Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Billion-Dollar Business to Sell Us Crappy Food

New report sheds light on the covert tactics used to shape public opinion about what we eat

At the turn of the last century, the father of public relations, Edward Bernays, launched the Celiac Project, whose medical professionals recommended bananas to benefit celiac disease sufferers. Those pitched on the sweet fruit’s miraculous properties didn’t know the project was actually created for the United Fruit Co., the largest trader of bananas in the world.
The creation of front groups — independent-sounding but industry-backed organizations — as a public relations strategy dates at least as far back as Bernays’ day. But a new report by Kari Hamerschlag, a senior program manager at the environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth; Stacy Malkan, a co-founder of the food industry watchdog U.S. Right to Know; and me shows that such tactics are continuing with ever more scope and scale today.
The report, released today, exposes the growth of food-industry-sponsored front groups and other covert communication tactics in the past few years. While food industry spin is not new, we’re seeing an unprecedented level of spending and deployment of an ever wider array of PR tactics. We argue this rise of industrial food spin is a direct response to mounting public concerns about industrial agriculture as well as a growing interest in sustainable food and groundswell for organic products.
Increasingly, the American public is raising questions about toxic chemicals used in farming, routine antibiotics used in livestock production and genetic engineering in agriculture. The booming organic food business is one sign: Sales of organic food and products in the United States are projected to jump from $35 billion in 2013 to $170 billion in 2025 — a direct threat to the profits of the processed food, animal agriculture and chemical industries engaging in such spin. According to a recent Fortune article, since 2009 the 25 biggest food and beverage companies — selling nonorganic processed and junk food — lost an equivalent of $18 billion in market share. “I would think of them like melting icebergs,” the article quotes Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow as saying. “Every year they become a little less relevant.”
In the face of this threat, we argue that the industrial food sector — from the biotech behemoths to the animal agriculture industry — is working overtime to defuse these concerns with well-funded communication efforts and a rash of new front groups. From 2009 to 2013, just 14 of these front groups spent $126 million to shape the story of food while presenting the veneer of independence. There’s the Alliance to Feed the Future, which produces Common Core–vetted curricula on healthy food for public schools. Its members include the Frozen Pizza Institute and the Calorie Control Council, which promotes the benefits of Olestra and saccharin, among other artificial sweeteners and fats. You don’t need to be an expert in food security to be skeptical to take advice about feeding the world from the trade council for fake sugar and fat. 
Because the food industry employs under-the-radar PR strategies, often people don’t realize the stories are being crafted behind the scenes. 
We detail groups such as the U.S. Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance (USFRA) — whose goal, it says, is “to enhance U.S. consumer trust in modern food production to ensure the abundance of affordable, safe food” and whose lead partners include animal pharmaceutical company Elanco, biotech giant Monsanto and chemical companies DuPont, Dow and Syngenta. Among the USFRA’s communication priorities since its launch in 2011 has been to combat growing public concern about the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Its Antibiotics Working Group has developed educational materials, hosted public conversations and trained media representatives to downplay the risks of antibiotics. But the group’s messages contradict well-documented evidence of the widespread misuse of routine antibiotics. Today 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are used not in humans, according to the Food and Drug Administration, but in livestock animal production to promote growth or prevent disease, leading to the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
But it’s not just front groups. We describe a plethora of other communication tactics, many of them so under-the-radar that often people don’t realize the stories are being crafted behind the scenes. We describe how the industrial food sector targets female audiences and co-opts female bloggers, how industry groups pay for advertisements to look like editorial content and how the industry infiltrates social media. In one example, the Biotechnology Industry Organization hired PR firm Ketchum to develop GMOAnswers.com, populated with industry-approved answers about genetically modified organisms. The firm even won a prestigious advertising award for this campaign, particularly for its success in tracking negative tweets about GMOs and engaging users directly, urging them to visit the website.
The trade groups for the industrial food sector also reach into their deep pockets to shape how the media report on our food system. In our analysis, we found that just four major trade associations for the chemical, biotech and animal agriculture sectors had expenses totaling half a billion dollars from 2009 to 2013, including communications and marketing campaigns.
These are just some of the tactics we describe. While it is far from a comprehensive documentation of every front group or tactic, we hope the report inspires everyday Americans, public officials and journalists to be critical consumers of the stories we hear about food and farming. Particularly at a time when mainstream media outlets are hemorrhaging, cutting back on the resources available for the investigative pieces essential to accurate reporting on and exposing industry malfeasance, it’s increasingly important that we know where our food information comes from and who is behind it. There’s new indication of the importance of this every day. Consider how the food industry is already busy pushing back in the media against the sound recommendations from the scientific advisory committee for the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, set to be finalized later this year.
We must ensure these PR strategies don’t leave us in the dark about the real story of our food. Because as we debate one of the biggest questions of our time — how to feed ourselves safely and sustainably — it’s essential we base critical policy decisions and consumer choices on substance, not spin. 
~Thanks to Anne Lappe: Anna LappĂ© is the author of “Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It” and a co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and Real Food Media Project

