TIME Exercise/Fitness

7 Reasons Why You’re Working Out and Still Not Losing Weight

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Diet and exercise don't tell the whole story

Do you eat well, exercise often, and still feel like you’re not losing that stubborn weight? Truth is, eating well and exercising often is a very relative and general statement. If we’re honest with ourselves, I’m sure we could admit that we’re all capable of trying a little harder in both areas.

Total-body wellness is a lifestyle. Fat loss happens when you ditch the scale, find an activity you enjoy, and start to see food as fuel instead of something to feed your emotions or occupy your time.

No matter who you are or what your background is, chances are one of these 7 reasons could be why you’re not shedding pounds.

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You’re eating wrong foods

If you’re not losing weight, the first place you should be looking is the kitchen. Some people focus all their energy on burning off calories that they don’t take the time to consider what they’re putting in as fuel. Diet is at least 80% of the battle. While the exact foods you should be eating depend heavily on your body type, metabolism, and other factors, a good rule of thumb is to stick to all natural, whole foods.

Eat most of your starchy carbohydrates (like potatoes, brown rice, grains) on days when you do strength training or more rigorous exercise. On your rest days or when you’re doing light cardio, try to stick to just protein and veggies and not a lot of those starchy foods. Avoid excess bread, sugar, and anything else that’s processed. Look for foods that have the fewest ingredients on the label—if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not something you want to be putting in your body.

You’re eating too much

If you’ve already cleaned up your diet big time and you’re still not losing weight, it may be that you’re simply eating too much. In order to shed pounds your body needs to run a calorie deficit, meaning you need to burn more than you consume. That being said, you shouldn’t have to deprive yourself either. Life is about balance. Don’t become consumed with counting calories or weighing yourself every day.

Eat whenever you’re hungry and eat slowly enough so you can stop just before you get full. Healthy snacking during the day will keep you from overeating during meals. I always carry a few Kind Bars in my bag, because they’re a great snack made with whole foods, and have nothing artificial. And don’t be afraid to give yourself ‘healthy’ cheats, like a few chocolate-covered strawberries or coconut chia seed pudding. The moment you start depriving yourself is when you start to feel like you’re missing out on something and you want to binge.

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You’re doing too much cardio

Yes, cardio is a necessary part of your workout routine. It keeps your heart healthy, boosts your metabolism, and gives you a good sweat (you should break one daily). However, only doing cardio—or doing too much of it—can actually add to the problem. Longer cardio sessions like staying on the elliptical for 90 minutes or going for regular 10-mile runs can eat away at your lean muscle mass, which is essential for increasing your metabolism to burn more calories.

It causes the body to become more endurance-focused, storing energy as fat to ensure it has plenty of reserve fuel to keep you going for all those miles. Not to mention it dramatically increases your appetite, making you more susceptible to unnecessary snacking or overeating.

You’re not lifting weights

This one goes hand in hand with #3. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t do cardio. If you love to run or bike for reasons other than losing weight, then by all means don’t stop. But if your primary goal is fat loss, there are other forms of exercise that give a much better bang for your buck. The best way to lose weight and build lean muscle by doing some form of strength training in addition to your cardio. The more muscle tone your body has, the more fat you’ll burn.

If you’re not ready to give up your cardio routine just yet, try adding some interval training by performing short bursts of all-out effort mixed into your regular session. These workouts are much more effective at promoting hormones that target stubborn fat. Then, start adding some resistance training to your routine. Body weight exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges are a great place to start to help build up to lifting actual weights.

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You’re not working hard enough

There’s no exact equation to working out and eating healthy—it’s a matter of trial and error, finding out what works specifically for your body. And more time spent in the gym doesn’t always equal a more fit person. Unless you’re an athlete, body builder, or a marathoner-in-training, the average person shouldn’t be working out more than an hour a day.

Your workouts should be intensity-dependent, not time dependent. Keep this fact in mind: the harder you work, the shorter your workout time may need to be. That’s why it’s so important to maximize your time spent in the gym or fitness class so you can achieve that coveted ‘afterburn’ effect which keeps your metabolism revved for 24-48 hours afterward.

You’re not taking time to recover

When you do achieve that afterburn and you’re really feeling your workout the next day, those are the days to focus on different muscle groups. Or, if you prefer to work out your whole body, establish a workout routine where you work your entire body one day and then take the next day to do light cardio, stretching, or complete rest.

Recovery and rest are often more important than the workout itself. It’s during those periods that your body does most of the actual fat burning. So give yourself that time to fully recover so you’re ready to work hard the following day. Most importantly, listen to your body. Push yourself, but also give it some love, too.

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Your body is under too much stress

Exercise is a stressor on your body. When you have a healthy balance of exercise-related stress and recovery time, your body is healthy and can lose its excess fat. However, not giving your body enough time to recover can also be a negative (see above) as you’ll start to produce an excessive amount of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol is both normal and important when working out, it’s involved in processes that give your muscles the energy needed to get moving.

However, when your body is exposed to cortisol for longer periods of time, it starts to cause negative effects, like stubborn fat in areas you don’t want. Exercise isn’t the only stressor that can produce excess cortisol. A stressful personal or professional life can also make your body produce too much of this hormone. When you stop exercising, your body stops producing cortisol; however, it may not be quite as easy to turn off the mental stressors going on in your life. Make sure you’re keeping your mental and emotional health in check in addition to your physical health. You should strive for total-body wellness.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME public health

What You Should Know About Chronic Lyme Disease

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Yolanda Foster on Watch What Happens Live on Dec. 23, 2014. Bravo—NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Lyme disease affects about 300,000 people in the U.S. each year

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Foster is making waves with her recent blog post about her struggle with chronic Lyme disease. Foster, who was diagnosed with Lyme in 2012, according to People.com, says she’s had severe mental impairment from her condition, writing, “I have lost the ability to read, write, or even watch TV, because I can’t process information or any stimulation for that matter.”

But don’t antibiotics cure Lyme disease and, if so, what exactly is chronic Lyme? Health has the scoop:

What is Lyme disease and how is it treated?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted by ticks. It hits more of us than we realize—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disorder each year, about 10 times higher than the number actually reported to the CDC. Left untreated, it can cause symptoms such as headaches and neck stiffness, pain and swelling in joints, even neurological symptoms such as memory problems.

