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Exploding bottles forced SodaStream to recall thousands of products

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Tuesday a recall of SodaStream bottles, because they can burst under pressure.

The CPSC recall states that no injuries have been reported, but notes that bursting bottles could injure the user or bystanders. Consumers should immediately stop using the bottles and contact SodaStream via phone at 866-272-9417 between 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at sodastream.com for a refund.

RELATED: Parents warn others of mold inside popular teething toy

According to the CPSC, 51,000 bottles sold in the U.S. are included in the recall. The CPSC states that the recalled bottles are one liter in size and blue tinted, with a blue cap and blue bottom base. “SodaStream” and “dishwasher safe” are printed on the bottles. The recall only includes bottles with an expiration date of “4/2020” printed on the warning label.

The recalled bottles were sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Walmart and online retailers such as Amazon from February 2016 through January 2017 for approximately $15.

How to Tell If Your Friendship Has Expired

We don’t celebrate our true girlfriends enough. I’m talking about those most treasured, ride-or-die gal pals, the ones who smuggle a tube of slice-and-bake cookie dough into a showing of Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights when that boy you are in love with sends you an email telling you that the thing he will regret most in his entire life is hooking up with you. The ones who gamely volunteer to escort you to an event where your ex will be with his much younger, skinnier new girlfriend. The women who help execute the birthday night out you accidentally fabricated to get a boy you have a crush on to hang out with you. And the very ones who then arrive, once more, with a tub of frosting and bottle of Sauvignon blanc, when you realize it was probably unwise to fabricate a birthday night out when you are in the middle of a major depressive episode.

These are good fruit, several rungs up from the perfectly nice Costco fruit who make up your acquaintances and work-only work friends. In fact, these women aren't just good fruit, they're a whole flipping Edible Arrangement, chocolate-covered pineapple wedges included.

Seriously, is there anything better than those pineapple wedges? / Illustration by the author, Mikayla Park

But friendships are hard, so much harder and potentially painful than anyone ever makes them out to be. I know you know this, because when we were 7, it hurt like a b*tch when Paige told you that you were no longer her best friend, but her second best friend, because Marielle is her first best friend because she gave her a brownie bite at snack time.

And as you’ve no doubt learned, friendship actually gets worse and harder as you get older and better at bullsh*tting, because you will eventually tag Paige when you post a Buzzfeed listicle of the "10 Things That Are True When You've Been Best Friends Since Kindergarten," but will tell Marielle over margaritas how Paige is a hot mess and you wouldn't even believe what she did in the bathroom at Bar Lubitsch last weekend.

The truth is that good girlfriends are actually excessively hard to come by, and bad girlfriends are lurking everywhere: in the breakroom, at Pilates class, in ourselves! Everyone’s worst girlfriend nature is always just around the corner, waiting to ensnare you with lines like, Your style is so cute, I wish I could pull that look off, and You wouldn't believe what my ex just posted on Instagram.

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I had a friend like that. We’ll call her What's-Her-Face, to preserve her anonymity (and my safety). She came to me in a usual friend way; we were thrown together in a work setting and had instant girlfriend chemistry. We sheepishly admitted to each other, after our first Will-You-Be-My-Friend lunch, that we had each called our respective mothers to tell them we had made a new friend, and how great she was.

I found What’s-Her-Face at a critical time for friend-making: I was in the midst of my cataclysmic breakup/disengagement; my ex was moving out in an extremely slow and painful way, and I often feared for my safety in the face of his terrifyingly heightened emotional states. She was sympathetic and generous, allowed me to crash at her place, and welcomed me into her circle of friends when I was left friendless, having disengaged long ago with everyone other than him, caught in the nasty isolation that forms in a codependent relationship. Best of all, she was full of issues of her own and had no qualms about acquainting me very intimately with all of them, which allowed me an escape the drama tornado that was my life.

What's-Her-Face's generosity with me was in curious contrast to her generally selfish emotional landscape, which she attributed to longstanding issues with abandonment and a damaged self-worth. I understood her failings, and used them to excuse her (somewhat regular) bad behavior. She had been devastated by an ex-boyfriend who was by any standard a sh*tty person, and who had used her weaknesses to manipulate her. This meant that talking her through an emotional episode was like traversing a minefield; say the wrong thing, and she exploded in anger and confusion. This exhausted me, but perversely, I also liked it. I didn't want to take care of my baby of an ex anymore, but without someone to tend to, I felt bereft. It was nice to feel needed again.

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I eventually moved out of the apartment I used to share with him, eager to start fresh. About a month after I moved into an adorable, tiny studio in Beverly Hills, I received the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Africa for several months of work. While I packed and emptied my fridge of perishables, What’s-Her-Face sat on my couch and updated me about her ex's appearances on social media. As we were walking out the door, she asked me to give her my house key, so that she could check up on the place every once in a while. I had been planning on asking my neighbor, with whom I had developed a very nice, budding, almost-girlfriendship, but What’s-Her-Face insisted, so I acquiesced.

We kept in touch while I was in Africa, but my access to the internet was limited. We were granted a restricted amount of data per week, and I spent a lot of it receiving blurry photos of my dog from my mother.

