How owning a dog could improve your health

Nearly everybody will smile when they’re petting a dog. If the dog happens to plant a big kiss right on your hands or face, you will probably laugh and giggle, even while pushing the dog away. Did you know that dogs can bring more than a smile to your face, though? Science shows that they actually improve your health.

Owning dog can help boost your health in more ways than one.One Autistic Teen

For years, one autistic teen named Cadence wanted a service dog. Knowing that this dog would improve the teen’s self-esteem and anxiety, Cadence’s mother applied for one over and over again. Every time, her mother kept telling Cadence the sad response—no.

While Cadence has high function as an autistic girl, she still struggles with emotions sometimes. Cadence needed the unconditional love of a dog to balance those moments and bring her that smile. After four years of lowered spirits and let-downs, Cadence finally got a service dog, and the teen couldn’t have been more excited.

The Health Benefits of Dog Ownership

For Cadence, a service dog will help improve her emotional health, and ultimately the physical side too. Still, Cadence isn’t the only one who will benefit from owning a dog. Here are just a few ways that dogs can boost your health and bring you happiness:

Dogs Strengthen Your Heart

According to the American Heart Association, dogs can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. There could be several reasons for the lowered risk, including the time spent exercising the dog and the distraction from work or family stress.

Although the AHA has not been able to link dog ownership and heart disease conclusively, studies do show that dog owners have better heart health.

Dogs Lower Stress

Remember how dogs make you laugh and smile as you pet them? Ultimately, those lighthearted laughs will lower your stress levels.

A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia revealed that petting a dog causes your body to release those “happy hormones,” including serotonin and oxytocin. At the same time, a dog will also lower the stress hormone cortisol.

In one Missouri study, scientists tested the hormone levels of dog owners and non-owners alike. They found that people received the most benefit (through increased serotonin levels) when petting their own dogs. Also, simply stroking the dog for 15-30 minutes lowered the participants’ blood pressure by 10 percent.

Dogs Boost Immunity

If you have children, owning a dog can work in your favor, fending off the onset of allergies. Published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, one study showed that infants exposed to a pet before the six-month mark have a decreased risk of allergies. They also have a decreased risk for hay fever, eczema, and upper respiratory infections too.

In addition, dogs may help balance out and boost your gut health. Because dogs have many different types of beneficial bacteria, owning one will expose you to them.

As you take your dog outside during the day, it will also pick up organisms from outdoors. Simply put, you will definitely benefit from exposure to your dog’s healthy bacteria.

Treat Dogs Humanely.

In light of how much dogs can benefit their human companions, you would think that people would treat them with kindness. Unfortunately, thousands of dogs are mistreated, neglected, and killed across the world every year.

While you might think that animal cruelty means nothing for humans, you might be surprised. Many criminals who have committed violent and grotesque acts against humans actually started with animals.

Even if animal abusers did not turn into human offenders, you should still find the abuse appalling. When a person adopts a dog into his home, he is communicating that he will take responsibility for the dog’s care.

The dog will give him love, but what will he receive in return? For abusive owners, the dog will find himself neglected, beaten, and even killed inhumanely in exchange. If you know a dog in an abusive situation, you should not tolerate it. Find help immediately and protect man’s loving best friend.

If you choose to open up your home to a dog, take responsibility for it. Get all the benefits of a healthy immune system, lowered blood pressure, and reduced stress. Then, give it the love and attention it deserves, and you’ll find an unconditional friendship that lasts a lifetime.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel’s senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny’s work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.

 

Heat wave in India: Useful tips and safety guidelines!

With the temperatures recording significantly above normal in the first three months of 2016 across India, the country is reeling under intense heat wave claiming over hundred of lives.

The most affected being the southern state of Telangana, followed by Odisha. And the situation could get worse in the upcoming days. The Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) has also preicted that 2016 would be harsher than 2015, the hottest year ever recorded.

The health impacts of heat wave can be dangerous as it leads to dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe and healthy from the harsh summer sun:

  • Avoid going out in the sun or strenuous activities, particulry between 11am and 3pm, which is the hottest part of the day.
  • Use protective goggles, umbrella/hat, shoes or chappals while going out in sun.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if not thirsty. Other fluids such as ORS, lassi, lemon water, buttermilk, etc. help re-hydrate the body.
  • Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol as they dehydrate the body.
  • Eat small meals while avoiding high-protein food.
  • Always carry water while travelling.
  • Take cool showers or baths, especially before bed s this helps cool the body temperature.
  • Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose, and porous cotton clothes.
  • Keep your rooms cool by using shades or curtains, open windows at night.
  • If you have a medical condition, make sure that you ask your doctor for advice about what to do during a heatwave.
  • Seek medical help if symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, weakness, dizziness or cramps persist and don’t go away.
  • Stay tuned to local weather forecast on TV, radio or on the Met official website.