Lyme is diagnosed based on symptoms (including the distinctive “bull’s-eye rash“) and blood tests. Most people recover with a 21-day course of antibiotics, though if the disease has spread to your central nervous system, you may need a longer course (2-4 weeks) of intravenous antibiotics.

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Is there such a thing as chronic Lyme?

While in rare cases an infection can still persist, “when patients talk about chronic Lyme, they’re usually referring to what doctors term ‘post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome,’ where you still have a cluster of symptoms such as fatigue, trouble concentrating, and muscle and joint aches after treatment,” explains Brian Fallon, MD, MPH, director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University Medical Center. The CDC says approximately 10 to 20% of Lyme disease patients will have lingering symptoms like these. While it’s not clear what causes it, “it could be damage done to the body by the bacteria itself, or it could even be neurotransmitter changes in the brain induced by the prior Lyme disease,” Dr. Fallon says.

How is post-Lyme syndrome treated?

The treatment is itself controversial, mainly because it’s virtually impossible to tell if symptoms remain due to a recurrent infection or if they’re due to residual damage from Lyme. “The current diagnostic tests just reveal whether someone has antibodies due to previous exposure to Lyme disease, so while they indicate if you’ve ever been infected, they don’t show whether or not you’re infected now,” explains Dr. Fallon.

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A small subgroup of doctors argue that the condition is caused by residual bacterial infection and should be treated with long-term antibiotic therapy for months or even years. (Indeed, animal studies do suggest that Lyme infection may persist in some cases, Dr. Fallon says.) However, groups such as the Infectious Diseases Society of America frown on this approach. “There’s no research to show that this type of treatment works—several studies have shown that people taking long-term antibiotic for Lyme disease to treat lingering symptoms fare the same as those who take placebo,” states Chris Ohl, MD, an infectious disease expert at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Dr. Fallon allows for another possibility: Lyme bacteria are “very slow growing, so if you go off antibiotics but find your symptoms return within two to three weeks, it’s highly unlikely that Lyme is the culprit,” he explains. “But if they return within a few months, or even a year, you may have a recurrent infection” and thus may need another (short) course of antibiotics.

If it’s not really Lyme, what causes those symptoms?

It could be another condition entirely—such as another tick-borne infection. “It may very well be that [a patient has] developed an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, which was triggered by the Lyme disease,” adds Dr. Fallon.

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“Most of the cases I’ve seen, we’ve done a thorough workup and eventually come up with an underlying condition like anemia, a thyroid condition, a viral infection like Epstein-Barr virus, or even hepatitis C,” says Michael Parry, MD, Thomas J. Bradsell Chair of Infectious Diseases at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut.

If extensive testing reveals nothing, then most doctors recommend cautious monitoring and addressing the symptoms (for example, treating joint or muscle pain with either over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory drugs). It’s also important to utilize therapies also used with conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, including good sleep and exercise habits and, if needed, treatment for depression.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME toxins

20 Things You Should Throw Away for Better Health

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Ready the recycling bin

When we talk about the steps you need to take to get healthier, they often involve buying new things: workout clothes, fitness equipment, ingredients for healthy recipes, and the list goes on. But becoming the healthiest version of yourself also means throwing away the stuff that’s holding you back—and we don’t only mean junk food. Get your recycling or garbage can ready!

Old plastic containers

Go through your collection of food-storage containers and toss anything made of clear, rigid plastic, and stamped with a 7 or “pc” (stands for polycarbonate). “These are the types of containers that maycontain BPA,” says Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group, who also advises tossing warped or cracked containers. While manufacturers have take BPA out of many of the newer polycarbonate containers, old ones still probably have it. And multiple trips through the dishwasher can up leaching of the chemical. Lunder also cautions against heating any type of plastic in the microwave because of chemical-leaching concerns. “Glass is safer in general,” she says.

Read more: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

Air fresheners

Though some companies have recently announced they’re phasing out phthalates, which are used to help fragrance linger longer, many air fresheners (solids, sprays, and plug-ins) still contain this type of chemical, which in large doses may have harmful effects on reproduction or development. “These products are simply chemical perfumes that you put in the air,” says Lunder, who argues that it’s much healthier to take care of the root cause of a smell than mask it with chemicals.

Antibacterial soap

Antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing bacteria than the regular stuff—and they may not be safe, according to a 2014 FDA report. Triclosan, the active ingredient in antibacterial cleansers, has been shown to alter hormone regulation in animals, and there’s also concern that the chemical may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Your stash of diet soda

If you haven’t already, you may want to reconsider your diet soda habit—especially if you’re trying to lose weight. A much-buzzed-about study published in the journal Nature found that non-caloric sweeteners such as saccharin (Sweet-n-Low), sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Equal) may mess with the gut bacteria that play a key role in healthy metabolism. Researchers found a link between these sweeteners, altered gut microbes, glucose intolerance and metabolic syndrome (both precursors to Type 2 diabetes) in mice and humans.

Read more: 10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda

Worn-out running shoes

Most running shoes should be replaced every 300 to 400 miles, says Jason Karp, MD, exercise physiologist and author of Running for Women. For a runner who logs 30 miles a week, that’s about every three months. When shoes wear down, they lose their cushioning and are less capable of absorbing the impact of your foot landing with each step, so more force is transmitted to muscles, bones, and tendons, putting you at risk for injuries, he explains. If you’re not a runner, replace them about every six months, or as soon as you notice that the tread is looking worn out.

Frayed toothbrush

If you’re brushing in the morning and the evening like you’re supposed to, then your toothbrush bristles are probably becoming frayed and worn faster than you realize. “In my experience, bristles start to fray after about two months of use, so I recommend my patients replace their brushes every three months,” says American Dental Association spokesperson Ruchi Sahota, who is a practicing dentist in California. Worn-out brushes are less effective at cleaning teeth and fighting off decay.

Clutter

“In the end, we are what we think about, and what we think about is heavily influenced by what we keep around us,” says motivational speaker and life coach Gail Blanke, author of Throw Out Fifty Things. She calls the things that neither serve a specific purpose nor exist to make you feel good “life plaque”: “The more life plaque we pile around ourselves, the less we can focus on what we really care about,” she explains. Not sure where to start? Toss things that annoy you every time you see them, like socks that have lost their match, or your overflowing kitchen junk drawer. No matter what you decide to throw out (or donate), your goal is to whittle the physical objects down to only items that help you feel energized and accomplish your goals.

