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The Simple Health Move That Could Save Your Life

Written on April 18, 2014 at 2:18 pm , by

If you liked doing fruit fly experiments back in biology class, you’ll love this new health read about genetics.

Call your mother! And your grandmother. And your aunts and uncles. Interviewing your relatives about their health can help you improve yours.

“You can change your genetic destiny as long as you find out early enough what you’re at risk for,” explains Sharon Moalem, M.D., Ph.D., author of the fascinating new book, Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes. Luckily, a pricey DNA test to map your genome isn’t required—just a family health history. “It’s the lowest tech thing: The next time your family is together, sit down, draw a family tree and say OK, Who are we related to? What does everyone have? Are there any patterns that pop out?” he says.

Then tell your doctor about any diseases that run in the family. Flag any early deaths, in particular. For example, if you have relatives who died unexpectedly at a young age from heart issues, it may be a sign of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy—an inherited condition that causes the heart muscle to thicken—and you’ll want to talk to your doc before signing up to run a marathon, Dr. Moalem says. Relatives who’ve had blood clots could indicate the genetic blood clotting disorder Factor V Leiden. If you have it (bruising easily is a sign), being on the Pill further ups your risk of deadly clots, so you’ll need to talk to your ob-gyn about your birth control method STAT. And, of course, a family history of breast and ovarian cancers may mean you have a BRCA gene mutation that greatly increases your risk of the diseases.

If your family doesn’t gather often, start dialing your loved ones today. “When you lose relatives—like your great-grandparents—then you lose that information that they may have known about their siblings and parents,” Dr. Moalem says. Once you create a detailed family history, it’s part of your health toolkit and you can pass it down to your kids as well. “It’s information that you don’t want lost,” he says.

Check out this cool tool from the Surgeon General’s office. You can use it to create a digital family health history, which you can print and bring to your doc.

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Feel-Good Fitness: Workout and Give Back During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Written on October 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm , by

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. You—yes, you—can make a difference. (Photo credit: Denise Crew)

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern 

Bring on the pink! National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is finally here, flaunting more proud ribbons, charitable events and philanthropic products than ever before (don’t forget to check out our fave product picks!). If you’re struggling to decide how you’d like to give back this month, pick a program that aligns with your passions, too. Here are three ways to get your sweat on and support thousands of women as they brave the breast cancer battle. Now that’s a win, win.

  1. Xtend Barre is hosting Plié for Pink on October 19 and 20 at its participating studios. Donate $30 to take this 75-minute barre bootcamp that really works your legs, glutes and core. Proceeds go to Bright Pink, the only national non-profit organization that focuses on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women.
  2. Real Pilates NYC challenges you to a Mat-a-Thon with pro instructor Regina Arras at its Tribeca studio on October 23. This 75-minute Pilates mat class puts your endurance to the test with 20 rounds of hardcore sculpting moves. Sign up with a $50 donation and see how long you can last. If you make it to the end, your donation is capped at $50. If you tap out early, your donation amount will increase depending on how many rounds you completed. All proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Game on!
  3. If Pilates isn’t for you, get your groove on at your local Zumba studio. The third-annual Party in Pink Zumbathons are held worldwide throughout the month with 75 percent of the event ticket fees going directly toward preventative research, a grant managed by Susan G. Komen.

For an added bonus, wear the FitBit Pink Flex Wristband ($99) during these workouts to track your crazy calorie burn. Throughout the month, FitBit will contribute $10 from every Pink Flex wristband sold to the American Cancer Society. Now what are you waiting for? Get out there and sport your pink power!

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Kara DioGuardi Takes Charge of Her Health—For the Long Run

Written on September 20, 2013 at 11:09 am , by

“Being proactive can be lifesaving,” Kara said, urging women to consult with their doctors about being tested. (Photo courtesy of Stephen J. Finfer)

Songwriter, producer and Warner Brothers exec Kara DioGuardi was living in Manhattan playing Roxie Hart in the Broadway musical Chicago when she saw a life-changing (and arguably life-saving) news report. It was WABC-TV New York’s Stacy Sager’s story that struck a familiar chord with Kara, as the journalist discussed her breast and ovarian cancer family history and the proactive test that determines carriers of the hereditary gene mutation. (The same exam Angelina Jolie made headlines with back in Maywhich positive results led to her preventative double mastectomy.)

