TIME

5 Smart Steps to Cut Down On Sugar

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Bruce Law—Getty Images

Thinking of banning added sugars for a while? Make sure to read this first.

The bad news about sugar just keeps on coming: A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study linked taking in too much of the sweet stuff to a higher risk of dying of heart disease, and a brand-new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the participants who ate the most sugar had a 10 percent higher risk of dying from any cause, compared to the average person.

It’s enough to make you want to quit sugar altogether—and an increasing number of people are doing just that, whether it’s through an elimination diet or banning sugar for a more extended period of time (this writer actually steered clear of added fructose for a year).

Thinking about trying a no-added-sugar diet yourself? That’s not a bad idea, says Pooja Mottl, author of the new book The 3-Day Reset. One of the primary resets she describes in the book focuses on sugar, which she writes is “notoriously difficult to detect in foods.” Here, she shares five common mistakes people make when avoiding added sugar.

Mistake No. 1: Trying to Ignore Your Sweet Tooth Altogether
Some people view added-sugar bans as a test of their ability to resist eating anything sweet. But that’s the wrong approach, says Mottl. The point is to find whole foods that satisfy your cravings—not to out-willpower your cravings entirely. “You should make sure that you do satisfy your sweet cravings during this time but with unrefined sources of sugar,” she says. “If you don’t give yourself whole food-based alternatives for sweetness, doing a diet like this won’t be sustainable.” As an added bonus, you’ll discover new, more nutritious ways to sate your sweet tooth in the process.

Mistake No. 2: Only Avoiding Sweet Foods
Things that you think of as savory can still contain plenty of sugar (just consider these surprising foods with more sugar than a candy bar). “Pasta sauces, chicken nuggets, cured meats, ketchup, even almond milk often contain added sugar,” says Mottl. To make sure you’re really steering clear of excess amounts of sweet stuff, you’ll have to read nutrition labels (or, if you’re eating out, start asking questions).

Mistake No. 3: Forgetting That Sugar Comes in Many Forms
When you’re checking those labels, you’re not just looking for the word “sugar.” “Another misstep happens when people don’t know the various terms that refer to sugar on ingredient lists,” says Mottl. Some of the many different ingredients that actually refer to sugar include high-fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, demerara, evaporated cane juice, evaporated cane juice solids, fruit-juice concentrates, dextrose, fructose, lactose, and a number of other terms ending in “-ose”

Mistake No. 4: Not Defining Which Sugars Are Off-Limits Ahead of Time
In her book, Mottl suggests only allowing what she calls whole and minimally processed sweeteners (ones that are unrefined) during the sugar reset: maple syrup, raw honey, rapadura, and coconut palm sugar. In her recent book Year of No Sugar, Eve Schaub avoided any sweeteners containing fructose but allowed herself those that were fructose-free (so glucose and dextrose were OK). Whether to ban artificial sweeteners is also an important decision to make. Regardless of which forms of sugar you decide are off-limits, make sure to set some sort of guidelines before you start; otherwise your sugar ban will be that much more confusing.

Mistake No. 5: Trying to Forgo Added Sugar for Too Long a Timespan
Schaub may have gone 365 days without sugar, but for most people that’s too long. There’s a reason that Mottl recommends avoiding added sugars for 72 hours: It’s long enough to help you re-adjust your taste buds, get into the habit of checking nutrition labels, and discover ways to satisfy your sweet tooth with whole and minimally processed foods. But it’s not so long that it feels intimidating—or like you’re just setting yourself up for failure. “Three days isn’t very long, but it’s still plenty long enough,” Mottl writes in her book. “You’ll feel a difference in your mouth and your energy.”

This article was written by Robin Hilmantel and originally appeared on WomensHealthMag.com

TIME

4 Drug Combinations That Can Be Accidentally Lethal

Lethal Prescription Drugs
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Anti-depressants, painkillers, anti-fungals and muscle relaxants should be taken at the same time only with the most care. Here's some must-know information for anyone who fills, or takes, prescription drugs

Nearly 28 percent of adults ages 20 to 59 hold multiple drug prescriptions at any given time, per Centers for Disease Control data. In some cases, double (or tripling) up is necessary—but the wrong combo could have critical consequences, says epidemiologist Leonard Paulozzi, M.D., M.P.H. Beware these potentially toxic matches, and always ask your doctor before mixing. And definitely check out our must-read article about accidental overdoses, a problem plaguing a scarily high number of women each year: The Silent and Growing Health Danger That All Women Need to Know About.