Read more: 20 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Healthier Fast

Clothes you don’t wear anymore

Take a peek in your closet. How many items have you not worn within the last year? Many people who’ve lost weight keep the bigger sizes around in case they regain it, while others hold onto the size 2 jeans they wore in high school, thinking maybe if they diet they’ll fit again. In either case, seeing these items every day can bring on anxiety. That’s not how anyone wants to feel when getting ready.

Leftovers lingering in the fridge

When it comes to highly perishable food that contains animal ingredients, the rule of thumb is to eat, toss, or freeze after three days, says Michael P. Doyle, PhD, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. “Listeria is linked to scary things like meningitis, miscarriages, and even death,” he says. “It can grow to millions at refrigerator temperatures in under a week.”

Old mascara

Liquid makeup, including mascara, can harbor a lot of germs, says Thomas Steinemann, MD, an American Academy of Ophthalmology spokesperson who practices in Ohio. That’s why he recommends throwing tubes away two to three months after opening. “Each time you use mascara, you are brushing it and any germs onto your lashes,” he says. “You’re also contaminating the brush with even more bacteria present on your skin or eyelashes, then plunging it into a moist room-temperature environment, which encourages bacterial growth.” One of the primary functions of eyelashes is to keep debris and germs from entering your eye, so it’s important to keep the makeup you put on them as germ-free as possible, he adds.

Read more: 18 Makeup Mistakes That Make You Look Older

Dirty contact lens case

“Using a dirty lens case is one of the primary risk factors for getting eye infections,” says Dr. Steinemann, who recommends replacing you lens case at least every three months, as well as cleaning, air-drying facedown, and using fresh solution daily. “Even if you care for your lens case fastidiously, a grimy biofilm builds up on the surface that’s a magnet for dirt and germs,” he explains. “If you don’t change it out for a new one, you’re putting yourself at risk for a potentially serious eye infection like a corneal ulcer that can become infected and—even when healed—result in a scar that could affect your vision,” he adds. Don’t mess with your eyes, people!

Stale spices

Spices that have been hanging out in your cabinets for years probably won’t make you sick—but they won’t add any flavor to your food, which is key when you’re trying to cook healthy meals that don’t go overboard on fat or calories. Fresh spices can mean the difference between bland meals that makes you consider giving up on your goals and ordering delivery, and amazingly flavorful food that’s good for you and satisfying.

Old lip gloss

Anything that’s used around your mouth collects a lot of bacteria quickly, and the longer the bacteria sits in a moist tube, the more it grows. This increases your chance of infection if it gets into a cut or crack on the delicate skin of your lips. For this reason, experts recommend that you throw out lip gloss or other lip makeup no more than six months after you open it and begin using it, or by the expiration date, whichever is sooner.

Read more: 12 Strange-But-True Health Tricks

Musty, clogged air filters

If you have an air purifier at home, you get a gold star. “HEPA filtered air cleaning devices—the most efficient kind—are important because according to the EPA, indoor air quality is 25 to 100 times worse than outdoors,” says Philip Tierno, PhD, a microbiologist with New York University. In fact, the average 1,500 square foot house can accumulate 40 pounds of dust (40,000 dust mites per ounce). “One in five Americans suffer from allergies or asthma, which can be exacerbated by dust, mold, and bacteria in the air so a good filter system goes a long way,” he adds. Just don’t forget to replace the filter every so often or you could actually be growing mold and bacteria, and blowing contaminants back into your air. How often depends on what kind you have, so check with your manufacturer and use common sense. One telltale sign it needs to be tossed is a musty smell.

Stretched-out bras

When’s the last time you went bra shopping? The elastic in bras can get stretched out over time (the washing machine speeds up this process) which means less support for your girls. “Replacing a bra whenever it no longer lends comfort and support will help reduce back pain in heavier women, and can slow the natural process of aging in breast tissue,” says breast specialist Kristi Funk, MD. (That “natural process of aging” is sagging.)

Your kitchen sponge

Studies show the kitchen sponge is the germiest thing in the average American household, says Tierno. While some experts recommend microwaving sponges daily to zap bacteria, Doyle recommends skipping them completely: “When you use a sponge to clean meat juices, which can contain harmful microbes like salmonella, and it stays moist at room temperature, they grow quickly and studies show even the dishwasher doesn’t kill them.” He advises using a washcloth to clean dishes instead, grabbing a clean one every few days, and throwing the dirty ones in with your laundry. “Because it’s thinner, a washcloth dries quicker than a sponge between washes, which helps significantly slow bacterial growth,” he explains.

Read more: How to Keep Your Kitchen Germ-Free

Plastic cutting boards

Slicing and dicing on plastic cutting boards scores the surface (those lines you begin seeing after the first few times you use one). Once bacteria get into these tiny grooves and begin to grow, they can be very difficult to get rid of, says Doyle. He recommends switching to wooden cutting boards because wood contains resins that are naturally antimicrobial. Translation: when you score a wooden cutting board and bacteria seeps in, it dies instead of thrives.

Smart devices

You don’t need to toss your iPhone or Android out completely (phew!), but you should definitely unplug from time to time. Mounting research indicates that information overload—what happens when you use smart devices constantly—is linked to depression and anxiety. Recent studies suggest that this is particularly true for people who are overly attached to their smartphones and tablets, and for those who use multiple devices at once (which experts call media multitasking). Power down and stow your devices in a drawer at least a few times per week to give your brain a break‚ ideally on a set schedule (for example, weekdays after 9 p.m. or weekend mornings before noon).

Your chair

Global studies show that the average person sits 7.7 hours a day, and some estimate people sit up to 15 hours a day, says Robert Emery, professor of occupational health at the University of Texas School of Public Health. Excessive sitting impacts the body’s metabolic system, and can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and depression. But it’s not as simple as putting in more time at the gym, which may not even reverse “sitting disease,” adds Emery. The American Medical Association recommends switching to a standing desk for work as an excellent way to combat the health issues associated with too much sitting.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 Cooking Mistakes That Make You Gain Weight

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Here's how to make home cooking far healthier than takeout

Cooking at home seems like a far healthier option than dining out, right? Maybe not. A recent study found that the more time middle-aged women spent cooking at home, the more likely they were to suffer from metabolic syndrome. The reason for the finding may be that the study didn’t identify exactly what the women were cooking, so there was no way to measure the healthfulness of their homemade meals.

