The Importance of Getting a Good Night’s Rest

The amount and quality of sleep that we get on a regular basis might be more important than you realize. Getting plenty of sleep can strengthen your memory and help you maintain a healthy weight. Higher chances for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and heart attacks may all be a result of a lack of quality sleep. If you commonly have problems with getting a full night’s sleep, consider these tips to help improve your slumber.

Give yourself a sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at the same times on a daily basis works wonders towards improving your sleep. To give yourself a better chance of maintaining the schedule, be sure to continue it on your days off from work. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule will help to keep you mentally and physically invigorated during your day. To this end, try to minimize napping during the day. Lengthy daytime naps can make it harder to get to sleep at night. If napping is a must, be sure to keep them no longer than 30 minutes in the middle of the afternoon.

Watch what you eat and drink at night. Try not to eat dinner too close to your bedtime. Rich and fatty foods cause the stomach to work harder to digest. Also, acidic foods can cause annoying heartburn. If you tend to get hungry later in the evening, consider a light snack such as a banana or a small bowl of cereal. To avoid unwanted bathroom interruptions, stay away from liquids as bedtime draws near. Cutting down on caffeine and smoking throughout the day can also improve your sleep. Because caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, they can make it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep.

Develop a bedtime routine. Take some time every night to help your body wind down for the night. Depending on what you prefer, you could take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music or read a book. Whatever you choose, this routine should occur at the same time, and consist of the same activities, every night. Remember that comfort is key. Try to stay away from stimulating activities that are known to hinder sleep such as watching TV or using electronic devices.

Get regular exercise. Incorporating some physical activity into your day will also contribute to a more satisfying night’s sleep. In fact, even exercising for 20-30 minutes a day can help you fall asleep quicker and deeper.

Minimize stress. Often times, the inability to get to sleep and stay asleep occurs when our brains just refuse to stop. If your daytime hours are filled with stress and you have a lot on your mind, there are some simple steps you can take that might be helpful. If you feel that your life is too cluttered, attempt to reorganize and reset your priorities. If you have a lot on your plate, perhaps delegating some tasks can help. When possible, set some time aside during your day to take a break and release some of that stress.

The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep. School-aged children and teenagers need around 10 hours of sleep. If you have persistent difficulty sleeping, contact your physician. Do you have tips that have helped you get a better night’s sleep? Please share in the comments below!

Eat Your Greens: September Is Fruits And Vegetables Month

For the majority of Americans, we don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Fruits & Veggies More Matters is an organization dedicated to educating families about the benefits of eating more vegetables and fruits in their diet. They recommend that at least half of your plate at every meal consist of fruits and vegetables, yet many of us neglect the most important aspect of our diet. September is Fruit and Veggies Month; here are our top reasons to eat more fruits and vegetables:

  • Lower in calories. A plate of fruits and vegetables has drastically fewer calories than the equivalent of another type of food (like meat, grains, and fats). Not only will this help you feel fuller faster, you will be eating a nutrient rich food that will keep you up and moving around.
  • Nutritional value. Speaking of nutrients, fruits and vegetables have a ton of vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from other foods. Ensuring that you are getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals is key to keeping you and your growing family, healthy well into the future.
  • Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which keeps your digestive system happy. Fiber is vital in our diet, eating more fruits and veggies will ensure everything is running in perfect order.
  • Reduce risk of disease. Eating a healthy balance of fruits and vegetables in your diet will ensure that your body is healthier overall. Though it’s not a replacement when it comes to going to the doctor for your annual check ups or more serious illnesses, people who eat higher amounts of fruits and vegetables report lower rates of heart disease, seasonal illnesses, and many types of cancer than those not eating enough. Fruits and veggies keep your body strong.
  • They are delicious. Fresh fruits and veggies are yummy, especially when they are fresh. Take your family to a local farmer’s market to get some of the freshest most delicious samples. Or try growing some vegetables in your garden at home. Not only is this a great educational tool for your children but also it will ensure that you have quick and easy access to delicious, healthy and fresh food right at home.

From a young age we are taught that eating our fruits and veggies will make sure that we grow up big and strong. Yet for whatever reason, the majority of Americans fails to meet the necessary requirements for a healthy diet. By introducing more fruits and veggies into our diet we will ensure a happier and healthier life for our family. What are your favorite fruits and veggies? Let us know below!

