Category Archives: Health

How to reduce cholesterol

More than 100 million Americans have high cholesterol (above 200 mg/dL), which can clog arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes.

The good news is that there are a variety of time-tested strategies you can use to lower your cholesterol and decrease your risk for heart problems.

Some are better than others, some are easier, and some are cheaper. Here’s a rundown of what’s good and what’s bad about cholesterol-lowering approaches.

 

Pros: Statins include drugs such as Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor (all the generic names end in statin), and they can lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol by more than 50%. “Across the board, they are clearly a wonder drug,” says Thomas Pearson, MD, PhD, the Albert D. Kaiser professor of preventive medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in Rochester, N.Y.

Cons: Side effects can be serious, including muscle inflammation and increased liver enzymes. Cost is also an issue, although several statins are available in generic form, including Lipitor, which became available as a generic at the end of 2011.

 

Pros: Niacin is a B vitamin that lowers both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, fats that can be harmful at high levels. It also raises HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. “It’s a powerful drug,” Dr. Pearson says. It comes in tablets to be taken two or three times a day, or in an extended-release formula, which needs to be taken only once a day.

Cons: Niacin should be administered only under the care of a physician because doses high enough to affect cholesterol can increase the risk of gout and liver problems, Dr. Pearson says. People with type 2 diabetes also need to be careful, as it can raise blood sugar. Read more about niacin.

Cholesterol can also affect the legs

Cholesterol can clog the heart’s blood vessels, but it can also affect the legs, leading to peripheral arterial disease, or PAD.

Up to 12 million people in the U.S. have PAD, which is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, says David Slovut, MD, director of advanced interventional therapy at Montefiore Medical Center.

After five years, 20% of people with PAD will have had a nonfatal heart attack.

Here are 11 signs you could have PAD. The good news? It’s treatable.

 

An extremely common PAD symptom is claudication, a type of leg pain or discomfort.

Because the arteries are clogged, they can’t deliver enough blood to the legs to support exertion. Some people say their legs feel “heavy” or tired, or they report a burning pain, Dr. Slovut says.

The pain can be in any part of the leg, from the calf to the thigh or buttock, and it may be in one or both legs. It’s also reproducible: The pain happens when walking a certain distance (like two blocks), it’s relieved by rest, and then occurs again when walking the same distance.

 

Nighttime cramps

While sleeping, people with PAD may get cramps or spasms, typically in the heel, forefoot, or toes, says Darren Schneider, MD, director of the Center for Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The pain can often be relieved by dangling the foot off the bed or sitting in a chair, which allows gravity to assist blood flow to the feet, Dr. Schneider says.

Get a Butt Like a Victoria Secret Model

There’s a common misconception in the fashion industry that models are waifish and thin. But this is 2017. The new guard of fresh faces—Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss, and Jasmine Tookes—includes badass, digitally-savvy twenty-somethings with take-no-BS attitudes, who fine-tune their figures in old-school boxing gyms crawling with 300-pound bearded tattooed men (and document it on Instagram accordingly).

One of the aforementioned cult-favorite workout centers is The Dogpound, a new gym in downtown Manhattan founded by celebrity trainer Kirk Myers, who counts Hugh Jackman and Nigel Barker among his high-profile clients. At Red Bull’s recent Sugarfree launch event, where they unveiled two new flavors, we asked for his go-to Victoria’s Secret Angel-approved workout to tone and strengthen the butt.

“Consistence is key,” Myers said. “Pick a time to work out that works for you and stick with it. Make a weekly plan and set a date for when you want to hit your goal. Lifestyle change doesn’t come easily or overnight—it takes a combination of desire, positive attitude, drive, and a strong support network to make change, one step at a time.”

Try out the regimen for yourself below.

The Booty Series

Complete all exercises (one through four) on one leg, then switch to the other leg.

1. Donkey Kicks

Start on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Pull your working leg’s knee to your chest then kick the leg up to the ceiling, holding the leg at a 90-degree angle, and flex the foot. Repeat this 20 times then hold and pulse for 20 reps.

 

2. Triangles

Bring your working leg on a diagonal line away from the body. Keeping the leg straight, pull the foot towards the sky, squeezing the glutes at the top, then crossing the working leg over the stabilizing side. Alternate this movement from side to side, tapping the working leg’s foot on the floor without resting. Repeat this 20 times then hold the leg straight towards the ceiling and pulse.

 

3. Corner Kicks

Bring the working leg’s knee to the opposite arm, then kick the leg towards the corner of the room on a diagonal line. Repeat this 20 times then hold the leg out and pulse for 20 reps.

4. Fire Hydrants

Keeping the working leg held at a 90-degree angle with your foot flexed, raise the leg as high as you can and flex through the outer glutes. Repeat 20 times then hold and pulse for 20 reps.

Know The Causes of High Cholesterol

You’re not alone—so do about 100 million other Americans. High cholesterol comes from a variety of sources, including your family history and what you eat. Here is a visual journey through the most common causes.

