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Birth Control’s Newest Form Is Crazier Than You Think

Written on July 17, 2014 at 11:19 am , by

Oral birth control? So two years ago.

That’s what Bill Gates thinks, anyway.

The do-it-all man has been planning to fund the development of a remote-controlled birth control ($4.6 million-worth of funding, to be exact!), and now a Massachusetts startup company called MicroCHIPS is bringing the concept to life using technology invented by MIT engineer Robert Langer in the ‘90s.

Placed under the skin of the upper arm, butt or abdomen, the microchip releases levonorgestrel—a birth-control hormone currently in many contraceptives—but only when you want it to. You can turn the device on and off with the flip of a switch. When on, an electrical current melts a part of the chip and 30 micrograms of the hormone is released each day. The chip supposedly lasts up to 16 years, and the MicroCHIPS team wants it on the market by 2018.

“Thirty micrograms sounds low and sounds like it might not interfere with ovulation but might interfere with implantation,” says Sarah Berga, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and associate dean of women’s health research at Wake Forest Baptist Health. “The question I would have is what does it do to your estrogen levels across time and would they be too low?”

A contraceptive that only interferes with implantation might not be as effective, but it would be safer, says Berg. “You would be interfering less with ovarian function and potentially less with estrogen levels, therefore promoting better bone health, better mood, and the kinds of things that we think estrogens are good for,” she says.

Carolyn Westhoff, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and obstetrics and gynecology professor at Columbia University, says the microchip is an “interesting idea with lots of potential,” but that more work still needs to be done to evaluate the chip’s safety and effectiveness. Pre-clinical testing is scheduled to begin next year, but the chips will need to be encrypted to secure wireless data before MicroCHIPS sends an application to the FDA.

What do you think? Would you use remote controlled birth control over the more traditional varieties?

Photo courtesy of MicroCHIPS

More from FITNESS: 

Your Guide to Choosing the Right Birth Control for You

Are Your Birth Control Pills Hurting Your Sex Drive?

Should I Stop Taking the Pill at 35?

Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s New Health App

Written on June 5, 2014 at 4:55 pm , by

Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern

Attention, fitness junkies (and if you’re reading this, we’re going to assume that’s all of you): Apple has announced that they will be unveiling every runner, biker, yogi, and health-conscious person’s dream app—Health (and its tracking feature HealthKit).. The technologically advanced app is coming our way when i0S 8 becomes available, and can only be described as the self-obtaining, on-the-spot, no-doctor-involved, personal quantification of health. It is that hyper-organized file cabinet that we wish existed in our lives.

Okay, now that I’m done pumping it up, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Think of Health as the mega fitness drop-box. It pulls in health and exercise info from other applications and activity monitors you already use, and deposits them into one place. For example, the app recognizes data collected in Nike+ after you go for a long run, along with daily movement and sleeping patterns tallied in Moves and Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. Then, Health takes that data and uses it to analyze your fitness level and general health, subsequently providing personalized wellness plans according to the goals you want to reach.

But what if you really want to see your heart rate, sleep patterns and miles logged, but don’t care about calorie burn? It’s simple: don’t include it in your settings. Health is completely customizable so you can pick and choose what information is available, and since the app also works with innovators in the health care industry (think Mayo Clinic), it promises to keep your personal health information private; only sharing it with the services you select.

In other words, shedding pounds, tracking calories, controlling your diet, and maintaining a fairly consistent blood pressure is now manageable, and won’t cause a traumatizing migraine. So forget bouncing between apps, and just bounce between your workouts. Health will cover the rest. 

Photo courtesy of Apple 

More from FITNESS:

Tech Support: The Best Fitness Gadgets

18 Free Apps That Make Life Easier

Run App-y: The Best Running Apps for Your Phone

Hypothyroidism: What Is It and Who Can Get It? Sofia Vergara Dishes on Her Own Experiences

Written on May 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm , by

Written by Jordan Clifford, editorial intern 

You know her best as the hilariously vivacious housewife, Gloria, on Modern Family. Her thick accent, hysterical one-liners and constant nagging on Jay always have me doubling over in laughter. But one thing I didn’t know about the star? In 2000, at the age of 28, Sofia Vergara was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have her thyroid removed. That resulted in a condition known as hypothyroidism, which in non-scientific terms basically equates to an underactive thyroid, and it’s usually marked by symptoms of extreme fatigue, depression and weight gain.