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How to Get Rid of Flies in Your House

Discover easy ways to keep the flies away without having to cover yourself in bug spray. These natural repellents are easy and inexpensive. In fact, I had most of the ingredients in my cabinets! And more than one of these tricks cost less than $1.
Summer will never be the same now - it will be even better! Without those annoying flies around, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and truly enjoy the favorite season of the year.
Please SHARE these easy and inexpensive do-it-yourself bug repellents to help make everyone’s summer a little better.
Pennies and Water in a Ziplock Bag
This is by far one of the easiest and least expensive fly deterrents — it should really only cost about 4 cents. Simply fill a resealable Ziplock bag with water and drop in 4 or 5 pennies. This may sound odd, but flies are scared off by what they perceive to be a large body of water and become confused by the reflection of the sunlight hitting the water and the pennies. Hang the bag on your porch or from a nearby tree to keep the pesky flies away.
Citronella and Coconut Oil
Keep the flies away with oil! Drop 20–30 drops of citronella oil into a bowl of 1 1/2 cups of coconut oil. Mix thoroughly and use the mixture to fill little jars or tins. Place the tins around the trouble spots to enjoy a fly-free evening.
Cotton Balls, Vanilla Extract, and Mint
This repellent might have a couple of steps, but it works. Put two cotton balls in the bottom of a shallow jar. Cover the cotton balls with about four tablespoons of vanilla extract. Top the jar with fresh mint, and cover the whole thing with a piece of cheesecloth. This method is so successful, you could place the jars next to a bowl of fresh, ripe fruit and the flies will still steer clear.
Vodka and Clove in a Spray Bottle
Sure, you can purchase expensive bug sprays, but who wants the smell of chemicals around your house? Here, just fill a small spray bottle with some vodka and a little bit of lavender or clove. Spray the mixture around the trouble areas to keep your outdoor evenings free of pests.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Another easy and extremely inexpensive method is to use apple cider vinegar to trap the flies. Place apple cider vinegar in a shallow jar or glass. Cover the jar with plastic wrap and punch holes in the top of it. Place these jars on the outskirts of where you’ll be spending your time. This apple cider vinegar will act as an invisible barrier from unwanted gnats.
Garlic, Cinnamon, and Cayenne Pepper Powder
Another perfect barrier to protect your home is this mixture of garlic powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper powder. Simply sprinkle the powder around the foundation of your home to create an invisible force shield that will keep those pesky flies far away.
Essential Oils
This spray bottle method works the same as the vodka method, but doesn’t require having alcohol around the house. Fill the bottle with half water and half vinegar, and splash in 15 drops of essential oils like mint, lemon, lavender, citronella, or eucalyptus. Spray the house or the porch liberally so you can kick your feet up bug-free.
An Old, Scratched CD
Perhaps the least expensive (except perhaps for the penny method), this unique trick scares flies away. Simply hang an unwanted CD from your porch or a nearby tree. While you might think this sounds crazy, it’s been known to scare the flies off due to the reflective nature of the CD.
~Thanks to Samantha Hemmingway

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Help for Every Summer Accident

The only bummer about summer is the barrage of backyard bang-ups. Every year, trampoline accidents account for almost 90,000 visits to the ER, and grilling and sparkler injuries send about 6,000 more people to the hospital. Minor snafus are no picnic, either. One slip of a watermelon knife or errant flip of a burger, and the party's over. That's why we asked the GH Health Lab to find the best first aid kits and consulted emergency pros for their tips and tricks. The result: This year, nothing gets in the way of your family's good time.


