Be An Active Traveler - Exercise and Vacation Do Mix!

Last winter, with the summer seemingly a million years away, you thought ahead and wanted to take action to get back in shape before the warmer weather arrived. You've done it and you have made huge strides in toning, weight, exercise capacity, and overall energy levels!

Now that summer is upon us, many of us are gearing up for extended summer vacations! We all definitely need that in order to rest and recharge our minds and bodies. If you are like me, you still would like to stay in somewhat of a rhythm when it comes to exercising and wouldn't mind getting in one or two workouts while on vacation. The first thing that usually comes to mind is staying active with outdoor activities like hiking or swimming, but you also have the option of the hotel’s complimentary gym.

We get to the hotel expecting big things but many times we find out that the gym is either dirty, rusty (tetanus anyone?), cramped, or we just don’t feel comfortable at all working out there so we pretty much abandon a traditional workout while on vacation.

RESISTANCE BANDS ARE THE ANSWER

One alternative is to pack along resistance bands on your trip. Resistance bands are great because they virtually take up no room in your luggage. This is a HUGE positive aspect of carrying resistance bands with you because you can stuff them anywhere with no adverse effect on premium luggage space .Not only do they not take up space, but they are also incredibly effective. You can get a quick, very effective workout right in your hotel room using resistance bands. Combine some great body weight exercises with a few resistance band exercises and you've got yourself a workout! 

Here are 5 resistance band exercises you can use to stick with your exercise rhythm even on vacation:

Squats  

To perform the squat, place the band on the ground and place your feet on it where they are a little over shoulder width apart. Make sure the band is securely in place so it will not slip out. Grip the handles of the bands and hold them up by your shoulders (as if you were going to do a shoulder press) and perform your normal squat by leaning back like you are sitting in a chair. Lean far enough back to where your knee is over your toe and then return to the starting position.

Bicep Curl 

Place the band on the ground and step on it with your feet shoulder width apart. Grip the handles with your palms pointing out and perform a normal bicep curl. Bring the band up to you by contracting the bicep. To increase the difficulty spread your feet wider with more band between your feet.

Deltoid Front/Side Raise 

Place the band on the ground and step on it with your feet shoulder width apart. For the front raise: with your palms pointing down bring the handles up to eye level while keeping your arm straight (slight bend in the elbow). For the side raise: hold the handles down by your sides, palms facing in. Raise the handles up to shoulder level with your arms straight (elbows slightly bent).

Lat Row 

Secure the middle of the band around a bed post or chair. Kneel down on one knee far enough away so the band is already tight (use the other leg for balance). Grip a handle in each hand but bring one handle in towards your side right to under your pectoral by squeezing your lats (part of your back). Make sure to do both sides. To make it harder, start farther away from where the band is secured.

Tricep Kickback 

Secure the middle of the band around a bed post or chair. Like the previous exercise, kneel down on one knee far enough away so the band is already tight (use the other leg for balance). Hold both handles but kickback one handle by contracting your tricep (back of arm). Make sure to keep your elbow tucked into your side with your upper arm not moving. Your elbow will act like a fulcrum that your forearm and the resistance band handle rotate on!

Perform this routine (and include some bodyweight if you want) exercises for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions (or until fatigued) in order to get a great workout in your hotel room!

SEE ALSO: Get Physical For Free! Body Weight Exercises for Top Fitness

If you want more workouts and fitness tips that can be don’t at-home or on-the-go check out Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness!

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What Are The Best Sources of B Vitamins?

What are the best sources of b vitamins?

Feeling drained and lacking energy? Analyze your B vitamin intake.  Together, the group of B vitamins commonly referred to as the B-Complex group work together to produce energy in cells throughout your body.  Fall short of getting enough, and you may feel a lack of energy.

Though B vitamins are prevalent in a variety of foods, you may not be getting what you need if you cut out certain food groups from your diet, if you are on a low-carb diet or don’t get enough variety in your diet.  There are also certain circumstances that deplete your body’s available B vitamins or that don’t allow for proper absorption, such as gastric bypass surgery, aging, alcohol consumption, excessive caffeine consumption and excessive stress.  Vegetarians and vegans typically do not get enough vitamin B12.  

A B-Complex supplement is a great idea if you know you fall into dietary, circumstantial or malabsorptive reasons that your body may not be getting enough B’s.

  • All B Vitamins – Fortified cereals.  Can’t go wrong here, just be sure to stay away from the sugary ones, most are good source of fiber too.
     
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamin) –  Necessary for energy production.  Chronic alcoholics are most likely to be deficient in thiamin.   Top food choices: grains (cereal, bread, etc.), pork, beef, rice, nuts.
     
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (niacin), and Pantothenic Acid – Deficiencies for these three B’s are not very common in the U.S.  If you consume an adequate amount of protein (vegetarian or vegans may not), you are most likely getting enough B3.
     
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) – Like all B’s it helps to convert energy from the food you eat in to a usable form in your body, and it also contributes to red blood cell formation and is necessary to proper nervous system function.  A poor diet, some medications and conditions could cause a shortage of this vitamin.  Top Food Choices: chicken, pork, peanut butter, black beans, almonds.
     
  • Biotin – Important to skin, hair and nails, energy conversion from food and nervous system function. Pregnant women, malnourished people and those who have lost a large amount of weight quickly can all be affected by a deficiency.  Top Food Choices: cooked eggs, wheat germ, peanuts, cottage cheese, and whole-wheat bread.
     
  • Vitamin B12 – An outlier of the B vitamin group, B12 is the only one that can be stored in the body. Strict vegetarian/vegan diets run the risk of B12 deficiency since it can only be sourced from animal-based foods, as are those who have had certain kinds of gastric bypass surgery in which parts of the small intestine where B12 is absorbed have been removed.  Top Food Choices: liver, salmon, clams, trout, beef, yogurt, haddock, tuna, milk, and cheese.

