Monthly Archives: June 2016

Apps To Help You More Enjoyable

There’s no doubt that technology can be stressful. While 24/7 connectivity certainly makes some things more convenient, a plugged-in life can take a toll on our well-being. Scientists have linked heavy tech use with decreased focus and productivity, increased stress, disrupted sleep and stunted creativity, among other concerns. But one of the great ironies in our always-connected world is that technology can also be leveraged to help us de-stress (as we know first hand from the creation ofHuffPost’s GPS for the Soul app).

In that spirit, the HuffPost Healthy Living editors tested out a handful of well-being apps that promise to promote a more balanced, zen life. Check out our thoughts below, then tell us in the comments what apps you swear by.

Health through Breath: Pranayama Lite

Price: Free. The full version costs $5.99. Available for Android and iOS.

How it works: This app is essentially a guided breathing course. You get to choose from a variety of music, sounds and animations to coach you through a few minutes of inhaling and exhaling. You can also log your sessions to keep track of your progress, with the goal of working toward more advanced training. (Only the beginner sessions are available in the free version.)

Time commitment: From five to 60 minutes, whenever you feel like it. With the full version, you can create more customized sessions.

How we felt: There’s good science to back up a fact we all know: A few deep breaths really can do wonders for kicking stress to the curb. We felt much lighter after focusing only on our breath for just a few minutes, and the sounds and animations of the app helped keep the mind from wandering during the process.

Would we use it again: Maybe. We don’t absolutely need an app to remember to take a few deep breaths every once in a while. But under a lot of stress, we might lean on the app to steer our minds back to clarity.

Zen Space

Price: Free. (Heads up: It’s only for the iPad.)

How it works: This app allows you to create your own zen garden and save your images in order to revisit your design. Complete with a selection of soothing music, Zen Space lets you choose what tools and add-ons you want to use in order to create the most optimal, peaceful experience.

Time commitment: Anywhere from one minute to one hour — completely up to you.

How we felt: Any step toward creating more calm in our lives is a good step, and this app allows you to do that. The music is relaxing and it definitely set a pace that can help regulate breathing and get you into a meditative state. That being said, we found our minds wandering after a few moments of use. When it comes to this method of creating inner peace, you might be better off with something more tangible. We’d rather unplug from our devices and take the real zen garden over the virtual one.

Would we use it again: We’d use it again, especially when looking for some soothing music, but it wouldn’t be a go-to app.

Zen Wisdom

Price: $0.99, for iPhone, iPad and iPad touch.

How it works: The Zen Wisdom app presents a “daily wisdom” quote from the Zen Buddhism tradition, with the option to save or share it, as well as a comprehensive collection of random Zen quotes that can be perused and saved to a favorites folder at any time.

Time commitment: Virtually none.

How we felt: Most us could use a little more zen in our lives, and this app is a good place to start. Many of the daily quotes (from the Dalai Lama, Alan Watts, Buddha, and more) were genuinely calming and comforting, as well as applicable to anyone’s life. Zen is all about finding peace and wholeness in the present moment, and the words of wisdom offered good reminders to be mindful and seek simplicity. Although the design and typography left something to be desired, the quotes themselves (“simplify yourself as much as possible”) are a good introduction to Zen, and they’re important reminders to keep life’s challenges in perspective.

Would we use it again: We’d use the app again, though probably not regularly. There’s not a whole lot you can do with it, but the daily quote is a nice way to insert a little bit of Zen wisdom into your day.

Buddha Board

Price: Free, for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

How it works: You “dip” your finger into a water tray on the screen and then “paint” on the board, which looks a bit like an Etch A Sketch — you can customize the brush style, water tray style and board color. Each brush stroke fades out over time, and you have the option to turn on relaxing music. According to the app, “Buddha Board is based on the Zen concept of living in the moment, you create your design on the screen, and then as it slowly disappears, you are left with a clean slate and a clear mind — ready to create a new masterpiece.”

The Reasons You Stink

And yet, somehow, you still find yourself wondering… IS THAT ME?!