For example, the results wouldn’t be surprising if dinner meals included dishes like lasagna or meatloaf, rather than veggie-filled stir frys or entrée salads. Researchers also say that the participants who cook at home more frequently may also be baking more as well, and therefore consuming more sugary treats like cookies and brownies.

The bottom line is cooking at home is a chance to either eat healthfully—or eat just as poorly as if you had ordered takeout or dined at a restaurant. Avoid these 4 common blunders to take full advantage of the health opportunity home cooking offers.

Read more: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Nibbling while cooking

Many of my clients start keeping food diaries soon after our first consultation, and some are shocked to discover just how much they eat while prepping and cooking. One client regularly downed a glass of wine (or two) while popping cheese cubes, nuts, or crackers as she prepped. That mindless munching resulted in taking in up to 300-400 extra calories, which is enough to keep her at least two sizes larger than her weight goal.

The fix: If you’re hungry when you start making dinner, munch on low-calorie raw veggies like bell pepper or sliced cucumber. Or factor your prep-time snack into your meal budget. For example, if you want to nibble on nuts, reduce the amount of olive oil you use in your dinner. As for the wine, check out my previous post 7 Eating Habits You Should Drop Now.

Carb overload

Many health-conscious people I talk to have given up white bread and pasta in favor of healthy starches, like quinoa, wild rice, and lentils. The swap is fantastic for your health, but eating excess portions of these superfoods can still prevent weight loss, or lead to weight gain. I don’t advocate ditching carbs altogether, but the amount you eat should be in proportion to your body’s energy needs in the hours after a meal. If you’ll mostly be sitting in the evening, your portion of anything starchy should be somewhere between a half cup to a cup (more if you’re younger, taller, and more physically active; less if you’re older, shorter, and exercise less). I know that seems tiny, but when combined with a generous portion of veggies (think two cups, or the size of two tennis balls) along with lean protein and a bit of healthy fat, it’s completely doable.

The fix: For most of my clients, the trick is swapping the veggie and starch proportions in their meals, so veggies are the main attraction, and the starch is, as I refer to in my upcoming book, an “accessory.”

Read more: Try this 7-Move Fat-Melting Workout

Cheese-ing out

I recently challenged a client to go 30 days without eating cheese, because I knew it would be a major key to her success. She, like many other people I counsel, was using far too much cheese in home-cooked meals, and as a result, she was racking up hundreds of surplus calories. Ounce for ounce, cheddar packs four times the calories and nine times the fat of skinless chicken breast. Many of my clients think of it as a protein source, but an ounce of feta contains more fat than protein (6 grams versus 4).

The fix: If you don’t want to give up cheese completely, think of it as a condiment, and use it sparingly. For easy cheese-free dinner ideas check out my previous post 5 Delicious Pasta Alternatives.

Read more: 9 Low-Fat Foods You Shouldn’t Eat

Indulging in dessert too often

Over the years, many clients have told me that they just need a little something sweet after dinner. But one cookie can easily turn into three, and one serving of ice cream can easily become the whole pint. And once an after-dinner dessert pattern forms it can be challenging to break.

The fix: In my experience, the desire for sweets is often fueled by emotions, such as the need for reward or comfort. If that’s the case, focus on the feelings, not the food. If you can find other healthy ways of meeting your emotional needs, your desire to indulge may naturally wane (check out my previous post 5 Ways to Shut Down Emotional Eating). And if you really just need a treat, opt for a few tasting squares of dark chocolate, or make room for occasional desserts by cutting the carbs and fat in your meal, which is what most desserts are made from.

One of my clients recently tried this and was thrilled with the balance it created—a real switch from her usual “all or nothing” pattern (e.g. a full dinner, wine, and dessert; or a restrictive meal with no alcohol or sweets). After eating baked fish and steamed veggies she enjoyed one cupcake. When she got dressed the next morning her clothes fit perfectly, and she didn’t have a “food hangover.” Here’s the best part: because she had learned how to eat dessert without going overboard, she didn’t feel like she needed to indulge every night. Balance feels great!

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

The Best Workout Move You’re Not Doing

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Doing this move may help you get more speed and power

Want to take your workout to the next level? Consider adding deadlifts to your strength routine.

A new study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that folks who performed the exercise twice weekly for 10 weeks experienced an uptick in torque capacities in both knee extensors and flexors, which were associated with improvements in vertical jump height. In other words, they got faster and had more power when performing explosive movements.

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What’s more, “improving maximal force output with large muscle mass exercises is likely to have carryover to other dynamic movements such as sprinting and box jumps,” explains study author Matt Stock, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health, Exercise & Sport Sciences at Texas Tech University in Lubbock—which is great news if you’ve been working to master plyometric moves.

Performing a deadlift isn’t just good for putting some power behind your next sweat session. “It has huge allover benefits,” says Faheem Mujahid, owner and master trainer at Influence Atelier in Miami. “Not only does the majority of the exercise isolate and target the glutes and the hamstrings, but the quadriceps are involved as well, by helping to extend the knee joint. Plus, it is one of the few exercises that works the adductor magnus, which helps provide leg stability.”

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Stock adds: “It is particularly useful because it relies heavily on our often forgotten about muscles of the ‘posterior chain’—the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors. Ignoring these muscles within an exercise program has potentially dangerous consequences, particularly as we age and for knee health during sports.”

Effective as they may be, deadlifts can wreak havoc on your back if done incorrectly. The key to getting them right: Really working to engage the transverse abdominis muscles. “If that’s not happening, all the pressure will hit the spine, which is a big no-no,” says Mujahid. “When the transverse abs are engaged properly, it automatically engages the thoracic lumbar fascia [muscle in the lower spine] at the same time, which offers spine protection.”

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How do you know if you’ve got a handle on your core? Try this trick that Mujahid uses with his clients: “I tie a piece of yarn or a pair of shoelaces in a knot around my client’s waist. Whenever the core isn’t engaged, my client will feel pressure from the string,” he explains. “Feeling that contraction against the core gives them a little reminder to pull in that belly button.”

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This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

3 Ways to Sneak Vegetables Into Breakfast Foods

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It's a lot easier than you think

Eat more vegetables, eat more vegetables, eat more vegetables—this is the advice we hear constantly. But how? There are only so many meals and snacks in a day.

