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Lark App Will Coach You to Better Health

Written on September 29, 2014 at 10:07 am , by

We’re all pretty hard on ourselves, especially when it comes to failed attempts at eating clean all month, weekends included. But those failed attempts don’t mean we’re forbidden from patting ourselves on the backs for the accomplishments we do make, like sleeping for a full seven hours or taking the stairs.

Julia Hu understands the struggle to accept this, which is why she created Lark, an app that not only automatically tracks your sleep and activity (you can input your food), but gives you encouraging messages along the way. Think of it as your personal health coach that always has your back.

Launching today, the app (which is completely free—score) uses Apple’s HealthKit to monitor your zzz’s and fitness levels and syncs with your other health apps and wearables. Translation: You’ll be good to go when you upgrade to the iPhone 6 or snag the Apple Watch.

Lu and her team knew that only displaying health data could actually backfire and cause users to overeat and fall into an exercise rut, so they worked with behavior-change experts from Harvard and Stanford to develop the concept of a coach that chats with you based on your goals. “Women tend to be a lot harder on themselves when it comes to weight,” Lu says, “and 96 percent of people don’t stick with their diet regimens or their weight-loss regimes. The app is friendly and you’ll feel much more self-motivated.”

We’re so excited to see how this app will really help people feel better about their journeys to living happier, healthier lives. After all, the journey of getting there is just as important as the results.

“If you really try to enjoy what you’re doing right now, you can be a lot happier,” Lu says. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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Birth Control Prescriptions: Coming to a Video Chat Near You

Written on September 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm , by

From FaceTiming our far-away BFFs to chatting with a doctor about bothersome symptoms, we do everything online. So why not make the next step in healthcare a digital one? After the Obama administration ruled last month to make access to birth control easier for women, Planned Parenthood is making it possible to get prescriptions via video chat.

The organization is rolling out a pilot program in Minnesota and Washington that allows patients to get prescriptions for birth control—and later, STIs—through a video chat service with their app, and then have that prescription mailed directly to their doorstep. The main point is to help women in underserved or rural areas get access to the reproductive care they need quickly. As someone who used to live in a remote area, and had to drive 30 to 45 minutes just to meet with my gynecologist, I totally understand the need for a service like this one. That being said, video chats should not eliminate face-to-face time with your gyno completely, and you should still stop in for the check-ups and tests necessary to stay on top of your health.

But what do you think? Would you use video chat to secure a birth control order?

Photo by Blaine Moats

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An Update on the Ebola Virus: Is There Hope For A Cure?

Written on September 23, 2014 at 2:15 pm , by

As the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history continues to make its rounds, the United Nations made a major move Saturday to square it away. For the first time ever, the UN issued a mission on Saturday for a public health emergency: United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response. The mission will pull resources from UN agencies to strengthen the World Health Organization’s efforts to halt the disease’s spread.

As of Saturday, there have been 2,803 deaths in three different West African countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone even went on a three-day lockdown last week to try to contain the virus)—more than double last month’s number, according to the World Health Organization. As of Monday, 348 healthcare workers in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have been infected with Ebola—186 of them died as a result.

However, we’re remaining hopeful because Nigeria and Senegal haven’t reported any new cases of the virus since late August/early September, and authorities claim the three-day Sierra Leone lockdown was successful, with just 130 new cases found among millions surveyed. What’s more, Johnson & Johnson is said to begin testing a new vaccine for the virus early next year.

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CVS Officially Ends Tobacco Sales

Written on September 3, 2014 at 4:08 pm , by

Can we get a slow clap for CVS? As of today, the company is completely tobacco-free.

Now CVS Health, the corporation is wiping the carcinogens from shelves in an effort to promote healthier communities, and the decision comes nearly a month earlier than expected. “As a pharmacy innovation company at the forefront of a changing health care landscape, we are delivering breakthrough products and services, from advising on prescriptions to helping manage chronic and specialty conditions,” President and CEO Larry Merlo said in a statement.

Lung cancer is the most preventable cancer in the world, yet remains to be the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Want to help CVS raise awareness? Join its social media campaign, #OneGoodReason, and encourage others to live tobacco-free.

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Take the Bus to Lose Weight

Written on September 3, 2014 at 9:55 am , by

Big city turn you into a public transit kind of gal? We know it isn’t always a great experience—strange, sweaty bodies too close to you in the summer and bone-chilling wind greeting you with each station-to-office trek in the winter.

But don’t cash your bus coins in yet. A new study found that those who commute via public transportation have less fat and an overall lower BMI than those who drive a car. Ellen Flint, Ph.D., a researcher at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who led the study, says it’s the walks to and from your destination that are keeping you trimmer—an entire 6 pounds, in fact, for a 5-foot-4-inch woman.

