Health News

Think carrots, not candy as school snack, group suggests

Junk food may soon be hard to buy at American public schools as the U.S. government readies new rules requiring healthier foods to be sold beyond the cafeteria – a move most parents support, according to a poll released on Thursday.

With childhood obesity rising, the survey found most people agreed the chips, soda and candy bars students buy from vending machines or school stores in addition to breakfast and lunch are not nutritious, and they support a national standard for foods sold at schools.

The findings from the advocacy group Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project came as the federal government prepares to roll out a nationwide standard that may set up another battle among health experts, schools and the food industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to issue its guidelines by June, according to some experts. These could limit the amount of sugar, salt and fat foods sold at schools could contain.

Agriculture Department Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said an important step in addressing childhood obesity is to help make the “right choice an easy choice” while at school.

“We look forward to working with parents, teachers, school food service professionals and the food industry to craft workable guidelines so that healthier options are available for our students,” he said.

Many states have already enacted their own laws mandating healthier non-cafeteria food options.

Jessica Donze Black, a dietician who leads the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, said the results show growing support for updating standards that surfaced in 1979.

“What has changed in the last 30 years is that the childhood obesity epidemic has more than tripled,” she said. “The school environment has also changed. … Today, there are a lot of other places throughout the day that compete with kids eating a healthy school meal.”

Support for higher standards

Eighty percent of the 1,010 adults polled said they would support nutritional standards limiting the calories, fat and sodium in such foods. Seventeen percent would oppose it.

Most also agreed there are now few healthy options. Just 5 percent of adults said vending machines offered totally or mostly healthy choices compared with 10 percent for school stores and 21 percent for a la carte lunch lines.

Changes to school foods may be controversial. New standards for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in traditional school meals announced in January drew scrutiny when lawmakers blocked limits to french fries and counted pizza as a vegetable because it contains tomato sauce.

Efforts to give students more healthy options to help fight childhood obesity have historically faced pressure from food and beverage companies and even from schools themselves, who rely on such food sales for extra cash.

But health experts, pediatricians and other advocates say that is changing as more companies and school districts come on board at a time when more than one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese.

“Most people accept that soda, candy bars and other unhealthy foods just don’t deserve a place in school on a regular basis,” said Margo Wootan, head of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

She said there are still concerns that members of Congress and industry lobbyists could water down the proposal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Laura Jana said new rules are imperative now that kids consume more than half of their daily calories in school. More students are getting most of their calories from snacks and drinks, not meals, she said.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer. … They can’t make that healthy choice when we stick all those temptations under their noses,” said Jana, a pediatrician based in Omaha, Nebraska and co-author of “Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup.”

Juice, granola bars

Food and beverage makers have expanded their portfolios to include juice, granola bars and other healthier products. Vending machine companies focused on nutritious offerings have also sprung up.

U.S. drink companies have already taken voluntary steps to keep sodas out of some schools and their trade group says this has cut calories consumed from beverages in schools by 88 percent.

Christopher Gindlesperger, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said its voluntary guidelines are a good model for the government to follow.

“It’s a standard that’s already in place that is working. It strikes a balance,” he said.

ABA’s guidelines eliminate soda in elementary and middle schools but allow diet sodas and low-calorie sports drinks in high school.

Companies such as The Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc, and Nestle SA either had no immediate comment or referred questions to industry trade groups.

Mars Inc, maker of the iconic M&M’s chocolate candies, said it has already agreed to withdraw branded vending machines from schools and does not offer traditional candy in those settings. Mars said it has instead developed other, lower-calorie products.

As for schools, most now realize vending machines can help teach students about healthy habits and boost learning even though money does loom large, said Whitney Meagher, project director for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

“If you have a choice between a cookie and an apple and the cookie is going to sell better, it’s hard not to make that decision as a business decision,” she said.

The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project is a joint venture by the nonprofit policy group The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a private organization that aims to improve Americans’ health.

Its poll surveyed 1,010 registered voters by telephone in mid-January and has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points.