What happens if you get B vitamins from food and from a supplement?  Can you get too much?

Because B vitamins are water soluble, what your body needs will be excreted, so there’s a low risk of getting too much. Look for a good liquid multivitamin or B-Complex supplement that contains at least 100% of the recommended daily intake for each vitamin. It’s the best way to insure you get all the essential vitamins and nutrients you need to stay healthy.  

See where to get your next B-Vitamin Boost Here!

SEE ALSO:  B Vitamins Help Reduce the Affects of Stress

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Is It Different Being an Older Athlete? The Medical Impact

Hello one and all!  I am back with more gritty tales of being an older athlete.

Athletes get hurt, they always have....

We see this play out increasingly on TV.  As the demands for what it takes to be competitive get higher, so do the injuries.  TV and YouTube can replay for hours an ACL being blown or a bobsled crash.

Most of us all go to the doctor from the day we get hatched; but if you are an athlete, do you go more or less?  Does this change if you are an older athlete vs. a younger one?  Yes, it does, but perhaps not necessarily for the reason you are thinking.

Most people think if you are an athlete, you are healthier than the average bear and less likely go to the doctor which could in fact be true.  But times have changed and so has expectations from training, medical care and competitive athletic performance.  

One could suggest that these days, because an athlete pushes so hard, they need to go to the doctor more often.  All age groups do!!   Many of my friends with children who are athletes have no problem hitting the IRS tax deduction of the required 10% of adjusted gross income for the medical deduction.  Having children who are competitive athletes is expensive.

Training, medical care, competition metrics and supplements are changing insanely fast.

If this is the case for a younger athlete guess what happens to an older one?  Well, we are older and arguably wiser and hopefully smarter as a result; consequently, we actually DO go to all the PT appointments that the doctor prescribes after the ACL is torn and after the surgery.  Then of course we add the NMT (neuromuscular massage therapist, perhaps an acupuncturist, etc.) at the end of the day, you get the point. 

Older athletes may or may not get hurt more or heal slower but if the injury is the same for a 20 and a 50 year old, the older one will have more appointments, be more responsible about keeping them, may take longer to heal and will incur more costs.  

Now, what happens if an older athlete gets bad medical advice and is injured as a result?  This is the gritty topic that is potentially career ending and catastrophic.  I have had bad advice that caused an injury – I know many have.   You get hurt, you need help, you go to a doctor who says they can help but they do more damage and you are set back.  A bone is not set correctly or surgery is delayed creating a bigger issue.  As a competitive athlete, I see it a lot.  

But a younger athlete has time to take a year off.  Coaches and parents will insist.  When an older athlete gets hurt – we miss milestones that are expected and we do not have the luxury to take a season off to stay on the coach’s radar.  For an older athlete, we cannot afford to miss a season and come back later. 

Being a competitive athlete is full time work – you work to hit dictated milestones, to stay on the team, on everyone’s radar and to be competitive. “

If this has happened to you – you are not alone.    If a doctor advertises that he or she is an expert, first find out about their experience and ask others who have been treated by that person before you become the guinea pig.  Bad doctors will cost you greatly financially and emotionally and their mistakes can be career-ending.   

As always, any feedback, input or other blog suggestions that this inspires are most welcome. It is much more fun when we all play!  

Share your story! 

SEE ALSO:  Broken Bone Healing - How Can You Help Your Body Mend Broken Bones Faster?

Anna Prata is an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day.   In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround.  Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR.  Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical  or psychological advice. 

P/S Prata is 50 Years of age!

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Avocado Ice Cream!

Did you know an avocado is colloquially known as an alligator pear? For some reason, avocados have had a bad rap as being high in fat, and while they are in fact, high in fat, they contain the healthy monounsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory properties. The avocado's high concentration of oleic acids have been shown to help lower our risk of heart disease and promote a healthy digestive tract. Avocados are high in fiber, which, in conjunction with the healthy fat, keeps you fuller longer. Everyone knows avocados as the star ingredient in guacamole, but avocadoes have a place at every meal-- ranging from baked eggs inside an avocado for breakfast to avocado soup for lunch or dinner to avocado ice cream for dessert. If you’re curious, check out this recipe, which my intern shared with me on a hot day. Delicious!

Avocado Ice Cream

Ingredients:

·         2 cups avocado, mashed

·         1/2 cup fresh lime juice

·         1 teaspoon lime zest

·         1/2 cup agave nectar

·         1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor until well combined.

2. Freeze in an airtight container (preferably glass) for at least 2 to 4 hours before serving.

photo credit: jamieanne via photopin cc

SEE ALSO: Multivitamin Packed Carrot Cream Soda

Guest Blog Post by Iris Higgins, gluten-free cook book author and blogger of www.thedailydietribe.com, hypnotherapist with master's degree in psychology plus a Women's Wellness Wizard.

 

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Healthy & Tasty Summer Snacks You and Your Kids Will Love

Getting your children to eat correctly and exercise daily can be quite a hard task in this modern, hectic world. Between tee-ball games and school, children aren’t always getting the best nutritional snacks. On top of that when they do have a day or two free they usually are spent inside relaxing on the couch.

Recent research has shown us that the fate of a child’s weight can be determined as early as 5 years old.

While of course this doesn't mean that all children who are obese at that age will remain so the rest of their lives (everyone is different), but it does point to the fact that instilling good nutritional and exercise habits at a very early age can help shape their mindset when it comes to healthy practices!

One of the hardest things (for people of all ages) to get under control is snacking. Especially as fast-paced as life is, making healthy snacks for your kids can be difficult! I’m going to show you two super easy snacks that are great for you and your children!

Savory Sweet Potato Fries

Kids love sweet potato fries because they are sweet, delicious and have a healthy dose of vitamin A! Make a batch of these for your kids today (they even reheat well for later snacking)!