Since then, the Emmy-nominated actress says life is relatively normal, thanks to her doctors and regular checkups. “I’ve been very lucky, I never felt any symptoms,” admits Vergara. “[But] now I have to take a pill every day of my life.”

The treatment for hypothyroidism is a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine, explains Dr. Jordan Geller, M.D., Vergara’s endocrinologist. “It’s basically an exact chemical copy of the thyroid hormone that our body makes. It’s taken as a pill, once a day on an empty stomach and it’s usually life-long.”

OK, so what exactly does all this mean, and why should you care? First of all, the thyroid gland is a pretty important asset to maintaining good health. “From the minute we are born until we die, there is not a system in the body that doesn’t need the thyroid hormone,” explains Dr. Geller. And while nearly 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), about 60 percent of them don’t even know it. Yeesh!

It turns out women are 5-8 times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, too, notes the ATA. If you’re one of them, don’t panic about missing your beloved barre class quite yet. “If somebody’s thyroid levels are managed appropriately, then it really shouldn’t interfere with their ability to exercise or do anything throughout their life,” says Dr. Geller.

So how do you manage hypothyroidism? In 2013, Vergara and Dr. Geller teamed up with AbbVie (the makers of Synthroid, levothyroxine sodium tablets) to launch a campaign called “Follow the Script,” which aims to educate those with hypothyroidism about symptom and treatment information, helpful questions to ask your doctor and pharmacist, and create a community for people to come together and share their stories. You never know what fitness-minded friend you’ll find—and I never say no to a new workout buddy.  

And while Vergara is known for her extreme aversion to exercise, she does admit to recently adopting a workout regiment since she’s “started seeing age changes.” While she doesn’t really have a favorite, you can find the actress currently doing a lot of SLT, Spinning or trying her hand at TRX (we recommend this routine). Fingers crossed she falls in love with one—or all—of them!

More from FITNESS:

Doctor Appointments You Should Skip 

Bad Health Habits That Are Actually Good for You

How Healthy Are You? 13 Instant, Easy Health Checks 

Photo courtesy of Abbvie/Follow the Script

Bug Off! Tick Season Safety Tips and Tricks

Written on May 16, 2014 at 10:44 am , by

Tick. The 4-lettered word alone gives me the heebie-jeebies—and for good reason. These creepy crawlers are the perpetrators of one of the fastest growing epidemics to date, Lyme disease (LD). And now that the temps are finally warming up, ticks are back in full swing. (I’ve already pulled two of the little buggers off my pup. Not cool.) Are you prepared? We talked about the nasty pests with A Twist of Lyme author Andrea H. Caesar, who has battled chronic LD since she was 11-years-old. Here are the must-know dirty deets to bite back.

The No-Zone Walking Fido around the block? Catching up on the newest FITNESS issue poolside in the shade? Risky business, girlfriend. “You can get a tick [bite] in a parking lot…anytime of the year,” warns Caesar. Like us, ticks are most active from April to September. Steer clear of wooded, shady areas as much as possible; in particular, stonewalls and moist leaf piles are their playgrounds. Hitting the open trail? Stick to the middle of the path, away from weedy edges.

Play It Safe Sport light-colored clothing to your next outdoor BBQ so you can easily spot the bad guys and tie long locks back into a tight ponytail. “Then they can’t crawl right up into your scalp,” says Caesar. (Your fave baseball cap will do the trick, too!) Swap out the shorts for leggings or pants tucked into tall socks when tackling yard work. The latter is a total fashion faux pas, we know, but hey—wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry!? And don’t forget the repellent sprays/lotions. The CDC suggests products with 20 percent or more DEET, although Caesar—who lives a non-toxic life—prefers catnip oil. “It can be ten times more effective [than DEET]!” Her fave: Ava Anderson’s Natural Bug Spray ($19.95, avaandersonnontoxic.com).

Check Mate “In my house, we do a tick check morning and night from head to toe,” says Caesar. “The problem is that deer ticks are the size of a piece of dirt so you’re not only looking—it’s a sensory test, too.” Thoroughly comb through your hair with your fingers and be sure to examine your, err, nooks and crannies (where they unfortunately love to take cover). According to the CDC, it takes more than 24 to 36 hours of attachment for ticks to transmit LD bacteria…hence the hide-and-seek urgency. Found one? Start by disinfecting the area with an alcohol swab. Next, use tweezers to grab the tick “head” as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight out and disinfect the bite site. “Put it in a plastic bag with a damp cotton ball if you want to send it away for testing,” advises Caesar. “It’s much more effective and easy to test a tick than a person!”

