3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Vegan

The latest from: http://www.health.com/fitness/3-questions-to-ask-yourself-before-going-vegan

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Would you give up meat and cheese for good if it meant you’d have a better chance of getting healthy, feeling great and maybe even losing weight? Well, veganism — a diet that excludes all animal products (yes, all) — has earned a lot of praise in recent years for its health and weight loss benefits. One study found that vegan diets generally contain less cholesterol and more dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid and antioxidants than non-vegan eating plans. Vegans were also more likely to have low blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease. Sounds pretty tempting (aside from the whole no pizza thing), right?

RELATED: Forks Over Knives: Can a Vegan Diet Cure What Ails You?

“A well-planned [vegan] diet… can be nutritionally adequate and provide many positive health benefits,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Going meatless even one day per week may reduce your risk for developing conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

But while these benefits are appealing, quitting burgers and omelets completely is no easy task — and not a decision you should take lightly, either. Thinking of making the switch? Here are three questions to ask before going the whole (faux) hog. Plus, we’ve got recommendations for less intense plans to try.

RELATED: Is Tofurky Actually Worse Than the Real Thing?
3 Things to Think About Before Going Vegan 
1. Do you take vitamins?
Yes, meatless meals are often rich in vitamins. But vegans may be at risk for some deficiencies, too. In particular, vegans may need to take a B12 supplement since this nutrient is mainly found in animal products, says Sheth. Vegans should also take special care to monitor their intake of vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and zinc, and supplement as needed.

Don’t like swallowing pills? You might be better suited to vegetarianism, which boasts some of the health benefits of veganism but ups B12 consumption by allowing foods like eggs and dairy. You can also aim for pesco-vegetarianism, a vegetarian or vegan diet that includes fish. Because fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, zinc, iron and other vitamins and minerals, they’re a great option for flexible folks looking to up their nutrient intake.

RELATED: The Flexitarian Diet: Less Meat, Better Health?

2. Do you plan meals?
Organization is a vegan’s best friend. “With careful planning, a vegan diet can meet all your nutrient needs,” says Sheth. The emphasis, of course, is on planning.

Sheth points out that, “Just because you’re eating a plant-based diet does not automatically make it a healthy one.” It’s possible to eat a vegan diet that is full of processed, high-sodium, and high-sugar foods — like chips, sweets or frozen meals. “Vegans need to make a conscious effort to eat the right quantity and combinations of food to get the nutrients they need to stay healthy,” says Sheth. This means planning meals in advance and being aware of the nutrients you are (and aren’t) consuming on any given day.

RELATED: 12 Brilliant Meal Prep Ideas to Free Up Your Time 

Vegans will also need to put some extra thought into eating out at restaurants. Sheth recommends discussing your needs ahead of time with the restaurant and requesting substitutions while ordering.

Not a planner? There’s no shame in declaring yourself a part-time vegan, and sticking to the animal-free lifestyle just a few days a week. Who knows, you might even enjoy it enough to commit for good.

3. Do you work out?
Protein fiends might be scared to go vegan, for fear it will interfere with their performance at the gym. After all, protein is what helps your body build muscle and recover. But it’s entirely possible to be vegan and compete in anything from 10Ks to triathlons to CrossFit. (Just ask this impressive vegan athlete.)

RELATED: How to Choose the Best Protein Powder for You

First things first, vegans can get plenty of protein from options like beans, peas, lentils, tofu, nuts, and quinoa as healthy, plant-based proteins, Sheth says. Still, she recommends that serious athletes speak with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to help them create customized meal plans. Still worried about your gains — or crushing that next PR? You might want to try the pegan diet, a cross between the protein-packed paleo lifestyle and veganism.
Ready to Declare Yourself a Vegan?
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day — and your new lifestyle as a vegan doesn’t have to be, either. Sheth recommends starting with an assessment of your typical meals and noting any tweaks that could make these meals vegan. (For example, swapping in almond milk for regular milk can make oatmeal a vegan breakfast.) Then, start with one vegan day per week (Meatless Mondays are a great option), and gradually increase the number of days that you’re eating vegan. Soon enough, eating a healthy, plant-based diet might just feel like second nature.