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Health News

6 tips for preventing heart disease

Heart disease is a debilitating condition for many Americans and is the leading cause of death in the United States. Certain risk factors make some individuals more likely to have heart disease.

Risk factors fall into two categories: modifiable risk factors (ones you can control such as weight), and non-modifiable risk factors (ones you can’t control, like genetics).

The good news is that your choices can influence your health. Through lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, diet modification, exercise, and managing diabetes, blood pressure and stress, you can greatly reduce your chance of heart disease.

Quit Smoking

If you or a loved one is at risk for heart disease, the most crucial step you can take for prevention is to quit smoking. Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Smoking causes a buildup of plaque (a fatty substance) in the arteries, which eventually leads to atherosclerosis (a hardening of the arteries). Smoking damages organs and worsens many other risk factors for heart disease. It raises blood pressure and reduces your amount of good cholesterol (HDL), which can cause increased stress on your arteries.

Smoking cessation has been proven to reduce heart disease. Many states have begun programs to limit or reduce smoking in the general population. In the states where smoking reduction programs have been successful, there’s been a decrease in hospitalizations for heart disease.

The effects of quitting smoking are quite sudden: your blood pressure will decrease, your circulation will improve, and your oxygen supply will increase. These changes will boost your energy level and make exercise—another key component to preventing heart disease—easier. Over time, your body will begin to heal itself, and after one year of being smoke-free, your risk for heart disease will reduce by 50 percent. In addition to quitting smoking, you should avoid others who smoke, as secondhand smoke can also negatively impact your health.

Nutrition and Diet

Nutrition and diet play a huge role in preventing heart disease. Research suggests that even if you have a family history or genetic predisposition for heart disease, simply maintaining a good diet can reduce your chances for heart disease. Most research has shown that a diet high in raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids (often found in fish) helps prevent heart disease. The Mediterranean-style diet in particular is known to reduce the occurrence of heart disease. Along with increased servings of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish twice a week, the Mediterranean-style diet focuses on the use of olive oil (healthy fat) and herbs, consuming nuts, and limiting red meat to one to two times a month.

To maintain a healthy diet, you’ll also need to avoid or limit some foods that worsen heart disease. This includes foods with high amounts of sugar and salt, alcoholic beverages, and foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Don’t forget that watching calories is important, too. Know how many calories per day you should be getting and focus on eating a variety of foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories.

Exercising and Losing Weight

Along with diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are vital to lowering your blood pressure and preventing heart disease. Typically, experts recommend getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, or 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Exercise doesn’t have to be intensive—simple activities like walking your dog, cleaning your house, or performing yard work count as exercise. They key is to stay active.

The ultimate goal of exercising is to maintain a healthy weight. To do this, you have to balance your caloric intake with the amount of exercise you get. Find out your body mass index (BMI) to set weight loss goals. By maintaining a healthy weight, you’ll lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for other complications.

Managing Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious risk factor for heart disease. It has very harmful effects on multiple organs in the body when left untreated and can lead to peripheral artery disease, stroke, and other complications. If you have diabetes, manage your condition to prevent heart disease. Prevention includes regular checkups with your health care provider, eating a healthy diet, and exercising. In some cases, diabetes is managed with medications. By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of heart disease and limit the effects of diabetes.

Lowering Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause increased stress on your cardiovascular system and contribute to heart disease. If you have high blood pressure, you can lower it through diet, exercise, weight management, and avoiding stress and smoking. One of the best ways to lower blood pressure is to limit your salt intake and alcohol consumption.

If you know you have high blood pressure, work closely with your health care provider and monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis. Take any medication your provider prescribes for your blood pressure as directed. High blood pressure is difficult to detect, so if you’re unsure whether or not you have it, seek testing from a health care provider.

Managing Stress

Stress affects everyone in different ways. Though it’s not well understood, there’s a link between people who experience high amounts of stress over long periods and heart disease. Stress can cause sleep loss, pain and headaches, and can exhaust the body. Chronic stress can cause the heart to work harder, which will worsen any other risk factors for heart disease you may have.