Turns out, there are the occasional smells that no amount of scrubbing or brushing or deodorant-applying can deter. Here are a few of the most surprising.

You’re Stressed

Believe it or not, there are different types of sweat, chemically speaking. And the stinkiest sweat of all is stress sweat. That’s because it’s produced from a category of sweat glands called apocrine glands. Aprocrine glands produce a less-watery sweat, and bacteria go crazy for the fats and proteins in the mix. That feeding frenzy is what releases the odor, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sweat from your workouts or just because it’s too dang hot outside, on the other hand, is composed mostly of water and electrolytes, according to YouBeauty.

You’ve Been “Blessed” With Stinky Feet

That same all-you-can-eat buffet for bacteria happens with the sweat on your feet. And since your tootsies are tucked away in a dark, warm, moist environment, they really nurture bacteria — especially if you’re sans socks. But about 10 to 15 percent of people have extra-sweaty feet just by the luck of the genetic draw. Those ultra-moist dogs can then become home to a specific type of bacterium calledMicrococcus sedentarius, which produces truly awful smelling sulfur compounds. Lucky you.

You Have Too Few Favorite Bras

Ladies: ‘fess up. How often do you wash your favorite bra? Yep, we thought so. “Many women overwear — and consequently underwash — bras because they have too few that fit properly,” bra expert (really!) Susan Nethero told Prevention. Because that lacy number is probably made of odor-trapping fabrics and definitely touches skin in more than one sweat-prone place, you probably need to wash it more often than you think, and neglecting to do so could cause odor.

You Love Broccoli

You’ve probably heard that eating a diet heavy in garlic and onion can stink up more than just your mouth. It’s true — smelly foods are broken down into smelly compounds that circulate in the blood stream and come out through the breath, sweat and urine, WebMD reported.

But garlic and onion aren’t the only offenders. In fact, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other veggies in the cruciferous family include those same smelly compounds — typically, sulfur — and can lead to all-over stench.

You Have A Rare Genetic Disorder Called Trimethylaminuria

Mutations in a specific gene have been discovered to create a condition calledtrimethylaminuria, which causes the body to be unable to break down a chemical compound called trimethylamine. Trimethylamine is what gives fish its fishy smell, and when it builds up in the body it’s released in the breath, urine and sweat, giving a person with trimethylaminuria a similarly fishy smell, according to the Genetics Home Reference at the National Institutes of Health. The odor can be extremely disruptive to daily life, often resulting in depression and social isolation, according to the NIH./p>

You’ve Been Drinking

While you can’t exactly sweat off that hangover, you do sweat out some booze when you drink. As alcohol courses through your blood and around your body,some seeps out through the pores — and, quite evidently, through the breath. It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you drink; once the body begins to break it down it all smells the same.

You Could Have Diabetes

When diabetes is untreated, it’s possible to experience what’s called diabetic ketoacidosis. Without enough insulin, the body starts to break down fat for fuel, which leads to a build up of ketones in the body. That buildup in turn may produce a change in body odor, according to the Mayo Clinic, and may be a sign it’s time to see a doctor.

Some people also report a similar change in body odor when switching to a diet heavy in meat and low in carbs. A low-carb diet is known to impact the smell of breath.

Whats should you know about yoga

One of the joys of being a yoga teacher is that I get to see a side of people that most people don’t get to see. During an hour-long practice, I see a room full of people drop their outer facades and fall into the present moment. I see faces soften. I see shoulders relax. I see defenses fall away. It is hard to accurately describe what that looks like, but it is one of the most beautiful things in the world.

I am honored and grateful to be a teacher of yoga. I see people blossom right into the best, most confident, versions of themselves. There are five things I want to make sure that every yogi knows.