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

This may be the easiest recipe ever! All you have to do is:

  1. Wash the sweet potato and remove any bad areas.
  2. Cut the potato (skin and all) into fry shapes approximately 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick and wide; no need to worry about length. Just remember that the smaller you cut them the faster they will bake!
  3. Place all of your fries into a large container and add the remaining ingredients. After closing the container shake the mixture vigorously in order to evenly coat the fries (double check to make sure the lid is on securely)!
  4. Place all of the fries evenly on a large cookie sheet that has been sprayed with a non-stick coating. With the oven preheated to 400 degrees, bake the fries for 20 minutes (this should work for the fry size I described). You will know when they are done if you can easily cut them with a spatula!

Delicious Hummus

Hummus is amazingly healthy for you and tastes good as well! Not only do you get a good amount of fiber but also fat burning lignans in the tahini! Plus if you eat it with vegetables such as broccoli or carrots you kids will be getting extra nutrients and vitamins!

Ingredients

1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Cumin, salt, and pepper to meet your tastes

Literally all you have to do is blend it up in your food processor until it is a paste! Add more water or juice from the garbanzo beans to thin or add more garbanzo beans to thicken the paste! You can also try to add red peppers or dried tomatoes to change it up a bit!

Snacks like these are ideal for you and your children because they are quick and easy to make…plus incredibly healthy! 

SEE ALSO:  Tips for Eating Healthy when you Eat Out

 

For more at-home fitness, nutritional tips, and recipes visit Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness!

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Keep A Look Out For Nutrients That Protect Your Eyes

Sunglasses protect your eyes from the damaging effects of the sun’s bright rays and safety goggles decrease the amount of dust, particles and harmful substances that could bother or hurt your eyes. Though both sunglasses and goggles are important, there’s more to eye health than just covering your eyes. Specific nutrients can help protect your eyes and vision from the inside out.

Bugs Bunny eats his carrots and you should too. Or consider sweet potatoes, beef liver, spinach, cantaloupe, red bell pepper, mango, black-eyed peas, apricots or broccoli. All are excellent sources of vitamin A. Most quality multivitamins will also have a daily serving of vitamin A if you have trouble getting enough in your diet.

Vitamin A is needed for normal vision and a deficiency can lead to dry eye syndrome and, over time, night blindness and blindness.

In addition to vitamin A, two other carotenoids (carotenoids are red, orange and yellow pigments) can help your eyes.

Lutein and zeaxanthin also protect your eyes from some of the harmful effects of the sun’s rays (blue light in particular).

They may also improve your vision when outside on bright sunny days by decreasing eye sensitivity and pain as well as glare from light exposure. And finally, these nutrients may help reduce a person’s risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach (high in lutein but low in zeaxanthin), orange bell pepper, egg yolks and corn.

Two other nutrients that are essential to eye health are the fatty acids EPA and DHA. 

Research shows that adults who consume higher intakes of EPA and DHA seem to have a lower risk of developing AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and those who already have AMD but eat plenty of fatty fish (like salmon) have a slower progression of AMD. 

Found in fatty fish, EPA and DHA help protect your eyes from chronic light exposure while also decreasing some of the symptoms associated with dry eyes. If you don’t eat fatty fish, consider a fish oil supplement since these two nutrients aren't found in other foods (unless they are fortified in which case the food may contain them in very small amounts).

SEE ALSO: Healthy Hair Skin and Nails the Natural Way

References:

Journal of Nutrition 2008;138:1835-1839.

Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2001;20:106-118.

Archives of Ophthalmology 2008;126(6):826-33.

Progress in Retinal and Eye Research 2011;30; 188-203.

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Clap Along Now!

Right now, my husband is in his office playing "Happy" by Pharrell Williams on his guitar.  This is very apropos as he is just a very happy person in general.  I know that I'm biased because he's my husband.

I find his ability to be happy about even the smallest things in life very inspiring.  I can't decide if that's a gift that's he was given at birth, or if he works diligently on being happy.  I think it might be a little of both.   By his own admission:

It's the very simple things in life that keep him incredibly happy:  our marriage, our dogs, swimming in our pool, sitting on our porch.   

I think most people would say that I'm a happy person as well, but I have to work a lot harder at it than he does.  I battle a chronic anxiety problem daily,which my husband cannot understand at all.  Most people who don't deal with chronic anxiety don't understand it.  This, I get.  If you haven't experienced it, you don't understand it.  In fact, I deal with it daily and don't fully understand it myself.  I just work incredibly hard to manage it.  I do tons of reading on the topic, and I regularly have appointments with my primary care doctor, my therapist, and my psychologist. I have no shame in telling you that, because:

Being proactive about your mental health is equally as important as your physical health.

I know so many people who struggle with being happy.  To them, it just seems like this elusive emotion that they don't get or worse, deserve.  When I see or hear my loved ones and friends struggle with this, it breaks my heart because everyone deserves to be happy.  The one thing that I've learned in life is that most (not all, but most) of what happens to you is a choice.  You can choose to be happy, or not.  Sometimes that can be an incredible struggle - to choose happiness despite what might seem like intense odds against you - but you can choose it.

The thing about choices is that even when you make bad ones (of which I've made many), you can learn from them.  

For instance, while I generally don't talk about my first marriage, I learned a great deal from that and I think the things I've learned make my marriage now very strong, and very happy.  I really try to apply those learning experiences to life now, while making choices to be happy in the present, now.

My husband finds joy in everything around him.  He's incredibly positive, and inspires me to find just as much joy in the small daily things as he does:

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna d
o

SEE ALSO:  A Good Dose of Laugh Prescription for Your Health

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Risk Making a Change for your Health

 

“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”    ― James Bryant Conant

Ok, so how many of you would consider yourselves “risk-averse” with regard to your health?  Do you adopt “reasons” why you can’t do different things to improve your health?  Many of us do, and we all know change is difficult under the best of circumstances. 