Eating too much saturated fat (like the kind found in this classic breakfast) can cause high cholesterol. You will find this unhealthy fat in foods that come from animals. Beef, pork, veal, milk, eggs, butter, and cheese contain saturated fat. Packaged foods that contain coconut oil, palm oil, or cocoa butter may have a lot of saturated fat. You will also find saturated fat in stick margarine, vegetable shortening, and most cookies, crackers, chips, and other snacks.

Your beer belly isn’t just bad for your social life. Being overweight may increase triglycerides and decrease HDL, or good cholesterol. Losing that gut can go a long way toward improving your beach bod, too.

Hey, get off that couch and get moving. Lack of physical activity may increase LDL, or bad cholesterol, and decrease HDL, or good cholesterol.

After you reach age 20, your cholesterol levels naturally begin to rise. In men, cholesterol levels generally level off after age 50. In women, cholesterol levels stay fairly low until menopause, after which they rise to about the same level as in men.

Lowering your cholesterol levels

Want to cut cholesterol without cutting taste? Most people are afraid that “good for my cholesterol” means meals that are joyless (and tasteless). However, a low-cholesterol diet doesn’t have to be all oat bran and tofu.

Here are some simple substitutions that you can make to the food you already eat to help fight cholesterol painlessly.

Carbohydrates can cause high levels of a type of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol. For a healthier salad, replace your carbo-laden croutons with walnuts, which are high in polyunsaturated fat—a good fat that can lower LDL while boosting HDL (aka good cholesterol).

Try Cooking Light’s Pike Place Market Salad with walnuts.

Losing weight tips

I’ll never forget the first day I ran 10 miles, for no other reason than to see if I could. Everything about that morning—the weather (just on the edge of being too warm), the music playing in my earphones (old-school Michael Jackson), even the number of times I scolded myself for not bringing water (come on, Blades!)—stands out in my mind. I wasn’t training for a race; I didn’t have a coach giving me pointers on cadence or breathing. I was on my own. I didn’t even have a mapped-out route. It was just a regular run on a Saturday morning. But once I decided to go for 10, the regular of it all started to fall away, and the day turned into this very definite, sparkling moment when I recognized how strong I was.

As I cleared mile five and then six, the notion of endurance became a real thing I could feel moving through my body. And as mile seven slid into eight, I started not-so-quietly rooting for myself: “I can do this.” There was no thought to it, because it was happening, because the finish line was in sight and every fiber of my being knew I would get there.

 That 10-miler is one of the main reasons I still run today. It reminds me in a very literal way that I am strong. I can handle the long haul—whether it’s on the road, putting in those miles, or in life, trying to stay the course on the seemingly endless road of writing a novel. All of it comes back to perseverance. I can do it. I can sustain it. And, most important, I can make it to the finish line.

Myths and Facts About Cholesterol

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about cholesterol, there may be a few more surprises in store. Check out these common myths about high cholesterol; find out who’s most likely to have it, what types of food can cause it, and why—sometimes—cholesterol isn’t a bad word.

As a nation, we could certainly use some slimming down, but when it comes to cholesterol levels we are solidly middle-of-the-road.

According to 2005 World Health Organization statistics, American men rank 83rd in the world in average total cholesterol, and American women rank 81st. In both cases, the average number is 197 mg/dL, just below the Borderline-High Risk category. In Colombia the average cholesterol among men is a dangerous 244, while the women in Israel, Libya, Norway, and Uruguay are locked in a four-way tie at 232.

It’s true that eggs have a lot of dietary cholesterol—upwards of 200 mg, which is more than two-thirds of the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 300 mg a day. But dietary cholesterol isn’t nearly as dangerous as was once thought. Only some of the cholesterol in food ends up as cholesterol in your bloodstream, and if your dietary cholesterol intake rises, your body compensates by producing less cholesterol of its own.

While you don’t want to overdo it, eating an egg or two a few times a week isn’t dangerous. In fact, eggs are an excellent source of protein and contain unsaturated fat, a so-called good fat.

Research has shown that atherosclerosis—the narrowing of the arteries that leads to heart attacks—can start as early as age eight. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on kids and cholesterol recommended that children who are overweight, have hypertension, or have a family history of heart disease have their cholesterol tested as young as two.

Children with high cholesterol should be on a diet that restricts saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, according to the guidelines. Fiber supplements and more exercise are also recommended.

Cholesterol lowering drugs

No one really likes having to take medications, but millions of people in the United States (and around the world) take cholesterol-lowering drugs to get help preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Although statins (Lipitor, Zocor, and others) get all the attention, there are many other drug types that treat high cholesterol, such as niacin, bile-acid resins, fibrates, and Zetia, a cholesterol-absorption inhibitor.

If you are one of the millions taking or considering taking any of these drugs, read on to learn 10 things you should know about cholesterol drugs.

Statins and other cholesterol drugs work, but they are not for everyone. They can have side effects, and may cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy.

“We don’t recommend statins or other cholesterol drugs for women of childbearing age,” says Antonio M. Gotto Jr., MD, professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, in New York City.

They are also not for people at low risk for a heart attack or stroke,” he says. Your risk becomes higher if you are over 60 (50 for men), or have high cholesterol, hypertension, or a family history of heart disease.

Your LDL may drop once you start taking the medication, but these aren’t magic pills. You still may need to lose weight, eat a low-fat diet, and exercise.

