, but salt, too? It can be deceiving because a lot of bread doesn’t even taste salty, but one piece can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium. That’s about 15 percent of the recommended amount from only one slice, and it adds up quickly. Have two sandwiches in one day? The bread alone could put you close to 1,000 milligrams of sodium.

Cold cuts and cured meats. Even foods that would otherwise be considered healthy may have high levels of sodium. Deli or pre-packaged turkey can contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium.  It’s added to most cooked meats so they don’t spoil after a few days.

Pizza. We know that pizza is not exactly a health food, because of cholesterol, fat and calories but pizza’s plenty salty, too. One slice can contain up to 760 milligrams of sodium—and frozen varieties can be even higher. Two slices can send you over the daily recommendation in just one meal.

Poultry. Surely chicken can’t be bad for you, right? Well, it depends on how you prepare it. Reasonable portions of lean, skinless, grilled chicken are OK but may still contain an added sodium solution. And when you start serving up the chicken nuggets, the sodium also adds up. Just 3 ounces of frozen and breaded nuggets can add nearly 600 milligrams of sodium.

Soup. This is another one of those foods that seems perfectly healthy. It can’t be bad if Mom gave it to you for the sniffles, right? But when you take a look at the nutrition label it’s easy to see how too much soup can quickly turn into a sodium overload. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 milligrams of sodium.  And remember that soup cans typically contain more than one serving.

Sandwiches. This covers everything from grilled cheese to hamburgers. We already know that breads and cured meats may be heavy on the sodium. Add them together, then add a little ketchup or mustard and you can easily surpass 1,500 milligrams of sodium in one sitting.

Be sure to keep in mind that different brands and restaurant preparation of the same foods may have different sodium levels.  The American Heart Association Heart-Check mark—whether in the grocery store or restaurant helps shoppers see through the clutter on grocery store shelves to find foods that help them build a heart-healthy diet. For more information on sodium and nutrition visit or

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About the American Heart Association  

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country.

November 17, 2015 |
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