1. Yoga is more than just doing poses on the mat.

The beauty and inspiration of yoga is that it consists of many different elements. The ancient sage Patanjali talks about eight limbs of yoga in the Yoga Sutras. They consist of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. If you want more info on each limb, you can read the basics on Yoga Journal, or jump right into the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali. While most people are most familiar with the physical aspects of yoga, asana practice is only the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in more depth, more spirit, more love… other limbs of yoga can help you as much, if not more, as being on the mat. There is always more to learn, in each and every limb of yoga, and because of that, we are all students figuring it all out — even the most advanced teachers. Open yourself to the possibilities of the entire yoga tree.

2. Honoring your present moment — no matter what that is — is the key to yoga.

Some practices are hard. Some flow with ease. We all, at one time or another, feel like swearing at our teachers as we hold a pose longer than we want to. We all feel like running from the room screaming like our hair is on fire at one time or another. Whatever comes up is real, it is important, and it needs to be acknowledged. Every time we practice yoga, we have the opportunity to be present, to stop the stories raging in our mind, and just be. It sounds so easy, but it is one of the most challenging parts of the practice. Staying with each breath as it unfolds is the most advanced part of yoga.

3. It is important to feel yoga, not perform yoga.

I don’t look like a svelt cover model yogi. I barely squeeze my ladies into size 12 Lululemon tops. I can’t do certain poses that some of my students can do. However, when I am on the mat, I feel my yoga. When in dancer’s pose, I feel my body express the pose like I am a ballerina on a NYC stage. When I arch my back in camel, I feel my heart center creak open and the energy flood in. It doesn’t matter what it looks like to others. It only matters how it feels to you. Yoga makes me feel beautiful.

Sometimes you’ll run across a person who is performing for the crowd. The pre-class headstands and arm balances, the looking around to make sure everyone is watching, the pushing of bones and muscles into places they have no right going are all tell-tale signs of a yoga performance. I used to get annoyed, mainly because I can’t do many performance ready poses, but now I send love to the performer. I want her to feel her own beauty, not need anyone else’s approval. Watch what happens in your mind when you practice. When you turn inward and are present to your current experience, the room can fall away and the practice can be felt deeply in your heart. You can feel beautiful and strong.

4. What we do on the mat is practice for “real life.”

It’s so great to be able to go to a studio and roll down a mat next to other like-minded people. What we do there is practice for what happens in our “out of the studio” world. We learn to stay present at the office, to breathe through the discomfort of a hard conversation, to accept what is happening with our kids, to let go of the big critic on our shoulder (aka our ego).

Yesterday, I was in a meeting with a grumpy colleague and I felt anger and defensiveness start to rumble in me. I was internally mounting my argument against the poor unsuspecting man, which surely would have blown back his chair and launched him into the next decade. In a word, I was pissed. Then I remembered my yoga… breathe, Katie, breathe. Deep breaths. Three of them. The anger passed. I was able to be calm as I expressed my thoughts. I was able to negotiate. My colleague’s life was saved. Everybody won. That situation was sponsored by vinyasa yoga.

5. What we deal with what happens on the mat is how we deal with life.

This is one of the hardest things for me to learn. When I am in practice and something really challenging comes up, I want to run. I am a bit shamed to tell you that I have actually faked nosebleeds to get out of holding a pose. Running from the room with my hand over my face, I sure as hell got out of that pose.

Guess what my defense mechanism is in life? Yup, run little rabbit, run. Yoga has taught me that how I react to things on the mat is a mirror to my reactions in life. That is a big, hard, ugly pill to swallow, but it is true. My self-doubt comes up on the mat, and it comes up in my life. When I experience a breakthrough on the mat, I learn that if I practice hard and believe in myself, I can do anything. Instant breakthrough.

Health and Global Warming

images-36Medical and public health groups are banding together to explain how global warming has taken a toll on human health and will continue to cause food-borne illnesses, respiratory problems, and deaths unless policy changes are enacted.

In a conference call with reporters, the heads of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) joined with a pediatrician and a scientist to lay out what they say is a major public health issue: climate change caused by global warming.

The Link Between Air Pollution and Asthma

The “evidence has only grown stronger” that climate change is responsible for an increasing number of health ills, including asthma, diarrheal disease, and even deaths from extreme weather such as heat waves, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the APHA.