Getting healthy and making positive changes takes a certain amount of risk too.

We worry that working out harder could open us up to injury, or signing up for a yoga class takes more time away from our friends and families.  There are multitudes of small healthy things we make reasons not to do, like:
 
+ buying fresh fruits and vegetables regularly,
 
+ incorporating vitamin and mineral supplements into a daily routine
 
+ taking a walk at lunchtime
 
+ seeing the doctor for a long overdue checkup. 
 
 = But they all add up over time to a healthier you!  

So take a risk…pick a few…commit to even one.   Get Creative and Get Motivated to Make Small Changes

The value to your health is definitely worth the risk of inconveniences like re-prioritizing a daily schedule, or adding an extra step to your morning routine to down much needed supplements like a daily multivitamin and a dose of calcium plus vitamin D3 .  
 
Dance on the wild side a little further and try a different dosage form like liquids to take your supplements. High quality liquid supplements are an easy way to adapt to taking what you need daily - put it all in a smoothie for breakfast as you rush out the door.

Stick your neck out there and do not let a little risk stand in the way of healthy progress.

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The Importance of Protein Variety - Great Protein Alternatives to Meat

We all need protein; that’s a given. From building muscles to daily physiological functions, it helps us survive. 

As with all things in nutrition, not only do we need protein in balance with other food groups, we also need to consume each of our sources of protein in moderation.

What I mean is this: you shouldn't only get your protein from meat, only from dairy, or only from legumes.

There are many other great protein alternatives out there that can fill you up and balance out your diet ~ variety is the spice, and health of life!

Beans

We all know the bad stink that beans have a reputation for, but don’t let that scare you away! In general, beans are one of the best sources of protein out there plus they are usually really cheap! They sure do pack a protein punch for their size. For instance, one cup of beans (most varieties) has about 15g of protein in it!  (not to mention the added fiber we all need)

Yogurt (dairy) 

All dairy in general really has a great deal of protein to offer, but most especially in the form of yogurt! Yogurt is simply delicious, can be used in lots of different recipes and food combinations, and has plenty of protein (plus the benefit of probiotics). One cup of plain yogurt made from skim milk has an incredible 14g of protein, and some Greek varieties have even more! Think about adding a cup of protein to your next smoothie!

Nuts 

Need an easy protein snack you can always take with you when you are on-the-go? Nuts make a great snack because they are delicious, convenient, have heart healthy fats, and have a great deal of protein. For instance, 1 cup of peanuts has 35g protein; 1 cup of almonds has 30g; 1 cup of walnuts has 30g. While you probably won’t eat an entire cup (they do have a higher caloric content) they still are an important alternative when it comes to protein!

Eggs 

Eggs are incredible and can honestly be a staple of everyone’s diet. By incorporating eggs into your morning routine not only are you ramping up your metabolism for the long day ahead but you are also getting a great dose of protein. 1 large hardboiled egg has 6g of protein.

Vegetables

I literally cannot say enough about vegetables! They really are what make a nutritional plan work because they have so much to offer. Besides nutrients and minerals (and a hundred other things) vegetables can be a great way to supplement your protein intake! For instance, a cup of most raw vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower) contain 2-3g or protein. Considering you can eat a ton of vegetables for a low amount of calories, makes vegetables a great alternative protein source!

Wrap-Up

Keep your mind open when it comes to consuming protein. There are so many alternatives out there that you can achieve your daily recommendations with a well balanced diet. We didn't even mention whey or collagen protein sources that can also make for a great alternative. As with all things in nutrition, have a well balanced diet and consume everything in moderation!

SEE ALSO:  Cutting through Yogurt confusion - which type is right for you?

GUEST BLOGGER: JOSH ANDERSON  Josh is a fitness professional who runs Always Active Athletics where he provides sustainable at-home fitness and nutritional tips to help you get in the best shape of your life!

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Dancing for Cardio Exercise

I always wanted to be a runner.  It seems like this really popular club that everyone belongs to now:  mini-marathons, full marathons, holiday runs, etc. etc.  I see posts all over my Facebook and Twitter pages, and I always long to be part of that club.  To wear the cute athletic clothing, buy the running sneakers, get the gear...oh wait a second.  I don’t want to run, I just want to shop and wear cute athletic clothing!  I knew there was something wrong with that.

Here’s the problem:  I’ve tried running. I’ve tried jogging.  I’ve tried fast-walking.  I hate it.  I don’t just hate it:  I DESPISE IT.  

As a gastric bypass post-op who has never had any reconstructive surgery, running is not an easy task.  Before I even hit the pavement, I would have to strap myself in with several shapewear and compression garments.  When you have hanging skin, running is probably the least comfortable activity you could participate in, at least, it was for me.

Yet I knew that cardio exercise is super-important, so I had to find an alternative.  I found it in dancing.

I’ve loved to dance since I was just a little girl.  In middle school and high school, all of my friends belonged to the local dance company and got to dance in these big productions all year long.  As a young girl battling her weight and self-esteem, I never allowed myself to participate in any of those activities, even though that I knew as a musician, my sense of rhythm and movement was pretty good.  But as a post-op, I didn’t care what anyone thought, and I decided to dance.

When I was morbidly obese at 311 lbs, I went out one night with a friend to a local jazz club in Boston. They always had great music playing live downstairs, and swing dancing upstairs with a live band.  We decided to go upstairs one night and just sat and watched - it was AMAZING.  People of all shapes and sizes, in period-retro clothing and get-ups dancing to a live swing band.  I immediately fell in love and decided to take the dance lessons.  It felt like a club that I *could* belong to.  It felt musical to me.  I loved it.  

I went religiously every Saturday night, and now - years and many, many classes later - I can dance a variety of ballroom styles:  east coast swing, west coast swing, salsa, samba, rhumba, meringue, bachata, fox trot, and more.  