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Life by DailyBurn is dedicated to helping you live a healthier, happier and more active lifestyle. Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain strength or de-stress, a better you is well within reach. Get more health and fitness tips at Life by DailyBurn.

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5 Times Ronda Rousey Got Real About Her Body

The latest from: http://www.health.com/mind-body/5-times-ronda-rousey-got-real-about-her-body

It’s been a big week for Ronda Rousey. On Sunday the MMA fighter was crowned one of three cover models for this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and became the first athlete ever to be featured on the cover. Then on Monday, she appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show and bravely revealed that she experienced suicidal thoughts after her shocking UFC title loss to Holly Holm last fall. “I was sitting in the corner and I was like, What am I anymore if I’m not this?” she explained in the emotional interview.

Opening up about such a heartbreaking experience couldn’t have been easy. But Rousey’s honesty is just one of the many reasons we love her. Not only is she an incredible athlete, she’s also a feminist icon and an outspoken advocate for body positivity. Here, five of the quotes that have earned her legions of fans, and made her the role model we always wanted.

RELATED: The 10 Best Quotes from Ronda Rousey’s “Ask Me Anything” Reddit Interview
On why she wanted to model for SI
“[Sports Illustrated] has given me so much opportunity,” she said in a behind-the-scenes video at her SI cover shoot. “[They] set a precedent for what society expects out of women’s bodies, and they’re really setting a really healthy and positive standard for all women.” This isn’t the first time that Rousey has modeled for the Swimsuit Issue. In a similar behind-the-scenes video last year, she spoke about the importance of featuring women with diverse body types in the media. “I was so happy to have this opportunity because I really do believe that there shouldn’t be one cookie-cutter body type that everyone is aspiring to be,” she said. “I hope the impression that everyone sees in the next Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is that strong and healthy is the new sexy. And that the standard of women’s bodies is going into a realistic and socially healthy direction.”
On her ideal weight
After the 2015 Swimsuit Issue hit newsstands, Rousey told Cosmopolitan.com that she chose to gain weight before she stripped down for the photo shoot. “I felt like I was much too small for a magazine that is supposed to be celebrating the epitome of a woman,” she said. “I wanted to be at my most feminine shape, and I don’t feel my most attractive at 135 pounds, which is the weight I fight at. At 150 pounds, I feel like I’m at my healthiest and my strongest and my most beautiful.”

RELATED: 5 Times Ronda Rousey Seriously Inspired Us
On being called “masculine”
Last August Rousey won the UFC 190 against previously undefeated fighter Bethe Correia. In a video promoting that fight, Rousey responded to body-shaming critics: “Listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than f—ing millionaires doesn’t mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely badass as f— because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose.”
On accepting her body

Despite her natural toughness, Rousey isn’t immune to body image issues. “I absolutely loathed how I looked until I was around 22 years old,” she said in an interview with ESPN.com last year. “What changed for me is I was always thinking I wanted to make my body look a certain way so I would be happy. But when I made myself happy first, then the body came after. It was a journey of self-discovery and trial and error.”

Rejecting the idea of a one-size-fits-all body type helped Rousey find self-acceptance: “The image in my head was the Maxim cover girl,” she said. “In the end, instead of making my body resemble one of those chicks, I decided to try to change the idea of what a Maxim chick could look like.”

RELATED: The 10 Best Body-Positive Quotes from Female Athletes Who Posed Nude for ESPN
On developing a healthy relationship with food
In an Ask Me Anything on Reddit last year, the fighter mentioned her complicated history with food. “It feels very liberating to [be] free of the guilt that used to come with every meal,” she wrote. “I feel like I have so much extra space in my brain now that I’m not constantly thinking about the next meal and trying to eat as much as possible every day while still losing weight. I feel amazing. I (think) I look amazing. And I just ate some bomb-ass french toast this morning.”