Fortunately, there are many stress-reducing habits you can adopt to help. Physical activity or exercise is one way of reducing stress. Slowing down and performing relaxation exercises or breathing techniques, such as those found in yoga, are also helpful. Letting go of worries and spending more time with family and friends also contribute to a healthier, more relaxed lifestyle. It’s also important to get enough sleep.

Although the diagnosis of heart disease is frightening, there are many lifestyle choices you can make to help prevent this disease. Quitting smoking, nutrition, exercising, and reducing stress and high blood pressure can have a significant impact on preventing heart disease.

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Health News

12 ways to manage diabetes during pregnancy

A healthy pregnancy is a priority for every mother-to-be, but for women who have diabetes, including those who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, their health care can become more complex.

Women with diabetes who are diagnosed prior to pregnancy have a higher risk for complications, including miscarriage and birth defects. As the pregnancy progresses, women with diabetes are at risk for high blood pressure, preeclampsia, eclampsia, preterm and prolonged labor, cesarean section and its associated complications.

Up to 9.2 percent of women have gestational diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and for these women in particular, their babies have a higher risk for high birth weight and shoulder dystocia, a complication during delivery. Babies born with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) will likely have to be in the NICU for a few days after birth.

The good news is that with a plan, healthy strategies and support, you can control your diabetes, have a healthy pregnancy, and deliver a healthy baby.

Follow these expert tips:

See your doctor before you get pregnant.

If you have diabetes and plan to conceive, you should talk to your doctor to make sure your A1C levels are normal, talk about medication if it’s necessary or ask for a referral to a nutritionist. Women with Type 1 diabetes should ask their doctors about a kidney function test, a thyroid test and an eye exam because other conditions can worsen, said Dr. Lois Jovanovic, an endocrinologist and clinical professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Lose weight.

One of the best ways to ensure you will have a healthy pregnancy is to make sure you start out at a normal weight. If your pregnancy was unplanned— 50 percent are— don’t despair.

“[Weight loss] can begin from the very day they discover they become pregnant,” said Dr. Jennifer Lang, a board-certified OB-GYN in Los Angeles and author of “The Whole 9 Months: A Week-By-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start.”

Eat a primarily plant-based diet, avoid excessive added sugars, preservatives, processed foods, and those high in saturated fats.

Move more.

Exercise will help you metabolize food better, control blood glucose and help you control your weight during and after pregnancy, said Marina Chaparro, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and a certified diabetes educator in Miami who has Type 1 diabetes and recently gave birth to her first child. The CDC recommends pregnant women get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.

Count carbs.

When planning your meals, know how many carbohydrates are in each food and limit the amount you eat because it will raise your blood sugar. This is especially important if you have Type 1 diabetes because you have to dose insulin based on carbohydrates, Chaparro said.

Load up on veggies.

Vegetables are filled with phytonutrients and fill-you-up fiber, plus they aid digestion and prevent excess weight gain. They also are low calorie and low in carbohydrates so they won’t affect your blood sugar. Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, carrots, cucumber and broccoli are all good choices.

Cope with morning sickness.

Make sure you eat every two to three hours during the day to keep nausea at bay. If you take insulin or pills, eat a few saltine crackers before getting out of bed in the morning and then take your medication to make sure you can keep food down, Chaparro said.

A small source of fast-acting carbohydrates such as glucose tablets, honey, or juice can help if your blood glucose levels are low. Then have breakfast that includes a healthy protein source like eggs or plain Greek yogurt.

Deal with food aversions.

If the thought of vegetables makes your stomach turn— especially in the first trimester— try a fresh green vegetable juice, which is a good source of folate and calcium. This can control your appetite and prevent sugar cravings. Avoid juices with a lot of fruit because it can spike your blood sugar.

Watch what you drink.

It’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during pregnancy. Be sure to avoid juice, soda, sports drinks and sweeteners in coffee and tea.

