Saturday, October 22, 2016

7 Health Truths We Wish We Knew in Our 20s

Your 20s aren’t exactly a breeze. Most quarter-lifers are just starting to live on their own, figure out a career path, and look for a life partner, all at the same time. As a result, good-for-you habits don’t always feel like a top priority—but some really do matter. That’s why we tapped our editors over 30 to share the health truths they wish they’d known in their younger years. Read on if you still think instant ramen is a well-balanced meal…

RELATED: How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis and Find Your True Purpose

Make friends with fat

“Fat is not the enemy. It’s an essential nutrient, important for so many major functions in the body, and essential for brain health. Eat more fat!” —Beth Lipton, food director 

Listen to your body

“I wish I had known to take better care of my joints and not to ignore the signs something was wrong. I never thought about the importance of mobility exercises, stretching, foam rolling, or recovery, because I could easily go running or do CrossFit classes without feeling much pain or discomfort. It never occurred to me that maybe someday I wouldn’t be so invincible. Then, at the ripe old age of 28, everything started to hurt all the time—especially my right hip. To make a long story short, I now have permanent damage to that joint because I had ignored a lot of warning signs that I was injured. These days, I am much more diligent about foam rolling before and after every workout, warming up and cooling down properly, and generally just treating my body in a way that will ensure I’ll be able to stay active and fit for the rest of my life.” —Christine Mattheis, deputy editor 

Lather up 

“Wear sunscreen every day. Seriously, every day. I apply SPF on my face and neck and whatever’s left over, I put on the back of my hands. Also, self tanner is your bff.” —Tomoko Takeda, acting beauty director

RELATED: What You Can Do in Your 20s and 30s to Prevent Physical Decline in Your 50s and 60s

Eat right

“One big thing I have learned since my 20s concerns nutrition/diet and basic eating sense. I had very little nutritional literacy in my 20s, very little idea about what made up a balanced, healthy diet, and very little consciousness about how food choices affected energy levels, mindset, and a general sense of well being. I might get a bad night’s sleep, then eat a Big Mac or a giant Italian hoagie for lunch the next day, each loaded with refined carbs, and then be mystified about why I would hit a carb crash and slip into a food coma for the next two hours. It wasn’t until years later (and in part by starting to work at Health!) that I picked up some basics about nutrition, cooking, creating balanced meals that gave me energy. Now my number one prerogative when I eat lunch is what will keep me feeling as energized and alert as possible, and I know the ingredients to put into the meal that will help me do this.” —Michael Gollust, research editor

Strengthen, strengthen, strengthen

“I wish I had done more strength training in my 20s! I was all cardio, all the time, not realizing that you can strengthen your bones up to age 30, but after that it tends to decline. You might say I wished I stashed more in my ‘bone bank’ when I was younger. It’s not impossible to 'save up' after age 30, but it’s harder.” —Theresa Tamkins, editor-in-chief,

Just do you

“Stick to what feels right for you, regardless of what a friend or a significant other is doing. At times I gave into eating or drinking in ways that didn’t feel right for me because I didn’t want to be different from friends, or to go along with what my partner wanted to do. You know, that social eating/drinking pressure. As I got older I realized that wasn’t necessary. I can be with a friend and have a water during happy hour if I don’t feel like drinking, or say no if my hubby wants to split an order of fries. It’s not at all about depriving myself (in fact, looking back I felt like I was depriving myself of feeling good when I gave in); it’s about knowing and honoring what feels right for you in that moment. Splurging sometimes is great, even important, but do so on your own terms.” —Cynthia Sass, contributing nutrition editor

Love yourself

“This isn’t really a health truth, but more a life truth: I wish every woman in her 20s knew how beautiful she was! I look at pictures of myself in my 20s, when I often felt gawky and unsure, and wish I’d realized that I was actually so lovely—not because I think I’m such hot stuff, but because there’s this vibrant energy that you have when you’re that age that’s really wonderful and attractive. Everyone has it! Women in your 20s, own it!” —Jeannie Kim, executive deputy editor

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Mediterranean Diet, Caffeine May Be Good for Your Eyes

THURSDAY, Oct. 20, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Eating a Mediterranean diet and consuming caffeine may lower your chances of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness, according to a new study.