Heal at Home:
If you got the burn from something hot (like a grill) and it's smaller than a quarter, rinse it with cool running water for at least 20 minutes, then cover loosely with gauze and secure with tape. Change the bandage daily and watch out for signs of infection such as redness, pus, or swelling.
Opt for the ER:
If the burn is from an electrical accident, like stepping barefoot on a frayed appliance cord; the skin is numb to the touch, white, waxy, charred, or smells singed; the burned area covers a large portion of the palm of your hand or fingers, or goes all the way around a toe, arm, or leg; or the burned area is on your face, feet, hands, buttocks, genitals, or a major joint.


Heal at Home:
Press with a gauze pad until bleeding slows considerably or stops. Flush wound with tap water for at least two minutes; pat dry, cover with gauze, and secure with tape. Splinter? Use a sterilized needle to lift its end so you can grip it with sterilized tweezers. Slide the splinter out at the same angle at which it appears to have gone in. Wash with warm water and cover with a bandage.
Opt for the ER:
If blood still flows readily after 10 to 15 minutes of pressure; there's a large or deeply embedded object in the wound; or the wound is gaping, muscle is showing, or the edges won't come together. The cause of your cut matters, too: When a dirty object like a rusty nail or splinter of wood punctures your skin, tetanus is a risk. Haven't had a booster in the last 10 years? Get one ASAP. Can't recall your last tetanus shot? There's no harm in an extra dose.


Heal at Home:
For insect bites, use a credit card to gently scrape the stinger away. (To avoid squeezing out more venom, work below the venom sac if it's still attached.) Wash the area with soap and water and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling.
Opt for the ER:
If you suspect an anaphylactic reaction. Warning signs: swollen lips or eyelids, an itchy red rash, hoarseness or wheezing, swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, tightness in the chest, and loss of consciousness. A call to your doc or an ER visit is also a necessity if a red ring forms around a bite, which could mean you've been bitten by a tick infected with Lyme disease; the sooner you get antibiotics, the more effective they are.

Head Bonks

Heal at Home:
The size of the "goose egg" does not correlate with the injury's severity, so monitor symptoms carefully. In the meantime, treat localized pain with ice and acetaminophen. Avoid ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, since they can interfere with internal blood clotting — never a good idea when you're dealing with a head wound.
Opt for the ER:
If the injured person has lost consciousness (even for a brief time), complains of a severe headache, is vomiting, or has worsening symptoms, lethargy, confusion, seizures, or clear fluid or blood leaking from the ears or nose. Call your doctor or go to the ER if the injured person seems foggy or doesn't remember what happened.
~Thanks to Good Housekeeping

New Data Shows How the World is Running Out of Water

The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.
Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.
Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.
“The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and principal investigator of the University of California Irvine-led studies.
Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use as its rivers and above-ground reservoirs dry up, a steep increase from the usual 40 percent. Some expect water from aquifers will account for virtually every drop of the state’s fresh water supply by year end.
The aquifers under the most stress are in poor, densely populated regions, such as northwest India, Pakistan and North Africa, where alternatives are limited and water shortages could quickly lead to instability.
The researchers used NASA’s GRACE satellites to take precise measurements of the world’s groundwater aquifers. The satellites detected subtle changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull, noting where the heavier weight of water exerted a greater pull on the orbiting spacecraft. Slight changes in aquifer water levels were charted over a decade, from 2003 to 2013.
“This has really been our first chance to see how these large reservoirs change over time,” said Gordon Grant, a research hydrologist at Oregon State University, who was not involved in the studies.
But the NASA satellites could not measure the total capacity of the aquifers. The size of these tucked-away water supplies remains something of a mystery. Still, the satellite data indicated that some aquifers may be much smaller than previously believed, and most estimates of aquifer reserves have “uncertainty ranges across orders of magnitude,” according to the research.
Aquifers can take thousands of years to fill up and only slowly recharge with water from snowmelt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed. “The water table is dropping all over the world,” Famiglietti said. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.”
The health of the world’s aquifers varied widely, mostly dependent on how they were used. In Australia, for example, the Canning Basin in the country’s western end had the third-highest rate of depletion in the world. But the Great Artesian Basin to the east was among the healthiest. The difference, the studies found, is likely attributable to heavy gold and iron ore mining and oil and gas exploration near the Canning Basin. Those are water-intensive activities.
The world’s most stressed aquifer — defined as suffering rapid depletion with little or no sign of recharging — was the Arabian Aquifer, a water source used by more than 60 million people. That was followed by the Indus Basin in India and Pakistan, then the Murzuk-Djado Basin in Libya and Niger.
California’s Central Valley Aquifer was the most troubled in the United States. It is being drained to irrigate farm fields, where drought has led to an explosion in the number of water wells being drilled. California only last year passed its first extensive groundwater regulations. But the new law could take two decades to take full effect.
Also running a negative balance was the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer, which stretches across the southeast coast and Florida. But three other aquifers in the middle of the country appeared to be in relatively good shape.
Some groundwater filters back down to aquifers, such as with field irrigation. But most of it is lost to evaporation or ends up being deposited in oceans, making it harder to use. A 2012 study by Japanese researchers attributed up to 40 percent of the observed sea-level rise in recent decades to groundwater that had been pumped out, used by humans and ended up in the ocean.
Famiglietti said problems with groundwater are exacerbated by global warming, which has caused the regions closest to the equator to get drier and more extreme latitudes to experience wetter and heavier rains. A self-reinforcing cycle begins. People living in mid-range latitudes not only pump more water from aquifers to contend with drier conditions, but that water — once removed from the ground — also then evaporates and gets recirculated to areas far north and south.
Famiglietti said he hoped the findings would spur discussion and further research into how much groundwater is left. “We need to get our heads together on how we manage groundwater,” he said, “because we’re running out of it.”
~Thanks to Todd C. Frankel

