Get Moving! 6 Ways to Add Steps to Your Day

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-26

(BPT) - If you spend a large portion of your day sitting, you’re not alone.

Inactivity is one of the key factors contributing to the nation’s high rate of obesity and its related health effects. Research shows 50 to 70 percent of people spend six or more hours a day sitting, and 20 to 35 percent spend four or more hours a day watching TV.

This type of inactivity - or ‘sitting disease’ - can lead to serious health conditions. For example, nearly 35 percent of U.S. adults are obese, and obesity-related conditions including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer are among the leading causes of preventable death. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. is $147 billion. Annual medical spending on an obese patient is estimated to be $1,429 higher than it is for a person of normal weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While those figures are discouraging, there is one easy solution that could have a profound impact.

Walking is one of the simplest, least expensive and most effective ways individuals can improve their health. It does not require any special skills, expensive equipment or a gym membership.

Below are six easy ways to incorporate more walking into your day:

  1. Take a walk with a coworker at lunchtime or schedule a walking meeting.

  2. Schedule a walk with the family after dinner.

  3. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

  4. Walk to see a colleague rather than call or e-mail.

  5. Get off the bus or train one stop early on your way to work.

  6. Start or join a walking or hiking group.

By getting just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as a brisk walk, at least five times a week, you could realize significant health benefits. Walking has been shown to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, improve muscle, bone and joint health, maintain a healthy weight, lead to better sleep and provide a mental boost.

That’s why the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association encourages individuals, groups and whole communities to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle through its WalkingWorks® program. WalkingWorks, now in its 10th year, was developed in partnership with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports to help Americans live healthier lives and reduce unnecessary medical costs. Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies across the country also host annual National Walk@Lunch day events as a way to promote healthy habits by incorporating walking into a busy work day.

So don’t just sit there and let that warm weather go to waste. Take steps to a better you, and see how walking does work!

* Before beginning any weight loss or nutritional program or new exercise regime, consult with your doctor or healthcare provider.

For more information on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit www.BCBS.com. We encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog for up-to-date information about BCBSA.

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Surprising Foods That Pack a Protein Punch

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-26

(BPT) - It helps you build muscle and tissues. You need it to make blood, antibodies and hair. It keeps you satisfied for longer so you can fight hunger pangs. Protein isn't just for athletes and bodybuilders - it's essential for everyone striving for a healthy lifestyle.

The amount of protein needed varies based on a variety of factors, such as body weight and activity level. In general, if you eat 2,000 calories each day, you should consume 5 1/2 ounces of protein daily, according to recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

Protein is in every cell in the human body, so it's important to be thoughtful of your protein intake. However, that doesn't mean you're stuck eating meat, beans and peanut butter. There are many surprising sources of protein that make it easy to enhance meals and snacks.

Edamame: Tasty edamame (soybeans) are a protein-packed snack. One cup contains a whopping 22 grams of protein, plus calcium, magnesium and more. Eaten alone, it will quickly become a favorite snack. Or, add to salads or sprinkle on top of soups to up the protein ante pronto.

Spouted grain flake cereal: Loaded with 7-8 grams of important plant-based protein per 55 gram serving, Ezekiel 4:9 Flourless Sprouted Grain Flakes are sprouted to maximize nutrition and digestibility. Try original, flax+chia, raisin and almond varieties to start your day with a complete protein source containing nine essential amino acids. You can also add to yogurt or crush the flakes and use as a delicious crispy, nutty, sweet breading.

Sundried tomatoes: Add zest to pasta and chili with sweet and savory sundried tomatoes. One cup contains 8 grams of protein, so it's the perfect addition to any meal. Reach for sundried tomatoes with cheese and crackers, on sandwiches or to add amazing depth in flavor to sauces.

Chia seeds: These tiny seeds are known for their healthy omegas, but they are also an amazing source of protein. Just 2 tablespoons have 3 grams of protein. This is the perfect crunchy addition to yogurt or blended into a smoothie.