Flint studied 7,500 men and women in the UK. Those who walked, biked, or used public transportation to and from work were not only 6 pounds lighter, but an entire BMI point lower than their car-commuting counterparts. “And that was despite adjustment for a range of other factors about the lifestyles of these individuals that we thought might be responsible for their weight status and commuting choices,” she explains. “So things like diet quality; how health-conscious a person is; income and socioeconomic status; the amount of physical activity that the person does in their job and in their leisure; their health and disability status: We really adjusted for all of those factors to try and distill the relationship between the level of activity in their commute to work and their bodyweight and composition.”

Flint hopes the study sheds light on the fact that even though riding a bus to work doesn’t seem any more exerting than driving a car, the required body-movement bursts—like walking to and from the train station, standing on the bus, and climbing up and down stairs—really do make a difference.

“On a population health level, encouraging that incidental physical activity in the daily lives of the population could really add up to something which might help combat obesity levels,” she says. “It’s quite a large weight difference. It’s one that we think is clinically significant and it suggests that there is a large untapped potential for policy makers to consider the health benefits one might get if one was to really try and promote and facilitate greater use of public and active forms of transport.”

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Buy A Pair of ASICS to Support Pediatric Cancer Research

Written on September 2, 2014 at 10:16 am , by

Nothing makes our fit-girl hearts skip more than seeing some of our favorite athletic-wear brands support really great causes. Case in point: We practically ran to the ASICS store and kicked off our old sneaks as soon as we found out the company would be teaming up with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer for the second time. It’s a nonprofit organization that raises money to support research on pediatric cancer, the number-one disease killer among U.S. children.

 

 

ASICS created an exclusive, limited-edition collection for the cause and will donate $10 for each pair of shoes sold (aren’t they gorgeous?!), $2 for each clothing item and $1 for each accessory. But regardless of how many items are sold, ASICS has promised to donate at least $100,000 to the organization. Buy ‘em while you can, though, because they sold out in just three days last year!

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Fight Ovarian Cancer This Month With Laura Mercier

Written on September 1, 2014 at 9:12 am , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

For many of us, September represents the beginning of autumn, chillier temps and backyard bonfires (with s’mores in moderation, of course—yummy indoor recipe here if you so desire). For former gymnast, Olympic gold medalist and cancer survivor Shannon Miller, September means raising awareness for ovarian cancer.

Like many women, Miller had a lot on her plate prior to her diagnosis back in 2011. The seven-time Olympic medalist had just given birth to her first son 14 months prior and was busy establishing her career as an advocate for women’s health.

“This came out of nowhere—completely blind-sided me—and it humbled me in a way that I had never been before,” says Miller. “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, or how many gold medals you have. Cancer doesn’t care.”

Unfortunately, stories—like Miller’s—where patients show no sign of living with ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of death in American women, are not so uncommon. “The tough thing about ovarian cancer is that most of the time, the point at which you are having a lot of discomfort is typically a later stage of ovarian cancer, which makes it very difficult.”

Claudia Poccia, CEO and co-founder of the Laura Mercier Ovarian Cancer Fund (LMOCF), is no stranger to the devastating effects of ovarian cancer either—her 39-year-old sister died in 2011 a couple of years after her diagnosis. With a mission to educate women about the disease, support those undergoing treatment, and fund ovarian cancer research, Poccia teamed up with French makeup artist Laura Mercier and co-founded LMOCF in September 2012.

“Laura and I were stunned to learn the terrible truth about ovarian cancer,” says Poccia. “Diagnostic tools are limited, and women lack information on ovarian cancer prevention. We also discovered that treatment options are few and funding for research is inadequate.”

In honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, LMOCF is teaming up with Miller to conduct public awareness campaigns to spread the word and educate others about this disease. Support their efforts by donating directly to LMOCF (proceeds go to programs that treat women with ovarian cancer), or by purchasing one of the four products that Laura Mercier developed: 100 percent of the proceeds will go to LMOCF. September 5 is National Wear Teal Day. Join in the movement by dressing in teal and tagging @LauraMercier, #SpeakOutForHope and #LMOCF.

Included in the product line:

1) Bonne Mine Healthy Glow for Face & Cheeks Crème Colour Palette, $48

2) Lip Glacé Peach Hope, $25

3) Bracelet of Hope, $35

4) Teal clutch, $300

Photo by Renee Parenteau

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Don’t Miss These Ovarian Cancer Symptoms (And Help Raise Awareness with Run for Her)

Written on August 26, 2014 at 9:43 am , by

Written by Mary Kate Schulte, editorial intern

Ovarian cancer: it’s the fifth-leading cause of death by cancer in women, and it’s dangerously easy to miss. We know FITNESS readers are all about their health, and everyday problems like bloating and stomach pain don’t normally cause a red flag. But if these pains are abnormal for you or are increasing, there could be a problem. Beth Y. Karlan, MD, the director of the Women’s Cancer Program at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, urges women to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer because they are easily disguised as run-of-the-mill issues (think frequent urination and bloating). Dr. Karlan, along with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, teamed up with the run/walk fundraising program Run for Her in order to spread awareness and raise money for research.