Not long after, Rousey elaborated on her struggles with disordered eating in an interview with Elle.com. Participating in judo tournaments led her to develop an “unhealthy relationship with food” in her teenage years, she explained. She had to hit a certain number on the scale to compete. “I felt like if I wasn’t exactly on weight, I wasn’t good-looking,” she said. “It was a lot to get past, and now I can say that I’ve gotten through it, I’ve never been happier with how I look [or] more satisfied with my body. It was definitely a journey to get there.”

Rousey added that she hopes she can encourage others struggling with similar issues to seek help. “These are issues that I think every girl deals with growing up, and it’s something that’s largely ignored and unaddressed. I would like that to be different for girls growing up after me. It shouldn’t have been as hard as it was.”

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These 3 Apps Help You Meditate On the Go

The latest from: http://www.health.com/mind-body/these-3-apps-help-you-meditate-on-the-go

It’s the classic conundrum: The times when we most need to chill out are the times when it’s impossible to stop our busy lives to de-stress. Luckily, you can slip in some much-needed relaxation while checking off daily tasks. A recent study found that practicing mindfulness during routine chores—specifically dishwashing—can boost positive feelings and reduce negative ones. Get zen anywhere you go with one of these apps.

RELATED: A Meditation to Start Your Day
Buddhify ($5 on iTunes; $3 on Google Play)
Bring some “ahh” into eating, traveling, and even working with more than 80 guided meditations for all parts of daily life.
Take a Break (free; iTunes and Google Play)
When you can’t seek solitude, unwind in less than 15 minutes with either stress-relief or work-break meditations from the creators of the popular Meditation Oasis podcast.

RELATED: Try This Meditation to De-Stress
Meditation Studio ($3; iTunes)
Access guided meditations for almost any scenario—such as boosting confidence before a date or easing nerves before a meeting. With the super-short two-minute-session option, you can take a breather anywhere (in line at the post office, maybe?).

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION

Move of the Week: Body-Weight Squat

The latest from: http://www.health.com/fitness/move-of-the-week-body-weight-squat

You don’t need a barbell or dumbbells to totally tone your glutes. When executed properly, a body-weight squat works just fine to whip your booty into shape. Plus, this move doubles as an amazing core strengthener! With the help of Health’s contributing fitness editor, Kristin McGee, learn how to squat your way to a tight tummy and beautiful butt.

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How to do it: Step with your feet hip width apart. Make sure your feet are directly forward, cross your hands over your chest. Pull your lower abdominals in and up. Squat down as deep as you can, with your butt back over the heels. Scoop in your abs, press through the heels and come back up to stand. Complete five sets of five reps.

Trainer tip: Really try to keep your core engaged the entire time by pulling your belly button to your spine.

RELATED: The Better-Butt Workout

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The 5 Best Stretches to Finish a Workout (And Stop Soreness)

The latest from: http://www.health.com/fitness/the-5-best-stretches-to-finish-a-workout-and-stop-soreness

Gallery_5StretchesToDoAfterEveryWO

You made it! You got through your final set, you’re sweating bullets, and you can finally head home for a great meal. But before you do, there is one crucial step that you must not forget: the cool down.

It could be what makes or breaks that workout you just crushed.

Why? Just as you took the time to properly warm your muscles up, they need to be cooled down as well. By stopping abruptly or not stretching your muscles out after a strenuous workout, they end up getting cold too quickly, which can cause you to feel extra sore the next day. This, in turn, often leads to backsliding on your goals.

RELATED: 3 Foam Roller Moves to Help You Recover After a Run

While dynamic stretches are best for the warm-up, static stretching is best for the cool down. Here are five stretches you can do after your workout to help ward off soreness, and finish your sweat session out like a champ.

Repeat each stretch 2-3 times.
Seated Hamstring Stretch

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. While keeping your chest out and shoulders back as much as possible, reach for your toes and hold for 30-45 seconds.
Quad Stretch

Stand with your feet together and hands by your sides. For help with balance, hold on to a nearby chair or table with your left hand and grab your right foot behind you. Hold for 30-45 seconds before switching sides.

RELATED: How to Tell You’re Working Out Too Much
Shoulder Stretch

While keeping your chest out and shoulders back, pull your right arm across your chest until you feel a good stretch and hold for 30-45 seconds. Repeat with your left arm.
Arm Stretch

Stand with your feet together, chest out, and shoulders back. Reach your right arm straight up in the air and drop it down behind your head. Use your left arm to hold your elbow in place. Hold for 30-45 seconds before switching arms.