“Avoid these or substitute them with something that has no calories and no carbohydrates because that’s going to be the first source of raising blood sugar,” Chaparro said.

Let yourself indulge.

It’s OK to enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie or holiday cookies, but take stock of the total amount of carbohydrates you’ll be eating with dessert and if you will need to compensate with medication. If you want dessert, consider having a salad instead of a sandwich as your meal, for example. Or ask for a sliver of pie instead of a large piece.

Use technology.

Look for apps that help you log blood sugar, food or count carbs and sensors and continuous blood glucose monitors.

Continue with care.

“My opinion is all gestational diabetes is undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes,” Jovanovic said.

In fact, studies show 35 to 60 percent of women with gestational diabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years.

If you have gestational diabetes, it’s important to talk to your doctor about monitoring your blood glucose and making lifestyle changes after your pregnancy.

Get support.

You might have misconceptions about diabetes, blame yourself or need advice. Seek out the help of a certified diabetes educator, a registered dietitian nutritionist who can help you create a realistic and delicious meal plan or a community of pregnant moms who have diabetes.

It’s important to realize that you will need a plan, make healthy lifestyle choices for you and your baby and seek out information. But stick with it, and you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Aritcle Source: Fox News


Health News

Thanksgiving science: Why gratitude is good for your health

Thanksgiving may be the only major American holiday focused on giving thanks for all of life’s blessings, but gratitude isn’t just a good excuse for chowing down on turkey and pumpkin pie; it’s also a way to promote good health and well-being, experts say.

Dozens of studies have found that gratitude can improve well-being, and can even help people curb depression and anxiety, improve cholesterol, and get better sleep, said Robert Emmons, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, and author of “Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity” (Jossey-Bass, 2013).

“Grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence,” Emmons wrote in an email. “Gratitude is good medicine.” [7 Tips to Cultivate Gratitude]

Health benefits

Gratitude is an attitude of thankfulness about the good things in life, and it requires the recognition that those things are a gift from outside the self. Saying “thank you” to someone can make the giver feel good. But over the past several years, an increasing body of evidence suggests that expressing gratitude is good for people in more concrete ways, as well.

Many studies have shown that grateful people tend to be happier overall, said Phillip Watkins, a psychologist at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.

“When you look at personality traits or virtues that correlate most strongly with people’s happiness, gratitude is always up there within the top three, if not the top one,” Watkins told Live Science.

Other studies have found that gratitude improves sleep quality and duration. For instance, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that people who showed more gratitude fell asleep more easily — likely in part because they were consumed with fewer negative thoughts, and more pleasant thoughts as they drifted off at night. (Sleep deprivation can also, not surprisingly, make people cranky and ungrateful.)

People who report more gratitude also show better cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and have a lower lifetime risk of depression and anxiety, Emmons said.


It’s possible that at least some people are grateful simply because they have better health in the first place. But in several studies, people who were asked to write down three good things that happened each day over the course of a week reported feeling happier. People who wrote a thank-you note to someone positive in their lives got a happiness boost as well.

A key to the effect, however, is that it must be other-focused. In a paper published in June 2014 in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Watkins and his colleagues showed that keeping a diary of three blessings worked much better to boost happiness than recalling three times when a person felt a sense of pride in his or her own accomplishments. [7 Things That Will Make You Happy]

And unlike most treatments, which typically fade over time, gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. “People’s happiness kept going up after the treatment phase, and if you’re familiar with clinical psychology studies, this never happens,” Watkins said. “What we believe is happening is that it makes people look for the good in their life more, so it trains their attention to more good things.”

Grumpy? Focus outwards

Of course, not all people are Pollyannas with a natural tendency to see the glass as half full. But even the grumpiest of Scrooges can still reap the benefits of gratitude, Emmons said.

Gratitude is a practice, or a discipline, so even if it doesn’t come naturally, people can develop the skill, Emmons said.