The Woes of Social Media

Social media has become part of our lives. From when we wake up to when we fall asleep, you’re never really offline. How long do you spend online daily? How much time have you spent offline? If you can’t answer either you may need to reevaluate its impact on your life, including your brain health. How could something online affect my brain? The answer is simple, as you spend more time online instead of off, the more your world and the ways you interpret it become molded and refined. Brain reorganization is a strange concept, but nevertheless a serious concern for future health.

Like this. Tweet that. Post this. Delete that. Social media is a fabricated world of edited lifestyles to present the self as we’d like to be seen. The same way it allows us to create the ideal self, it operates the same way as to transcend real life into a realm of endless possibility. Social media is a diversion from the mundane and an escapist tool to relieve unpleasant realities. This notion becomes positively reinforced by chemical responses released in the brain every time our content is liked, re-tweeted and shared. We become psychologically addicted to the chemical response, similar to the way the body craves a substance addiction and the repercussions of withdrawal. But what specific parts of the brain are affected?

The amygdala (located within the frontal lobe), hippocampus and the frontal lobe are a few parts of the brain vulnerable to social media’s cognitive influx. The amygdala controls emotional responses. The hippocampus controls memory and learning. And the frontal lobe controls speech, planning and problem solving. Social media is helping to reshape our brains.

Emotional intelligence is a concept discerning the filtering and processing of appropriate emotional responses. Because social media allows for editing and alterations, emotional intelligence cannot be tested and reorganized through trial and error the same way as life offline. Offline, you cannot control what you say, because conversations take place in real time. Without these crucial stimuli offline, the frontal lobe inefficiently reorganizes to adhere to online stimulus. Intense stimuli processing while scrolling online does have an effect on our memory. Many times, social media is accompanied with multi-tasking. This, though some may say different, has an inverse affect on productivity and memory. This does carry over offline. As more time is spent scanning online, these actions impairs the growth and reorganization of the hippocampus.

What can I do to combat negative neuro-reorganization? Start by balancing your online and offline social interactions. Be conscientious of online craving, particularly when there is a chance to be social offline. Use social media responsibly. Modern day escapism is a common side effect to social media addiction. Be conscious of this craving. Finally, challenge yourself to regulate online binging. Choose a day out of the week to be offline. See how it makes you feel. The results may surprise you.

Women’s Health: Gender Differences in Heart Diseases

On the 6th, The American Heart Association held its “Go Red for Women Day” in efforts to encourage the conscientiousness of women’s number one killer, heart disease (see last week’s post). However, unbeknownst to many, heart disease is not the only illness where symptoms vary between women and men.

In the diagnosis of heart disease and other illnesses, symptoms were historically agreed to be common between both sexes. However, as recent as 1990, scientists began to historically dissuade this notion after finding a staunch difference in the early detection signs of illnesses in women. In the diagnosis of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and stroke women appear to experience symptoms differently than men, according to the American Heart Association.

After 1990, a new wave of thinking permeated the medical field, and reevaluated women and heart disease. Unlike a typical male reaction to heart attack and the image of gripping your chest, females experience more symptoms. According to Go Red, Females feel pain in their back, neck, jaws, or stomachs. Although some of these pain centers may be influenced or explained by other conditions, these symptoms should always be taken seriously. Swift action is a fundamental cornerstone behind the Go Red for Women movement.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most frightening illnesses that infects the human body and one of least understood. The presence of hereditary history and/or genetic variants predisposes women more than men to cognitive decline. According to a study conducted in the 2014 Annals of Neurology, women carrying the gene variant “ApoE4” are 80 percent more likely to experience mental deterioration, compared to 27 percent of men with the same gene. Similar to Alzheimer’s, strokes are caused by the buildup of plaque and a reduction in blood flow.

Strokes can cripple without any warning. Among many common symptoms, universal warning signs include; numbness of the face, arms or legs, confusion, and/or difficulty speaking or walking. Though women may experience these feelings, some female exclusive indicators include sudden hiccups, limp face, nausea and exhaustion. Whether it be poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking or high blood pressure to name a few influencing factors, many of these traits can lead to the development of the mentioned illnesses and diseases.

The point of Go Red for Women is to advocate for action and recognition of the greatest threat to women’s health, heart disease. The Go Red for Women movement aims to push for research and swift action to counteract the growing problem among women of all ages. Here are some scary statistics from Go Red regarding women and heart disease:

  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and the gap between men and women’s survival continues to widen.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood.
  • While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies from heart disease.