Tick’s Best Friend You may follow all of the prevention rules, but your pooch? Doubtful. Animals are LD carriers, which includes those not-so-welcome houseguests. “Set mouse traps to keep them under control!” says Caesar. As for pets, discuss repellent products with your vet, inspect their coats daily and reduce tick habitats in your yard, if possible. “My dogs are crated downstairs [at night] because of LD,” Caesar says.

Ticking Time Bomb “In its chronic form, Lyme disease can represent a complex set of infections involving the nervous system and its most basic functions,” says Caesar. “But it really also represents all of the body systems.” Translation: There is a seemingly endless rap sheet of symptoms, making the illness difficult to diagnose. Some general indicators to be aware of include achiness, headaches, tingling or numbness in extremities, fatigue and fever, which can have severe implications if undetected or ignored.

Learn more about LD at CDC.org and be sure to pick up your copy of A Twist of Lyme today.

Photo courtesy of Andrea H. Caesar

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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.

More from FITNESS: 

Shop Your Way to Better Health

Doctor Appointments You Should Skip 

Is It Food Allergies or Just Hype? 

The First Lady Wants You to Drink Up

Written on September 23, 2013 at 10:34 am , by

Drink more water for your skin, your health and your waist. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Not to be pessimistic, but when it comes to Americans, our glasses are half-empty these days–literally. According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 43 percent of adults drink less than four cups of water a day and 7 percent drink no water at all. That’s why earlier this month FLOTUS Michelle Obama launched her Drink Up initiative to get people drinking more water and less of the sugary stuff. To get some tips on how to increase your water intake we chatted with Dr. Jenna Bell, RD. Follow her tips below and follow in the FLOTUS’ adequately hydrated footsteps:

  • Jazz it up: Not one to drink boring old tap water? Try a water enhancer like Stur, sweetened with stevia, so there’s no added calories or sugar. The coloring from each flavor comes from vegetable juice and you can control how much want in your glass with a simple squeeze.
  • Do as Diane Sawyer does: “She puts a glass of water by her bed and drinks it every morning when she wakes up, so now I do too,” says Bell. “If you’re going to take advice from anyone, take it from her because it’s clearly working!”
  • Carry a water bottle: This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it is the easiest way to keep drinking as the day goes on. Buy a reusable bottle like S’well, who is partnering with Drink Up with a limited edition bottle that gives 10 percent of proceeds back to the foundation.
  • Start meals with water: “A study in 2010 out of Virginia Tech looked at whether or not drinking water before a meal effects what we eat and weight loss. They found that two glasses of water before a meal helped shed weight and made participants eat less because water fills up your stomach,” says Bell.
  • Order water every time you order a beverage: Coffee? Get water. Wine? Get water. Not only will you stay hydrated, you’ll probably fend off a hangover in the process.

Now tell us: What tricks do you use to drink more water?

How Long It Takes to Catch a Cold (Spoiler: Not Long At All!)

Written on August 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm , by

Whether you’re a mom who is getting ready for the influx of germs your child is about to bring home as they go back to school or are just stocking up on hand sanitizer for the office this fall, one thing is definite–cold season is creeping up on us. We got the chance to chat with NYC Ear, Nose and Throat specialist Anthony Jahn, MD on behalf of Ocean Saline Nasal Care on how to stay cold-free this season and were shocked at this scary stat he shared with us on how long it takes for you to catch a cold once you’ve been sneezed on, which is the primary way you catch a cold. Watch below:

 

 

So from the time someone sneezes on you, or even near you (sneeze droplets can travel much farther than you would think!) it only takes 15 minutes for that cold germ to travel from the front of your nose to the back of your throat. Dr. Jahn also said that the average cold lasts anywhere from seven to ten days – that’s a long time to be sick! You won’t show symptoms for about ten hours, meaning you could spread a cold to your friends or family and not even know it. Bummer.