“I tested positive for BRCA2which meant I had up to an 80 percent chance of getting breast cancer, and a 40 percent chance of ovarian cancerand subsequently underwent a complete laporoscopic hysterectomy last December [2012] to reduce my likelihood of breast and/or ovarian cancer by fifty percent,” Kara recently told us. In January, the former American Idol judge plans to further lower her risk by having a prophylactic mastectomy.

“I feel great,” she says. “I had a great doctor and support system who mentally and physically prepared me for the surgery. I urge anyone with breast or ovarian cancer in their families (mother or father’s side) to get tested. As cliché as it sounds, knowledge is power.”

Now a healthy mom of eight-month-old Greyson (she and husband Mike McCuddy turned to surrogacy following five years of fertility issues), Kara is back in the swing of things teaching for a second year at Berklee College of Music in Boston, running her publishing company, Arthouse, and finding new talent for her Warner Brothers affiliated record label.

Her best sweat secret to finding fit time between all of the juggling? “I recently started P90X and if I hadn’t, I am not sure I would be able to lift my big boy as easily,” she reveals. “I love it because it has taught me exercises I can do anywhere at anytimeeven getting 20 minutes in a day is enough!”

Check out that pretty start line full of supporters! (Photo courtesy of Angela Daves)

Besides following Tony Horton’s regimen (and her upper body workout of a son), Kara is now gearing up for the inaugural Run for Her New York Walk on October 27 in support of ovarian cancer research. Lucky for us East Coasters, the popular Los Angeles walk’s growth sparked the organization of this year’s New York City event to continue raising funds for advancing medical discoveries and treatments, alongside awareness of the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

“This event is very important to me as it brings the ongoing battle of ovarian cancer to the forefront,” Kara says. “I will run in honor of my mother, Carol DioGuardi, who died of ovarian cancer at 58. She was not given the option of genetic testing. It may have saved her life. Although running has never been my strong suit, I plan on completing the 5K for all those women out there who have been affected by this insidious disease.”

Sign up now (early registration costs only $35!) to join Kara at the Hudson River Park and support the Women’s Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. West Coast gals, be sure to get moving for the cause in L.A. November 10.

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Angelina Jolie’s Brave Decision for Her Health

Written on May 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm , by

Photo by Peter Ardito

In a brave, must-read editorial for The New York Times, Angelina Jolie reveals that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy earlier this year to reduce her risk of breast cancer. Jolie explains that it was her mother, who died of breast cancer at 56, who motivated her to take charge of her health. The actress, director and humanitarian explains that she is a carrier of a “faulty” BRCA1 gene, which puts her at an estimated 87% risk of breast cancer and 50% risk of ovarian cancer .

Jolie hopes that sharing her story will encourage others to be proactive about their own health:

“I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.

…For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.”

We here at FITNESS applaud Jolie’s decision to take preventative measures against cancer and to use her celebrity to encourage other women to do the same. We’ve been inspired by other women who also chose to have preemptive mastectomies: our marketing manager, Kristin Guinan, who underwent the same procedure at age  27, and marathoner, soldier and mom Margaret Smith who decided to forgo reconstructive surgery after her mastectomy.

Early detection and action are important, and it is up to us to take control. In Angelina Jolie’s words: “Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”

Resources for Your Healthy Breasts:

 Read Angelina Jolie’s full op-ed here.