First off, let’s go over how much of the green (and red, yellow, white…) stuff you’re supposed to be eating. The USDA recommends at least 2 ½ cups per day for women ages 19 to 50, and 2 cups if you’re 51 or older. (That’s if you aren’t active. Since you probably are, you can have more; though the USDA doesn’t specify how much.) It takes 2 cups of leafy greens to equal a cup. Or think of it this way (from the USDA’s chart): ½ cup equals 1 medium carrot or 6 baby carrots, a large rib of celery, a small bell pepper, or half of an acorn squash.

Now for many of us, breakfast is a missed opportunity to get some green—fruit seems to get all the love in that a.m. meal. But there are some simple (and delicious!) ways to incorporate all-important vegetables into breakfast. Read on for some of my favorites.

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Eggs

There’s a reason (many, actually) why eggs are classic breakfast fare. They’re quick, versatile, satisfying, and they may help with weight loss, too. They’re also a perfect way to sneak some veggies into your morning meal. Mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, onions, even kale—so many vegetables go beautifully in scrambled eggs. Use up those leftovers from last night’s dinner, or grab a handful of mushrooms or spinach in the morning and toss them in the skillet for a few minutes before adding beaten eggs. (If you’re chopping an onion at night, set aside a tablespoon or two for your morning eggs. Cover tightly and refrigerate.)

If mornings are too tight to cook up a scramble, try making a batch of vegetable-filled mini frittatas in a muffin tin over the weekend. Then you just warm them up on busy weekday mornings. (Or not—I’ve eaten them cold, and they’re still delicious).

HEALTH.COM: 5 Ways to Prep Healthy Breakfasts Ahead of Time

Smoothies

No doubt you’ve heard about green smoothies, and perhaps you’ve tried one already. If not, here’s what I like to do: Just toss a handful of frozen organic spinach or kale into whatever I’m making. One of my favorites is a frozen banana, a handful of frozen berries, a handful of frozen kale, hemp seeds (or your favorite protein powder instead, if you like), maca powder (optional; I like it as a nutrient source and energy booster. Try Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Maca Powder, $17.09 for 16 oz., amazon.com), and water.

Sometimes I add a spoonful or two of cacao powder for a chocolate fix (and a couple of dates for sweetness), or a spoonful of almond butter. But you can pretty much toss a handful of greens into any smoothie you like; it won’t affect the taste, and you get all the benefits of those great greens without having to break out the salad bowl. (Warning: The greens can make smoothies look pretty weird. But that seems like a small price to pay.)

Remember, too, that greens aren’t the only vegetables that go well in smoothies. One of my all-time favorite vegetables is pumpkin (I loved it before it was so trendy, just saying). Pumpkin is super-healthy, and so sweet and luscious, it feels indulgent, though it’s loaded with vitamin A and other nutrients. Imagine pumpkin pie in smoothie form—delicious. I also love it thicker, as a use-a-spoon smoothie bowl. Keep in mind that vitamin A is fat soluble, so you need a little fat to absorb it. Be sure there’s some nut butter, full fat milk or yogurt, or some other source of fat to get the most from all that beautiful orange pumpkin.

HEALTH.COM: 26 Easy Smoothie Recipes

Pancakes

Yes, you can add veggies to this classic breakfast food, too. The easiest way is to swap the same amount of pumpkin (or mashed butternut squash) in your favorite recipe that calls for mashed banana. So if your recipe calls for 1 cup of mashed bananas, simply use 1 cup of pumpkin. If your family doesn’t want to abandon banana, swap in half. Even if you don’t get a whole serving of vegetables into your meal, every bit helps.

Savory vegetable pancakes are also a tasty departure for breakfast. A few I’ve made recently include zucchini-scallion pancakes and carrot pancakes with salted yogurt. You can make them for dinner and save extras for breakfast—or cook a batch specially for mornings.

HEALTH.COM: 25 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

On their own

Finally, a simple way to add vegetables to breakfast is to just…eat some. Have a salad for breakfast (it’s not weird! People in Israel do it all the time). The Kitchn has 5 great tips for how to do it well. Once you try it and see how much energy it gives you, you might get hooked. Another way I eat vegetables for breakfast is to nibble while doing other things. (Not ideal, I know, since we should all be sitting down and mindfully eating our meals—but weekday mornings are just too busy, at least in my house.)

So I peel one carrot for my daughter’s lunch, and another one for me to munch on while I’m packing the rest of her lunch. Or if I’m cutting up half a yellow bell pepper or slicing some cucumber for her, I eat some as I go. We’ve all nibbled at our kids’ leftover mac and cheese (right? Tell me it’s not just me…), so we might as well do the same with the vegetables we feed them.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

17 Ways to Age-Proof Your Brain

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Sharpen your memory with these surprising anti-aging tricks

What’s good for your body is good for your brain. That means eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and veggies and not much sugar, saturated fat, or alcohol, as well as getting enough exercise and sleeping about eight hours a night. But evidence is accumulating that a whole host of other activities can help keep our brains young even as we advance in chronological age. There is no one magic activity that you need to take on, but trying a handful of the following will help.

Take dance lessons

Seniors who danced three to four times a week—especially those who ballroom danced—had a 75% lower risk of dementia compared with people who did not dance at all, found a 2003 landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Why? “Dancing is a complex activity,” says study lead author Joe Verghese, MD, chief of geriatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “It’s aerobic so it improves blood flow to the brain which has been shown to improve brain connections. It also provides mental challenges.” While it can be hard to prove cause and effect (people with dementia may cut back on activities), the study enrolled people without dementia and followed them over time.

Play an instrument

Whether it’s the saxophone, the piano, or a ukulele, researchers found that playing an instrument for 10 or more years was correlated with better memory in advanced age compared to those who played music for less than 10 years (or not at all). Other research shows that even listening to music can help boost your brainpower. A study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that listening to baroque music (Vivaldi, Bach) leads to changes in the brain that help with attention and storing events into memory.

Learn a foreign language

Being bilingual may help delay the onset of dementia. Individuals who spoke two languages developed dementia an average of four and a half years later than people who only spoke one language in a 2013 study published in the journal Neurology. Other research shows that people who speak more than one language are better at multitasking and paying attention. Experts say the earlier you learn, the better—growing up speaking two languages is optimal—but that it’s never too late and every little bit of language learning helps.

Play chess

Playing chess, bingo, checkers, and card games may help keep your brain fit. A 2013 French study found a 15% lower risk of dementia among people who played board games versus those who did not. And the effects seemed to last over the study’s 20-year follow-up. “The idea is that this helps build cognitive reserve,” says Dr. Verghese, whose study also found benefits to playing board games like Monopoly. “The more these activities buffer against the disease, you may be able to mask the effects of the disease for longer periods of time. It buys you extra time.”