Healthy Post-Workout Snacks That Instructors Love

What are the favorite post-workout snacks of instructors?  
Asking 20 cycle instructors how they fuel up when the killer playlist is over, the sweat stops pouring, and they hop off the yellow bike (knowing they’ll be hopping back on again VERY soon).
Here’s what they said…
1. Avocados, and lots of them
Anything that can be paired with avocado! That can range from eggs or toast to chicken or sandwiches or even a margarita… if it has been one of those days. (Maybe skip that last one…until your body has had time to rehydrate, of course.)
2. Protein shakes
Have a protein shake after class - it helps replace lost fluids, carbohydrates, and proteins and speeds up recovery time so that I’m ready for the next workout! 
3. Eggs 
My favorite thing to eat after my weekend morning class is sunny-side-up eggs with slices of avocado and tomatoes - it refuels me.
4. Protein bars
Another favorite thing to eat post class usually a Lara or Quest bar immediately after class. It gives the body something to burn right away and then followed usually chicken rice and veggies to really refuel.
~ Thanks to Sarah Sarway

10 Tips To Raise A Child With Resilience & Self-Esteem

Although there are many ways of defining the concept of self-esteem, in general the term encompasses the way we think and feel about ourselves, and the way we evaluate ourselves. Children with healthy self-esteem believe that they are deserving of love, and they possess a willingness to face challenges in which they may not succeed.
It’s never too late to build your self-esteem and increase your ability to be a great role model for your children.
Children with low self-esteem tend to be very critical of themselves, are hesitant to face challenges because failure will confirm their negative self-view, show poor frustration tolerance, and do not feel worthy of love. Furthermore, having a negative self-esteem is correlated with many mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance use. 
One of the major goals of parents is ensuring that their child develops and fosters a healthy self-esteem to carry with them through life. Here are 10 tips to help your children see their inner beauty:
1. Model healthy self-esteem by taking care of yourself.
Children are quite tuned into the state of their parents’ overall well-being, and parents often don’t see how much children are paying attention. In fact, children use their parents as a model for behavior and as a mirror for their own feelings. So, if you are struggling with your own self-esteem and demonstrating these struggles through your words and actions, chances are your children will, too. 
It’s never too late to build your self-esteem, and increase your ability to be a great role model for your children. Engaging in psychotherapy or yoga, for example, is an excellent way to gain assistance with life’s challenges, including parenting, and to increase your love for yourself.
2. Pay attention to how you speak to and listen to your child.
Watch the labels and judgments that you say to your children to describe their character, as they can make more of an impression than you want. For example, “Michael is not a good sharer” can be interpreted by your child as a global statement of disapproval, rather than the description of a particular behavior. 
So describe behaviors in the moment, rather than globalizing them (e.g., “Michael had a hard time sharing his toy with Marcos yesterday”) and model the behavior that you want your child to exhibit. 
3. Help your children to express feelings and change inaccurate beliefs. 
Prompt your children to express feelings both in successful and challenging situations, so they become adept at recognizing and verbalizing emotions. When you hear your children express negative beliefs about themselves (e.g., “I’m stupid”), encourage them to view the situation differently (“One bad grade does not mean that you are stupid. You have excelled in so many areas....!”).
4. Stress the importance of effort and completion rather than performance.
Research demonstrates that it is more effective to reward actual effort and completion of a task, rather than praising children for their performance compared to others. You want to ensure that your children understand that they are valued because of who they are, not how they perform and measure up to other children. 
5. Create a safe, loving environment at home.
A family and home environment that is safe, loving, and has established rules and structure is essential to building self-esteem in children. Be sure to be mindful of your children’s interactions with others at school and in their peer groups as best as you can, to ensure they are safe and secure in those relationships, as well.
6. Remember and demonstrate that failure is a part of life.
In order to learn and develop, we must experience failure in our lives. Children with high self-esteem tolerate failure and see it as an opportunity for learning and growth. And along with that …
7. Let your children take some risks and make some of their own choices.
Although may parents find it incredibly difficult to stand back and watch their children fail, it is imperative to developing a healthy self-esteem that you let your children take risks and chances, so they develop confidence in themselves and in their choices, and learn problem-solving skills. Furthermore, they understand that failure and success are not reflective of their worth.
8. Have your children be involved in cooperative experiences.
It is important that children experience cooperation and collaboration through a host of activities such as volunteering, team sports (especially ones that stress teamwork), music and art endeavors, and camp.
9. Teach your children to be critical of media, especially social media.
Rather than outright forbidding or limiting your child’s exposure to social media  (which can make them want to see it more), help them to view media and internet postings with a critical eye so they learn to effectively understand how to manage the information and messages they are being given. For example, ask them, "What are they trying to sell you here?"
10. Remember that love is unconditional.
Make sure your children know and experience your love for them no matter what happens, and make it clear that your love for them has no limitations. This is a powerful component to building your children’s self-esteem.
If you are concerned that your child is struggling with their self-esteem, consider having them see a psychotherapist to help build their repertoire of skills for dealing with the challenges they face, and foster positive self-beliefs that will increase their self-esteem.
~ Thanks to Dr. Jill Emanuele