To skip the sick days this year, use a saline solution like Ocean Saline Nasal Spray to keep your nose moist (and therefore clear of any germs), take vitamin C and zinc and most importantly, steer clear of any sneezy coworkers until their symptoms clear up. Here’s to a happy, healthy fall!

More from FITNESS: Sneaky Cold Culprits and How to Boost Your Immunity

 

The Most Difficult Night to Fall Asleep–Plus Tips to Fix It

Written on June 25, 2013 at 11:01 am , by

Sleep better tonight: Write down what is stressing you out before you doze off. (Photo courtesy Cheyenne Ellis)

Find yourself tossing and turning on Sunday nights? You’re not alone. A new survey conducted by Toluna Omnibus showed that more than one-third of adults have the most difficulty falling asleep Sunday night, with 70 percent of those adults reporting it takes them at least a half hour longer to start snoozing than any other night of the week. (Saturday came in second, followed by Monday and then Friday). Not OK! Below, Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and sleep expert shares more insights from the survey and some surefire ways to get to sleep faster any night of the week.

What surprised you most about this survey?
It was most interesting to learn that stay-at-home moms and those who are employed full time have the most trouble falling asleep on Sunday nights, compared to those of other employment status. Being a stay-at-home mom is a full time job, and getting a family ready for the week ahead can cause as much anxiety on a Sunday night as those getting ready for the work week ahead.

Why do you think Sundays are the hardest days to fall asleep?
Many have trouble falling asleep on Sunday night for two major reasons. Over the weekends, because we don’t have the same obligations we do during the week, people tend to go out and stay up later, and sleep in the following morning. It’s crucial to keep a regular sleep routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day (even on the weekends), or at least waking up within the same 30 minutes daily, to avoid throwing off your regular sleep cycle. Over the weekend, we also tend to ‘forget’ about our weekly responsibilities, causing many to struggle on Sunday nights, due to transitioning to and anticipating the week ahead.

What are three tips to get to sleep faster any night of the week?

  1. Use a worry journal prior to going to sleep, to get thoughts out of your head, onto the page and scheduled for active thought at another time. On one side of a piece of paper, write down the things that are bothering you. Next to them, write down a solution, even if it is to think about the worry tomorrow.
  2. Try taking a natural sleep supplement 30 minutes before bed, like Dream Water, which includes natural ingredients like Melatonin, 5-HTP and GABA that will help you to relax and fall asleep, without the potential side effects of OTC and prescription drugs.
  3. Make sure your environment is conducive to a good night sleep. I recommend a cool room at about 65-72 degrees and making your bedroom as dark as possible, avoiding any glaring lights from computers, bedside clocks, streetlights, etc. To block out light, consider a sleep mask, like the Dream Essentials Escape™ Luxury Travel & Sleep Mask, which allows for complete coverage without any pressure on the eyes.

When it comes to the debate on exercising at night or in the morning, which is better in order to get a good night’s sleep?

Numerous studies show exercise at any time of day, especially cardio, leads to a better night sleep, but it’s important to ensure your exercise routine does not interfere with your sleep cycle. It really depends on the individual to figure out what time works best. Those who find exercising provides them with a burst of energy should schedule their exercise earlier in the day, at least four hours prior to bedtime; however, it is also important not to sacrifice hours of sleep in the morning, by waking up early to fit in a work out. Bottom line – schedule a workout, but make sure it does not come at the expense of the seven to nine hours of sleep needed daily.

For more sleep tips and advice from Dr. Breus, visit thesleepdoctor.com.

More from FITNESS: The Get-to-Sleep Guide

 

 

 

Boxing Legend Laila Ali Shares Her Best Fit and Foodie Secrets

Written on June 20, 2013 at 9:48 am , by

 

Laila Ali takes charge of her health. Your turn. (Photo courtesy of Brian Ach/Associated Press for Pfizer)

Written by Chloe Metzger, editorial intern

Boxing champ and fitness expert Laila Ali (you know, daughter of the Muhammad Ali) may have retired from the ring six years ago, but that doesn’t mean her fighting days are done. The mom of two is now battling a new opponent: age.

Laila has teamed up with Pfizer’s “Get Old” campaign to redefine the way we think about health as we grow older, explaining how wellness today will impact our tomorrows. “It’s a simple message,” says Ali. “How great is it to be preventative when you’re young, before you do get older and do start having problems?” And as the undefeated Super Middleweight Champion of our generation, she definitely knows her way around fit living. We chatted with the athlete to find out how she conquers motherhood, health and her hectic schedule…without feeling old.