February is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease. Education is the first step to prevention and the reversal of this negative trend. Go Red for Women was designed to empower women, promote research and acknowledge that heart disease is not gender exclusive. Educate yourself on steps to live healthier lives by eliminating toxic habits that lead to heart disease and other illnesses. Stay informed and be the change.

Obesity Levels on the Rise: Get Active Colorado

Colorado ranks as America’s healthiest state, with the lowest percentages of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke in the nation. However, although Colorado currently claims the lowest levels of obesity, it has the second fastest growing childhood obesity rate in the nation, according to The United Health Foundation. LiveWell Colorado and the Colorado Department of Public Health are some of the many organizations doing their best to reverse this trend.

Founded in 2007, non-profit LiveWell Colorado has been a leading organization committed to reducing obesity in Colorado by promoting healthy eating and active living. Obesity increases the chances of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and some types of cancer (LiveWell). Here are more startling stats regarding Colorado’s growing obesity problem:

  • Since 1995, Colorado’s obesity rate has more than doubled
  • 58 percent of Colorado adults are overweight or obese
  • Currently, one of every eight Colorado children ages 2-14 is obese
  • Obesity alone will cost the state nearly $2 billion this year

By working with local schools and communities, LiveWell Colorado promotes these events and activities aimed at decreasing obesity rates:

  • VivaStreets: closes multiple streets and allows for biking, walking, and running to encourage multiple communities to promote healthy active living.
  • DineWell: an annual dinner organized through donations to ensure all Colorado children have access to and choose healthy foods at school by 2020.
  • GetMovin’Mobile: an array of interactive vehicles armed with interactive games and activities are used to promote healthy living and eating.

In addition to LiveWell Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has also been working diligently with parents, schools, and communities to fight obesity. Colorado has begun campaigns to make it easier for students to live healthier lives. These measures include:

  • Physical Education and Activity Requirements
  • Safe Routes to Schools (bike paths, sidewalks, and improved crosswalks)
  • Nutrition Standards for foods provided during lunch and in snack machines
  • Farm-to-School Programs
  • Taxes on high-sugar beverages

By 2016, the CDPHE hopes to decrease the percentage of overweight or obese children and young adults to 17-20 percent and adults to 50 percent.

What can you do to promote a healthy lifestyle for your family and community? Here are some easy tips to improve your daily routine:

  • Always eat a balanced breakfast that includes fruit, grains, and dairy
  • Choose water over soda and other high-sugar beverages
  • Substitute fruits and vegetables for chips and candy
  • Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day

The weather, the outdoors and the sunshine are just some of Colorado’s many motivations to lead a healthy lifestyle. There is, however, a growing problem in Colorado and it’s up to us to keep our state and our families healthy and active. In 2015, let’s take responsibility to keep Colorado America’s healthiest state.

Important Tips to Having a Healthy Halloween

For kids (and many adults), Halloween is a magical night. Dressing up, trick-or-treating and the inevitable candy gorge are second to none. However, this sugar high holiday leaves cause for some concern. Childhood obesity is a serious issue in the United States, and cavities among children have been increasing for the past 40 years (http://ti.me/1mbdGqm).

It is possible to have a fun and healthy Halloween. Below, find our best tips to practice moderation this All Hallow’s Eve.

  • Procrastinate: Yes, wait until the last minute. Not for costumes or house decorations, but for the candy. Remove the temptation by waiting for as long as you can to buy. If it isn’t in the house, you can’t eat it.
  • Have Healthy Alternatives: You don’t have to be the person who hands out toothbrushes, but there are healthier alternatives. 100 calorie snack packs, sugar free hard candy/gummies, animal crackers, gold fish and packages of trail mix, just to name a few.
  • Eat Dinner Before You Go Out: Families should schedule a big, healthy meal before heading out for trick-or-treating. The meal will give everyone energy to walk around the neighborhood, and will keep kids fuller when they get home. This should keep more candy in their bag and less in their stomach.
  • Portion Control: Be in charge of the candy consumption. Parents should go through the candy to make sure things are safe – if a piece is opened or looks questionable, don’t eat it. Then, set limits. Don’t let kids gorge themselves, enforce how many pieces can be eaten per day.