Peas: They may be small, but they are mighty in the protein department. Once cup of raw peas contains 8 grams of protein. Peas are more than just a side dish - add this great green to soup, blend to create a delectable sauce or sprinkle as a colorful garnish.

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10 Heart-Healthy Foods That You'll Actually Want to Eat

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-26

(BPT) - What does oatmeal, beans and skinless chicken have in common? They are all heart healthy foods, yet don't do a whole lot to tantalize the taste buds. Fortunately, eating for heart health doesn't mean a life sentence of bland foods or boring flavors.

By thinking beyond the oatmeal box, you can reinvent your meals while keeping heart health top of mind. This is important for everyone because heart disease - which includes stroke and other cardiovascular diseases - is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.

Mindful eating is one of the best ways to maintain heart health. With these 10 heart-healthy foods, you won't mind sitting down to a wholesome meal that supports the hardest working muscle in your body.

Berries
Munch on blueberries and strawberries - your heart will thank you. By eating three or more servings of these berries a week, women can reduce their risk of heart attack by 32 percent, according the journal Circulation.

Sprouted grain English muffins
Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Flax English Muffins are made with heart healthy flax seeds loaded with omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. Just pop them in the toaster for a rich nutty taste that excites the taste buds! Sprouted to maximize nutrition and digestibility, each muffin provides an impressive amount of plant protein, too. Learn more at www.foodforlife.com.

Potatoes
Spuds get a bad rap for being a starch, but they actually are a positive part of a heart-healthy diet. Rich in potassium, potatoes can help lower blood pressure. Remember to avoid frying potatoes and try baking or boiling instead.

Tofu
Looking for a great meat alternative? Because tofu is made from soy protein, it is believed to help lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), making it fantastic for heart-healthy eating. Explore new recipes or use it as a substitute in current favorites.

Red wine
Say cheers to good heart health with a glass of red wine. The Mayo Clinic notes alcohol and antioxidants in red wine may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of the good high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) and protecting against artery damage.

Spinach
Popeye was right - spinach is an amazing food that packs a heart-healthy punch. Full of vitamins, fiber and carotenoids that act as antioxidants, spinach is a mean, green superfood. Add to sandwiches, salads and smoothies regularly.

Dark chocolate
Have a sugar tooth? Indulge it while bettering your heart. A square or two of dark chocolate may be good for your heart, just make sure the bar is 70 percent cocoa or higher.

Salmon
It's easy to cut down on red meat consumption with versatile salmon. Its meaty consistency is satisfying while offering endless options for grilling, steaming or baking. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon will make your heart jump with joy.

Tomatoes
Packed with lycopene, vitamin C and alpha- and beta-carotene, tomatoes are a smart addition to any heart-healthy meal. Eat them fresh or sundried to enjoy the many benefits. Plus, because they're low in calories and sugar, they make an ideal guilt-free snack.

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Step Up Your Summer Beauty Regimen With Help From Expert Dermatologists

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-26

(BPT) - While magazines make summer beauty look simple, in reality it's anything but. From bloat to breakouts, summer is wrought with beauty challenges.

The experts at the Mayo Clinic offer advice on eight of the most common beauty and health concerns of summer.

  1. Maintaining a healthy (natural) glow
    While tanning beds offer a quick-fix to achieving a golden glow, they also cause exposure to damaging UV radiation which can cause premature aging as well as increase the risk of skin cancer. If you'd like a sun-kissed glow without the risk, consider using a sunless tanning product. Whether in the form of a lotion, spray or done as a professional service at a salon, sunless tanning offers a safe alternative to both tanning beds and sunbathing.

  2. Ingrown hairs
    Swimsuit season often means shaving more frequently, which can result in painful and unsightly ingrown hairs. These hairs grow out of the skin slightly and then curl back underneath the skin. To avoid ingrown hair, use a lubricating shave gel followed by a sharp, single-blade razor. Shave in the direction of hair growth and avoid pulling the skin taut.