SSRIS + Opioids (antidepressants + painkillers)

Some antidepressants work by increasing brain levels of the “happy hormone” serotonin. Certain painkillers can have the same effect—leading to way too much of a good thing. Sky-high serotonin levels can cause agitation, high body temperature, and rapid heart and breathing rates.

Opioids + Benzodiazepines (painkillers + anti-anxiety meds)

Both types of drugs act as depressants, which can spell sweet relief if you’re super anxious or in serious pain—or super anxious about being in serious pain (think dental surgery). But the pills can also lower heart and breathing rates, sometimes too much.

More From Women’s Health: Prescription Drug Combinations To Avoid

Statins + Fluconazole (cholesterol-lowering drugs + antifungal medication)

Anyone who’s had a yeast infection (75 percent of you) is likely familiar with fluconazole. And statins are among the world’s most prescribed drugs, making this a highly likely duo that could cause muscle weakness or kidney damage.

Opioids + Benzodiazepines + Carisoprodol (painkillers + anti-anxiety meds + muscle relaxers)

Most M.D.’s know this combo could turn deadly. Yet a patient might still find herself taking all three—potentially prescribed by different doctors—if, say, she threw out her back and is fighting intense stress at work.

Medical Myths:The Truth About OTC Drugs

This article was written by Carrie Arnold and originally appeared on WomensHealthMag.com

TIME

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Doctor is Listening to You

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Read this before you step foot in a doctor's office.

Using checklists in medical care sounds like common sense. We’ve all heard the stories of the man who had the wrong leg operated on and the woman who had a sponge left in her belly. Checklists are routine in other professions as well, and we know they can prevent hospital infections and surgical error. But could there be a downside to checklist medical care? Consider these two examples:

Scenario 1:

You come into the ER after you dove to catch a softball. You’re pretty sure you have a bruised rib, but because you said the magic words of “chest pain,” you’re suddenly whisked away to get blood drawn, an EKG and a chest X-ray. You’re told this is all part of the “chest pain protocol.” But did you really need all of those tests done?

Scenario 2:

You tell your doctor you’re tired and feeling run down. Your doctor does routine blood work, again following a checklist of things to look for: anemia, thyroid problems, and so forth. Everything is “normal.” The checklist is complete, so your doctor assures you that you’re OK—even though you know you’re not.

MORE: 7 Lies We Tell at Doctor’s Appointments

In my work as an emergency physician, I know that checklists can be helpful. They ensure complex procedures are done thoroughly and provide an extra assurance for safety. But they can also result in a “cookbook” approach, where you get the same recipe of tests and medications as everyone else. Unfortunately, this can result in expensive and unnecessary care, and even misdiagnoses or harm.

Here are five tips to make sure you get the best, personalized care every time you see a doctor:

1. Insist on telling your story. Studies have shown that 80 percent of all diagnoses can be made based on just the story of your illness. Doctors have limited time to listen to your story, but you must make sure they understand why you’re there. Don’t just say that you have chest pain—explain when it started, what you were doing, and how it felt. Write down key elements. Practice until you can tell it in 30 seconds or less. Then tell your story to your doctor the moment you see her to make sure she focuses on your individualized story.

More: 5 Questions To Ask Before Being Tested

2. Give open-ended responses to close-ended questions. If you suspect that the doctor is going through a checklist of yes/no questions, try to get her to focus on you by adding personal elements to your answers. If you’re asked, “when did you start feeling so tired?” don’t just say “two weeks ago.” Add that you’re normally very energetic and run five miles a day, but for the last two weeks, you can barely get out of bed to work (if that’s the case). These answers help provide context to who you are.