RELATED: How to Become an Exercise Addict
Sky Stretch

Stand with your feet together and reach up for the sky as high as you can. Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat 2-3 more times.

Looking for a great way to warm-up before a workout? Check out The Only Warm-Up Routine You Need to Get the Best Workout

Jennifer Cohen is a leading fitness authority, TV personality, entrepreneur, and best-selling author of the new book, Strong is the New Skinny. With her signature, straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The CW’s Shedding for the Wedding, mentoring the contestants to lose hundreds of pounds before their big day, and she appears regularly on NBC’s Today, Extra, The Doctors, and Good Morning America. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest.

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No Sleep in the City? Light Pollution May Trigger Insomnia

The latest from: http://www.health.com/mind-body/sleepless-in-the-city-nighttime-light-pollution-may-be-to-blame

By Karen Pallarito
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) — People who live in neighborhoods that are lit up at night with neon signs and streetlights are more likely to report sleep problems, new research suggests.

Although the study doesn’t prove cause-and-effect, the scientists believe that intense outdoor illumination in the evening interferes with quality of sleep.

People with high nighttime light exposure, for example, were more likely than those in low-lit regions of the country to be dissatisfied with their sleep quantity or quality, by a margin of 13 percentage points, the findings showed.

“It was interesting for us to see how much this light in our streets was having an impact on us,” said study author Dr. Maurice Ohayon, director of the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, in California.

The findings are to be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

George Brainard, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, called the Stanford team’s analysis an “important epidemiological study.”

“Exposure to light at night can have powerful biological and behavioral consequences,” said Brainard, who also serves as director of Jefferson’s Light Research Program.

However, the associations noted in the study may be due to other factors, he cautioned.

“In an urban area, we all tend to short our sleep a lot more because it’s a busy, vibrant environment, so we’re up later at night, and maybe we’re exposed to bright light inside of our apartment or house,” he said.

“Do I think that light is part of the culprit? Absolutely, I do,” Brainard said. “Do I think this study has proven that it’s street lighting? No, I think the jury’s out on that.”

People’s sleep patterns are regulated by two systems, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The body’s natural circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle, causes you to feel more alert or sleepy, depending on the time of day. And, after being awake for 16 or more hours a day, your drive to rest, called sleep/wake homeostasis, kicks in.

In addition, levels of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone, rise in the evening, while exposure to light delays the release of that hormone, the foundation explains.

What if outdoor lighting, such as street lights, reduces exposure to darkness?

Ohayon’s study tackles that question by plotting people’s sleep patterns against satellite data measuring nighttime light exposure.

The researchers gathered data on the sleep habits, quality of sleep, and medical and psychiatric disorders of nearly 16,000 people in telephone interviews over an eight-year period.

Using data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, the team determined the amount of light people were exposed to at night.

In urban areas with more than 500,000 people, nighttime light exposure was three to six times more intense than in small towns and rural areas, the authors reported.

People with high outside light exposure slept less per night—a difference of 10 minutes a night, on average—than people with low light exposure.

Those exposed to higher light levels also were more likely to report fatigue, wake up confused during the night, and have excessive sleepiness and impaired functioning.

The study captures population-level effects of light exposure on sleep patterns by region, so it didn’t matter whether individuals closed their bedroom window shades or wore eyeshades before bedtime, Ohayon explained.

“All of that is diluted by the number of subjects that are in the area,” he said.

The only difference may have been if everyone kept the light out of their bedrooms every night, and that was not the case, he said.

Streetlights produce most of the light pollution on the planet, according to the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit group that works to reduce the negative effects of artificial light, including its effects on human health.

As more cities begin to switch from yellow, incandescent lighting to blue, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting to save money, there may be implications for sleep, Ohayon suggested.

“Maybe we have to find what is the best coloration of the LED; what is the one that is preserving the safety, the security [of people], and our sleep,” he said.