For one, rising temperatures can mean more smog, which makes children with asthma sicker, explained pediatrician Dr. Perry Sheffield, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.

There is also evidence that pollen season is also getting longer, she said, which could lead to an increase in the number of people with asthma.

Climate change also is thought to lead to increased concentrations of ozone, a pollutant formed on clear, cloudless days. Ozone is a lung irritant which can affect asthmatics, those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and those with heart disease, said Dr. Kristie Ebi, who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

More ozone can mean more health problems and more hospital visits, she said.

Aside from air-related ailments and illnesses, extreme weather can have a devastating effect on health, Sheffield said.

“As a result of global warming, extreme storms including hurricanes, heavy rainfall, and even snowstorms are expected to increase,” Sheffield said. “And these events pose risk of injury and disruption of special medical services, which are particularly important to children with special medical needs.”

Extreme heat waves and droughts are responsible for more deaths than any other weather-related event, Sheffield said.

The 2006 heat wave that spread through most of the U.S. and Canada saw temperatures that topped 100 degrees. In all, 450 people died, 16,000 visited the emergency room, and 1,000 were hospitalized, said Dr. Cecil Wilson, president of the AMA.

Climate change has already caused temperatures to rise and precipitation to increase, which, in turn, can cause diseases carried by tics, mosquitoes, and other animals to spread past their normal geographical range, explained Ebi.

For instance, Lyme disease is increasing in some areas, she said, including in Canada, where scientists are tracking the spread of Lyme disease north.

Ebi also recounted the 2004 outbreak of the leading seafood-related cause of gastroenteritis, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, from Alaskan seafood, which was attributed to increased ocean temperatures causing infected sea creatures to travel 600 miles north.

Salmonella outbreaks also increase when temperatures are very warm, Sheffield said.

A 2008 study also projected that global warming will lead to a possible increase in the prevalence of kidney stones due to increased dehydration, although the link hasn’t been proven.

Wilson said the AMA wants to make doctors aware of the projected rise in climate-related illnesses. To combat climate change, Wilson says physicians and public health groups can advocate for policies that improve public health, and should also serve as role models by adopting environmentally-friendly policies such as eliminating paper waste and using energy-efficient lighting in their practices.

“Climate instability threatens our health and life-supporting system, and the risk to our health and well-being will continue to mount unless we all do our part to stabilize the climate and protect the nation’s health,” said Wilson.

Benjamin added that doctors should pay attention to the Air Quality Index. For instance, if there’s a “Code Red” day, which indicates the air is unhealthy, physicians should advise patients (particularly those with cardiac or respiratory conditions) that it’s not the day to try and mow the grass.

“ER docs are quite aware of Code Red days because we know that when those occur, we’re going to see lots of patients in the emergency room,” Benjamin said.

The conference call came as Congress is considering what role the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have in updating its safeguards against carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

10 Easy Ways to Make Your Home Eco-Friendly

While the EPA has the authority to regulate levels of CO2, a budget bill passed by the House of Representatives last the weekend prohibited the EPA from exercising that authority. Meanwhile, other bills are pending in Congress that would significantly delay the agency’s ability to regulate air pollutants.

AMA has a number of policies on the books regarding climate change, including a resolution supporting the EPA’s authority to regulate the control of greenhouse gases, and a statement endorsing findings from the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that concludes the Earth is undergoing adverse climate changes, and that humans are a significant contributor to the changing weather.

In that statement, the AMA said it supports educating the medical community about climate change and its health implications through medical education on topics such as “population displacement, heat waves and drought, flooding, infectious and vector-borne diseases, and potable water supplies.”

The statement also said the AMA supports physician involvement in policymaking to “search for novel, comprehensive, and economically sensitive approaches to mitigating climate change to protect the health of the public.”

Muscles on information

There’s not much we could do without our muscles — swallow, breathe, move at all. Yet despite how essential muscles are to our survival, there’s still a lot we don’t know about them and how they work. Here are six fun facts you may not have known about your muscles.

There isn’t just ONE strongest muscle in your body.