I love to get dressed up, go out to someplace really fun and social, and trick myself every time into getting the best form of cardio exercise that my body has ever gotten.  

Plus, the people at these clubs and dances are some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met. It’s such a social type of dancing, and everyone is always welcome.  Even better, stronger dancers are always happy to jump in and help those just getting started.  It’s really the nicest community of folks that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

I’ve also tried Zumba and adult modern dance.  I love those classes too.  Thankfully, being a musician allows me the confidence to know that I won’t make a complete fool of myself rhythmically, and I’ll try almost every form of dancing at least once.  Zumba feels a lot like Latin dancing to me:  it’s challenging physically, but also very expressive and “adult” in a way.  I try to make those classes when I can, but I can also find some great free resources online.   

Interested in seeing if dancing is something YOU could do?  Check out these free resources online and you can practice right in the comfort of your own home AND get some great cardio exercise:

LEARNTODANCEONLINE.COM

BALLROOMDANCERS.COM

FREE YOUTUBE EAST COAST SWING DANCE LESSONS (easiest ballroom dance to first learn)
FREE YOUTUBE SALSA DANCE LESSONS

FREE ZUMBA LESSONS

SEE ALSO: The Shape of Things to Come

Diva Taunia is a professional musician and music educator living in the Greater Los Angeles area.  She can be found at www.divataunia.com or www.twitter.com/divataunia

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Sunshine, Sunscreen and Vitamin D - What's most beneficial?

Your body can make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. But as you probably know, those rays will also cause skin damage and can lead to eye damage.

Since there are other ways to get your vitamin D – through a few foods and from quality supplements, it makes sense to protect your skin and eyes from the damaging effects of UV rays and get your vitamin D elsewhere.

Skin protection starts with good sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, the only ingredient that protects from UVA1, UVA2 and UVB rays. My dermatologist recommends choosing one with a minimum of 7.5% zinc oxide, reapplying every two hours, year round, and even if you are driving in the car! Be sure to apply it to all exposed skin including your ears and feet.

Its a good idea to also wear a wide brimmed hat in the sunshine and wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB rays too. They should say “UV 400 protection” or “blocks 99% of UVA and UVB rays”. Some types of clothing also protect you – for sun protection that allows you to still enjoy the outdoors, check out Coolibar.

If you think the damage to your skin is done, think again, skin damage from the sun is accumulated throughout our lifespan. 

Survey Finds 64% of Americans Unaware Sunscreen Inhibits Vitamin D Production

Now that you are thoroughly protecting your skin from the sun, how can you be sure you are  getting enough vitamin D?

First, take a look at your diet. From ages 14-70 healthy, non-deficient adults need 600 IU per day whereas those over 70 need 800 IU/day.

The best dietary sources of vitamin D3 are:

  • Fatty fish including salmon, tuna and mackerel,
  • Milk (one glass contains about 100 IU; check the label)
  • Fortified breakfast cereals, orange juices and soy beverages

Second, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about your vitamin D intake and consider using a supplement if you are not consuming enough in your diet.  Also, ask your doctor about vitamin D testing – many people are deficient or have insufficient levels and if your physician knows where your levels are, they can better prescribe a prescription for vitamin D or recommend an over the counter supplement.

The sunshine may feel nice and warm and boost your mood, but sun protection will go a long way toward maintaining skin health, helping prevent skin cancer and damage to your eyes.

Just remember that it isn't necessary to expose yourself to the damaging effects of ultraviolet light just to get your #vitamin D!

For healthier sunscreen choices see this article  Sunscreen Risks and Rewards - Healthier Sunscreen Choices

 

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5 Easy Ways to Avoid Sitting Too Long

“Warning: Before beginning a program of physical inactivity, consult your doctor. Sedentary living is abnormal and dangerous to your health.”    ― Frank ForencichExuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement

Excessive stretches of sitting ~ not a water-cooler topic yet, but definitely on the radar when it comes to optimal health.  Sitting for hours at a time, whether in couch-potato mode on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or at your desk, under deadline and pressured to not get up until your project is done, just isn’t good for your health.

To keep things in perspective though, most studies and reports describe a “big-picture” way of viewing sitting as a health risk, and make sure to separate long stretches of sitting (a negative behavior) from its healthy counterpart, exercise (a positive behavior) in a way that brings concerns to the forefront about exercises potential to overcome the negative effects of sitting.

If you're having trouble working up the energy to bother trying not to sit, have your vitamin D, iron and other levels of important hormones and nutrients tested, or try a quality multivitamin if you aren't using one already.  It can make all the difference in the world to have adequate energy reserves!

Here are some critical tips to avoid long periods of sitting:

BREAK IT UP

Since it’s long periods of sitting that seem to cause the most health risk, sitting for shorter periods, with short active breaks in between is one way to take matters into your own hands, or feet , in this case.  Back and forth to the water cooler, a quick stroll around the exterior of your building, even jumping jacks in your office will help break up your seat time.

PACE

Pace when you’re talking on the phone, pace when you’re watching a training video – you don’t have to go far, or stop being productive, but it gets you up out of your chair, and gets your blood flowing again.

MAKE TIME FOR FACE-TIME

This one goes along with the ‘break it up’ suggestion – anything you would normally do by email or phone that you can actually do in person, do it!  Walk upstairs to your co-worker’s desk, walk down the hall to your bosses office, even getting up to ask a question of your neighboring co-worker helps.  It all helps.

PUTTER

This one is more applicable to time at home – weekends, evenings after work, sit while you eat meals, but once you’re done, putter.  Take dishes to the sink, load the dishwasher, put leftovers away all right away.

CREATE MULTIPLE WORK STATIONS & “BOUNCE”

If you have the option, create multiple work stations for yourself and bounce between each throughout the day (every 1-3 hours).  At home, just make a deal with yourself to watch no more than an hour of TV or sit reading for no more than an hour at a time, in between get up and let the dog out, fold laundry, unload the dishwasher or whatever else you can do to break up the sitting.   (Doubly, this could also mean bouncing on your toes while you stand and watch TV, or at your desk while on the phone.)