For now, urban dwellers seeking a better night’s rest can remove nightlights, turn off video screens and invest in dark-out curtains, Brainard suggested.

“The darker the sleep environment, the better,” he said.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more on melatonin and sleep.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION

How to Stay Warm (But Not Too Warm) On Your Winter Runs

The latest from: http://www.health.com/fitness/how-to-stay-warm-but-not-too-warm-on-your-winter-runs

Winter is coming, and you know what that means: ‘Tis the season for layering up on your runs. The problem? Trying to find that sweet spot between “just bundled enough” and “burning up” is much harder than it should be. Here are a few pieces you can pull on when the mercury drops that give you that perfect amount of wiggle room.
Basic (in a good way)

Throw the sweat-wicking Under Armour Fly Fast Luminous 1/2 Zip ($68; underarmour.com) over a basic tank or tee for extra warmth. The zipper allows you to regulate your temperature—unzip when warm; zip up if cold. Bonus: the funky print is actually reflective, but you’d only know when light hits it.
Arm yourself
 

Playful pattern aside, the Brooks Dash Arm Warmer ($25; roadrunnersports.com)—which has silicone grippers to make sure they don’t slide down— adds a colorful layer of protection against the elements. Roll ’em down to you wrists when your run heats up.

RELATED: 15 Running Tips You Need to Know
The best of both worlds

What happens when you morph a short-sleeve tech tee with a running jacket? You get The North Face Ultra Lite Waterproof Short-Sleeve Jacket ($150; thenorthface.com), a wind and waterproof layer that warms your core while leaving arms free to move naturally.
Flash forward

Don’t let this lightweight, non-bulky layer fool you; the Nike Aeroloft Flash Vest ($280; roadrunnersports.com) is the epitome of warmth thanks to its 800-fill goose down insides. Worried about overheating? Don’t be. It also has perforated holes for ventilation. What we love most: it packs into its own pocket!
Snow day
 

Outfitted with a special technology that captures heat, the New Balance NB Heat En Route Jacket ($120; newbalance.com) chases away winter chills while wicking away sweat during serious pavement pounding sessions. Bonus: a high collar protects the neck; thumbholes add hand coverage.

RELATED: 13 Super-Flexible Running Shoes for Women
Go Nordic
 

Nothing sucks more than coming back from a run with numb legs— ouch! Keep your stems intact with the insulated Adidas Tech Fit Climawarm Nordic Print Tights ($55; adidas.com). They keep the warmth in and the cold out. And the snazzy side print— that’s just cute.
Heads up
 

The Columbia Women’s Trail Summit Beanie ($19; columbia.com) is lined with tiny silver dots that retain warmth to help keep your noggin nice and toasty for the long run. And it has an opening to showoff your perfect fishtail braid. Nice.
Hands on
 

The barely there Lululemon Run With Me Gloves ($28; lululemon.com) keep hands heated (double up with a heavier pair if it gets really chilly) while reflective hits makes sure you’re seen when the sun goes down. And they come with an oh-so-convenient snap so you can attach them together— because loosing a glove is super annoying.

RELATED: Running With Your Dog: 17 Dos and Don’ts
White hot
 

Insulated and water-resistant, the Athleta Insul8 Jacket ($278; athleta.com) stands up to chilly, snowy days with impeccable style. (Yep, you’ll want to don this down coat on non-workout days too!) Just don’t forget to stash your lip balm in one of the front two pockets—scaly, flaky lips are so not sexy. Bonus: This plush puffer’s drop hem in the back adds extra coverage for your bum.

RELATED: 7 Tips for Running Your First Race

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION

Men Exposed to Zika Virus Should Use Condoms for Next 6 Months, Says CDC

The latest from: http://www.health.com/mind-body/cdc-sets-new-guidelines-on-sex-after-zika-exposure

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, March 25, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Men who know they’ve probably been infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus should not have sex without a condom for six months, according to new federal health guidelines released Friday.

Numerous cases of sexually transmitted Zika infection—which is thought to cause severe birth defects in some cases—have been confirmed in the United States, said officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Mounting evidence supports a link between Zika and microcephaly, and possibly other problems such as miscarriage,” Dr. Denise Jamieson, co-lead of the Pregnancy and Birth Defects Team of the CDC’s Zika Virus Response Team, said during an afternoon news conference.

