25Apr

America’s Healthiest Pets

Ask any of Americas hundred-million-plus pet owners if their animal companions make life a little sweeter, and youre bound to hear a gleeful purr. Our critters make us so happy that, in return for their company, we willingly scoop poop, clean cages, shell out for organic kibble, and stock an arsenal of supplies to help cope with all that hair.

We clearly think theyre worth it–and maybe they truly are. A wealth of studies suggests that pets are good for your health, sometimes in unexpected ways. The right pet can lower your risk for heart disease, curb stress, and even sniff out serious illnesses. In fact, the more attached you are to your pet, the stronger its protective health benefits may be.

Of course, not all pets are created equal. Some, in fact, are dangerous. So we asked three animal authorities to dig into the research and cough up (sorry, we couldnt resist) Americas Healthiest Pets. Read on to see if your “best friend” is on our list of six winners.

1. Dogs

The scientific findings are full of good news for the nearly 40% of us who own dogs; that number includes President Obama, who recently made good on a family campaign promise to his daughters and adopted an allergy-friendly Portuguese Water Dog.

“The breadth and depth of what dogs do to benefit humans happiness and longevity is pretty remarkable,” says judge Marty Becker, DVM, author of The Healing Power of Pets. Studies link dog ownership to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. And dog owners seem to live longer after a heart attack and get more exercise than nonowners. Youre more likely to stroll with a dog than solo, and Fido may even beat your best girlfriend as a motivating force: Unlike humans, dogs never need an arm-twisting to take a brisk walk.

Then theres the mood-boosting benefit. “Simply petting a dog is like a spa treatment,” Dr. Becker says. “After just a minute or two you have this massive release of positive neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin. And the dog gets the same relief.” Add to that the role canines play as service companions and the striking ways that theyre contributing to medicine–from detecting cancer to predicting epileptic seizures–and theres really no argument (except from cantankerous cat people) that mans (and womans!) best friend is aptly nicknamed.

What kind of dog is best? Dr. Becker especially sings the praises of small, mixed-breed shelter pups. Small is good because “you can take the dog with you and fully integrate her into the fabric of your life,” he says.

Sadly, despite the chatter about the First Familys search for a hypoallergenic dog, no breed is truly allergy-proof, says judge Gregg Takashima, DVM, board chair for the Delta Society, a nonprofit organization that helps connect people with service and therapy animals. Dander–tiny flakes of animal skin–is the true source of trouble.

But because pet hair may also play some role, breeds that dont shed much, like poodles or poodle mixes (labradoodles, golden-doodles, and so forth), and the Portuguese water dog (the Obamas choice), are better bets for some people with allergies. Another tip to reduce allergic reactions: Bathe your pet once a week with a nonsoap shampoo thats perfume and additive-free, Dr. Takashima says.

But if doggie upkeep just isnt for you? Piggyback on the health perks of dogs by spending time with their owners. Join your neighbor on her daily walk with her pup, and her benefit is yours, too.

http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20411765,00.html

22Apr

13 Foods That Are High in Magnesium

Chances are, you’re not getting as much magnesium as your body needs. Here’s how to get more of this important mineral in your diet.

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by Christine Mattheis

Magnesium helps your heart, muscles, and immune system function properly–and studies suggest that nearly half of Americans aren’t consuming enough of the mineral. But before you start popping supplements, you should know there’s a difference between inadequate intake and a true deficiency. Signs of deficiency include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and loss of appetite, and are quite rare. However, people with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or digestive ailments like Crohn’s and celiac disease, as well as those taking medications for heartburn or osteoporosis are at higher risk of magnesium deficiency. Read on to find out more about how much magnesium you need and where to get it.

Next: How much magnesium do you need?

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20Apr

Statins May Worsen Heart Failure for Some

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WEDNESDAY, Nov. 4, 2009 (Health.com) — Its widely known that cholesterol-lowering statins can benefit patients with heart disease, but a new study suggests they may actually harm some people with heart failure.

Heart disease can occur when arteries become clogged, but in heart failure, the heart gets progressively weaker and larger.

Still, since the study included a small number of patients and looked at only one point in time, its too early to say if the findings have implications for heart failure patients taking statins, according to lead author Lawrence P. Cahalin, PhD, of Northeastern University, in Boston. Cahalin presented his findings on Tuesday at the American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting in San Diego.

Tamara Horwich, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, agrees that the results need to be interpreted with caution. “I just dont think we can draw any conclusions about statins having benefits versus ill effects in some patients,” says Dr. Horwich, who wasnt involved with Cahalins study.

In heart failure, the enlarged heart struggles to pump a sufficient amount of blood, which can cause fluid to collect in the limbs and lungs, resulting in shortness of breath and fatigue. However, one type of heart failure, systolic, occurs when the lower chambers of the heart cant contract with enough force to drive blood throughout the body.

In the other type, diastolic heart failure, the heart muscle is so stiff that it can no longer relax enough to fill with blood between beats. About half of people with heart failure have systolic; the other half have diastolic, which becomes more common with age and is more likely to strike women.

About 5 million Americans have heart failure.

Currently, there are no guidelines on whether patients with heart failure should take statins. Some studies have shown that they can be helpful, while others have found no benefit. The decision of whether to prescribe these drugs is typically based on a patients cholesterol levels, his age, and whether he also has coronary artery disease, according to Dr. Horwich.

“Theres not a consensus,” she says. “Its up to the individual physician to make a decision.”