A heat wave is a very hot weather, often accompanied by high humidity. As per National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), heat waves should be declared when actual maximum temperature remains 45*C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature.

Reduce women’s heart disease by staying active just 2-3 times per week

We all know that being active can help increase our heart health and overall health, but how much is enough? It seems that simply staying active 2-3 times a week can help middle-aged women reduce their risk of stroke, heart disease, and even blood clots when compared to inactive women.

As we age, we tend to become more sedentary, which can lead to decreasing bone density and muscle mass. This is especially true in women who have a greater risk of osteoporosis and decreased muscle strength. But the simple act of just staying active 2-3 times a week can negate some of these adverse outcomes.

The study

The research which was published in the journal Circulation – an American Heart Association publication – looked at 1.1 million women in the United Kingdom. These women had no history of heart disease or cancer with an average age of 56 years old. During the study the women reported their activity levels at the beginning of the study and then three years later. The researchers then on average followed up with the participants 9 years later and looked at their hospital admissions and death records to compare the responses.

What they found was that the women who perform “strenuous” activity (enough to increase heart rate and induce sweating) such as cycling, hiking, and gardening at least 2-3 times a week had a 20 percent reduction in stroke, heart disease, and blood clots compared to the women who didn’t. What was surprising was that there were no increased benefits from a higher activity level.

Health benefits of staying active

As we age, there are numerous health benefits that come with staying active. For instance, weekly strength training can help burn calories and can therefore be helpful in controlling your weight. It can also build muscle, improve your strength, improve your quality of life, etc. It can even help fight osteoporosis.

By performing 2-3 full-body strength training workouts a week, women (and men) can help improve their bone density (any of these exercises. This is because weight-bearing exercise likes strength training, hiking, dancing, and jogging all cause our bones to reinforce themselves – improving our bone density! [As with any exercise program, consult your doctor before beginning.]

Wrap-up

As we age, it is important for all of us to stay active. Even as little as 2 or 3 activity sessions a week are enough to witness remarkable results. When it comes to helping women improve their heart health, Dr. Miranda Armstrong, lead author of the study, said,“Inactive middle-aged women should try to do some activity regularly. However, to prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, our results suggest that women don’t need to do very frequent activity as this seems to provide little additional benefit above that from moderately frequent activity.” The main point: start getting active to improve your health – a little goes a long way!

Most US physicians aren’t educated on the health benefits of exercise – learn how exercise improves your well-being!

While we all know that exercise and a healthy diet are the two most important factors to fend off most diseases, premature aging and cognitive decline, most American physicians apparently lack the knowledge to advise their patients on these basics.

A new study (1) conducted at Oregon State University (OSU) found that more than half of physicians in the U.S. didn’t receive any training on how to incorporate exercise in their treatments.

“There are immense medical benefits to exercise; it can help as much as medicine to address some health concerns,” Brad Cardinal, an OSU professor of sports science, said in the study’s press release.(2) “Because exercise has medicinal as well as other benefits, I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it.”

The study
Cardinal and his team reviewed the curriculum of 118 medical schools to see whether they incorporate any type of physical activity education in their training program.

They found that the majority of all medical training institutions don’t offer any type of physical training, and if they do, the courses are often not mandatory. To put it in numbers: 51% of the reviewed schools didn’t offer exercise-related classes; 21% had only one class; and out of the schools that offered physical training, only 18% made these classes mandatory.

Many patients see their physician as the go-to person for counsel and support about their health, but according to this study over half of our physicians received no or very little education in the area of physical activity.

Over the years, our medical system has focused and relied too much on treating symptoms with pharmaceuticals while neglecting simple natural remedies like exercise and healthy, whole foods, which tackle the actual cause of the problem.

“Physicians play a significant and influential role in encouraging and assisting patients who need or are trying to get more exercise, but past research has shown that many physicians lack the education, skills or confidence to educate and counsel patients about their physical activity,” Cardinal said.

“Understanding why and how to exercise, and knowing how to help people who are struggling to make it a habit, is really important,” he added.(2)

With initiatives like “Exercise is Medicine” from the American College of Sports Medicine and “Healthy People 2020” from the U.S. government, we are definitely heading into the right direction to educate physicians about the importance of prescribing exercise rather than medicines. But it is up to the physicians to take the responsibility to seek out more education if needed.