SEE ALSO:  Fun Ways to Stay Fit While Stuck in the Office

WebMD has a great article with many of the same suggestions and a more complete look at the health risks posed by marathon sit-sessions. 

Take a look here: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20140407/sitting-disease-faq

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How Exercise Helps Joints

It may seem counter intuitive if your joints are sore, swollen and stiff, but truly, in scientific terms, exercise is one of the best things for you!  Exercise helps joints by increasing range of motion, and decreasing the overall discomfort you experience.

Joints are surrounded by soft tissue, often referred to as the synovial membrane, which makes fluids that act like an oil can, lubricating joints move more smoothly within their surrounding tissues.

Physical activity encourages circulation of joint fluid, which in turn makes joint movements more fluid.

Better Blood Flow

Get your heart pumping! Blood flow circulating through your joints at an increased rate allows better flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout joint tissues.

The Right Nutrients

Bearing weight on your joints, like you do when you exercise, pushes water molecules out of the cartilage just like squeezing a sponge.  And also like releasing a sponge you’ve squeezed under water, the proper joint nutrients and fresh oxygen are soaked right back up in place of the water that was pushed out.

Joint-Gene Activation

Some research even shows joint movement turns on joint-repair genes.  Careful though, it is also possible that over impacting and over exercising your joints can have the opposite effect.  The best way to not push too far is to listen to your body – it’s the perfect judge of the right amount of exercise.

Waste Removal

On a cellular level, exercise triggers all sorts of biological processes.  One called autophagy in particular is important to healthy joints.  Broken and damaged cells in your joints are broken down further and removed, making room for new and healthy cells.

Muscles from Brussels

Strengthening ligaments, tendons and muscles that encase your joints is a sure-fire way to brace and protect, lessening pressure on the joint itself with the strength of their support.

So despite the bit of stiffness or soreness, do your best every day to keep exercising.  Supplementing with a joint health formula is always a good consideration as well, to keep your movements fluid.  Even at a light level, weight-bearing exercise like walking will help keep your joints healthier and you happier in the long run.  

SEE ALSO: Age is Just a Number – How Exercise and Diet Keep You Young for Life

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Nutrition and Men's Health - 4 Important Nutrients Men Should Pay Attention To

Most men eat more than women do and therefore they have more opportunities to consume the nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, they need for good health. But, that doesn’t mean all men are getting these nutrients in the amounts they need to promote health and prevent deficiencies. Here are the ones every man should pay closer attention to:

PROTEIN

if you are a beef eating grill master you may be tempted to skip this section, but don’t. Though the majority of men don’t need to worry about protein deficiency, they should take a closer look at how protein can help with weight management and muscle strength.

In particular, you need to eat a good amount, at least 30 grams, of protein at each main meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, to keep your stomach full, so you don’t overeat later on, and to maximize muscle building or just keep your muscle on as you age (at about age 40 we start to lose muscle as we age though muscle loss can be slowed with a good exercise program and proper diet – particularly protein).

Aim for at least 30 grams per meal for a total of 90 grams per day (not counting the amount of protein you may get from snacks). Men who exercise as well as those who weigh more than about 175 should consume more than this per day while those who are older, say age 65 (or younger if you feel like you are losing too much muscle) may need more per meal to maximally stimulate muscle growth (because the amount you eat in each serving matters!).

MAGNESIUM

Many men, particularly African American men, aren't getting enough magnesium from their food every day. What does this mean? 

Magnesium is a utility player – it is necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body including muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis, regulating blood pressure and more. How can you ramp up your magnesium intake? Look for foods high in fiber. In general, higher fiber foods tend to contain magnesium. Good sources of this mineral include green vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried beans and whole grains.

VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is naturally found in few foods including fish (swordfish, tuna, salmon, sardines are all rich in vitamin D) and egg yolks. However, this vitamin is also added to some foods, particularly fortified milk, yogurt and some cereals. Vitamin D helps build strong bones. Plus it is important for neuromuscular and immune functioning, taming inflammation in the body and more. A meaningful percentage of men, after being tested, find they are deficient and need to ramp up their vitamin D intake.

CALCIUM

Since it is so heavily recognized that women need calcium, often men forget they have a need for it too.  Like all nutrients, calcium has a number of important roles in the body. Calcium is essential for strong bones, muscle and nerve functioning, hormone secretion and much more. Dairy foods including milk, yogurt and cheese as well as certain fish such as sardines and salmon are your best bets for meeting your calcium needs. However, you can also find this mineral in fortified soymilk or other similar beverages (shake the carton before drinking since much of the calcium settles to the bottom) and some cereals (check the Nutrition Facts panel).

SEE ALSO: Need More Energy? Here are 10 Tips for Boosting Your Energy Levels


References:

J Nutr 2003;133(9):2879-2882.

ODS, NIH vitamin & mineral fact sheets.

NHANES. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service

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Tips for Improving Your Golf Game with Healthy Joints

Aware and Prepare: for a Better Golf Game

Golf is a very popular activity for those in the retirement years, which means that we may not be playing with totally healthy, young joints.  Therefore we need to pay extra careful attention to form and pre-game practices. 

This means we need to be aware and prepare.

Awareness!

Let’s start with being aware… When it comes to being aware, I am specifically referring to an awareness of proper spinal posturing during the position used prior to performing a golf swing.  This position can lead to a common mistake when it comes to the lower back.

Finding and maintaining a neutral lumbar spine is key.

To do this you should practice in a mirror.  You will need to find your ideal position and then recognize it kinesthetically (in your minds eye), so that you can get into the right posture every time you set up for a swing.  Here is how to find and practice it. 