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20317642,00.html

18Apr

20 Must-Have Gadgets for Exercising With Your Dog

Expert-approved gear for playing fetch, setting up an obstacle course, or running with your dog.

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by Amanda MacMillan

Whether you’re walking, running, or playing fetch with your four-legged friend, getting outside and breaking a sweat (or, in your dog’s case, a pant) is a great way to keep you both healthy and happy. “Dogs need exercise just as much exercise as people, if not more,” says Angi Aramburu, a group fitness instructor and founder of Go Fetch Run, a bootcamp for dogs and their owners. “If you can combine your dog’s exercise time with your own, you can save time and kill two birds with one stone.”

With fitness gear made just for pet-and-human workouts, getting fit with your dog has never been easier or more fun. We asked dog behavior and health experts for their favorite products, and tips on how to use them.  

Next: A short leash or waist leash

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15Apr

17 Ways to Burn More Calories All Day

Looking to zap more calories? Here are 17 stealth ways to crank up your potential.

burn-more-calories

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by Jenna Autuori-Dedic

From Health magazine

If you can get to the gym every day and blast off 500 calories, then that’s awesome–but if you follow up a morning workout by sitting at a desk for 8 hours, then you may not be too pleased with how long it takes you to start noticing weight falling off. Luckily, there are stealth ways you can turn up your calorie burn all day long. Lose more weight in less time with these expert tips.

Next: Rise and sweat

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13Apr

4 Nutrients to Help You Sleep Better

Having trouble falling–or staying–asleep? These nutrients can help you get your rest tonight.

sleep-diet

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by Aviva Patz

From Health magazine

Eat crappy, sleep crappy. That’s the message of a new study from the University of Pennsylvania. It found that people who reported the healthiest sleep patterns also had the most varied diets. These key nutrients have been shown to play a role in regulating sleep, so aim to eat them often for sounder slumber.

Next: Lycopene

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11Apr

Running With Your Dog: 17 Dos and Don’ts

Health, safety, and behavioral tips for logging miles with your four-legged fitness partner.

running-with-your-dog

Credit: Getty Images

by Amanda MacMillan

Your dog may be the ultimate exercise partner. Think about it: dogs are always eager to spend more time with you, they have plenty of excess energy to burn, and temptation to skip a scheduled sweat session melts away when your furry friend stands at the front door, leash in mouth, ready to log a few miles with you.

Before you hit the pavement, though, you’ll need to train your pooch to run with you. Here’s how to make your run enjoyable and rewarding for both you and your best (furry) friend.

Next: Do: Give it a try

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08Apr

5 Ways to Deal With Caregiver Stress

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We’re not called the sandwich generation for nothing. Almost a third of U.S. adults (29 percent) act as a caregiver for an ill, elderly or disabled relative, per the National Alliance for Caregiving. Of those, roughly 66 percent are female, many of them also caring for children at home. The role can take a serious toll on your health and well-being. There’s of course the emotional strain, especially if you’re caring for a relative with dementia or another illness that requires constant monitoring. Moreover, 17 percent of caregivers in an AARP report said that their own physical health had worsened from caregiving.

“Caregiving can be very isolating, is a job most people didn’t apply for and never received proper training in and does not pay very well,” says Jerri Rosenfeld, a social worker at Northern Westchester Hospital’s Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center in Mount Kisco, N.Y. But you don’t have to go it alone. Try these resources.

RELATED: Best and Worst Ways to Cope With Stress

Start with a support group

“Sometimes all you need is an opportunity to share your feelings and swap strategies in a nonjudgmental and supportive atmosphere,” Rosenfeld says. Check to see if your local hospital, church or synagogue offers resources. Or try your town’s rec center, which may have a senior or elder program that also gives caregiver support.

RELATED: How to Help a Loved One Cope With Breast Cancer

Find the right online help

About 25 percent of family caregivers seek support online, whether in discussion forums or on social media channels like Facebook, according to a 2011 Caring.com survey. Look for groups that focus on just caregivers, not ones that combine patient and family. “You need to be able to be frank about your own issues, feelings and concerns without worrying about hurting someone else’s feelings,” Rosenfeld explains.

A few places to get started: Caring.com features caregiver support groups for a wide range of conditions (including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, MS and Parkinson’s) at caring.com/support-groups. AARP’s online caregiving resource center offers a space to connect to others facing issues around caregiving for the elderly; so does the caregiver support section at AgingCare.com.

http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20907485,00.html

06Apr

10 Ways to Deal With Painful Sex

Medical conditions, some drugs, and your own anatomy can make sex hurt. The good news: all of these symptoms can be treated.

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by Esther Crain

You’re in the mood and your partner is ready, so you make a beeline to the bed with plans to rock the sheets. But then you feel it–a dull ache, an itchy rash, or a searing out-of-no where jab. When you’ve always enjoyed sex and suddenly it hurts, it can be confusing and worrisome. “Pain during sex is one of the most common things patients ask about, but most of the time, it’s caused by something temporary that can be treated,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, an OB/GYN in Westchester, New York and coauthor of V Is for Vagina ($12; amazon.com). In fact, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that 75% of women experience painful sex at some point in their lives. Get a handle on what’s keeping you sidelined from the sack by reading this checklist of symptoms, then the solution that will get you back in the saddle again.

Next: The outside of your vagina is crazy-irritated

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15Mar

How to Set Up a Home Gym for Less Than $50

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