How exercise improves our well-being
Staying active throughout your life is one of the best ways to control weight and improve overall well-being and longevity. Together with nutrition, regular exercise will keep your cells, bones and muscles in perfect condition. It can reduce the risk of heart diseases,(3)osteoporosis(4) and several types of cancer.(5) Combined with vitamin D, it has shown great results in reducing abdominal fat and reversing insulin-resistance in type 2 diabetics.(6)

And not only will the body benefit; several studies have found that regular exercise improves our mood, makes us happy and helps ease symptoms of depression as well.(7)

Even the slightest form of activity can have a major effect on health and happiness. Not everybody loves going to the gym or has it in them to train for a triathlon, but that’s absolutely fine. If you are not the biggest sportsman or -woman out there, mild exercises, like walking, cycling, yoga, dancing, swimming or jogging, will do the trick, as long as you do them on a regular basis.

Scientists call out junk food companies that blame lack of exercise for their products’ negative health effects

Fast food companies use tactics reminiscent of Big Tobacco in their efforts to convince people that exercise can make up for the effects of a terrible diet, according to a scorching editorial in theBritish Journal of Sports Medicine authored by scientists from the University of California-Davis, University of Cape Town and Sports Science Institute of South Africa and Frimley Park Hospital in the United Kingdom.

The editorial starts out by noting the strong health benefits that come from exercise. The authors note that getting 30 minutes of exercise five times per week is a better way to prevent and manage nearly all chronic diseases than any drug, and it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers by more than 30 percent.

However, the idea that exercise alone can prevent obesity – or even that obesity itself is the major risk factor for heart disease or diabetes – is a lie promoted by the fast food industry, they charge.

Obesity debate distracts from poor health

“In the past 30 years, as obesity has rocketed, there has been little change in physical activity levels in the Western population,” the researchers write. “This places the blame for our expanding waist lines directly on the type and amount of calories consumed.”

A widespread popular focus on obesity is also a distraction, the authors warn, from the much more serious health problems caused by a poor diet. They cite recent findings that as many as 40 percent of “normal” body weight people in wealthy countries suffer from metabolic precursors to obesity, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, abnormal lipid levels and fatty liver disease.

According to a recent report in The Lancet, poor diet alone is responsible for more diseases worldwide than physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol combined.

The authors of the paper focus their attention on empty calories in the form of sugar, which has been shown to increase fat storage and appetite, in contrast to dietary fat, which promotes a feeling of fullness. They cite a worldwide econometric analysis that found an 11-fold increase in type 2 diabetes rates for every extra 150 calories of sugar in a country’s diet compared with an equivalent increase in protein or fat calories. This is independent of risk factors such as weight or activity level. The analysis used could be interpreted as proof that sugar was a cause of the increase, they note.

Fast food uses Big Tobacco playbook

The authors say that while these positions are widely accepted among scientists, they are largely ignored among the wider public and policy bodies.

“Instead, members of the public are drowned by an unhelpful message about maintaining a ‘healthy weight’ through calorie counting, and many still wrongly believe that obesity is entirely due to lack of exercise,” they write. “This false perception is rooted in the Food Industry’s Public Relations machinery, which uses tactics chillingly similar to those of big tobacco.”

The researchers particularly condemn ad campaigns linking sugary drinks and junk foodwith sports. “The ‘health halo’ legitimization of nutritionally deficient products must end,” they write.

One of the fast food industry’s major goals with such campaigns, the researchers write, is to defeat measures such as sugary drink taxes or bans on fast food advertising, even though such techniques have been proven much more effective at improving public healththan educational campaigns.

“Changing the food environment – so that individuals’ choices about what to eat default to healthy options – will have a far greater impact on population health than counseling or education,” the researchers write. “Healthy choice must become the easy choice.”

The common ingredient that’s making you bloated, plus 2 other scary health effects

Salt is impossible to avoid, no matter how hard you try. If you’ve eaten food prepared by someone other than yourself, you’ve probably eaten more salt than you should; if you’ve eaten food prepared by yourself, you’ve probably done it too. The good news is you definitely have to have some salt in your diet — but probably not as much as you’d wish.

The human body needs 200 milligrams of sodium, or about .5 grams of salt, a day to function properly, but according to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 3,436 milligrams of salt daily. So how exactly are we managing roughly 17 times the amount of sodium we need? Probably a combination of not really knowing what’s in our food, not understanding how much is safe, and being way too accustomed to the taste of salt itself, which a lot of people consider necessary to “bring out” flavors to begin with. Here are a few ways salt can be dangerous and some ways to reduce the levels in your life.