Read more: 12 Unexpected Things That Mess With Your Memory

Read more of less

Reading, in general, is good for the brain. But reading fewer books and articles so you can give them each of them more focused attention may be even better. “Our brain doesn’t do very well with too much information. The more you download, the more it shuts the brain down,” says Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It’s better to read one or two good articles and think about them in a deeper sense rather than read 20.”

Change your font

Next time you have to read through some documents for work, consider changing the typeface before you print them out. Chances are, the docs came to you in an easy-to-read font like Arial or Times New Roman, but switching it to something a little less legible like Comic Sans or Bodoni may improve your comprehension and recall of the information, according to a small study out of Harvard University. Likewise, a study at a Ohio high school revealed that students who received handouts with less-legible type performed better on tests than the students who were given more readable materials. It’s a version of the no-pain-no-gain phenomenon: When you exert more effort, your brain rewards you by becoming stronger. But make sure you keep things new by changing fonts regularly.

Single-task

If you think your ability to multitask proves you’ve got a strong brain, think again. “Multitasking hijacks your frontal lobe,” says Chapman, who is also the author of Make Your Brain Smarter. The frontal lobe regulates decision-making, problem-solving, and other aspects of learning that are critical to maintaining brain health. Research has shown that doing one thing at a time—not everything at once—strengthens higher-order reasoning, or the ability to learn, understand, and apply new information.

Read more: 25 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Write about your stress

In one study, college students who wrote about stressful experiences for 20 minutes three days in a row improved their working memories and their grade point averages. Students who wrote about neutral events saw no such improvements. “We hypothesized that stress causes unwanted, intrusive thoughts,” says study co-author Adriel Boals, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton. “Writing gets rid of intrusive thoughts then working memory increases.” If something’s bothering you, don’t bottle it up.

Take up knitting

Activities that put your hands to work, like knitting, crocheting, and gardening, are proven stress relievers, and they may also keep your brain young. In a 2013 survey of about 3,500 knitters around the world, there was a correlation between knitting frequency and cognitive function; the more people knitted, the better function they had.

Find your purpose

People who feel they’ve found their purpose in life have lower rates of depression and tend to live longer. Studies also show that this positive outlook also benefits the brain. In one study, those who reported having a strong purpose in life were more than twice as likely to stay Alzheimer’s-free than people who did not profess a purpose. To develop a sense of purpose, focus on the positive impact you have at home or at work. You could also try volunteering for a cause that’s meaningful to you.

Read more: 12 Ways to Improve Your Concentration at Work

Be social

Spending lots of time with friends and family, especially as you get older, may be one of the best buffers against mental decline. In one study, people who participated in social activities more often and who felt that they had ample social support did better on several measures of memory, as well as mental processing speed. “Social engagement is linked with mental agility,” says Carey Gleason, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.

Play a video game

Companies like Lumosity charge you a monthly fee for brain-training games, but playing puzzle games on your kid’s Xbox may have the same effects—and depending on what you play, may be even more effective. In a Florida State University study, subjects either played games on Lumosity.com or played Portal 2, a popular action-puzzle game for computers, Playstation, and Xbox. Those who played Portal 2 scored better on problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence tests. Other research shows that playing Tetris may increase gray matter in the brain.

Use your time efficiently

Don’t spend an hour doing something that should take you 10 minutes. Conversely, don’t spend 10 minutes on something that deserves an hour. In other words, calibrate your mental energy. “Decide from the get-go how much mental energy you are going to spend on a task,” says Chapman. “Giving your full forceful energy all the time really degrades resources. You need to know when to do something fast and when to do something slow.”

Read more: 15 Diseases Doctors Often Miss

Write by hand

Sure, typing is faster, but writing longhand may be better for your brain. Studies have shown that students learn better when they take notes by hand because it forces them to process the information as they take it in. The cursive you learned in elementary school may be particularly useful. First graders who learned to write in cursive scored higher on reading and spelling than peers who wrote in print.

Take naps

Go ahead, sneak in a super-quick catnap: it’ll recharge your brain. One group of German researchers saw improvements in memory among people who dozed for as little as six minutes, although the results were even better among those who napped longer. Conversely, problems sleeping, including sleep apnea and insomnia, are associated with dementia. That research is still early (people with dementia have disturbed sleep), but bear in mind that sleeping seven to eight hours a night may help you live longer and, hopefully, healthier.

Wash the dishes

It may be easier than you think to get the optimal amount of physical activity. According to one study, washing the dishes, cooking, and cleaning can add to our daily activity total and are linked with a reduced risk of dementia. In the study, people with the least amount of total physical activity were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared with people reporting the most activity. Even playing cards and moving a wheelchair counted.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

Ramp it up

Whether it’s physical activity or mental activity, you need to keep pushing your limits in order to reap the benefits. “You need to challenge yourself to the next level so you get the benefits,” says Verghese. Don’t be satisfied with finishing Monday’s easy crossword puzzle. Keep going until you master Saturday’s brainteaser as well. The same with walking: keep lengthening your distance.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: This Is How Much Exercise Experts Really Think You Need

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Genius Ways to Use Almonds

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They're great whole, but these easy recipes make almonds more fun to eat

In a previous post I listed almonds as one of six foods I eat every day. I adore them, and aside from being delicious and filling, research on the health and weight-loss benefits of these gems just keeps piling up. A new Penn State study concluded that swapping a carb-y snack for an ounce and a half of almonds (about 33 whole nuts) helped lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as reduce both belly and leg fat (impressive!).

While it’s super easy to eat them “as is” (think: adding them to yogurt or sprinkling them on a salad), there are plenty of other ways to incorporate almonds into meals and snacks. Here are five of my favorite simple, healthy combinations.

In smoothies

If you have a powerful blender you can use whole almonds, but almond butter easily whips into any smoothie. In addition to adding nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and bonus protein, the good-for-you fat in almonds boosts the absorption of antioxidants from the produce in your drink. I have dozens of favorite blends, but one of my go-tos lately is a cherry-chocolate-almond combo made with: a cup of frozen cherries, handful of fresh spinach, half a cup each of almond milk and water, tablespoon of almond butter, scoop of pea protein powder, tablespoon of organic non-alkalized cocoa, half teaspoon of vanilla extract, and dash of cinnamon. Heavenly.