  3. Sunburn
    It's easy to get lost in the fun of the summer sun. Avoid sunburn by dressing in light layers and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Remember, sunscreen generally stays at original strength for three years. If you do get sunburn, take a cool bath or apply a clean towel dampened with cool tap water. Then apply moisturizer, aloe vera lotion or gel or a low-dose hydrocortisone cream.

  4. Bloat
    Ice cream, hot dogs and fried goodies are cornerstones of traditional summer festivals. Unfortunately, too much of these types of foods can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. Fight bloat by eating fresh foods grown locally, such as carrots, tomatoes, melons and berries. Want a healthier cool treat? Try freezing grapes for a no-guilt sweet dessert.

  5. Cracked nails
    Pool chemicals, hot sun, gardening and building sand castles can all cause cracked nails. To protect nails, keep fingernails dry, clean and rub moisturizer into the nail beds and cuticles. Consider applying a nail hardener to add a protective layer against summer elements. If brittle nails persist, ask your doctor about biotin, a nutritional supplement that may help strengthen weak fingernails.

  6. Healthy, hydrated skin
    Staying hydrated is a summer must, but skin hydration isn't as simple as drinking water. Dehydrated skin feels rough and loses elasticity. To maintain proper hydration, avoid prolonged exposure to dry air or chlorinated water. When bathing, use a gentle cleanser instead of soap and avoid using skin care products that contain alcohol. Moisturize immediately after cleansing. Also try incorporating antioxidant-rich foods into your diet such as spinach, blueberries or salmon.

  7. Acne
    Sunshine and heat can cause the body to sweat. This combo clogs pores and can lead to acne. Some chemical treatments can leave the skin more sun-sensitive, so natural treatments such as tea tree oil, azelaic acid and even green tea extract are a smart choice in reducing inflammation. Another potential cause for acne can be outdated cosmetics. Make sure the products you use are kept clean to avoid bacterial buildup and avoid using them past their expiration date - six months is a good rule of thumb.

  8. Beautiful legs
    From swimsuits to shorts, summer is the time most people show off their legs. This can be uncomfortable for some when faced with common leg woes such as spider veins and varicose veins. Several options are available to combat these issues which range from sclerotherapy and laser surgery, to more advanced techniques such as vein-stripping. To learn more, visit mayoclinic.org to find out what treatment is best for you.

To discuss these and any other persistent skin or summer-related health concerns, make an appointment with Mayo Clinic Dermatology today.

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Smart Shopping Tips for People with Asthma and Allergies

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-26

(BPT) - A stuffy nose. Scratchy throat. Difficulty breathing. It’s bad enough when spring allergy season reaps its ugly head, but when the things in your home trigger your asthma and allergies too, you feel like you’re in an endless battle to feel healthy.

“Many household goods are hidden sources of asthma and allergy triggers,” says Dr. Cary Sennett, President and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “Fortunately, you can breathe easier by shopping smarter. By keeping a few tips in mind, you’ll be able to select products that reduce the likelihood of flares or attacks.”

Dr. Sennett and the experts at AAFA offer these shopping tips to limit asthma and allergy triggers in your home.

1. Look for the asthma & allergy friendly mark.

By being selective in what you purchase, you can dramatically impact asthma and allergy triggers in your home. The first step when shopping is to look for AAFA’s asthma & allergy friendly Certification Mark. This strict scientifically-based program was created 10 years ago to test products from cleaning supplies to toys and more to ensure they’re suitable for families with asthma or allergies. Feel confident when you look for the mark in stores or online. For a full list of products and where to find them, visit www.aafa.org/certified.