“The rate of these conditions is not known yet,” she said. “We know there is a risk, but it is important to remember that even in places with active Zika transmission women are delivering apparently healthy infants.”

The goal of the latest CDC guidelines is to give doctors the best advice possible to share with their patients about pregnancy planning and sex, Jamieson added. However, they are are based on the best evidence to date, and not on a definitive understanding of Zika, she noted.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that’s been tied to thousands of cases—mainly in Brazil—of a severe birth defect called microcephaly. In microcephaly, a newborn’s head is smaller than normal, with the potential for long-term neurological damage.

While the bulk of Zika cases leading to microcephaly may occur via maternal infection during pregnancy, cases of sexual transmission from a man to his female partner have come to light, the CDC said.

A team led by CDC investigator Alexandra Oster notes that, as of March 18, there are now “six confirmed cases of sexual transmission in the United States associated with this outbreak.”

Just how long might the Zika virus linger in semen? According to the report, semen collected from one man still showed signs of the virus 62 days after he began to exhibit fever linked to Zika infection.

Zika infection is usually a transient, mild illness in adults, and many cases may occur without symptoms, experts say. However, because of the risk to babies, the CDC is advising that men with known or suspected infection with Zika refrain from sex—or only have sex with a condom—for six months after a diagnosis.

The agency also advises that, for couples involving a man who has traveled to or resides in an area endemic for Zika:

• the couple refrain from sex, or use condoms during sex, throughout the duration of a pregnancy.

• they refrain from sex, or use condoms during sex, for eight weeks if the man has returned from travel to a Zika-endemic area but has not shown signs of infection.

• for couples living in a Zika-endemic area, they refrain from sex or engage in sex only with a condom for as long as active Zika transmission persists in that area.

The latest guidelines also recommend that women who know they’ve been infected, have no symptoms but have recently been to a Zika-endemic area, or think they might have been exposed via sex, should wait at least eight weeks before trying to get pregnant.

The CDC has also advised that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman must travel to or live in one of these areas, she should talk to her health-care provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.

On Friday, CDC officials also said that 273 U.S. residents in 35 states have now tested positive for infection with the Zika virus.

“All are travel-related or sexually transmitted cases,” Jamieson said. “In addition, there have been 261 cases reported from Puerto Rico, 14 cases from American Samoa and 11 cases from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of these, 99 percent are presumed to be locally transmitted by mosquitoes in the territories.”

In the majority of Zika infections, symptoms included rash (97 percent of cases), fever and joint pain.

“Zika virus disease should be considered in patients with acute onset of fever, rash, arthralgia [joint pain], or conjunctivitis [pink eye] who traveled to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission or who had unprotected sex with someone who traveled to one of those areas and developed compatible symptoms within two weeks of returning,” the CDC said.

And earlier this month, scientists reported more evidence supporting a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly.

Researchers now believe that one in every 100 pregnant women infected with the virus during the first trimester will give birth to a baby with the birth defect.

The Zika virus is suspected of causing an epidemic that started last spring in Brazil, where there have been more than 5,600 suspected or confirmed cases of microcephaly.

Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an immune system disorder that can occasionally lead to a fatal form of paralysis.

Speaking earlier this month, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said that “we are learning more about Zika every day. The link with microcephaly and other possibly serious birth defects is growing stronger every day. The link to Guillain-Barre syndrome is likely to be proven in the near future, and the documentation that sexual transmission is possible is now proven.”

First discovered in Uganda in 1947, the Zika virus wasn’t thought to pose major health risks until last year, when it became clear that it posed potentially devastating threats to pregnant women.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is not expected to pose a significant threat to the U.S. mainland, federal health officials have said in the past.

In Puerto Rico, however, the situation is “of great concern,” Frieden said.

“Puerto Rico is on the frontline of the battle against Zika,” said Frieden, who had just returned from the island. “And it’s an uphill battle.”