Previous research has shown that a Mediterranean diet—high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, healthy fats and fish—benefits the heart and lowers cancer risk. But there has been little research on whether it helps protect against eye diseases such as AMD, the researchers noted.

Using questionnaires, the researchers assessed the diets of 883 people, aged 55 and older, in Portugal. Of those, 449 had early stage AMD and 434 did not have the eye disease.

Closely following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 35 percent lower risk of AMD, and eating lots of fruit was especially beneficial.

The researchers also found that people who consumed high levels of caffeine seemed to have a lower risk of AMD. Among those who consumed high levels of caffeine (about 78 milligrams a day, or the equivalent of one shot of espresso) 54 percent did not have AMD and 45 percent had the eye disease.

The researchers said they looked at caffeine consumption because it’s an antioxidant known to protect against other health problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

However, the study did not prove that consuming coffee and following a Mediterranean diet caused the risk of AMD to drop.

The findings were to be presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), in Chicago.

“This research adds to the evidence that a healthy, fruit-rich diet is important to health, including helping to protect against macular degeneration,” lead author Dr. Rufino Silva, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Coimbra, in Portugal, said in an AAO news release.

“We also think this work is a stepping stone towards effective preventive medicine in AMD,” Silva added.

Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more on age-related macular degeneration.

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Right-Handedness Might Go Back Almost 2 Million Years

THURSDAY, Oct. 20, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Human’s preference for using the right hand may have developed earlier than thought, a new study suggests.

Striations on teeth in a 1.8-million-year-old Homo habilis jaw found in Tanzania offer the earliest fossil evidence of right-handedness, according to researchers.

The striations on the lip side of the upper front teeth mostly veer from left down to right, suggesting they were made when a stone tool held in the right hand was used to cut food held in the mouth while pulling with the left hand.

Those marks suggest that this Homo habilis was right-handed and is the first potential evidence of right-hand dominance in pre-Neanderthal humans, according to the study. It was published online Oct. 20 in the Journal of Human Evolution.

“We think that tells us something further about lateralization of the brain,” said study author David Frayer, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Kansas.

“We already know that Homo habilis had brain lateralization and was more like us than like apes. This extends it to handedness, which is key,” he said in a university news release.

“Handedness and language are controlled by different genetic systems, but there is a weak relationship between the two because both functions originate on the left side of the brain,” Frayer said.

“One specimen does not make an incontrovertible case, but as more research is done and more discoveries are made, we predict that right-handedness, cortical [outer brain] reorganization and language capacity will be shown to be important components in the origin of our genus,” he said.

Ninety percent of people are right-handed, while the ratio is closer to 50-50 in apes.

More information

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has more on human evolution.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Millennials Are Just as Hard-Working as Baby Boomers, Study Finds

FRIDAY, Oct. 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Boomers brace yourselves: You don’t have a stronger work ethic than those in later generations, a new study finds.

Baby boomers are said to place work at the center of their lives, to avoid loafing and to be ethical in their dealings with others. Their work ethic is also associated with greater job satisfaction and performance, and greater commitment, according to the researchers.

But an analysis of 77 studies turned up no significant difference in work ethic between boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (1965 to 1980), and millennials (1981 to 1999).

The investigators looked at 105 different measures, including hours worked and commitment to family and work.

The results, published online Oct. 11 in the Journal of Business and Psychology, support those of previous studies, the authors behind the new study said.

“The finding that generational differences in the [so-called] Protestant work ethic do not exist suggests that organizational initiatives aimed at changing talent management strategies and targeting them for the ‘very different’ millennial generation may be unwarranted,” said study leader Keith Zabel of Wayne State University in Detroit.

“Human resource-related organizational interventions aimed at building 21st century skills should therefore not be concerned with generational differences in Protestant work ethic as part of the intervention,” he added in a journal news release.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stress-reducing tips for working parents.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

How to Stop Blushing So Much

Literature is full of blushing characters: Everyone from Elizabeth Bennet to Hermione Granger—heck, even the ax-wielding Annie Wilkes from Misery—occasionally blushes, and as a result, the reader tends to like them all the more. (Until, you know, that ax scene.) But what’s cute in a Jane Austen novel isn’t necessarily endearing to the shareholders at your annual company-wide meeting. … Or is it? 