You’re a mom, an author, a cook and a fitness fanatic. Wow! With such a busy agenda, how do you find time to exercise?

Being a mom makes it harder. I can’t just do what I want, when I want, so I have to really make sure that it’s a priority to get my workout in early. Some days, I just don’t make it; there’s too much going on and I can’t do it, but I don’t beat myself up about it. I focus more on my health because I’m getting older and I want to make sure that I’m thinking about being here for my kids and living a long life.

Very wise. Other than being busy, how has your workout routine changed since you hung up your gloves?

I was boxing before I had kids, so the difference is that I’m not a professional athlete anymore, when it was my job to train. Before, I had to do it in order to compete. Now, I don’t. Instead of boxing, I’m doing things that other people do, like running, Spinning and Pilates. I’m trying new things that I’m not necessarily going to injure myself trying to do.

If you could only do one boxing move for the rest of your life to keep fit and toned, what would that be?

Hit the heavy bags! That’s what we do—we punch. I’m hitting something; it’s not a person, it’s a bag, and I can do everything that I’ve learned. I can do a jab or an uppercut, and I’m working my full body.

A big congrats, by the way, on making it to the final round on Chopped: All Stars! What’s your favorite memory from the show?

The whole entire show was fun, but being competitive again was great. I love being competitive—that’s my thing. Make it a competition and I’m in it all the way.

What healthy snack do you love to quickly whip up?

If I have a sweet tooth, it’s going to be Greek yogurt. I’ll sprinkle on a little bit of Xylitol, a sugar replacement, to sweeten it. Because if you buy yogurt sweetened, there’s a lot of sugar in it. So I get the plain Greek yogurt and add a little bit of fruit; maybe some granola and nuts. If I want vegetables, I’ll probably do kale—bake it and make kale chips.

Yum! We love Greek yogurt. And kale. So now that you’ve finished Chopped, what can we expect from you next?

I’m getting into the cooking space. That’s part of the reason I went on Chopped. That was a great experience for me; it gave me a lot of credibility. I would love to do a cooking lifestyle show. I also have a line of hair-styling tools. I have a lot going on!

More from FITNESS:
Take the Crazy Out of Busy: How to Live a Balanced Life

FITNESS Fans Interview Ted Allen of Chopped!

Kickboxing Workout: Sculpt Muscles and Blast Fat

What You Need to Eat to Be Heart-Healthy

Written on May 13, 2013 at 9:28 am , by

Boost heart health by indulging in seafood? You don’t have to tell us twice! (Photo courtesy of the National Fisheries Institute)

According to a recent statement made by the American Heart Association, heart failure costs are expected to more than double by 2030, potentially costing Americans a whopping $244 per year! Time is tickin’ to beat the rising heart disease incidence—the leading cause of death in women. Insert omega-3 fatty acids, which has proven study after study to reduce the risks. Opt for food sources of supplements, says New York University adjunct nutrition professor and FITNESS Advisory Board member Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D. It’s as easy peasy (and affordable) as cracking open a can of tuna—just two servings of seafood a week! Now isn’t that just fin-tastic?

Jazz up the versatile canned good with your favorite spices, Dr. Young suggests, and fold it into a cold pasta salad, wrap or form into burgers. Another great idea? Tasty crostinis made with thin baguette slices, fresh rosemary and Kalamata olives. No more fishing for heart health excuses. Here’s a quick and easy recipe that pairs perfectly with a glass of white for a summer soiree app. Your friends and heart will thank you later.

White Bean and Tuna Crostini
(Recipe courtesy of Melissa d’Arabian)
Makes 4 servings

  • 10 thin baguette slices
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can white kidney beans, drained
  • 1 5-ounce can chunk-light tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350° F. Arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet; brush slices with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Bake until bread is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside. In a preheated skillet, cook onion, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened. Add the wine and simmer the mixture until the wine is reduced by half. In a food processor, purée the beans and the onion mixture and salt and pepper to taste, transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill it, covered, until it is cool. In a small bowl, toss together tuna, onion, olives, parsley, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.Spread bean puree among baguette slices and top with tuna salad. Garnish each with 1 small rosemary sprig.

For more recipe ideas and information on heart healthy fish, visit getrealaboutseafood.com.