Too much salt can cause fluid imbalance

Balancing sodium, potassium and fluid inside your body is tricky, and too much salt can seriously mess with an already delicate process because that process requires proper filtration through your kidneys. When there’s extra fluid in your blood, your kidneys use osmosis to pull the excess water out, which travels to your bladder and is removed through urine, keeping the amount of sodium and water in your blood in check. But too much sodium in your blood can mess with your kidneys’ ability to pull water out as it now needs to stay in the blood to dilute sodium.

Drinking eight glasses of water a day is possibly the most overused piece of advice ever given, but that’s because hydration is so important — and you should try to get a couple of more glasses in if you’re consuming excess amounts of salt to help make up for the water lost to the battle in your blood.

Excess water brought into the blood for sodium dilution increases the blood’s volume, which you definitely do not want because that can put extra pressure on your heart and arteries. (Hello, high blood pressure!)

Too much salt wreaks havoc on your heart

High blood pressure from too much salt can lead to a whole lot of messy complications, including the weakening and damage of your arteries, heart, and other organs, and an increase in your risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. It’s not hard to measure your blood pressure — it’s always done at doctor’s visits, and getting regular checkups is a must no matter what your blood pressure is doing.

If high blood pressure runs in your family, cutting down on your salt intake is a great way to reduce your risk of the complications that come with it.

Too much salt can also cause bloating

Beyond the more serious and dangerous effects, too much sodium in your diet can also cause bloating because it causes you to retain extra water. Bloating is temporary, but can be uncomfortable and frustrating, so avoid salt if you’re planning on being in a situation where bloating would bother you.

It’s not impossible to take excess salt out of your life, but it might take some readjusting. Comfort foods like Chinese takeout, which in America usually replaces traditional ingredients like garlic, ginger, and other seasoning with salt and MSG, can be the most offensive to your arteries, but it helps to know what your choices are. Replace staples like wonton soup, which can have about 905 milligrams of sodium in a cup, or General Tso’s chicken, which contains about 2,327 milligrams of sodium in one order, according to the USDA nutrient database, with more low-sodium menu options (spring rolls have only about 300 milligrams of sodium in them, for instance).

If you’re cooking on your own, avoid canned beans or vegetables, or buy the options made without salt. Look for other ways to increase flavor, like red pepper, garlic, or onions, all of which happen to be great for you and won’t increase your sodium intake. A big part of getting excess sodium out of your life is getting used to food with other flavors, so feel free to go crazy with the cayenne or curry powder — your arteries, and eventually your taste buds, will thank you.

7 things you should never do on a cruise

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Ah, cruising is the life. You’re practically waited on hand and foot. With all of the cool activities on board (IMAX, gambling, facials!) you’re never bored; there’s yummy food galore; and the booze is flowing. But before you leave port, here are a few pointers you should know to avoid getting sick or injured at sea.

Don’t buy health insurance from the cruise line

When you book your trip you may be offered insurance. But it’s probably best to pass, said industry expert Ross Klein, PhD, who runs the site CruiseJunkie.com. While health insurance is certainly a good idea (a medevac can cost more than $100K), ideally you want your insurer to be independent of the cruise line to avoid a conflict of interest, he explains. Check with your own health insurance company to see what expenses are covered abroad. If you need extra coverage, consider short-term supplemental travel insurance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidelines to help you select a good policy.

Don’t go without getting your shots

The CDC urges cruisers to make sure they’re up to date on routine vaccines like measles/mumps/rubella, since you’ll be living in close quarters with crew and fellow passengers from countries where these diseases are more common. You should also look up each of the ship’s destinations to check for health alerts, and any additional vaccine or medication recommendations.

Don’t get too paranoid about the buffet

Self-serve meals might give you the heebie-jeebies, but you can trust that the food served on American cruise ships is safe to eat, said Sarah Krieger, MPH, RDN, a nutritionist who specializes in food safety issues. Dishes are held at the proper temperature and consistently monitored. But if you’re worried, Krieger suggests sticking to food that is steaming hot, and skipping food that’s at at room temp, and thus carries a higher risk of pathogens. And needless to say, if something looks bad, steer clear.

But don’t go crazy at the buffet either  

The biggest buffet risk, says Krieger, is approaching it like a personal eating challenge: “Food is everywhere on a cruise,” she said, which makes it all too easy to overindulge and come back with extra bulges you didn’t want. Kreiger’s tip: Try to strike a balance between food that’s nutritious (veggies) and food that feeds your soul (ice cream!). For example, Krieger said, if you have Belgian waffles and bacon for breakfast, choose a Caprese salad for lunch, and a lean burger and glass of wine at dinner.