“Medication doesn’t take the place of a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Gotto says. “But if your cholesterol is still not in a range where it should be after you have made changes to your lifestyle or you have had heart attack, you need medication too.” Changing your diet and exercising more can lower your cholesterol by 4% to 13%. Statins lower cholesterol by 20% to 45%, depending on the type of statin.

All drugs have side effects, and cholesterol-lowering drugs are no exception. Although many side effects are more of a nuisance than anything else, some can be serious.

Statins, for example, may increase the risk of muscle-tissue damage and liver damage, risks that could increase if you combine them with antibiotics or other cholesterol drugs.

In general, cholesterol-drug side effects include problems such as nausea, stomach pain, constipation, or diarrhea; drowsiness; and muscle aches, weakness, or facial flushing. Talk with your doctor about switching to a different drug if you experience side effects.

How Harmful Is It

If you like to swim laps, or spend summer days poolside, you’ll want to read this. A new study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters suggests the average pool may contain a great deal of urine.

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada set out to determine the extent of pee contamination in swimming pools. To do this, they tested water from pools and hot tubs in two Canadian cities for acesulfame potassium, or Ace-K, a widely consumed artificial sweetener found in supermarket staples like frozen meals, packaged cookies, and diet sodas.

What does sweet pool water have to do with pee? The amount of Ace-K in a pool is a helpful measure of the amount of urine present, since the ingredient is not metabolized by the body, is excreted exclusively through urine, and doesn’t get broken down by chlorine.

When researchers compared the levels of the sweetener in pool water and tap water, they found that the former contained up to 570 times more Ace-K. Based on those concentrations, they concluded that a 220,000-gallon commercial-size swimming pool likely contains almost 20 gallons of urine. A residential pool probably holds about two gallons.

 

The presence of pee in your pool isn’t just gross; it also raises real health questions, the researchers say. They point to recent studies that have shown bodily fluids like urine and sweat can react with disinfectants in the water to form disinfection byproducts (or DBPs), compounds that may cause uncomfortable symptoms like eye irritation and respiratory problems. Some preliminary research has even linked DBPs to cancer when they’re consumed.

So is it bad for your health to wade in other people’s wee? Don’t cancel your local pool membership just yet. Rutgers University environmental health expert Clifford Weisel, PhD, told NPR that people shouldn’t stop swimming—but they should be aware of the risks.

Balance and coordinate your body with these yoga exercises

You probably learned to balance at the ripe age of two. But honing the skill is essential to your overall fitness and sports performance as an adult, too. Rebecca Weible, owner and director of Yo Yoga! studio in New York City, says yoga urges us to improve our balance, posture and evenly distribute our weight in our feet. “Look at your own shoes. You’ll notice how worn out the heels are. Is one sole more battered than the other?” Weible says.

Mastering balance-focused yoga poses is one way to bring awareness to your weight distribution, while also building strength, stability and alignment. “It makes a huge difference when we’re running, weightlifting, doing plyometrics or performing agility moves,” Weible explains. Whether you’re doing tree pose or Warrior III, “your whole body needs to be involved with yoga,” Weible says. Check out these standing yoga poses to help you improve your balance and coordination.

If you’re new to yoga, Weible recommends using a wall or chair to help you stabilize. “The goal is to notice the wall and lighten your touch. You can move from having your entire hand on the wall to just your fingertips,” she says.

 

1. Tricky Kitty

This beginner’s yoga pose is an excellent progression to standing positions, like tree pose or Warrior III. Weible likes this pose for balance because you’re much closer to the ground, and your body is immediately forced to find balance.

How to: Get into tabletop position with your knees directly below your hips and your arms and shoulders are perpendicular to the floor (a). Step your right foot back and keep it tucked (b). As you inhale, simultaneously lift your left hand and right leg off the floor. Your left fingers are pointing straight in front of you and your right foot is flexed and forms a straight line with your back and head (c). Focus on a point on the ground and keep your chest lifted and open so your upper body could provide support (d). As you exhale, slowly bring your right leg and left hand back down to the ground in tabletop position (e). Repeat the same movement on the other side.

 

2. Tree Pose

Tree pose reminds us to engage our core muscles, specifically the obliques, in order to maintain alignment from head to foot. Bringing your hands to prayer (mudra) isn’t just for aesthetics; it helps keep your chest open and extends your upper back so you stand straighter. Need to modify? Weible suggests placing the tip of your toes on the mat or resting your heel against the standing ankle for more support. From there, your foot can flutter to the calf and work its way above your knee on your thigh, but you should never have your foot on your knee, as it’s too straining for that joint.

How to: Stand in mountain pose (tadasana) with your feet hip-distance apart, hands by your sides, palms facing forward (a). Begin to shift your weight onto your right foot and bend your left knee (b). Slowly grab your left ankle with your left hand and place it against your inner right thigh, pressing your left foot sole with your toes pointing to the ground (c). Engage your core as you place your hands in prayer pose (mudra) (d). Focus on a point in front of you and hold for two or three breaths before bringing your left foot back down to the ground (e). Repeat the same movement on the other side.