What's-Her-Face was going through a particularly difficult time, something involving her ex, who remembers. She had an exceptionally bad moment while I was either working or sleeping or downloading a blurry photo of a dog... whatever the case, I was on the other side of the planet, unable to answer. Feeling abandoned, What’s-Her-Face’s next conversation with me was an explosive one, or as explosive as things can get on Gchat (it involved a lot of caps lock). Tired and busy and a little homesick, I just wasn’t having any of it. That was the last time I spoke to her while I was abroad.

As punishment, What’s-Her-Face proceeded to not check on my apartment once in the two months I was gone, where a large trash bag of rotten fruit I had forgotten to take downstairs spent the summer generating the most massive colony of fruit flies I have ever seen.

Fruit flies will never be your friends. / Illustration by the author, Mikayla Park

Do you know how fruit flies manage to seemingly appear out of nowhere? They're teeny-tiny little assh*les, that's how. They can get through microscopic crevices in walls and windows, and all you need is one to lay up to 500 eggs in all your old, rotty fruit. And anyone who has had the pleasure of being acquainted with those worthless, microscopic jerks knows that, once you've had them in a bad way, it's impossible to truly get rid of them. I've had a problem with fruit flies ever since, and every time I kill one, I think of What’s-Her-Face. Much like our friendship, which was based on convenience and the mutual using of one another, all it took was one no-good piece, and the whole thing went up in a mushroom cloud of nasty fruitflies. That's a rotten girlfriendship for you.

It's been two years since I've spoken to What’s-Her-Face, and my life is immeasurably better. I have girlfriends now who are truly the greatest gifts I could ever ask for, kind and honest and weird and true, and I do my best to treasure and honor our friendships in the way they deserve; I do my best to answer texts even when my anxiety tells me NO YOU CAN’T TALK TO ANYONE RIGHT NOW; I send unsolicited Justin Bieber remixes via iTunes; I love their boyfriends unconditionally, unless we’re mad at them. And I’ve learned to channel my nurturing instincts in a far more harmless and acceptable way: by smothering the sh*t out of my dogs.

What's-Her-Face is now happily coupled and living an extremely posh, idyllic life, according to Instagram. I would like to believe that she's changed, that love may be so transformative, that this man's companionship could turn a selfish, emotionally unstable girl into the perfect friend and lover. But I would also really like to believe that the Loch Ness Monster exists. So there's that.

The Loch Ness Monster can really pull off that Carmen Miranda hat, amirite? / Illustration by the author, Mikayla Park.

Cherish your girlfriends. Get rid of the bad ones. Don't keep old fruit in your apartment. Life’s too short for all that, good friendships are too rare for all that, and you never want to get to the point where you’re unceremoniously killing fruit flies with your hands... not that I do that, who says I do that? That’s disgusting.

Mikayla Park is a teacher/nonprofit creative person residing in the slums of Beverly Hills. Find her, and her two charming rescue dogs, everywhere at @mikaylapark.

April the giraffe birth live stream removed from YouTube

UPDATE, 8:02 a.m. EST: Officials from Animal Adventure Park took to Facebook Live to address YouTube's removal of the April the giraffe live stream.

>> Watch here

Posted by Animal Adventure Park on Thursday, February 23, 2017

UPDATE, 7:37 a.m. EST: The live stream of April the giraffe was removed from YouTube early Thursday.

"Upset Youtube has suspended the LIVE FEED for nudity & sexual content? LET THEM KNOW," Animal Adventure Park wrote on Facebook. "You can thank Animal Rights Extremists for this issue."

The park said it will address the issue at 8 a.m. EST on Facebook Live. We will provide the stream when it is available.

We will be FACEBOOK LIVE from the Giraffe Barn at 8:00 AM ESTPosted by Animal Adventure Park on Thursday, February 23, 2017

ORIGINAL STORY: The impending birth of a baby giraffe has the internet waiting with bated breath.

April the giraffe is getting ready to welcome a calf with her mate, Oliver, at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York.

>> Read more trending news

Animal Adventure Park has a webcam in April's quarters, capturing all the moments leading up to the birth.

>> Watch the live stream here

April is 15 years old, and this will be her fourth calf. Oliver is 5 years old, and this is his first calf. 

For more information, visit Animal Adventure Park's YouTube stream.

Geriatricians Can Help Aging Patients Navigate Multiple Ailments

For months, Teresa Christensen’s 87-year-old mother, Genevieve, complained of pain from a nasty sore on her right foot. She stopped going to church. She couldn’t sleep at night. Eventually, she stopped walking except when absolutely necessary.

Her primary care doctor prescribed three antibiotics, one after another. None worked.

“Doctor, can’t we do some further tests?” Teresa Christensen remembered asking. “I felt that he was looking through my mother instead of looking at her.”

Referred to a wound clinic, Genevieve was diagnosed with a venous ulcer, resulting from poor circulation in her legs. A few weeks ago, she had a successful procedure to correct the problem and returned home to the house where she’s lived for more than 50 years in Cottage Grove, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul.

Would her mother benefit from seeing a geriatrician going forward, wondered Christensen, her mother’s primary caregiver, in an email to me? And, if so, how would she go about finding one?

I reached out to several medical experts, and they agreed that a specialist in geriatrics could help a patient like Genevieve, with a history of breast cancer and heart failure, who’d had open heart surgery at age 84 and whose mobility was now compromised.

Geriatricians are “experts in complexity,” said Dr. Eric Widera, director of the geriatrics medicine fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.