Thursday, June 4, 2015

10 Benefits of Yoga Inversions

yoga inversion
A yoga teacher’s suggestion to invert has the power to illicit a range of emotions from students: bewilderment, fear, anxiety, aversion, rejection, excitement, butterflies — you fill in the blank.
Purposely turning ourselves upside-down is contrary to our physical nature, and yet the benefits of upending ourselves are many. Just as yoga gently encourages us to move away from any unconscious habitual patterns, the invitation to invert is simply another way to shake things up, step out of a rut.
An inversion is most generally categorized as any position in which the head is below the heart. And while Headstand, Handstand, Forearm Stand and Shoulder Stand immediately come to mind, there are gentler variations that may be more accessible for students early on in their inversion relationship: Downward Dog, Standing Forward Folds, Legs Up the Wall and Happy Baby are lovely ways in which to get things moving in new directions without jumping into the deep end.
Like all things in life, the suggestion to get upside-down should not be universally prescribed. There are certain contraindications that should be observed so as not to cause or exacerbate previous injuries or illnesses: unmedicated high blood pressure, some heart conditions, neck injuries, recent stroke, detached retina, glaucoma and epilepsy are common issues that should be addressed before inverting. Talk with your doctor and teacher if you are unsure about your status.
Additionally, the debate continues as to whether women on their “ladies’ holiday” should indeed take a vacation from inversions. I would suggest doing a little research for yourself, both in an academic as well as an experiential sense. Listen to your body and what feels appropriate as you move through your cycle. This might mean abstaining from or simply holding inversions for shorter periods of time — you are the ultimate judge.
Without further delay, here are 10 compelling reasons you should finish reading this article and get upside-down:
1. Reverse the blood flow in the body and improve circulation:
Work smarter, not harder! Use gravity to provide the brain with more oxygen and blood, thus improving mental function, including concentration, memory and processing abilities.
2. Increase immunity and prevent illness:
The lymphatic system is a key player in keeping the body healthy. As lymph moves through the body it picks up toxins and bacteria to be eliminated by the lymph nodes. Because lymph moves as a result of muscle contractions and gravity, getting upside-down allows lymph to more easily travel into the respiratory system, where many of the toxins enter the body.
3. Energize:
Feeling that 3pm slump coming on? Get upside-down! Heating inversions such as Handstand, Headstand and Forearm Balance get more blood moving to the brain, which results not only in physical invigoration but mental revitalization as well.
4. Relax:
While the heating inversions energize, inversions of the cooling type (Shoulder Stand and Legs Up the Wall) work to calm the nervous system, thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system and producing feelings of balance and calm.
5. Improve balance:
Up the ante! Once you’ve mastered balancing on one or two legs, the obvious next step is finding equanimity on hands and head.
Of course inversions don’t just work your arms or legs — they’re total-body toners.
7. Build confidence:
While that first kick up into Handstand might induce varying levels of trepidation, once we “get it,” things like that upcoming job interview suddenly don’t seem as daunting.
8. Stay humble:
And before we “get it,” those many attempts remind us of how much more we have to learn, and how truly it is about the journey, not simply the destination.
9. Literally give us a new perspective on life:
As we become accustomed to reacting to our world in a predictable way, inversions teach us through both physical example and metaphor that there is always another way to approach the situation/person/problem.
10. Inversions are fun:
Inversions reintroduce us to our inner child and remind us that though yoga is a contemplative endeavor in many ways, the asana practice is also a time to be playful and lighthearted!
~Thanks to Miriah Wall