Don’t eat too late at night  

It never occurs to you to have a pizza snack after dinner…until you get on a boat. Jimmy Minardi, a personal trainer on Long Island, New York, advises his clients to close the kitchen (so to speak) two hours after the sun goes down.

“Late night eating is the kiss of death. There’s a lot of drinking involved on a cruise and the combination of food and booze basically turns you into a sloth,” he said.

Besides, food digests better when you’re moving around—not when you’re trying to snooze on a heavy stomach.

Don’t get your teeth whitened

Cruise ships often offer teeth whitening sessions—and they are not a good idea, said Clifton M. Carey, PhD, a professor at the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Sure, you want a sparkling vacay picture-worthy smile. But whitening on the high seas can entail serious risks. For one, it’s unlikely that a professional dentist will perform the procedure. And two, “once a cruise ship is in international waters, they can use incredibly aggressive whitening ingredients on teeth,” Carey said. “This can destroy the protein structure of teeth and can cause a lot of pain.”

Don’t drink the water

You’ve heard this before, but if you’re in a developing country, tap water, fountain drinks, freshly squeezed juice, and any beverage with ice in it can make you ill if the water is contaminated.

“As a foreign traveler personally, I’ve been told that Americans are like newborn babies—very fragile bodies when it comes to germs,” Krieger said.

The water on the ship will be safe to drink, but Krieger recommends that when you’re on land, you opt for the safest possible option: bottled sparkling water.

Don’t hire a personal trainer

It’s smart to stay active on holiday, but don’t go, er, overboard. Hiring a personal trainer on a ship is expensive, and fitness classes, from spin to TRX, also cost extra. Save your money, Minardi said.

“There are plenty of things that are free that will keep you fit on vacation,” Minardi said.

For example, there are stairs everywhere on cruise ships, so take a walk after every meal. And when you get off the boat, explore the port cities on foot. Plus: When you hire a trainer on a ship, you don’t know his or experience level, Minardi pointed out. What’s more, someone who sees you only once or twice won’t have time to learn about your strengths and weaknesses, and a shoulder strain is not the kind of souvenir you want.

Sedentary time tied to coronary artery calcium

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One reason being sedentary is so bad for health may be that it promotes “hardening” of the arteries with calcified deposits, a new U.S. study suggests.

Research with middle-aged volunteers found that each additional hour of sedentary time was linked to 12 percent higher odds of having calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, an early sign of coronary heart disease.

“This is one of the first studies to help tease out the ways in which sedentary time relates to heart disease risk, by evaluating this early marker of atherosclerosis in the heart arteries,” said study coauthor Julia Kozlitina of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 2,000 participants in the Dallas Heart Study who had measures of physical activity based on wearable tracking devices and had coronary artery calcium scans.

Participants’ average age was 50 years old and about half were black. Overall, the volunteers spent between one hour and 11 hours per day sedentary, and spent between zero and 200 minutes a day doing moderate to vigorous physical activity, with an average of 29 minutes.

About one-quarter of people in the sample had some detectable coronary artery calcium, Kozlitina said.

Participants who were the most sedentary tended to be older, to have diabetes, high blood pressure and higher body mass index. They also were more likely to have coronary calcium, the study team reports in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Accounting for age and other factors, the researchers linked extra hours of sedentary time to higher risk of having coronary artery calcium. Time spent exercising was not tied to the likelihood of coronary calcium, however.

A single week of physical activity monitoring may not be representative of lifetime exercise habits, and can’t necessarily prove that being sedentary causes coronary artery calcium to accumulate, only that the two factors are linked, the authors point out.

“The most interesting finding from this study is that sedentary time, but not moderate to vigorous physical activity, was associated with coronary artery calcium,” said Qibin Qi of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who was not part of the study.

“Besides exercise in the gym and a walk during lunch break, breaks in sedentary behavior might help,” he said by email. “That means getting up from your desk job to move around once in a while (e.g., get a cup of tea) could be beneficial. Future studies will need to look at the optimal length and frequency of breaks from sedentary time.”

Exercising and being sedentary may both influence cardiovascular disease, but by different pathways, Qi told Reuters Health.

Maintaining a healthy diet, not smoking and keeping alcohol intake light or moderate also help prevent cardiovascular disease, Qi said.

“Try to take a one to five minute break every hour; stand up; walk up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator; etc.,” Kozlitina said by email. “All of this helps in a small way.”