HEALTH.COM: Best and Worst Nuts for Your Health

As a crust for lean protein

Rather than breading proteins before cooking, you can use almonds as a crust. For a super simple version, just toss crushed almonds or almond flour (sometimes called almond meal) with herbs of your choice, brush your protein with Dijon mustard or dip into a lightly beaten egg, press with the almond mixture, and bake (400° F for 8-10 minutes is about right for white fish). Serve over a bed of steamed greens with a small portion of whole food starch, like roasted fingerling potatoes. Delish!

HEALTH.COM: 17 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat On the Go

As a crumble topping

After warming either fresh of frozen fruit on the stove top, I cover it with a crumble made from two tablespoons of almond butter mixed with a quarter cup of raw or toasted rolled oats, seasoned with either pumpkin or apple pie spice. (It’s a little messy, but the easiest way to make it uniform is to get right in there with your fingers rather than trying to use utensils.) It’s ridiculously good on any of your favorite fruits, such as a freshly sliced apple or pear sautéed in a little water and lemon juice, warmed frozen berries or cherries, or a slightly mashed mini banana.

HEALTH.COM: 16 Oatmeal Dessert Recipes That Satisfy

In a sauce

I had a blast creating more than 100 new recipes for my upcoming book Slim Down Now, and one of my favorites includes a sauce I make from almond butter, thinned with organic low-sodium vegetable broth, and seasoned with fresh grated ginger, garlic, turmeric, and crushed red pepper. It’s awesome paired with a generous portion of steamed or sautéed veggies, a lean protein (like shrimp or black-eyed peas), and a small portion of a healthy starch such as gluten-free buckwheat soba noodles or brown rice. Seems decadent, but this healthy dish will leave you simultaneously feeling light, energized, and satisfied.

HEALTH.COM: 18 Ways to Cook With Peanut Butter

Added to savory dishes

I add chopped, sliced, or slivered almonds to hot dishes including stir frys, grains like wild rice and quinoa, cooked veggies (who doesn’t love green bean almondine), and even soups like squash, lentil, or tomato. Finely chopped almonds also add flavor and texture to chilled vegetable, grain, bean, or fruit dishes, like vinegar-based slaw, and cold ginger broccoli, three bean, or seasonal fruit salads. Like a great pair of jeans, almonds go with just about everything!

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Aging

What You Should Know About Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

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The condition affects about 200,000 people in the United States

Julianne Moore won a Golden Globe Sunday for her portrayal of an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient in the film Still Alice. Moore’s character, Alice Howland, is just 50 when she is diagnosed, and the movie follows her and her family’s struggle to cope as her memory and mental state decline.

But what is early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and who is at risk? Here’s what you should know about the condition that affects about 200,000 people in the United States.

HEALTH.COM: 25 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Not just for old people

Alzheimer’s disease is usually thought of as something senior citizens get. While that is often true, it’s not always the case: Up to 5% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are under age 65—usually in their 40s or 50s—and are considered to have an “early onset” or “younger onset” of the disease.

Symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s are no different than symptoms of more traditional cases, says Mary Sano, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of Alzheimer’s disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Bronx, whom Moore consulted during her research for Still Alice. But because the condition is so rare in adults under 65, the signs may not be recognized as quickly by patients themselves, or by those around them.

“By the time people ask for help, something strange has probably been going on for at least six months,” says Sano. “And often, it’s family members and close friends who can provide a point of view that a change has occurred, which can allow that person to realize something is wrong.”

HEALTH.COM: 7 Ways to Protect Your Memory

Because early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is so uncommon, diagnosis may also require testing above and beyond what a senior citizen might undergo. “We want to demonstrate that what’s really present is a cognitive problem and not a psychological or physical problem,” says Sano. “For a younger person, we’ll do a more rigorous workup, including imaging and other tests, because we want to make sure we get this right.”

Early-onset disease has a strong genetic component, so family history—if the patient knows enough about it—can be a big part of a person’s diagnosis, as well. A blood test can determine whether someone has a gene mutation that puts them at higher risk for familial Alzheimer’s, but cannot prove whether they have (or will get) the disease.

What it’s like—and what it’s not

First things first: Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is uncommon, and it’s not responsible for most cases of middle-aged forgetfulness—like not being able to remember where you put your keys, or the name of someone you met at a cocktail party last night, for example.

Episodes like these, says Sano, are most likely due to preoccupation or periods of temporary stress, and usually aren’t anything to worry about.

When you should be concerned, she says, is when problems with your memory begin to interfere with your ability to do the things that are most important to you, or when you start to have difficulty completing common, everyday tasks. “It’s the persistence and the erratic nature of the symptoms that’s the real warning sign.”

In fact, Sano says, people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease often subconsciously modify or adapt their routines to the point where they don’t even notice specific red-flag incidents. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, warning signs may include the regular use of memory devices, relying on friends and family to do things you used to handle yourself, or withdrawal from work or social activities.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Unexpected Things That Mess With Your Memory

Symptoms are different for everyone, but one thing to watch for is difficulty remembering and retaining new information, says Sano. “Not being able to learn your new computer password, or to learn a new activity or take on a new project—those are usually the challenges at the earliest stages of the disease,” she says.

As the disease progresses, however, all forms of memory are affected. In Still Alice, Moore’s character becomes concerned when she—a linguistics who is known for her mastery of speech—loses her train of thought during a presentation and cannot think of the words to continue. In other scenes throughout the movie, she gets disoriented while out for a jog, forgets her daughter’s name, and, yes, misplaces her keys.

As the movie shows, early-onset Alzheimer’s can be especially devastating because people in their 40s and 50s are often still working and caring for children. “They’re at risk for having more functional loss, and having their life and their family’s lives affected much more than someone who’s several decades older,” says Sano. “And so the management of the disease really requires a lot of thoughtfulness and a lot of extra service.”

Treatment and hope

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, no matter what age onset occurs. But there are drugs that can slow its progression, and there are ways in which Alzheimer’s patients and their families can better manage living with the disease.

Staying physically, socially, and mental active can also provide protection against the disease and may help people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease maintain their cognition longer, says Sano. Specifically, research has shown that doing crossword puzzles and speaking a second language may help slow declines in thinking and memory.

In addition, there are many opportunities for Alzheimer’s patients to take part in ongoing research, says Sano, which may lead the way to better treatment options. She recommends talking to your doctor or visiting the National Institutes of Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center online for information about clinical trials happening near you.