No one better understands how multiple medical problems interact in older people and affect their quality of life than these specialists on aging. But their role in the health care system remains poorly understood and their expertise underused.

Interviews with geriatricians offer insights useful to older adults and their families:

Basic knowledge. Geriatricians are typically internists or family physicians who have spent an extra year becoming trained in the unique health care needs of older adults.

They’re among the rarest of medical specialties. In 2016, there were 7,293 geriatricians in the U.S. — fewer than two years before, according to the American Geriatrics Society.

Geriatricians can serve as primary care doctors, mostly to people in their 70s, 80s and older who have multiple medical conditions. They also provide consultations and work in interdisciplinary medical teams caring for older patients.

Recognizing that training programs can’t meet expected demand as the population ages, the specialty has launched programs to educate other physicians in the principles of geriatric medicine.

“We’ve been trying to get all clinicians trained in what we call the ‘101 level’ of geriatrics,” said Dr. Rosanne Leipzig, a professor of geriatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Essential competencies. Researchers have spent considerable time over the past several years examining what, exactly, geriatricians do.

A 2014 article by Leipzig and multiple co-authors defined 12 essential competencies, including optimizing older adults’ functioning and well-being; helping seniors and their families clarify their goals for care and shaping care plans accordingly; comprehensive medication management; extensive care coordination; and providing palliative and end-of-life care, among others skills.

Underlying these skills is an expert understanding how older adults’ bodies, minds and lives differ from middle-age adults.

“We take a much broader history that looks at what our patients can and can’t do, how they’re getting along in their environment, how they see their future, their support systems, and their integration in the community,” said Dr. Kathryn Eubank, medical director of the Acute Care for Elders unit at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “And when a problem arises with a patient, we tend to ask ‘How do we put this in the context of other concerns that might be contributing?’ ”

Geriatric syndromes. Another essential competency is a focus on issues that other primary care doctors often neglect — notably falls, incontinence, muscle weakness, frailty, fatigue, cognitive impairment and delirium. In medicine, these are known as “geriatric syndromes.”

“If you’re losing weight, you’re falling, you can’t climb a flight of stairs, you’re tired all the time, you’re unhappy and you’re on 10 or more medications, go see a geriatrician,” said Dr. John Morley, professor of geriatrics at Saint Louis University.

“Much of what we do is get rid of treatments prescribed by other physicians that aren’t working,” Morley continued.

Recently, he wrote of an 88-year-old patient with metastasized prostate cancer who was on 26 medications. The older man was troubled by profound fatigue, which dissipated after Morley took him off all but one medication. (Most of the drugs had minimal expected benefit for someone at the end of life.) The patient died peacefully eight months later.

Eubank tells of an 80-year-old combative and confused patient whom her team saw in the hospital after one of his legs had been amputated. Although physicians recognized the patient was delirious, they had prescribed medications that worsened that condition, given him insufficient pain relief and overlooked his constipation.

“Medications contributing to the patient’s delirium were stopped. We made his room quieter so he was disturbed less and stopped staff from interrupting his sleep between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” Eubank said. “We worked to get him up out of bed, normalized his life as much as possible and made sure he got a pocket talker [hearing device] so he could hear what was going on.”

Over the next four days, the patient improved every day and was successfully discharged to rehabilitation.

Finding help. A geriatric consultation typically involves two appointments: one to conduct a comprehensive assessment of your physical, psychological, cognitive and social functioning, and another to go over a proposed plan of care.

The American Geriatrics Society has a geriatrician-finder on its website — a useful resource. Also, you can check whether a nearby medical school or academic medical center has a department of geriatrics.

Many doctors claim competency in caring for older adults. Be concerned if they fail to go over your medications carefully, if they don’t ask about geriatric syndromes or if they don’t inquire about the goals you have for your care, advised Dr. Mindy Fain, chief of geriatrics and co-director of the Arizona Center on Aging at the University of Arizona.

Also, don’t hesitate to ask pointed questions: Has this doctor had any additional training in geriatric care? Does she approach the care of older adults differently — if so, how? Are there certain medications she doesn’t use?

“You’ll be able to see in the physician’s mannerisms and response if she takes you seriously,” Leipzig said.

If not, keep looking for one who does.

KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

We’re eager to hear from readers about questions you’d like answered, problems you’ve been having with your care and advice you need in dealing with the health care system. Visit khn.org/columnists to submit your requests or tips.

Sprint To Find Zika Vaccine Could Hinge On Summer Outbreaks

As warmer temperatures herald the arrival of pesky mosquitoes, researchers are feverishly working on several promising vaccines against Zika, a virus notorious for infecting humans through this insect’s bite.

The speed and debilitating effects of last year’s Zika outbreak in the Western Hemisphere prompted a sprint to develop a vaccine. Just a little more than a year after the pandemic was declared a global health emergency, a handful of candidates are undergoing preliminary testing in humans.

But researchers say the uncertainty over whether the Zika epidemic will continue affects their ability to finish testing. They need locations with an active viral outbreak to conduct large-scale human trials and make sure the vaccine actually protects against disease.

“On one hand, you don’t want to see outbreaks of infection,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “But on the other hand, [without that testing] you might have to wait a long time to make sure that the vaccine works.”