“Blushing is quite unique,” says Rowland Miller, PhD, a psychology professor at Sam Houston State University who specializes in social emotions. When humans are faced with certain threats, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, and blood is diverted away from the skin, to the muscles. The opposite occurs when we blush—the blood flow increases to the skin via the veins of the upper neck, chest, and face.

So why does your autonomic nervous system want to throw you under the bus? Well, it may actually be trying to help you. “Blushing serves a useful function,” says Miller. “It’s an authentic, non-verbal apology for misbehavior.” And socially speaking, “misbehavior” has a pretty broad definition—leaving your fly unzipped or mispronouncing a word can count.

RELATED: These Personality Traits Are Linked to a Healthier Sex Life

Blushing is important, Miller says, because people who convey remorse are less likely to be ostracized by their peers. “If someone misbehaves and remains calm, they aren’t as well liked,” he explains. Example: If you knocked your friend’s iPhone into a swimming pool and just shrugged your shoulders, you would likely then have one less friend.

Research supports the theory that blushing helps us: People think better of us if we turn a little red after we make a social faux pas—more so than if we don’t blush, according to one 2009 study in the journal Emotion. And a 2011 study by the same group of researchers found that people who blushed after doing something wrong were more likely to regain their partner’s trust during a subsequent task. (Interestingly, people were less likely to trust partners who expressed embarrassment by averting their gaze and suppressing a smile; that expression was perceived as amused rather than ashamed.)

“You can’t blush on command, so if you do [blush], you’re perceived to be truly remorseful,” says Miller.  “You can’t be embarrassed about something if you don’t care [about it].”

RELATED: How You Feel About Facebook ‘Likes’ Says Something About Your Personality

Okay, you might ask, then why do I blush when I give a speech in public? One theory: Back in grade school, being singled out for good or bad behavior usually resulted in some kind of consequence, either from your peers or your teachers, says Dr. Miller. And those memories (do we ever get over 5th grade, really?) might be enough to trigger a blush as an adult, he explains.

So how do you make yourself stop blushing? It’s actually pretty hard. And, in fact, thinking about it might make it worse: One study published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy found that people who were told they were blushing (even if they weren’t), blushed more. “Believing that one will blush can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy,” the study authors wrote.

If you can’t psych that redness out of your cheeks, you can do the next best thing: Pretend as if it doesn’t bother you. Because really, it shouldn’t. Even though research shows that people think others look down on them for blushing, the exact opposite is true, says Miller. “Blushing is charming, and audiences judge people who are blushing more positively.” Realizing that your blushing makes you even more likeable, he says, might just be the best way to keep it under control.

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See What It’s Like to Be Color Blind With These Eye-Opening Gifs

Imagine a sunflower that’s slightly blue. Or a stop sign that’s not red. These may be everyday sights for a person who's color blind—which means they perceive wavelengths of light differently than most people.

“Color blindness is usually inherited,” says Jessica Lattman, MD, a New York City-based ophthalmologist. Several genes are needed to make the color-detecting molecules, or photopigments, in the cone-shaped cells of the retina (known as cone cells). Abnormalities in those genes can lead to difficulty seeing reds and greens, or blues and yellows—or in rare cases, an inability to see any color at all.

“Because most forms of the disorder are linked to the X chromosome, [it] affects men far more commonly than women,” says Dr. Lattman. It’s estimated that 8% of men and just 0.5% of women of Northern European descent have the common type, red-green blindness.

While there’s no cure for color blindness, treatments do exist: “Some people find that wearing tinted glasses helps them detect colors better,“ Dr. Lattman says. "And there are actually smartphone apps now that allow people to take a picture of something and be informed of what color it is.”

To show how color blindness can affect a person’s view of the world, the UK site Clinic Compare created the eight GIFs below. Each one portrays a different type of the disorder.