Sano hasn’t seen Moore’s performance in Still Alice (the movie will be officially released on Friday), but she’s glad the actress did her due diligence when preparing for the part. “When we worked with her, we were impressed with her awareness of the impact of the disease—not only on the individuals, but on the people around them as well,” she says.

She’s also grateful for the opportunity the film provides to show people another side to Alzheimer’s disease. “Many people don’t know what this is and so they don’t seek advice when they see victims,” she says. “It’s critically important to allow people to find out about the disease, and raise awareness about something they need to pay attention to—something they may even be living through.”

HEALTH.COM: 15 Diseases Doctors Misdiagnose

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Heart Disease

14 Things Heart Doctors Tell Their Friends

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Insider advice to maintaining a strong, healthy heart

By now you know the basics of keeping your heart in shape: You’re all over the Mediterranean diet and you do that cardio. But thanks to conflicting headlines running amok, the details get confusing: Should I take aspirin? How hard do I really need to work out? That’s why we went to leading cardiologists and asked them to level with us about what heart-health habits women absolutely need. Check out their straight-up answers.

Skip food fads

“So many trends come and go. A gluten-free diet is not worth your time unless you have celiac disease or a real gluten sensitivity. If you’re considering Paleo, forget it! It’s not heart-healthy to bypass beans, legumes or whole grains (which are proven to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar).” — Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book

Eat better fish

“The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week, but that doesn’t mean just anything from the ocean. Fish like tilapia or orange roughy contain basically zero omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides and inflammation. And shrimp and lobster—they’re not even fish! Eat salmon, herring, tuna and anchovies. They have the highest levels of omega-3s.” — Leslie Cho, MD, director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Center at the Cleveland Clinic

Quit worrying about salt

“The long-standing salt limit is 1,500 milligrams a day, but some studies show that blood pressure rises only when salt intake tops 3,500 mg daily. If your kidneys are healthy, you probably don’t need to cut all added salt from your diet. Instead, avoid processed foods, which are real sodium bombs.” — Holly Andersen, MD, director of education and outreach for the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital

HEALTH.COM: 18 Superfoods for Your Heart

Pass on the Aspirin

“Despite all the studies about aspirin’s heart benefits, it’s not for everyone. The term baby aspirin makes it seem benign—like, “Babies take it!”—but one danger is bleeding. If you’re under 65 with no risk factors, daily aspirin is not helpful.” — Dr. Cho

Find your happy place

“Chronic daily stress ups blood pressure and can lead to depression and anxiety. Have dinner with your girlfriends or listen to music. I use apps: Happify, which has daily gratitude activities, is a good one.” — Stacey Rosen, MD, vice president of women’s health at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, North Shore-LIJ Health System

Say no to sugar

“We cardiologists pushed everyone to eat low-fat, and as a result, food manufacturers have added more sugar to things like crackers and cereals. When you eat too much sugar, your body may stop getting the message to feel full. Focus on protein and healthy fats instead of refined carbs.” — Dr. Andersen

HEALTH.COM: Heart Attack Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

Pay attention to your pregnancies

“Most women don’t know this, but your pregnancies can tell you a lot about your future heart risk. Since your blood volume rises so much (blood flow just to the uterus increases eightfold), pregnancy is like a stress test. If you had pregnancy-related high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes, you’re at greater risk as you age.” — Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, associate director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles

Build muscles

Strength training revs your metabolic rate, so you burn more calories at rest. This may keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels low and helps prevent metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for heart disease. Use weights or your own body: I have a 15-minute daily routine that includes planks, sit-ups and push-ups. ” — Dr. Steinbaum

Laugh it up

“Laughter is huge. Fifteen minutes of laughter is equivalent to 30 minutes of aerobic activity in terms of what it can do for cardiovascular health.” — Dr. Andersen

HEALTH.COM: 15 Diseases Doctors Often Get Wrong

Don’t go to bed angry

“Studies show that a healthy marriage decreases heart disease risk. When you have problems with your husband, that stress you feel is the inflammatory markers going up. The longer you let it bother you, the worse it gets for your heart. Maintaining a stable, happy relationship really matters.” — Dr. Steinbaum

Don’t turn to hormones

“It’s true that heart risk goes way up once estrogen starts to drop as women age; estrogen helps maintain the flexibility of our arteries and helps keep our LDL (bad) cholesterol low. But studies show that adding synthetic estrogen doesn’t work the same way. You can use hormone therapy in the short term to help with menopause symptoms — but it won’t protect your heart.” — Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at the NYU Langone Medical Center

Go nuts for nuts

“I snack on walnuts, almonds, pecans and more. They help increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and people who eat nuts seem to live longer with less disease. I proportion them in baggies (about a quarter-cup scoop each) so when I get hungry, I won’t eat the doughnuts people bring to the office.” — Dr. Andersen

HEALTH.COM: 14 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time

Just move already

“Whatever exercise you can do consistently is the best exercise for your heart. Have fun with it. Boosting intensity is always great, but work up to it or you may burn out or get hurt. ” — Dr. Cho

Put your job second

“Women who say their jobs are stressful are more likely to die of heart disease. But so much of the pressure we feel is actually self-imposed. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do well at work, but most people aren’t going to get fired for eating lunch away from their desks. So do it: Get out of the office to eat, take a break when you need one, go home on time. Don’t let your job steal your health.” — Dr. Andersen

Cheers to your heart

There’s no magic elixir for a healthy life, but that’s not to say that your drink can’t affect your ticker. Here’s your beverage update.

HEALTH.COM: 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency

Good
Green tea: For every extra cup you sip a day, you may reduce your coronary artery disease risk by 10 percent, according to a recent review. Brew your own for best results.
Coffee: Jacking up your java by at least a cup a day may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes (which raises your heart risk), per a new study.

Bad
Energy drinks: A 2014 study linked guzzling energy drinks with angina (chest pain), irregular heartbeat and death. One can is OK, but why not choose espresso instead?
Soda: A 12-ounce can is your entire daily sugar limit—and then some! Overdoing it on sweets raises triglycerides and may reduce HDL (good) cholesterol.

It’s Complicated
Wine: Unwinding with a glass of red or white vino can protect against cardiovascular disease—but only if you also exercise, according to a 2014 Czech study. The wine-drinking participants who experienced a rise in levels of good cholesterol were those who worked their bodies at least two times a week.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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