Monday, June 1, 2015

Men's Health: Watch for Heart Disease

Men's Health

There are over 150 million men in the United States, and 12% of these men are labeled as having fair or poor health. Maintaining a healthy balance includes paying attention to your physical, mental, and emotional health. This newsletter equips you with information on men and heart disease, nutrition and exercise, and cancer--some of the leading health concerns for men. Take time to evaluate your own health status to ensure you're making the right choices for your lifestyle!

Men and Heart Disease
The heart is a vital organ, it pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the body in order to sustain life. In order to do so, the human heart beats 100,000 times a day and pumps around 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the body each day. The heart is one of the most important organs in the human body and therefore our heart health is crucial.

Heart disease is an umbrella term used to describe a range of conditions that can affect your heart, including arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and congenital heart defects, among others. The leading cause of death for men in the United States is heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1 in every 4 male deaths is due to heart disease and between 70-89% of cardiac events occur in men.

Unfortunately, there are not always warning signs of heart disease and the first sign is often a heart attack or stroke. However, there are a few early signs that can help you recognize heart problems. These include: difficulty breathing after moderate physical activity, discomfort in your chest lasting anywhere from half an hour to a few hours, unexplained pain in your upper torso, neck, or jaw, and changes in your extremities. These can be signs of the narrowing of blood vessels, making it difficult for your heart to pump oxygenated blood throughout your body. 

Risk factors for developing heart disease include: age, family history, smoking, a poor diet, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and a lack of physical activity. It is important to inform your doctors if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or a family history of heart disease, as these can put you at a higher risk of developing problems with your heart.

There are risk factors that you can control to make yourself less likely to be affected by heart disease. Choosing to stop smoking can have benefits for your health. The nicotine that enters your body when you smoke constricts your blood vessels and the carbon monoxide damages the inner lining of these vessels. A poor diet, including food that is high in salt, fat, sugar, and cholesterol, can increase the risk of formation of plaques clogging your arteries and can lead to numerous heart diseases. The next section discuses ways you can improve your exercise and eating habits, which can have lasting impacts on your heart health!

Nutrition and Exercise

Only 53% of men over 18-years-old met the most recent federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity and almost 35% of men over 20-years-old are obese. Maintaining healthy exercise and nutrition routines is essential for men to live healthier lives. High blood pressure is often the culprit for dangerous repercussions from unhealthy habits. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls, and high blood pressure means the pressure in your arteries is above the normal range. 

Eating certain foods and gaining weight can increase your blood pressure, while making healthy choices to lose weight and eat better foods can have the ability to lower your blood pressure. It's wiser to eat foods lower in fat, salt, and calories, avoid foods such as fried foods, salty snacks, and butter--as these have been found to increase blood pressure. In comparison, choosing to eat lean meats, fruits and vegetables instead may help lower your blood pressure, putting less strain on your body. Furthermore, compared to people who eat only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, men who eat more generous amounts are likely to have reduced risk of chronic disease.

Maintaining a regular exercise routine is just as important for men as choosing healthy foods. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days a week to remain physically healthy. If you're looking to lower your blood pressure, 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 4 times a week is recommended. Being physically active is essential in preventing heart disease and stroke. Alternating a cardio-based workout (such as running or swimming) with weight lifting can ensure you shed fat and build muscle in a healthy way. Not sure where to start? Check out these 25 Tips and Strategies for Exercise in Men.
 ~Thanks to the Women's Health Research Institute 

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