Beyond the Candy:

  • Dress Warm: Halloween night is notoriously chilly in the Metro Area, so make sure everybody is prepared for the weather. Add layers under your kids’ costumes for trick-or-treating, carry jackets to wear between houses, or start earlier when it’s warmer.
  • Walk, Don’t Drive: Some families take the car around the neighborhoods to do their trick-or-treating. Offset the candy splurge by walking from house to house. It’s good for you, too.
  • Test Makeup: Make sure you test any makeup before using. People can have allergic reactions, and you don’t want to discover it moments before you’re going trick-or-treating or to your party. Apply the makeup to a small area on your forearm before putting it on your face. If a rash or irritation develops, remove immediately by washing your face with warm water. Fully remove makeup before you go to sleep.

See the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of how to have a S.A.F.E. H.A.L.L.O.W.E.E.N. here: http://1.usa.gov/1uhaFVv.

As the ghouls and goblins get ready for Halloween night, ensure your family is ready for a fun and safe night. This kicks off the holiday season, and it’s a great time to put healthy living tips into practice.

5 Ways to Stay Healthy This Fall

Summer is behind us. The leaves are beginning to fall, the weather is getting cooler, and football season is in full swing (go Broncos!). Fall also means shorter days and is often the time of year people have a harder time sticking to a healthy routine. According to YouGov, Fall is America’s favorite season, and we want you to get the most out of it.

Here are a few stay-healthy tips to enjoy the changing colors, crisp days and pumpkin patches:

Pumpkin is great for your coffee, and your health. Pumpkin is the official flavor of fall. You can find it at your local coffee shop, and in your favorite microbrew, but pumpkin is a lot more than just a flavor, a pie, or a jack-o-lantern. The pulp in pumpkin is high in Vitamins A and C. Pumpkin seeds are very healthy as well, containing lots of phytosterols to decrease cholesterol. If you are carving out a jack-o-lantern and want to save some of the insides; pumpkin goes great in just about anything including soups, cookies, and of course pies.

Eat healthy. Between football tailgates and holiday dinners, fall makes it easy to indulge. Try mixing in some delicious seasonal offerings like broccoli, beats, and Brussels sprouts for more fresh options.

Avoid getting sick. Nobody tries to get sick, but cooling temperatures also mark more individuals falling victim to illnesses like the seasonal flu and common cold. Getting a flu shot is a must, particularly for younger children and the elderly (read our earlier post on flu season). If you do get sick, stay at home. Going to work or sending children to school will only encourage the spread of illness. Remember, nobody wants your cough. Also, proper hygiene and sanitation (washing your hands, brushing your teeth, etc.) go a long way towards preventing illnesses.

Get outdoors and stay active. Colder weather means we spend more time indoors than during warmer months. But fall offers numerous outdoor opportunities. It’s a great time of year to sight see. As the Aspens change color, fall hikes are as scenic as any time of year. Fall is also an excellent time to try your hand at fishing. Brown Trout and Kokanee salmon are running (mating), meaning the fish are particularly active. There are numerous rivers and lakes within an hour or two drive from the Front Range. If it’s your first time or you want to try your hand at fly-fishing, hire a guide (like these guys: http://www.theflyfisher.com/).

Give back. Fall is the season of giving, and with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, it’s a great time to help those less fortunate. Whether participating in a charity walk or feeding the hungry, there are so many opportunities to help those less fortunate. It’s a great reminder how fortunate you are, too.

Fall is wonderful to spend time with the family, give back to those less fortunate and improve your well-being. Get the most out of this wonderful time of year.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer awareness month. Whether you or a loved one, we have all been affected by Breast Cancer. October brings an enormous community together as awareness initiatives like Race for the Cure (http://sgk.mn/QCGsBg) and the NFL Pink movement (http://www.nfl.com/pink) cover the nation.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in women, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (http://bit.ly/1shBF9w), and one in eight will be diagnosed within their lifetime. In 2013, 1,660,290 men and women in the United States were diagnosed with cancer and about 15% of these people were diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Thanks to modern medicine and awareness initiatives, individuals are being treated and diagnosed faster and more efficiently than ever before.