All the vaccines currently being tested are in Phase I clinical trials, which means they are being tested for safety in a small number of people. According to a review paper published Tuesday in the journal Immunity, the vaccines represent a variety of scientific techniques to thwart the disease, ranging from inactivating the virus to manipulating its DNA.

The NIAID announced Tuesday it is launching yet another Phase I trial for a vaccine made out of proteins found in mosquito saliva. The product is intended to trigger a human immune system response to the mosquito’s saliva and any viruses mixed with it. If successful, the product could protect humans against a spectrum of mosquito-transmitted diseases, including Zika.

Col. Nelson Michael, director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and co-author of the paper, said he expects preliminary reports on the safety of some of the older vaccines in April. As of now, he said, it is impossible to guess which vaccine will prove most effective in providing immunity.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to predict which horse will win the race,” Michael said.

[caption id="attachment_702868" align="alignright" width="270"] The NIAID is launching a phase I trial for a vaccine made out of proteins found in mosquito saliva. (Courtesy of NIAID)[/caption]

Zika ― which is spread from infected people to others by mosquito bites or sexual contact, often infects people without showing symptoms. In some cases, it causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches and joint pain in adults ― and, in rare cases, Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis. But it is most notorious for causing some children to be born with microcephaly ― a birth defect in which a child’s head is smaller than the average size ― if their mothers were exposed to Zika.

The virus garnered international attention after hundreds of cases of disabled babies surfaced in Brazil. It quickly swept through South America and the Caribbean before stopping on the southern coast of the U.S.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on Feb. 1, 2016, then ended the alert on Nov. 18.

Vaccines that meet the safety standard in Phase I clinical trials undergo subsequent rounds of testing to gauge effectiveness. To measure this, researchers rely on the gold standard of administering the vaccine to large number of individuals already exposed to the virus. However, Zika’s recent arrival to the Western Hemisphere means researchers don’t know whether the virus will become a perennial threat, or a one-time explosion.

The uncertainty poses several implications for the surge in Zika vaccine development. A lull in the outbreak could cause significant delays in testing, pushing back the timetable for a commercially available product, Fauci said.

While researchers can use alternative methods to measure efficacy without large-scale testing, a decline in the circulation of the Zika virus could set progress back by years because the vaccine testing would be ineffective.

“If we don’t get a lot of infections this season in South America and Puerto Rico, it may take years to make sure the vaccine works,” he said.

Fauci expects to launch the next round of human trials for a DNA vaccine developed by the NIAID next month.

Michael also worries that a lag in the number of Zika cases could lead the private sector to pull funds from vaccine development. It takes millions of dollars to develop a drug or vaccine, and pharmaceutical companies play a critical role in making and manufacturing them, he said. But those companies have many competing interests, he noted, and if it is hard to test a vaccine this year, the public and private Zika prevention efforts may turn their attention elsewhere.

“This is a constant issue where you put your resources,” he said.

[caption id="attachment_702874" align="alignleft" width="370"] A transmission electron micrograph of Zika virus, which is a member of the family Flaviviridae, is shown. (Cynthia Goldsmith/CDC)[/caption]

So far, signs suggest that the climate could be ripe for Zika again this year. Warmer-than-usual temperatures are affecting areas across the Western Hemisphere, CBS reported, including hotbeds of the Zika outbreaks in Brazil. The higher temperatures increase the voracity of Zika’s main transmitter, the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

In the United States, areas with populations of the Aedes aegypti are closely monitoring their numbers. Last year, Texas and Florida dealt with locally acquired cases of Zika infection.

In Texas, public health officials have monitored mosquito populations throughout the winter to track their numbers and any presence of the virus. Despite unseasonably warm weather, said Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, they have seen lower numbers of the Aedes aegypti and no cases of Zika.

Van Deusen said the state is also monitoring the outbreak in Mexico, since heavy traffic across the border increases the possibility of transmission. Officials are expecting another outbreak of locally transmitted cases of disease, Van Deusen said.

“There’s so many factors that go into it, it’s really impossible to make an ironclad prediction,” he said.