RELATED: These GIFs Show What It’s Really Like to Have Glaucoma and Other Eye Problems

Red-Green Color Blindness

Red-weakness (protanomaly)

Red-weakness—in which reds, oranges, and yellows appear greener and less bright—doesn’t tend to interfere with a person’s daily life. About 1% of men have this mild, X-linked type, according to the National Eye Institute.

Red-blindness (protanopia)

Also affecting about 1% of men, red-blindness means red appears back; and shades of orange, yellow, and green may register as yellow. 

Green-weakness (deuteranomaly)

Green-weakness is the most common form of color blindness, says Dr. Lattman. Five percent of men have it. To them, yellow and green appear redder; and blue and violet look the same.

Green-blindness (deuteranopia)

With this X-linked type affecting 1 in 100 men, greens appear beige; and reds look brownish-yellow. 

Blue-Yellow Color Blindness 

Blue-weakness (tritanomaly)

"Tritantomaly is very rare,” says Dr. Lattman, “and it affects both men and women equally." A blue-weakness, this form of color blindness makes blue appear greener. It also makes it tough to differentiate yellow and red from pink.

Blue-blindness (tritanopia)

Blue-blindness is extremely rare, and also occurs in both men and women. People with tritanopia see blue as green; and yellow as violet or light grey.

Complete Color Blindness

Cone monochromacy

There are three types of photopigments—red, blue and green. But in people who have cone monochromacy, two of the three aren’t functional. People with blue cone monochromacy (shown above) are often also near-sighted and have reduced sharpness in their vision, says Dr. Lattman. 

Red monochromacy (achromatopsia)

In people who have monochromacy, the most severe type of color blindness, none of the photopigments are functional. "These people see the world exclusively in black, white, and grey,” Dr. Lattman says.They also tend to be very sensitive to bright light. 

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5 Powerful Mantras to Help You Quiet Anxiety, Beat Self-Doubt, Manage Stress, and More

What if you could stop worrying (or feel more confident, or less stressed) with just a few simple words? That’s the premise behind Habit Changers ($22,, a powerful little book filled with one-line mantras meant to help you reprogram your brain.

Inspired by a Tibetan Buddhist mind training practice called Lojong, author and executive coach M.J. Ryan has been using simple slogans with her clients to interrupt the habitual thought processes that hold them back. The mantras work, she writes, because they override the brain's automatic response, “help you become consciously aware of what you’re doing—and serve as a reminder of what it is that you want to do." 

Below are five of these simple but profound phrases. Choose the mantras that resonate most with you, and recite as needed.

To gather courage: “Handshake your fear”

Whether you’re generally anxious or find yourself afraid in particular circumstances—like public speaking or when expressing opinions to important stakeholders at work—fear can be debilitating. Not only can it keep you from realizing your goals, but it can also prevent you from simply enjoying your day to day life. I know because I was ruled by fear for decades—and I’m not alone.

This is an issue many people talk to me about. Part of the problem is that in Western culture fear is something we’re generally taught to ignore or suppress; when we can’t, we get even more overwhelmed.

The Buddhists have a different approach. They suggest you befriend your fear, turn toward it as you would toward someone you loved who was feeling afraid: “Oh, you poor thing, I see you are afraid. You’re not alone. I’m right here with you.”

In saying this you give your fear attention, neither ignoring it nor making more out of it than there is. It sounds backward, but oftentimes, paying attention to a feeling can make it lessen or even disappear. These words can also help you to see that you’re more than your fear. Yes, there is the scared person inside you. But there is also the bold, wise part of you. Getting in touch with that wiser, braver self helps you act from confidence rather than fear—act not out of fear but in spite of it.

RELATED: Self-Compassion: The New Secret to Being Slim, Fit, and  Happy for Life

To find confidence: "Undistort the distortion”

This is an idea that Sheryl Sandberg wrote about in Lean In, and it’s based on the fact that, according to many studies across a wide range of disciplines, women are plagued by much lower self-confidence than men. This unfortunate phenomenon shows up in various ways. For instance, women consistently judge their performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their performance as better than it is. And when it comes time to apply for a job, women don’t feel qualified enough to apply unless they match 100% of the criteria, while men through their hats into the ring if there is a 50% match.