 Healthy Joints for Golf

  • Stand with your side profile to a mirror.
  • Set your feet in the stance you typically use during a swing.
  • Soften your knees and sit back into hips your as you would pre-swing.
  • Place your hands on your thighs.
  • Look at your spinal position in the mirror.
  • Tuck your tailbone as far under as you can.
  • Reverse and arch your back in the other direction as far as you can.
  • Now find the point right in the middle of those two extremes.
  • Hold your lower back in the midway, neutral position.
  • Engage your abs and look to see that your shoulders on a diagonal line with your hips and your knees are behind your toes.
  • Bring your arms in front of you as though you are holding a golf club.
  • Check in the mirror to make sure you have maintained the proper position.
  • Hold for five deep breaths and then place your hands on your thighs for a break.

Repeat several times. 

Prepare!

Now to further prepare for a strong back swing you can add the following rear shoulder exercise from the pre-swing golf position:

Posterior Raise with dumbbell or full water bottle

  • Perform a dumbbell posterior raise in a slow controlled manner from a well-aligned pre- golf swing posture.
  • Keep the weight light enough for you to maintain the proper posture throughout the range of motion.
  • Perform 8 to 12 repetitions with control.

 Healthy Joint Tips for Better Golf

Then finish up with a great mobility/stability exercise for the torso and shoulder girdle. 

Quadruped Rotation with Flexion and Extension

  • In quadruped position (hands under shoulders, knees under hips), take right hand and put behind head as far as possible. 
  • Flex and rotate spine, aiming right elbow to the outside of the left knee.  
  • Then extend and rotate spine, aiming right elbow up towards ceiling.
  • Perform slowly holding the end range positions for 3 to 5 deep breaths.
  • Do 4 to 6 on each side.

 Healthier Joints for Better Golf Game

Maintain!  Take a Glucosamine and Chondroitin Supplement for Healthier Joints and Flexibility

Taking a liquid glucosamine and chondroitin supplement daily can also be very helpful for maintaining healthy joints and flexibility.  It helps keep joints lubricated for improved mobility.  Glucosamine helps rebuild cartilage tissue lost over time and from wear and tear and chondroitin helps to cushion and lubricate your joints for better joint health and to help manage joint pain and stiffness.     

Don't let joint pain keep you from enjoying your golf game this summer!  By doing a few preventive measures such as these exercises and taking a glucosamine supplement, you can be on top of your game without joint pain.

SEE ALSO:  Exercise Do’s and Don’ts … on a Joint-by-Joint Basis

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Fighting Perimenopause

I decided to have weight loss surgery at almost 36 years old.  You may recall that I wrote a post earlier here on the Wellesse blog stating that the one thing I wish I had done differently was to make the decision earlier.  Still, life is what it is, and at 42, I now face the challenge of working through perimenopause and my erratic mood swings. (Note:  the challenge probably lies more with my husband, who feels the brunt of my emotional antics. He should be knighted.  Honestly.)  Read more about perimenopause and it’s symptoms here and here.

I found out that I was in perimenopause about two years ago.  My husband and I had talked about having children, and since we were both 40+, we knew we would need to see where we stood with fertility. I had the very unfortunate experience of learning that I was in perimenopause and that my chances of having a child were at 1%.  I spent most of the first year of perimenopause grieving that fact, and fighting off the initial stages of hot flashes.  It was not pleasant, but I got through it.

Now here I am over two years later, knowing that there are many more physical and emotional changes ahead for me in menopause.  My body is physically feeling the affects:  

  • I have gained 10 lbs, and have to work even harder now to keep the weight off (or stop myself from gaining more)
  • The hot flashes have increased in frequency and duration  
  • My mood swings are much more dramatic now
  • I often times feel like I am unable to control my mood despite any amount of logic and reasoning I try to apply

I know that I need to give my body better nutrients and supplements to help stave off some of the unfortunate side effects. So I began to research what vitamins and supplements help with this.

Now before I even begin to write what I found, I want to put the disclaimer out there: I am not a doctor (obviously), nor do I have any medical training.  This is just information that I have found from trusted resources from my own personal research online.  Please always check with your doctors and nutritionists before trying anything new.  (End disclaimer)

The following are natural herbs and remedies for perimenopause symptoms, many of which I have already implemented, some of which I still need to try.  If you have any experience with any of these, please tell us about it in the comments section.  Here is my list, and I wish anyone dealing with the same issues the best of luck!

CLICK HERE FOR DIVA TAUNIA’S LIST OF PERIMENOPAUSE REMEDIES

SEE ALSO:  What Would I Have Done Differently with My Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery?

Guest Post by Diva Taunia, a professional musician and music educator located in the greater Los Angeles area. More information can be found at www.divataunia.com 

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The Amazing Benefits of Group Fitness

How many times when you are alone do you dread working out? It can be boring and just plain hard to get through.

One idea to get around that feeling is to grab 3-4 friends and perform your workout together in a group fitness class which can be run by one of your group's members or a by a fitness professional.

The benefits of group fitness are far-ranging. Just having a fitness partner in general can literally be the biggest motivational tool (Jeffery et al 1998).

In combination with the fact that you get multiple fitness partners to make you coerce you to show up and workout, here are 4 other reasons group fitness classes can really help you reach your goals:

Group Classes Are More Affordable 

When it comes to working out in a group, if you decide to hire a fitness instructor or go to a class at your local gym then the classes are usually more affordable. Compared to a one-on-one session with a personal trainer that can cost anywhere from $40-$80 per hour, due to the number of participants in group fitness classes the rates are usually substantially cheaper (anywhere from $5-$15 per one hour class). Not only will you get a great workout but you will save your money as well!

Groups are Social and Fun 

When you get a bunch of people together performing the same tasks, especially if you know several of them, they are inherently social! Social groups are fun because it makes the workout go by quicker and you actually don’t think about the workout you are doing, you just have a good time and perform the task at hand!