By next year, Frieden said, there could be hundreds of thousands of cases of Zika in the territory, and “thousands of infected pregnant women.”

In a separate report released Friday, the CDC stressed that effective contraception needs to be made much more readily available to Puerto Ricans. In a statement, the agency noted that, “approximately two-thirds of pregnancies in Puerto Rico are unintended, indicating a potentially unmet need for access to birth control.”

The agency said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will boost its efforts at family planning education in Puerto Rico, so that women can help prevent unintended pregnancies — especially those jeopardized by Zika infection.

The Zika virus has now spread to over 38 countries and territories, most in Latin America and the Caribbean. The World Health Organization estimates there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year.

More information

For more on Zika virus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To see the CDC list of sites where Zika virus is active and may pose a threat to pregnant women, click here.

CLICK HERE IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION

Want to Live Longer? Plant Some Greenery, Study Suggests

The latest from: http://www.health.com/mind-body/study-links-green-spaces-to-longer-lives-for-women

THURSDAY, April 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Women living in homes surrounded by lots of trees and vegetation may have a lower risk of death than those in areas with less greenery, a new study suggests.

Researchers sifted through data on more than 108,000 women across the United States. The information was collected between 2000 and 2008.

The researchers found that women living in the greenest surroundings had a 12 percent lower risk of death than those in the least green locations. The study also found that women with the most vegetation around their homes had a 34 percent lower rate of respiratory disease-related death. And women living with lush vegetation had a 13 percent lower rate of cancer death than those with the least green surroundings, the study reported.

Although the study found associations between living in greener areas and living longer, it wasn’t designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

“We were surprised to observe such strong associations between increased exposure to greenness and lower [death] rates,” said study author Peter James, a research associate at Harvard T.S. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston.

“We were even more surprised to find evidence that a large proportion of the benefit from high levels of vegetation seems to be connected with improved mental health,” he said in a school news release.

The researchers said that better mental health was observed through lower levels of depression. Other elements that may be involved in the benefits of greenery include more opportunities for socializing, more physical activity and less exposure to air pollution, the study authors said.

The study was published online April 14 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

More information

The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more about women’s mental health.

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7 Fitness Trends to Try in 2016

The latest from: http://www.health.com/fitness/7-fitness-trends-to-try-in-2016

With 2016 on the horizon, that means another 365 days to get your sweat on (minus a few rest and recovery days, of course). Curious what trends are on tap? Here are the top five (and then some) according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual survey, which was completed by more than 2,800 health and fitness professionals worldwide.
1. Wearable tech
The need to quantify every step, every mile, and every single workout isn’t going anywhere. In fact, wearable tech—be it a regular old fitness tracker or a souped-up smartwatch—is number-one on this year’s list. Growing numbers of people struggling with obesity, diabetes, and other weight-related chronic conditions have contributed to the popularity of these devices, says Woody Scal, Chief Business Officer of Fitbit. “Fitbit believes that tracking activity level, sleep, and nutrition can have a positive impact on health and well-being, which may also benefit those living with chronic diseases.” Adds Amy Nouri, media relations for Garmin International: “Studies have shown the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle; wearable tech provides users with 24/7 accountability, tracking numerous aspects of your day, including steps taken, heart rate, stairs climbed, miles run or cycled in workouts, sleep patterns, and more which can be used to motivate users to live more active, healthier lifestyles.”

Could temporary tattoo trackers be next? The company Chaotic Moon thinks so; they are in the process of developing and testing “Tech Tats” that would use an electroconductive paint with the ability to store and transmit info. Cool right?

RELATED: 9 Best Fitness Trackers
2. Body-weight training
Body-weight training it is super convenient—you don’t have to worry whether or not you have all the equipment you need because you are your equipment. More importantly: “Your body is meant to move in all directions, in multiple planes and as a connected unit,” explains Lisa Wheeler, VP of Fitness Programming for Daily Burn. “Working without added external resistance allows you to master movement fundamentals adaptable to your body and progress when applicable.” Some of our faves: squats, pushups, and pull-ups. Now drop down and gives us 20…of each.