Even when we understand this phenomenon is social, not personal, it can be very hard to change. In writing about it, Sandberg noted about herself, “I learned over time that while it was hard to shake feelings of self-doubt, I could understand that there was a distortion. … I learned to undistort the distortion.”

The words jumped off the page at me as fodder for a wonderful habit changer. Since then, women I’ve worked with have used it to recognize when they’re doubting themselves and to act in spite of their self-doubt, knowing that if they waited until they felt self-confident, they would wait forever. As one woman who used it to start her own business put it, “It helps me remember by feeling of unworthiness is a lie so I don’t have to listen to it as much.”

RELATED: 8 Promises Every Woman Should Make to Herself

To manage stress: “This is only a paper tiger”

When you’re stressed out about something, it can feel a bit like a ravenous tiger is about to devour you, right? The problem seems overwhelmingly daunting and you don’t see how you can are possibly going to cope. But there is a way out—recognizing that what you are facing is only a paper tiger, not a real one.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem, just that it’s not one that threatens your life. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson created this metaphor to illustrate the fact that the stress response was designed to save you from physical danger—like a tiger chasing you. But your amygdala, which is where the stress responsive originates, can’t differentiate between a tiger and a traffic jam. So it responds as if a tiger were after you when you’re only stuck in line, experiencing a flight delay, or anticipating an important presentation.

Using this habit changer whenever you are stressed reminds your body/mind you’re not in mortal danger so you can clam down and figure out how to deal with that line, delay, or presentation. “This habit changer has been a life saver,” one stressed-out client said to me recently.  “It’s made it possible for me to stop, figure out if there even is a problem, solve it when needed, and then proceed with my day more calmly.”

RELATED: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Can Hurt Your Health

To quiet anxiety: “Don’t go in your mind where your body is not”

Do you constantly worry about all the terrible thing that might happen? Many of us torture ourselves with this brand of magical thinking: If I worry now, it will help keep the bad thing away.

Actually all you do is make yourself miserable now as you focus on the prospect of misfortune and the unhappiness you will feel if it occurs, which it usually doesn’t! If you’re a chronic worrier, try this habit changer, which comes courtesy of an English-as-a-second-language client of mine.

I was working with her to stop worrying about all the possible future catastrophes that could befall her and suggested that she say to herself, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  Soon after that we came to the end of her coaching engagement and she moved on to an overseas work assignment. A couple years later, she called me out of the blue to say how helpful it had been to learn to “not go in her mind where her body is not.” It had completely eliminated her worrying.

I was so delighted with her translation that now I give it to all my worriers. Use it to remind yourself that all worries are in the future and likely will not come to pass. You’re not there yet—it’s all happening in your mind. And if some terrible thing does indeed happen, you can deal with when it arrives.

RELATED: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

To summon strength: "Look how far I’ve come”

This is a strategy long-distance runners use to resist the temptation to give up when they’re tired or in pain. Scientists call it the horizon effect. Rather than focusing on how far they still have to go, they encourage themselves to keep at it based on the progress they’ve already made.

When I have clients with a tendency to focus on their mistakes when they’re learning a new behavior, I give them this habit changer to help them cultivate the resilience to keep at it. Because of the brain’s tendency to be Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive, as Rick Hanson describes our inborn negativity bias, when people encounter a minor setback, they often lose sight of the progress they’ve made.

I’ll never forget the client who called me to say she was a “total failure” at managing her anger because she’d stomped down the hall after a meeting. She was ready to give up on her anger-management efforts altogether. I reminded her that it was the first time she’d lost her temper in three months, whereas before it had been a weekly occurrence. Once she adopted this habit changer, it helped her stick to the techniques she’d found useful. Plus it helped her get back on the horse when she messed up, because she was able to see it as just an occasional slip-up rather than a fundamental failure. Use this mantra when you need help sticking to whatever it is you’re’ working on.

Adapted from Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals by M.J. Ryan, available from Crown Business/Crown Publishing Group.

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