You Will Perform at Your Peak

When you are in a group atmosphere you really will perform at another level. This is because the basic fundamental psychology of humans is that they want to keep-up or outperform their peers (we all have a slight competitive streak). Likewise, you will also perform at a higher level because you will have your peers to push you and provide encouragement!

You are Held Accountable

When you sign up for a specified number of classes and commit to be there to your friends, you are held accountable to that commitment. You will not want to live up to that commitment but you will also hold them accountable in return; no one wants to be the first person to skip a workout! Plus the added benefit of actually putting your money down up front will also mean you are invested monetarily and no one wants to waste money!

Group fitness classes really are a great way to start getting more out of your fitness. By offering you support and motivation, they will really push you to new heights, and you get to offer your support and motivation in return! Check out some of the local classes in your area or start your own group class today. Be social and have fun while getting fit!

SEE ALSO:  Get Physical For Free! Body Weight Exercises for Top Fitness

If you want to start your own fitness group, check out Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness for the instruction, motivation, and support you need. We will help you get the results you deserve!

Citations

Jeffery RW, Wing RR, Thorson C, Burton LR (1998) Use of personal trainers and financial incentives to increase exercise in a behavioral weight-loss program. J Con Clin Psych 66: 777.

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National Fruit and Vegetable Month - Eat The Rainbow!

Eat More Veggies During National Fruit and Vegetable Month

June 17th is National Eat Your Vegetables Day – a great reminder to eat more veggies! 

Vegetables add more than eye appealing color and texture to your dishes. They are full of gut friendly fiber (which keeps your digestive tract running smoothly), typically low in calories yet full of healthy plant based compounds, vitamins and minerals and research suggests fruits and vegetables may help lower your risk of certain diseases. How can you get more in your diet?

Remember All Forms Count – canned, fresh, frozen, dried and juice 

In fact, because canned and frozen veggies are often picked at their peek of ripeness, in some instances they may contain even more nutrients than fresh vegetables since processing helps preserve certain nutrients. In addition, dried veggies (if you haven’t had dried or baked pea pods or edamame, you are in for a crunchy treat!) and 100% juice count too so consider a vegetable juice or vegetable – fruit blend.

Opt for Add-Ins and Add-Ons

When you are ordering a sandwich or meal that comes with a side dish, consider how you can add vegetables. It’s easy to top your sandwich with tomato slices or toss peppers into a burrito. Plus, make veggies your side dish.

Choose Convenience 

Baby carrots, dried veggies and vegetable juice boxes are convenient, very portable ways you can carry your vegetables with you during busy days. You can even stash the carrots and dried veggies in your carry-on bag for a healthy, airplane-friendly snack while waiting for your flight to take off.

Get Creative

Vegetables can take on very different tastes when you roast, bake, or grill them, dip them in sauce or puree them for marinades, soups or smoothies. In addition, consider how a vegetable will taste once mixed with other vegetables or tossed with spices and/or flavored oil. For instance, avocado gets even more life and a little zip when mixed with jalapeno, lemon juice and spices in a guacamole. And red bell pepper becomes even sweeter and soft when stir-fried in a flavorful olive oil. So, consider the endless number of ways you can prepare vegetables.

Many Americans aren't getting enough produce every day. Commit to increasing your intake by making different choices at meal and snack time. You’ll start craving the eye-popping colors, various textures and flavors that vegetables add to each dish.

SEE ALSO:  Why You Need More Fruits and Vegetables

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Tropical Protein Powerhouse Smoothie

This smoothie is a powerhouse!

Its full of vitamins to boost your immune system, and protein for lean muscle building. Mangos and Pineapples contain loads of vitamin C to shield your body from illnesses and promote healthy healing.  

This recipe is made creamy by the frozen fruit and coconut milk. If you are not a fan of coconut milk, you can sub in any milk of choice (dairy or non-dairy). To make this a complete meal, I used Wellesse’s Protein complete. This makes this smoothie very filling.  You can also add other Wellesse supplements if you use them, like Multivitamin+ or Calcium with Vitamin D3 and they will only make it healthier and taste better ~

Mango-Pineapple Pina Colada Smoothie

•    ½ Cup Pinneapple, frozen 
•    ½ Cup Mango, frozen
•    3/4 Cup Lite Coconut milk
•    ½ Cup Ice Cubes
•    2 Packets of Stevia or other sweetener of choice
•    ¼ Cup Coconut Flakes
•    Pinch of Salt
•    2 TBSP- 1 Serving of Wellesse Protein Complete

SEE ALSO:  Tips to Create Your Own Smoothie Recipes

GUEST POST by Blogger, Recipe Designer and Test Chef Brittany Angell.  Visit her at www.brittanyangell.com and sign up for Club Angell to receive amazing Paleo, Gluten Free, Grain Free recipes.

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Men Take Note! Men's Health Month 2014

Men, stop hiding and take note! June is National Men’s Health Month.

It’s your turn for a focus on preventive care and healthy lifestyle planning. This is a perfect chance for you to become aware of the health risks specific to men, and get support from your family and friends to pursue any testing or treatment you may have been putting off.  

Your health and wellness is just as important as your female counterparts, so investigate your resources and start taking care of yourself the way you deserve.

“The purpose of Men’s Health Month is to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys."   

This month gives health care providers, the media and individuals the opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.”  Check out the organization website for more info. www.menshealthmonth.org

 They have a handy screening checklist (Click here to view the list), page two shows what and when men should have checked, taking the guesswork out of preventive care issues like pre-diabetes.  Check out this article on preventive care Easy Steps for Prediabetes Proactive Care.  

The Mayo Clinic is also involved in helping men assess and be proactive about common health risks – Take a look at their Top 7 Threats to Men’s Health article here. 

All men, and everyone truly, should start with the basics of a healthy lifestyle — eat a healthy diet, stay physically active, quit smoking if you haven’t already, get regular checkups and keep safety top of mind in your daily activities.

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