Risk Factors & Prevention

Doctors have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of breast cancer, but there are identifiable risk factors and habits that have been discovered. Some of the known risk factors include:

  • Gender: Breast cancer occurs nearly 100 times more often in women than it does in men.
  • Age: two out of three women diagnosed with breast cancer are diagnosed after the age of 55.
  • Race: Breast cancer is diagnosed far more often in Caucasian women than any other race.
  • Family history & genetic factors: If there is a history of cancer in your family, then you run a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Lack of physical activity: Living a lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer 10 – 20%.
  • Poor diet: Eating foods high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Drinking alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. Aim to have one drink a day or less to lower your risk.

For more genetic and environmental risk factors, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation page here: http://bit.ly/ZrKv8k

Some of these factors, such as your gender and family history, are out of your control. Other factors you have plenty of control over. You can lower your risk for breast cancer by living an active lifestyle, eating healthier foods, managing your weight and moderating your consumption of alcohol.

Detection

Early detection is the key. According to the National Cancer Institute (http://1.usa.gov/1pFeB26), when breast cancer is detected early in the localized (has not spread) stage, the five-year survival rate is 98%. Make certain you have a plan for detection, even if you feel great and have no family history of cancer. The National Breast Cancer Foundation can help you create a plan to receive reminders to do self-exams, schedule clinical breast exams or mammograms depending on your age and medical history. Visit their Early Detection Plan page to download the app: http://bit.ly/1b27Ou0.

The month of October has become synonymous with the color pink and breast cancer awareness. Cancer is a horrible disease that has an impact on all our lives and we long for the day when it will be nothing more than a distant memory that fades away as the dying thunder of a passing storm. Until that day comes, we must all share in the fight against cancer in any way we can.

To find out how you can support Breast Cancer Awareness, visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation support page here: http://bit.ly/1ljcOOw.

5 Houseplants that Improve our Health

Between work, sleep, and zoning out on smartphones, computers, tablets, and TVs—Americans are spending more time than ever indoors. In fact, the average American spends less than two hours a day outside! Couple those factors with higher levels of stress and anxiety felt by the population today and you have a whole bunch of people who could really use a breath of fresh air.

Growing your own houseplants can dramatically increase the air quality of your own home. From removing pollutants/toxins and increasing levels of oxygen, growing houseplants has health benefits that have been studied by NASA. In fact, NASA has introduced a list that includes the top 10 houseplants that are most effective in improving air quality indoors. Below is a list of some of the best houseplants on that list:

  1. English Ivy: useful in eliminating airborne fecal particles and carcinogens from cigarette smoke.
  2. Bamboo Palm: filters benzene and trichloroethylene common in household cleaners.
  3. Dragon Tree: removes xylene-a chemical released in car exhaust, paint, and cigarettes.
  4. Peace Lily: removes tricholorethelye, benxzene, acetone, and alcohols from the air— this plant is toxic though so keep it away from children.
  5. Snake Plant: this is plant is unique in that it transpires at night, breaths CO2, exhales oxygen (most plants transpire in the day). Great for keeping in the bedroom because it releases oxygen while you sleep and removes formaldehyde out of the air.

Dr. Kamal Meattle, an Indian environmental activist, has discovered that owning just three types of indoor plants can produce all the oxygen and clean air you would ever need—meaning you could theoretically live in a sealed glass container. His favorite houseplants are the Areca Palm, Mother-in-Law’s tongue, and the Money Plant. The building he works at in India has more than 1200 houseplants for the buildings 300 occupants. It was rated the healthiest building in all of New Dehli and spending only a few hours in the building can raise blood oxygen levels by 1%! For more information about his studies see his TED Talk.

Houseplants also provide benefits beyond producing fresh air, here are just a few:

  • Improve Focus. A study at the Royal College of Agriculture in Circencester, England discovered that students demonstrated 70% greater attentiveness when taught in rooms containing plants. Whether in the office, the classroom, or in your home—improvement of focus is something we could all use a little more of.
  • Attractive Décor. Houseplants also make for highly attractive additions to any room. From their green foliage to beautiful flowers, they can bring a dull room to life.
  • Improve health. Working and living in a place with better air quality translates to better health. The Dutch Product Board for Horticulture commissioned a workplace study that discovered that adding plants to the office-decreased symptoms such as fatigue, colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and flu like symptoms.

Adding houseplants to your home is a cost effective way to improve air quality as well as improving focus, aesthetic appeal, and overall well-being. We spend upwards of 90% of our life indoors; why not get some more fresh air while we’re at it. Visit your local home and garden center today, and get on your way to living a healthier lifestyle.