2. Avoid trouble cleaning product ingredients.

Removing allergens in the home requires regular cleaning, but oftentimes the cleaning products themselves can trigger asthma and allergy attacks. It’s best to avoid products with strong odors. If you must use strong cleaning products, try wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

3. Buy breathable bedding to sleep well.

You spend one-third of your time in the bedroom, so it’s important to purchase products that won’t trigger your allergies or asthma. Look for bedding where the outer fabric is an effective allergen barrier, plus it can easily be cleaned to remove allergen accumulation. Additionally, bedding must be breathable to ensure comfort and contain no chemicals known to trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.

4. Research air cleaners and humidifiers that boost air quality.

Good indoor air quality is vital for families living with allergies and asthma. First, look for the asthma & allergy friendly Certification Mark. For humidifiers, look for options that maintain appropriate moisture levels while sanitizing the water. For air cleaners, look for independent testing that proves the device reduces allergens from the air by removal and not just redistribution.

5. Use a high-quality vacuum regularly.

Vacuuming once a week is important for reducing allergens, but if you don’t get a good vacuum you may simply be redistributing those irritants throughout your house. A certified vacuum will have a high quality air filtration system that captures even microscopic particles. Furthermore, the vacuum should not release irritants when you have to change the bag, either.

6. Gift toys that inspire smiles rather than cause sniffles.

For children, a favorite teddy should provide comfort, not sniffles and sneezes. Unfortunately, doctors often recommend removing stuffed toys from children with asthma and allergies. Because stuffed toys are similar to filled bedding products, they can house dust mites and other allergens as well as contain dyes that could irritate a child’s sensitivities. Look for toys that earn the certification. This means that the toy can easily be cleaned to remove allergen accumulation, contains no chemicals known to trigger allergies or allergens, plus the colors will not bleed from rubbing or saliva.

For more smart shopping tips, including what to look for in washers, dryers, paint and more, download the AAFA Certified Products Guide at www.aafa.org/certified.

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Backyard Bounty: Vegetables Are Nature's Original Nutritional Powerhouses

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-21

Tomatoes are a gardener’s favorite, plant in ground, raised beds or in containers.

(BPT) - You’ve probably heard the chatter around how a handful of unusual foods are must-eat nutritional powerhouses - and wondered how you’ll ever get your kids to try kale or chia seeds. But you don’t have to stress over how to incorporate the latest health food fads into your family’s diet in order to get powerful nutrition.

The truth is, those headline-grabbers aren’t the only nutritional powerhouses. Most vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, so quit worrying about how to pronounce acai or where to find seaweed in the supermarket. Instead, improve your family’s diet and save some money by growing nutrition-packed vegetables right in your own backyard. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Growing squash is easier than finding chia seeds. Many vegetables are easy to grow in any home environment, whether it’s a large garden plot or pots on your patio. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula and kale are full of nutrients and simple to grow, even for beginners. Transplants, like those offered by Bonnie Plants, make it even easier by helping you bypass the work of starting from seed. Plus, you’ll harvest six weeks sooner.

  • Healthy benefits go far beyond nutrition. Growing your own vegetables and herbs means you’ll always have a fresh supply of nutrient-rich food at home. But gardening also delivers healthful exercise, time in the fresh air, and it’s a relaxing and satisfying activity.

  • Gardens are good for Mother Nature. The more food you grow at home, the fewer natural resources will be needed to grow veggies in far off places and ship them to your local supermarket. Your garden is also a great opportunity to recycle household food waste as compost. Plus, when you choose Bonnie Plants in biodegradable pots, you’re saving millions of pounds of plastic from landfills. The pots decompose, add nutrients to the soil and help prevent transplant shock.

  • Gardening could get your kids excited about veggies - really! When kids participate in gardening, they take ownership of the plants they help grow. And with their hands in the dirt, they’re not on their cellphones or playing video games. Kids who grow veggies are much more likely to eat them, and make gardening an ongoing, healthy habit.

  • Save money at the supermarket. Growing your own food means you’ll spend much less money in the produce aisle. Plus, you can grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, even expensive, restaurant-style “foodie” greens you may not have tried otherwise.