You’ve probably heard that your tongue is the strongest muscle, and while it is certainly impressive — with its “combination of elasticity and forcefulness” — LiveScience explains that there are too many different ways to measure strength to crown any one muscle strongest. The calf muscle, for example, is actually the muscle that exerts the most force, while the jaw muscle exerts the most pressure. And the gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the human body.

Muscles grow while you sleep.

All that work you put in at the gym pays off after you hit the hay. In the deep and restorative stages of sleep, the muscles relax and blood flow to the muscles increase.Hormones that fuel muscle development are released and tissues grow and repair, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Without enough deep sleep, don’t expect to see results at the gym.

Muscles make 85 percent of your body heat.

When muscles contract, they give off heat — enough of it to account for most of what keeps you warm and toasty, according to the National Cancer Institute.Muscles are also at work when we shiver: When the skin receptors send “brr” signals, the brain triggers some rapid-fire, involuntary muscle contractions — those shivers — to heat things back up.

It’s easier to gain muscle than lose it.

Fall of the wagon, and you’ll probably only lose half your bulk. That’s because it seems to take twice as long to lose new muscle as it does to build it. One study found that new exercisers gained 47 percent more strength in two months of weight training. Then, after two months of taking it easy, they only lost 23 percent of that strength, Fitness magazine reported.

Muscle burns more calories than fat.

Your resting metabolic rate — the number of calories you burn each day without doing a dang thing — is intricately linked with your body composition. Muscle is more “metabolically active” than fat, meaning it naturally burns more calories when you’re at rest. However, it’s not enough to make the pounds just melt away. One pound of muscle at rest only burns six calories in an entire day, compared to the two calories a day burned by a pound of fat, the LA Times reported.

The benefit of almonds for your health

unduhan-51They’re a waistline-friendly snack known to boost heart health, and loaded with enough other health benefits to land them a coveted spot on our list of the 50 healthiest foods of all time.

But before you get carried away with a heaping handful, consider a few of the lesser-known facts about this beneficial bite. Here are a few surprising facts about almonds.

Almonds Are In The Peach Family
The nut we know as the almond is technically the hard-shelled fruit of the almond tree, itself a member of the prunus family. This category of stone fruit encompasses trees and shrubs that produce edible fruit like cherries, plums, peaches and nectarines. (Don’t the pits look a little bit like nuts, now that you think about it?) As relatives, almonds and fruit in the same family can both cause similar allergic reactions.

Almonds Are Among The Lowest-Calorie Nuts
Per one-ounce serving, almonds are tied with cashews and pistachios at 160 calories, Health.com reported. They also have more calcium than any other nut, plus nearly 9 grams of monounsaturated, heart-healthy fats, 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber per serving.

Almonds Are Best For You Raw Or Dry Roasted
When you see packaged nuts with the word “roasted” on the front, consider this: They may have been heated in trans or other unhealthy fats, Judy Caplan, R.D., told Health.com. Look for the words “raw” or “dry-roasted” instead.

“Raw” Almonds Aren’t Exactly “Raw”
Two salmonella outbreaks, one in 2001 and one in 2004, were traced back to raw almonds from California. Since 2007, the USDA has consequently required almonds to be pasteurized before being sold to the public. The FDA has approved several methods of pasteurization “that demonstrate effectiveness in achieving a reduction of possible contamination in almonds while not impacting their quality,” according to the Almond Board of California. However, opponents of almond pasteurization argue that one such method, propylene oxide processes, poses health risks greater than that of salmonella, since the EPA has classified propylene oxide as a human carcinogen in instances of acute exposure.

You Can Make Your Own Almond Milk
All you’ll need are some almonds, a sweetener of your choosing, some water and a food processor!

Almonds Pack Quite The Disease-Fighting Punch
According to 2006 research, just one ounce of almonds contains about the same amount of polyphenols, antioxidants thought to help fight off heart disease and cancer, as a cup of broccoli or green tea. However, considering that the research was funded at least in part by the Almond Board of California, we may have to take this one with a grain of salt.