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3. HIIT 
High intensity interval training (or HIIT) may be new to you, but athletes have been training this way for years, says Jason Bell, trainer at YG Studios, San Diego. “Basketball players have always run suicide drills. Football players have always run stairs. Cyclists, swimmers, and runners have always done intervals work. Bodybuilders and power-lifters have always done supersets. These are all examples of HIIT. Someone just came along a few years ago and gave it a clever name,” he explains.  The reason it’s so popular: It’s versatile, effective, and efficient, taxing both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, increasing endurance, and building muscle and increasing strength, all at the same time. Plus it creates an “afterburn effect.” “This afterburn is referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) and is the reason why intense exercise intervals will help burn more fat and calories than regular aerobic and steady-state workouts, and translates into a metabolic boost for up to 48 hours after a complete HIIT routine,” explains Kari Saitowitz, founder of The fhitting Room, a high intensity training fitness boutique studio in New York City. Saitowitz notes that HIIT can be applied to countless forms of exercise from running, to biking, to functional movements. What’s more, research from a 2012 Journal of Obesity study revealed that 27 minutes of HIIT three times per week offers the same aerobic and anaerobic improvement as five weekly 60-minute steady-state cardio sessions.

RELATED: This No-Gym HIIT Workout Gets the Job Done in 10 Minutes
4. Strength training
Three words: Strong is in! “Women are not only understanding the benefits of strength training, but they are embracing the strong body,” says Wheeler. “Whether performing progressive body-weight training, power lifting, or traditional strength training, the benefits are enormous. Building strong bones, reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and fighting obesity by adding lean muscle are just a few. And let’s not forget about the confidence it builds when you are strutting around.” In other words, don’t be wary of the weight room.
5. Personal training
Scroll through your Instagram or Twitter feeds and you’ll find selfies of ripped trainers who are dispensing fitness tips as fast as you can drop into a burpee. Though this type of advice is easy to come by, nothing beats the expertise of a trained fitness professional, and ACSM predicts personal training will be a big trend in 2016. “Seek out experts who are not only certified by accredited organizations, but that are open to learning new techniques and expanding their knowledge about the human body,” says Wheeler. “A good understanding of functional anatomy, as well scientifically proven methods are also essential.”

Celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser, founder of AKT and co-host of the ABC TV series My Diet Is Better Than Yours, airing in January, adds: “Anyone can put a workout together and post it on the Internet. Is it personalized? No! It’s important to create a workout that is customized for your body and goals. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so your workout should be tailored to a specific body’s needs.”
Other trends
Foam rolling
The ACSM ranked foam rollers all the way down at 16 on their list, but with the increase of high intensity exercisers along with the growing popularity of strength training, it seems only natural that flexibility and mobility rollers would gain popularity, explains Jeff Na, VP of Fitness of Gold’s Gym. “When training with high intensities and heavy loads, the importance of preparing your soft tissues for exercise is critical for your performance and recovery,” Na says. “The key is to maximize range of motion in an unloaded stated so your body is prepared to take on resistance.” Brad Cox, movement specialist and CEO/cofounder of ACU-Mobility is also a foam-rolling fan. “Self rolling and release techniques are a great way to be proactive about self care and can help to enhance performance and reduce pain,” he says. “Restrictions and trigger points in the muscles and fascia can create imbalances in natural movement and put inappropriate stress on the joints. These imbalances accumulate over the years and create the conditions for increased injury risk and declining performance.”

RELATED: 8 Best Foam Rollers to Ease Your Aches

Yoga
Yoga may not be as buzzy as it once—it ranks 10th on the ACSM’s list for 2016—but you’re still going to be hearing about it in 2016 and beyond, according to our experts. “It’s one of the best workouts for lengthening, weight loss, and toning,” says Danielle Cuccio, an LA-based registered yoga teacher who has taught celebs like Ariana Grande. Cuccio notes that yoga can be practiced by anyone regardless of their fitness level, ability, shape, or size. And let’s not forget the mental benefits. “Yoga helps us declutter our minds and de-stress,” Cuccio adds. “From things going on at home to issues at the office, it helps us focus and shift our perspective.” Keep that in mind as you close out the stressful holiday season!

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