Getting Younger Women Involved: How to Walk for Breast Cancer Research

Written on May 10, 2013 at 9:24 am , by

Don pink and help fight breast cancer. (Photo courtesy of Susan G. Komen 3-Day)

Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern

Sadly, chances are most of us know someone who’s been affected by breast cancer. Many of us know about the Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk program to help raise funds in the fight against the deadly disease. But a new campaign has come to town for the younger women looking to get involved—Young Women Walking (YW2)—and we’re ready to don our hottest pink hues in support.

Designed for women between the ages of 16 and 23, YW2 lets participants experience one day of the Komen 3-Day walk. While the 3-Day walk has women cover 60 miles in three days and raise $2,300, the YW2 contingent will clock 20 miles and raise $750.  Sounds like a great way to dip your toes into the water, right?

Here’s what we really love:  While spending the day alongside their elders, the YW2 girls learn breast cancer facts and discuss action steps necessary to reduce their own risk.  Forget the clichés: knowledge is power.

Oh, and don’t forget about the after party!  After completing a day on their feet, walkers celebrate with a pink (of course!) party and enjoy well-earned foot massages, inspirational speakers and a dance party.

Interested? Visit their website for more information, or to find an event near you.

Now you tell us: What’s the farthest you’ve walked in one day?

Vanessa Hudgens Dances for a Cure in New York City!

Written on October 25, 2012 at 11:43 am , by

Hudgens busts a move for a worthy cause. Workout for charity? We’re in! (Photo courtesy of Jerritt Clark)

Written by Jennifer Fiorentino, editorial intern

New studies show that regular exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer, so to celebrate breast cancer awareness month, Vanessa Hudgens, along with Reebok and DSW, hosted a pink-themed workout at Studio 450 in New York City. Led by celebrity dance and fitness instructor Ilyse Baker, lucky fans got the chance to dance with Hudgens.

The 23-year-old celeb chooses fun, energetic exercises over walking on the treadmill. “I love group activities and I love dancing,” Hudgens says. “I have been dancing ever since I was three-years-old so it’s just a fun way to forget about the fact that you’re working out and just enjoy the music and be comfortable in your body.”

At the workout we danced the night away with the gorgeous pink skies of a perfect New York City sunset. Hudgens’ insider tip: “Listen to music you love. If you can just get out of your head and allow freedom with music to take over, you’ll have so much fun and then you’ll forget that you’re working out.”

Reebok will be donating up to $750,000 to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade through the sale of its Pink Ribbon line, which is on sale at DSW stores nationwide.

If you’d like to help the cause, head to DSW’s website and find a store near you.

Now go get your pink on!

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Meet Beefy the Bulldog, Skateboarding for a Good Cause

Written on October 17, 2012 at 9:20 am , by

Beefy the Bulldog Skates Against Breast Cancer (How can you say no to this?)

From running on pink treadmills to collecting pink lids, there’s a  variety of ways to help raise money for breast cancer research and awareness this month. But the most adorable fighter against the disease has got to be Beefy the Bulldog. This skateboarding pup has been traveling around the country with Boarding for Breast Cancer, a nonprofit that aims to educate young people about breast cancer and advocates for self-exams and an active lifestyle.

Erin Clemens, Beefy’s owner, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 25 and has since worked to raise money and awareness about breast cancer. “That was the least of my worries when I was 25,” says Clemens, who found a lump when she accidentally scratched herself. “I didn’t even fathom that I’d have breast cancer. My advice to young women would be to do breast self exams like it’s brushing your teeth. Just do it once a month even when you’re young so you know how they feel if there’s a difference. You should know your body.” Read more

Go Pink This Month with Cybex

Written on October 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm , by

Each sweat sesh donates 10 cents to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and helps decrease your own risk! (Photo courtesy of Cybex International)

Written by Jennifer Fiorentino, editorial intern

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, with one in eight women developing breast cancer during their lifetime. The statistics are alarming, but fortunately there are companies, like Cybex, that are willing to help support research. Earlier this month, the leading exercise equipment manufacturer announced their Fourth Annual Pink Ribbon Run. For every mile logged on their new pink treadmill this October, Cybex will donate 10 cents to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They have raised over $100,0000 the past three years and are expecting to exceed their current record!