5 Mind-Body Exercises for a Healthier Heart

There are a myriad of factors that affect heart health. From regular exercise to smoking cessation to eating a nutritious diet, there are a number of things you can do to strengthen your heart. But did you know that the mind-body connection can also be a strong ally in reducing your risk of heart disease? While many of us think of physical health when it comes to heart health, research shows that your mood, outlook, and stress levels strongly affect the body—and the heart. This means that heart disease prevention isn't just a matter of eating better or exercising; engaging in stress-reducing exercises and mind-body practices can significantly improve the health of your heart, too. As a bonus, these activities have other body and mind benefits, too, like boosting your mood, helping you focus, improving your fitness, and increasing your overall life satisfaction. Talk about a win-win! Here are five mind-body activities you can incorporate into your healthy lifestyle to help your mind, body—and heart! Yoga Yoga is probably best known for its flexibility benefits, along with its ability to help you sleep better, feel better about yourself and promote mindfulness. But, yoga has also been shown to be a powerful contributor of heart health. In fact, according to November 2009 research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, those who practice yoga have higher heart rate variability (a sign of a healthy heart) than those who do not regularly practice yoga. In addition, the study found that regular yogis had stronger parasympathetic control, which indicates better autonomic control over heart rate—a sign of a healthier heart. Another recent study by Ohio State University researchers, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood. IL-6 is part of the body's inflammatory response and has been correlated with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related chronic diseases, making it a key marker in heart-health research. The women doing yoga also showed smaller increases in IL-6 in their blood after stressful experiences than women who were the same age and weight but who were not practicing yoga. Scientists believe that this indicates that yoga may also help people respond more calmly to stress in their everyday lives, which is a boon to heart health. Although researchers can't exactly pinpoint which part of yoga—the breathing, stretching, relaxation or meditation—is responsible for the positive results, it's encouraging to say the least! How to incorporate yoga in your life: Reap the heart-healthy benefits of yoga with just 20 minutes of yoga three times a week. Be sure to read our beginner's guide to yoga to get you started! Meditation There is ample research on how meditation can help reduce stress, which helps the heart stay healthy. But the most impressive study came from researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. After following about 200 patients for an average of five years, researchers found that high-risk patients who practiced Transcendental Meditation (where you sit quietly and silently repeat a mantra) cut their risk of heart attack, stroke and death from all causes almost in half compared to a group of similar patients who did not meditate. In addition, the group that meditated tended to remain disease-free longer, reduced their blood pressure and had lower stress levels. Researchers hypothesize that some of the benefits of meditation come from stress reduction, which causes a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and dampens the inflammatory processes associated with atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. How to incorporate meditation in your life: While the research focuses on Transcendental Meditation, there are a variety of ways to meditate including walking meditation, guided meditation via a CD or simply sitting and listening to the sounds around you. Starting out with just five minutes a day of quiet time with your thoughts can yield big results. For seven ways to get your zen on, click here. Pilates Pilates is a great form of exercise. Its mat-based moves have been shown to increase flexibility, build core strength, improve posture and alleviate lower-back pain. But did you also know that it can help prevent heart disease by improving the fitness of your heart? According to a 2005 report from the American College of Sports Medicine, a beginner Pilates workout counts as low- to moderate-intensity exercise, which is comparable to active stretching. Intermediate Pilates workouts are the cardio equivalent of working at a moderate-intensity level, such as speed walking at a rate of 4 to 4.5 mph on the treadmill. Advanced Pilates workouts provide the most cardiovascular benefit with a moderately high intensity, similar to basic stepping on a six-inch platform, according to the report. All Pilates workouts have also shown to improve circulation. In addition to improving the cardiovascular system, similar to yoga, Pilates also links movement to breath, enhancing your mind-body connection, and thereby reducing stress and lowering the heart rate. How to incorporate Pilates in your life: If you're ready to try Pilates, try this short lower body Pilates workout. You can add this on to the end of your usual cardio workout or do it first thing in the morning before heading to work. For best results, try to get in a short 10- to 20-minute Pilates workout three times a week. Tai Chi Also known as moving meditation, Tai Chi combines mental concentration with slow, controlled movements to focus the mind, challenge the body, and improve the flow of what the Chinese call "chi," or life energy. If you've ever seen someone doing Tai Chi, it looks like a slow and graceful low-impact dance. But Tai Chi isn't just slow dancing; it has serious health benefits, including improving heart function and decreasing blood pressure and stress reduction. In fact, a May 2010 systematic review in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi was effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increasing self-esteem. How to incorporate Tai Chi in your life: Sign up at your local health club or community center for a series of Tai Chi classes with an experienced instructor. Practicing formally in class each week will give you the skills to practice Tai Chi on your own! Deep Breathing What do most of the above mind-body practices listed above have in common? That's right: deep, slow and controlled breathing! While not really an "exercise," the simple act of sitting and focusing on your breathing can do wonders for your heart. While there isn't much research on how deep breathing affects the heart, you can feel the results for yourself when you simply sit and take five big deep breaths, focusing on a deep inhale and exhale. You can almost instantaneously feel your body release stress and your mind calm down. Because it helps fuel your body and its cells with nutrient-rich oxygen, deep breathing has been shown to slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure, making it the perfect heart-healthy activity when you're short on time and need a quick way to relieve some stress. How to incorporate deep breathing in your life: Try to take a few deep breaths at multiple times throughout the day. Making a habit to take three deep breaths upon waking, at lunch and when sitting in traffic can greatly benefit your heart health without disrupting your busy schedule. And, of course, when you're really feeling stressed, excuse yourself to the restroom for some deep breathing. They don't call it a "restroom" for nothing! Mind-body exercises are a powerful way to boost your heart health and keep your ticker ticking stronger and longer, so be sure to incorporate one or more of these mind-body exercises in your heart-healthy lifestyle. This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople fitness experts and certified personal trainers, Jen Mueller and Nicole Nichols. Sources: American College of Sports Medicine. "Pilates Research Offers New Information on Popular Technique," accessed March 2011. www.acsm.org. Associated Press. Breath Deep to Lower Blood Pressure, Doc Says," accessed March 2011. www.msnbc.msn.com. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. "Effects of Stress Reduction on Clinical Events in African Americans With Coronary Heart Disease," accessed March 2011. www.circ.ahajournals.org. Cleveland Clinic. "Heart and Vascular Health Prevention: Pilates," accessed March 2011. www.my.clevelandclinic.org. Framson et al. Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009; 109 (8): 1439 DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.006 Sarnataro, Barbara Russi. "Tai Chi Exercises Both Mind and Body," accessed March 2011. www.webmd.com. Science Daily. "Tai Chi Gets Cautious Thumbs Up for Psychological Health," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. ScienceDaily. "Yoga Boosts Heart Health, New Research Finds," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. ScienceDaily. "Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known to Promote Inflammation, Study Shows," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. text Smith, Rebecca. "Meditation 'cuts risk of heart attack by half'," accessed March 2011. www.telegraph.co.uk.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1613