The plant pros at Bonnie recommend these nutrient powerhouses to jumpstart your garden:

  • Strawberries - Just one cup of berries contains 3 grams of fiber and more than a full day’s recommended allowance of vitamin C. Phenols are potent antioxidants that work to protect the heart, fight cancer, block inflammation, and they give strawberries their red color.

  • Sweet potatoes - Alpha and beta carotene give sweet potatoes their bright orange color, and your body converts these compounds into vitamin A, which is good for your eyes, bones and immune system. A half cup of sweet potato provides nearly four times the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A, plus vitamins C, B6, potassium and manganese.

  • Broccoli - This green nutritional giant delivers vitamins C, A and K (associated with bone health), folate and sulforaphane that helps stimulate the body’s detoxifying enzymes.

  • Tomatoes - Tomatoes provide vitamins A, C and B, potassium and lycopene - an important phytonutrient thought to help fight various cancers and lower cholesterol.

  • Spinach - Spinach contains more than a dozen phytonutrients, and twice the daily recommended allowance of vitamin K. These nutrients contribute to cardiovascular and colon health, better brain function, eyesight and increased energy.

  • Kale - Kale contains vitamins A, C and K. A cup of cooked kale gives you more than 1,000 percent of the daily value for vitamin K. It’s also high in manganese, which promotes bone density.

  • Cauliflower - Low in calories and carbohydrates, cauliflower is packed with a long list of nutrients, including phytonutrients. They say cauliflower is the new kale!

For more information on growing nutritional powerhouse vegetables, visit www.bonnieplants.com. Bonnie Plants is the largest producer and supplier of vegetable and herb plants in North America. You’ll find their plants at Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes and 4,700 independent garden retailers.

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Unleash Happiness: Tips for Living Your Happiest Life

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-21

(BPT) - Are you living your happiest life? How does your mood affect your health? Is happiness contagious? Researchers are finding these questions are worth asking, and multiple studies show happiness dramatically improves health, productivity, family bonds and even life expectancy. So it’s no surprise that the impact happiness has on people has spawned an initiative to spread happiness throughout the world.

So what can you do to live your happiest life? Researchers say it starts with choosing happiness. Making a conscious choice to be happy positively affects a person’s mood, and over time, can reset a person’s default happiness level, according to two recent studies published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Here’s a look at several ways to choose to be happy, including:

Savor happy moments, in the moment. An individual’s brain is hardwired to remember bad experiences more than good ones as a basis for survival. When something good happens, stopping to savor that moment helps to solidify it in the brain and re-wire it for happiness, according to Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness.

Connect with happy people. To be happy, spend time with happy people. It may seem like common sense, but researchers from Harvard found over the course of a 20-year study, the happiness of one person can increase the happiness of others in their network by an astounding 25 percent.

“In my job, I see firsthand how easily happiness spreads from one person to the next,” says Courtney Gastelo, a bartender at RA Sushi, which has several locations across the U.S. “That’s why RA Sushi‘s Happy Hour is so popular - we bring our guests together in a fun atmosphere where they can relax and enjoy great food and drinks with their friends.”

Gastelo recommends not waiting for the weekend; invite friends out for sushi and enjoy Happy Hour any day of the week. Doing so will positively affect the mood of everyone involved, “and science says it’s good for humanity,” she says.

Choose experiences over things. The value of new life experiences also creates happiness. That’s the finding of research from San Francisco State University, which shows that having a new life experience outweighs material purchases when it comes to long-term impact on happiness.

New life experiences don’t have to be expensive trips to exotic locations; they can be as simple as taking a dance class, mastering a cooking skill, trying a new food or learning how to speak another language.

Exercise. Hitting the road or the weights can turn a bad day into a good one. Research from the University of Bristol shows exercising on workdays has an even bigger impact on mood. It’s because exercising releases endorphins that have a powerful effect on happiness.

Going for a walk or hike outside has the added benefit of sunshine and fresh air, too. For an even more powerful happiness boost, researchers suggest finding an exercise buddy.

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