3. Ask about your diagnosis before you consent to tests. If you’re told you need to get blood drawn, ask why. Sometimes, that’s enough to stop the “cookbook” from taking over. Every test should be done for a specific reason, not just because it’s what’s done in this protocol, but because it helps focus the diagnosis. Also ask about what to do if the tests are negative. Just because they’re negative doesn’t mean there isn’t anything wrong, so what would be your next steps?

MORE: Are Female Doctors Better Than Male Ones?

4. Inquire about treatment options. In very few situations is there only one test that could work or one protocol that must be followed. If your doctor says you need to do this one set of tests, ask what your other options are. Often, watchful waiting is a perfectly acceptable alternative. Discussing options helps remind your doctor to tailor the treatment to you.

5. Let your doctor know that you want to be a partner in your decision-making. If you still think that your doctor is following a recipe rather than individualizing care, ask her to explain her thought process to you. Say that you respect her expertise, and you want to learn what it is that she is thinking. Your doctor may be so busy or so used to checklists that your request can help her refocus on you and your individual needs.

MORE: The Mistake Your Doctor Might Be Making

This article was written by Leana Wen and originally appeared on Womenshealthmag.com.

TIME Exercise

The Workouts That Can Prevent The Flu

Study: Workouts Prevent Flu
Keith Bishop—Getty Images

Vigorous exercise is better than moderate exercise at boosting the immune system.

You know that vigorous exercise burns fat and builds muscle (and it may even help fight cravings)—and now you might be able to add “fight the flu” to its list of accomplishments, according to research recently released at National Science and Engineering Week.

Through an online survey, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine polled more than 4,800 people on their health habits and found that those who exercised vigorously for at least two and a half hours a week were about 10 percent less likely to come down with a flu-like illness. Meanwhile, moderate exercise didn’t seem to have any effect on the flu.

While all exercise is known to increase immunity, previous research in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology shows that high-intensity exercise is better than moderate exercise at improving the body’s aerobic capacity, a marker of overall health and fitness. And the fitter you are, the more likely your immune system will be able to wipe out nasty cells like the flu bug.

Cold or Flu: Can you Tell

However, it’s important to remember that overdoing it on high-intensity exercise can actually wear down the immune system, per a 2014 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Luckily, two and a half hours of high-intensity exercise a week is all your need to reap the flu-fighting benefits of hardcore exercise.

Think you’ve already beaten this year’s flu? Not so fast. While we are nearing the end of the season, the nasty bug can strike any time of year, note the researchers.

So for good measure, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite high intensity workouts. Try them out, and fight the flu and weight gain at the same time!

30-Minute Workout: Get Total-Body Toned with this No-Equipment Circuit Workout

This article was written by K. Aleisha Fetters and originally appeared on Womenshealthmag.com.

 

TIME

9 Things That Mess With Your Hormones

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The seemingly innocent habits that throw your body for a loop

Admit it: any time you feel off or out of whack and have no idea why, you probably chalk it up to hormones, right? The crazy thing is, you’re probably right. These chemical messengers buzzing around inside you pretty much rule your entire system, influencing your appetite, weight, sex drive, cycle, and more. But hormonal weirdness isn’t just a random occurrence over which you have no control. Certain behaviors can cause them to surge or sink—and do a number on your body in the process. Check out these nine habits that can screw them up and alter your mental and physical health.

Your Candy Bar Addiction

Eating foods with too much added sugar is directly linked to weight gain—and excess pounds can lead your body to become resistant to insulin, the hormone that moves sugar into your bloodstream so your cells can get the energy they need, says Holly Phillips, M.D., a women’s health specialist in New York City and medical correspondent for CBS News. The result: a precursor to diabetes called metabolic syndrome or even full-blown type 2 diabetes.

Stressing Out Late at Night

Normally, levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop at nighttime, which helps you wind down and sleep. But becoming anxious or tense in the p.m. means your cortisol levels keep surging, so you’re too wired to catch Zzz’s, says Phillips. Make sure one of these seven things that are secretly stressing you out aren’t putting you on edge, and be sure to try these anxiety-relieving tips.