Run for Her was founded by Kelli Sargent, whose mother Nanci was a patient of Dr. Karlan’s. The event has bloomed into one of the biggest ovarian cancer run/walks in America—there were nearly 6,000 participants in 2013! They began in Los Angeles and are now spread far and wide—even Hong Kong is hosting an event this year. Run for Her will be in New York on September 6th (sign up here), and while preparing for the 5K Run and Friendship Walk, we spoke to Dr. Karlan to get some details on this disease.

Watch For These. Symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle and easily confused with normal day-to-day discomforts. The symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency). See your doctor if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month or they are new or unusual for you.

Be Proactive. Be aware of your own body and changes that might indicate the need to see your physician. Know your family history; inherited cancer susceptibility is an important part of your personal health care. See your physician regularly.

Prevention. By using birth control pills for longer than one year, women can reduce their risk of ovarian cancer, research shows. In fact, use of birth control pills for six years or greater reduced ovarian cancer by 60 percent. Another method of prevention: removing the fallopian tubes, as recent data demonstrates that this type of cancer appears to begin in the fallopian tube. But obviously, this is an extreme measure, and should not be done if you intend to get pregnant.

How To Help. Spread the facts about ovarian cancer. If it is diagnosed early, doctors can treat and even cure women. Consider attending a Run for Her event or participate in the Research for Her program, an award-winning research registry used to increase representation of women in research.

Dr. Karlan praises the determination of women like Nanci Sargent, saying, “The thousands of people who make up our Run for Her family help push me to do all that I can to move us toward better treatments and even someday a cure.” On her own health regimen, she works out regularly, eats healthfully and stays passionate about her patients and work. Her advice for the runners in New York?  “Relax and enjoy the morning in Hudson River Park.  I will look forward to running alongside all of you!”

Photo by Angela Davis Haley/adhphotography

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5 Things You Need to Know About the Ebola Outbreak

Written on August 5, 2014 at 4:58 pm , by

As Ebola cases in Central and West Africa continue to climb, so do the fatalities. There are now two infected Americans in the U.S.—the second arrived in Atlanta today—and they’re receiving potential treatment: a serum that hasn’t even been approved for human use yet. But it sounds promising. So far, the patients’ conditions have improved, and we can only hope the serum becomes an effective (and approved) treatment in battling the disease. In the meantime, here are some things you should know about Ebola:

1. It is deadly. There’s currently no vaccine or treatment for Ebola, and fatality rates can reach 90 percent, according to World Health Organization. As of yesterday, there are 1,603 (suspected and confirmed) Ebola cases, and there have been 887 deaths as of Friday.

2. It only spreads through direct contact with infected bodily fluids (or contact with objects, like needles, that have touched infected fluids), meaning that the chance of the virus spreading throughout the U.S. is very slim.

3. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain and rashes.

4. Planning on traveling to West Africa anytime soon? Don’t. The CDC issued a warning for Americans on Thursday to steer clear of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the virus is currently most prevalent (check out this map). There are currently several CDC staffers in West Africa working to stifle the outbreak, and the organization plans to send an additional 50 workers within the next month.

5. For you New York City folks: That man who came back from West Africa and was tested for Ebola at Mount Sinai Hospital Sunday? Doctors say he’s most likely uninfected. However, a woman in Columbus, Ohio is also being tested for the virus, as she recently traveled to West Africa. Fingers crossed that those suspected to have the disease are just false alarms, and that doctors soon find a treatment that will banish the nearly 2,000 Ebola cases we’ve seen so far.

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The Best Sunscreen News We’ve Heard All Year

Written on July 31, 2014 at 11:35 am , by

The United States might finally be catching up with the rest of the world in skincare and sun protection.

The House passed a bill Monday that would expedite the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for new sunscreen ingredients—many of which are old news to Europe, Asia and Australia.

The FDA hasn’t approved a new ingredient in 15 years (seriously!), and some applications have been pending approval for more than 10. The reason? Many claim it’s a simple overflow of approval work and a lack of information. Because sunscreen is viewed as a cosmetic product in the EU, there isn’t much hard data available on whether or not these ingredients are completely safe, thus stalling the process.

Now the bill is headed to the Senate, and if it passes, The Sunscreen Innovation Act would slap 18-month deadlines on the FDA for approving new applications, but would only apply to ingredients that have been sold outside of the U.S. for at least five years. Many of those ingredients make sunscreen easier to apply and prolong its effect, meaning more protection for us without the goopy, sticky mess.

Fingers crossed for better ingredients and healthier skin!

 

Photo by Laura Doss

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