How to Tame Wedding Planning Stress

It's a gross understatement to say that planning a wedding is stressful. With all of the coordination, timing and numerous things to prepare for (not to mention family politics!), it's no wonder that nice, normal people turn into grumpy grooms and bridezillas. However, you don't have to become a stressed-out stereotype on your big day. In fact, it is possible to plan a wedding and keep your healthy cool—no matter the situation. 6 Common Wedding-Planning Stressors—and How To Remedy Them You and Your Fiancé Want Different Types of Weddings One of the biggest wedding stressors occurs when you and your fiancé have very different ideas of what your special day should be like. Traditional and in a church? Small and in your parent's backyard? A tropical destination wedding? The options are limitless, and couples are less bound by tradition now than ever before. But if the soon-to-be-wed couple can't agree on what kind of ceremony to have, or worse—one person wants a wedding and the other just wants to go to the courthouse—stress can be high from the get-go. How to de-stress: Before you plan any wedding details, sit down with your fiancé and make a list of the top three things that are important to each of you as far as the ceremony and reception are concerned. Then, calmly and patiently compare lists to see where you can compromise. If he wants a small wedding but you want a big one, you can always hold a small ceremony and then a big after-party. Or, if he wants a destination wedding and you want to be home, simply have the ceremony out of town and the reception in your hometown. Remember that this is the person you are agreeing to spend the rest of your life with, so take a few deep breaths and find a solution that you can both be happy with. Marriage is all about give and take! Overbearing Family Members or Friends Almost every bride and groom deals with at least one or two overbearing (yet well-meaning) family members or friends while planning a wedding. Whether it's a future in-law, your own parents or even a bossy friend, all seem to have an opinion on what you should and shouldn't do. How to de-stress: Remember that this is your wedding—not everyone else’s. It may be hard to tell your loved ones "no" or disagree with Aunt Millie about your bridesmaids wearing tangerine, but if you want your wedding day to be truly special and unique you must stand your ground. Politely, yet firmly state your decisions with the support of your partner. Think of it as if others are trying to derail or sabotage your diet—it's really none of their business! Fear that Your Dress Won't Fit Of course you want to feel confident and healthy on your wedding day, but don't spend the months before your wedding stressing about your size or what you look like—especially if you're trying to drop a few pounds before the big day. Remember that stress only hurts your weight-loss efforts. How to de-stress: First, make sure that you aren't being unrealistic about your body image on the big day. Make sure that any wedding weight-loss goals you have are realistic. After all, planning takes a lot of time and can be stressful, so you may not have as much time as you think you do to exercise and cook healthy foods. Second, be sure to drink enough water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and get that beauty rest. These three things will really give you that wedding-day glow. Lastly, visualize yourself walking down the aisle with confidence on the big day. Picturing yourself in a positive light helps squash stress and can give you the energy to plan, plan, plan! Your Wedding Budget More money, more problems, right? Well, in the case of wedding budgets, less money and big expectations can equal more problems, too. On average, U.S. couples spend almost $20,000 on a wedding. And that number doesn't include a honeymoon or engagement ring. Unless you have a large budget already in place, or family members with deep pockets, keeping costs down can be challenging at best. How to de-stress: Remember to prioritize any and all expenses, and balance costs as you go if necessary. If you go over on catering, don't spring for those chair covers or pricey linens. If your bouquets cost more than you expected, trade out half of your centerpieces for less costly decorations. Ask yourself what you'll remember when you look back on this day. Will it be your beautiful dress or suit? Will it be the music and DJ? How about those expensive invitations? Determine your needs versus your wants and be realistic about them. You know what's more stressful than wedding planning? Coming back to wedding debt after your honeymoon. The Guest List I have yet to meet a couple who didn't have at least a few stressed-out moments due to their wedding guest list. From being afraid of offending others to your in-laws insisting that your fiancé's fourth and fifth cousins just have to be there, compiling a guest list can get tricky. How to de-stress: Sit down with your partner and agree on a guest policy together. Decide if children are or aren’t welcome and the maximum number of guests you want (and can afford). Consider dividing guest counts evenly between your two families and have the first and final say on who attends. If you have room and one family wants more guests to come, many couples have that side of the family fund the extra seats. No matter how you do it, agree on a policy and don't waiver from it. Sticking to rules helps you and your family members explain to others why Wally, your third-removed cousin, wasn't invited. You Want the "Perfect" Wedding—No Exceptions Of course you want your wedding day to be perfect. Who doesn't? But how realistic are your expectations, and what will happen if everything doesn't go perfectly? Will you consider the day to be ruined, after all of that planning and thought? How to de-stress: Vow to be easy going on your wedding day and take it all in stride. There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. You know the saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff"? Well, during the wedding planning process and the day itself, remember the big picture and take a deep breath. After all, no one will remember the lopsided cake or miss the parting gift that the reception staff forgot to put out. No one will know if you fudged your vows or forgot your earrings. They'll be too busy remembering what a great time they had sharing the start of your marriage with you! In any stressful wedding-planning event, remember to always take time to eat healthy foods, exercise, sleep well and practice stress busters like yoga, meditation or these other techniques. Making time for just a few minutes of stress reduction each day can go a long way now—and during your marriage, too! Sources: http://www.costofwedding.com/ Dealing With Wedding Stress, from Wednet.comArticle Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1582