Regular Bouts of Insomnia

It’s a vicious cycle: Lack of sleep raises cortisol levels, and cortisol cranks up your blood sugar…which then plunges, making you stressed and craving junk food, says Phillips. Start scoring more snooze time, and your cortisol levels will even out.

Or Just One Night of Sleep Deprivation

When you sleep, levels of a hunger-related hormone called leptin surge, signaling to your body that you don’t need to eat. Toss and turn all night, and your body won’t produce the right amount of leptin—so you’ll feel extra hungry the next day and be more prone to weight gain.

Late-Afternoon Starbucks Runs

Cortisol is the culprit again here: Caffeine signals to your body to boost production of cortisol, which can make you feel anxious and definitely not in a sleep-well mindset. Limit yourself to no more than two regular-size cups of joe a day, preferably before 3 or 4 p.m. Find out more about how caffeine affects your body.

Your Spotty Attendance at the Gym

Without regular exercise, your body won’t produce and release the optimal amount of endorphins, says Phillips. You know endorphins: They’re the feel-good chemicals in the brain that make you feel positive and alert. They also keep your immune system functioning well and increase levels of sex hormones so you score a libido lift. The more you move (cardio, Pilates, hiking, any kind of activity), the more endorphins your body will produce.

Crash Diets

A plunge in body-fat levels due to either a super low-calorie weight-loss regimen or intense exercise sessions lowers estrogen levels, halting your cycle until your body fat returns to a healthy level, says Phillips. Scary stuff. Watch out for these six signs your diet is too extreme to make sure you’re not going overboard.

Skimping on Cardio

You know how a heart-pumping workout can make you temporarily forget about where to go for dinner? It has to do with the way aerobic exercise prompts a drop in levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which suppresses appetite, studies show.

Easing PMS With a Sweet Treat

Besides leaving you wired, sugar also does a number on brain chemicals that are already thrown for a loop during your PMS week. If your premenstrual symptoms leave you cranky and moody, sugar will just make you feel like more of a basket case, says Phillips.

This article was written by Esther Crain and originally appeared on WomensHealthMag.com.

TIME Exercise

3 Ultra-Effective Exercise Machines You’re Not Using, But Should Be

rowing machine
Dori OConnell—Getty Images

Don't let these babies go unnoticed

It’s easy to get into a gym routine and just bust in, do your thing, and leave. We all do it. (Especially in this nasty cold weather: have you SEEN the 10 stages of running when it’s freezing outside? Yeah.) But in case you haven’t noticed, the gym is filllled with cool machines—and chances are, you haven’t tried all of them out yet. Translation? One of them could be your new gym BFF and you simply haven’t given it to the time of day it deserves. So we asked Greg Justice, an exercise physiologist at AYC Health & Fitness in Kansas City, for the top three machines he notices that people don’t use enough—but really, really should. Try at least one of them next time you go!

The Stair Climber

Yeah, yeah, it may or may not elicit Jane Fonda flashbacks. But even though you practically never see anyone on the thing, it’s a winner and it deserves to make a comeback. You burn more calories using the stair climber than walking on the treadmill at the same pace, explains Justice, because you’re involving more muscles, like your hamstrings and your glutes.

The Rowing Machine

Like the stair climber, this machine tends to just sit in most fitness centers, gathering dust—but it’s another overlooked gym gem! That’s because it works so many muscles groups at one time—your quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, shoulders, and core—which is really unusual for most cardio equipment. To maximize your calorie torch, check out these tips for how to burn more calories while rowing.

Suspension Trainers, like the TRX

Those are those things that look like belts that hang down from a pole and you swing in them…you follow? Justice says that they’re underused, probably because they look so innocent—people think, “It’s just a belt; how much can it really help?” A lot. The cool thing about them is that you control the resistance just by adjusting your body position. And also, they enable you to get a fast, effective, total-body workout in a short amount of time. Win! Check out this intense TRX Total Body Workout to get an idea for how to use them.

One caveat, of course: Be careful not to go trying every machine at the gym, though—some really do do more harm than good, like these 10 exercise machines to avoid.