Research has proven that regular exercise may reduce a woman’s breast cancer risk.“Participating in daily cardio for 30 minutes at moderate intensity shows a decrease in all of the biomarkers associated with cancer,” said Angela Corcoran, MS, Director of Education at the Cybex Research Institute. “Recent studies suggest that there is a very close link between excess body fat and breast cancer, specifically abdominal fat. Exercise decreases cortisol levels which are closely associated with abdominal fat.”

So what are you waiting for? Hop on a pink treadmill near you to help fight breast cancer, one stride at a time. Forty-three states are supporting the cause. Check out Cybex’s website to find a participating gym near you. 

The 7-Year Breast Cancer Survivor: One Woman’s Story

Written on October 5, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Eloise is using her experiences from battling breast cancer to help others going through the same diagnosis. (Photo courtesy of Avon Walk for Breast Cancer)

Eloise Caggiano is the program director for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and a 7-year breast cancer survivor herself. Below, she shares her story as well as what to say and do if someone you know has been diagnosed.

I was a 33-year-old woman living in New York City with great friends, an active social life, a successful career in public relations, two marathons under my belt and a gym membership card tattered from overuse. All was well in my world. Then I received my breast cancer diagnosis and everything changed. My life was consumed with fighting breast cancer–five surgeries, four months of chemotherapy, shedding my long hair and definitely some tears.

Once I was diagnosed and going through treatments, I could have easily wallowed in my misery, complained, and stayed home feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I chose to get up every day like a “normal” person, get dressed, pop on my wig, and go to work. It wasn’t always easy and I had to adjust my workload because I didn’t always feel well and was pretty tired, but I knew if I went to work it would make the day go faster, I’d feel more productive and chances are, at some point during the day someone would make me laugh. None of that would happen if I stayed home on my couch by myself. It was important to me to keep as many things as “normal” as possible — I wanted to feel like I still had some normalcy in my life, like going to work, going to the gym, spending time with friends.

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Martina McBride Joins the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Written on October 2, 2012 at 9:08 am , by

Martina is fighting breast cancer, are you? (Photo courtesy of Joe Dickie/Generation Photography)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month  and soon you’ll see a lot of great companies jumping on board to support such a worthy cause. For the last 13 years, you’ve likely seen Yoplait’s pink lids stocked in the yogurt aisle of your grocery store, ready for you to redeem the little code that signals a donation to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. But this year, the Save Lids to Save Lives initiative is going bigger.

While you’ll still find the standard pink lids on Yoplait’s yogurt, they’ll also be popping up on more than 20 General Mills brands – think Honey Nut Cheerios, Progresso, Pillsbury and more. The program still works the same: Find a pink lid, clip it and hand it off to your favorite mail person by June 30, 2013. For every lid received, General Mills will donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, up to $2,500,000. Eat to save lives? Now that’s something we can do!

Need a little more to sweeten the deal? Multi-platinum country crooner Martina McBride has teamed up with the campaign to help further raise awareness. After her hit “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” touched so many people who have been affected by cancer, we couldn’t think of a better spokesperson ourselves. We chatted with the star to find out more about her involvement, and which General Mills product she’s clipping pink lids from!

Why did you get involved in the Save Lids to Save Lives Campaign?

When I worked on my song “I’m Gonna Love You Through It,” I got to meet a bunch of cancer survivors and their families, friends and supporters. It really had an impact on me and I made a connection and just wanted to do something to give back and make a difference. Then this opportunity came up with General Mills, and I had worked with them before, so I thought it was a great, simple way to give back.

So you’re now involved with this campaign that fights cancer, and your song has really become an anthem for those battling cancer. Is this a cause that’s close to you?

I think it’s a really important cause and it affects so many people. I didn’t write the song myself, but when I first heard it, I felt really moved by it and it wasn’t like anything I had ever heard before. I felt like it was really inspiring and that’s what I try to do with my music. I felt like this could inspire at least one person.

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