Healthy Smile, Healthy Body

You probably don't think about your teeth that much unless you drink something icy cold or that little postcard reminding you to schedule your next dental appointment shows up in the mail. However, you should really give your pearly whites more attention. After all, your teeth are one of the first things people see when you smile and greet them, and your oral health can have a major impact on the health of not just your mouth, but your entire body. Cavities and gum disease may contribute to many serious conditions, including diabetes and respiratory diseases, and untreated cavities are not only be painful, but they can also lead to serious infections. While you may have been notoriously hard on their teeth as a kid and teenager (forgetting to brush and floss sometimes), most adults have it in their routine to brush at least twice a day. But what about flossing? Only 28% report doing it daily, even though most of us know better. And while you may also know better, Americans are also overconsuming junk food and sugar, which, when combined with a lack of flossing, is a recipe for oral health problems.  The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that 75 percent of Americans have some form of gum disease or gingivitis. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay affects one out of three adults. So how do your teeth have such an impact on your well-being, and how do you stay healthy by focusing on your mouth? Here's a guide to what you need to know about your oral health, and how to keep your mouth and teeth clean and beautiful! Gum Disease So just what is gum disease? Also called periodontal disease, it's an inflammation of the gums. Gum disease occurs when plaque, a sticky colorless film of bacteria, builds up on your teeth and hardens into a tartar that can cause infections in the gums. If it's not treated, gum disease can increase your risk of respiratory disease, as the bacteria in plaque can travel from the mouth to the lungs, causing infection or aggravating existing lung problems. Gum disease can also spread and affect the bones underneath the teeth, which eventually dissolve and no longer support the teeth in its place. (That's basically just a complicated way of saying that your teeth can fall out!) Research also shows a link between diabetes and gum disease. People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than non-diabetics are, so if you have diabetes or it runs in your family, you definitely want to take care of your teeth. (More on prevention later!) The moral of the story? Gum disease is bad news. The symptoms of gum disease can vary from one person to the next, but one telltale sign is usually swollen, tender and red gums. If your gums bleed when brushing or flossing, that can be a warning sign, as can receding gums, bad breath that won't go away, loose teeth or a change in your jaw alignment. If you're having any of these symptoms, be sure to tell your dentist. A dentist or a periodontist can tell you if you have gum disease or gingivitis (a type of gum disease) with an exam and usually an x-ray. Treatment usually involves plaque removal, medication and, in the worst cases, surgery. Cavities You probably already know a little about cavities, and chances are, you may have even had one or two. Cavities are a sign of tooth decay, which is a breakdown of a tooth's structure. The decay can affect the enamel of the tooth and the inside of the tooth, and is caused when sugary and starchy foods like soda, breads, baked goods and candy are left on the teeth. Your dentist will be able to tell if you have a cavity during your regular exam, but in the advanced stages of a cavity, you may get a toothache, especially after having sweet, hot, or cold food or drinks. You may also be able to see pits or holes in your teeth. A cavity is treated by a dentist. He or she can remove the decayed portion and replacing it with a filling. If the tooth decay is advanced and the tooth structure is affected, your dentist may have to put in a crown. Another good reason to avoid sugary foods, right? Teeth Spacing You may think that the spacing of your teeth is just a cosmetic issue, but it affects the health of your mouth, too. Teeth that are spaced too tightly together can create gum problems, just as teeth that are spaced improperly can allow food to get stuck between the teeth, therefore increasing the risk of gum disease. An orthodontist can help straighten out your teeth (yep, even as an adult) with braces, invisible retainers, or other treatments for optimal oral health. Other Issues If that wasn't enough, poor oral health has also been shown to cause sleeping issues, hurt your self-esteem, and diminish your ability to chew and digest food properly. And if you smoke (hopefully you don't!), it can be horrible on your teeth. Tobacco smoke and chewing tobacco are both very harmful to your gums, and toxins within these drugs can cause oral cancer, damage the bones around your teeth and result in tooth loss. Tips to Keep Mouths Happy Now that you know how important your mouth is to your overall health, how do you keep it healthy? Here are some tips for a clean mouth!

  • Mom was right! Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. This keeps plaque at bay, improves breath and prevents stains. Plus, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who brushed twice a day were 30% less likely to develop heart disease compared to people who only brushed once. That's because, according to health experts, gum disease can lead to inflammation and can damage your arteries.
  • Don't eat junk food, and stay away from sweets. Eat those vegetables!
  • Make sure your toothpaste and mouth rinse include fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.
  • If you wear braces, be sure to keep the space between your teeth and archwires clean by using floss threaders and orthodontic toothbrushes.
  • If you play contact sports, consider having a custom-made mouth guard fitted to protect those pearly whites.
  • Visit your dentist twice a year to make sure everything is in tip-top shape!
Having healthy teeth isn't just about looking great (although that's a nice perk!). Good oral health is really about your body's overall wellness. So brush right, brush often and take care of those teeth!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1528