This article was written by Annie Daly and originally appeared on Time.com.

TIME Pain

10 Things Your Commute Does to Your Body

Commuting can have serious health effects
Commuting can have serious health effects chinaface—Getty Images

Your daily back-and-forth to work can have a serious impact on your overall wellness. Here's what you need to know—and how to make the most of it

The average American’s commute to work is 25.5 minutes each way, according to a report in USA Today. That’s about 51 minutes a day getting to and from work, or about 204 hours a year spent commuting. You know that commuting can be a huge pain in the ass—but what does all that back and forth actually do to your body, besides put you in a crap mood when you get stuck in traffic for what feels like the nine-thousandth night in a row? Read on to see how commuting impacts your mental and physical health—and what you can do to offset the damage.

Your Blood Sugar Rises

Driving more than 10 miles each way, to and from work, is associated with higher blood sugar, according to a report written by researchers from the University School of Medicine in Saint Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas and published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine. High blood glucose levels can lead to pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Your Cholesterol is Higher

The same report in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the 10-mile one-way drives were also associated with higher cholesterol levels among commuters. Scary stuff since cholesterol is a warning sign for heart disease.

Your Depression Risk Rises

The researchers from the University School of Medicine in Saint Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas also noted in their report that people with commutes of at least 10 miles each way have a higher tendency toward depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Sometimes it can be hard to determine if your down-in-the-dumps mood is a real problem or something that’ll pass. Check here to determine if you’re depressed or just feeling blah.

Your Anxiety Increases

A new report from the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics finds that people who commute more than half an hour to work each way report higher levels of stress and anxiety than people with shorter commutes or no commutes at all. While there’s not much you can do to shorten or eliminate your commute, you can make the most of it by doing something like listening to an interesting audio book. Check out these other ways to take advantage of the time you spend in transit.

Your Happiness and Life Satisfaction Decline

The same report from the U.K. found that people with commutes of any length experience lower life satisfaction and happiness than people with no commutes at all. Riding a bus for 30 minutes or longer was associated with the lowest levels of life satisfaction and happiness, but even if you’re lucky enough to bike to work and enjoy the beautiful outdoors, your satisfaction takes a nosedive commensurate to how long you spend doing it. Womp womp.

Your Blood Pressure Temporarily Spikes

Commuting during rush hour—especially when you’re concerned that you may be late to work or to an important meeting—can result in temporary spikes in stress levels that jack up your blood pressure, even if it’s normally stable. In fact, a researcher from the University of Utah set up an experiment where participants were placed in simulated driving scenarios: They were told they were late to a meeting and had a financial incentive to get to their destination quickly. Half the group was put in high-density traffic; the other half “drove” in a less congested environment. The people who drove in more intense traffic had much higher reports of stress, as well as higher blood pressure. If you feel like you’re always in a rush, it might be worth leaving well before rush hour—even if you arrive at work at the same time as you normally would, you’ll definitely feel less anxious on the drive over. Plus, you may also want to employ these tips on how to use yoga to de-stress during the drive.

Your Blood Pressure Rises Over Time, As Well

A study of 4,297 Texans found that the farther the participants lived from where they worked—the longer their commutes—the higher their blood pressure was. High blood pressure over time is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Your Cardiovascular Fitness Drops

The same study out of Texas found that people with longer commutes also had lower levels of cardiovascular fitness and physical activity. Cardiovascular fitness is critical for heart health and maintaining a healthy weight.

Your Sleep Suffers

The Regus Work-Life Balance Index for 2012 found that people who commute for longer than 45 minutes each way reported lower sleep quality and more exhaustion than people with shorter commutes. To get better a better night’s sleep and feel more rested, regardless of your commuter status, check out our story, “Why Are Modern Women So Exhausted?”

Your Back Aches

Spending hours a week slouched over in a car seat (either as a driver or a passenger) has negative consequences on your posture and your back; commuters are more likely to report pains and aches in their backs and necks. To counteract these ill effects, be sure to check out six ways to straighten up your posture.

This article was written by Carolyn Kylstra and originally appeared on WomensHealth.com.

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