“It is helpful to remember that it’s not really about feelings,” Emmons said. “Gratitude is a choice. We can choose to be grateful even when our emotions are steeped in hurt and resentment, or we would prefer our current life circumstances to be different.”

A simple trick is to keep a daily diary of things you are grateful for, or list three good things you notice during the day. Buying someone a gift or giving a charitable donation can also boost happiness in a way that splurging on yourself doesn’t, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Science. Moreover, simply saying “thank you” to a spouse can create a virtuous cycle of gratitude, where each person feels more appreciated and happy, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology.

Another simple technique is to focus on all the instances in daily life when you depend on someone else for things you could never do yourself, Emmons said. “This shift in focus from the inside (us) to the outside (others) is the key to reaping the benefits of gratitude. It’s not all about us,” Emmons said.

Aritcle Source: Fox News

Health News

6 ways to keep your child healthy at daycare

If your child is in daycare, he’s probably sick more times than you care to think about, yet coming down with another cold or ear infection might actually be good for him. According to a recent Australian study, babies and toddlers in daycare were sick more frequently but were less likely to fall ill once they started school.

“Their immune system is getting  primed and it’s growing in maturity,” according to Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician and author of Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Seattle Mama Doc Blog,  who said all infants and toddlers are more susceptible to infections because they’re coming into contact with illnesses they’ve never had before.

So whether they’re at daycare or at home, they’re bound to get sick eventually. Yet who wants a sick kid? Here are 6 things you can do to prevent your kid from catching a bug.

Boost immunity

Experts agree that a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and iron-rich foods as well as plenty of sleep are key to a strong immune system. If you’re concerned your child isn’t getting enough iron, speak with your pediatrician about an iron supplement.

Insist on clean hands

“Hand hygiene is the number one way to reduce the spread of illness,” according to Dr. Danette Glassy, a pediatrician and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Early Education and Child Care.

Daycare staff should wash their hands frequently throughout the day and especially before feedings, after checking or changing diapers, after eating or using the restroom, and after wiping runny noses, spit up, or drool. If you have concerns, visit or stay for a bit to see if the staff are washing their hands thoroughly and using hand sanitizer correctly.

Understand the sick policy

Most facilities require parents to pick up their child if he has a fever yet “so many infections are contagious before fever onset and after fever resolution,” Swanson said. What’s more, a child could have a fever and feel fine or have a severe cold without any fever. Be sure you understand and agree with the daycare’s policy and find out if it’s being enforced.

In addition, Swanson suggested asking the staff if they’re able to go home when they’re feeling sick and if they have the center’s support when they believe a child should go home. “Asking the teachers is one of the most powerful things you can do,” she said.

Advocate for vaccines

Your daycare probably required your child’s immunization record before he could attend, yet many don’t follow up with parents to make sure subsequent vaccines are up to date. Some states have a database to look up a child’s records, but if it’s not something your daycare does, advocate to make it happen.

It’s also important to find out if the staff has been vaccinated against life-threatening illness like Pertussis, especially because many do not have health insurance. In fact, only 26 percent of child care workers in day care programs have access to health care, according to a recent report by the National Research Council.

Control cross-contamination

Your infant puts everything in his mouth and at daycare, that same toy he just picked up has been in every other child’s mouth as well. Contamination is inevitable, but there are things the daycare can do to keep things clean. For example, the sink the staff uses to wash their hands after changing diapers, shouldn’t be the same sink where bottles are prepared.

Glassy said there’s also a logic for what needs to be cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized and how frequently. Check out Child Care Aware of America’s checklists when evaluating a facility and The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education’s book, Caring for Our Children for more information.

Ask about regulations, standards, and more

Daycare facilities are required to adhere to licensing regulations yet it varies by state. If your daycare is accredited by a national professional organization, they may have standards that include health and safety practices that go above and beyond state regulations.

Be sure to ask the director what their policies are and if the staff have regular training and support. Glassy suggested parents find out if the day care has a professional child care health consultant that meets with the staff on a regular basis. The consultant can teach the staff about health and safety and work with them to adhere to regulations and policies.


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