60-Second Health and Fitness Boosters

When it comes to losing weight or making healthy choices, you probably think that it takes hours at a gym plus long nights preparing and planning nutritious meals. What you may not realize is that quick and easy changes can really improve your immediate health and wellness. So just how quick is quick? One minute—that’s it! Try any one of these 60-second activities to easily reap the healthy benefits. 1. Drink a tall glass of water. We all know the many health benefits of drinking water, but did you also know that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue? So, the next time you feel your energy waning, grab a glass of cold water and guzzle it down! 2. Twist it out. So many of us spend every weekday seated in front of a computer. Not only can sitting all day wreak havoc on your posture, but it can also compress your spine and exaggerate its curvature. Not fun. A simple twist can help undo this. As you sit in your desk chair, simply twist your upper-body to one side, hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. If you have the space to sit on the floor, try this torso twist stretch. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better! 3. Take a deep breath. How often do you think about breathing? If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about it often enough. For a quick pick-me-up, simply take five deep breaths. Slowly inhale for at least five seconds and exhale for 10 seconds each time. Your body will thank you for the extra oxygen. 4. Do 20 jumping jacks. Research has shown that long periods of sitting can be detrimental to the body and our overall health. So get up out of that chair and jack it out! Just one minute of jumping jacks is an easy way to get your heart pumping and blood flowing. 5. Smile. Smiling can actually make you happier. So go ahead—smile! 6. Go outside. You’ve probably heard the health buzz about vitamin D lately. Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D helps regulate the immune system, supports heart health, can help normalize blood pressure and promotes healthy aging. Vitamin D has also been linked to improved mood. If you have a minute to spare, step out into the sunshine! 7. Put on a favorite song. There’s nothing quite like your favorite music to perk you up and get you feeling good. Listening to music has been shown to improve immunity and release endorphins. Bonus points if you dance along! 8. Sit up straighter. Did you know that bad posture can put unnecessary stress on your low back? Take a minute to focus on sitting up straight with your shoulders down and back. Don’t you feel better already? 9. Be grateful. Write down five things you’re grateful for, no matter how large or small (your hair, your family, your morning cup of Joe—whatever). Do you feel more thankful, generous and overall happier after? Funny how a little reminder of what we have can turn a frown into a smile. 10. Tell a joke. Awake your inner child and tell a silly joke—whether it’s a knock-knock joke or even a funny line from a movie. Anything that gets you laughing is enough to get your happy endorphins flowing! 11. Do 10 pushups. Being strong is important, but having functional strength is even more important because it makes everyday activities easier to accomplish. A push-up is a great, quick exercise for building functional strength. Drop down and give me 10—or as many as you can do in 1 minute. 12. Encourage someone. Isn’t it interesting how you always seem to feel better after helping someone else feel better? Whether you post a supportive comment on a SparkFriend’s page or write a few kind words in a card or an email, taking a minute out to help someone can quickly boost your mood. 13. Set a goal for the day. Fact: People who set goals have more success than people who don’t. So why not take a few seconds and write down what you want to do today? Then, just commit to making it happen! 14. Focus on one thing you love about yourself. At times, we put so much effort in focusing on what we don’t like about ourselves that we fail to see the good. Take 60 seconds to think about what you like about you. Is it your eyes? Your strong legs? Your giving nature? Thinking about how great you are will instantly increase self-confidence. 15. Wash your hands. It seems like cold and flu season is always in full force (or just around the corner).  One of the simplest and easiest ways to stay well year round is to wash your hands. All you need is warm water, soap and 20 seconds of rubbing to rid your hands of unwanted germs. 16. Compliment a stranger. What better way to make yourself feel good than to unexpectedly brighten someone else’s day? The next time you admire someone’s clothes, positive attitude or eyes—say so! 17. Try aromatherapy. A number of different smells can have a positive effect on your mind and body. For example, peppermint is known to calm the stomach while its smell can energize you through a workout. And the scent of jasmine has been shown to reduce anxiety. To benefit, grab some scented lotion and either take a whiff from the bottle or rub some on your hands. 18. Salute the sun. Sun salutations are a well-known set of yoga poses that are said to warm up the body and increase blood flow and flexibility. So grab your mat and do one or two sets—rain or shine! 19. Give yourself a mini-massage. Massage has a number of health benefits, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and speeding muscle repair. While you may not be able to spend the time or money getting one at a spa, pampering yourself with just 1 minute of self-massage by rubbing your own hands, feet or shoulders can do wonders. 20. Be absolutely present. When we are wrapped up with work, to-do lists, and just getting by, sometimes we can forget to focus on what we are doing in the here and now. Try spending a minute just being. Focus on sounds, smells and whatever else is going on around you; instead of thinking ahead to what you'll do next, think about what you're doing right now. You’ll be amazed at how peaceful you feel. Just be! See? In the quest to be healthier, you don't have to spend a lot of time. Even if all you have is a few spare seconds here and there, you can make a positive difference in your overall health! Sources: Clean Hands Save Lives, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fight Fatigue with Your Fork, from Psychology Today Here Comes the Sun, from Yoga Journal Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, from University of California, Davis Peppermint, from University of Maryland Medical Center Research Briefs: Did You Know? from NammFoundation.org Vitamin D Research, from National Fluid Milk Processor Education Board, GetYourD.comArticle Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1557

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